Sunday, 8 November 2015

Is a public statement on human sexuality something for the CNC to consider?

Readers may recall that at General Synod in July, John Ward asked a Question of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as reported fully here. This in turn followed from a previous Question asked in February, also reported here. The incidents to which reference is made in the questions occurred in September/October 2014 and in October/November 2013.

The guidance document to which the question refers has now been published: ARCHBISHOPSGUIDELINES ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF “CHOOSING BISHOPS THE EQUALITY ACT 2010 (REVISED)” (GS Misc 1044).
This document is dated March 2015, and as explained in its first section, it was revised following the passage of the women bishops legislation in 2014. Presumably therefore there was an earlier version of this guidance issued in 2013, shortly after the issue of GS Misc 1044 itself.

That document dated June 2013 to which this refers is also available on the CofE website as a PDF, and here as a normal web page.

Pages 3 and 4 of this newly published guidance constitute a section entitled: The relevance of a candidate’s previous public statements on human sexuality.
This portion is copied in full below the fold, but you need to read the whole document to get the context. However, you will note that GS Misc 1044 itself contains no reference to this topic.

The relevance of a candidate’s previous public statements on human sexuality

14. The focus of the Legal Office note is the imposition of a requirement of one of the kinds described in paragraph 7. The imposition of such a requirement is a significant thing, its effect being completely to exclude from consideration those whose circumstances are inconsistent with the requirement. But, as noted above, if a requirement is not imposed the fact that a candidate falls into one or other of the two categories is to be ignored and may not be the subject of any further discussion or questioning.

15. It is possible that a further issue may arise in the course of the CNC’s deliberations which is distinct from the possible imposition of a requirement. That is whether, when considering whether the candidate can fulfil the fundamental calling of a bishop to be a ‘focus of unity’, the CNC can nonetheless lawfully take into account the content and manner of any public statements previously made by him or her about the Church’s traditional teaching on same-sex relations.

16. Taking a consideration of this kind into account is different from imposing a requirement. Rather, in terms of the Equality Act, it involves the application of a ‘criterion’, in the light of which (amongst other criteria) the decision on nomination would be made.

17. A discussion of this kind would not have involved indirect discrimination under the Equality Act, had the Act applied, even if in practice such a discussion might put a homosexual candidate at a disadvantage when compared with heterosexual candidates. The concept of ‘indirect discrimination’ under the Act does not extend to a situation in which a criterion is applied as a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim; and a criterion designed to assess how well a candidate would, if nominated, be able to fulfil a fundamental aspect of a bishop’s role would have passed that test.

18. It would accordingly be open to the CNC, in principle, to have a discussion of this kind, in an appropriate case. Were it to do so, then the criterion would need to be weighed alongside others. So it would be for each individual member of the CNC to decide how much weight to attach to it.

19. However, it would be essential that any discussion of this issue was confined to weighing the implications of the candidate’s previous public statements for his or her ability to act as a focus of unity, rather than taking account of the implications of his or her sexuality or status as a civil partner. The latter would involve taking account of irrelevant, and unlawful, considerations, since those matters have either to be addressed through the imposition of a requirement or left out of account altogether.

20. In addition, the mere fact that a candidate had publicly questioned the Church of England’s teaching on human sexuality, or indeed that of the Anglican Communion as articulated in Lambeth 1:10, would not be sufficient to raise any issue from this point of view: that is something that clergy are free to do. An issue could only arise as a result of the way in which that disagreement had been expressed.

21. Particular care would be needed in handling any considerations relating to the Anglican Communion. An adverse reaction in the Anglican Communion to the candidate’s appointment on account of his or her previous public statements could in principle be a relevant consideration in so far as it touched on the candidate’s ability to be a focus of unity in the Church of England– e.g. because it could fuel controversy within the Church of England of such a kind as to make it more difficult for the candidate to act as an effective focus of unity.

