Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Jeremy Timm: further comment and reports

The Church Times has Reader ‘faced with choosing between marriage or ministry’

Updated (Thursday evening): the Church Times story has a new headline and location: Reader to lose Permission to Officiate over marriage plans

James Little, Team Rector of Howden Team Ministry, has published the following statement on Facebook

The CT asked me to comment as Jeremy’s Team Rector but didn’t include what I wrote, so here it is—

The Howden Team Ministry is a group of typically rural churches centred on Howden Minster in the East Riding of Yorkshire. We strive to be open, inclusive and welcoming to all and engaged with the communities we serve. The folk around here have known Jeremy since he was a lad and he is a popular and well-respected member of our ministry team. The removal of Jeremy’s PTO (for taking an entirely legal step) runs contrary to the message of welcome we proclaim.

I rejoiced when Bishop Alison was appointed as our new bishop for the East Riding and I applaud Archbishop Sentamu’s leadership in bringing this about. I was delighted to attend her consecration and her welcome service last month, seeing this as a great step forward on the road to equality, long overdue. However, I am saddened that our archbishop’s profound commitment to equality does not extend to the LGBTI community. I believe that the full involvement of women AND the full involvement of LGBTI Christians in the Church of England are, essentially, the same issue. All are one in Jesus Christ.

The Churchwardens are sufficiently concerned to take the unusual step of convening a meeting for later this week, to which I have been invited.

Jeremy will continue to have my full support.

The Telegraph also reports the story Gay Anglican preacher forced to ‘choose between marriage or ministry’

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 at 6:06pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

A really forthright statement by James Little.

If a local church community, in all good conscience, believes in welcoming, affirming and accepting people who have been married (regardless of their orientation), then I believe they have a right to have their conscience respected and protected.

This whole thing is a nonsense.

Here we have a clearly loved and respected member of the local church community, wanted by his church community, affirmed by his church community for the whole of who he is... and external authoritarianism is about to strip him of his valued role in that community.

Personally, if I was on the PCC there, I would - on a point of conscience and principle - *insist* that Jeremy will continue to officiate and preach. What would the Archbishop do then? Call in the police to have him removed?

In my view, the PCC should reflect the courage of James Little, and insist that Jeremy will still be authorised by *them*, regardless of the interference from outside.

Other PCCs around the country should also discuss whether their own communities, including their priests and readers, are being protected ***to be the people they are*** and should consider, realistically, how top-down management can stop them celebrating everyone's relationships and marriages, and continuing to endorse their positions and service, short of closing these local churches down.

That simply isn't going to happen - the local community would not let it happen.

'De facto' Jeremy is endorsed and recognised in his community and in his service of his local church community.

Therefore, the principled course of action to take is to stand firm in good conscience, and send a really positive signal out to the local community, instead of this terrible veiled homophobia - quite possibly not intended, but in effect treating gay and lesbian people differently to everyone else, denying their human flourishing and the whole of who they are.

Kudos to James Little (who himself might need some protection if he lets Jeremy continue his role). Sometimes in the history of social justice, a stand has to be taken. Remember Rosa Parks.

If this local church really loves Jeremy and values him, and all gay and lesbian people, then they are, actually, in a position to insist that this right to officiate will be upheld... by the actual members of the local church themselves.

Frankly it couldn't be stopped, and frankly it couldn't be worse than the demeaning stripping of duties that sends a terrible message to Christians and non-Christians alike.

A time for courage, perhaps? And also solidarity from others?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 at 7:37pm BST

James Little, if you're reading this, please, for the sake of justice, defy your archbishop, and allow Jeremy Timm to continue in his role unlicensed.

As rector, you can't be dismissed by episcopal fiat. Sentamu is acting arbitrarily and unjustly. Your oath of obedience isn't absolute, and isn't violated by disobeying your archbishop on this. Your disobedience may be the thing that brings Sentamu to his senses.

