Thursday, 13 November 2008

Fred Hiltz writes

Below the fold, there is the full text of a memorandum written to the Canadian House of Bishops in October 2008 by the Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

Part of this text was quoted in the statement issued by the Canadian House of Bishops on 31 October.

Reflection by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

At the recent Lambeth Conference, the blessing of same-sex unions was discerned in a variety of venues – hearings, self-select sessions, and Indaba groups. Indaba is an African word meaning “a gathering for purposeful conversation among equals.” In groups of 30-40, bishops spoke with one another and endeavoured in a spirit of mutual respect to listen to each other. This venue proved to be the most helpful in engaging in conversation over this contentious issue. All who entered into the spirit of indaba and willingly gave themselves to the conversation was moved by the experience. As we listened to one another we recognized that “the issue of homosexual relations is as sensitive as it is because it conflicts with the long tradition of Christian moral teaching. For some, the new teaching cannot be acceptable on biblical grounds as they consider all homosexual activity as intrinsically sinful.” (para 111, Indaba Reflections) We learned that “the whole issue of homosexual relations is also highly sensitive because there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting civil provisions for same-sex marriage to criminal action against homosexuals. In some parts of the Communion, homosexual relations are a taboo while in others they have become a human rights issue.” (para 112, ibid) We learned of the struggle for some to refrain from proceeding with authorizing blessings, convinced as they are through a conscientious discernment of God’s will in this matter, that it is a matter of gospel imperative. We learned of the struggle of so many to equate blessings with marriage.

It was abundantly clear that these matters have been under discussion for over 30 years in some places and in other places it is a more recent conversation.

“The issue of homosexuality has challenged us in our churches on what it means to be a Communion.” (para 116, ibid) We reflected on the fundamental nature of the Church as relational: she is related to God, her members are related to each other, and our churches are related in a community of independent, participatory relationships.” (David Hamid) We discussed the nature of provincial autonomy and the principle of consulting with one another over significant matters of faith and order. We recognized the different politics of our churches and how they can produce misunderstandings and confusions that need to be addressed.” (para 102, ibid) We noted that “we need to acknowledge that the whole is more than the sum of the parts and that each part of the Communion, when it acts, must do so in the knowledge of what it means for the whole.” (para 102, ibid) We were convinced that an important way of “deepening our communion is (a) in the development of person to person relationships, (b) in diocesan partnerships and © in recovering our sense of belonging and mutual affection.”(para 102, ibid)

The outcome of discussions at the Lambeth Conference was agreement on the part of the majority of bishops present that, in accord with The Windsor Report, there be continuing moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination of persons living in same-gender unions to the episcopate, and on cross-provincial interventions. In the Indaba Reflections document we read that, “If The Windsor Report is to be honoured, all three moratoria must be applied consistently.” (para 145, ibid)

Therein lies a significant challenge. The Archbishop of Canterbury recognized this in a letter he issued to all of the bishops of the Communion following the Lambeth Conference. He wrote, “A strong majority of bishops present agreed that moratoria on same-sex blessings and cross-provincial interceptions were necessary but they were aware of the conscientious difficulties this posed for some, and there needs to be a greater clarity about the exact expectations and what can be realistically implemented. How far the intensified sense of belonging together will help mutual restraint in such matters remains to be seen.” At the conference the Archbishop spoke of “a season of gracious restraint” to allow some space and time for conversation to continue.

I come to this meeting of the House of Bishop mindful of our Provincial context and the call for authorization of public rites for the blessings of same sex-unions in a number of our dioceses. I am mindful of the place of the Anglican Church of Canada in our worldwide Communion.

I trust the House of Bishops will support my call for respect for due process through the General Synod in this matter. In 2007, General Synod concurred with the opinion of the St. Michael Report (produced by the Primate’s Theological Commission) that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine. It is not creedal in nature but nonetheless it is doctrine. The same General Synod called for further work by the Primate’s Theological Commission in determining if this matter of blessings is a Spirit-led development of doctrine. Out of respect for the General Synod I believe we have a responsibility with the whole Church to await the opinion of the Commission. It is likely that an opinion will be forthcoming well in advance of General Synod in 2010. I believe that deliberations over this opinion across the church will have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process to proceed with blessings.

As you can appreciate I am living with the tension of a call to honour gracious restraint and support of a call for bishops to act now in giving consent to the authorizing of public rites for blessing same sex unions. I am appealing for gracious restraint in this matter. I make this appeal out of respect for my brother and sister bishops who represent a diversity of perspectives on this issue; out of respect for due process through General Synod; and continuing Communion-wide conversation including going the Primates’ Meeting in February 2009 and to the Anglican Consultative Council in May 2009. I recognize that for some of you this appeal will be viewed as wise pastoral leadership on my part. Others will see it as a lack of bold prophetic leadership. I ask for your prayers.

Out of respect for those who would have us act now, I would encourage diocesan bishops to appoint a commission to consider what constitutes responsible pastoral care for gay and lesbian members of our Church asking for blessings of their committed monogamous lifelong relationships. I recognize that in some dioceses the work of the commission may include the drafting of a rite for public blessings. The Commission should be encouraged to do a thorough review of work done in this regard by other dioceses in Canada, and in other parts of the Communion.