22. However, in practice considerable care needs to be taken in evaluating considerations relating to the Anglican Communion, where concerns about the candidate’s appointment may well be based at least as much on his or her sexuality or civil partner status as on the nature of his or her previous public statements.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 November 2015 at 6:04pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

One or two comments to get us going on this one:
1. Has this been out since March or is what you have drawn attention to a revision that was issued today? If the latter, then putting things out over the weekend looks like a ploy to bury bad news.
2. The whole tone of this guidance is repugnant. I know it is legal guidance, but something that is intended to help people know how and when they can legally discriminate is disgusting.
3. The very idea that someone's views over human sexuality might lead to them being discounted as a candidate for episcopal ministry is astonishing. One, because we don't do thought police, and two, because is reads like something that is designed to act disproportionately against LGBT candidates for such ministry who might have spoken positively or straight candidates who support LGBT people vocally and openly.
4. If this guidance is to be even-handed (and personally I would like to see all copies pulped), then I presume that candidates who have spoken out clearly against the inclusion of LGBT people might find that their homophobic views are taken legally into account in deciding to prevent someone with those kinds of views from entering episcopal ministry?
5. Can we have assurance from the CNC that it will interpret this guidance in that way so that LGBT members of the Church of England can be assured that any bishop selected is truly going to be a focus of unity in that s/he will represent them and "gently challenge" the inadequacy of the church's ministry in this area.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Sunday, 8 November 2015 at 10:46pm GMT

There's simply a fundamental problem with insisting that each and every bishop be a "focus of unity." The CoE has a disgraceful history of insisting on doing and supporting injustice for the sake of "unity."

"Unity" as practiced by CoE on human sexuality is in conflict with the Gospel of Jesus Christ that asks us to "love our neighbors as ourselves," with no exception - the context makes it clear that Jesus was not giving room for humans to define exceptions.

Is there no one in CoE leadership who can see how shameful it is to lift "unity" above justice and the Gospel of the loving, inclusive, God? And how can it maintain it's status as the established church when this stance, in practice, violates the conscience of the vast majority of citizens?

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 8 November 2015 at 10:50pm GMT

Disgusting but not at all surprising; which is to say business as usual. Christe eleison.

Posted by: DBD on Sunday, 8 November 2015 at 11:15pm GMT

Jeremy
This document was first posted on the CofE website at the end of last week. It has not yet been the subject of any press release. But the questioner was told about it, and he told me.
I only got around to posting here about it this evening. FWIW I do not think there is any connection between its appearance now and other events of last week.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 November 2015 at 11:17pm GMT

Again we see the Church of England put the Communion abroad over communicants at home.

The Communion abroad wants to discriminate against LGBT people--even criminalise them. Therefore the CofE must discriminate too.

How does this follow, in any moral reasoning?

Or does it follow on by power reasoning--that in order to remain a "focus of unity" in the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury needs to ban gay bishops at home?

If that's what's going on--and it certainly looks that way--then the Anglican Communion has become an instrument of injustice and oppression.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 2:02am GMT

Jeremy,

My understanding of the law is that your point 4 must be correct. A one-sided application of the criterion would appear to be direct discrimination and therefore incapable of justification. Hopefully someone will explore that.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 2:43am GMT

Surely it is always wrong to see 'unity' and 'justice' as mutually opposed goods or to favour one at the expense of the other? Any truly Christian vision of unity must always entail universal justice, and it is unthinkable that there could be real justice in tolerating disunity.

Posted by: rjb on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 7:16am GMT

Jeremy, pressure for the Church of England to hold a traditional position's at least as strong at home as it is abroad: in England, it comes from the powerful evangelical wing who now run the church, and who also dominate Christianity at universities, and amongst the establishment in general.

Barring a tiny number of accepting evangelicals, English evangelicals are united around the marriage of a man and a woman as being the only acceptable place for sexual relationships. This goes for the liberal wing of open evangelicals as much as it does anyone: Ian Paul appeared on TV opposite Jeremy Pemberton, and was unyielding in his defense of the church's teaching.

