Thinking Anglicans

Same sex couple banned from a church in Exeter

Updated Friday lunchtime

The following exchange occurred on 4 July in the House of Commons, when the Second Church Estates Commissioner was answering Questions:

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter, Labour)
What guidance the Church of England plans to issue to parishes and Church schools on pastoral care for same sex couples and their children.

Tony Baldry (Second Church Estates Commissioner; Banbury, Conservative)
The House of Bishops issued a pastoral statement before the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in 2005. I expect that the House of Bishops will want to issue a further statement before the legislation on same-sex marriage comes into force. The House of Bishops is due to consider this December a report on sexuality, chaired by former permanent secretary Sir Joseph Pilling. The work of that group will assist the House of Bishops in its deliberations.

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter, Labour)
I am grateful for that reply, because I recently came across a case of a Christian couple in a same-sex relationship and with children in the local Church primary school to whom it was made clear by the local conservative evangelical church that they would not be welcome to worship in it. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such intolerance and bigotry have no place whatever in the Church of England? When the Church issues guidance, it is very important that that is made quite clear to both parishes and Church schools.

Tony Baldry (Second Church Estates Commissioner; Banbury, Conservative)
Of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that. If he would like to give me the details of that case, I will most certainly take it up with the diocesan education officer. Children in Church schools come from a wide variety of family backgrounds, and teachers offer the same compassion and care for all. Each child is valued as a child of God and deserving of the very best that schools can offer. I would not expect any Church school to discriminate against any child, whatever their personal or family circumstances. If any right hon. or hon. Member comes across any instance where he feels that a Church school is in any way falling short of the standards that this House would expect, I hope they will get in touch with me.

This led to a number of reports in the media of the underlying incident in Devon:

Church of England Newspaper Dean’s surprise as gay couple are banned from worship

BBC Exeter church in ‘gay couple worship ban’

Western Morning News Gay Christians ‘not welcome in West church’

Update

The Diocese of Exeter issued the following statement earlier this week:

Philip Mantell, director of education for the Diocese of Exeter: “All our church schools work to serve the needs of all children and families in their communities and we recognize that families are very varied and we want all children to feel comfortable and flourish.

We fully support and uphold the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent statement on church schools addressing homophobia.

We have contacted Ben Bradshaw’s office to ask for details of the case to which he referred but have yet to hear back.”

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Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

It’s time to revisit the church’s opt out from the equality legislation.

Peter Ould
Guest

Sounds appalling, but before we rush to judgment we don’t know (i) which church (ii) any of the exact circumstances and (iii) what the vicar at the church has to say about it

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I have contacted the diocese, and they say that they have so far not received any more information than is in the public record here.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Pink News has this report http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/07/10/labour-mp-ben-bradshaw-exeter-church-banned-same-sex-couple-from-worship/
which includes the comment:

“Tom Cook, of the Exeter Independent Evangelical Church, which said it did not refuse the couple, told the BBC: “We believe what the Bible says and it says that lots of different things are wrong, including homosexual relationships.

He added: “We have never faced that problem and ***I could not say for certain whether we would refuse someone to worship in the church.”*** (my emphasis)

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Very heartening that the Cathedral has said that the couple and their children are very welcome and are invited to play a full part in its life.

Fr Alan-Bury
Guest
Fr Alan-Bury

Catholic schools in the US have refused the children of gay couples.

Perhaps it would be interesting if someone actually got on the phone and asked the priests of the diocese. It might take a few days but I and many others would be very interested in the results

Veuster
Guest
Veuster

> Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such intolerance and bigotry have no place whatever in the Church of England?

Quite right, too. But it seems to have taken place *not* in the Church of England but in an independent evangelical church. That doesn’t make it any the less distressing and wrong, but the Diocese of Exeter would have no power to act in the matter.

Concerned Anglican
Guest
Concerned Anglican

So Tom Cook says: “We believe what the Bible says and it says that lots of different things are wrong”.

No shell fish eaters in that church then, but presumably polygamists are welcome?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Well, let me first say loud and clear that there are gay couples in our church (which does not mean that everyone in our parish is of one mind on the subject), and personally I’m glad that it should be so. However, I’d be very, very wary of allowing a secular government to tell a church how it may practice Christian discipleship. I’m not saying that the government always gets it wrong or that the churches always get it right. I’m just saying that once you go down that road, there are bad consequences ahead. What happens when Jesus disagrees… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim,
ok, but then we must have disestablishment. There is a level of immorality people within church can dress up as theology, but no modern state should have any official links with it.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

If the church in this case is indeed not part of the CoE, then my question is moot, but:

It’s my understanding that ANYONE who lives within the geographical boundaries of a particular CoE parish is, by law, a member of that parish. How then could any CoE parish ban any such person from the church or the church school?

