Wednesday, 12 February 2014

General Synod - Wednesday - press reports

John Bingham The Telegraph
Welby tells Church refusing gay blessings will be viewed like racism
[The headline on this article was changed after publication to “Justin Welby says ‘Church viewed liked racists over homosexuality’”.]
Girl Guides offers concession to Christians in row over dropping God from pledge

David Pocklington of Law &Religion UK The Church and the Environment

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England vows to fight ‘great demon’ of climate change

Michael Trimmer Christian Today Climate change is ‘great demon of our day’

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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

Do we see calls for diversity over racism, for John Sentamu to make "provision" for believers in the Curse of Ham in the name of "mutual flourishing"? No, we do not. We would, rightly, view that as an abhorrent blow to him and his ministry.

Taking a neutral line on sexism and homophobia is a betrayal of women and gay people. Welby can take the high road all he likes, he speaks from a position of privilege, about "issues" that don't affect him personally.

Welby draws a distinction between the church and the world. Where's the Church of England, Mars? Venus? Welby might be apart from the consequences of this lofty condescension, but those who aren't have every right to dismiss it with deserved contempt.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 12:39am GMT

I recognize that Justin's comments represent a great distance traveled since Parliament and the famous "wrecking" amendment.

But the problem of compromise is that it compromises justice, thus it isn't justice. When the white, straight, majority tells me I can be blessed but not married, I am being condemned to live in a 2nd class status. We have always learned that unequal means vulnerable.

When you look at the moral equation of suffering, who suffers when I and my LGBT brothers and sisters receive full justice? Does anyone get arrested? Beaten? Lose their jobs? Harassed? Who suffers when we don't have justice? All of us.

At the end of the day, Justin is still calling for a compromise of justice, and that just isn't moral.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 2:25am GMT

Archbishop Justin is now surely experiencing the fact that when the Church departs from Biblical and Christian orthodoxy the whole show starts to unravel. The General Synod instead of addressing and seeking to correct the recent survey which shewed that the Established Church was experiencing massive decline chose rather to continue its gallop towards apostasy. Once apostasy appears on the scene then schism inevitably follows as we are currently experiencing within the world wide Anglican Communion. Just as the Anglican Communion is now in all but name two separate entities -Traditional and liberal - is it not high time that the Church of England similarly and formally divides? Then we shall see which of the two parts really begins to flourish.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 7:09am GMT

Archbishop Welby proposes a Church where "racists" and "non-racists" will live in harmony. Is this good news?

In some ways it is. Currently the "racists" control everything. However, we have already been assured that the Church will not change its "racist" doctrines, only allow a few local arrangements for "non-racist" activities.

To him this is very generous. He is a committed "racist" himself. It is a change, however, and a move forward.

Posted by: Iain Baxter on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 8:13am GMT

"John Bingham The Telegraph Welby tells Church refusing gay blessings will be viewed like racism
[The headline on this article was changed after publication to “Justin Welby says ‘Church viewed liked racists over homosexuality’”.]"

Headline changed, I'm guessing, after getting approx. 1,429 comments asking, "WILL BE viewed like racism???"

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 8:19am GMT

Welby's proposed compromise is a disappointment because it fails to treat LGBTs and women as equal members of the Church of England. It sounds like an abusive relationship.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 8:27am GMT

We are reaching a stage where the ABC tells his church that there are going to have to be gay blessings in churches that want them. Shortly afterwards, there will be such blessings in churches that want them. At some time not very long after that there will be full gay marriages in churches that want them. Pretty soon, most churches will want both blessings and marriages. These changes are staggering, and they are being promoted by an Evangelical of Welby's formation (Alpha etc.). At the same time, nobody is being coerced here. Equally, nobody is going to be able to exercise a veto. This is staggering, and I strongly suggest that thinking Anglicans should think. The quid pro quo, of course, is that everybody (including Con Evos) gets a proportionate slice of the cake (such as it is). So be it.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 8:52am GMT

Although this does follow the pattern of recent speeches it does, as John writes above, point to the outcomes he suggests.
Behind the scenes, though probably coded up some way on the Church notice board , this fresh doctrinal differences will add new fractures to those presently announcing Mattins or Mass and the new differences will not run along traditional party lines. There will be inclusive Evangelicals and orthodox Anglo Catholics and not always predictably so.

You can see Welby struggling with the prospect of what harm this debate might cause.

