THINKING ANGLICANS

Bishop of Gloucester on Church's attitude to homosexual people

At the Gloucester Diocesan Synod this week, the bishop, The Right Reverend Michael Perham, delivered his presidential address. In this he reflected on the House of Bishops’ Statement in January on Same-sex Marriage and on the Pilling Report, the report of the Working Party on human sexuality, for which he was a member.

The diocesan press release contains a major part of what he said: Bishop Michael addresses the Church’s attitude to homosexual people.

The full text of the address is available on the diocesan website, but only in WP format; however it is also reproduced as a web page at the Inclusive Church site.

I strongly recommend reading the full text of the address before commenting on it.

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Andrew F. PierceDavid RuncornInterested ObserverTobias HallerErika Baker Recent comment authors
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Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

I find this terribly sad. Once again, the greatest pain of the “gracious restraint” that is asked for (demanded?) is expected to be offered by those of us who are gay. Once again there’s no engagement with any of the civil/human rights issues which have been fundamental to the equal marriage campaigns. The fact that I know Michael Perham to be deeply caring towards his gay friends does nothing to mitigate my sense of disappointment that he feels unable either to engage with those issues directly nor indeed to articulate them for himself. Liberal,straight, moderate, otherwise good-hearted bishops calling for… Read more »

Disgraced
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Disgraced

“Gracious restraint” is the fall back position of the tortured liberal who doesn’t have the courage of (in this case) his convictions. It is the clarion call of those who would say – I don’t mind if the rules change but don’t expect me to put myself out to work for that change. We have heard it so many times over so many issues that the words have an almost old fashioned ring to them. As so often with ecclesiastical leadership, where there’s retirement there’s hope.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

The press release omits the beginning of this statement which can be found in the Inclusive Church report: “In my view parliament has done our society no favours in hurried legislation on what it calls ‘equal marriage’. I have said publicly before that I believe such a fundamental change in our understanding of marriage would have emerged better from the careful deliberations of something like a Royal Commission that would have produced the philosophical, scientific, legal and moral arguments for change and that would have made it easier for the Church to engage and to bring biblical and theological elements… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I whole heartedly agree with +Kelvin. From MLK’s Letter from the Birmingham (Alabama) Jail: “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.” We are there. CoE is so late to the conversation that you are very far beyond reasonably asking for “gracious restraint.” You missed that boat by a decade or two. More from MLK’s Letter from the Birmingham (Alabama) Jail: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

Bishop Perham calls for a period of “gracious restraint,” “a cool and calm period in which to explore the issues,” “a time to listen very carefully to the experience of gay and lesbian people,” a time “to listen very carefully to what the world and medicine and science can tell us about homosexuality,” and so forth. Doesn’t Bishop Perham realize how hollow his appeal is? Even the infamous 1998 Lambeth Reolution I.10 promised, “We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons.” And yet it’s taken 15 years or so for the Church of England even to promise… Read more »

Tess
Guest
Tess

Every time someone asks for gracious restraint I think of Rosa Parks being asked to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, and I wonder if they would have said the same to her.

Jesus was not one for gracious restraint in the face of religious injustice either.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Marriage delayed is marriage denied.

peter kettle
Guest

St Paul’s Cathedral is hosting retired bishops at Sunday Evensong during May to preach on ‘What I want to say now….’ Watch this space, I suppose…..

http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/Latest-News/What-I-want-to-say-now-retired-bishops-speak-out

Father David
Guest
Father David

We’ll said Bishop Perham, a splendid Swan Song. I totally agree with you that Parliament has rushed through this legislation and totally changed society’s long held concept of marriage thereby doing itself and society at large no favours.
Your constant mantra of “Gracious restraint” is one that we all need to hear and heed, although I think you put too much hope and trust in the “facilitated conversations”. Thank you for this gracious contribution to the ongoing debate. May you enjoy a long, happy but hopefully fairly active retirement.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

When Michael says that he regrets “the path the Pilling Report set before us seems to have been obscured somewhat by the introduction of same-sex marriage and the inevitability of a bishops’ statement in response to that…” …that in turns ‘obscures’ the fact that the bishops’ statement in the form it took was by no means ‘inevitable’, and the statement itself (rather than same-sex marriage) pre-empted the process of facilitated discussion that Pilling had proposed. In short, it queered the process, by laying down a default (with implication of sanctions) when a key point in Pilling is that, actually, there… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

(2 of 3 – continuing…) Gracious restraint, which Michael calls for, could operate in a different way altogether, in the spirit of indaba: we could let those who wish to marry, marry; we could let those church communities which wish to celebrate and bless gay marriages, celebrate and bless them, at least in terms of services of welcome and blessing; and we could let those churches that disagree, disagree and pursue ministry *their* way, in the context of their specific community. And in a ‘unity in diversity’ we could exercise grace towards each other, even while disagreeing. That kind of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

(3 of 3 – continuing) The question of whether, in fact, it is ‘homophobic’ to deny a whole class of people sex because their orientation differs from yours, is contentious. Behind the gracious is the more brutal logic: ‘Your kind of sex is wrong, our kind of sex is right, only our kind of sex can exist inside marriage, and as sex outside marriage is wrong, you’re not allowed sex anyway.’ The whole principal and logic of the prohibition could be said to be homophobic in essentially regarding gay sex as outside God’s laws… it is being cast outside the… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Others have rightly pointed out that the argument that people should just wait a few decades places the burden on LGBT people, while leaving Bishops with a much easier life. However, people seem to have missed what to me is the single nastiest comment in the whole screed. “In my view parliament has done our society no favours in hurried legislation on what it calls “equal marriage”.” It’s not “what it calls equal marriage”. It’s “equal marriage”. It was often asked, in the run up to the passage of the legislation, what nasty form of words people who claim that… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Christianity was a fringe cult in NT times, IO; it has done some of its best work from that position.

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

I, too, noticed the vampiric quotation marks in “equal marriage.” It is as if the Bishop of Gloucester had placed the idea of marriage equality under house arrest because he thinks it threatens the social order.

Parliament took a long time to pass marriage equality legislation but recognized the longstanding injustice, whereas the Church of England, alas, has not!

For the moment, the registrar’s office is a much better deal than the Church of England for same-sex couples and their straight allies.

Gary Paul Gilbert

JCF
Guest
JCF

“To those among clergy and ordinands contemplating entering a same-sex marriage I would say, “Might you hold back while the Church reflects?” Gracious restraint.”

As a marriage affects no one but the marrying couple (or if it does, certainly no more so than the couple living together, w/ or w/o a Civil Partnership), I can only imagine the reply will be “No Deal: we’ve been *ungraciously restrained* long enough!” And I agree with that.

Tim S
Guest
Tim S

Good on +Michael! This is one of the most outspoken, open and honest pieces I have read from the English house of bishops. I think he is right – even though I would question the way he has put it. He is right to say that in the cause of justice, the church’s hand has been forced by the state. That is not a bad thing, but as the church is playing catch up and has always done its theology in this way: slowly, carefully, often frustratingly, albeit causing great pain. Is it not unreasonable to ask the church to… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

‘marriage affects no one but the marrying couple’
What an extraordinary statement – no significance then for children, family, friends, community, social cohesion, faith and vocation ….?
I hope I have misunderstood here. This is exactly why the discussion about marriage in our social context needs more careful thought. Same-sex marriage joins an historic, evolving, heterosexual social institution that is deeply vulnerable, socially unsustainable for many and feels unsupported. If it enables the more careful debate and social transformation we need so much the better.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

‘He is right to say that in the cause of justice, the church’s hand has been forced by the state. That is not a bad thing.’ It’s not bad in that _someone_ is providing momentum for justice. In this case, the ‘someone’ isn’t the state; it is, surprisingly enough, society itself. Or in other words, the prospect of the 2015 election. Cameron would not have pushed the issue if he hadn’t thought it was not only right, but also politically palatable. And there’s the rub. Shouldn’t the CofE have been the leader? Shouldn’t the church be leading society on justice… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

