Thinking Anglicans

Stephen Bates bows out

Stephen Bates wrote his final column for the Church of England Newspaper recently. This column can now be found on Religious Intelligence and is titled Sketch: preparing for the Anglican summit.

Ah! New Orleans – the Big Easy, birthplace of the Blues and Louis Armstrong, city of Mardi Gras and Voodoo, the least Protestant town in the US: what better place to witness the latest stage in the break-up of the worldwide Anglican Communion? No prizes to be awarded – can you hear me, Bishop of Carlisle? – for the first one to pronounce God’s judgement if a hurricane hovers into view.

This week’s meeting between Rowan Williams and the American bishops will be my swan-song as a religious affairs correspondent, after eight years covering the subject for The Guardian. I’d have been less keen to attend had the venue been Detroit, but where better to end it? It is time to move on for me professionally, and probably for Anglicans too and this marks a suitable place to stop. There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians.For the good of my soul, I need to do something else…

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ch
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I shall miss Stephen Bates and wish him all the best. If his Muslim successor has only half the wisdom and compassion of Stephen, the Guardian will continue to do well. And some Christians might learn some things about loving that some evangelicals seem determined to hide behind their idolatry of the “ultimate” king, that edits away all religious texts but those that justify their fan club devotion, with no regard to what that fan club manifests or nurtures in this reality. The Lord’s Prayer includes a passage “May Your Will be done on earth as it is done in… Read more »

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

It’s not been unknown for me to disagree with Stephen Bates, but I must say that I found this an admirable article. And the prurience of the bishop (whom he charitably refrains from naming) about his wife and their marriage is outrageous.

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Anyone who cares about the future of the Christian religion, whether in the UK, the US, or elsewhere, ought to read Stephen Bates’s final column in a spirit of deep, prayerful reflection. Consider paragraphs like these, and ask yourselves what you think the future of your Church is going to be: “I had no notion in 2000 that it would come to this: I had thought then that we were all pretty ecumenical these days. I was soon disabused of that. I had scarcely ever met a gay person, certainly not knowingly a gay Christian, and had not given homosexuality… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

It’s a great shame we’re losing Stephen. Guardian readers have been privileged to have enjoyed a long tradition of excellent religious affairs correspondents. Stephen’s capacity to distill a story, to ferret beyond the obfuscation (for example on the Wycliffe Hall cover-up), and to call a spade a shovel, have made his columns a delight for all of us who like to see hypocrisy and double-standards exposed. He’s also got a sharp eye for the issues, and a good theological brain. His successor will find him a hard act to follow.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Many thanks in prayer for the work that SB has done these difficult years on assignment. Of course I find I am probably somewhat of a typical Guardian reader sort, so I do not count in so many new Anglican circles and communities, just as SB has noted. Would I even feel comfortable in one of the newish mega-churches? I really doubt it, too out of scale – too like a gigantic New York disco on five floors drowning in loud music and drugs, way back in the day. Jesus, cooked properly in just the most careful balance with penal… Read more »

Alan Wilson
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Alan Wilson

Oh for the gift the giftie gie us; to see ourselves as others see us! Stephen has unfailingly and charitably held up a mirror to the various shenanigans on which he has reported, and deserves deep thanks for this. His most bitter and intemperate subjects appear to live in their own bubble, in the way that single issue fanatics often do – a place where they have absolutely no idea how their prejudices and passions come over to everybody else. The answer is not to suppress them, which only validates their rather paranoid world view, but to try and love… Read more »

stephen bates
Guest
stephen bates

Thank you all very much indeed for your kind comments. They have been matched by many similar messages from readers of the Church of England Newspaper (including some very eminent evangelicals) – proof, I suppose, that Andrew Carey’s supposition that all evangelicals think like him are erroneous.
I am very grateful for your appreciation of my reporting – sometimes it has felt rather lonely to be writing as I have!
And, less charitably, strictly between ourselves, my family and I live in the diocese of Rochester…..

Leonardo Ricardo
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Leonardo Ricardo

How does that song go? “Please don’t go, Please don’t go…” Dear Stephen, thanks for being here in REALITY with us. It often IS a very ugly ride and I can see your unveiling of the not-so-underground discrimination and persecution at CHURCH has worn your spiritual life very thin…not to worry, injustice has always been a very exhausting, draining and painful element in the world around LGBT people and most people like me are strong souls (if they survive hate crimes, self-destructive tendencies and other self-loathing sponsored suicides)…you’ve been a Prince, Stephen, and I’ll betcha there are a millions of… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

Thanks for everything, Mr. Bates. Hope you’ll be popping your head around the door from time to time.

stephen bates
Guest
stephen bates

PS: an after-thought (and this is cheeky, so Simon may not put it up) but while I have your kind attention one last time, can I put in a shamelss plug for my new book: God’s Own Country: Tales from the Bible Belt, which is about the story of American religiosity? Published by Hodder and Stoughton and available outside UK from Amazon? There, I said it. Goodbye and thanks again!

Neil
Guest
Neil

Your support for gay people has been most welcome. I had no idea whether you were married or not Stephen, but welcome the increasing involvement of many heterosexual people (from Ruth Gledhill’s blog entry re ‘secret meeting’ at St. Peter’s Eaton Square I see that 3 of the names mentioned – Papadopulos, Stanfliffe and Gladwin are all married) in supporting gay people. And you are right to point out how ridiculous (I would say scandalously so, to use St. Paul’s language) the Church looks in its discussions about, and treatment of, gay people. British society has moved on, and, quite… Read more »

Anne Le Bas
Guest

As a life-long Guardian reader,and as a liberal parish priest in your own Diocese of Rochester (a rare breed, I am starting to realise!)may I say how sorry I’ll be to see you go, Stephen. I hope you don’t end up feeling, like Elijah, that “I, only I am left”. There are many who share your views, we are just sometimes so scattered, or battered, that we think we are alone out here!

Pluralist
Guest

I looked at your church website, Anne (your link has four wwwws). I see you call yourself a liberal parish priest. I’ve had a number of conversations recently about what it is to be a “liberal” (and rather an imprecise definition). One of the by-products of all the recent international events is that this imprecise tag of identity is coming more to the fore, I suppose as an important defence of a set of values at least.

Andrew Carey
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Andrew Carey

I’m rather honoured that Stephen uses his final column and probably one of his final posts to Thinking Anglicans to have a little swipe in my direction. It’s been interesting getting to know Stephen a little bit and I wish him all the best. While I’ve rarely agreed with him, I genuinely admire his doggedness in pursuit of a story, and his considerable skills and talent as a journalist.