Thursday, 5 April 2007

Hereford case: Thursday report

Today, Thursday, John Reaney gave evidence to the tribunal, see this report from the Press Association Bishop ‘embarrassed’ gay job applicant:

…At the meeting on July 19, Bishop Priddis wanted to ask Mr Reaney, who currently works for the Weston Spirit charity, the reasons why he had left his youth worker post in the Diocese of Chester in 2002 after 16 months.

Mr Reaney told the tribunal today he resigned after being asked to choose between his partner and his job.

Around four months prior to the meeting with Bishop Priddis, Mr Reaney said this five-year relationship had come to an end.

During a two-hour meeting at The Palace in Hereford, which was also attended by John Chapman, the chairman of the Hereford Diocesan Board of Education, Mr Reaney claims the Bishop first asked him about his relationship history.

“I said I was not in a sexual relationship and was not looking for one and that I was able to exercise self control,” said Mr Reaney.

“The Bishop put it to me that this situation could change. I made it very clear to the Bishop that I was not seeking a relationship and would adhere to his wishes if I were under his authority.

“I would communicate with him if I was struggling. He asked me ’what would you do if you met someone?’

“I told that if I felt a relationship might develop in the future, I would discuss it with him.

“However, I reiterated to him that I was not in a sexual relationship and I did intend to remain that way and I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post.”

He added: “When the Bishop asked me if I thought it was appropriate for a Youth Officer to have such a homosexual relationship, I turned to the Bishop and said ’before we go any further what is your stance?’

“His words to me were ’whilst many of our colleagues are becoming more liberal on the issue, I find myself becoming more conservative.’

“At this point my heart sank. That was the turning point in the conversation for me.”

Mr Reaney said he was left “very embarrassed and extremely upset” following the meeting…

BBC Bishop ‘upset’ gay lay applicant

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Comments

That a bishop would treat anybody in this way frankly beggars belief. I'm ashamed that +Priddis went to my college. He certainly didn't learn his manners (or his morals, I suspect) here.

Posted by: Caliban on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 7:07pm BST

I wonder if HRH Prince Charles would/could be hired by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, without Archbishop Rowan "stepping in?"

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 9:23pm BST

This is of course just one of the depositions to be made. If it turns out to be an accurate picture of events, it illustrates perfectly why church conservatives who claim to make a distinction between homosexual orientation (ok, if celibate) and homosexual practice (not ok) are, at best, attempting to deceive themselves as well as us about their real attitudes.

Mr. Reaney's account has him telling the Bishop of Hereford that he was gay, but celibate. The Bishop's reply was: "That could change." When Mr. Reaney attempted to give assurances that he would remain celibate while in the Bishop's employ, the Bishop, apparently believing that chastity is impossible for homosexuals, refused to accept them.

What this exchange says is that only one sexual orientation is acceptable in Church circles: the heterosexual. If gay and lesbian people want to be acceptable to the Church, adopting the practice of celibacy will not be enough. Unless they become sexually active heterosexuals, they are not wanted in the Church. Gay and lesbian people are then forced to lie to the Church about who they are. They must "act straight" and never let anyone know their "dreadful secret".

Under this system, anyone who is gay spends a lifetime in silence, fear and dread, and anyone "suspected" of being gay is at risk for being slandered, vilified, blackmailed, etc.

That's the real system and always has been. That's what Church conservatives are trying to defend. It's got nothing to do with sexual activity or celibacy; nothing at all.

It's a wretched, bigoted mess, exactly what the new SORs legislate against.

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 9:49pm BST

This account is very moving, and rather than comment, I think the appropriate response is prayer. For both sides. I guess the Bishop will have had no idea of the pain and hurt he has caused and will tomorrow hear the words 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' with a new heart and penitence.

Posted by: Neil on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 11:02pm BST

This case for me highlights the problems the Church of England and other Anglican churches are facing. Surely Christians want to give good examples of behaviour in relationships of whatever sexuality. The trouble is at present to challenge certain aspects of gay living incurs the wrath of a rather vocal pro gay lobby. And at the same time it doesn't seem possible for Bishops to point to good loving gay relationships and affirm them, as good examples. Where will this go?

Posted by: Etheldreda17 on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 11:44pm BST

Now that I have discovered this rather fantastical story is in fact real (still struggling over that) I am, I have to admit, reeling from the revelations from the ET.

The words that come to mind are (in no particular order) 'bad faith', 'bigotry' and a conclusion that old time religion - sadly but inevitably - leads to old time bigotry.

The applicant was subjected to gross discrimination (whether lawful or not remains to be seen) but from what we have heard so far I am utterly appalled.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 12:36am BST

"Mr Reaney said he was left “very embarrassed and extremely upset” following the meeting…"

He is not the one who should have left the meeting "very embarrassed and extremely upset."

