Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 8

Andrew Brown has published at Cif belief this report on the Bad History saga: Why the church’s gay marriage schism is here to stay in which he concludes:

…In other words, the conservative position today is that when the bible says (with Jesus) that a man can’t marry another woman while his first wife is still alive, that’s not about the nature of marriage; when it says (with Moses) that if his wife dies, a man can’t marry her sister, that’s not about the nature of marriage; but when it says (as it doesn’t, because this was too obvious to spell out) a man can’t marry another man, that really is part of the definition of marriage in the way that the others aren’t.

If this is what Fittall, Arora and the archbishops of Canterbury and York, deep down believe then their defence of the palpably silly makes sense. What God wants is by definition more valuable than anything else in the world and what God wants – Conservatives believe – is a straight man married to a straight woman: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve are the perfect couple. It is that relationship that shows the kind of love that leads us towards God. You or I might point out that since Adam and Eve never existed it would be unwise to draw conclusions from their relationship, but that’s not how the religious imagination works.

The point is that they can’t be convinced by arguments from science, from history or from the law about what marriage is. Their minds will only by changed by arguments from God and what God wants. Only if they see God at work in their opponents will they change. To see that, they would have to be looking for signs of it. I don’t think there is any immediate danger of that, on either side.

Jonathan Clatworthy has written Church teaching and the general understanding of marriage:

…To me, the House of Bishops’ claim is a typical example of a stance just too common to require any alternative explanation. ‘Conservatives’, of both the campaigning and the fence-sitting types, love to think that the way things were in their childhood was the way they always had been, all the way back to the beginning. This, for example, is what the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission did last April with their unpopular Men and Women in Marriage; but it is so common that we can all think of examples, not just in matters of religion. I very much doubt that the House of Bishops considered the Acts of 1907 or 1937 and judged that they did not invalidate the statement; they just assumed that the current change is the first such change ever.

They contrast ‘the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England’ with ‘the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law’. I think they mean two things: that the Church’s doctrine of marriage will diverge both from the legal definition and from ‘the general understanding of marriage in England’. (I am not sure; they might have meant ‘the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law’, in which case ‘general understanding’ is only adding emphasis, not making an additional claim.) This post leaves aside the question of legal definition and focuses on the ‘general understanding’.

To judge whether the bishops are right we need an account of what this general understanding is, independently of the legal definition…

UNITE the Union had earlier published this:

Faith Worker Branch Executive statement in response to the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, 14.02.14

“We welcome the House of Bishops’ commitment to a process of conversations that will include profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application of scripture with particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and we would strongly urge the Bishops to pursue this as a priority.

We are concerned, however, that some aspects of the guidance, Paragraph 27 in particular, may discriminate against LGBT clergy in their pursuit of an authentic, loving and committed relationship that accords with their God-given sexuality, and which may as a result diminish their human right to enjoy that relationship.

We are concerned, too, that the vagueness of the guidance in Paragraphs 20 & 21 may unwittingly put clergy at risk of disciplinary action whilst attempting to minister appropriately in complex pastoral circumstances.

We affirm our support of all of our clergy members, and will continue to support and represent them in all aspects of their ministry, including any action taken against them as a result of the application of the Bishops’ guidance.”

The Bishop of Dorking delivered this speech to Guildford Diocesan Synod. Several people have commented that it contains echoes of what the Bishop of Oxford wrote earlier.

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Comments

The point about Adam and Eve, if they existed, is that incest must have been necessary between their offspring since otherwise how would mankind have increased? There were, presumably, no other humans about since A & E were the first. Do the bishops, archbishops and their evangelical and African cohorts believe that this must thus allow incest? It seems to me rather obvious that, by their thinking, it must do. But oh no! That's wrong.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 6:44pm GMT

+Dorking: "We were being watched. The Abp told us of his recent experiences in Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Even amid the carnage of war in the Sudan and in the Congo, he was constantly questioned about the Pilling Report. Later that day after our meeting he was just about to fly to Egypt to meet the Southern Primates – and he knew he would find a similar experience."

Well, as they say, "The Whole World is Watching". But as there's no evidence that "Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi" and (esp) "the Southern Primates" give a damn that we're watching them, why should the *deference* go only one way? [At the COST of the "least of these", LGBTs?]

