THINKING ANGLICANS

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement – episode 4

The Bishop of Norwich has issued a letter to his clergy, but to date I have not been able to find it on the diocesan website. So here is a local copy of it.

The Suffragan Bishop in Europe has published a guest article on his blog by The Revd Canon Dr Jack McDonald.

Christian Concern has issued a lengthy letter to its supporters urging them to write to their bishops. See ACTION ALERT: Challenge Bishops and Archbishops to tell the truth about marriage.

The Barnet and Potters Bar Times reports that the Parish of St Mary’s in East Barnet to make stand against Church of England leaders on same-sex blessings.

…Members of the St Mary’s Church council now plan to meet and formulate a statement in response to the House of Bishop’s latest refusal to be moved on the subject.

Church rector James Mustard said he expects his parish to release the statement in the coming weeks and says it is an important subject for the image and ministry of his church in the area.

He said: “The feeling is that this ongoing prohibition on blessing same-sex couples is harmful to our relationship with the community, whether they come to the church or not.

“I think it is important that churches in favour of supporting same-sex couples with blessings should speak out, and we’re preparing to issue a statement opposing the House of Bishops’ decision.”

This week’s Church Times has several items:

News articles by Madeleine Davies
Bishops’ same-sex-marriage statement provokes anger and defiance and
Disobedient clergy risk rebuke

…On Tuesday, the Revd Will Adam, Vicar of St Paul’s, Winchmore Hill, in north London, who edits the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, said that it could be argued that clergy had to comply with the prohibition on same-sex marriage because they had sworn the oath of canonical obedience.

If defiance was deemed to be a doctrinal offence, the case would have to be taken up by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved. “It’s a panel who are, or have been, very senior judges or diocesan bishops. So it’s pretty big. Would a bishop be brave enough to bring such a case?” He said that it had met only twice since it was established.

A case could be brought under the CDM, Mr Adam suggested, if the offence was defined as sexual misconduct. The House of Bishops was on “pretty safe ground” with regard to equality legislation, he believed, given the exemptions that applied to religious organisations…

Leader Comment: Same-sex marriage

…Given their consistent opposition to same-sex marriage, the St Valentine’s statement was predictable. It would help greatly, though, if it were acknowledged for what it is: a holding position. We do not think it will hold for long; nor can it, unless congregations feel no responsibility for what is clearly a pastoral disaster, or are willing to be seen as “akin to racists”. Archbishop Welby spoke of “courageous Churches”. It ought not to take courage to treat LGBT people more lovingly. But perhaps courage is precisely what the Bishops lack, since to treat someone lovingly is to treat him or her equally.

Letters to the Editor: Gay marriage: the Bishops and public opinion

…We do not all agree about same-sex marriage, nor about how the Church of England should respond. But we are all of a mind on this: if the Church of England is serious about intentional evangelism to a generation that regards us with a mixture of apathy and contempt, and if we are to reverse our fast institutional retreat from relevance in the life of this nation, we need urgently to change the tone and manner of our discussions on matters relating to human sexuality…

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Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

At the bottom of the Bishop of Norwich’s letter is the slogan ‘committed to growth’. Are they blind? Do they not see just what the so called ‘Pastoral statement’ is doing to the Church, to faithful Christians and to those who are looking in from the outside? Who on earth would join the cofe at the moment?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Do they not see just what the so called ‘Pastoral statement’ is doing to the Church, to faithful Christians and to those who are looking in from the outside?” Yes, they see. Yes, they know. No, they do not care. The House of Bishops had a choice: pandering to their conservative friends in GAFCON or being a relevant force in the England of 2014. Of course, that some of the House of Bishops have married divorcees and presumably would take umbrage at being referred to as adulterers or bigamists is an irony, but not one that worries them overmuch; the… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I think the level of public dissent – expressed by different categories of Anglicans – from the ‘pastoral’ is a new thing – and an enormously heartening one.

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

The only real loser in all this will be the Church of England. I would imagine that a largely secular UK is indifferent to its internal battles between its various factions. The bishops clearly prefer appeasing the conservative factions, GAFCON, and all that right wing money from America to leading the cause for justice in its home country. The Church’s archaic stand on sexuality will only confirm its quaint status in the minds of the ever more secular young who already see it as a bastion of superstition and bigotry. As Interested Observer rightly points out, the future of the… Read more »

Revd Laurie Roberts (not McCain)
Guest
Revd Laurie Roberts (not McCain)

‘Disobedient clergy’? We are all of age.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

For once, the Bishops are being decisive, distinctive and clear about the scriptural teaching of the church and sanctity of marriage. Good on them!

Concerned Anglican
Guest
Concerned Anglican

Benedict, I’d like to have a conversation with you about scriptural teaching and slavery, women’s ministry, divorce, polygamy, usury and not forgetting shellfish eating.