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

Tim –

this is not about how to practise Christian discipleship. It is about churches which for years have “enjoyed” an opt-out from treating people decently finally discovering that time is running out on racism, sexism and homophobia.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Tim. you said “However, I’d be very, very wary of allowing a secular government to tell a church how it may practice Christian discipleship. I’m not saying that the government always gets it wrong or that the churches always get it right. I’m just saying that once you go down that road, there are bad consequences ahead. What happens when Jesus disagrees with the government? Constantine has an answer to that, of course, but I’m not sure it’s a good one.” Sure. I would agree with that if there was a clear boundary, the Government ran education and the Church… Read more »

CW
Guest
CW

I know many gay couples who send their children to church schools but I know an equal number who were given the cold shoulder and a significant number who were told (probably illegally) you can’t come here.

This happens all the time, most people just can’t be bothered to make a fuss about it.

Read the submission to the gay marriage bill by the charity New Family Social. There are a few examples there.

It doesn’t matter so much in urban areas but it does in rural areas where the church controls the only nearby primary school.

Ian
Guest
Ian

Am I reading this wrong? I can see nothing in the account by Ben Bradshaw that implicates the Church Primary School in the actions of an independent evangelical Church. The very presence of the children in the school tells me that they have not been excluded there.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

We have to be careful. There is no indication that the children or the couple were banned from the local primary school or that they were treated inappropriately by it.

They were asked not to attend their local conservative evangelical church.

Robert ian williams
Guest
Robert ian williams

Why will liberals not concede that some conservative Christians have a genuine concern for their brothers and sisters.

They believe that active gay people are going to Hell fire and judgement, and so they cannot be full church members in good standing and that it is sinful for them to approach the table of the Lord. In fact they belive it will add to their damnation.

Its exactly the same in the Catholic Church and we ban divorced and re-married Catholics from Holy Communion too.

You may not agree with their analysis but it is one of integrity and not bigotry.

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

I live in a state in the USA where a lot of us are very upset with our government, which has passed a budget which makes vouchers available to parents, to help pay tuition to non-government-run schools. This means that some church-related schools will be paid for, in part, with our tax dollars. This is an intolerable violation of the separation of church and state. But this is nothing compared to the entanglement of the two in the UK. Does an established church really make sense in the 21st century?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

RIW,
I find Catholic churches doing the same just as immoral.

But this is worse, it’s not excluding people from direct communion with God (which is vile enough), but from even sitting in the church praying and singing!

If you were genuinely concerned about people’s soul – would you exclude them from the one place where people worship and talk about God?

On no, this is all about retaining a sense of moral superiority and judgmental self-righteousness. Nothing to do with genuine care for the souls of sinners.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Ben Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter, when asking his questions of Tony Baldry, clearly believed that the church and school in question belong to the Church of England. The questions make no sense otherwise. Nevertheless I have taken the trouble to check with Mr Bradshaw’s office and have now had this point positively confirmed to me.

So we are definitely not talking about an independent evangelical church.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

If there is a “church school” involved, where as I understand it, the local government pays the school to educate pupils, then — s/he who pays the piper, names the tune — the government should insist on a non-discrimination agreement.
Decades ago, in my home town of Denver CO, a judge adjudicated a case about Church and State, and quoting an English philosopher whose name I have forgotten, said, “Whenever government and religion — church and state — mingle, it is to the detriment of both”.
I quite agree.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thanks Simon,
but are we talking about the church that has links with that CoE school? And is the school implicated in any way?

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

It’s quite important that this church is unmasked, especially if, as it seems, it is a CofE church, not least so it can tell its side of the story. The Second Church Estates Commissioner would not get involved if it were not a CofE parish. Its incumbent and the churchwardens would be well advised to issue a statement. The beacon evangelical churches I know are very careful in ensuring that they do not get caught up in controversy over these issues, while also not compromising what they preach and teach to their congregations. They need to welcome all and not… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Peter
In fact the funding of schools is mostly from central, not local government in England.

Erika
Yes we are talking about the church that has links with that school. But at the moment we have no knowledge of whether or not the school is implicated in what occurred.

Feria
Guest
Feria

I’m puzzled as to why Mr. Bradshaw didn’t name the church in question. On the floor of the House of Commons, he was covered by parliamentary privilege, and therefore perfectly safe from the libel laws.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

This could be very damaging.

The Rev'd Mervyn Noote
Guest

A welcome post from Simon. We need to be sure exactly what we are speaking about here. There is no implication of any wrong behaviour on the part of the school. There is also no implication in the BBC story that Exeter Independent Evangelical Church is the church in question. It is very unlikely that a church like that would have church primary school. The Minister in the church was merely asked for comment by the BBC, and supplied it. We can all form our own opinion of how consonant his comments were with the teachings of Jesus Christ. There… Read more »

J Drever
Guest
J Drever

Although I have encountered some examples of disconcerting rudeness in a surprisingly high number of the churches I have attended (not least from the clergy), this story rather beggars belief – and rather destroys one’s faith in human nature. It also reminds me of the anecdotes of black immigrants to the UK in the 1950s who, whilst being thanked for having come to church, were kindly asked not to return, as the presence of black people in the congregation offended the sensibilities of white worshipers.

Name and shame!

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

It is clear from the accounts given, that the school and parish have not been cited, in order to protect the privacy of this family.

‘Let right be done.’

