Saturday, 5 July 2014

More on same-sex marriage and clergy discipline

Updated Sunday afternoon

We reported previously on the Bishop of Norwich’s “blacklist” (note the quotation marks). This terminology was a direct quotation from a Guardian news report, originally linked in an earlier article. That Guardian report was subsequently amended.

David Pocklington has recently provided a very detailed account of the background to all this in an article at Law & Religion UK entitled Clergy blacklists, blue files and the Archbishops’ List. This explains in great detail exactly what the current procedures are, what lists do exist, and how a name can get onto a list.

And now Colin Coward has published Bishop of Norwich clarifies purpose of monitoring and reference group. The bishop wrote:

“It was a surprise to read that I was apparently keeping a blacklist of clergy who had entered same sex marriages or was charged with acting against them. Such assertions are a very long way from the truth.

“What I have agreed to do at the request of the Archbishops is to be available to other diocesan bishops for consultation as and when they have to decide what to do if clergy in their dioceses marry a same sex partner. There may well be courses of action or ways of responding which they have not considered, and I hope the reference group will ensure cases are not dealt with erratically.

“I am not charged with taking any initiative, nor would I do so (it is up to diocesan bishops to contact me) but I hope that in this matter, as in all things, there is still the possibility for some pastoral wisdom.”

Changing Attitude has also published this: Same sex marriage guidance for clergy.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 2:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Am I alone in wondering, why the Bishop of Norwich? Is he an expert on ethics? Ecclesiastical law? The history and sociology of marriage? What has he got that other bishops haven't? Can anyone enlighten me?

And besides all that, what "other" courses of action might there? I think it would be helpful if we were told.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 7:55pm BST

Is the Bishop of Norwich just naive? Does he really think that any clergy who for one reason or another get onto his 'pastoral wisdom' list will be anything other than completely scuppered. Even if he truly believes what he says, others won't.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 8:23pm BST

Is he to coordinate the sending of wedding cards and gifts from the bishops ?

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 8:51pm BST

I do not believe that Bishop Graham is in any way homophobic. Among the Bishops of the Church, he has an integrity of dealing with gay clergy that speaks of compassion and wisdom. Whatever role has been put upon him by the Church in this matter, I think we can trust his good sense and Christ-like-ness. And that's from an outsider, in another province.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 5 July 2014 at 10:30pm BST

"Is he to coordinate the sending of wedding cards and gifts from the bishops?"

Hilarious. And also very wise.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 4:05am BST

Why should gay clergy need "dealing with" at all? And most of us don't want "compassion" as if there is something the matter with us. There isn't. What we would like to see is a Church that behaves properly.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 7:45am BST

The House of Bishops has got the issue of equal marriage wrong bigtime as some of their number seem to recognise. It is important, though, not to see conspiracy and malevolence in their subsequent responses. Norwich, Sheffield, and Willesden each attract respect in and beyond their dioceses, among people whose support is vital in changing minds and votes.

Posted by: David Bunch on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 3:10pm BST

"Why should gay clergy need "dealing with" at all?"

Jeremy - very, very well put. The whole thing in a nutshell. Thank you,.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 6:39pm BST

Ron Smith, if he's not taking a stand against homophobic policies, why does it matter? You can't deny someone their rights and be nice about it. Liberalism's in the mess it is because it keeps giving a pass to bishops who are kind in private but complicit in public.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 7:15pm BST

In the Church Times (4th July) the Chair of 'Reform', Revd Rod Thomas, is quoted as expressing concern about possibly having to sign up to a particular premise before participating in the facilitated conversations. 'If the premise is that we have to recognise that we are all equally faithful disciples of Christ, it makes it very difficult for us to participate in something which accepts that you can disobey something in the Bible and yet be a good disciple of Christ'....' but if he is saying that we need to learn to live together despite our disagreements, that is not something I think is an option'.

Am I being thick or is precisely this that we are being asked for in 'good disagreement'? And if Reform and their likeminded associates reject this then shouldn't we just pack up and go home since the 'conversations' are going to be a complete waste of time and energy.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 7:58pm BST

the conversations are not a complete waste of time because people like Rod Thomas ultimately don't matter. We don't have conversations in order to convince the last implacable traditionalist but in order to move enough of the church into the 21st century that we can get to a point where gay people are no longer persecuted, where lay and clergy gay people can marry without being punished and where those priests and parishes who wish to celebrate gay marriages are free to do so.

What that will require is that we tolerate people like Rod Thomas and accept that they also have a place in the church.
Bit like the women bishops question, really, only a decade or so behind.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 10:43pm BST

'If the premise is that we have to recognise that we are all equally faithful disciples of Christ, it makes it very difficult for us to participate in something which accepts that you can disobey something in the Bible and yet be a good disciple of Christ...' seems rather disingenuous, as its premise is that those who interpret scripture differently are somehow "disobeying" something.

Surely it would be more Christian to recognize that we are all faithful disciples of Christ who, though unique and legitimately different life experiences, have come to differing interpretations?

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 6 July 2014 at 11:45pm BST

I agree that, if any bishop was asked to be a point of reference and advice, we could not expect better than Graham James. Just imagine who else it could have been had the Welby / Sentamu coalition been given a free hand... Nonetheless, my anxieties still persist. Are we seriously supposed to believe that individuals will not be named, remembered and scribbled on a post-it note as the telephone lines buzz, and 'quiet words' are had at the bar during House of Bishops' meetings? This is precisely how the bullying tactics of certain bishops (usually those who don't have the guts to tell the cleric concerned that s/he is the subject of discussion) can flourish unchallenged. Nothing is in the file, but 'we know where you live.' Now that the lawyers have, effectively, declared the CDM dead-in-the-water as far as equal marriage is concerned, there is a greater likelihood of 'informal' solutions. Or should that be 'covert'?

Posted by: SImon R on Monday, 7 July 2014 at 10:32am BST

I think the last piece from this guy was a mess, but he seemed unwilling or unable to justify his comments within that post.
Now, he reminds us, there is a blacklist, in. fact there are a few resources where names can be checked as gay clerics know only too well!
So then, with black/pink lists enough, what purpose a group like this? If it is just a point of reference, then why a group?
As far as I can tell this panel is a novelty, and the manner of its formation, if not exactly clouded in secrecy, gave rise to some unhelpful speculation.
There are, and have been, just as valid reasons for such a reference group both now and in the past dealing with other sensitive matters. Did/do they exist beneath the radar? If not, why now?
If as Pocklington suggests and the chair now seems to support, this group is a sentencing committee seeking to bring a consistent approach, then I suspect its discreet purpose has been overtaken by publication of the responses in the first case.

We all now know that the punishment for loving someone enough to marry them is a rebuke for a licensed cleric and withdrawal of PTO for the rest.

This, I am guessing, is the maximum penalty this committee want to see, nothing that will find its way into any court, ecclesiastical or civil, and who is to know if the rebuke is not delivered and as time goes on and people blink then PTOs may be forgotten or restored.

So, maybe this group is not to advocate savage repression, but to encourage bishops who want to eviscerate their newly married gay clergy to be less enthusiastic with the knife!

If that is the case then I wish it luck!
If nobody is actually sacked, that would be quite an achievement. Though the CofE response remains generally untenable.
And, yes, I still think Laurie had the best suggestion for keeping these guys usefully engaged.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 9 July 2014 at 8:37am BST
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