Friday, 9 October 2009

Peter Selby on the Covenant

Bishop Peter Selby spoke at the Inclusive Church residential conference this week.

There is a press release from Inclusive Church reproduced below the fold.

The full text of his lecture is available here: When the Word on the Street is Resist.

The Church Times has a news report (on the website only) see Covenant would not be Anglican, says Selby.

Bishop Peter Selby - We need the Archbishop’s gifts in the sexuality debate

Speaking to the Inclusive Church residential conference “Word on the Street - reading the Bible inclusively”, Bishop Peter Selby this week called on members of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion to continue in conversation about the divisive issue of homosexuality. He warned against creating a ‘two-track communion” where those who disagree with the official position on this one issue are excluded from decision-making and from ecumenical dialogue.

The conference also heard lectures from biblical scholars Dr Richard Burridge, Dr Andrew Mein and Dr Paula Gooder who each spoke on aspects of inclusion in the Bible.

Bishop Selby said: “Our main concern has to be that what is being proposed is no way to discern the truth about the matters in dispute, and we must be sure to make that point clear at every opportunity.”

Speaking about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he said: “The Archbishop has removed himself from his natural area of thought in the matter of sexuality, that is his remarkable capacity to bring a godly wisdom to bear on secular developments, a gift we need more than any other in attempting to work out how to assess current developments in human attitudes and behaviour in matters sexual. Instead the issues that surround sexuality are now treated by him only as ecclesiastical problems, to be resolved as such.”

In a detailed analysis of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent Reflections on the US General Convention, Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future, he showed how the Anglican Covenant as currently proposed would send unintended messages of exclusion.

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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

"If homophobia is contrary to the intentions of those advocating the traditionalist cause, it has been allowed to provide a good deal of the fuel for the debate, and the Archbishop's personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that energy is being used
- Bishop Peter Selby, to 'Word on the Street' -

This really does describe the anguish of those of us who support the advocacy of the LGBT Community and their ministry in the Church - that the ABC, despite his own personal convictions, continues to allow for homophobes to dictate the terms on which prospective partners may relate to one another in the Communion, post-Covenant.

The scandal of division on this issue alone, irrespective of the issue of the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate (which has already been settled in other parts of the Communion) will show the Church of England to be inconsistent in its attitude towards the spiritual integrity of its LGBT membership.

This is a matter on which certain of the provinces, who might sign up to the covenant if it imposes discipline on the acceptance of gays in ministry, will be seen to be acceptable by Canterbury as Communion Partners who are more acceptable than TEC, and other Provinces which already acknowldege openly the ordination of a category of persons labelled by certain Primates in the African Anglican Church as *Satanic* and *Destined for hell-fire*.

The question for LGBT persons in the Anglican Communion is: Does the Archbishop of Canterbury consider partnership with declared homophobes to be more important than justice to LGBT persons - and all in the Name of Christian Unity?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 12:52am BST

It is a consistent argument and at last directed where it should be directed: at the Archbishop who seems to have both hands gripping the steering wheel set against bishops in office who will say nothing. I think it is such a consistent argument and so well directed that it is an exocet against this Covenant.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 6:19am BST

Who will they send to Uppsala for the consecration due in 5 weeks?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 7:58am BST

What Bishop Peter says sounds very good. But why is it that only retired bishops can openly speak any sense on this issue?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 9:02am BST

I do not read Bishop Selby's comments as directed against the proposed Covenant per se, but rather at Archbishop Rowan's post-GC "Reflections" and the "spin" from the ACI+Wright. Of course, in our day spin has come to be the dominating force: beginning with the spinning of Lambeth 1.10 into "the teaching of the Communion." It seems to me the caution here is that should a Covenant be adopted it might find itself spun in similar ways, and used as a sifter rather than a container -- a means to separate rather than to unite.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 3:28pm BST

I read Selby as finally having the courage to name the elephant in our global Anglican rooms, rather deftly and accurately.

What piles of unnamed elephant dung lie all around us these days, with everybody thinking, I'd better watch just exactly where I step here? Less and less that is supposed to be quintessentially Anglican these days happens to pass a common sense, real world Anglican believer smell test?