It is the Bishop who should be embarrassed for arrogantly judging Mr. Reaney's promise and word to be inadequate. Does the Bishop think that any promise of celibacy so given by a gay man would be abandoned on a whim? Does that reflect the Bishop's lurid imagination?

A lesbian priest friend of mine once remarked that if gays and lesbians had as many sexual encounters as straight people imagined we did, we would all be dead of exhaustion.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 3:04am BST

Does the Good Bishop ask his married straight employees, "Could you be swayed to leave your wife or commit adultery?" Liberal or conservative it's wrong. Are you going to sin today??? Like the HRH getting a job pun in above post.

Posted by: Bob in SWpa on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 3:11am BST

Should any person give this kind of assurances to a bishop or other ecclesiatical authority? I myself would refuse, even if it meant I didn't get a job that I wanted. But I'm a straight man married to a woman, so I don't have to. In any interview I've ever had, including pre-ordination interviews, I was very careful to keep my integrity, because once you give it away, it's very difficult to get back. Are there any circumstances where it would be permissible to promise celibacy?

The bishop's questions would violate the canons in TEC as I read them, but not as many conservative bishops, who rely on an untenable distinction between orientation and behavior, do.

Posted by: Bill Carroll on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 4:27am BST

Neil, even though you are talking about an evangelical you are still able to hold out hope that he will realize the hurt and pain he has caused.

Wow. You are truly an optimist.

Posted by: Dennis on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 6:35am BST

"Mr. Reaney's account has him telling the Bishop of Hereford that he was gay, but celibate. The Bishop's reply was: "That could change.""

The Bishops respons was: I don't believe you!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 6:41am BST

Whatever country we live in, we are all Nigerians.

Posted by: Josh Thomas on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 8:07am BST

It is clear that Bishop Priddis believes active homosexual relationships are sinful, and that John Reaney doesn't. It seems from John's testimony, that the Bishop simply didn't believe that he could remain celibate, but only the Bishop can tell us whether or not he did or didn't believe that. Maybe the Bishop didn't want an employee teaching that what the Bishop believed was sinful, wasn't sinful.

Posted by: Fred Baines on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 3:56pm BST

The more you read the case, the worse it gets. The guy is clearly kowtowing to the demands made by this institution (but doubtful in law for a lay appointment) and in front of his inquisitor, and this inquisitor on a whim of becoming more conservative pulls the rug from under his feet. And then appoints no one else, so it looks like discrimination was the means to make a last minute decision to save some money.

As the grounds stack up against this bishop, I hope he gets taken to the cleaners and then he might have a thought for the victims of this ongoing discrimination.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 4:14pm BST

Seems the bishop overstepped here, if this is an accurate account (and there are always two sides, so let's see what comes in further discovery).

Church agreement on appropriateness of a clergy or staff member living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage is clear from the last Lambeth, but clearly challenged in many TEC and COE parishes. Regardless, it's an area of open contest, so it seems not inappropriate to have it be a consideration.

However, once committed to remaining celibate as this candidate did, seems inappropriate to disqualify. Sexuality is not the issue here, actions and lifestyle are. And as a member of staff in youth ministry, standards should be encouraged (even if there is challenge to the existing standards). I would think a straight youth minister living with a lover would not qualify, either.

And Dennis, is it really appropriate to throw such catty comments as: 'even though you are talking about an evangelical you are still able to hold out hope that he will realize the hurt and pain he has caused. Wow. You are truly an optimist'.

Implying that all others with a belief unlike yours are hard hearted is hardly befitting a 'thinking anglican', and certainly no way to engage another Christian.

Posted by: harvard man on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 5:23pm BST

Its not simply up to the Church, though. Its a question of how the law is interpreted and how far the Church's exemption from the regulations that all other institutions have to abide by should be viewed.

Personally,. if this is their game, then I think its about time all exemptions were done away with. why should religionists have any special status, in any case? This isn't a theocracy.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 6:14pm BST

Charlotte

The new SORs (goods and services regulations) are distinct from these employment regulations which have came into existence in 2003. (SORS have not yet taken effect.)

Both sets of regulations have religious exemptions, though slightly differently worded.

Although there have been hardly any previous cases under these employment regs involving church bodies, there have been plenty of cases generally and so employment tribunals already have quite a lot of experience in dealing with claims like this one against secular employers.

The outcome of the case is going to be highly significant for the CofE no matter what this tribunal decides. And is very likely to go to the Employment Appeal Tribunal afterwards.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 6:33pm BST

Thanks for the correction, Simon. Looking in from the other side of the pond, as I do, I often don't get things right. I should remember that the next time Ruth Gledhill shows her lack of familiarity with the American situation, and forgive her her trespasses.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 7:28pm BST

First they say I’m not a homophobe!

