Thursday, 3 January 2008

recent British media reports on CofE

The BBC reports on the CofE response to the Draft Anglican Covenant: Church comments on Anglican rows:

The Church of England has made clear its disapproval of Anglican provinces which intervene in the affairs of other churches without authorisation.

In a document it said such interventions should not take place except as part of “properly authorised schemes of pastoral oversight”.

It is a response to attempts in the draft Anglican Covenant to commit the Communion to practices to resolve rows…

Riazat Butt’s online report on Tuesday also made it into the Guardian on Wednesday: Anglican rift on gay clergy leads to breakaway summit.

Jonathan Petre at the Daily Telegraph had his own story on Wednesday about the Bishop of Manchester and the Lambeth Conference. See Bishops ‘must face gay clergy debate’:

A Church of England bishop has criticised the Lambeth Conference, which starts in July, for shying away from the issue of homosexuality.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, said it would be “odd” and “irresponsible” for the meeting to sweep the controversy “under the carpet”.

…Bishop McCulloch criticised conservative bishops who are threatening a boycott because the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has invited American liberals…

Here’s the full text of the bishop’s remarks as provided by the diocese:

This is the year of the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference. It is always an important occasion. I was among the first bishops to respond affirmatively to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation. I am sorry that some bishops are still threatening to stay away.

The Anglican Communion is a family. The Christian pattern for family life - for which the church and especially its bishops should be a model - is that, however deep family arguments and differences are, we (of all people) ought to be following the New Testament pattern of meeting together to pray, to learn, to eat and to share.

That said, I do have sympathy with bishops who feel the agenda ought to contain more than simply the currently planned episcopal in-service training. The first Lambeth Conference was called in the wake of controversy; and it would be exceedingly odd - even irresponsible - for the bishops to avoid, and appear to sweep under the carpet, the very issues that are currently inhibiting our common witness to Christ across the world.

Incidentally, would clergy please observe the convention of checking with me before inviting any bishop/archbishop to minister? Such courtesies avoid unwelcome problems - most of which can thereby be overcome.

And earlier, there was a bizarre piece of reporting in The Times by Dominic Kennedy headlined Bishop left in dark over secret gay service. For a better report on this matter try the Evening Standard ARCHBISHOP SPARKS ROW AFTER HOLDING SECRET COMMUNION FOR GAY CLERGY. Note the comment there from the Bishop of London’s spokesperson:

“The extent to which the Bishop of London is annoyed has been exaggerated - he’s not annoyed in fact and canon law was not broken. The whole thing seems to have been blown out of proportion.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 8:52am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

The Times’ reporting gets more and more sensationalist, sadly, at the expense of truth. You do wonder what they have to gain from this. But it is creating its own audience. The Times, too, “revealed” that the ABC believes the ox, the ass and maybe even the snow at the nativity scene to be myths. And immediately there were letters to the paper criticising his theology. One reckoned such dangerous comments should remain within the confines of theological colleges.

The journalists on the paper understand the complexities of the current debate quite well. It’s sad that they don’t play a better part in facilitating intelligent conversation.

Let’s hope the Bishop of Manchester gets his way and Lambeth looks at all of this openly, honestly and in all its complexity. It would benefit us all if the church hierarchy helped its congregations to grow up a little.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 10:45am GMT

Presmably Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch considers that the Advent Letter and its assumption of the Mind of the Communion is incorrect, and the issue should be opened up. But it is not just in service training, is it; they are going to discuss and move forward (so far) this Covenant.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 1:55pm GMT

I think the saddest part of the secret gay Eucharist is just that - that it had to be secret. There are certainly many places in the US where that would have to be the case - I'm not saying we're prefect.

But there are many where such a secret celebration would be ludicrous, and their number is growing. After all, one of our traditions is the Integrity Eucharist at General Convention, to which everyone is invited, and in which all glbt clergy are invited to vest and process.

The secret Eucharist is blessing the closet, and is sad and sick.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 7:57pm GMT

Are we surprised this story resurfaces immediately after the disarray that's "GAFCON" hits the blogs and the fan? The faintest hint perhaps of attempting to divert attention from something which is ill-planned, ill-considered and counterproductive?

Posted by: Giles Goddard on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 8:11pm GMT

“The secret Eucharist is blessing the closet, and is sad and sick.”—Cynthia Gilliatt

AMEN, Cynthia!