In the meantime I want to draw your attention to two documents set out by the House of Bishops. One is called Shared Episcopal Ministry approved in the fall of 2004 and the other is Pastoral Generosity approved in the spring of 2007. That document in part reads:

“We are committed, as bishops in Canada, to develop the most generous pastoral response possible within the current teaching of the church. We offer the following examples of possible pastoral responses:

  • When a civilly married gay or lesbian couple seeks our church’s reception of their civil marriage and asks their parish’s recognition, it may be possible with their bishop’s knowledge and permission, to celebrate a Eucharist with the couple, including appropriate intercessory prayers, but not including a nuptial blessing.
  • When a gay or lesbian married or committed couple seeks to hold a reception or celebration in a church for their life in Christ, again intercessory prayers for their mutual fidelity, the deepening of their discipleship and for their baptismal ministry may be offered, not including the exchange of vows and/or a nuptial blessing.

To those who experience these pastoral statements and possible pastoral provisions as inadequate or insufficient, we recognize that they are less than the blessing of same sex unions or marriage. However it is the discernment of the majority of the House of Bishops that as of today the doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit further action.”

I would encourage bishops to incorporate this provision along with Shared Episcopal Ministry into a Bishop’s Guideline, accompanied by a pastoral letter commending it for use in parishes where such provisions may be appropriate.

I take this stance deeply conscious of the burden of responsibility I hold as Primate, as a member of the House of Bishops, as President of the General Synod, as a participant in the Lambeth Conference, 2008 and as a Primate in the Anglican Communion. I do not believe that any of us should move ahead too quickly so soon after a call for gracious restraint from the Archbishop of Canterbury, without continuing consultation with our House of Bishops, without continuing discernment within our dioceses and without respect for due process through the deliberations of General Synod.

Please know that I am mindful of the continuing havoc created in several of our dioceses through cross-border interventions on the part of Primates and bishops from other jurisdictions. I believe we must call them to account. They too must honour the Lambeth call for gracious restraint. I remain committed to addressing this issue within the Communion.

I ask for your prayers as we steadfastly seek to discern the mind and heart of Christ for the wholesome care of all members of his Body, the Church. Please know dear friends of my own deep hope that though we may never come to consensus over this matter of the blessing of same-sex unions, we will seek the capacity to live with difference in a manner that is marked by grace and generosity of spirit, one toward another. I remain absolutely convinced that this matter ought not to be a communion-breaking issue, for as the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, “of the tensions that assail us, the wider life of the Communion is broader and richer than these matters alone.” (para 2, ibid)

October, 2008

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Categorised as: Canada

In the third pararaph the word is polities -- not politics.
This time spelling does matter.

Posted by: Columba Gilliss on Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 5:26pm GMT

I would be interested to know what "called to account" ( in the penultimate paragraph ) might mean?

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 6:36pm GMT

A casual blog reader deeply sympathizes with the vexed position in which the Canadian Anglican churches, Hiltz, and other bishops and believers now find themselves. Culture changes have outdistanced believers yet again. Think flat earth, solar system, disease vs demon possession models for the Black Plague, modern lending practices, contraception and divorce and remarriage, modern parenting and adoption practices, slave-holding traditions, status of women. Are we still surprised? – really? - that believers are still back in the past, grimly holding on to all their negative expectations for queer folks?

The restraint part is fairly clear in Hiltz' remarks. Hold back, hold off, and so forth. The gracious part is less and less and less clear.

Remaining traditionalist Anglican church life spaces are, at best (emphasis, at best) now gracious restraints on all the usual suspects who like to mistreat queer folks, or preach awful things about queer folks. Who perversely enjoy queer folks living down, as proof of negatives? Who need for queer folks to be defined as defects?

We all hear how traditionalists will suffer dire consequences, each and every moment that queer folks do not meekly meet the negative expectations preached about a long flat earth laundry list of innumerable alleged queer defects. How Anglicans in Canada can now believe themselves to offer welcome and space, all predicated on somebody believing all the flat earth Queer Defect Preachments - well it's all way, way, way beyond me.

Grace, love? How long can traditionalists demand credit from the rest of us, as their love loudly demands that queer folks live down to all their negatives? False witness against queer neighbors is not love. If SSBs offend traditionalistic straight believers, it is mainly because the change is a neon sign that traditionlists no longer have the sheer brute power of church life to enforce queer couples living down to customary negative expectations.

Wake up, then. Western civil law and human sciences already have been correcting for the past four or five decades after World War II.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 7:20pm GMT

Perry Butler: Let me just throw out a suggestion. Perhaps it might mean, in language something like that of the Windsor Report, that Primates who organize and sanction cross-border interventions would be named and asked to consider whether they ought not to withdraw themselves voluntarily for a time from the meetings of the Anglican Communion.

This much I know: It would be very difficult for me to serve on a secular committee with persons who were openly working to destroy the organization I represented, especially if the methods they were using went against all accepted practice. So I don't know why Bishops and Primates should have to serve on committees and go to meetings with other Bishops and Primates who are openly attempting to destroy their Churches in ways forbidden since the Council of Nicaea. Perhaps it is saintly of them to continue to go, but is that really in their job description?

It is outrageous that no one has yet called the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Southern Cone to account for their cross-border incursions, and it is high time to do it.