Then they say It’s in the Bible!

Then they say Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin!

Then they say Lambeth 1998 1.10 is the Teaching of the Church!

Then they say It’s not about orientation, it’s about lifestyle!

Then they say Heteromarriage or Mandatory celibacy!

Then they say The choice is yours!

Then they say (to JJ) Celibate? but you have spoken against it!

Then they say (to JR) Celibate? I don’t believe you will!

Then they say …

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 7:53pm BST

Charlotte wrote: "...it illustrates perfectly why church conservatives who claim to make a distinction between homosexual orientation (ok, if celibate) and homosexual practice (not ok) are, at best, attempting to deceive themselves as well as us about their real attitudes."

Charlotte is exceedingly generous to believe that they're "attempting to deceive themselves as well." I mean really, did we need anything other than the Jeffrey John affair to illustrate how hypocritical this supposed orientation vs. practice dichotomy is for the "conservatives" ?

Posted by: David H. on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 9:40pm BST

If I were a Gay priest in the Diocese of Hereford and especially if I were in a relationship, I would be very afraid at the stupidity of the Bishop, and for this reason: Gay organisations that 'out' people do so to expose hypocrisy, something Jesus did by the way. Such groups have every right to now name and shame and by so doing say to the Bishop 'what are you going to do'? There are so many gay priests and bishops and most are happy to be quiet and discreet. The actions of the Bishop of Hereford means that he must surely apply the same rule to everyone, although I doubt he would want to.

Posted by: David Gould on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 9:58pm BST

David H., I honestly do think that many traditional conservatives really are trying to deceive themselves as well as us about the real character of their motivations and feelings. People on the liberal sides of these questions do it, too. It's called "sin." We all do it.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 6 April 2007 at 11:50pm BST

If +++Cantuar truly believes in creating a "safe place", then now is the time for more gay clergy to come out. Recent General Synod was a step in the right direction. I'm not sure I hold with serial outing, unless hypocrisy is involved; one's public declaration of sexuality is a very personal matter.

During an uplifting 3 hour devotion at St Alban's Abbey yesterday, Good Friday, presided by Marilyn McCord Adams (Episcopalian Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford) and Jeffrey John, it struck me as being so unfair that the Dean's private life should be public knowledge (same with Gene Robinson); yet I know very little about the private lives of any other senior churchmen and women, nor would I want to, nor is it relevant to anything. We know most bishops are married, but are they also celibate with their wives? Most of them are beyond child-rearing age! Why is a bit of non-procreative nooky okay for them but not for gays?

In the Anglo-catholic, high camp wing of the church there have always been many gay priests, just as there are in the Roman church. Many are "practising", others are celibate. Probably most are in the closet, at least to their flock, leading apparently chaste lives. They are still able to conduct their ministry in a diligent fashion. Society's greater acceptance of gays should eventually allow many of them to come out. Whereas there has been a tendency towards misogyny in some gay clergy cliques (I'm thinking of Forward in Faith parishes), women and gay men really are allies in the struggle for an inclusive church.

Just a point about youth workers: we don't expect teachers to be married - very few are when they enter the profession. Why should it be any different for a diocesan youth worker?

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 12:59am BST

This is just the sort of discrimination that used to be routinely flung at women nationwide in interviews - "but suppose you have a baby? We can't possibly employ you!" It was found to be discriminatory in law and woe betide anyone who dares to mention anything like that in interviews today, church or non-church. Perhaps the Bishop has unknowingly advanced the cause of gays and lesbians and we will soon find that even the Church may not discriminate by asking questions in interviews about anyone's sexual habits.

Posted by: rockingrector on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 8:12am BST

Is the sub judice convention known to the above contributors?

Posted by: Clive on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 9:43am BST

I can find only one thing wrong with this candidate: namely, that he resigned from his previous post after being asked (quite rightly) to choose between his partner and his job. This is not a resigning issue, as in any church post the choice is clear, and in fact he should not have needed to be asked.

I agree that the presumption of unchastity is unfair - though possibly it is motivated by the lack of unequivocal condemnation from the Christian homosexual community of extramarital sex, promiscuity, pornography etc..

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 12:53pm BST

"This is just the sort of discrimination that used to be 'but suppose you have a baby? We can't possibly employ you!' "

Yes indeed. Way back in 1966, a Duke University classmate of mine who had majored in chemistry was being interviewed by medical schools she had applied to. One of them asked if she had a special boyfriend. 'Not at present,' she said. Then she was asked, 'Are you dating?' Yes, she said. 'Are you on the pill? We can't risk admitting a girl who would get pregnant on us.'

She did not finish the application process there. She was accepted elsewhere, and the last I heard, was a distinguished neuro-surgeon.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 1:13pm BST

Christopher,
I happily speak out against pornography, because it's abusive. Also against random promiscuity, because I believe it's potentially damaging. But extra marital sex? Do you really want me to condemn my parents, my siblings and my partner's children, all who live faithful relationships? Sorry!!

But even those of us lgbt people with more conservative views on sexual ethics won't be able to condemn sex outside marriage until you straight conservatives give up your double standard that allows you faithful and sexually fulfilling relationships while denying marriage to us.

Let's get this straight - sex in itself is not wrong. It always depends on the context. Abuse is wrong. Casually riding roughshod over people's feelings is wrong. Using people for your own pleasure is wrong. Love isn't wrong and sex within a loving relationship isn't wrong either. Gay or straight.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 5:04pm BST

The forced dilemma, leave your partner or resign from your church work, is false, false, false. It posits an innate contradiction between committed love - or at least the openness to having that happen which all ethical human pairbonding relationships involve; and a vocation to service in church life (or in society?), even as a lay believer. Maybe this a priori dilemma hides from us a deep enactment of power held, and power denied?

Then: What a fine display of a powerful/privileged bishop, already safely in the only possible folds of being straight and married, high-mindedly denying the ethical merits of somebody else's sex life.

Lucky bishop, then. Privileged bishop, then.

Perhaps the youth workers' partnering failed for other reasons, but in any case one suspects that its communal and spiritual surrounds were maybe more diminished and deprived in oxygen and church life than would have been the case if the couple was straight? A committed relationship does not happen overnight, and where is the space for involved same sex couples to ethically meet and become involved?

Conservative answer: No space. Thank you very, very, very much. We heterosexuals already own all the space there can be. The Bible Tells Us So. Don't question us, question God.

Can this legacy closed system - preached to be so high and so final and so exclusively heterosexual? - be anything besides a whitened sepulcher of ethical rightness which presumes to exhaustively know certain people, exclusively through scrutiny of categories and sexual acts? How proud this system is of its presuppositional abilities to completely ignore, ahead of time: the relationship, the heart, the mind, or the ethical couple's joining of life's journeys open ended?

Thanks to the bishop (and to many conservative commentators) for yet again putting all of this presuppositional system on full, messy public display.

Watch. Listen. Learn. If you have ears to hear, hear. Hear and discern the extreme tilts going on in these unquestioned legacy heterosexual privileges. At minimum, if you are straight you automatically get – (A) to embody a sexual orientation without struggle or doubt, (B) to meet and get married, and above all as believers (C) to be especially privileged ahead of time to know just how inadequate and morally inferior queer folks are innately defined by your beliefs to be, in all the wonderful realms where you are so greatly privileged?

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 6:06pm BST

Clive and everyone, here's the Wikipedia entry for _sub judice_.

"In law, sub judice, Latin for "under judgment," means that a particular case or matter is currently under trial or being considered by a judge or court. The term may be used synonymously with "the present case" or "the case at bar" by some lawyers.

"In England and Wales, New Zealand, Australia and Canada it is generally considered inappropriate to publicly comment on cases sub judice and can even be an offence in itself, leading to contempt of court proceedings. This is particularly true in criminal cases, where publically discussing cases sub judice may constitute interference with due process.

"In the United States, there are First Amendment concerns about stifling the right of free speech which prevent such tight restrictions on comments sub judice. However, there are still protections for criminal defendants and those convicted in an atmosphere of a circus have had their convictions overturned for a fairer trial."

Although the interpretation of _sub judice_ is stricter in Great Britain, where the case originates, the application of _sub judice_ rules to posts on this case on this blog seems questionable. The case is a civil, not a criminal one. It has been extensively publicized in the British newspapers, and bloggers' comments follow in the wake of those newspaper articles. As to my own comments, I am an American and a member of the Episcopal Church, and thus do not have what we in the United States call "standing" in the case. That is, I'm an outsider to the whole process. (That's a different sort of problem, of course. But my comments on the case in fact carry far much less weight than the comments of, say, another Church of England bishop or a member of the Cabinet.)

However, Clive, I will let Simon and the rest at Thinking Anglicans adjudicate this. Remove everything I've posted if it compromises the case.

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 6:11pm BST

"Implying that all others with a belief unlike yours are hard hearted is hardly befitting a 'thinking anglican', and certainly no way to engage another Christian." Harvard

Thanks for sharing. I'll pass on your observation to the Bishop Hereford...he's a remotely "thinking" and "engaging" Anglicano kinda guy who is hardly "befitting" his interview skills!

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 3:40am BST

The comments on this case appear to me, from my admittedly American perspective ( I am a British subject now)to bear out some of my own sorry stereotypes about blogging being an area which tempts us to loud Moral Posturing, usually at someone else's expense. In the predominantly liberal American Episcopal Church, insurance requirements make sure that you are especially careful about whom you employ to deal with children or young people. I feel much sympathy with Jeffrey John and the impossible position he was put in, but there is a wide perception that gay people, and especially gay younger people, are emotionally vulnerable to emotional attractions, particularly to attractive young adolescents. That this has not occurred to any of those making righteous-sounding comments about the C of E and about Bishop Priddis strikes me as myopic at best.It was not so long ago that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cardiff resigned early as a result of the scandal incurred by his appointing a talented young priest who was 'inappropriately' attracted to his younger male charges. Liberal Cant lives - right along with and parallel to Wingnut Cant. Like we all say, there is always room in the Anglican churches for one more hypocrite!

Posted by: Jay Wilson on Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 12:36pm BST

"there is a wide perception that gay people, and especially gay younger people, are emotionally vulnerable to emotional attractions, particularly to attractive young adolescents"

Don't you think that ALL young people are emotionally vulnerable to emotional attractions? I certainly remember many a serious schoolgirl crush on attractive young male teachers. How embarrassing it is to remember it years later!
And how painful to see my nieces go through that stage now, well aware that my own girls won't be long before they follow.

Maybe to protect all young people of a vulnerable age, we should do away with young youth workers altogether, or only allow those with spots, greasy hair and horrible glasses?

Alternatively, we might simply continue to rely on the professionalism of the youth workers, who are faced with this all the time and have amazingly effective strategies to let the vulnerable young people down gently.

Or were you actually saying that gay youth workers are intrinsically less likely to be professional in their approach?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 1:52pm BST

Errmm, Jay - I think (as someone has said elsewhere, earlier) the expoitative relationships you fear tend to be heterosexual (older man, younger female), undermining fatally your defence of +Hereford. I think you've been listening to too many choirboy jokes.

There may, repeat may be more of an issue in the RC church because of the enforced celibacy ruling - but in less artificial situations it's the straights whom you ought to deny employment if we're to get all worried about paedophilia.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 2:26pm BST

The 'tu quoque' response of 'straights are just as bad' has a certain obvious logic to it but it does not obviate the legitimate impression of many parents that the prominent culture of promiscuity in gay male society is threatening to the sexual development of impressionable young adolescents. As A.N.Wilson has pointed out in an article validating the faithful ministry of many gay priests, he along with many others 'outgrew' his bisexuality, but parents are afraid for their children. To whom should the Bishop of Hereford be most responsible - a hypercritical claque of activist/'inclusivists' who want to legitimatize gay relationships as 'the same but different' or to his flock of children-cum-parents? I marched in the first Gay Pride Parade in Philadelphia in 1970 but, if a bishop, I also would err on the side of caution when it comes to youth workers.

Posted by: Jay Wilson on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 7:24am BST

No, Jay, this just won't do.
Individuals are a danger to children and there are systems in place to prevent, as far as possible, those individuals from working with them.

I agree that open promiscuity is not a good role model for children and young adults. I don't know where in Britain you live - where I am in Somerset, there is much heterosexual promiscuity too. But I would have thought that any church knows its own members well enough to know who can be trusted to be a good role model and who had better not be involved with youth work. Lets not forget that the man in question was approved by a team of eight who had satisfied themselves that he was perfectly suitable.

Just because some people may have irrational fears does not mean you have to pamper to them. Or do you seriously believe that your son might suddenly become gay just because he's come in open contact with another gay man? It's really time that view was put to bed once and for all!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 10:05am BST

And, Jay, if one of your children did indeed turn out not to be straight, for whatever reasons - why would that be a problem? Why is it always assumed that not being straight is a dire fate to be avoided at all cost?

So many seem to have this irrational view that all we want is to corrupt poor little straight children so we can have sordid sex in dingy toilets with them, or dress up in rainbow colours for protest marches, or do incredibly camp things on telly.
In fact, if we were only allowed, most of us would much rather live the same normal and slightly boring lives our straight companions claim as their sole birthright.
And we go to church because we actually believe in the same God as you. We become youth workers because we genuinely believe God calls us to serve him in this way.
Can we please just drop all this ridiculous stereotyping and pandering to irrational fears of ill educated people?

We no longer believe that women have less capable brains than men, we no longer believe that blacks are inherently inferior to whites, although in the past many also claimed against all factual evidence that these were unshakable truths. If irrational stereotyping of lgbt people still exist the only way forward is to challenge it, not to appease it!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 3:33pm BST

Erika, when I was a chaplain at the U. of Penn back in the late sixties, we put a very active gay young Catholic in charge of our acolytes who were fairly new and rather young. He did a great job. As I remember, some were Jewish and we had to remember not to give them communion.