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 9:15pm GMT

The bishop of Dorking still thinks there are 'sides' with 'deeply held views' which are 'easily misunderstood'.

Did the bishop think this when they upheld slavery - their own holding of slaves - a s 'biblical' ?

No there are no 'sides', 'just' suffering people, calling out for true justice beyond our shores- around the world.

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 10:30pm GMT

Richard Ashby raises a real point here for those sola scriptura conservatives in the Church who insist on the literal authenticity of Adam and Eve. If, indeed, they were the only human beings on earth, then Cain could only have married a sister. Who else would have been around if A.& E. were the sole human progenitors?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 10:53pm GMT

I am reminded of a dialogue sequence in "Inherit the Wind":

Henry Drummond quotes Genesis "And Cain went into the land of Nod and Cain knew his wife." Then he asks Matthew Brady: "Now where in hell did she come from?

Brady: who?

Drummond: Cain's wife. Mrs. Cain. If Adam and Eve were the first people and Cain and Abel were their sons, where did Cain's wife come from? You figure somebody pulled off another creation over in the next county?

[The above is from memory and may be somewhat paraphrased.]

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 11:02pm GMT

Evidence, from the statement of the Bishop of Dorking to the recent Guildford Diocesan Synod, of the perceived need of the H.o.B. to pacify the Gafcon and G.S. Primates; and in light of the fact that the ABC was due to fly off to speak to the Global South Primates; is it any wonder that the post-Pilling H.o.B. Statement was so devoid of sensitivity to those LGBTI people who really want their faithful, one-to-one relationships recognised by the Church.

When actual Same-Sex Marriages are taking place in the community, this would surely be an opportunity for the Church of England to acknowledge its duty of pastoral care to those who seek God's blessing on their relationship - instead of denying their innate fulfilment of the commandment to love.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 11:56pm GMT

"Inherit the Wind" was of course based on the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Cain's wife came up in the actual trial when Clarence Darrow examined Williams Jennings Bryan:

Q--Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
A--No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Q--You have never found out?
A--I have never tried to find
Q--You have never tried to find?
A--No.
Q--The Bible says he got one, doesn't it? Were there other people on the earth at that time?
A--I cannot say.
Q--You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
A--Never bothered me.
Q--There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
A--That is what the Bible says.
Q--Where she came from you do not know. All right.

(I would give the website for the transcript but every time I do, the posting goes into spam. It's easy to find.)

Weasingly around uncomfortable bits of Scripture goes back a long way.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 12:15am GMT

Andrew Brown is usually one of the more sensitive commentators on religion in the British press, but I have to wonder whether he's being willfully obtuse here. Very few Anglicans, I'd wager, are exercised about the question of whether Adam and Eve "really existed" (whatever that means!). What we are interested in is what the Genesis narrative says to us about the nature of humankind, the relationship of the sexes, and God's intentions for human life. Where Genesis 1:27 says "male and female He created them," and where Jesus quotes the same line to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:4, what are we to infer about the meaning of gender and marriage for Christians? Liberals seem needlessly squeamish about engaging with the Biblical tradition (and the Church tradition) in a meaningful way. Unfortunately they therefore leave the field open for conservatives to claim that their interpretations are the only authentically 'Biblical' ones. A lot of careful work is needed here. We can afford neither to discount the Genesis story as an ancient fantasy (as some liberals seem disposed to do), nor arrogantly assume that its meaning is so clear to us that further work is redundant (as conservatives are often inclined to do). Entrenched prejudices are no substitute for hermeneutical hard work.

Posted by: rjb on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 12:23am GMT

"The Gay Marriage proposals were introduced out of the blue"

Only if you were living in a cave. The proposal was in the Conservative "equality manifesto", and was widely reported prior to the election. See, for example, the Daily Telegraph (I'm sure the bishop is aware of the publication) of 3 May 2010:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7673249/General-Election-2010-Conservatives-may-reclassify-gay-civil-partnership-as-marriage.html

See, he doesn't even need to read the article, the URL alone would have been sufficient.

The quality manifesto said ''We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.'' Not too hard to understand, is it? The CofE just assumed it knew what the outcome of such a consultation and legislative proposal would be, and therefore could ignore it. They were wrong.