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

Christianity, a religion founded by celibates convinced that the world was about to end, is a rotten family values religion. If societies and states are really interested in the family as an institution and in procreating future generations of loyal citizens, then they should bring back the ancient Roman religion of hearth and ancestors where the family and the home were quite literally sacred. It has everything a domestic moralist could possibly want, even a virginity cult. Saint Paul made no secret of his contempt for family life, that marriage for him was at best a grudging concession to human… Read more »

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

I believe the bishops of the CofE have been anything BUT “decisive, distinctive and clear”. It is high time for transparency regarding their positions on human sexuality and same sex marriage. We will eventually know the individual positions of the bishops and it will reveal a great deal about those who hold homophobic mindsets and prejudices. I believe the Church is The People of God and not the hierarchy alone. We will learn much about the bishops of the CofE in the weeks to come. We must apply pressure for transparency. The hour has arrived to engage those bishops who… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“For once, the Bishops are being decisive, distinctive and clear about the scriptural teaching of the church and sanctity of marriage. Good on them!”

I especially love how committed they are to Jesus’s clear teaching on divorce. What a model of theological consistency. {Sarcasm off}

TEC welcomes you. And I hear that our clergy pensions are better than yours. Come on over.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

People, this is *really* not an alright situation. This is no longer a slow evolutionary process: the episcopal letter has precipitated matters and brought them to a head. It is totally NOT alright for priests like Andrew Cain at Kilburn, to be persecuted because – like billions of other people – they love someone and want to be married to them. Quite rightly he is not going to cancel his wedding plans, and this epitomises the reality of all gay and lesbian couples who are supposed to be ‘welcome’ in the Church of England. Do we stand by and talk… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

On his Facebook page Bishop Alan Wilson reports that the bishops are receiving anonymous letters containing humbugs!

Malcolm Dixon
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Malcolm Dixon

I note from another thread that, at the time the bishops’ statement was published, Justin our Abp was in Cairo, in the middle of a meeting with the Primates of the Global South. It’s all very well displaying the eirenic qualities for which he was selected, in trying to repair a schism which has in effect already occurred, but not if it means tailoring domestic guidance to meet the needs of those on the other side of the schism but which, as the CT leader rightly points out, will be a disaster pastorally at home. I can’t square the bishops’… Read more »

David Oxley
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David Oxley

The bishops are clear enough that gay sex is wrong full stop, regardless of context. What is not clear is how many bishops, clergy and laity actually believe that to be true; or indeed on what basis it can be presented and defended to a generation who tend to think of sex as neutral in itself, where moral judgements arise from contextual considerations such as freedom, consent, intention, relationship and so on. The Pastoral Guidelines, which I suspect are well-intentioned, nonetheless offer the traditional closet and “don’t ask, don’t tell”. That would be a godsend in Uganda; entirely inadequate in… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the House of Lords: “It is clearly essential that stable and faithful same-sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage.” (Hansard House of Lords, 3 June 2013, column 953) So, in the interests of clarity, which bit of the Pastoral Letter or Appendix explains how the Church of England addresses that imperative, please? Where is the bit in which the Church of England recognises and supports with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage the faithful and… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“The bishops are clear enough that gay sex is wrong full stop, regardless of context.” If that’s the case, why don’t they stand up and say so, in terms? “As a formal statement from the House of Bishops, all of you gay people should stop doing all of that gay stuff, because it’s wrong in every way. You are sinners, and until you repent, you are not welcome in the Church of England”. They can all sign, with their names (“When I write something I sign my name”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP3owlMdxls) Then everyone will know where they stand (which is to say… Read more »

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

The Archbishop of Canterbury will only support civil partnerships because they are separate and unequal. He did not recommend marriage equality in the following: “It is clearly essential that stable and faithful same-sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage.” (Hansard House of Lords, 3 June 2013, column 953) But if he wanted to give same-relationships and the same dignity and legal as marriage, then he would support equal marriage rather than second-class status. Jesus preached the Kingdom but we got stuck with a church… Read more »

The Rev'd Mervyn Noote
Guest

The Bishop of Norwich quite genuinely seems to think the statement represents progress. It is astonishing how warping to one’s perceptions it is to be a member of an institution as profoundly homophobic as the House of Bishops for too many years.

Turbulent priest
Guest
Turbulent priest

The various episcopal letters need to be read carefully. +Norwich writes “Clergy are required to fashion their lives and ministries in accordance with the Canons of our Church (including Canon B30 on marriage) which is why the House believes contracting a same sex marriage conflicts with the Canons and disciplines of the Church in a way entering a civil partnership does not.” Note “the House”, not “I”. He then goes on to qualify the letter in various other ways too. +Lincoln doesn’t even seem to go as far as this. On the other hand, we hear that other bishops are… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Note “the House”, not “I”” Ah, collective responsibility. If a Bishop finds the House of Bishops making statements he profoundly disagrees with, if he is honourable he will resign and go back to being a parish priest (it isn’t as if there’s a shortage of empty posts, after all), just as a minister who disagrees on principle resigns and goes back to the back benches. Keeping the status and salary while whispering “but I don’t agree really” is dishonest and dishonourable. If a member of the House of Bishops disagrees with the statement and hasn’t resigned, they’re simply prioritising their… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

On the other hand, Interested Observer, no MP has to resign because the vote in the Commons went against his own wishes. The result will still be what “the government” decided.