Anne
Guest
Anne

I assumed from the initial reports that the problem was that the couple had decided to try to worship at this church because of its links with the school. That might have been so that their children had a better chance of a place there, or so that they had a better chance of a secondary school place in a church school, or simply because the children thought of that church as “theirs” because it was the one whose vicar came in to take assemblies, hosted the carol service etc… In giving them the cold shoulder, the church would then… Read more »

cheryl clough
Guest
cheryl clough

I now work with someone who is surprised that a gay relationship lasts more than a few years (let alone the 20 or 30 year relationships I know of). He would love to have children. I cry, he is so generous, he gives so much to his workplace, his mother, and to me, with no expectation or reward, yet we reject this soul simply because he is gay? When all the “straight” people turned their back on me during breast cancer, he was there. When all the “straight” souls turned my back on me and now my officially disabled sister,… Read more »

Fr Alan-Bury
Guest
Fr Alan-Bury

Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!

Let’s not get too fanciful here.

Refusing sacraments on the grounds cited above, is as common as it is obnoxious, but it is certainly not universal.
It takes a certain type of Catholic priest to press this matter, one frequently finds they are former Anglicans ……… Ah, dear!

David
Guest
David

In the continued absence of any actual facts, 10 days on, why are we still speculating like this?
Can we even assume the MP had his facts right in the first place? Is this usually the case?
And any local church minister who has found themselves wildly misreported on social media for supposed comments made in a private pastoral conversation that ‘went wrong’ (for whatever reasons – there are parishioners from hell, as well as clergy) will approach a story like this with some caution.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!”

That depends on what lies behind Ben Bradshaw’s words.
Gay people know all about not being welcome in churches and being made to feel extremely unwelcome indeed.
But if, as the article suggests, people within that church actually said “You are not welcome here”, then that is, in effect, barring the door.
They couldn’t exactly nail a paper on the notice board saying “partnered gays are not allowed in this church”. Telling someone that they are not welcome is the next step.

MarkBrunson
Guest

It’s not as far as you might think, Alan-Bury.

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

This sort of thing happens in the States all the time. Roman Catholic and evangelical churches frequently fire gay employees (even valued ones of many years) and throw out gay members (partnered or not) along with their families and friends. Children from same sex households find themselves excluded from religious affiliated schools and organizations. Anything goes to purge our houses of worship from the gay contagion. Separation of church and state makes it all perfectly legal even in cities and states that have laws against discrimination in public facilities, employment, and housing. We retain our God-given right to close our… Read more »

Anne
Guest
Anne

“Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!” As a divorced and remarried Anglican now married to an RC ex-priest I would want to challenge this. We can (and occasionally do) go to Mass at RC churches for various reasons – family occasions, holidays etc . We can feel totally welcome until the moment of communion, but at that point, we have to confront the fact that we are excluded and judged. As an Anglican I wouldn’t be able to take communion anyway, but I am acutely aware of the hurtfulness of the message… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!” Matthew 22 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 40.1 And then Jesus said: “But do not forget to make sure that the gays know they’re not welcome. Everything… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Erika said,

‘ok, but then we must have disestablishment’

I agree.

Ian
Guest
Ian

Fr Alan-Bury,

I worship at a church entirely staffed by former anglicans, amore welcoming lot you could not find. Frequently former anglicans? I think you need to provide ssome evidence for that, it certainly does not square with my experience

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

I hope the editors will include this moving clip which amplifies, in A jungian and other, senses, the theme of exclusion of certain families, most movingly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5cuxo7qob0

robert Ian Williams
Guest
robert Ian Williams

Would you think it appropriate for a converted jew to show up at an Orthodox synagogue sporting a badge stating, Jesus is Lord?

Its all about sensitivity.The Evangelical and Catholic churches I would know, would not turn away a gay person as long as thay didn’t flaunt it. Its an opportunity for them to hear the gospel.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

RIW
the problem is that other people’s sensitivities about what “flaunting” it means are impossible to guess. For some it’s not kissing in public, for others it’s not holding hands. For some, even turning up as a couple is flaunting it, and turning up as a whole family is a kick in their sensitive teeth.

It would be much better if people stopped feeling so offended all the time and just got on with the business of loving their neighbours instead of being a constant stumbling stone for them.

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

“Would you think it appropriate for a converted jew to show up at an Orthodox synagogue sporting a badge stating, Jesus is Lord? Its all about sensitivity.The Evangelical and Catholic churches I would know, would not turn away a gay person as long as thay didn’t flaunt it. Its an opportunity for them to hear the gospel.” That’s the thing about being a gay Christian in this war that the churches have declared on gay people; to so many Christians, I’m a fatally flawed Christian and an inferior human being. Some even tell me that I’m one of Satan’s commandos… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

What does one mean by “not flaunting it?” Really? We visit a church and I’m supposed to introduce my life partner as who or what? My roommate?

I’ve never said “we’re here, we’re queer, get over it,” but I just can’t go through the tortuous process of avoiding gendered pronouns.

I’m done with the closet. God made me and gifted me with a wonderful life partner and the Bible says we don’t hide the light under a bush.

Flaunted.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby