Thinking Anglicans

Is a public statement on human sexuality something for the CNC to consider?

Readers may recall that at General Synod in July, John Ward asked a Question of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as reported fully here. This in turn followed from a previous Question asked in February, also reported here. The incidents to which reference is made in the questions occurred in September/October 2014 and in October/November 2013.

The guidance document to which the question refers has now been published: ARCHBISHOPSGUIDELINES ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF “CHOOSING BISHOPS THE EQUALITY ACT 2010 (REVISED)” (GS Misc 1044).
This document is dated March 2015, and as explained in its first section, it was revised following the passage of the women bishops legislation in 2014. Presumably therefore there was an earlier version of this guidance issued in 2013, shortly after the issue of GS Misc 1044 itself.

That document dated June 2013 to which this refers is also available on the CofE website as a PDF, and here as a normal web page.

Pages 3 and 4 of this newly published guidance constitute a section entitled: The relevance of a candidate’s previous public statements on human sexuality.
This portion is copied in full below the fold, but you need to read the whole document to get the context. However, you will note that GS Misc 1044 itself contains no reference to this topic.

The relevance of a candidate’s previous public statements on human sexuality

14. The focus of the Legal Office note is the imposition of a requirement of one of the kinds described in paragraph 7. The imposition of such a requirement is a significant thing, its effect being completely to exclude from consideration those whose circumstances are inconsistent with the requirement. But, as noted above, if a requirement is not imposed the fact that a candidate falls into one or other of the two categories is to be ignored and may not be the subject of any further discussion or questioning.

15. It is possible that a further issue may arise in the course of the CNC’s deliberations which is distinct from the possible imposition of a requirement. That is whether, when considering whether the candidate can fulfil the fundamental calling of a bishop to be a ‘focus of unity’, the CNC can nonetheless lawfully take into account the content and manner of any public statements previously made by him or her about the Church’s traditional teaching on same-sex relations.

16. Taking a consideration of this kind into account is different from imposing a requirement. Rather, in terms of the Equality Act, it involves the application of a ‘criterion’, in the light of which (amongst other criteria) the decision on nomination would be made.

17. A discussion of this kind would not have involved indirect discrimination under the Equality Act, had the Act applied, even if in practice such a discussion might put a homosexual candidate at a disadvantage when compared with heterosexual candidates. The concept of ‘indirect discrimination’ under the Act does not extend to a situation in which a criterion is applied as a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim; and a criterion designed to assess how well a candidate would, if nominated, be able to fulfil a fundamental aspect of a bishop’s role would have passed that test.

18. It would accordingly be open to the CNC, in principle, to have a discussion of this kind, in an appropriate case. Were it to do so, then the criterion would need to be weighed alongside others. So it would be for each individual member of the CNC to decide how much weight to attach to it.

19. However, it would be essential that any discussion of this issue was confined to weighing the implications of the candidate’s previous public statements for his or her ability to act as a focus of unity, rather than taking account of the implications of his or her sexuality or status as a civil partner. The latter would involve taking account of irrelevant, and unlawful, considerations, since those matters have either to be addressed through the imposition of a requirement or left out of account altogether.

20. In addition, the mere fact that a candidate had publicly questioned the Church of England’s teaching on human sexuality, or indeed that of the Anglican Communion as articulated in Lambeth 1:10, would not be sufficient to raise any issue from this point of view: that is something that clergy are free to do. An issue could only arise as a result of the way in which that disagreement had been expressed.

21. Particular care would be needed in handling any considerations relating to the Anglican Communion. An adverse reaction in the Anglican Communion to the candidate’s appointment on account of his or her previous public statements could in principle be a relevant consideration in so far as it touched on the candidate’s ability to be a focus of unity in the Church of England– e.g. because it could fuel controversy within the Church of England of such a kind as to make it more difficult for the candidate to act as an effective focus of unity.

22. However, in practice considerable care needs to be taken in evaluating considerations relating to the Anglican Communion, where concerns about the candidate’s appointment may well be based at least as much on his or her sexuality or civil partner status as on the nature of his or her previous public statements.

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Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

One or two comments to get us going on this one: 1. Has this been out since March or is what you have drawn attention to a revision that was issued today? If the latter, then putting things out over the weekend looks like a ploy to bury bad news. 2. The whole tone of this guidance is repugnant. I know it is legal guidance, but something that is intended to help people know how and when they can legally discriminate is disgusting. 3. The very idea that someone’s views over human sexuality might lead to them being discounted as… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

There’s simply a fundamental problem with insisting that each and every bishop be a “focus of unity.” The CoE has a disgraceful history of insisting on doing and supporting injustice for the sake of “unity.” “Unity” as practiced by CoE on human sexuality is in conflict with the Gospel of Jesus Christ that asks us to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” with no exception – the context makes it clear that Jesus was not giving room for humans to define exceptions. Is there no one in CoE leadership who can see how shameful it is to lift “unity” above justice… Read more »

DBD
Guest

Disgusting but not at all surprising; which is to say business as usual. Christe eleison.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Jeremy
This document was first posted on the CofE website at the end of last week. It has not yet been the subject of any press release. But the questioner was told about it, and he told me.
I only got around to posting here about it this evening. FWIW I do not think there is any connection between its appearance now and other events of last week.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Again we see the Church of England put the Communion abroad over communicants at home.

The Communion abroad wants to discriminate against LGBT people–even criminalise them. Therefore the CofE must discriminate too.

How does this follow, in any moral reasoning?

Or does it follow on by power reasoning–that in order to remain a “focus of unity” in the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury needs to ban gay bishops at home?

If that’s what’s going on–and it certainly looks that way–then the Anglican Communion has become an instrument of injustice and oppression.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Jeremy,

My understanding of the law is that your point 4 must be correct. A one-sided application of the criterion would appear to be direct discrimination and therefore incapable of justification. Hopefully someone will explore that.

rjb
Guest
rjb

Surely it is always wrong to see ‘unity’ and ‘justice’ as mutually opposed goods or to favour one at the expense of the other? Any truly Christian vision of unity must always entail universal justice, and it is unthinkable that there could be real justice in tolerating disunity.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Jeremy, pressure for the Church of England to hold a traditional position’s at least as strong at home as it is abroad: in England, it comes from the powerful evangelical wing who now run the church, and who also dominate Christianity at universities, and amongst the establishment in general. Barring a tiny number of accepting evangelicals, English evangelicals are united around the marriage of a man and a woman as being the only acceptable place for sexual relationships. This goes for the liberal wing of open evangelicals as much as it does anyone: Ian Paul appeared on TV opposite Jeremy… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

The appointment of Rod Thomas as a bishop shows that the “focus of unity” excuse is only deployed as a cover for homophobia, and is not applied to exclude candidates who are outspoken, extremist and divisive teachers from other points of view.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

In a consumer society, I can order an extra strong medium latte if I so choose. But my understanding of the role of bishop as a focus of unity is rather the opposite – I am in communion with him or her, whether or not I agree with his or her views, liturgical style or whatever, and hence with all the others locally who are. We may disagree profoundly and try to change one another’s views and actions but we are part of a church family which does not get to pick and choose, being invited to the table of… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Makes the heart sad.

Jeremy non P
Guest
Jeremy non P

James wrote, “That there’s no real domestic pressure on the state church to change is a grim warning that England, like Australia, isn’t near as liberal on sexuality as many would like to believe.”

The key phrase is “state church.” We shall see how much longer the Church of England can stay that way.

26 seats in the Lords reserved for heterosexuals?

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Re: Rod Thomas’s appointment … the article is about the CNC, which nominates diocesan bishops. It is diocesan bishops particularly who are the focus of unity in their diocese. Rod Thomas is a suffragan bishop, and sufragans are not nomiated by the CNC.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Err. The original document GS Misc 1044 was intended to apply also to suffragan bishop appointments, and IIRC was circulated to all diocesans accordingly. I would be surprised if this supplementary document was not similarly intended, and had not been similarly circulated.

Whether the customary diocesan consultation process for a suffragan appointment was in fact followed for the recent Maidstone appointment is another question, I have absolutely no idea if it was.

Alastair Newman
Guest

The Anglican Communion still includes ECUSA, right? So #21 and #22 cut both ways?

Some unrelated questions…What is the legal force of GS Misc 1044? Who wrote GS Misc 1044? Who had to approve GS Misc 1044 before it was published?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Surely it is always wrong to see ‘unity’ and ‘justice’ as mutually opposed goods or to favour one at the expense of the other?” What a peculiar moral position. Jesus never calls for unity. He calls for justice and compassion. Sometimes “unity” and justice are mutually opposed. CoE’s treatment of LGBTQ people is Exhibit A. This document makes it clear that “unity” is a euphemism for homophobic or closeted. And this “unity” is more important than the Gospel call to love all of our neighbors and see all people as created in the Image of God. In the US, we… Read more »

Cassandra
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Cassandra

The Guidance on GS MISC 1044 (March 2014) states that the CNC may ‘lawfully take into account the *content and manner* of any public statements previously made by [the candidate] about the Church’s traditional teaching on same-sex relations (15)’ in terms of the criterion of a bishop as ‘a focus of unity’: ‘Taking a consideration of this kind into account is different from imposing a requirement. Rather in terms of the Equality Act, it involves the application of a “criterion”, in the light of which (amongst other criteria) the decision on nomination would be made’ (16). (NB there is no… Read more »

Malcolm
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Malcolm

Could someone let me know, if I table a question to the at GS along these lines, it would be helpful. I need to table it by end of Wednesday!!!! So an early response please. Any suggested amended wording would be welcome. “Since the latest version of GS Misc 1044, with paras 14 to 22, was made available on the C of E website at the beginning of November but is dated March 2015, I assume that it is intended to clarify the position in the light of the questions raised in General Synod in February 2015. Thus in the… Read more »

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

This is obviously not great reading for most commentators on TA. But read 19 and 20 carefully. I read them as saying ‘we could appoint a partnered gay person, provided they had not made themselves a public spokesperson on the issue’. Or perhaps even, ‘we will appoint a partnered gay person, just not Jeffrey John because then there would be a massive international fuss’. 22 rolls back on that a bit, but from a progressive perspective it could be worse.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Malcolm, just for the sake of persuasive wording, I would reverse the order of the last sentence, to end on a strong and positive note:

If the concern is whether a candidate for bishop can be a focus of unity, then shouldn’t that unity be determined by taking ALL views into account–especially the view, widely held in England if not in Africa, that same-sex marriages, like other marriages, are a positive good?

Julian Mann
Guest
Julian Mann

If the CNC is now expecting a candidate for the episcopate consistently in their public teaching to have upheld the biblical doctrine of the Church of England on sexual ethics throughout their ministry, then they are absolutely right. According to Canon A5, the biblical doctrine of the Church of England is to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles of Religion. The BCP order of Holy Matrimony is not less than biblical in its description of sex outside heterosexual marriage. It calls it ‘fornication’. Because the historic Anglican formularies reflecting the supreme and… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Commentators here talk in terms of LGBT or LGBTQ but the guidance really only relates to LGB. One might hope that means there would be no objection to someone who is transgendered or who has been through gender reassignment (they are not the same thing) being made a bishop … but it’s perhaps more likely that such an outcome is considered so risible that the guidance ignores it.

Father David
Guest
Father David

I think it is now time for the Dean of St. Albans to call for an Employment Tribunal.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Agree 100 percent, Cynthia, but “unity” is a figleaf for the true reason: those leaders of the Church of England who aren’t evangelical are afraid of those who are; or more precisely, afraid of losing their numbers and, above all, their money. He who pays the piper gets to call the tune. And while Savi may be on-point about sympathies in the pews, a majority of English lay members don’t feel strongly enough to actually force change. They’re not powerless: they could withhold their donations, issue votes of no confidence against unsympathetic priests, protest outside the bishops’ palaces, and elect… Read more »

Mark Mesley
Guest
Mark Mesley

Cynthia claims that, “Jesus never calls for unity”; I’m astounded by this comment! What about John 17?

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Malcolm, Is it worth incorporating Cassandra’s helpful comment (See 9th Nov 4.21PM above) “Since the latest version of GS Misc 1044, with paras 14 to 22, was made available on the C of E website at the beginning of November but is dated March 2015, I assume that it is intended to clarify the position in the light of the questions raised in General Synod in February 2015. Firstly, noting that House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (15 Feb 2014) states ‘The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I have put down the following question for the forthcoming inaugural Group of Sessions of General Synod: What current plans exist for the Crown Nominations Commission to report to Synod, as envisaged by SO 146(4)? Part of the answer should be that ++Sentamu told the last Synod that there would be a report in 2016. Events are now moving at quite a pace. This needs to be a priority for the February Synod. Synod needs to know how the ‘advice’ in GS Misc 1044 (a most curious document) is being applied in practice and also how the CNC is dealing… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

In the last decade or so, unity has derived from Lambeth 1:10, as articulated by the Windsor process, so by definition ‘Focus of Unity’ accords with that resolution. Opposition to women’s ministry is irrelevant. The rigorous screening of candidates’ previous public statements for ‘content and manner’ has the effect of policing subsequent comments. No appointee to my knowledge since the Bishop of Salisbury has so vocally and trenchantly expressed views at variance with the Party line. And it would be hard to do so given the oaths of canonical obedience and the lack of specificity regarding ‘the way in which… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

The notion that unity is found in teachers rather than The Teacher is part of the deep problem with this sad display of institutionalism.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

O yes, and if The Episcopal Church lacked ‘teachers’ in favor of ‘The Teacher’ — this would be the mercy of God.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Any licensed minister who taught or practised otherwise (than a conservative sola-scriptura view of homosexuality) would not be spiritually and morally fit to instruct Christ’s people in any context.”

– Julian Mann –

Any more than would a priest whose ministry is inclined to moral judgement more than God’s mercy towards all God’s children (including Gays & Women).

Christian priests are not there to judge (that is the task of God alone) but to dispense mercy and forgiveness.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Julian Mann, you see, my personal view would be that anyone who seriously believes that God randomly singles out 5% of humanity and tells them they must never fulfil their inborn natural human longing for love and intimacy, knowing is highly likely to cause them mental harm, has such a shaky understanding of God that it invalidates almost pretty much everything else they could say to me about that God. But that’s beside the point. The point is that it should be the office that is the focus of unity, not the incumbent. When we debated women priests it was… Read more »

Julian Mann
Guest
Julian Mann

From the Bishop’s exhortation in the Ordinal (Ordering of Priests): ‘You have heard, brethren, as well in your private examination, as in the exhortation which was now made to you, and in the holy Lessons taken out of the Gospel and the writings of the Apostles, of what dignity and of how great importance this office is, whereunto ye are called. And now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you have in remembrance, into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge ye are called: that is to say,… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

With all due respect, Ron, I really don’t want mercy and forgiveness. I want recognition that my love for my partner is right and true and beautiful. I want recognition that it is just as moral as the love between a man and a woman. I want justice.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Once again Father Ron you demonstrate your insight, thank you

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“The BCP order of Holy Matrimony is not less than biblical in its description of sex outside heterosexual marriage. It calls it ‘fornication’.”

But of course the BCP also states that Matrimony was “ordained . . . to avoid fornication.”

So if LGBT people wish “to avoid fornication,” then they should marry.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Erika, I agree with all you say, but this is decided by realpolitik, not what’s right. Same-sex relationships will never be accepted in the Church of England until either of two things happens: a majority of evangelicals are persuaded that Paul isn’t in fact saying that homosexuality per se is a “salvation issue”; or other wings of the church (including accepting evangelicals) can make up the shortfall in bodies and cash. Or, as a minimum, mitigate it enough so the church in England can survive. That’s where we are, and all focus needs to be on finding solutions to that… Read more »

Geo Noakes
Guest
Geo Noakes

I don’t understand why it is okay to block traditionalists from becoming diocesan bishops because it would undermine women clergy but on the other hand it is perfectly proper to appoint a diocesan bishop whose teaching undermines the ministry of those in the diocese who teach the CofE official teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman. If we block diocesan sees to traditionalists then simple justice and consistency means that we also block them to those who publicaly dissent from the teaching of the CofE on the traditional view of marriage.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

The thing is, Julian Mann, that on matters of morality it is the church, which, guided by the Holy Spirit, makes the rules. The fact that once, when the 39 Articles were compiled, or the exhortations in the BCP written, the church thought one thing does not preclude its now thinking that at the time it did not have all the facts at its disposal. It has done this over women priests, and over women bishops. This issue is the same.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

James, it’s tricky, isn’t it. Because this proposal comes close to foul play designed precisely so that there can be no free debate and consequently no discovery that evangelicals are, in fact, far less conservative than is generally assumed. All research suggests that almost half of all evangelicals are by now privately supportive of gay relationships. This research is well known. What stops people from speaking out? Peer pressure and fear of reprisals. It’s almost as if the hierarchy knows this and wants to make sure that the fear of reprisals doesn’t lift – because in a genuinely free debate… Read more »