That there's no real domestic pressure on the state church to change is a grim warning that England, like Australia, isn't near as liberal on sexuality as many would like to believe.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 8:15am GMT

The appointment of Rod Thomas as a bishop shows that the "focus of unity" excuse is only deployed as a cover for homophobia, and is not applied to exclude candidates who are outspoken, extremist and divisive teachers from other points of view.

Posted by: badman on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 10:12am GMT

In a consumer society, I can order an extra strong medium latte if I so choose. But my understanding of the role of bishop as a focus of unity is rather the opposite - I am in communion with him or her, whether or not I agree with his or her views, liturgical style or whatever, and hence with all the others locally who are. We may disagree profoundly and try to change one another's views and actions but we are part of a church family which does not get to pick and choose, being invited to the table of a God who keeps the oddest company from our own point of view.

In 2013, only about a fifth of Anglicans in Britain believed that same-sex relationships were always wrong, and I suspect this may be lower now, so a bishop with this view could hardly be a 'focus of unity' if this is about agreement. Perhaps those opposed are more forceful and vocal, but surely the church should not be dominated by those who are loudest and most accustomed to getting their own way? While in some ways it might be nice to pick a bishop in the way I choose at a cafe, perhaps it is quite good for us to have bishops with whom we profoundly disagree now and then. We can then learn something from one another and grow together as the Holy Spirit leads us to a unity based on truth not domination.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 10:32am GMT

Makes the heart sad.

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 10:34am GMT

James wrote, "That there's no real domestic pressure on the state church to change is a grim warning that England, like Australia, isn't near as liberal on sexuality as many would like to believe."

The key phrase is "state church." We shall see how much longer the Church of England can stay that way.

26 seats in the Lords reserved for heterosexuals?

Posted by: Jeremy non P on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 11:19am GMT

Re: Rod Thomas's appointment ... the article is about the CNC, which nominates diocesan bishops. It is diocesan bishops particularly who are the focus of unity in their diocese. Rod Thomas is a suffragan bishop, and sufragans are not nomiated by the CNC.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 3:17pm GMT

Err. The original document GS Misc 1044 was intended to apply also to suffragan bishop appointments, and IIRC was circulated to all diocesans accordingly. I would be surprised if this supplementary document was not similarly intended, and had not been similarly circulated.

Whether the customary diocesan consultation process for a suffragan appointment was in fact followed for the recent Maidstone appointment is another question, I have absolutely no idea if it was.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 3:25pm GMT

The Anglican Communion still includes ECUSA, right? So #21 and #22 cut both ways?

Some unrelated questions...What is the legal force of GS Misc 1044? Who wrote GS Misc 1044? Who had to approve GS Misc 1044 before it was published?

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 3:34pm GMT

"Surely it is always wrong to see 'unity' and 'justice' as mutually opposed goods or to favour one at the expense of the other?"

What a peculiar moral position. Jesus never calls for unity. He calls for justice and compassion. Sometimes "unity" and justice are mutually opposed. CoE's treatment of LGBTQ people is Exhibit A.

This document makes it clear that "unity" is a euphemism for homophobic or closeted. And this "unity" is more important than the Gospel call to love all of our neighbors and see all people as created in the Image of God.

In the US, we have the example of MLK writing from the Birmingham (Alabama) Jail that he was convinced that moderates were a worse obstacle to justice than that racist hate mongers. He noted that these moderates (who had written to him asking him to back off of his provocative work) were asking a vulnerable people to continue to carry the burden of injustice for the sake of the comfortable status quo.

CoE demands that everyone in its leadership heap burdens upon LGBT people for the sake of a false, ugly, and hateful "unity."