It is not easy to have an honest, open mature debate, even here on this blog, where the editorial policy leaves a lot to be desired.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 10:18am GMT

The Church of England General Synod needs our prayers; that hearts might be moved towards the inclusion of ALL people into the Body of Christ - both into its daily life and ministry.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 10:39am GMT

Though I think Archbishop Justin's address did not recognise the damage done by discrimination, I believe John is right: there is a real opportunity to move forward, after many years.

There is also a practical challenge: how do we respond to those churchgoers in their 70s and 80s who grew up in the days when gay sex was unlawful and homosexuality viewed as psychologically damaging and sinful, and are now friendly with LGBT people but not yet ready to affirm same-sex relationships? Or younger clergy who try to be respectful and caring to LGBT parishioners and friends but were trained at colleges which taught that the such partnerships was clearly wrong, and are not so far convinced by arguments to the contrary? Of course there are some in similar positions who have changed their opinions, but many who have not.

While seeking to convince more C of E members that it is right to celebrate same-sex marriage, treat partnered gay clergy equally etc, I think we have to find ways of living alongside those we disagree with, hard though it can be, provided they too are willing to make an effort.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 10:40am GMT

"...how do we respond to those churchgoers in their 70s and 80s who grew up in the days when gay sex was unlawful and homosexuality viewed as psychologically damaging and sinful, and are now friendly with LGBT people but not yet ready to affirm same-sex relationships?"

...the same way we treated people 50 years ago who believed with all their hearts and minds that people of color were unclean and cursed by God; with charity but firmly telling them that they will have to share a single world with others created by God in His image whose claim upon it is as real and legitimate a their own.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 12:38pm GMT

"how do we respond to those churchgoers in their 70s and 80s who grew up in the days when gay sex was unlawful and homosexuality viewed as psychologically damaging and sinful"

But those same 70 and 80 year olds grew up in an era when it was perfectly acceptable to refer to people who aren't white by a variety of racial epithets which would be entirely unacceptable today. They probably don't do that now, certainly not in church, partly because attitudes have got better, but partly because even if they are racist in their head they have the good manners to keep it to themselves.

A common problem is the racism of low expectations: misguided people of the left think they are behaving in a liberal manner by accepting behaviour from disadvantaged groups that they would not accept more widely. In fact they are simply holding those groups to lower moral standards because they don't believe those groups are capable of any better.

The same applies to ageism: for a lot of people, racism was acceptable for most of their adult lives, but now it isn't. We didn't have some sort of (literal, as well as metaphorical) grandfather clause in the Race Relations Act which said that it was OK to continue to discriminate so long as you could show that you'd done it for eighteen out of the previous twenty years and were too old to change your ways.

I don't believe that being old means you are incapable of change and reform, and I think it is profoundly pessimistic to think so. But even accepting for the moment that people can be too old to change their thoughts, I don't believe they are ever too old to change their behaviour and expression. I can't remember the exact quote, but wasn't it Martin Luther King who said words to the effect of "if I can't have them like me, at least I can have them not try to kill me?"

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 3:09pm GMT

Thank you, Savi.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 4:16pm GMT

FD Blanchard, a lot of awareness-raising activity went on in the C of E a few decades ago to change attitudes on racial equality - even when the law was in place, discrimination was extremely widespread, and it still happens. This was not a matter of stating that black and minority ethnic Anglicans were unclean and cursed by God - and anyone who speaks in these terms of LGBT people definitely needs to be checked, whatever their age - but took more subtle forms and was sometimes not intentional though nevertheless undermining.

Of course people can and do change, whatever their age, and I am certainly not suggesting that we should not keep pushing for greater equality, but getting from where we are now to where we might wish to be remains a challenge, and erroneous ideas and prejudice can take a long time to eradicate totally.

Interested Observer, is there not a distinction between trying to kill someone and not being altogether comfortable with a type of relationship in which they are involved? I believe the C of E should take a clearer stance on human rights for all throughout the world. But views on sexual ethics are a trickier area, especially when tied in with how the Bible is read.

I believe that creating a space in which people can hear one another, and be attentive to the Holy Spirit, is likely to move people forward more quickly to full acceptance (provided this is what God wants from the church, which I believe) than saying it is utterly unacceptable for them even to question our views of what is right. At the same time I think we can build on the momentum of equal marriage so that more and more people can see that committed same-sex partnerships can be blessed and vehicles of God's blessing in the wider community.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 4:26pm GMT

I'm interested in the creation of a special category of folks in this conversation -- people over 70, who, it is claimed, may have trouble accepting gay people as people.

I object. I'm 68, and I know lots of people in their 70's and 80's who are fully supportive of equal rights for gay people, and have been, for years.

