Friday, 18 July 2008

Rebuilding Communion

In last week’s Church Times Bishop Kenneth Stevenson reviewed the book to which I contributed a chapter, Rebuilding Communion: Who pays the price? From the Lambeth Conference 1988 to the Lambeth Conference 2008 and beyond Peter Francis, editor.

The review was published under the headline Telling it like it is.

Read more about the book here.

Bishop Stevenson writes:

IT MUST be hard to be gay and Anglican at the moment. After a largely hidden history, Anglican gays now find themselves the subject of open discussion, caused partly by a greater general readiness to talk about issues of sexuality, and partly by activists in the gay community speaking up for their rights. Sadly, the majority of them feel excluded from this discussion, and some of them even echo what some Jews used to say in Nazi Germany — “Don’t champion us, because it will only make things more difficult for us.”

A turning-point in England was the General Synod in February last year, when gay members fearlessly spoke up for themselves in a chamber that had not hitherto heard from them in that way.

This timely little book opens with an essay by Simon Sarmiento chronicling events, resolutions, and decisions about homosexuality in the Anglican Communion over the past decade. His personal views are clear, but the facts he describes are indisputable. There is a hardening of the line in many places, with some obvious exceptions.

There follow six essays from different continents, telling personal stories about what it is like to be gay and Anglican — the African perspective is particularly significant. And a third section is made up of six further short contributions, including one from Martyn Percy on Anglican history and attitudes, and one from Michael Ingham, arguing in favour of something that is still too far for many sympathisers: the same-sex blessing.

This book needs to be read far beyond the confines of the gay community. In some ways, it provides a worldwide Anglican counterpoint to those speeches at last year’s Synod. Those who are deaf, or over-ready to condemn, need at least to recognise the historic pain that this increasingly vocal minority brings to the discussion table. Whatever our views, we should all be ready to condemn homophobia, as Cardinal Hume used to remind us.

I voted for Lambeth 1.10 on that desultory Wednesday afternoon in 1998, and I have regretted it ever since. As these essays show, it has become far too blunt an instrument; moreover, the “listening process” for which it calls should have been well under way by the time Archbishop Rowan Williams arrived at Canterbury.

Here’s hoping that we can be helped to locate exactly where our disagreements lie, and to find an authentically Anglican way through them.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 18 July 2008 at 11:16pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Book review

"Don't champion us, because it will only make things more difficult for us" -

This quotation from the Gay Community by the episcopal reviewer, who admits his own mistake in voting for the prohibition against gays at the 1998 Lambeth Conference - is a very pertinent statement in the present circumstances of the gathering of bishops at Lambeth.

This is the legacy of generations of unwitting (and unwilling) hypocrisy on the part of the Church, with regard to the presence of gay priests in active ministry.

What has happened in the American Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Church of Canada, is that, at long last, this cloud of hypocritical non-recognition of gays in ministry has been exposed for what it is - a modern-day "Cloud of Unknowing" - such as Dame Julian of Norwich would have abhorred.

In this respect, TEC and it's Canadian counterpart have been called to perform and announce to the Church and the World a prophetic and evangelistic ministry, which has been brought forth in a time of searching for integrity in today's presentation of the Gospel - Christ's Good News for all, including people formerly on the margins of acceptability in society.

It is to be hoped that, in all the conversations, teaching, prayers, periods of silence, and times of communal worship within the Conference, that the Holy Spirit of God may bring about change and renewal in attitudes to human sexuality and gender issues that will bring the Church into a new realisation of the compassion of Christ, and an emergence into the twenty-first century. Prayers and Blessings

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 19 July 2008 at 12:47am BST

Bishop Kenneth Stevenson: "something that is still too far for many sympathisers: the same-sex blessing"

I *get* that. It's a weird-looking phrase---for what, exactly?

...which is why I'm for a (far more conservative) alternative: simply opening up ***good ol' marriage*** to EVERY faithful Christian couple, regardless of plumbing or chromosomes.

I swear, one of these days, we'll wonder that the Church agonized for one *second* over doing anything else!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 19 July 2008 at 3:16am BST

“Don’t champion us, because it will only make things more difficult for us.”

I'd just like to say how very grateful I am to all of those who have voluntarily made our cause, their cause. It is your shining example that keeps me with this church, especially in times of despair.