You are clearly a good man, and for good to triumph, good men must fight.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 at 8:38pm BST

Madeleine Davies (Church Times) gives a very good survey of the situation. The Church of England is at yet another critical point in its history of hypocritical treatment of its LGBTIQ members. Anglican angels must have many stab wounds in their collective feet - from so much disciplinary dancing on, not the heads, but the sharp end, of the pin of gender and sexual discrimination. Can not the Archbishops discern the damage being done to the pastoral credibility of the Church by their parsimonious attempt to discredit the loving ministry of some of its most valued practioners -who just happen to claim their right to civil marriage?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 at 11:16pm BST

It is most saddening to hear of Archbishop Sentamu’s regrettable and regressive step in removing Jeremy's Timm's license. I applaud Jame's Little's open letter and heartly encourage him, the parishioners and Jeremy himself to continue in their open-minded, inclusive, humane and indeed Christ-like attitude of 'All are one in Jesus Christ'.

In addressing myself to Archbishop Sentamu, I would urge him to look at the example that Christ set us all, to ask himself, if Christ were walking on earth today, given all that we see of Him revealed in scripture and his interactions with those who suffered the slight and scorn of society in his day, does he think honestly think that Christ would act as he has done and (as good as) turn Jeremy Timms AWAY from Him, refuse him the right to convey the love and message of Christ to those who need and want to hear it!?

It is beyond my comprehension how Archbishop Sentamu can reconcile in his own mind and heart, his acceptance of women priests and bishops and yet baulk at that of married, same-sex, lay readers / clergy/ bishops? I for one, as a gay practising christian in a same-sex relationship with a fellow believer, members of an anglican church (in Ireland) where we feel so very much at home and loved by the rest of our wonderful parish family, welcome the advent of women readers/clergy/ bishops and likewise am fully behind gay readers/clergy and bishops. As a member of CA Ireland I long for the day when those of us who feel the call to ministry (but happen to be gay) can answer that call in the Church that we love, and do so openly and without fear of being denied the opportunity.

Posted by: Thomas Scott-Golden on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 12:12am BST

Parish shares have been withheld over less. I'm not saying they should be, of course, but they have been.

Posted by: SC on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 7:55am BST

I have delayed making comment, but support Jeremy, and Fr James.
I hope and pray that the deanery, parish and their PCC'S call Archbishop Sentamu to task for his most uncharitable action.

Being in my eighties I well remember a Ugandan priest being welcomed by the people of Herne Hill London as their curate. Safe from his Ugandan dictator. One Fr Sentamu. What ever happened to him?

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 8:51am BST

Another point is that, when Jeremy Timm converts his Civil Partnership to marriage, the marriage will be backdated to the date he entered his CP. So he will have already been a married, licensed, Lay Reader for some years. This means the Archbishop is in the helpful position of being able to determine precisely what harm this particular marriage has done to the Church of England during that period i.e. none! There can be no anxiety or handwringing on the Archbishop's part over *potential* harm for the Church - the facts are already known as the marriage will have existed for years anyway, albeit without his knowledge.

The backdating element of the 'CP upgrade to marriage' process clearly came as a great shock to at least some of the Church people present at Jeremy Pemberton's Employment Tribunal hearing. (It didn't apply in JP's case but the point was mentioned in passing).

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 9:04am BST

I am getting ready to preach on this Sunday's Gospel reading from John 6, so I have been thinking about how often I (me, you, everyone) recieve Holy Communion without 'munching' (that's actually the word John uses) our Lord's flesh and drinking his blood, without taking his word into my body and giving it flesh in the everyday world. It's difficult, but Jeremy and James (I think) are doing that, making our Lord's Word live in their flesh. Alleluia.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 10:43am BST

Love is a human right, and sex is a human right. You should not lose your work in a community because of them. Indeed, as a Christian, if you want sex to be blessed and sanctified in marriage, then we should seek to affirm and celebrate the love and fidelity you express that way.

What is wrong with people?

Why are they so reluctant to see sex sanctified in marriage?

And why should lesbian and gay people face discrimination (being treated differently from other people) and be denied the right to serve Christ in their communities?