Posted by: Kurt on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 9:09pm GMT

Cynthia, I long for an Integrity style Eucharist here in England. I have participated in the last two Eucharists at GC and they were inspiring and amazing celebrations. Sadly, CofE clergy are far more closetted than our American colleagues.

The Consultation meeting and Eucharist (which I attended}, was NOT a secret service. This is the description given by malicious conservatives.

The Consultation always meets in confidence to preserve the security of those members who fear for their position in the church should their bishop discover their membership. We meet under Chatham House rules. Rowan Williams agreed to come and meet the Consulation and address and preside at communion with us under our normal conditions of meeting.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 10:28pm GMT

Colin.

You make a repeated point about the need for Anglican priests to remain in the closet due to the risks they face. On another recent thread you said

"They remain in the closet, hidden from the wider church, because of the prejudice and hostility and abuse they would encounter if they were as open about themselves as Bishop Gene Robinson."

Yet in past decades the Armed Forces, Police, Fire Service, Prison Service, teachers, and many other professions have all successfully worked through this issue, with many working professionals choosing to come out as an effective, eventually successful action to end the discrimination within their professions.

Many gay police officers risked hostility and violence from their colleagues when they came out, and serving Armed Forces personnel faced arrest and criminal investigation - yet still these people chose to risk all and tell the truth about themselves.

What is so special about the Anglican Church that means its members are unable to take similar effective action to leave the closet, and destroy the conspiracy of half truths they live within?

Simon


Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 12:05am GMT

What Giles Goddard said.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 6:08am GMT

The Consultation...

always meets in confidence...

to preserve the security of those members who fear for their position in the church should their bishop discover their membership...

We meet under Chatham House rules...

Rowan Williams agreed to come and meet the Consulation and address and preside at communion with us under our normal conditions of meeting...

Colin Coward

"Normal"... "Chatham House rules"... "Security"...

Not any of it ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 6:12am GMT

Simon,

I'm not sure I'm making the point that Anglican priests NEED to remain in the closet due to the risks they face. I UNDERSTAND why the majority of priests remain in the closet.

They fear for their security in the church, and some may fear for their reputations, believing that if people know they are gay, they will like them less. I know that isn’t true, but until you come out fully, it can remain a strong internalised fear.

Your question about what is so special about the Anglican church compared with other institutions is a good one. What is it that maintains the present conspiracy? Could it be that there is something different about LGBT clergy, and the Christian vocation? There remains a strongly collusive atmosphere to which, of course, those bishops who are gay contribute powerfully.

It is shameful that not a single gay bishop has the courage or confidence to be open about their sexual identity.

Clergy who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered would be holier, healthier and more integrated people if they were open and honest about themselves, and the whole church would be a healthier and more holy body. I’m not advocating the closet, never, and the work of Changing Attitude would be much easier, and would ultimately become redundant, if all LGBT bishops and clergy were truthful about themselves.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 12:51pm GMT

Colin: there are plenty of us gay clergy who agree with you completely. I am "out" with everyone, and I wish the Church's hierarchy would support people like me when we are, rather than disown us.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 7:31pm GMT

oh, no --

no the snow too !

Posted by: L Roberts on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 8:25pm GMT

It seems to me that the lg and bi clergy of the c of e collude with the bishops and power-brokers, in the conspiracy of silence. There is something sick about it. But then there has been something very dishonest about things in the c of e since the beginning. The debate about Bible and theology has tended to be confined to theological colleges--and the clergy have tended not to face the implications of biblical and theological criticism too much. Notwithstanding the attempts of the John Robinsons,the Don Cupitts, the Harry Williamses, the Goulders, and the Jack Spongs of this (anglican) world to open things up a bit ...

Posted by: L Roberts on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 8:33pm GMT

L Roberts: I think there are two reasons why many gay clergy in the C of E appear to collude by being silent. One is, that, on a pastoral level, many gay clergy do not wish to intrude their homosexuality as a potential obstacle into good working relationships with parishioners. This was, I think, more of a potential problem in the past than now: in my experience, even the most refined old ladies are unlikely to be shocked nowadays to find their priest is gay - anyone in Britain who ever watches TV or reads a newspaper is not going to be shockable about gay people. Also, straight clergy have always regarded their married relationships as relevant to their pastoral work (see how many straight male priests mention their wives and children in their sermons!), so it is important that gay clergy can do the same, not least because the Church's clergy need to reflect the diversity that is there in the pews.