The queer folks RW and others are so oddly doubtful of, we already know up close and personal - our extended family members, our average to excellently competent coworkers, our school mates, our club mates, our neighborhood watch members, our parents' club members, our friends.

RW makes a grave error indeed when he talks as if he can still get some solid gold credit somewhere for publishing the ethical and practical falsehoods he is still using to summarize what queer stuff is, and how queer folks now live among us? There is no ethics credit for clinging to all the old fears and ignorances about queer folks in particular, or human embodiment generally?

As to the personal elements in Rowan William's odd shutting down when it comes to the human body - nobody talks much about the dramatically changed sciences that ground our changing senses of embodiment in a wild and wooly era of significant transition? Instead we focus on the hot button queer stuff? - I constantly shift and suppose, guessing among several factors.

Sometimes, RW looks to be suffering some sort of PTSD, at least some features of it. He seems like an Anglican leader having odd flash backs, such that he goes all rigid and rote just when we would expect a mind and heart of his reputed keen caliber to go all Anglican, instead, acknowledging the complexities while grounding a typical Anglican Via Media for living with those complexities.

Other times - the JJohn affair? WO & bishops, next? - RW acts pretty much like a USA Senator whose vote and leadership has been bought off by some Really Big Money. Big Pharma? Big Oil & Gas?

Finally, I really appreciate Selby for tagging this whole spin doctored business of who represents whom, and what message is being enacted to elevate or demean what audience.

Bravo, bravo, bravo.

Not in my Anglican name must surely be followed closely by Not in God's Name, for believers?

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 7:09pm BST

I would give this some credit if the author were still drawing a salary rather than a pension.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 12:43am BST

"I would give this some credit if the author were still drawing a salary rather than a pension."

That was my point too, but Jonathan Hagger/ Mad Priest jumped all over me at Mark Harris's blog for being unfair to Peter Selby who spoke up on the gay issue when in office. I would just welcome the fact that he's made the case, and criticise those who keep silence despite sharing apparently similar opinions.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 5:00pm BST

Yes, Adrian - (as he reminds his listeners) he was better than most in his own limited way, but there is little more ex than a retired bishop - hence the massive media coverage.

That is my point - one and a bit ragged cheer for this man - but if this is the best we can muster, well .....

And it's not just the bishops - the English academics are inert or perhaps in shock!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 7:53pm BST

"I would give this some credit if the author were still drawing a salary rather than a pension.'
- Martin Reynolds -

So, Martin, you give Bishop Peter Selby absolutely no credit for 'speaking out', just because he is a retired bishop?

As an Englishman, you must surely be aware of the personal danger attached to any 'in office' priest or bishop who dares to speak on behalf of the LGBT community (that already exists within the C.of E.?) You, as a journalist, must surely be aware that to do is tantamount to being either categorised as 'gay', or, in certain extreme circumstances, dismissed from office - despite Lambeth's and the ABC's urging to accept those who happen to be L, G, B, or T. persons.

Putative bishop Jeffrey John was one of the few who was honest and up-front about his sexuality, and look what that did for him - despite the fact that he had been selected by his peers to the office of a bishop. For any priest or bishop - at this point in time - to acknowledge the fact that they are actually homosexual (whether celibate or partnered, in the Church of England) would be like committing professional suicide. No wonder Bishop Holloway has resigned from any ministry within the Church. There is a degree of enforced hypocrisy which, having been entrenched for so long a period, would cause clerical mayhem in the present situation of adversarial Church politics, if it were ever to be explored.

I say, let more retired bishops and clergy, who are not afraid of the possible 'tainting' of their personal integrity, 'come out' to the Church and the watching world with regard to their advocacy of the inclusion of LGBTs in the mission and ministry of the Body of Christ. If they themselves are not gay, then all the more reason why they should 'come clean' on their perception of the spiritual integrity of those who are struggling with the double-mindedness of the official stance of the Church in which they have been baptised, and maybe ordained to serve.

