Friday, 14 June 2013

Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010 (revised)

TA readers may recall that back in June 2011, a document was published by the Church of England, which was numbered GS Misc 992 entitled Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010. We reproduced the full text of this document here at the time and it attracted some comment then.

In fact the identical document had been leaked to the Guardian newspaper the previous month when it attracted quite a lot of media comment.

Today, the Church of England released a new document, numbered GS Misc 1044, which is described as an update to the earlier one, but whose content is in some respects quite different. The cover note observes that the update has been made to take account of the decision taken by the House of Bishops in December in relation to civil partnerships and the episcopate.

We reported on that in House of Bishops decisions taken in December, and then again here, and finally, when in January the Church of England eventually issued a press release, in Civil partnerships and eligibility for the episcopate in the CofE.

The new document is now reproduced in full here.

The old document is still available here, and readers may find it instructive to look at the two side by side.

PDF originals are here (old), and then here (new).

John Bingham has written today in the Telegraph about this document, see Archbishops to ask clergy: ‘Are you having gay sex?’

Update Friday 21 June
Today, Gavin Drake reports on this for the Church Times in Assurances of celibacy may not be enough to qualify for a bishopric.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:26pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

More retro, smarmy thinking from the August prelates of the Church of England. Clearly, according to this paper, they have little or no intention of implementing the Equality Act, according to its purposes.They are busy carving out loopholes that any bishop can drive a bulldozer through. One must try to imagine Justin having Jeffrey John to tea and inquiring if Jeffrey is still celibate for life. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Funny if it weren't patently homophobic.

What of the provision by which a bishop on the CNC can veto a priest in a civil partnership, preventing his nomination to the episcopacy because he would not be able to be a "focus of unity"? One needs to remember the fine white paper produced for Rowan Williams after he made an idiot of himself by screaming at the CNC members gathered to nominate a bishop for Southwark, as part of his effort to scuttle any chance of nominating Jeffrey John. In an effort to shift the focus from his bullying, the paper interpreted the role of the bishop as "the focus of unity" to include the entire Anglican Communion, including many of the rabidly homophobic prelates of the so-called Global South. After all, a bishop is ordained for the "whole Church." Never mind that the "whole Church" is the Church of England. There is no worldwide "Anglican Church", thanks be to God.

How about scuttling the nomination of a bishop to a particular see because of his expressed homophobia? In some of the English sees, such a nominee could not be a "focus of unity." Of course, almost all of the bishops of the CofE practice the passive-aggressive form of homophobia by remaining sleekly silent in the face of the ugly harassment of our children, which the Church currently considers its prerogative.

No wonder that most young people are not interested in the Church.

Posted by: Karen MacQueen+ on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 12:56am BST

Archbishops to ask clergy: ‘Are you having gay sex?’

"Yes, m'Lord, my husband and I are, intimately, very, VERY happy together" [how I want to see this question answered---if not w/ a stone-cold stare]

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 3:03am BST

JCF - alternatively -

"My Lord, have you stopped beating your wife?"

Posted by: Sister Mary on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 6:52am BST

Oh God, how utterly degrading. Not just for the gay bishops-to-be, but for all of us. If this is what progress in the Church of England looks like, then I'm happy to be stuck in the past, when the sex lives of clerics were politely and studiously ignored.

Posted by: rjb on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 7:13am BST

I have said it before, and will again, that the best tactic is for all clergy of good will to gratuitously inform the bishops in unnecessary detail of what they get up to in bed, be said clergy gay or straight. Only in the idiocy of such embarrassment will the vile vile vile inquisition be seen for what it is.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 8:03am BST

Strangely, I think that there is a glimmer of light in this fairly dispiriting and typical C of E document. Here's why:

1. It brackets divorced and gay clergy together. Now we all know that the C of E has stopped having any real problem with divorced clergy or clergy married to divorced people years ago. So bracketing like this is only going to weaken any sense that we should have any real problem with gay clergy either.

2. It does not assume that partnered gay clergy cannot be persons of "godly life", nor, indeed, a "focus for unity" per se, in just the same way that it does not make that assumption about divorced clergy.

3. What remains is the elephant in the room and a shrinking figleaf. The shrinking figleaf is that having a gay or divorced candidate appointed bishop shouldn't frighten the horses. I suspect that more and more it is going to be difficult to demonstrate that a "substantial number" of people in a diocese or area would be upset by having a gay or divorced bishop. Sure, there will always be the noisy, shallow, anti-gay end of the pool - but, switching metaphors rapidly, the tail will only be able to wag the dog for so long.

4. The elephant in the room is gay sex. Well, the notion of questioning people about their bedroom behaviour is, of course, both laughable and highly offensive. And it won't work. Some may wish to volunteer information about their status (J John and Richard Coles spring to mind) - but I hope that most others will refuse steadfastly to have any truck with such an immoral procedure.

My point, however, in relation to this document, is this. That we could hardly expect them to say anything else. Pilling is in full swing. The theological position of the C of E in relation to gay sex remains as it has been (stuck somewhere around 1969), as do its official attitudes (embarrassed). BUT, if that review comes out with a perspective that moves in any way at all away from a sexual ethic that places all acceptable sexual activity in a m/f marriage bed and condemns the rest, then this paper could be revised to remove the inquisitorial elements very simply.

So it is frustrating and inadequate over all - but from the point of view of its positioning, I think it is interesting.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 9:35am BST

My first reaction was one of pure horror at such an idea, then I thought I'd follow Jeremy Pemberton in seeing things sunny side up.

There are some positive aspects.

Firstly this arrangement may allow for openly gay bishops. This in itself is a positive step.

Secondly the indignity of the interrogation will eventually prove too repellant to enforce. I also agree with an article written by Giles Fraser on this matter a few weeks back.

Such an undignified and unworthy line of questioning does not deserve an honest answer, whereby one becomes complicit in one's own and others oppression.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 4:45pm BST

Going over the previous material which includes a legal opinion, i understand that there are good grounds to say that asking people in civil partnerships (and soon marriage ) what sexual contact they have WITHIN THAT RELATIONSHIP, is unlawful.

It is a clear breach of Article 8 that guarantees certain important rights for us all.
http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/the-human-rights-act/the-convention-rights/article-8-right-to-respect-for-private-and-family-life.html

So I have no idea how the lawyers who have produced this document can advocate bishops breaking the law along these lines.

Posted by: Fr Alan-Bury on Sunday, 16 June 2013 at 10:24am BST

It is precisely because the Church of England is outside the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights that it can and does infringe this and other principles of the Convention. It is simply not bound by the document. Hence why the ECHR will never require the CofE to marry or allow the marriage of same sex couples.

On the other hand - whilst not obliged to follow the Convention one might think that if the Anglican Communion has endorsed and supported human rights then there would be some importance attached to voluntarily adhering to such principles.

For example from Resolution 16 Lambeth Conference 1968: "Further, the Conference calls upon the Churches to press upon governments and communities their duty to promote fundamental human rights and freedoms among all their peoples."

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 16 June 2013 at 6:19pm BST
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