The second reason why many stay in the closet is because you most likely will face overt discrimination from your diocese if you are open. If you are stipendiary, this is a big risk to take.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 5 January 2008 at 10:43am GMT

Yes, Mark, you have something there --unemployment and homelessness are big disincentives for lgbt clergy to come out

It is disgraceful.

Posted by: L Roberts on Saturday, 5 January 2008 at 11:55pm GMT

It is also a fact that if one does so in some dioceses, one might be prevented from ordination (I can think of one case here) or pressure placed upon one to move to another diocese, for example, if one wishes to enter a civil partnership.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 6 January 2008 at 2:20am GMT

Merseymike, L Roberts etc,

I agree with you that there are serious disincentives for gay clergy to come out and be honest - but that does not address my original question.

There were the same serious disincentives for members of many other professions to come out (in some cases markedly stronger disincentives, such as risk of criminal prosecution) yet they managed to overcome those barriers, and change the attitude to homosexuality in those professions.

In past decades members of the Armed Forces, Police, Fire Service, Prison Service, teachers, and many other professions have all successfully worked through this issue, with many working professionals choosing to come out as an effective, eventually successful, action to end the discrimination within their professions.

What is so special about the Church of England that means her members have been unable (or unwilling) to take similar effective action to leave the closet, and destroy the conspiracy of half truths they live within?

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Sunday, 6 January 2008 at 10:36pm GMT

"What is so special about the Church of England"
Because it's a Church? Can I suggest that, intertwined with all the other reasons for staying closeted, like fear and self-hatred, there is a good reason as well? It is Christian humility. Now I'm not suggesting that all those closeted gay clergy in England are being good little self effacing Christians, but on a basic level, we Christians are called to put our needs and wants aside for others. Thus, if it would drive someone away from the Church if I was open about my sexuality around them, I am called NOT to openly express my sexuality, at least for a while till that person's faith can be strengthened enough not to be damaged by my actions. The other person's failure to live up to THEIR Christian calling by not doing things to drive me away from faith is another matter entirely, and between them and God. The problem comes when that valuable Christian self-effacement is used to justify not taking action, when in reality the lack of action is coming from fear and self hatred. Erika's point about the treatment of Jeffry John is a valid one. If one is living with that kind of threat, it becomes very easy to take the moral high ground and claim one is hiding so as not to put off those of weaker faith rather than admit one is afraid of the consequences. That doesn't negate the basic principle of not putting blocks in other people's way, though.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 2:13pm GMT

Ford,
I accept that you personally might not speak out about your sexuality because you fear to upset your fellow parishioners. I have come to respect you very much and I am sure that, if you say it like this, then that’s how it is for you.

To me, however, it seems all wrong.
I'm not sure that this is not misunderstood Christian humility. Isn't part of what it means to follow Christ to be absolutely truthful about ourselves and our lives? At least potentially?
There is a world of difference between simply not talking about some things, and actually making sure people cannot discover them.
I would, for example, not talk about my children to a woman who I didn’t know well and who had suffered nothing but miscarriages. But I would not hide my children just to protect her feelings.

Unless we believe that there is something intrinsically wrong and upsetting about being gay, we cannot believe it’s possible to worship in truth and love with people from whom we have to hide a core part of our being.

Isn’t there a fine line between being discreet and being so closed that it’s almost dishonest?

There is also the question of how healthy this is for us. If a married man told me he would never go to church with his wife because her mere existence might offend other parishioners, and that they did not even know he was married, I’d be very very worried about his mental state. It would not occur to me to congratulate him on his humility.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 4:39pm GMT

"Isn’t there a fine line between being discreet and being so closed that it’s almost dishonest?"

Actually, it is dishonest when Christian humility is used as justification for behaviour that is actually rooted in things like fear and self loathing. That's what I was trying to get at in the end of my post. It's just that it seems to me that we all seem to forget that for Christians, it isn't about us, it's about others. You ask, for instance:

"There is also the question of how healthy this is for us."