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 7:21pm GMT

"Please know that I am mindful of the continuing havoc created in several of our dioceses through cross-border interventions on the part of Primates and bishops from other jurisdictions. I believe we must call them to account. They too must honour the Lambeth call for gracious restraint. I remain committed to addressing this issue within the Communion." - Bishop Fred Hiltz -
The Canadian Anglican Primate's call for restraint in further action on same-sex blessings has to be seen in the light of the re-Asserters' determination not to abide by the moratorium on inter-Provincial border-crossings.

While it is seemly for the Canadian Primate to urge his Church to heed the call to forego further blessings until after the next meeting of the General Synod; one wonders at the wisdom of such a constraint in the light of GAFCON's unilateral decision not to withdraw from its inteference in other provinces.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 9:17pm GMT

Now that the juggernaut of conservative realignment is rolling along, does anybody really believe that any church showing restraint or outright new banning of all queer folks (the surface brief of the realignment dissents and border crossings) - would really slow down or cease?

I predict, not.

The conservative campaign has gone too far by now, said too many dodgy and mean things about nearly everybody else in global Anglican big tents, to slow down or back off or stop altogether.

The heady smell of new church life powers is electric and stinky in all the Anglican air. No oxygen to queer folks, nor for all the others.

That is our ticket. Being reasonable, restrained, self-doubting, always making leeway for conservative realignment church life preferred above all else - that is our lot in the new improved global Anglican communion.

Conservative Anglican Realignment is here, realignment is God, realignment is all godly force:get used to it.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 11:11pm GMT

I predict YES to drdanfee's question on provinces rolling back on gay issues.

Though I think this is not so much a prediction - rather an observation of what is actually happening on the ground NOW.

There has been a significant change since Lambeth in several member Churches including my own here in Wales.

Since before the Dromantine Williams has believed it necessary that gay people should be firmly pushed back in the closet, indeed since he refused to consecrate Jeffrey John the message has been pretty clear that there is no place for self respecting gay people in the higher counsels of the Anglican Communion.

Williams’ policy has been effective from the institutional perspective. He has convinced most of the “moderate” African and Asian Churches not to join the FoCAs and has successfully marginalised the Jensen/Orombi/Akinola axis as his officers claimed they would at the Ecclesiastical Law Conference early last year.

TEC and Canada will keep their National Church opposition to SSBs and the ordination of gay’s in SSPs and while a few diocese may go for the “local option” on SSB’s they will be cold shouldered by Anglican Instruments and be seen as aberrations - there will be no consents for openly gay bishops in relationship or not.

Lambeth was a shock for many liberal bishops – even without the majority of the GAFCONites, the homophobia was rampant – my Primate came back saying that this Lambeth would have passed an even more virulent anti-gay resolution than 1.10 had it been offered. He left for Lambeth saying he would be delighted to ordain a gay bishop if one was elected and returned saying Jeffrrey John could not be a bishop here as he was in a Civil Partnership.

Jack Iker’s important interview over on Stand Firm sets the agenda – there will be two Anglican Communions next year and there will be some heavy horse trading going on to entice the African and Asian Provinces to one or t’other.

Of course there are people all over the place who couldn’t care two figs for the future health of the Anglican Communion – some are saying it is institutionally homophobic (in spades!) lacking any real authority and essentially dysfunctional while others are saying it is gaggingly gay friendly, lacking in any real authority and dysfunctional.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 12:25am GMT

It is outrageous that no one has yet called the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Southern Cone to account for their cross-border incursions, and it is high time to do it.¨

UGANDA, don´t forget Uganda...Uganda where the Archbishop Orombi not only crosses over lots of borders (think Diocese of Los Angeles TEC and a pending California Supreme Court ruling) but publicly demonizes LGBT Anglicans/others at home in need to worry about BLESSING any LGBT Christian in Uganda or even giving a small ¨listen¨´s more like worrying about the general safety and well being of LGBT Anglicans, at home, at work and in everyday life.

Meanwhile, we graciously ¨ignore¨ crimes of HATE preached at The Anglican Communion.

Shame on The Archbishop of Canterbury who wouldn´t know a priority if he was hung from one!

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 1:29am GMT

It is likely that an opinion will be forthcoming well in advance of General Synod in 2010. I believe that deliberations over this opinion across the church will have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process to proceed with blessings.

If this "season of gracious restraint" was understood to TERMINATE (the "restraint" part) in 2010, then I could understand (if not enjoy) ++Hiltz's call (Outside of New Westminster, of course. Rollback is out of the question)...

...but without such a DEADLINE, no deal!

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 6:38am GMT

I'm with Charlotte, (as usual ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 7:01am GMT

drdanfee: Spot on.

"Gracious restraint" might work as an ethical concept if the community whose pastoral needs are being sacrificed had assented for it themselves. However, this is not the case: this is straight Christian leaders deciding to graciously keep their gay fellow church members locked in the closet, without asking whether they consent to it.

This at the root of how the issue has been handled at Anglican Communion level: a group of straight old men graciously decides on behalf of everyone else to restrain gay fellow Christians, who are not allowed to even be present when all the world's bishops meet together. It is false to think of that as noble self-sacrifice: it is more akin to gagging gays and then throwing them under the bus.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 9:13am GMT

"We learned that “the whole issue of homosexual relations is also highly sensitive because there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting civil provisions for same-sex marriage to criminal action against homosexuals. In some parts of the Communion, homosexual relations are a taboo while in others they have become a human rights issue.”
- Bishop Fred Hiltz - HOB Meeting 30/10/08

I think Bishop Fred has hit the nail on the head here - for all of us - on the issue of contextual theology. Are the differences in cultural ways of life to be taken into account in the local church situation? Or are we to insist on a pan-cultural, one size fita all, approach to every question of sexual expression, or the issue of women's ordination, in our very diverse cultural settings around the world?