What Mr.Reaney's church status is, I don't know but your thought that most churches should know etc. is sadly in error. I think your point that all eight members approved him is a strong one though.
My own sons are still close to my former brother-in-law who is gay and I am proud of them for their loyalty to him, but my opinions are based on a lot of years and experience of urban ministry.
A lot of background here is missing, e.g., Was the candidate in fact strongly vetted - or not? What, in fact, is his church background? I note that he did not say 'he was celibate' but that he was 'not in a relationship.'

People who seek work with children are not all professional. What is a professional 'Youth Worker'? Many people who are drawn to young folk are later discovered to have rather mixed motives.
A lot of the comments I read here sound blissfully naive to me. Alas for my sceptical age.
I live in Oxford but the gay scene here I know nothing whatever about! I am sure the bishop has his prejudices but people of no fixed opinion don't make good bishops either. Believe me on that one.

Posted by: Harold J. Wilson on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 4:13pm BST

I am sorry, but if you folks cannot keep to the subject matter and discuss the Hereford case before us (and the media), I strongly suggest that you leave this altogether, instead of ranting about a third, and a forth, and a fifth and someone you knew in Pennsylvania 30 years ago.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 4:53pm BST

We're following a fairly predictable track in this discussion.

First: "Let's not have a discussion at all. It's wrong; it's too awful to talk about."

Next: The confusions and misinformation start to surface.

Third (I hope): Confusions are clarified; misinformation corrected.

Here's a start. Others are welcome to join in:

Jay and Harold:

Homosexuality is not pedophilia.
Gay men are not pedophiles.
Even young gay men are not pedophiles.
Most pedophiles are heterosexual; they are men attracted to very young girls.

Your comments are therefore entirely off track. But they do express, very well, one of the main fears heterosexuals have about gay men.

These fears are unfounded.

That is why we need to keep having conversations like this one.

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 8:21pm BST

Harold, I agree with Göran on this one.
Bishops should indeed have firm opinions, but they should definitely not be based on emotive prejudice. That there are wrong candidates for every position is obvious. But this candidate does not appear to have been wrong at all.
It's not up to us on a blog to decide whether "not in a relationship" is the same as "celibate", I assume that the original panel looked into this and was satisfied.
My own experience on PCCs and other committees leads me to believe that he was very probably thoroughly vetted, just as thoroughly but no more than so a heterosexual applicant would have been.

And unless the bishop intervenes in every other youth appointment too and asks intrusive questions about sexual behaviour of heterosexuals (who might also not be married and not be celibate), this is a clear case of prejudice running away with him, as opposed to him having firm views on sexual propriety.

Of course, there are many unknown factor at this moment and we will need to wait for the outcome of the tribunal before we can say any more. But at the very least it strikes me that the bishop was more keen to intervene than he would have been in the case of a heterosexual applicant. And that is prejudice, not firm opinion.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 9 April 2007 at 9:22pm BST

Well, I have read the posting of the Church Times article about Mr. Reaney's experience and references and it sounds very much as though he ought to have been hired. That being said, I would like to add that I do not think illustrative stories of mine or any other relations of my experience are somehow outdated, pace Goran.

I enjoy bishop-bashing as much as the next Anglican but the assumption that fair-play depends on some sort of equality of treatment and use of objective criteria - as helpful as these may often be - ignores the thousand gradations of subjective opinion which may intervene between the interview and the employment offer, or not. Look at the calling of Vicars ( Rectors in the US) or the assessment of vocations, let alone the question of elevations to the episcopate. I wonder if we should have established quotas; would that be fairer and more 'objective'?

I remember under Ken Livingstone's first London mayoralty an advertisement for a "Black Female Lesbian Wanted to run creche,". Between you guys and the wingnuts, us moderate contrarians are faced with a great unscalable precipice of righteous political correctness. Bless you in your elevated moral worlds! HJW

Posted by: Harold(Jay)Wilson on Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 10:48am BST

But, Harold, if we take the general suspicion you cast at gay youth workers in your earlier postings as the yardstick, then Ken Livingston's call for a lesbian to run a creche is the most sensible response.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 12:30pm BST

Well, Erika, I dare say you would think so. But why be so narrow in your sense of inclusiveness ? What about " Black female dwarf quadriplegiac Muslim lesbian wanted to run creche,"?

And in response to Charlotte, I don't consider true pedophiles either gay or straight, but a lot of them are men who desire younger male children.If you think they are a minority, all I can say is go tell it to the Roman Catholics.
Where do you draw the line between 'chickenhawks' who lie in wait for boys or girls and romantically inclined younger men in their twenties or thirties - or above - who are seeking inexperienced adolescent lovers? The fact that some generalized abstraction called 'heteros' is or can be also predatory does not answer the sense of many Christians, particularly Evangelical ones, that the 'gay scene' is actually dangerous to their children.