After all, these are the folks who grew up with, and participated in, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, the Abortion Rights Movement, and the Anti-War Movement.

When the Gay Rights Movement came along, it seemed a natural development of the great turn toward affirmation of, and justice for, all God's people, and their full inclusion in in the great family of humanity.

So you young folks need to look to your seniors. We've been there, done that, and wonder what's keeping the rest of you.

Posted by: jnwall on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 8:23pm GMT

Some older people are senior citizens who have been denied the right to marry by the religious institutions whose discourses manufacture homophobia. I love reading stories about same-sex couples marrying after having been together for decades.

Older LGBTs deserve more care, given what they have suffered from both secular and religious institutional practices.

It may also be harder after experiencing decades of discrimination to trust institutions who claim to have the truth.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 8:42pm GMT

"This was not a matter of stating that black and minority ethnic Anglicans were unclean and cursed by God - and anyone who speaks in these terms of LGBT people definitely needs to be checked, whatever their age"

But the problem is that they often aren't checked. The idea that because of their age, or ethnicity, or background they should be granted a pass dies very hard. For example, the argument that vile homophobia is acceptable from African churches because of their historic cultural perspectives (or whatever) dies awfully hard, and the ABC has been shamefully reluctant to criticise. It would be interesting to watch the reaction of the typical CofE congregation to an elderly African woman with conservative views on homosexuality expressed forcefully. I suspect there would be a lot of embarrassed shuffling.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 13 February 2014 at 10:45pm GMT

While I gave the example of older laypeople and younger clergy who might not affirm marriage of same-sex couples, there are of course many in both categories who do. However younger people are proportionally more likely to be in favour - according to the results of an April 2013 YouGov poll for the Westminster Faith debate, for instance, in Britain just 17% of 18-24yr olds were against allowing same-sex marriage, compared with 53% of those aged 60 and over. (http://networkedblogs.com/KtnK8).

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 12:40am GMT

I think Savi is right - and while it is unpalatable to have to swallow being part of an organisation where some people believe it is perfectly OK to discriminate against gay people, the fact is that those people are also being asked to accept that those who up to now they have considered apostate are also honoured members of the organisation. In time it will all shake down. In time, it will become clear that marriage is about love and not gender roles.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 6:51am GMT

I can understand that some people struggle to accept homosexuality. And I can understand that many of those people are from the older generation.
The question is what we do about that.
And at the moment we seem to be saying that the church should tread gently and not be expected to grant gay people full equality because of those who struggle.

That's not acceptable. By all means, provide these people with pastoral support, but at the same time make very very clear that gay people are equal at every level of church life.

There will be enough lobbying against us. We don't need to join them and accept an actual, life affecting inferior status just to make it a little easier on those who have purely theoretical "problems" with gay equality.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 9:11am GMT

"in Britain just 17% of 18-24yr olds were against allowing same-sex marriage, compared with 53% of those aged 60 and over."

So the CofE should respond by continuing to be sympathetic to a narrow majority of the over-60s, of whom every year a significant proportion die, even at the expense of continuing to tolerate or in some cases advance (as Welby and all the other bishops did in the House of Lords did last year) a policy which is seen as reactionary by an overwhelming majority of younger people? A significant proportion of those 17% will be Muslim, so the proportion of people aged 18-24 who are opposed to permitting same-sex marriage but are also "in play" for the CofE is almost homeopathic in its concentration in society.

The phrase one might use of that is "managed decline": that the CofE has accepted that it is doomed to extinction because young people have all walked away, and is going to therefore operate a policy of a controlled winding up over the next thirty years. If that is the strategy, it might as well make life comfortable on board as the ship is slowly towed to the breakers, and spend all the accumulated assets and good will on one last party. I'd have thought that the CofE's leadership would be more ambitious than that, but perhaps not.

The problem this year will be that acceding to the demands for women bishops makes the situation over same-sex marriage even more unsustainable. For years we have been told that women bishops are completely impossible, because the theological cost in blood and treasure to the CofE in terms of splits and disputes would be unsustainable. It will turn out, in eighteen months' time, that this was all nonsense: a tiny noisy number of people, barely enough to fill a minibus, will walk out of the CofE and do a round of studios where Paxo will given them a credibility they do not have. But aside from that, the CofE will continue much as it always has, but with one injustice removed and a larger talent pool of prospective leaders. In five years no one will remember what the fuss was about.