There may indeed be a sort of unity that respects all people in the midst of disagreement about particulars. But that is not what this document calls for.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 3:54pm GMT

The Guidance on GS MISC 1044 (March 2014) states that the CNC may ‘lawfully take into account the *content and manner* of any public statements previously made by [the candidate] about the Church’s traditional teaching on same-sex relations (15)’ in terms of the criterion of a bishop as ‘a focus of unity’:

‘Taking a consideration of this kind into account is different from imposing a requirement. Rather in terms of the Equality Act, it involves the application of a “criterion”, in the light of which (amongst other criteria) the decision on nomination would be made’ (16).

(NB there is no mention of anything of this kind in the parent document GSMISC 1044).

Whereas the House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (15 Feb 2014) states that:

‘The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching (25)’.

It would appear that in the Church of England the clergy ‘are able to argue’ for change (so long as they don’t put it into action in their lives) but at the same time can be penalized for so arguing in ‘public’ (whatever is supposed to count as ‘public’ – the press? Books and articles? Sermons?). It is hard to see how this is placing ‘a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity’.

Furthermore, the Guidance document does not tell us what counts as the acceptable and unacceptable ‘content and manner’ of such statements. Who decides? Does the decision have anything to do with the sexuality of the candidate? Is any of this information to be made public? In order for this ‘criterion’ to be applied fairly, wouldn’t ALL the public statements on human sexuality by ALL the candidates before a CNC have to be assessed by the CNC against the (undisclosed) standards as to the ‘content and manner’ of such statements?

Posted by: Cassandra on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 4:21pm GMT

Could someone let me know, if I table a question to the at GS along these lines, it would be helpful. I need to table it by end of Wednesday!!!! So an early response please. Any suggested amended wording would be welcome.

"Since the latest version of GS Misc 1044, with paras 14 to 22, was made available on the C of E website at the beginning of November but is dated March 2015, I assume that it is intended to clarify the position in the light of the questions raised in General Synod in February 2015.

Thus in the interests of clarity, can you confirm that this guidance note will be implemented even-handedly and will apply BOTH to candidates who have spoken out AGAINST, as well as those who have spoken out IN FAVOUR of, the inclusion of the inclusion of LGTB people. So that ALL may find that their views are taken legally into account in deciding whether to prevent someone with widely-held views from entering the episcopal ministry on the grounds of threat to the focus of unity."

Posted by: Malcolm on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 5:10pm GMT

This is obviously not great reading for most commentators on TA. But read 19 and 20 carefully. I read them as saying 'we could appoint a partnered gay person, provided they had not made themselves a public spokesperson on the issue'. Or perhaps even, 'we will appoint a partnered gay person, just not Jeffrey John because then there would be a massive international fuss'. 22 rolls back on that a bit, but from a progressive perspective it could be worse.

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 5:28pm GMT

Malcolm, just for the sake of persuasive wording, I would reverse the order of the last sentence, to end on a strong and positive note:

If the concern is whether a candidate for bishop can be a focus of unity, then shouldn't that unity be determined by taking ALL views into account--especially the view, widely held in England if not in Africa, that same-sex marriages, like other marriages, are a positive good?

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 5:29pm GMT

If the CNC is now expecting a candidate for the episcopate consistently in their public teaching to have upheld the biblical doctrine of the Church of England on sexual ethics throughout their ministry, then they are absolutely right.

According to Canon A5, the biblical doctrine of the Church of England is to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles of Religion. The BCP order of Holy Matrimony is not less than biblical in its description of sex outside heterosexual marriage. It calls it 'fornication'.

Because the historic Anglican formularies reflecting the supreme and final authority of the Bible so clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman, Article XXXII, 'Of the Marriage of Priests', must be read from that perspective. Whatever the law of the land, it would not be in accordance with God's law for a presbyter, as for all other Christian people, to marry 'at their own discretion' a person of the same sex.

Any licensed minister who taught or practised otherwise would not be spiritually and morally fit to instruct Christ's people in any context.