"Later that day after our meeting he was just about to fly to Egypt to meet the Southern Primates – and he knew he would find a similar experience."

So what? He's the Archbishop of Canterbury, which a glance at Google Maps shows is in England. He is appointed by the Prime Minister of UKGB&I, and answerable to the Supreme Governor who is head of state of UKGB&I. He should not ignore the world outside the UK; he should not regard it as more important, either. If Welby wants to be the Archbishop of somewhere in sub-Saharan African, he should apply for the job.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 7:26am GMT

Is the time now right to begin the process of disestablishing the Established Church as the way the Church understands marriage is now so far removed from the way the State understands marriage? The difficulty is, if some of the comments on the T A Blog are taken into consideration, many within the Church support the State's innovative understanding of the marriage bond.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 8:14am GMT

"Entrenched prejudices are no substitute for hermeneutical hard work."

Best get on with it. The facts on the ground are that same-sex marriages start happening in 24 days' time and that, as well as Quakers and other organisations that are fully supportive now, it is absolutely certain that within the year other churches will bless, perform, sanctify or otherwise get involved in such marriages, whether corporately or by the act of individual ministers. This summer, local newspapers and facebook pages are going to be full of happy, smiling couples, to which the vast majority of the population (even those who were, in the abstract, opposed) will say "that's nice". It's the "I hate immigrants but I like that nice Mr Patel next door, his children are so polite" issue: people who can work up a fever against groups in the abstract tend to become more human when it is real life experience.

In CofE-land, same-sex marriage is a dangerous, transgressive threat to society, to be handled with thick gloves in a fume cupboard. For most other people, it's something that's happening, and they were so excited to get an invitation to the reception, or were happy to see people smiling in the newspaper, or heard in the playground that the the party was a blast.

The CofE can do "hermeneutical hard work" but if the outcome is anything other than love and acceptance, the effect will be absolutely catastrophic. The House of Bishops know this: they know that a CofE that in 2030 is refusing same-sex marriage will be selling premises for conversion into housing at a high rate. So given the outcome is inevitable, why not bow to the inevitable?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 8:32am GMT

RJB - you state "Liberals seem needlessly squeamish about engaging with the Biblical tradition (and the Church tradition) in a meaningful way. Unfortunately they therefore leave the field open for conservatives to claim that their interpretations are the only authentically 'Biblical' ones."

I understand your argument but I disagree with the detail. I think many Christian liberals have been engaging with these texts for a long time , and the shelves of bookshops and libraries are groaning with detailed analysis and exegesis exploring bible texts from a same-sex positive perspective.

Many analyses point out that in ancient cultures androgyny was associated with spiritual power, and so in Genesis God (both male AND female) should be seen as androgynous, as must the original human before God split him/her apart. It is interesting in this analysis to read the Eden narrative alongside the Origin of Love story in Plato's symposium. Our divine task is to regain our original status, male and female together within each individual human body, in image of God's androgynous state.

Building on this understanding, in these early cultures many people with same sex orientation were seen to have a spiritual/priestly/shamanistic vocation. It is interesting to look at Joseph, a diviner of dreams , a cross dresser (a coat with sleeves, the dress of a high born virgin girl), and to speculate why he formed good relationships with Egyptian men but seemed to have raised Potiphar's wife's jealousy.

There are lots of other things to look at. That incident of David dancing naked, the Centurion and his boy healed by Jesus, and what is the significance of the upper room for the last supper being tended by a man drawing water (such a rare occurrence that the disciples needed no other introduction).

As I said, there is lots of exegesis, the work has been done. But whilst we read it, we can be certain that most conservative Christians will never read it, or if they do, they will reject it out of hand.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 8:45am GMT

" Entrenched prejudices are no substitute for hermeneutical hard work."

While that is true, can we please stop pretending that this work hasn't already been done and that people are just refusing to engage with it?

"The theological work hasn't been done" has been the easiest argument to block any progress. And all one has to do is to shut one's eyes and not look at the work that has been done.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 8:55am GMT

Contrast +Dorking's statement with the Ad Clerum from +Chichester:

"The House of Bishops’ Statement gives details of the disciplinary arrangements that will be followed, particularly in the case of ordination. The range of disciplinary action is evidence of the seriousness of this matter for us all, but also of its very personal and sensitive territory."