There is not enough love and fidelity in the world. There is not enough tenderness and devotion within marriage.

How does love and fidelity stop you serving your local church community?

Frankly, this is sick. Sadly, some people and even prelates, seem to think that gay and lesbian relationships are the sickness.

It is simply love and sex, the same as for other people.

It is whole and healthy and it belongs inside marriage.

We should be encouraging the flourishing of the *whole* of who people are, not persecuting their love by driving them out of their local community roles because of the 'grievous crime' of love.

If Jeremy is loved and cared for in his local church community, and they want him to serve that community, then I am sorry, but the Archbishop of York is being an idiot to suggest that he may not.

In the end, each local community needs to act in good conscience. Is it right to exclude, because of a person's sexuality? Is it right to teach people in your local community that they are somehow unworthy of Christian service because they are gay?

These dictats from above are trampling over the consciences of good people and communities. In the end, in a divided church, people and communities have to decide themselves if they will exclude or if they will celebrate relationships that are fundamentally about love and human wholeness.

We need to seek 'unity in diversity' (regardless of what some African leaders think - we are not in Africa). People do not need to be bullied because they are loving and faithful. Top-down control of other people's consciences is imperialistic. 'The Covenant' tried to do that, and it crashed in this country.

Meanwhile, good and decent people outside the church, sincere truth-seekers, are understandably bemused and disgusted by the way Christian leaders appear to be discriminating (treating differently) against gay and lesbian citizens, acknowledged and respected by civil society.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 4:34pm BST

SC, every penny of parish shares should be withheld until this decision is rescinded. There's nothing inherently wrong in withholding funds. Just the opposite: it's wrong to fund homophobic policies.

In withdrawnng licenses, Sentamu is coercing people, and it's reasonable to withhold resources from unjust coercion. If Sentamu wants to discuss this reasonably, he shouldn't threaten people. So long as he does, this isn't a debate, it's a fight, in which the options are defense, or surrender.

You don't surrender to homophobia.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 5:30pm BST

Attacking lay leaders. Wow. Good for James Little+ for standing up for Jeremy Timm. It would be great to see the laity stand up and say "enough," and put some teeth behind it. If you can't do that for your own, I just don't see CoE standing up for the even more vulnerable who Jesus asks us to serve.

Anglicanism in England does not seem to be as action oriented as in other places, like TEC. I get it, with a social safety net that is far better than we have, it does seem to give CoE more room to think of religion as a personal and private matter. But there really is a time to act. Now seems good.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 5:39pm BST

Your link to the CT article doesn't work...

Posted by: Fr Paul on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 5:44pm BST

Neither does the Facebook link....

Posted by: Fr Paul on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 5:51pm BST

What made this act of discrimination possible is the ambivalence of the Church of England toward civil partnerships for clergy. Priests could be in civil partnerships but had to answer potential questions from their bishops about their sexuality. Civil marriage makes it impossible for the institution to hide its bigotry.

I wish they could spend their time looking at countries like Jamaica, where people are murdered if they are suspected of being LGBT.

The C of E does not do human dignity.

In this case, the congregation has recognized the ministry of Jeremy Timm, whereas the Archbishop has not. If forced to choose between the congregation and the episcopate, I think the congregation is a wiser option.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Friday, 14 August 2015 at 5:13am BST

1) I am reminded of a story told by the late Anthony de Mello SJ:
"The master once told a bishop that religious people have a natural bent for cruelty.
'Why?' demanded the disciples after the bishop had gone.
'Because they all too easily sacrifice persons for the advancement of a purpose,' said the master."

2) A familiar ploy of our leaders when their words and deeds provoke anger is "sit it out till they all quieten down." For this reason alone, protest must continue. At the very least, I hope the Archbishop of York is being deluged with messages condemning his treatment of Jeremy Timm, even if his staff keep most of them from reaching him.