Malcolm Halliday
Guest
Malcolm Halliday

Jeremy / Simon. Thanks for suggestions on my draft question. I’ve hopefully improved it in the light of your comments and it’s now gone off to Secretariat. Hopefully it will produce a helpful response on the day and the two supplementaries, I may not use mine, will enable follow up.
Malcolm

Kate
Guest
Kate

Erika
I am afraid your logic is flawed. Why does God permit so many to be born into abject poverty? Why are some born with physical disabilities. Suggesting that being born gay cannot be a God-sent challenge can feel like a kick-in-the-teeth to those born with other challenges which cannot be rationalised away. It is an argument I suggest you eschew if you wish to avoid causing upset.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Kate, please help me here. Anyone can be born into poverty, or end up poor later in life. Gay or straight. Anyone can be born with physical disabilities. Gay or straight. When my daughter had leukaemia, we knew that this was one of those things that could have happened to anyone. All sorts of sad and tragic things can happen randomly to anyone. And it’s the randomness that’s the key. There is, as far as I’m aware, no other instance in the Bible where God consistently singles out one particular group of people for a lesser life. The other difference… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.’ Surely totally incompatible with postmodern narcissism and self-serving careerism? Posted by: Julian Mann on Tuesday, 10 November Frankly, Julian Mann, I don’t see anything there that is incompatible with the recognition of God’s creation at work in people whose intrinsic sexuality is different from ‘the norm’.… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Erika, I am not saying whether your conclusion is right or wrong. But your logic is wrong. And where does this “lesser life” thing you now mention come from? If male gay sex is wrong (and I say “if” not “because” quite deliberately) then choosing to express that one loves the Lord more than one’s partner by engaging in abstinence is no “lesser life”. And what of those born unable to have a normal physical relationship? Those for instance born female in gender and spirit but with a male body for whom any sexual contact is impossible. In a modern… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Rosemary, Again, while your conclusion may or may not be correct, the comparison is if not inaccurate, at least imperfect. “The fact that once, when the 39 Articles were compiled, or the exhortations in the BCP written, the church thought one thing does not preclude its now thinking that at the time it did not have all the facts at its disposal. It has done this over women priests, and over women bishops. This issue is the same.” With women priests, the Lord has chosen in modern times to reveal fragments of various non-canonical gospels, some of which suggest that… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Mark wrote “Cynthia claims that, “Jesus never calls for unity”; I’m astounded by this comment! What about John 17?”

Please explain, Mark. I presume you mean this passage: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one.”

We are one in the Eucharist, not in being homophobic jerks.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Erika, agreed that many lay evangelicals don’t take a hardline POV, especially since many are “evangelical” in only the loosest possible sense. They like charismatic services with modern music, and feel they have a personal relationship with Jesus, but don’t obsess about the minutiae of Corinthians or the anthropology of Eden anymore than you or I do. Also agree that peer pressure plays a large part. Evangelicals are, by and large, instinctively loyal to their leaders, and its those leaders who must either be persuaded to change their interpretation of scripture (unlikely), or to tolerate a “lifestyle” they believe will… Read more »

Julian Mann
Guest
Julian Mann

The terms the Ordinal uses to describe the role of the pastor are firmly grounded in the Scriptures. For the minister as ‘watchman’ warning of the consequences of disobeying the Lord’s Word, see Ezekiel 33; for the minister as one entrusted with the ‘stewardship’ of the Lord’s message, see 1 Corinthians 9v16-17 and Ephesians 3v2. These Ordinal terms resound with the objective, supreme and final authority of God’s revealed Word in the Bible. On sexual ethics therefore the pastor is failing in his duty if he does not teach and practise consistently and publicly that for the Christian the choice… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Kate, Let’s start with observed reality. We know that gay people are capable of forming the same stable, loving attachments as straights and that these lead to the same emotional stability as they do for straight people. We also know that telling gay people that they are, for some completely inexplicable reason, sinful if they form a loving life-long bond, to the extent that they must not even think of it, leads to mental health problems, to a vastly increased rate of self-harm, attempted suicide and completed suicide. If you tell one child in your family that, for no obvious… Read more »