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 9:52am GMT

Bishop of Dorking 'we worked hard to improve the original tone of the draft'. If that is true, what on earth did the original say?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 9:56am GMT

For those with a taste for Hansard (I've been reading a lot, and even watching debates live, lately) there's a hilarious piece of point-missing by Cranmer here: http://goo.gl/t4cMCF

He quotes, at inordinate length (presumably he has a theological objection to hyperlinks) a debate in Westminster Hall about the The Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Use of Armed Forces’ Chapels) Regulations 2014 (http://goo.gl/OZN5k3). This provides for the use of forces' chapels by those who are entitled to use more generally to perform same-sex marriages, subject to finding someone to preside (presumably one of the sending churches being willing to officiate). It gives the power to the secretary of state, and is presumably intended to prevent one sending church being able to veto marriages in shared forces' chapels by other sending churches.

Anyway, Cranmer finds her guilty of being insufficient respectful of the nonsense that the usual offenders came up with as some sort of rear-guard action against SSM. Apparently the position of the chapel at Camp Bastion is a major issue (that same-sex marriages on Afghan sovereign soil are a touch unlikely doesn't seem to stop this hypothetical) and there was some by-play about Roman Catholic priests forcing their way into Catholic forces' chapels and performing same-sex marriages, which seems unlikely on so many levels.

But the real lesson is two-fold: that the arguments being advanced were absolutely woeful, and that a Conservative minister was utterly unconcerned by them and was perfectly happy to treat them with the disdain they deserve.

And then, below the line, Cranmer's usual unhinged claque come on board. "Personally, one is somewhat hoping that SSM is the nadir of out of control liberalism and that in 20 years time, people will ask why consideration was given in this case to ‘fairytale unions’ involving homosexuals who are at the moment allowed to serve in HM forces, presumably for as long as they manage to keep themselves HIV negative and not be caught with paedophile pornography. As is all too troublingly in both cases, their wont…"

These are the people the CofE is siding with. The objections to SSM come from people who even Conservative ministers slap down, and from vile panderers of hatred like the quoted commentator.

You can tell a lot about people by their friends.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 10:22am GMT

@Richard Ashby

I have all along taken it for granted that the statement was out of the stable responsible for "the Church of England said", "Church House has said", and so on, and that the Bishops were being treated as a rubber stamp.

No names, no pack drill.

Posted by: John Roch on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 11:01am GMT

'The difficulty is, if some of the comments on the T A Blog are taken into consideration, many within the Church support the State's innovative understanding of the marriage bond.'

Indeed, we do, Father David. The figure of 'supporters' is somewhere in the 40 per cents; it will shortly be a majority (within a year or so). But nobody is being coerced here - except of course for thousands of gays in Africa, Russia and all over the globe, including our own fair land. So I think we should agree to disagree, while giving sufficient practical implementation to the liberal point of view. The women issue is solved; let's solve the gay one; let's then get people back into church, having demonstrated to an increasingly sceptical public that the C of E is uniquely gifted at holding difference together in amity and love. That itself should help all of us.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 12:08pm GMT

Martin Warner writes in his Ad Clerum:

"We are also committed to ensuring that our affirmation of this view does not by any means convey the implication of homophobia, or condone it."

I am sure he and all the House are committed to that view. However, I have news for them. It is not for them to tell us what the implication of their view is. And the general public consider the Church of England's stance over same-sex marriage, and the treatment of LGBT people in general to be institutionally homophobic.

"Fine words butter no parsnips". When they act in a just and equal way, when they lift threats of discipline from people doing legal things, when they celebrate and bless the good, wholesome and serious commitments that people make to each other, and when they lift that ban on ordaining same-sex marries candidates, then the rest of us will tell them they are free of the taint of homophobia. Until then, sentences like this are an attempt at self-justification that will cut no ice at all.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 1:49pm GMT

"We are also committed to ensuring that our affirmation of this view does not by any means convey the implication of homophobia, or condone it."