3) We must remember what has been said by other commentators on this site - that it is vital that those who wish to end the Church's anti-gay discrimination put themselves forward for election to General Synod. We can be certain that the hardline conservatives will be working flat out to get places so that they can block all attempts at change.

4) Pray for our bishops. They are not bad people, but it is too easy for them to get sucked into the establishment mentality, where preserving the institution blocks out every other consideration.

Posted by: Barry on Friday, 14 August 2015 at 10:54am BST

Fr Paul: I have updated the CT link, which they changed after original publication. The FB link does work -- but who can tell what FB connections one needs to get access; maybe you have to be at least logged into FB. However, we have quoted all of the original content of James Little's FB post.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 14 August 2015 at 12:00pm BST

Congratulations to Jeremy Timm for the interview he gave just now on the Sunday programme. No bitterness or recriminations at the Archbishop's decision but a great deal of sadness. Personally, I cannot see how the Archbishop's reaction fits easily with the document "Issues in Human Sexuality" where a clear distinction is made been lay and ordained? Further the Bishops Pastoral Guidance on same sex marriage is clearly aimed at those who are Bishops, Priests and Deacons and makes no mention whatsoever of those who are licensed Readers. A dilemma indeed.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 16 August 2015 at 7:50am BST

Just heard Bishop Patterson on "Sunday" Radio four say that you can be a reader and gay and in a civil partnership, but not in a heterosexual marriage is a doctrine of the Church of England.

But isn't the prohibition of sex before marriage a Church of England doctrine?

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Sunday, 16 August 2015 at 8:18am BST

R Williams - surely you must know that a civil partnership does not assume a sexual relationship, whereas marriage traditionally does?

Posted by: Neil on Sunday, 16 August 2015 at 10:21am BST

Robert makes a good point. Why is sex before marriage taken less seriously than sexual orientation?

How many couples go to church, and serve the church in various capacities, without being married to each other?

In fact, the majority of people these days enjoy sex before marriage before (if) they ever get married. It's no longer seen as much of a problem or a sin.

And that's before we even get on to the subject of divorce.

If we're going to be puritan and literalistic about it, then ALL these issues should be deal-breakers in the eyes of church leadership. They aren't.

And rightly so. NONE of them should be deal-breakers.

What matters is love, it's the primary commandment - in human relationships, and in our service of one another, and the local church.

There is selectivity when it comes to which 'sins' the church leaders single out for treatment.

And once again, that selectivity disturbingly points towards some kind of cultural or personal homophobia, whether recognised or not.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 16 August 2015 at 1:38pm BST

I'm not sure the CoE doctrine is as clear as all that. The "pastoral" statement says quite clearly:
'18. We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships to have a formal status. These include the joys of exclusive commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship. To that end, civil partnership continues to be available for same sex couples. Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.'

It rules out marriage for clergy and ordinands but not explicitly for anyone in licensed lay ministry.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2015 at 3:11pm BST

Re: sex before marriage and relative immorality

I am heterosexual, and sometimes wonder how best one might stand with those who are oppressed within the church for their homosexuality, without ending up speaking on behalf of people whose experiences I would not presume to know in detail.

One way of speaking only of what I know might be to say to my bishop or whomever: I would like to assert that on my wedding night I was not a virgin. Moreover I do not believe that there is anything in that fact deserving of repentance. Kindly judge me first according to 'the church's official teaching' on human sexuality before picking on my LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, there are many more people in my camp than in theirs, I'm sure.

However, I'm not sure what the best forum for this intervention might be. During MDR? Or the bishop's Chrism Eucharist sermon?

Posted by: Swithun on Sunday, 16 August 2015 at 8:29pm BST

"But isn't the prohibition of sex before marriage a Church of England doctrine?"

Posted by: Robert ian Williams

It probably is a Roman Catholic doctrine, Robert. I've never heard of anyone being refused marriage in the Church of England on the basis of their pre-marital relationships.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 17 August 2015 at 11:11am BST

I think the exchange between RIW and Fr Ron is really important.
We tend to elevate every "many Christians believe..." to the status of formal Doctrine.