Thank you Bishop Peter Selby, for your honesty and integrity - both while you were in office as a bishop, and now that you are retired with more time and energy to devote to the cause.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 11:53pm BST

Fr Ron: "For any priest or bishop - at this point in time - to acknowledge the fact that they are actually homosexual (whether celibate or partnered, in the Church of England) would be like committing professional suicide."

Yes, I think that's sadly quite true. However, the thing that has really shocked me over the course of this ecclesiastical tragedy running for the last six years or so now is the complete lack of guts of the "nice" straight people in positions of power in the Church. None of them speak out (though they may be privately very supportive of their gay friends and colleagues). It's terrible that no-one at all will endanger their career by publicly denouncing and countering the C of E's homophobic lurch. It has deeply challenged my faith to have to listen to all these clerics mouthing platitudes about commitment to a just world order and then watch them vanish from the field of controversy. I increasingly wonder what the point of it all is, frankly, and I understand more and more how it must have felt for the Jews of Europe 70 years ago to watch nice moral Christian people turn a blind eye while their families were carted off into oblivion.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 11:25am BST

I am a Welshman living in Wales and a priest in good standing in that Province.

My contact with English bishops (other than those who emigrated from here) was minimal until I was part of the strategy team for LGCM - what I found was shocking. I could not believe their duplicity and willingness to be two faced and tell outright lies or at the very least dissemble with a cheesy grin.

I suppose in that company Selby is a giant, but – call me old fashioned - I find it hard to laud a bishop for telling the truth.

Every bishop I have spoken to had the same disaster story over House of Bishops meetings - so unhealthy.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 11:51am BST

How very interesting, and how very awful. Makes a real mockery of the C of E's Back to Church Sunday, doesn't it? How many people who didn't come to church that Sunday (or any other) have gay family, friends, co-workers, and don't like to stand by and see them insulted?

Why would any decent person want to be a part of this organization? I'm rather glad they have decided to break Communion with the North American churches.

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 12:49pm BST

"How many people who didn't come to church that Sunday (or any other) have gay family, friends, co-workers, and don't like to stand by and see them insulted?"

Granted, I'm not in the CofE. But, still, I'm a gay man, I go to a more or less conservative parish. I doubt very much that, even if I wanted to, I coud get married there. "The gay issue" isn't on anybody's radar, except so far forth as to wish that it would go away and to be appalled at the behaviour of Don Harvey. Yet, I am not in the least insulted. I say this just to point out that just because a parish doesn't bless gay unions, doesn't have one of those rainbow flag things (shudder) at the front, and doesn't fall all over itself to make sure the gay people are acknowledged at every turn doesn't mean we are being insulted, nor that our colleagues would have to stand by and watch it happen, necessarily. I'd probably have a hard time at Falls Church, and if I was in Sydney or Abuja (not that I'd ever feel safe enough to go to Nigeria), I'd worship with the Romans, me not being Pentecostal, but really! I consider myself decent, and I am in a position to receive the insult you mention. Yet I am glad to be part of this institution. Personally, if my colleagues are so intent on taking offence on my behalf as to get all fussed up at nonexistent insults, I'd just as soon they didn't come to Church with me anyway, it'd be way too distracting, sitting there wondering what my colleagues are finding in my faith to take offence at now.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 3:53pm BST

Ford, you've made a good point.

I come back to what Bishop Selby said:

"There is no doubt that the decision not to allow the appointment of a gay person as a bishop is seen also as a representative action, giving a message far wider than one about the admissibility of a particular individual. I’ve not seen the point more sharply made than in the comment with which Jan, my wife, opened her letter to the Church Times following the 1987 debate on sexuality, that ‘the outcome of the debate will confirm to those with whom I work – children excluded from school for bad behaviour and other problems – that the Church has nothing to offer them.’ Protestations of our opposition to homophobia will count for little in an environment where our representative actions speak far louder than our words."

But the words are also there. Often the priest speaks them from the pulpit; when they are not, the priest legitimates them.

I say it's disingenuous (to say the least) for the Church of England to make a big hoopla over a Back to Church Sunday at the same time that it is actively driving out its gay and lesbian members, and their families, and their friends, in the campaign of hygenic purification of which Bishop Selby speaks.

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 6:33pm BST
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