"Separate but equal" has a nice ring to it, no?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 2:12pm GMT

Erica
'can we please stop pretending that this work hasn't already been done and that people are just refusing to engage with it?'
I hope you don't mean this. And I doubt any TA would stay in a church that produced a policy and demanded agree from all. I know there are those who will may never agree but following my article in the Pilling Report a significant number of people have shared how they have been longing for more informed and open debate but have simply not been in church environments - theologically or socially - where they have been able to think this through with the integrity it needs. That is hugely frustrating. They are not trying to avoid anything. And there is still a need for theological discussion (and not just with evangelicals by the way) that is not simply an exercise in blocking.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 2:43pm GMT

RJB -- as I noted on another thread, it is important to understand the actual tradition concerning the interpretation and application of texts rather than to assume that a reading we find congenial has always been employed. The case in point is Genesis 1:27, which in the tradition (including Jesus, Jewish sectarian writing contemporary with him, and in the early church) was not a proof text in defense of heterosexuality, but rather as evidence for the divine mandate to monogamy (in the early church, for life -- that is, proscribing remarriage of widowers).

A good essay on this subject is from David Instone-Brewer, whose studies in the Jewish contexts in which Jesus and the very early church flourished are good examples of the care needed in applying Hebrew texts to Christian concerns. You can find his essay at
https://www.academia.edu/1331191/Jesus_Old_Testament_Basis_for_Monogamy

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 2:58pm GMT

John writes "The women issue is solved" . Well that's an over optimistic statement if ever I read one. The General Synod may well have decided to commit the Church of England to ordain women to the priesthood and the episcopate but a significant minority within the Established Church certainly don't recognise the validity of such an unscriptural and untraditional innovation. In going ahead with the novelty of adding women to the historic episcopate the Church has surely created not solved a problem of its own making, not least in its ecumenical relations. Alas, the issue is far from "solved"

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 4:18pm GMT

Jeremy,

I have written to our bishop. Some friends will also do so. If you want the text of the letter, I'm on john.moles@newcastle.ac.uk.

John.


Posted by: John on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 5:39pm GMT

Rjb, the weight you put on Genesis presupposes biblical authority. If liberals do that, they're fighting the battle on the opposition's terms, and destined to lose.

As Erika says, the work's been done. It hasn't made a bit of difference, frankly because it's not that convincing: unsurprisingly, ancient texts do tend to favor the conservative position.

The alternatives are to throw up our hands and say, "Gee, too bad," or to argue that ancient creation myths have precisely zero hold on us today. I'm no more guided by Genesis than I am the Enuma Elish, and neither should anyone else be. There's no end of arguments for why. They're strong. Why on earth shouldn't liberals use them?

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 6:07pm GMT

The ad clerums give an insight into the nature of the discussion in the House of Bishops. In terms of corporate governance, the importance of the document as a policy statement and the potentially huge reputational risk for the Church, are borne out by the reaction to it over the last fortnight or so (making the women bishops saga pale into insignificance by comparison). It may be a cause of regret that Synod were not consulted about the matter, when there was every opportunity to do so if priorities had been different. Only a single day to fine-tune a proposal suggesting a litany of penalties against those who will take advantage of the new legislation, without thinking through the consequences, shows ineptitude beyond measure.

Governance issues aside, more critically are questions of justice. It remains to be seen what are the ‘details of the disciplinary arrangements that will be followed, particularly in the case of ordination … [t]he range of disciplinary action is evidence of the seriousness of this matter for us all' (Chichester). The most stringent penalties available under the CDM are implied in this statement if a complaint is brought about a priest entering a SSM and not stopped by the diocesan. The unanimous view of the House was to release a document which, by inference, permits a diocesan to follow this course of action. Compare that with the archbishops’ recent quote from Dromantine , widely interpreted as an attack on anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Nigeria. If the House of Bishops are set on a path to permit the defrocking of clerics for marrying someone of the same gender, with all the devastating consequences on the individual, their livelihood, spouse, family, church and wider community, what force does the slogan in Dromantine have about ‘victimization or diminishment’? Is it the lack of jail sentence and collateral mob rule that makes it different, even where the theological case may be alike?

Only one diocese has been declared a witch-hunt free zone so far. If the House of Bishops' own locale had been given precedence over GAFCON's then surely the content of their pastoral statement would have been worded very differently.

Posted by: Andrew on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 9:22pm GMT

Fr. Ron Smith, Pat O'Neill and Dr. Primrose,
“Inherit the Wind” is one of my favorite movies. Claude Akins’ portrayal of Rev. Brown is spot on, and scares the hell out of me.

