Tuesday, 1 April 2014
A Critique of the House of Bishops Pastoral Statement
Benny Hazlehurst has written Why the Bishops have got it wrong…
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 11:27pm BST
As the first same-sex marriages are conducted in England and Wales, much of the country is celebrating with the happy couples, but there are a significant group of LGB&T people who are being excluded from that joy by the Church of England.
The Bishops’ Valentine’s Day guidance on same-sex marriage was a shock to the vast majority of LGB&T clergy in the Church of England.
While apparently being magnanimous to lay people who get married to someone of the same gender, offering ‘pastoral provision’ for informal prayers and full access to the sacraments, the guidance also prohibited existing clergy in same-sex partnerships from getting married and said that it would not ordain anyone in a same-sex marriage.
At the stroke of a pen, it reintroduced a prohibition on marriage for some priests in the CofE, opened the gates to ecclesiastical guerrilla warfare in dioceses, and further distanced the House of Bishops from a substantial proportion of their clergy and people, not to mention the population at large…
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Church of England
No wonder they are running out of suitable male candidates for the bench of bishops. No priest with any integrity would be willing to join them given what they have done with their guidance.
"To most people this will sound unremittingly cruel. Knowing that the law allows you to get married but that the church you are called to minister in is both denying you that right and requiring you to respond to others is both cruel and unjust. For some it will feel akin to being a midwife who is prohibited by her employer from having children." - Benny Hazlehurst -
While I deeply empathize with Benny's statement here, one must recognize that this is the same expectation that the Roman Catholic Church has for its own clergy. However, the Church of England is not bound by the celibacy rules of the R.C. Church for its clergy - see Women's Ordination.
The problem is that we Anglicans, though not being bound by the rules of either Roman Catholicism or the Eastern Orthodox Churches, we still fail to live up to our own tradition of evangelical catholicity, which is the hallmark of our Via Media provenance, which is 'semper reformanda'. In the light of this difference, within the essential ecumenical fellowship of the Body of Christ, we have been given a legitimate role of leadership in this important matter of Inclusivity, that requires our mission and ministry to be open to everyone whom God might call - irrespective of race, tradition, social status, gender or sexual-orientation.
In addition, those in ministry, being no longer constrained to the celibate male or female, ought surely to be able to share their life with the 'significant other' of their choice - a fact already accepted by General Synod in its awarding of spousal-pension rights to the surviving partner of a clergy civil union. Surely this denotes at least a tacit acceptance of same-sex partnership among the clergy - which has all the hallmarks of a monogamous, faithful Marriage partnership.
Hazlehurst has completely demolished the soi-disant "pastoral statement."
House of Bishops or House of Groupthink?
Of course, an easy solution to all this would be to follow Rome's lead and reintroduce a celibate priesthood with regard to all future ordinations (but if we are anxious about a shallow pool of suitable episcopal candidates then this idea might greatly reduce the number of future candidates for the priesthood!).Alternatively, we could emulate Byzantium and only choose bishops from the monasteries. After all one of Justin's better ideas is the revival of a renewed and reinvigorated Religious life.
The one thing I would add to Benny's brilliant post is that lay people have also been slapped by the statement that says, in effect "we can't expect the riff raff in the pews to be moral so we only expect morality of the clergy. We may consider allowing priests to pray for a gay couple but not until they've also told them that their relationship falls short of what the church expects."
A withering critique!
Just read Ed Power's intro to his review of Our Gay Wedding. The Musical to understand how deep the problem is for the Church .....
"Surely not even the most passionate advocate of minority rights could have predicted the outflow of joy that accompanied the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales at the weekend. Outside a major international sporting triumph, it is difficult to think of an event that has lifted the national mood so markedly. It's as if the public feels compelled to share in the happiness as gay and lesbian couples are finally permitted walk down the aisle."
Quite right, quite right! Erica.
Riff raff, the lot of them. Not to be relied on, don't you know.
Don't know what's good for them, poor benighted peasants.
While digging the C of E into a hole, the bishops have just called for more shovels. One wonders if the hole might be just in time for a grave...
This article shows - as recent critiques from Linda Woodhead and Mike Higton have also done - that the Valentines Day Pastoral Letter is lacking in theological clarity, ecclesial wisdom and socio-cultural awareness. It also lacks a legal deafness, and may expose the church to further problems at a later stage; or sooner. It would sensible - as well as morally courageous - to withdraw the letter, and to ask for time out to consider a better response to the issues that the changes in legislation now pose of the church, and for Christian teaching on marriage. And then, perhaps, for the authors to re-engage with a better document, and one that was more reflective and consultative? A worthwhile project for Lent, I might suggest.
"It's as if the public feels compelled to share in the happiness as gay and lesbian couples are finally permitted walk down the aisle."
I was talking about this to a colleague this afternoon.
It occurred to me afterwards that one possible explanation would be that most people, when you get down to it, never cared that much about homosexuality. People vaguely disapproved of it because that was the societal expectation, but in the end no more than that. So when society shows that it's OK to think it's OK, there's the lifting of a weight, and weddings are nice aren't they?
If true, that's Andrew Symes completely stuffed.
What a pity we overseas Anglicans are not privy to what I am sure is the excellent BBC video link provided by Simon Dawson. Is this another sign of our detachment from Mother Church?
Only joking. BUT it would be good if the BBC were to be a little more welcoming.
Ineterested Observer - you wrote "It occurred to me afterwards that one possible explanation would be that most people, when you get down to it, never cared that much about homosexuality. People vaguely disapproved of it because that was the societal expectation, but in the end no more than that. So when society shows that it's OK to think it's OK, there's the lifting of a weight, and weddings are nice aren't they?"
I think you are close to the target, but not an exact bulls-eye.
I would argue that in the past there was a strong negative view, but the negative view arose because thing that defined homosexuality was the sex, and that wasn't a nice thing to think about, and what little information people had about it was from newspaper reports of people being imprisoned or sacked for it.
But now people can obtain a much more holistic view of what it is to be gay (and also a stereotype of what it is to be gay from TV representation). They see the love, the commitment, the family life, the humour, and the dress sense (according to the TV stereotype). And once people have that more holistic overview of what it is to be gay they seem to like what they see.
Yes the sex is still there, but in this more sexually sophisticated age people know that what we do is not much different to what heterosexual relationships do also (see last weeks episode of Rev, last 5 minutes).
Only the church, at a senior policy level, appears to be stuck into the old pattern of making judgements ONLY about our sexual acts, and ignoring the other more positive factors.