I would say the question is not "Is our behaviour healthy for us?" but "Is out behaviour healthy for our fellow human beings?" What matters is how our actions affect others. I know this is extreme. I know it can lead to the kind of search for martyrdom that is all about the person seeking martyrdom, and not about the person being helped. I know that put like this it sounds disrespectful to those who have worked long and hard for this and who have suffered great disrespect in their home churches, like you yourself. I'm sorry. That's not what I'm trying to express. Indeed, I have no doubt that some of my thoughts on this are coloured by my own lack of self acceptance, and my own human need to look all pious and holy in public. But our perceptions of this, Right and Left, are all rooted in postmodern Western culture that tells us our needs and wants are paramount, that we must find self fulfillment, that God wants us to be happy, to be all that we can be. God doesn't want us to be all we can be, He wants us to help others be all THEY can be. It is this Western self-centredness that colours all our debates on this, that makes me suspicious of the motives of the Left in much the same way the Right is. That I can see the same motivators on the Right puts me outside of both camps. This goes back to what I was saying a while ago about there being another way, that our current way of addressing this is not working.


Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 7:36pm GMT

The Windsor Listening process was meant to be about making room for people to talk about these very things.

Years later, some parishes and dioceses have not made the room to listen, and in fact are moving to deprive others the opportunity to listen and denouncing it as "ungodly" to do so.

Victims of abuse, sufferers of embarasssing illnesses, ethnic or religious minorities in hostile environment, women in an aggressively misogynistic society. These are all examples of souls who are told to "shut up" until others are ready to listen.

Unfortunately, in many circumstances, there is no intention to ever listen because the bullies benefit from sweeping these souls under the carpet. They benefit from making them into submissive slaves or "non-souls" who do not have to be given resources or a home.

When selfishness, complacency, arrogance, aggression, vilification and aggression are rampant; one of the most profound healings can come from listening to the plaintiff cries of the wounded on the margins.

To whom did Jesus respond and affirm the most strongly? Those who were most marginalised and persecuted. Who did Jesus rebuke the most vehemently? Those who taught a theology that tolerated the dehumanisation and ostracization of others.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 8:00pm GMT

Ford

“Actually, it is dishonest when Christian humility is used as justification for behaviour that is actually rooted in things like fear and self loathing. That's what I was trying to get at in the end of my post. It's just that it seems to me that we all seem to forget that for Christians, it isn't about us, it's about others.”

I think you and I are actually very close in our thinking about this. What troubles me a little is that I believe that integrity is not something that can be achieved in one part of life without touching all the others. So, yes, if you’re sure of your motivations and that you are holding yourself back honestly and truly only because of your sensibilities towards others, then I stand back in total admiration.

But I suppose if I’m honest I doubt most people’s motivations, and am inclined to think that this supposed humility is a convenient cover for a lack of self acceptance.

This is not about Rights, but about a deep seated understanding what God’s acceptance of us and love for us means. Not just for our neighbours (in many respects that’s the easy bit of it), but also for each one of us.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 11:26pm GMT

"But I suppose if I’m honest I doubt most people’s motivations, and am inclined to think that this supposed humility is a convenient cover for a lack of self acceptance."

With good reason! Erika, don't get the idea that I think of myself as some great self-effacing person, I believe that's the ideal, but it's hardly something I reach. I doubt if anyone actually keeps quiet about their sexuality purely, if at all, out of concern for someone else. My point was that we seem always to lose the idea that it isn't about us. I do take your point though, that in some ways it IS about us. Lots to mull over there!

I enjoy our little forays into this area, BTW. I know there's been times when what I've said has trodden on your corns, but subsequent clarifications have always given me lots to think about, and led to new things. They have certainly shown me that many of the blanket ideas I have had in the past that much of this is about people looking for validation, are wrong! Thanks!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:23pm GMT

Ford
"I enjoy our little forays into this area, BTW. I know there's been times when what I've said has trodden on your corns"

I enjoy them too, very much!
And don't think you ever "tread on my corns". It's important to be challenged and I never take what you say personally. I hope you don't feel hurt by my comments either, that's never the intention. It's just that the things that matter deeply are, by nature, those that affect the core of our being the most. Challenging them can be done as long as we don't forget that this means treading on holy ground.
You have always reminded me of that when I was about to forget it, in my conversations with you or with others.
Thank you for that!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 8:39am GMT
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