IF the Bible is to be treated literally, and IF, at one point, Adam, Eve, and Cain were the only three people on the planet, there is only one logical conclusion as to where Cain found his wife.
Namely, Eve.

Just like, if you carefully read the Genesis chapter one story, and verses from the Noah story, you come to the conclusion that, for the Biblical authors, the Earth was flat, surrounded by water, floating on water, and the firmament separated the sky from the waters of the heavens ("Mayim" is water in Hebrew. The prefix "ha" is equivalent to "the" in Hebrew. "Hashamayim" is the Hebrew word for "heaven" and has a plural form of suffix.). Think of an inverse water globe: People, cities, mountains, atmosphere, plants, animals, etc., are on the inside of the globe (Earth plus firmament). Outside the globe, water radiates outward in all directions.

Literalists believe in the inerrant literacy of the Bible – except when they don’t (most seem to accept the geocentric theory of the Solar System).
They use the Book of Leviticus to condemn others -- but would never apply it to themselves.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 9:31pm GMT

Methinks Jeremy is talking a lot of sense. But then, who am I? Just another Anglican priest; who believes that God made Gays as well as Straights. And loves each one of us.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 10:28pm GMT

Andrew, if they use the CDM, a verdict requires a majority vote from a panel of five (judge, two clergy, two laity).

Since this is clearly a question of doctrine, the EJM is more likely. Making a verdict even harder to obtain: a panel of four assessors (two clergy, two laity) who must be unanimous.

I predict now, confidently, that no priest will be disciplined under either measure. More likely is bishops stripping away licenses of priests-in-charge. If done, this will, hopefully, be subjected to review in the courts.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 1:00am GMT

Quite amazing! Literally hundreds and hundreds of comments on Gay marriage and a mere three comments, to date, on the Bishop of Manchester's piece on Lent! Yes, I know Ash Wednesday was only yesterday but I will be surprised if many more comments are added to Bishop David's article. This makes me think we are a Church which is losing its bearings and confused about where its true priorities lie.
For the record, I wonder how many priests have actually been defrocked for "conduct unbecoming" since the Rector of Stiffkey's humiliation way back in 1932 when a complaint was made against him?
Having read extensively about the Consistory Court case in Norwich I am convinced that "The Reverend Harold Davidson is Innocent - O. K ! "

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 7:19am GMT

Father David,

I thought we (including you and me) were committed to 'mutual flourishing'? No one is more aware of the difficulties and inconsistencies of this than I am, but if you (and others) keep intoning the above, the outlook is poor (and, on a personal note, I have wasted an awful lot of time).

Posted by: John on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 8:54am GMT

David Runcorn,
I hope I did not say that we should not engage with the theology that has been done.

What I hope I said is that I am extremely tired of people demanding that we start doing the theology we can then all engage with.

Evangelicals could be pointed to Tobias Haller's Reasonable and Holy.
And Alan Wilson has posted a whole selection of books people might want to read before they ask us to "do" the theology.

http://bishopalan.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/resources-for-your-very-own-pilling.html


Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 9:09am GMT

"Only if they see God at work in their opponents will they change. To see that, they would have to be looking for signs of it. I don't think there is any immediate danger of that, on either side."

- Andrew Brown -

I guess the old adage is true, that "there is no-one so blind as he who will not see". And, in this case, the male pronoun is definitely correct for the House of Bishops.

However, in the less myopic environment of female Bishops, perhaps we can move on to more eirenic reality - in respect of intrinsically-faithful Same-Sex relationships - of "Seeing is believing"

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 9:24am GMT

Fr David - yesterday's liturgy did indeed induce reflections on priorities,and in my case on the events of the last few weeks and months. But I didn't come away with any feeling that what is needed is any sort of moratorium! It seems clear to me that if the C of E is to preach the gospel effectively then the resolution of certain issues is now top priority; and this not just because the constant wrangling is so morale-sapping, but more importantly because the issues go to the heart of what gospel the C of E actually has to offer.

[I have my private list of clerical nominees to to join Fr Davidson in the lions' den!]