And so all the claims about same-sex marriage being a touchstone of discord will be seen for the special pleading they are, and it will become yet more obvious that Welby et al aren't resisting same-sex marriage in the spirit of unity, harmony and ecumenical progress, but just because they don't like gays very much. Churches that celebrate, in every sense, same-sex marriage won't have their spires struck by lightening or their buildings flooded, they'll just be seen as a bit more decent and a bit more accepting. The CofE will look more and more like a cult, populated by elderly homophobes, because it will be a cult populated by elderly homophobes.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 9:29am GMT

I think Welby is trying to lead. With a few exceptions, however, Evangelical bishops are not willing to follow. They are increasingly dominant, both numerically and ideologically, in both the House and College. Hence the one bone of comfort from Pilling, tolerated blessings in parishes that want them, was ditched after last month's College of Bishops meeting. There is, of course, a dramatic change of attitudes underway among C of E Evangelicals but it is mostly among the young and has barely touched the bishops. The C of E retains a seriously hierarchical culture.

It doesn't help that those who affirm same-sex relationships are no longer considered 'real' Evangelicals by many.

Nobody at leadership level, including the Liberals, is prepared to confront the unpleasant reality that it may not be possible to keep the Anglican Communion entirely intact while allowing the Gospel to be presented credibly in England.

What's going to happen when the first gay clergy weddings happen in late March? Are some bishops going to attempt defrockings? Because that will blow up in their faces really fast. Welby's Presidential Address all but admitted that practise will vary widely from one Diocese to another.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 12:10pm GMT

I think it is a very unpleasant suggestion that muslims are disproportionately homophobic. That is not the case with those I know, work with and teach.Young muslims are, in my experience, as likely as any of their contemporaries to regard homophobic attitudes as creepy and bizarre.

Posted by: Will Douglas Barton on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 2:24pm GMT

I don't think there was necessarily a suggestion of disproportionality. Rather that of the total 18-24 population, a significant number are muslims. And of course of other non-Anglican religious bodies.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 3:05pm GMT

I am 77 and my husband is 86 and we are both totally opposed to any discrimination against. gay and lesbian people.

We have both changed many of our ideas during our lives and are open to more.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 4:37pm GMT

"I don't think there was necessarily a suggestion of disproportionality"

It was infelicitously worded, but I did not intend to imply that they were homophobic at any rate higher than the population at large. Just that Muslims are disproportionately young, and therefore form a larger part of any younger segment than an older segment.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 7:11pm GMT

"That's not acceptable. By all means, provide these people with pastoral support, but at the same time make very very clear that gay people are equal at every level of church life.

There will be enough lobbying against us. We don't need to join them and accept an actual, life affecting inferior status just to make it a little easier on those who have purely theoretical "problems" with gay equality."

I agree with Erika. I am sorry, straight people, but it is not OK to ask us to live awhile longer with injustice and suffering to make mostly comfortable people even more comfortable.

I'm sorry, too many of my brothers and sisters have died without seeing justice and it doesn't make sense for another gay person to not live to see justice.

People in their 70's saw vast changes in civil rights and they need to accept it for LGBT people too (as some have mentioned, it isn't even ALL of the older people, just SOME of them.).

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 14 February 2014 at 7:28pm GMT

"The C of E retains a seriously hierarchical culture."

Couldn't agree more, Mervyn Noote. This is tied, in large part, to the secretive way in which bishops are appointed in England. They should have to stand for election, as they do in Scotland and America.

"Nobody at leadership level, including the Liberals, is prepared to confront the unpleasant reality that it may not be possible to keep the Anglican Communion entirely intact while allowing the Gospel to be presented credibly in England."

Agreed, but is it that unpleasant? What, beyond numbers, does the Church of England gain from being in communion with the GAFCON band?

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:14am GMT

"What, beyond numbers, does the Church of England gain from being in communion with the GAFCON band?" - James Byron -

What indeed? Especially as recent GAFCON statements have declared their inability to 'live with' even the low-key 'acceptance' of LGBT people by the hierarchy of the Church of England.

It seems to many of us, in other Provinces of the
anglican Communion, that our 'Mother Church' might have a real duty of care to those of us who believe that LGBT people have a respected place within the Kingdom of God and the Family of the Church.

The moral leadership of the Church of England, we feel, is important to any emancipatory movement away from institutionalised homophobia and sexism in our own scattered provincial Churches.

If Gafcon cannot 'live with' us, on terms that are inclusive of ALL God's children - irrespective of their gender or sexual-orientation - then maybe there needs to be a facilitated division; between Inclusive and Exclusive parts of the Communion. This is not necessarily our will, but it seems to be the expressed will of the Gafcon Primates.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:52am GMT
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