Is there, indeed, such a thing as 'Contextual Theology' or is such a thing totally beyond the purview of contemporary Christian values? For instance: can churches co-exist with different understandings of sexuality and its expression?
Can churches co-exist with different attitudes towards the ordination of women?

In certain cultures, for instance, the status of women is still subordinate to the male of the tribe. This Is not true of all societies. Do we allow that different societies have their own *taboos* which would be unconscionable in other parts of the 'civilised' world?

The issue of homosexuality, I believe, is one of the issues where primitive societies have a very different view from those of more advanced societies. Some primitive tribes value those of a 'different' sexual orientation; whereas others try to get rid of them - as in Nigeria.

To base a theology of sexuality, or of gender primacy on the words of the Bible, is to believe that there has been no progressive understanding of the mystery of sex and gender over the past twenty centuries. Scientific research has made certain discoveries to do with the biological makeup of human beings that has led to a greater understanding of a continuum of sexual orientation between the poles of absolute male and absolute female orientaion.

The human foetus, for instance, begins its life in the womb as an androgyne creature - capable of becoming either male or female - or with certain characteristics of both. How does this knowledge affect our theology?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 9:41am GMT

The problem, as I see it, Father Ron, is that the conservative evangelicals never let knowledge affect their theology. How can they be, for example, creationists if they let knowledge affect their beliefs?

They reject any knowledge that conflicts with their established theology.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 11:35am GMT

Martin suggested that "there will be some heavy horse trading going on to entice the African and Asian Provinces to one or t’other."

That is the saddest thing. There are some for whom victory is gaining/retaining the largest possible communion with the most offices in the most countries and dioceses. The juggernaut to build bureacractic edifices will continue, with senior power players using whatever means seem appropriate.

God is not interested in who has the biggest edifice. God is interested in who has the most righteous theology. Righteousness is not measured by size or form, it is measured by attributes: compassion, justice, mercy, love. Zechariah 9:10-11

God's ways are not human ways Isaiah 58:6-8 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn,and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard."

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 4:15pm GMT

Martin Reynolds: Thanks for giving voice to what many of us have been feeling.

I want to say that this sort of thing is going on in other regions also and not only in the Church. Recloseting is in the air.

In the US, California voters passed a referendum taking away gay and lesbian people's marriage rights at the same time that they voted for Barack Obama. These so-called "Defense of Marriage" amendments were passed in a number of other states as well; perhaps no one was surprised that Florida passed one, but California was a shock.

President-Elect Obama's style so far has been concilatory, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Archbishop of Canterbury's. Perhaps "conciliatory" has a new meaning now. In any case, apart from a perfunctory mention of "gay and straight" Americans in his election night speech, there have been no initiatives announced -- and, indeed, no reference whatever -- to the concerns of gay people emanating from the Obama transition team.

It looks to me as though the religious right has been successful in poisoning the atmosphere against gay and Lesbian people everywhere. I notice that even in the politically liberal literary reviews, essays mention a gay or Lesbian author's sexuality, IF at all, many paragraphs into the article. This is so even when the facts are directly relevant to the book under review. See, for example, the reviews of the recent collection of correspondence between the poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, most of which could barely bring themselves to mention that Elizabeth Bishop was a partnered Lesbian. Surely if one is discussing Lowell's unrequited love for her, this fact is relevant?

I have not wanted to admit that this recloseting was happening, but it is happening everywhere, and I can see it now, thanks to you, Martin Reynolds.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 4:58pm GMT


"Though I think this is not so much a prediction - rather an observation of what is actually happening on the ground NOW."

I can see this happening, but I don't understand what it means.

The gay issue isn't going away, we are not going away. There may be an attempt to recloset us, but this will only be successful if we play ball.

It is increasing acceptance in society and in the church that has accelerated and intensified the hate campaign. It seems to be a phenomenon that happens towards the end of every new major social development. In the end, it burns itself out and the new order prevails.

Or am I seeing this wrong?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 8:15pm GMT

Since before the Dromantine Williams has believed it necessary that gay people should be firmly pushed back in the closet,


I believe that you are correct. I believe Bishop Harries said as much 2 years ago.

As I am discovering,there is a place beyond anger....beyond words too, a hollow place, a place of great sadness.This where I am now on this subject.

I feel very sad for Rowan Williams, the sadness beyond anger. He knows in his heart what his knowledge and experience tell him...what is right... and yet...silently....he goes along with the majority. And it is this silence that puzzles me. I realise he has no "hard" power, no authority to issue edicts, but he does have a pulpit and a lecturn and a brilliant mind. Does he not have some obligation to teach, to illuminate, to persuade?

On just about every other subject, - the Iraq War, Maritain, you name it, he seems willing, if not anxious, to express his views, why not on this one? Why the silence? As someone who knows the man, perhaps, you can answer this question for me.