Posted by: american piskie on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 9:24am GMT

Father David, I notice that you have also commented here and not on the Lent piece. Maybe you could contribute something deep and meaningful over there?
I, personally, don't make my own Lenten journey available for public dissection.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 10:10am GMT

John, even with our joint commitment to "mutual flourishing" I think we have to be realistic about the future. The moment the first woman is consecrated to the episcopate we will have created a situation where the House of Bishops will be deeply divided and out of communion one with another, which is a tragedy.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 11:39am GMT

Andrew,

Which diocese has been declared a witch-free zone?

Thanks.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 12:13pm GMT

No diocese has been declared free of witches. One diocese, namely Oxford, has been declared to be free of witch-hunts. Not the same thing.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 12:49pm GMT

Ron -

Women bishops will be no panacea. It is sexist to imagine that they will. There is nothing inherent in being female that will save us from a leadership that is sexist, homophobic or anything else, per se. They will be good, bad, and indifferent. Just like the men.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 12:52pm GMT

Simon,

Thank you. Obviously I meant what you say.

Father David,

There will be a degree of impaired communion. The HoB will not thereby necessarily be 'deeply divided'. I do not regard you and me (or similar 'couples' on TA or anywhere else in the C of E) as being 'deeply divided'. Am I wrong?

Posted by: John on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 1:36pm GMT

The HoB will be deeply divided about every single question people can ask. It's the nature of a group of 70+ people to have a wide range of views on all things.

That does not mean that this difference has to be of overwhelming importance and that it has to result in a split or anything else needlessly dramatic.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 2:34pm GMT

John, I cannot think of any other issue over which the House of Bishops is more deeply divided than the ordination of women, so much so that there will not be full but impaired communion at the Lord's board. In future episcopal consecrations will also highlight our sad divisions.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 6:25pm GMT

"they have been longing for more informed and open debate but have simply not been in church environments - theologically or socially - where they have been able to think this through with the integrity it needs. That is hugely frustrating. They are not trying to avoid anything."

DavidR, we need to ALWAYS remember we're not debating theology or sociology. This is not about "anything".

This is about PEOPLE. People and their real lives/real *loves*.

Fr Jeffrey John (to mention only the most well-known gay Anglican) is not an abstraction.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 8:20pm GMT

@James Byron - just a point of clarification. A Priest in Charge is now in the same legal position as a Vicar under Common Tenure. It simply isn't possible to "strip away" anybody's licence. All clergy under Common Tenure, Freehold [and contract, though that depends on the employer] are in the same position with regard to security of tenure. The only exception to this are those specifically named in their SOP under Regulation 29 as being on qualified common tenure. Taking licences from clergy without due process (whether or not a bishop wants to do so) simply isn't possible any more.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 9:17pm GMT

Well said, Jeremy. I haven't heard a peep from the eight "Participant Observers," and I doubt I will.

I look forward to seeing female bishops stand, in all their purple splendor, and solemnly announce the Bible's "clear teaching" for gay people. Mournfully tell their gay sisters and brothers in Christ how God wants them to lead sexless, self-hating lives.

Just as God wants them to become bishops.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 10:44pm GMT

"I look forward to seeing female bishops stand, in all their purple splendor, and solemnly announce the Bible's "clear teaching" for gay people. Mournfully tell their gay sisters and brothers in Christ how God wants them to lead sexless, self-hating lives." - James Byron -

And I'm looking forward to the common sense that Women seem to have in greater abundance than most males. I'm not being intentionally sexist here, just telling the truth as I see it. I really think that this is why God is allowing women into the episcopate in our Anglican Churches.


As a case in point, there is a female diocesan Bishop just consecrated in the Australian Diocese of Grafton, who has been pilloried by David Ould, priest in the Sydney Diocese, for her opening towards the possibility of Blessing Same-Sex Unions in the Australian Anglican Church.

Short of being an ordained Woman, this is, for all such as David Ould in the Sydney Diocese, The Revd. Dr. Sarah Nacneil's most serious defect as a member of the Australian Anglican Church.

May God richly bless The new Bishop of Grafton's promise of enlightened and eirenic ministry as a Bishop in the Australian Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 11:47pm GMT

Father David,

Christianity is collapsing in the West. 'Liberals' characteristically see one reason for this as being the Church's failure to be 'liberal' enough, 'Traditionalists' its failure to be traditionalist enough. The real reasons are much more profound and much more challenging. You and many other people here really need to get a grip.