There is nothing dishonourable about your vote not prevailing.
What is dishonourable is to vote in favour of something you don’t support when no-one can see how you voted, and then try to distance yourself from it in public.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“… I don’t believe for a second that all, most or probably even many bishops _do_ in fact believe that gay sex is wrong in all contexts …” I disagree here, Interested Observer: there’s reason to believe that a substantial majority of bishops think that gay sex is always wrong. It’s the mainstream Open Evangelical, Broad Church and Anglo-Catholic position, certainly in the bishops’ generation. They’ll put different emphasis on it, no doubt; many will turn a blind eye, and live and let live. That might be humane, but it’s different in kind from affirming gay relationships. In any case,… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“On the other hand, Interested Observer, no MP has to resign because the vote in the Commons went against his own wishes.” MPs are not bound by collective responsibility. The voting takes place openly, and the parliamentary whatever party are not expected to speak with one voice. “The Conservatives” (ie, all the conservative MPs) do not speak ex cathaedra, and do not issue statements of policy, for the simple reason that they do not have a single policy. You are confusing parliamentary parties with cabinets. You don’t get to be a member of the cabinet, or the shadow cabinet, and… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thank you, Interested Observer, but would you say it was wrong for a member of Cabinet to remain a member of Cabinet if a decision went against their wishes?

John
Guest
John

Must be nice to live in an absolutist world.

In the real world, when bishops collectively issue a ‘pastoral’ which most of us here rightly find objectionable and will in our various ways challenge and defeat, it is of some advantage that some of the bishops don’t believe it either, because they will find it harder than those who do believe it to sack their ‘disobedient’ clergy.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“would you say it was wrong for a member of Cabinet to remain a member of Cabinet if a decision went against their wishes?”

Yes: that’s what collective responsibility means. They either agree, at least in public, and defend the policy, or they take their objections to the back benches. What they can’t do is remain part of the cabinet and whine in public that they don’t support the decision.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“it is of some advantage that some of the bishops don’t believe it either, because they will find it harder than those who do believe it to sack their ‘disobedient’ clergy.” I’m not sure it is an advantage to many. What it allows is for the House of Bishops to continue to scare those that take their pronouncements seriously, and to continue to sack some clergy who look like they won’t make too much of a fuss, while backing away from confrontation with people who have the media savvy to make life difficult. A situation in which “rules” are promulgated,… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Well, strictly speaking they have not not supported the decision. The decision does not make any mention of specific sanctions, it only says that it will be expected for priests to comply.
And all they’re really doing is to say “we’re very unlikely to do anything about it if you did not comply.”

I still can’t work out what any of them actually think.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The Church of England changed its historic dogma on Christian Marriage when it allowed the legal process of divorce and re-marriage to become part of the Institution. Arguably, this was already bypassed in England by the Church’s accommodation to the needs of Henry XIII. How, then, could the prospect of celebrating the marriage of an intentionally-monogamous, loving, same-sex couple be considered a betrayal of the Church’s teaching on marriage? Marriage has been proven to be not only the proper basis for procreation, but also ‘for the mutual comfort and support’ of the couple concerned. Is that not a godly objective?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“If gay couples are supposed to have the strength to be celibate, then bishops should have the strength to speak honestly, without fear or favour.”

Like the way you framed that, Interested Observer.

If any diocesans are reading this, please, come forward and state your personal views, and how you’ll be enforcing the marriage ban. Let’s know where we all stand.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

James Byron – ‘It’s the mainstream Open Evangelical, Broad Church and Anglo-Catholic position’. I am really not convinced this is true in any of these groups. Certainly not what you are calling ‘Open Evangelical’ here. Things are changing very fast. What is your evidence?

John
Guest
John

For what it is worth, my feeling is much the same as David Runcorn’s. The essence of the matter is rather simple: prolonged exposure to gay couples convinces most (non-gay) people that traditional Christian teaching on the matter just doesn’t describe reality and that on this, as on other matters (I don’t say all other matters), St Paul was just off his head (though naturally not everybody wants to admit this).

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

To answer David’s request for evidence:- I’ve run through Open Evangelicalism before (short version: positions of prominent OE people & organizations: Fulcrum; Tom Wright; HTB; Andrew Goddard; Spring Harvest; Pete Broadbent, etc). Anglo-Catholicism & Broad Church can be inferred from the overwhelming 1987 Higton vote in Synod, the suppression of the Osborne Report, ‘Issues in Human Sexuality,’ & its imaginatively titled sequel ‘Some Issues …,’ organizations like Forward in Faith, & again, prominent individuals like Rowan Williams and Graham James. Williams famously rowed back on his previous affirmation of gay relationships. I did specify “in the bishops’ generation.” Views are… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

James Byron Well please don’t go back to 1987 for my own views on this, or very else for that matter. And a bishop on our patch is 43 – so I wouldn’t judge him by his views in the 1980’s either. I don’t think this is the way to read the tea leaves.

Peter Dyke
Guest

Has anyone told Christian Concern that their picture caption seems to have the two archbishops the wrong way round?