Thank you all!

Posted by: Counterlight on Saturday, 19 July 2008 at 3:51am BST

This book (and the conference) grew out of conversations and joint work done by Peter and Richard Kirker, LGCM's retiring Chief Exec.

It's great to see such a positive review of the essays from Kenneth Stevenson along with his honest reflections of his own part in this sorry tale.

I also have pleasure in having commissioned the seminal piece from Simon that forms the core of this work. Simon has a special way of telling the story.

LGCM has made a huge investment by sending this book to all the Lambeth bishops - nearly all the gay bishops there keep their heads down and as Counterlight says we owe a great deal to those others who champion our families. Sadly there are also those who I once held as close friends who I would no longer trust with the future safety of our family.

It was of particular pleasure to hear my own Archbishop making it clear he would have no trouble ordaining a bishop in a same-sex relationship last week - we all went off to a special meeting that Sunday evening just to thank him personally.

There we met two bishops from TEC and a bishop from Mexico and Australia. Marc Andrus from California gave a particularly moving address, but the bishop from Guadalajara Mexico speaking through a translator touched us most deeply.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 19 July 2008 at 12:53pm BST

Well, yes the book is welcome. The support of Kenneth stevenson & his repentence is very welcome. (It undermines that damnable resolution further.) The support of straight people for lgbt people (long overdue)is welcome too. But it is all too little -- far too late. (How many lives have been ruined since 1998 ?)

But you have not succeeded in winning over the strident and too vocal homophobes who have been 'tearing the fabric' of gay hearts and lives and anglicans churches of late.

And what of those bishops who signed a minority letter of dissent from'1.10', and of apology to gay folk, and pledging support to our community ?

Why aren't they speaking out, campaigning, publishing, supporting as vocally and volubly as our detractors ?

Maybe they could get their heads together at Canterbury and get something going ?

And why don't two or three (or more !) gay bishops come out en masse ? Our own English gay bishops could lead the way ...

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 19 July 2008 at 10:24pm BST


"But you have not succeeded in winning over the strident and too vocal homophobes who have been 'tearing the fabric' of gay hearts and lives and anglicans churches of late."

You never will.
The real conversation isn't with them at all. The real conversation is with those who have not yet made up their minds, and with those who are simply listening to the conversation and have hearts and minds changed by it. I personally know at least 3 priests who have changed their views about homosexuality because of the appalling way conservatives have argued their position. Sadly, those who are not as deeply wedded to the church simply leave.

As for bishops coming out en masse - it's easy for us to call for that. You only need to look at how Jeffrey John has been treated,that gay youthworker in Hereford earlier this year, and what a punchbag they're making of saintly Gene Robinson.

You can only come out once you are ready to accept every possible consequence of doing so. It's a tough call. When I decided I was not going to pretend that my love was just a girlfriend I was sharing the house with it cost both of us dearly in the church. We have gained more - a deeper faith, an amazing level of support in our village church, freedom and integrity. But at a price - and we aren't even priests.

For some reason you don't even post on TA with your real name. I expect that, more than many here, you understand the cost of speaking up only too well.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 20 July 2008 at 8:51am BST

Erika speaks wisely.

Treebeard a good idea, we must get one of the remaining principle leaders behind the letter to organise the others ......

His name ...... Rowan Williams.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 20 July 2008 at 1:08pm BST

"The real conversation is with those who have not yet made up their minds, and with those who are simply listening to the conversation..."

Yes, in part.

The real outcome is with those who would create societies where all are safe and all are offered justice. The "evil" secular state that protects gays from bashings, removes children from unsafe homes, and protects parishioners from molesting priests.

The real healing is demonstrating what has been happening and asking each and every Christian and witness if they approve of such conduct. Are they for or against tyranny, repression, greed, abuse and deception?

There are some for whom the "ends" justifies the means. Such souls are not ashamed of their loathsome conduct and do not even know how to blush.

We can not heal these souls, but we can discredit them and make it harder for them to lure victims into their snares and make it easier to rescue souls who accidentally stray into their influence.

God intervenes to protect those that can not protect themselves, and discredits any priesthood that obstructs justice and mercy.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Sunday, 20 July 2008 at 4:37pm BST
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