THINKING ANGLICANS

How others see the CofE

Here’s a view expressed by Baroness Kingsmill.

It occurs in an article in the St Louis Post-Dispatch which is about the US handling of “Gays in the Military”. She was asked how the UK had dealt with this issue.

Kingsmill offered three insightful reasons.

“First and perhaps most importantly is that we are, by temperamental and historical inclination, a largely liberal-minded society,” she said. “As a small, crowded island we have to be accepting of each other. Wave after wave of immigrants first from the Commonwealth and more recently Europe, have been absorbed mostly without serious concerns. We have acquired the habit of tolerance. Sexual orientation and behaviour is just another aspect of diversity we have learned to embrace.”

Second, the weakening in the influence of the Church and the religious right has also played a role. The Established Church of England is one of the last bastions of anti-gay prejudice still outside the law. It is the only institution that legally can discriminate against the employment of gay people. The church recently fought to retain the right to refuse a religious service to gay couples wishing to marry, even in circumstances in which the church and the priest may wish to perform the ceremony. The Bishops, who have reserved seats in Parliament, face rapidly declining church attendance in the United Kingdom. Kingsmill suggested that it is only a matter of time until this last barrier to full equality falls.

Third, the impact of legislation on social change should not be underestimated. Many major shifts in social attitudes have been preceded by progressive acts of Parliament, sometimes in advance of public opinion. Foremost among these must be the abolition of the death penalty in 1969, when it was likely that a majority of the country still supported capital punishment. Today, polls show there is only a very small minority that would support its reintroduction.

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Richard Grand
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Richard Grand

It’s upsetting and disconcerting to see that the CofE is one of the last bastions of anti-gay prejudice. My experience of the Church in Canada and the U.S. is that is not so true, although there are outposts of prejudice. I had thought that the CofE was generally progressive. Does the British population really see the CofE that way? Is it actually true? I wouldn’t think so, given what actually happens in the CofE.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Perhaps I could offer some experience here. I am gay, a retired member of the armed forces, a member of “Rank Outsiders” (the lobbying group of gay ex-soldiers who successfully took the UK government to the European Court to overturn the ban), and now an active lay member of the C of E. Both the church and the army are full of human beings who were born and grew up within a specific culture and time period. The elder/senior members bring into the church or army the views they developed in their youth, views which are often (not always) anti-gay.… Read more »

Fr Levi
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No disrespect to Baroness Kingsmill, but I think it ironic that she speaks of the tolerance of British society and then call the views of those who have differing views to her on this issue as prejudiced and discriminatory.

Fr Mark
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Richard Grand: my feeling (as an ex-pat) is that C of E people are generally liberal-minded and always have been (they are basically Radio 4 listeners at prayer). But the leadership is almost entirely made up of people who have the mindset of those at least a generation older than their actual ages. This is because being involved in church at all in Britain is an increasingly eccentric pastime which “normal” people indulge in less and less. Therefore churchy types (amongst whom I am the chief of sinners) tend to be old-fashioned, and the more they go up the hierarchy,… Read more »

evensongjunkie
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evensongjunkie

Despite the nonsensical discrimination of LGBT folk, not to mention female bishops by what is surely a very vocal tiny minority, I still see the CofE as this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E48tDob8jtM

It is still far too elegant and intelligent to be anything but.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“No disrespect to Baroness Kingsmill, but I think it ironic that she speaks of the tolerance of British society and then call the views of those who have differing views to her on this issue as prejudiced and discriminatory. “

Would you say the same thing if the issue in question were race? Or nationality? It is somewhat oxymoronic to say that we should be tolerant of prejudice and discrimination.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

‘No disrespect to Baroness Kingsmill, but I think it ironic that she speaks of the tolerance of British society and then call the views of those who have differing views to her on this issue as prejudiced and discriminatory’.