Posted by: Andrew Innes on Friday, 14 November 2008 at 9:43pm GMT

Thanks Charlotte – but it was journalist Marites N. Sison reporting the views of her Primate that first made me rethink and see the obvious. I missed the signs of how this issue had regressed even though I was sometimes “at the centre” of the events themselves. Her report didn’t mention gay people as being excluded because they were “in a sexual relationship” or “in a celibate partnership” – No, the exclusion as she understood it post Lambeth and as she believed her Primate saw it was against any openly gay person.

I quizzed Marites N Sison on the phone and then asked Fred Hiltz by email if the ground had shifted so seismically – the reflection Simon posted above formed part of the answer he sent me.
As I waited for a reply from Hiltz I reflected on the Canadian Primate’s view with another long time friend Gregory Cameron asking if it was now the case that no self respecting gay person could expect preferment in “the Church” as envisaged by Rowan Williams post Lambeth 2008. He felt that that was a reasonable assessment of the situation. I was stunned, I don’t know why, the evidence has been clearly there for all to see – but I had somehow failed to make all the proper connections. So I think Erika and I are in the same place there.

We, and the issue are not going away, that’s true Erika – but our presence is due to get a lot more difficult and the closet already stuffed with so many “orthodox” leaders is destined to get a lot stuffier I guess. A blackmailer’s charter I fear.

You are right that there is so much less antipathy to gay people in the wider world, a poll here suggested that only just over a third of people now opposed adoption by gay people – just a tad more than those opposed to adoption by single people. Ten year ago over two thirds would have been opposed.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 15 November 2008 at 12:03am GMT

Andrew you ask what I know of this. I have already said elsewhere that as I listened to Rowan’s ideas several years ago I realised that he would have few allies, but I can scarcely have thought then that they would not include myself. I believe that as the hate poured out against Jeffrey, Rowan first saw this as justification for his long held views, then when Pakistani bishops rang him assuring him that their flock would be killed on the streets if he went ahead with this consecration – things started to change.

I don’t think he quite expected the enormous pressure from friends in the Catholic and Orthodox communities – nor the undiplomatically frank language threatening a complete end to all working relationships if he conceded much or indeed anything to us gay people.
It was obvious to some just how much some people like Jensen, Akinola and Orombi were willing to risk in a grab for power, but even there I think many at the centre of this business thought the old Foreign and Colonial Office ways would win through and only in the last few months has there been a frank and open admission that the Communion was fragmenting.

For myself, I am with Fr Mark. I believe myself to be capable of gracious acts – but I am definitely not prepared to be restrained. The gloves, Sir are off!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 15 November 2008 at 12:09am GMT

Yes Charlotte, but do you think they will be asked to leave? Would they do so? Surely its more likely the communion will simply fragment alas. In the short term all i can see is polarisation and fragmentation.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 15 November 2008 at 8:03am GMT

Martin wrote: ... if it was now the case that no self respecting gay person could expect preferment in “the Church” as envisaged by Rowan Williams post Lambeth 2008 ...

Self-respecting is the key phrase here. Gay people have been appointed as cathedral canons and deans in the past 3 years in England and at least one gay man has been consecrated as a bishop and attended Lambeth, with the other closetted and/or married gay bishops in England.

The majority of lesbian and gay priests I know survive in the church by living on a spectrum of somewhere between closetted and discreet. The minority have the courage of Martin, and some of the gay members of General Synod, to be totally open and witness to the truth of their lives.

Are the hidden majority of lesbian and gay members of the CofE lacking in self-respect? I understand why they hide, but it makes working for positive change a real challenge.

I'm hooked on the words 'self-respecting'. Did I lack self-respect in the years before I fully came out? I am a healthier person and my spiritual life is richer now that I am open to myself and others. How can the hidden majority of LGBT CofE members be encouraged to value self-respect and truth above security and safety in the church?

Posted by: Colin Coward on Saturday, 15 November 2008 at 9:22am GMT

And meanwhile as the Anglican Communion pushes the homosexuals back into their closets, heterosexual immorality continues unabated, with no fault divorces and re-marraige...serial polygamy.

Furthermore St Paul is happily re-interpreted and Womens ordination is now the norm within the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 16 November 2008 at 11:18am GMT

"Are the hidden majority of lesbian and gay members of the CofE lacking in self-respect?"

Colin, I ask myself the same thing, as it relates directly to me. I'm not out in my parish in a way that would be acceptable to many liberals here. I AM out here though, so who am I really kidding? Most people have a computer these days, after all, even at stodgy old St. Mike's. But when the time came for me to go back to Church, I couldn't contemplate going anywhere else than St. Mike's. I care deeply for the parish, it is often times my shelter from the storm. Whatever else is going on in the world, whatever volleys are fired at us by the "reasserters", or anyone else, I can go St. Mike's on a Sunday morning and take my part in a nice, well done, though often a bit ragged at the edges, liturgy, where we yet again make "anamnesis" as we do every Sunday, and all kneel at the same altar to receive the Sacrament. We are ordinary people, given to the same squabbles as everyone else, and there have been issues over some more 'catholic' practices, since we are an Anglo-catholic parish with a Methodist congregation, so to speak. But, as one Evangelical whose family curiously made our place their parish said, "This is where the Spirit is." I can't explain it. All I know is that I do not want to do anything that would endanger what is for me just as much a sanctuary from the tumults of the world as it is for anyone else there. If it were to cause a stink, I would stop being Eucharistic assistant, rather than be a source of discord in a place I care about so much. So, no, I think, not lack of self respect. It isn't all about me, but in a sense it is, since I gain as well from the place being as it is. There's a lot more to this than "I'm going to be honest, by God, and don't anyone dare to try to drive me back into the closet." It can also be about being able to live as peacably as possible with those around you. It's not even fear that I would be driven out, it's fear that bringing very polarizing political issues into a place where those who have figured it out already know, and those haven't don't need to know, and "where the Spirit is." I can't be any clearer than that, sorry.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 16 November 2008 at 6:06pm GMT

"And meanwhile as the Anglican Communion pushes the homosexuals back into their closets, heterosexual immorality continues unabated, with no fault divorces and re-marraige...serial polygamy." Robert Ian Williams (R.C.)