Jeremy is right, it’s not the state which has ‘imposed’ SSM in a ‘rushed’ way on the church. Social attitudes have shifted towards acceptance with every new generation. And ‘society’ is still one-third Anglican. ‘We’ have brought about this change, including we the church. Half of us to be accurate, but more in younger generations. I note rather sadly that Bishop Michael’s address is almost word for word what the bishops said to supporters of women’s ordination. ‘Both sides of the debate are angry with us, so we must be doing something right.’ One thing the leaders of the church… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I wouldn’t describe any of it as ‘nasty’, but I do think it’s poor stuff. The equivalence in ‘The weekend of the first such marriages I wanted to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, recognising what a wonderful moment it was for them, and to weep with those who wept, recognising how for them a deeply held belief about marriage was being undermined’ shows a lack of discrimination. ‘As for in my view parliament has done our society no favours in hurried legislation on what it calls “equal marriage” ‘ and the sequel, he seems to have no understanding of… Read more »

Nina Saint
Guest
Nina Saint

A more even-handed approach to “gracious restraint” would be to ask that ALL married or partnered members of the Church of England make a commitment to live in celibacy until such time as the church has had adequate time for reflection.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

It’s perhaps as well the Holy Spirit did not accede to the possibility of ‘gracious restraint’, when She was sent upon the disciples at Pentecost. There may never have been a Church if God had followed this sort of advice from human beings.

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill us with the fire of your Love!”

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

Yes, Interested Observer, the sentence “In my view parliament has done our society no favours in hurried legislation on what it calls “equal marriage” says it all. The Bishop of Gloucester claims he doesn’t want to contribute to homophobia, but implying the marriages of same-sex couples are fake does precisely that. His putting “equal marriage” in quotes makes the term sound scary or at least fake. It is merely a term parliament uses, he says. Church leaders have privileged understanding of the meaning of the laws of England, apparently.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Higher up this thread, I critiqued the *content* of Michael Perham’s talk. However, moving from content to a more personalised assessment of his intent and goodwill, I would like to add the following comments. I believe that Michael’s intent was undoubtedly gracious, and that his proposals were the outcome of prayer and goodwill. And grace really matters in this affair which divides our Church. I have said in previous threads, that I believe that grace towards one another matters as well as content and views. Indeed, I am open to the possibility that the real test and challenge for us… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Thank you Susannah. This is very helpful. However painful this discussion, in fact the more painful it is, we are lost without grace.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Susannah, one of the problems is that nothing ever changes until people ignore appeals to be nice. I wish it were different. But reality is, and this goes for all major social debates, that those who don’t want change only ever give ground if they have absolutely no other option. Discussions alone never effect change, they only ever result in pleas not to move so fast and to allow more time for this discernment or that. And so, with a heavy heart, I believe that the only way the church will move on this issue is if priests roundly ignore… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Somehow, Susannah, I’m not seeing that it is “graceful” to demand an extraordinary sacrifice of others, when he’s clearly not willing to walk the sacrifice himself. He is asking for cheap grace.

John
Guest
John

A poor piece, I thought. ‘Weeping with those who wept’ strikes a very false equivalence. And he shows altogether insufficient awareness of the jurisdictions of church and state. The equality argument is decisive in the civic sphere. In seeming to challenge the state’s jurisdiction, he’s even worse than Welby. As between Susannah and Erika/Cynthia, I don’t think Susannah is denying the need for ‘direct action’ by liberals (which I too wholeheartedly support), while maintaining gracious relations with everybody else (which I also wholeheartedly support). I do of course also think that we need a bit more ‘give’ here (as elsewhere)… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

One common view on the civil rights battles of the 1950s was that it was just a bunch of uppity (insert epithet here) and if only they’d calm down, things would be a lot easier. The bishop is essentially telling black people to stay at the back of the bus, and definitely not get involved in a boycott, because the white folk know what’s best and in the end will give some modicum of justice, while avoiding upsetting the Klansmen. Every time people like him open their mouth, the CofE’s moral authority becomes more and more soiled, because he’s much… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Our children and our families tell us they are not willing to be treated as illegitimate.
I believe I might have had a small degree of sympathy for this man if the Pilling Group had been composed of a good proportion of gay people. That would have been reasonable and inspired a different response.

One suspects that as long as people like William Fittall continue their dark influence on affairs we will get even more of the evil nonsense found in the bishops’ statement. There is no light there to inspire grace!

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

A century ago, the church’s message to single people who loved each other was, get yourselves to church as fast as possible and get married. Precisely because the church knew that such people often would not restrain themselves. Today the Church of England’s message to its own LGBT members and clergy who want to marry in church is very different: ‘Stop–give us a moment, or a year or two, while we discuss the matter.’ We can speculate about why LGBT people are being singled out for such treatment. But let’s also think about what is going on in more pastoral… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, re your comment about the effect of marriage on society – is that really the effect marriage has in particular, or is JCF not right that any formalised committed relationship has this effect? The CoE submission to the parliamentary consultation process about the future of civil partnerships seems to suggest that the only difference is that one can continue to pretend that CPs aren’t sexual relationships. Many of us have always believed CPs to be equal but different marriages, designed to keep gay people in a lesser space but affirming them in relationships that are indistinguishable from marriage. To… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Thanks for this thoughtful response Erika. In what I understood him to say JCF’s comment laid bare what I think is a missing dimension in these discussions. As a society we have largely privatised love and now routinely assume the freedom to make our own arrangements for the living of it. I am concerned that the present Christian debate is infected with some of these same assumptions. But the vision of marriage as essentially private choice is not, I think, as Christian as we assume. Hence my response to JCF. No society in history has not recognised the need for… Read more »

Francis
Guest
Francis

Interested Observer, I can see how satisfying you find it to compare Michael Perham to a complacent white Southerner, happy for Jim Crow to last forever. But the unacknowledged difficulty here is that a huge amount of the obstacle to change in the Church of England – of the truly passionate opposition to an inclusive theology of sexuality – is coming, not from white/heterosexual moderates who can be conveniently bashed over the head with Martin Luther King, but from other gay Anglicans. From Anglo-Catholic clergy who want what they do on Hampstead Heath to remain a sin; from – a… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, that is fascinating, I had not been aware of the CA comments on children. They are astonishing considering that many of us have children, either from previous marriages or as a result of fostering and adoption or step parenting. One of my arguments for marriage equality has precisely always been that our families need the same recognition and protection as straight families and that our children should not be seen as having somehow lesser parents. Of course, that argument is muddied by the fact that the Children and Adoptions Act that gave gay single and partnered people equal opportunities… Read more »

Halford Dace
Guest
Halford Dace

I have been struggling for days with responding to this speech. It is obviously sincerely heartfelt and well intentioned, yet symptomatic of all that is bitterly alienating and frustrating about the Church at this time. As a queer Anglican (and not “gay [or] lesbian” — it happens that I’m both bisexual and in a same-sex relationship) I feel like we have engaged in patient conversation for enough decades. Calls for “gracious restraint” now just make me angry. Kyrie eleison, but I no longer have patience for endless talk, for being pathologised, for mutterings about “tradition” and “orthodoxy” from those who… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“What is happening is as much an argument within LGBT Anglicanism”

Wow. Really? Are anti equality LGBT Anglicans really a big part of the opposition?

That doesn’t resemble the movement towards inclusion in TEC. Some LGBT Episcopalians might be indifferent, but the vast majority want equality and inclusion. Of course, North Carolina just found itself with an anti gay, tea party Republican politician who used to be a drag queen. So I guess anything is possible.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

David Runcorn, here in the US, a lot of gay couples have children. There have been studies, children of same gendered couples do just as well as children with heterosexual parents. The only actual damage to children occurs with discrimination, when things like healthcare, inheritance, school issues, and whatnot come up. The actual damage caused by discrimination is a compelling reason for equal marriage and inclusion in the church. +Michael deserves having MLK’s words thrown at him. The infuriating part of CoE’s attitudes is caused by a. decades of foot dragging; and b. this imperial idea that England has to… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I find Nina Saint’s suggestion both spiritually and morally acceptable. Here is a grace that all can embrace and that makes a proper opportunity for discussion.