The point, surely, is that the arguments against gays in the military are proven to be false, so what remains is prejudice and discrimination, that is thus, by definition, irrational. It is surely right to oppose views which are prejudiced and discriminatory and we should be proud to do so.

Father Ron Smith
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” Unfortunately it is the senior, conservative membership that sets the rules and policy, and which is the public face of the church in the media. So the army 15 years ago, and the church now, consists of a generally anti-gay leadership leading a neutral/pro-gay flock.” – Simon Dawson – Thank you, Simon, for your overview of attitudes in both Army and Church communities on this issue: of the acceptability (or not) of gays in both arenas of life. It would seem that, since I was an RAF National Service-person in the mid-1950’s, the culture has changed for the better… Read more »

Simon Dawson
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“No disrespect to Baroness Kingsmill, but I think it ironic that she speaks of the tolerance of British society and then call the views of those who have differing views to her on this issue as prejudiced and discriminatory.” Father Levi. “Prejudice” and “Discrimnation” ae defined under UK law. Baroness Kingsmill is right – the Church IS acting in a prejudiced and discriminatory manner as defined by law. In most other institutions this would be illegal, but the church is amost unique in having succesfully pursuaded the government to give it legal excemption, allowing it to discriminate on prejudicial grounds… Read more »

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

Denise Kingsmill’s second paragraph refers to the House of Lords debates in Jan-Mar 2010 when the bishops defeated the Labour government’s attempt to narrow the scope of church exemption from anti-discrimination law, and two of them objected in the same breath to three small denominations which wanted to hold civil partnership ceremonies on THEIR OWN premises. Elsewhere I have described this as the bishops’ “1909 moment”. Like the whole House of Lords who rejected the 1909 Budget, they called their legitimacy into (I think fatal) question. Though her language is harsh, it is salutary to see how the bishops’ action… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Yes, evensongjunkie, it is lovely. But without justice it becomes an empty shell, reduced to a mere cultural experience which makes us feel cosy but has no meaning. With justice it becomes the gate of Heaven. Surely the Magnificat is to be lived as well as sung?

Malcolm French+
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Iain makes reference to the disgraceful behaviour of the so-called Lords Spiritual in demanding that Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews be prevented from registering civil partnerships on their premises. The truly galling part was that these pompous prelates pretended that they were defending religious freedom. Yes indeed. Religious freedom means that the state sanctioned religion should have a veto over what other religions do on their premises. Those bishops were either wicked or stupid – and neither is a worthy quality in a bishop or a legislator. Though I do find it more charitable to believe that their Oxbridge degrees… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

I want to thank Simon Dawson for his comment. I found it very helpful and encouraging to hear of his experiences of the services and of getting the law changed, as a gay person, himself. Maybe there are pointers towards ways forward in Simon’s account ? I have a sense that when the then government and queen put Rowan into Canterbury, it was intended ( based on his words and actions / track record until then) that he would initiate a process of gradual, slow but sure improvement, of the lot of gay & lesbian ministers and our families, and… Read more »

evensongjunkie
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evensongjunkie

All the more reason we have to keep spreading the gospel and counteract the forces exclusion and hate within it, Richard. I’m sure that there are choristers in that very video that know what they are, and despite the detritus shoved at them from the leadership of the C of E, sing their hearts out anyhow.

evensongjunkie
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evensongjunkie

Oh dear, I just quoted The Rev. George Herbert. There is hope for this literary deaf singer.

evensongjunkie
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evensongjunkie

And that quote is “Living Well is the Best Revenge”.

William
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William

The good Fr Levi is letting his malice show. It is a piece of meaningless philosophical grandstanding to write of an irony that defenders of tolerance can call the views of those “who have differing views to them” prejudiced and discriminatory. It assumes that there is no standard against which prejudice and discrimination may be measured. So the views of the prejudiced are equal to other views. By that means Hitler’s death camps can rationally be discussed today as a solution to the ‘Jewish Problem’ and David Irving can articulate the view – in the teeth of the evidence –… Read more »