Once again, Robert criticises the Anglican Church's problems with homosexuality, without even hinting that this is also a very real problems for his own contstituency in the Roman Catholic Church. The only difference there, of course, is that the RC Church has suffered so much pecuniary damage because of paedophile activity among its priests (not, repeat, not necessarily homosexual activity as such) that it is now considering specific psychological testing of future male candidates for the priesthood (if, indeed there are any) which will identity those who might have a homosexual or paedophilic predisposition. This may mean that there will be no further candidates offering to train in the Roman Catholic Church.

(N.B. the latest issue of the RC Tablet states that the English Bishops have been presented with a petition to facilitate the ordination of married men to the priesthood, but this will not necessarily exclude gay or bi-sexual, married men from applying - especially if the Bishops do not subject them to the 'gay' test)

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 16 November 2008 at 8:50pm GMT

"All I know is that I do not want to do anything that would endanger what is for me just as much a sanctuary from the tumults of the world as it is for anyone else there"

I know how you feel! And I was astonished when I came out in my parish, how genuine that sanctuary was, and how it managed to embrace me and my partner. I needen't have feared.

What concerns me slightly is whether that which you experience as a sanctuary for "anyone" is experienced in the same way by other not out people in your congregation. How do your young people feel about this church that appears to have no happy gay members? How do your closeted young gay people feel about it? Will it ultimately drive them away because they cannot be truly themselves there?
What if in 20 years time you meet someone you used to know as a child, who might have found God there, had he known that he could be accepted just as he is?

I guess all I'm saying is that things aren't as clear cut as we'd like them to be, and that our responsibility cuts both ways.
Ultimately and in the long run, grown up congregations where no-one has to pretend for the sake of a peaceful Eucharist, but where that coming together before Christ is absolutely real, will be the only Christian way of living in truth.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 17 November 2008 at 8:21am GMT

Ford and Erika,
The dilemmas you each write about worry and puzzle me too. The world I live in is a world of paradox, mystery and challenge. One of the mysteries is how people with different personality types from me can be so arrogantly certain they are right, and I am wrong as a gay man who is not celibate.
I feel accepted with my partner in my parish church in Devizes. I couldn’t be in the closet there even if I wanted to be. For the majority of the congregation the fact that we are there as a gay couple isn’t a problem. Experience in Changing Attitude suggests that this is true for the majority of Church of England congregations.
The difficulty is in testing the water, when you start worshipping with a new community and there are no signs indicating whether or not it is safe to be openly gay. It is easy to assume that because conservatives shout so loudly about us, in any congregation, there may be people who are prejudiced.
I also understand the choice you have made, Ford. I’m a liberal, but I don’t have an expectation that people ‘should’ be out. Fine choices have to be made, very often, within the church. On balance, I think that attitudes in Church of England congregations are far less prejudiced than we assume, and Erica and Susan have discovered this to be true in Somerset.
Extreme conservatives and bishops are the problem. You don’t get to be a bishop now if you are gay unless you are either married or in the closet. There are no good role models, no bishops to show the wider church in England what wonderful ministries gay and lesbian people offer the church. Conservatives are a problem because their prejudiced thinking and voices gain too much prominence. They are not the sole representative of Christian orthodoxy as they arrogantly claim.
I meet many, many LGBT Anglicans who live with their own dilemmas about coming out in their congregation, and I respect and understand them. The iconoclastic part of me also wishes for a great ‘coming out’ in the church – that Sunday morning when all LGBT clergy and bishops reveal their true identity in Christ, and everything changes and nothing changes, because God knows already.
I dream on …..

Posted by: Colin Coward on Monday, 17 November 2008 at 11:45am GMT


God bless you for your latest post!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 17 November 2008 at 10:14pm GMT

Simon, or perhaps, Ford, Martin and Colin:

Many of these "conversations" are private, in a way, although conducted in a very public forum.

We are in the early stages of planning to show "The Bible tells me so", here at our parish in Southern Ontario. If the opportunity presented itself, I thought I might quote a few passages from the above exchange of views, which express better than I can, the fears and challenges that many gay people face in coming out to their parish. Is this OK or is there some unwritten understanding that what's said here, stays here?