If you cannot see that, then all I can say is that you have, like many politicians, swallowed your own propaganda as serious truth. Your notion of 'equality of treatment' is an ideal somewhat ahead of our present realities. If you cannot live with that, welcome to the world of illusion.

Posted by: Harold J. Wilson on Wednesday, 11 April 2007 at 2:22pm BST

Jay,
your Black female dwarf quadriplegic Muslim lesbian is really the logical conclusion of your train of thought, that we should include or exclude certain groups simply because of the preconceptions we have about them.

My own view is that we must look at each individual on his or her own merits and trust that the general checks and balances in place will be applied to all applicants for a post. I think you've inadvertently proved my point.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 11 April 2007 at 3:08pm BST

"The fact that some generalized abstraction called 'heteros' is or can be also predatory does not answer the sense of many Christians, particularly Evangelical ones, that the 'gay scene' is actually dangerous to their children."

I don't particularly care what the bigotry of Evangelicals leads them to be afraid of this week. And we in the Church can hulder them in their bigotry or try to educate them. Now WWJD, I wonder? Personally, I feel that Evangelical Christianity is dangerous to children, and I speak from personal experience, having been set upon on far too many occasions in my youth by Evangelicals for whom the only true Christianity was their "believe or burn" God who lets the criminals off with their crimes if they conform to the Law that He claims to have superseded! Odd that my very humdrum, monogamous life can be a "gay scene" that is dangerous to children, but entrapping kids into situations where you then have free rein to terrify them with threats of Hell is OK, because that's trying to save their heathen Anglican souls! And do you seriously think that pedophiles AREN'T a minority, or are you just suggesting they aren't a minority among gay people, or is it RCs? And why is it so hard to understand that the line is drawn at the age where one can give informed consent? Sex with a child is by definition abusive because a child is not capable of understanding the act sufficiently to give informed consent. Any sexual activity is therefoer exploitative. Simple. Cripes, how hard is that?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 3:59pm BST

Re. Ford's comments, Charlotte said that most pedophiles are interested in young girls. I am not sure whether there is any statistical evidence to show that - hence my comment about the R.C.'s. I am a General Seminary Liberal Catholic, not an Evangelical and I grew up with Southern Baptists in the American South so I probably know more about the various defects of this kind of religion than you do. But all Anglican Evangelicals are not so fear-ridden.

Do you think children of sixteen are 'informed' enough to give meaningful consent to sexual acts which may determine a good deal of their future? Not all parents are so convinced.

Posted by: H.J.Wilson on Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 4:49pm BST

Harold,
Children of sixteen don't need to be "informed" about their sexuality, they already know whether they can love only people from the same sex as their own, only people from the opposite sex, or both.
What sexual acts they may give consent to is a totally different issue.

Anyway - what sexual acts are these children consenting to in the case of the Hereford youth worker? His case has nothing whatsoever to do with the sexuality and sexual activity of adolescents. If you seriously try to claim there is a connection you only show that, in your eyes, his rejection for the post has nothing to do with his personal lifestyle or sexual orientation. All you prove is how desperately anti discrimination regulations are needed.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 9:49pm BST

Harold, Jay, HJ -- try looking at the criminal statistics, whether in the US or the UK. They will tell you that the majority of pedophiles are indeed heterosexually-oriented men who desire sex with girl-children.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 1:34am BST

"so I probably know more about the various defects of this kind of religion than you do."

I doubt that, where I grew up there was a large population of Fundamentalists, so our experiences might be more alike than you know. As to your statement about being 16 years old and giving consent, I'm not sure what that has to do with whether or not most pedophiles target boys or girls, or why that matters. It's not all that long ago that our society considered 16 year olds quite mature enough, not only for sex but for marriage and family. In my grandparent's day, a person unmarried at 20 was a very late bloomer. This is still the case in some societies. Some are at that age, but that's a matter for law.

Not only that, given the way most kids behave today, they are far more "at risk" at a party of their peers than at a Church youth group function. It is a sad commentary that parents could worry themselves sick about whether their parish youth worker is gay, but quite happily send little Jenny off to a party of her friends where having several sexual partners a night is the norm. This is a lot more common than you are obviously aware.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 1:00pm BST

Hi Erika

Your position is a serious one. By approving a society which sees extramarital sex as an option, you are automatically approving (which surely is contrary) a large decrease in the amount of social cohesion, transience of relationships, children growing up in same, children turning to crime, crime itself, people suffering from crime - sometimes in quite horrible ways, even losing their lives.