Posted by: John on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 8:04am GMT

Bishop Pete Broadbent,

Does this mean in practice that gay priests who wish to should simply go ahead and ignore the silly and divisive pastoral letter/advice? (I accept you might not use those adjectives.)

Posted by: John on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 8:08am GMT

Dear John, perhaps you could enlighten us as to exactly what you regard as the profound and challenging "real reasons" why Christianity is collapsing in the West? I'd be fascinated to know your views.
As to your timely and sage advice to get a grip! I immediately consulted Amazon and there I discovered a volume by Matthew Kimberley entitled "How to GET A GRIP". I was keen to purchase the same until I read the sub title - " Forget namby-pamby, wishy-washy self-help drivel. This is the book for you" as a staunch Traditionalist and neither "namby-pamby nor "wishy-washy" I won't now be buying the tome. But thanks anyway for the advice which is, as always, much appreciated.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 10:49am GMT

TA comment threads, where pedantry meets sarcasm.

It's enough to make me look fondly at the Quakers sometimes.

The Quakers embraced their fellow gay Christians, and did so quietly at the same time when God-fearing Anglicans were still jailing gay men and giving them electric shocks while dosing them full of hormones and calling it "treatment." And those were the "respectable" Oxbridge people. The pious thugs just beat the crap out of them and said "Praise Jesus!"

After all, Leviticus, don't you know ...

Feh.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 1:36pm GMT

T A "where pedantry meets sarcasm"!
Methinks that FD Blanchard fails to appreciate the breadth and the comprehensiveness of the Established Church. In John Peart-Binns recently published biography of Herbert Hensley Henson he writes "The Church of England is the most curious and chaotically comprehensive Church in Christendom. It makes assertions of authority and harbours extreme individualism. Yet with all it's deficiencies there is much in the Church that is special and precious." (Page 15)

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:30pm GMT

@John I was merely commenting on the misapprehension that a Priest in Charge is treated any differently from an incumbent in relation to his/her licence.
It's not a matter that bears in any way on the Pastoral Guidance.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:48pm GMT

Fr D: I do hope that my Uncle John didn't really put that apostrophe in "all it's deficiencies" :-)

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:10pm GMT

Simon, well spotted, I wondered who would be the first to notice that errant apostrophe. The number of times I have to overrule the way in which this iPad attempts to correct the text. I obviously missed correcting that unsolicited and incorrect correction. At least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Do give my best wishes and kind regards to your Uncle John, what a marvellous Biographer he be.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:27pm GMT

"Yet with all its deficiencies there is much in the Church that is special and precious."

Tell it to Allen Turing, not to me.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:37pm GMT

Bishop Pete,

Thanks. Seems to me that there are general implications in what you said and I certainly hope they will soon be tested.

FdB,

'Get a grip' may be many things but pedantic it isn't.

Father David,

I shall attend to you at a later date.

Posted by: John on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:50pm GMT

I just thought this thread could do with a bit of extra pedantry, he writes somewhat sarcastically.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:53pm GMT

FD if we are into corrections mode I believe it was the late great Alan Turing not Allen.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 5:13pm GMT

vis-a--vis Uncle John's book on HHH, he reports that the Prime Minister wrote to Henson offering him the see of Durham and the letter was received on 31st May (page 110). Henson wrote his letter of acceptance on 1st June and a public announcement was made on 14th June (Incidentally both Archbishops were against this preferment from Hereford to Dunelm). A mere fortnight and all was done and dusted. I wonder why episcopal announcements take so long in this the technologically advanced 21st century?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 5:46pm GMT

I can't see you Fr. David because of that log in your eye.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 6:24pm GMT

Given the Quakers, Unitarians, Reform Jews, humanists, and others generally do better than the Anglicans on social justice questions, a collapse of Anglicanism wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. A smaller group can often do a better job than a larger organization which tries to serve everyone.

People themselves can use the Prayer Book without having to worship the ecclesiastical structure.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 8:06pm GMT

FD: I don't believe that you have quite seen the point of Our Blessed Lord's parable!
Thinks, "Should have gone to Specsavers"

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 8 March 2014 at 6:58am GMT
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