Posted by: Andrew Innes on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 10:59am GMT

Andrew, my understanding is that this is a public forum. I'm writing comments to Ford and Erika that I hope will be read more widely.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 11:58am GMT

I've been thinking about Erika's and Colin's posts, and I'm not sure I can do them justice yet. What young people? We have two problems: one is that most young people here consider the Church to be an irrelevant, hypocritical institution. It's amazing how many deeply spiritual young people you meet for whom the actions of the Church have made "God" a dirty word, and who cannot even imagine Christianity filling any kind of Spiritual need. I have friends who can't even go to Church without getting frustrated and angry and walking out half way through. This current nonsense is, for them, proof that they are right. No doubt some of them left because they felt there was no place for them as gay people, but that's only part of a much larger picture. But there's also outmigration. Practically an entire generation has been raised to think they have no future here, and many of them have left. Our Church does a huge number of baptisms, yet our average age is somewhere around 55 or higher. They are often the grandkids of parishioners whose kids left long ago for work on the mainland and have come back to the ancestral parish for the christening. The thing is, and I don't know how clear I can be on this, I think we have it all wrong. We are all coming at this from a position of "I", I want, I think, I believe, I need, MY rights, yadda, yadda, yadda. Isn't it supposed to be the opposite? Aren't the conservatives supposed to be saying "I strongly believe that God wants gay people to be celebate, but I also don't want people to suffer just because they are gay, so let's talk"? Aren't liberals supposed to be saying "I strongly feel I have a Christian responsibility to defend those who are oppressed, but I don't want to put stumbling blocks in other people's way, so let's talk"? I know this is idealistic, but aren't we supposed to be idealistic? It's so grand to declare one'sself traditional or orthodox or faithful or progressive or welcoming or inclusive, but isn't that just self praise, really? See how these Christians love one another. I wish I was on the other side of the pond, this discussion needs a few pints face to face, not 400 or 500 words online.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 1:16pm GMT


You didn't address me in your post, but I have commented on this widely over the last 2 years on TA. You are of course welcome to use anything from me you find in the TA archives.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 2:09pm GMT

I hear what you're saying, and if there are no young people in the church the situation is not quite as pressing as it is in other places.

I agree with what you say about rights, but that doesn't really help, because "me first" can apply as a motivator for any response.

If I didn't know you better I could, for example, think that you believe your right to peaceful and meaningful worship to be more important than your responsibility towards gay people in your community.

Unless everyone always puts the others first, we still have to make our own decisions of how we ensure that those who are not being heard are best given the support they need.

This can, indeed, be done by a Christian witness that prioritises loving those who oppose you.
But.... if you're not out, how will anyone be able to see that that's what you're doing?

Or it can be done by remaining closeted, yet vocally supporting those your enemies despise.

Looking at external words and actions alone is not always a good indicator for motivation.

I agree - a pint or two would be a good idea! It would be a long night!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 3:09pm GMT


Some of us deliberately write here because it is a public forum (and one that can't be edited after the fact) (Thank you to the TA hosts for this site and their integrity).

That means that things that normally go unspoken are said. It also means the cruel things that souls say (but later claim they didn't) are out in the open.

TA has played a pivotal role in the last few years for including in the debates the "scripts" and strategies that conservatives have used to repress and insult GLBTs, women and others. It has enabled souls to go beyond denial that such behaviour occurs, to contemplating whether such behaviour should occur, and, if it should not, what should happen instead. A crucial part of that has been to look at why souls do what they do, and then ask whether those paradigms really are valid.

For example, there is a core belief, for some, that this world exists purely for punitive purposes to punish Eve and all her children for Eve's mistake. From that assumption, it is okay to insult Eve and to abuse her children. The other perspective is that God desired this world, and that to be its guardian Eve had to understand the fallibilities and consequences that its occupants would experience. She chose an empathetic route to understanding humanity so that she could exercise compassion when meting out justice.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 3:48pm GMT

This thread is going way off topic, but what the heck! Thanks to Fred Hiltz whose reflection started off a train of ideas, and to Martin whose post set me thinking.

If only it were practical, Ford, for many of us to meet face to face over a pint to chat at length and with love and honesty, with conservatives as well as with those I feel closer to.

My analysis agrees with yours. The conservatives have no answer to the spiritual search that people in the UK are making. Neither do liberals. Conservatives believe with integrity that their system honours God more and will be successful in attracting people to God. It doesn't attract me but it clearly attracts others.

The congregation of the church in which I worship is elderly. Nearly all the young people are in the choir, and the choir is the reason they come. The congregation contains many people who yearn for something more, but they would find it a real challenge to articulate their yearning.

It has taken me 35 years of prayer to begin to discover inside myself the awareness of what God really seems to be like and to be about in my life. I have been helped in my search for deeper truth by a number of significant spiritual guides, Henry Morgan now, Una Kroll, Rowan Williams, Peter Hand, Gwen Rymer and Derek Tasker in the past (Some of those names will resonate with older readers of TA).

I know I have been pursued by God all the time, and have slowly been able to give myself more and more in trust and love to God who is infinite and intimate love, goodness and wisdom. This is the greatest challenge any of us is called to face. To let go of all the dogma, the adherence to Biblical correctness and ‘authority’, and to challenge most of what we have internalised from church, society, school and family (unless we have been incredibly lucky).

I don’t know what the answer is for young people, middle-aged people, elderly people, but I know many of them yearn to discover their own truth and the churches mostly hinder rather than help their search. I know we have to live our vocation and journey as authentically as possible, prepared to risk all and be open to all.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 4:02pm GMT

A suggestion...... members of the C of E and AC of C, who have retired might seriously think about coming out, if they haven't already done so.

One of the delightful things about retirement is that it frees one up to take risks,(non-financial ones!). So retired clergy and laity, speak up and to speak out!