There seem to be an awful lot of things to do with sex that have, over the years, acquired a quasi-doctrinal status they don't really have at all.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 17 August 2015 at 2:31pm BST

No I didn't realise that Neil. However read the online Tynwald debates with Bishop Paterson contributing..he was quite clear in understanding their true nature and to quoite him " where they were headed."!

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 9:52am BST

Robert - but Bishop Paterson would be wrong in making any assumption of sexual activity within a civil partnership in terms of law. And all clergy within CPs are presumed officially to be celibate and must be treated as such. A ridiculous situation but it explains why Bishops can approve of CPs and why it is more problematic for them as there is no hiding place when it comes to marriage (and the presumption of sex).

Posted by: Neil on Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 1:31pm BST

Why is it always presumed that heterosexual marriage (i.e. between male and female) is always necessarily encumbered with an explicitly sexual relationship?

I wonder how many marriages are between two people of the opposite gender who intentionally married without the expectation of a sexual relationship. I know of at least one such happy marriage. There must be more. At one time, this might have been cause for dissolution on grounds of non-consummation. I doubt that the Church would today insist on the dissolution of such a marriage on such grounds.

My point here, is that there are already different types of marriage which are not based on the procreation of children. What, then is different in the case of a same-sex marriage that is not open to procreation - apart from the fact that the couple are not differently gendered?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 20 August 2015 at 11:25am BST

" always necessarily encumbered with an explicitly sexual relationship."


Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 20 August 2015 at 3:36pm BST

Father Ron

I suggest that to "the couple are not differently gendered" you add "IN LAW". As some of the cases involving famous athletes have shown, biological gender is complex and might not match legal gender. Oddly the church seems to rely upon legal gender which is at best an arbitrary construct and is a truly bizarre foundation on which to base church policies.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 at 1:52am BST

I do see your point, Kate.

However, there are situations in which the Church does NOT recognise legal definitions - take the legal Marriage of Same-Sex persons; where the Church definitely does not recognise their legal existence.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 at 12:12pm BST

I am not seeking re-election to General Synod this year. And a good job. This is a bridge too far for me. Martin Niemöller comes to mind. Despite the wonderful consecration of women bishops this year, the ABY's decision is a serious challenge to my integrity, and I can't put up with this any more. John Ward, formerly member of General Synod for London

Posted by: John Ward on Saturday, 29 August 2015 at 5:33pm BST

I suggest the Church's position on gender is genital rather than legal.

Let's not forget that when a transgender person transitioned, there was great resistance to the possibility that two previously married people might end up with the same genitals.

So, shamefully, evangelical Christians of various denominations lobbied for a legal requirement that before the transitioned person could gain legal identity in their newly-assigned gender, they had first to divorce their longstanding partner.

This lobbying paid off, the law was amended, and for many years transgender people were put under pressure to divorce, or else forego pension rights, legal rights, the right to go to a prison that was appropriate to their gender.

Thankfully this wrong has been redressed this year, but it reflects an obsession on genitals, when anyone well-informed can tell you that gender is a psychological identity more to do with the brain than with what genitals you have (which is sex rather than gender).

Basically the fear was that if the Church endorsed the marriage of a couple with a trans partner in it, they would be effectively tolerating gay or lesbian sex, even if the couple were devoted, loving, and had been duly married for years.

Marriage is about far more than genitals. And genitals are not horrifying things. Using them in loving sex is decent, tender, potentially full of care.

Some trans people need genital surgery to make their sex congruent with their gender: some don't.

Either way, gay and lesbian marriage are inevitable in a trans household. What are they supposed to do? Unmarry?

Those whom God has joined, let no man (or woman) separate.

The fluidity of genitals and gender during a trans person's lifetime make a nonsense of gay-hetero rules, when a man who starts married life as 'straight' ends up being married to the same person but 'lesbian'.

Bronze age cultural norms are not the same as 21st Century norms, nor should they be.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 30 August 2015 at 10:39pm BST
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