I have always argued that out of a sense of spirit-filled grace we should stop ordaining married bishops until the Church came at least to a point where we can agree to disagree.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I don’t find Nina Saint’s suggestion acceptable. The suggestion would have merit if we were talking about marriage in church and if we were saying that the church should not marry anyone at all until it has sorted out its theology on marriage. But we are talking about a civil right and the church has absolutely no moral right to tell any of its priests whether they may make us of the legal possibility to enter into civil marriage. It simply exceeds their authority over their priests. I sincerely hope that any test case will show that they don’t have… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“This is exactly why the discussion about marriage in our social context needs more careful thought.” But the legislation has been passed. The time for attempting to stop it has gone. There is no plausible world in which the legislation is repealed, no matter what Anglican Mainstream fantasise. Had the CofE engaged with the debate, rather than announcing the end of the world and assuming that would be enough to ensure the bill’s failure, it might have been able to debate any and all of those issues. Instead, the CofE issued an increasingly hysterical sequence of pamphlets ramping up the… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

‘The time for attempting to stop it has gone’ Unless ‘Thinking’ Anglicans is now itself under suspicion to urge more careful thought is not an attempt to stop anything. It is to play a part is how this all proceeds from here (and yes, the CofE has been embarrassingly clumsy and horribly off the pace in every way on this issue). ‘The legislation has been passed.’ So what? Not for the first time society has led the church rather than the other way round. But it is quite another matter to imply that a piece of rushed parliamentary legislation contains… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

The real problem, of course, is that few in the church are willing to admit that marriage does not qualify as one of those things that meets the test of Vincent’s canon (“always believed, everywhere, by all”). Yet it acts is if that were the case, talking about biblical “definition” where one in fact finds myriad “descriptions” and a long and controverted history of reflection as to what constitutes marriage, and a longer series of equally contesting regulations concerning who can marry whom. Had they approached the latest proposal (adopted by the state) as simply one more variation in an… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

If I can find a company that can handle the required high resolution, I think I shall have a tee-shirt made containing Tobias’ posting. It’s some of the wisest, in every sense, words I’ve ever seen on the topic.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

My thanks too Tobias H – a really helpful mix of history, theological reflection and practical wisdom. Am chewing long and hard on it.

Andrew F. Pierce
Guest

Counterpoints need to be raised to many arguments on this page. I want to address as many as I can since A. no one seems to be arguing the conservative view and B. it is impossible to address all in one sitting. Firstly everyone should note that ‘gracious restraint’, while unappreciated on these pages, actually serves the interests of the ‘pro’ argument. Many on these pages have taken this opportunity to hone arguments for their cause which they will use to sway many lay people. Additional it is important to remember the Christian church has officially held a very consistent… Read more »

Andrew F. Pierce
Guest

The Bishop presents an exceptional definition for the term Homophobia “… that is, hostility to homosexual people”. Unfortunately by this definition any opposing view, regardless of source or intention, can be (and often is) viewed as hostile. This means anyone who takes the ‘conservative’ view (such as the Bishop of Birkenhead, who was singularly identified for taking the conservative view) is subject to immediate classification and labeling as a ‘homophobe’. Such labeling undermines any debate because the mud of ‘homophobe’ sticks wherever and whenever it is thrown in public discourse. By forwarding such a definition the Bishop has, intentionally or… Read more »

Andrew F. Pierce
Guest

A few years ago a retired Irish politician explained on the radio ” … my moral compass is the law of the land …” meaning the legislature defined for him what was right or wrong. This statement in and of itself suggests the politician is not a Christian (or at best, is a very misguided one). Neither Christ nor the apostles looked to civil authorities to define right from wrong–nor did they instruct the church to look to them. They didn’t even look to church leaders to provide personal opinions about right or wrong but instead called for them (each… Read more »