Posted by: Andrew Innes on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 10:31pm GMT

I pick up on the thought, expressed elsewhere by someone on this thread, that 'closet' gays have to be allowed their own integrity - sometimes for reasons that would otherwise compromise their their own familial relationships. While it should always be a matter of openness to one's nearest and dearest, one's orientation may not always be best declared to all and sundry.

This may sound selfish to those who have no problems about the possibile effects on other people within their own sphere of influence. But for beneficed clergy, for instance, where open-ness about their sexual orientation might be detrimental to the local mission, some restraint
might be a necessary way of caution - if only to avoid scandal-mongering in the local Church.

What, however, closeted gays ought never to do, is pretend to go along with the climate of anti-gay rhetoric - especially when it requires a prophetic witness in both Church and World, to the all-embracing love of God for all people.

This may seem to be somewhat cowardly, but at least it is neither pharisaical nor hypocritical, and requires a sort of integrity that might be helpful in the long run.

To try to force an 'outing' on everyone - at this time of critical divisiveness in the Church, could militate against the cause of charitable co-existence that might better suit our purposes as advocates of the acceptance of 'Difference'.

While I do admire those of you who feel you can be open about your sexual identity on this site, I ask you not to castigate those of us who may have to exercise a great deal more caution in the specifics of our own situation. Nevertheless, we care enough to want to champion the cause that so obviously is important to all of us - straight or gay - on this important issue.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 10:32pm GMT

Fr Ron
I hope you didn't feel that I was trying to force people into outing themselves regardless of the consequences this may have for them or those close to them, or those they are responsible for.

Nor is it a selfish "me me me" imposition on the parish when someone does decide they need to be open, again for their own sake and for the sake they feel responsible for.

There are very very good reasons for coming out, just as there are for remaining closeted.
We should indeed respect every individual's integrity here.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 10:35am GMT

Father Ron:

Obviously, context is very important. In my own context,(a town in Southern Ontario with a sizeable Arts community), to remain "invisible", at a time in the life of our church when it is making a sincere attempt to understand, to "listen", would, I think, be an act of cowardice, particularly when my personal safety and economic security are not at risk. My candour may be seen as offensive to some (because it represents a moral position with which they do not agree) but, in my judgement, at this time and in this place, that is a conversation that needs to occur in the open.
(I did, however, ask our vicar if he'd prefer that my partner and I were not present for the screening and subsequent discussion of "The Bible Tells Me So" and he was very clear that he would like us there).

It should be interesting.

Posted by: Andrew Innes on Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 11:45am GMT

Erika, Andrew, Colin Ford, and others on this site who have so wonderfully expressed their own integrity in disclosing their sexual orientation; may I thank you sincerely for your honesty and lack of guile. My earlier post on this issue was not meant in any way to criticise your stand - only to beg your indulgence for those who feel they are not yet able to commit to the same degree of self-disclosure. (This does not mean, of course, that they will escape the suspicions of some who will make their own conclusions).

I feel that there is much to be done by those not yet ready to be so open about their own sexuality in their readiness to engage in the struggle for the acceptance of the LGBT community - in both the Church and the World. My gripe is with those who affect not to approve of efforts to bring enlightenment to other people about the need for serious dialogue - because of their fear that others may discover their orientation. Some are more vulnerable because of their particular family or community prejudice.

God knows the truth about all of us. We just have to make sure that we do not openly deny that truth

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 9:52pm GMT

"My earlier post on this issue was not meant in any way to criticise your stand"

Speaking for myself, I didn't take it that way. I have little time for people who forget how hard it was and how screwed up your mind gets when you are closeted. How, among all the stuff you have to figure out when you are a teenager, there is one thing you HAVE to deal with on your own, and it simply CANNOT ever be known by anyone else, there is no room for error, if anyone finds out, that's it, you might as well jump off a building. Some do. How easy it is to HAVE two utterly separate lives, to convince yourself that what you know to be true is actually false, how that ability bleeds out into every other aspect of your life so lying becomes an integral, unrecognized, part of your nature. How you are always looking over your shoulder, always second guessing, how the fear of getting caught, which would mean your life is over, becomes so much a part of you you don't even think it's abnormal, don't even realize it's there most of the time, how you will do anything to "prove" you are a decent person. How easy covering up for yourself became second nature.

After you do come out, it's hard to figure out how to deal with all that crap at the same time trying to be mindful that those around you haven't gone through the process of acceptance that you have. It's hard to show respect for the disrespect of others towards you when you have worked so hard to learn how to respect yourself, or even that you are worthy of that respect. It's even harder when those who claim to speak for God are constantly telling you that you not actually deserve that respect and that God Himself does not condone the long and painful process of self-acceptance that you have gone through, and actually wants you to go back to that place of shame, fear, and dishonesty, and pull out and vehemently defend every piece of pseudoscientific propaganda they can find to convince you of how sick and unworthy of God's love you actually are. I make no wonder people like merseymike are so angry. Typing this, all I kept asking myself is why I am still bothering. It's because I don't go to church for Bob Duncan, or Don Harvey, or any of that crowd, and they are not, and as far as I can see do not preach, the Gospel. If they want to misrepresent Christ to the world, they can answer for it when the time comes, I'll be too busy pleading my own case to worry about them that day, so why worry about them now?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 2:29pm GMT
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