That is not theory. It is the reality of post 1960s Britain and America. Christians predicted it, and were proven right - not that a lot of people have listened. There is no joy in so being proven right.

What has this to do with your relations? If the principle is approved for some it will have to be approved for all, with the resultant quite marked increase in family and marital instability. If people can have as many as two life partners, not a lot of them will stop at two.


Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 5:26pm BST

Erika, this is your dogmatic assumption - that 'gayness' is inherent genetically. It is not mine although I include that as a cause. I have seen too many children deprived of parental love or interfered with by parents who turned out 'gay' to rest content with such easy answers.

Charlotte, your statistics may be right, but as I said, those passive-aggressive males who seek out vulnerable child partners do not really count in some gay vs straight perversity derby!

There is no more flammable mixture than a combination of practiced sexual rationalization, self-pity,religious righteousness, and the relative anonymity of a blog! Wish I could buy you all a few rounds at the local, guys. Cheers, JW

Posted by: Harold J. Wilson on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 11:20am BST

How dare the Bishop of Hereford quiz a candidate for a job about his sexual history and intentions not beleive his answers. And why did the candidate allow himseflf to be subjected to the questioning in the first place? He should have told the Bishop right at the outset to get stuffed and the original selection panel should have resigned in protest. The whole issue is outrageous and the Bishop should loose and be personally made liable for any damages. The letter in last weeks Church Times shows that this issue is a symptom of something wrong in the Diocese. It is a symptom too of all that is rotten in the church.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 8:18am BST

This case highlights both the theological/moral mess that the Church of England is in but also the woefully inadequate legal advice /processes that seem to be available to those responsible for recruiting.

There are 'Diocesan Chancellors', 'Diocesan Registrars' and 'Diocesan Secretaries' most of whom are paid handsomely for the pretty light commitment to the Diocese, yet nobody in the Diocesan structure has bothered to consider the key matter of employment legislation and practice. The Church is about people after all....

This could be a resignation issue, but there must be a root and branch examination of how the church deals with applications for employment, and to WHOM responsibility falls.

Should a Bishop be involved in communicating decisions to candidates?? Should a Bishop be involved in interviews? - Archdeacons could do that in line with a Job Description / Person Spec agreed with the Bishop??

Posted by: JE on Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 9:35am BST

When did we lose the definition of normal and abnormal? Or for that matter the definition of perversion ? Some of you should simply check the dictionary. Others need to reflect on elementary biology. How have we gotten to such a state that we don't know or can't determine what the various bodily orifices are for? It is an absurd and monstrous abomination when fairly intelligent people do not know the normal use of their own reproductive organs. If you don't know where to "put it" then perhaps a kindergaten level re-education on the "birds and bees" is in order. The Creator's design and purpose is not at all disguised. Nor is His will hard to determine in scripture. But of course, rebellion against Him is and has been an option since the Graden of Eden. However we will each one stand before Him who created us, to be judged. Then all things will be perfectly clear. But, too late, alas, if you are wrong.

Posted by: Michael Friend on Wednesday, 16 May 2007 at 4:05pm BST

Some people are clearly of the mind that all homosexuals are rampaging sex maniacs unable to keep their pants on. Perhaps if certain people got to know a few they would find they are just people like the rest of us, with the same hopes and fears. John Reaney was clearly treated inappropriately. Why allow an 8 person interview board (including 2 vicars) to unanimously vote in favour of John taking the post & then ignore that fact and refer it to someone who was not part of the recruitment process for a final decision? It's bizarre! Apart from anything else it makes a mockery of a proper, sound and transparent recruitment process. The Bishop talks about it being a lifestyle issue, I'll bet none of the other "lay" personnel in his diocese were asked questions about their sex lives, whether they had premarital sex and if they would remain celibate. He practically called John a liar for promising to remain celibate! Even when John clearly said that if he found himself struggling he would talk to the bishop. Isn't that proper? Isn't that what any Christian, lay or otherwise would do if they had any issues they were struggling with? Don't forget, John volunteered information on his sexuality and yet was still offered the interview. If his lifestyle and/or sexuality were a real issue as the Bishop states, it should have been made clear in the job advert and he should not have been invited to interview. As it is the Church has no clear policy (on recruitment or sexuality!)and there is no consistency in approach between diocese. The bishop and the church only have themselves to blame.

I think we should also remember that this is a good honest man, with approx. 20 years youth teaching experience and excellent references from other diocese. This was the basis on which he was offered an interview and subsequently offered the job by the 8 person panel. The bishop had no right to veto that unanimous decision based on his personal interpretation of the law (Gods or man's).

Good luck to you John.

Posted by: sister sledge on Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 8:35pm BST
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