Posted by: Julian Mann on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 5:35pm GMT

Commentators here talk in terms of LGBT or LGBTQ but the guidance really only relates to LGB. One might hope that means there would be no objection to someone who is transgendered or who has been through gender reassignment (they are not the same thing) being made a bishop ... but it's perhaps more likely that such an outcome is considered so risible that the guidance ignores it.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 7:19pm GMT

I think it is now time for the Dean of St. Albans to call for an Employment Tribunal.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 7:26pm GMT

Agree 100 percent, Cynthia, but "unity" is a figleaf for the true reason: those leaders of the Church of England who aren't evangelical are afraid of those who are; or more precisely, afraid of losing their numbers and, above all, their money. He who pays the piper gets to call the tune.

And while Savi may be on-point about sympathies in the pews, a majority of English lay members don't feel strongly enough to actually force change. They're not powerless: they could withhold their donations, issue votes of no confidence against unsympathetic priests, protest outside the bishops' palaces, and elect representatives to General Synod. If 10,000 Anglicans stood outside *that* body denouncing homophobia, institutional homophobia would be history in a weekend.

None of that's happened. Like MLK's white moderates, a majority of English Anglicans may support LGBT people in theory, but as with the bishops who privately comfort gay clergy while publicly parroting the party line, their support is so theoretical it may as well not exist.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 7:48pm GMT

Cynthia claims that, "Jesus never calls for unity"; I'm astounded by this comment! What about John 17?

Posted by: Mark Mesley on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 8:37pm GMT

Malcolm,

Is it worth incorporating Cassandra's helpful comment (See 9th Nov 4.21PM above)

"Since the latest version of GS Misc 1044, with paras 14 to 22, was made available on the C of E website at the beginning of November but is dated March 2015, I assume that it is intended to clarify the position in the light of the questions raised in General Synod in February 2015.

Firstly, noting that House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (15 Feb 2014) states ‘The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality'. Can you clarify how clergy who follow such guidance will be considered in light of this recent guidance note.

Secondly, can you confirm that this guidance note will be implemented even-handedly and will apply BOTH to candidates who have spoken out AGAINST, as well as those who have spoken out IN FAVOUR of, the inclusion of LGTB people. So that ALL may find that their views are taken legally into account in deciding whether to prevent someone with widely-held views from entering the episcopal ministry on the grounds of threat to the focus of unity."

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 8:59pm GMT

I have put down the following question for the forthcoming inaugural Group of Sessions of General Synod:

What current plans exist for the Crown Nominations Commission to report to Synod, as envisaged by SO 146(4)?

Part of the answer should be that ++Sentamu told the last Synod that there would be a report in 2016. Events are now moving at quite a pace. This needs to be a priority for the February Synod. Synod needs to know how the 'advice' in GS Misc 1044 (a most curious document) is being applied in practice and also how the CNC is dealing with the consideration of women, especially where a diocesan group might say they want episcopal experience. There needs to be transparency of process, while protecting confidentiality of deliberation. I am not confident much new light will be shed. But I will have the opportunity to ask a supplementary question and under the new procedures for questions will have plenty of time to reflect on what that question should be!!

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 10:35pm GMT

In the last decade or so, unity has derived from Lambeth 1:10, as articulated by the Windsor process, so by definition 'Focus of Unity' accords with that resolution. Opposition to women's ministry is irrelevant. The rigorous screening of candidates' previous public statements for 'content and manner' has the effect of policing subsequent comments. No appointee to my knowledge since the Bishop of Salisbury has so vocally and trenchantly expressed views at variance with the Party line. And it would be hard to do so given the oaths of canonical obedience and the lack of specificity regarding 'the way in which that disagreement had been expressed' meaning that comments tending to imperil unity could be regarded unfavourably.

Posted by: Andrew on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 10:41pm GMT

The notion that unity is found in teachers rather than The Teacher is part of the deep problem with this sad display of institutionalism.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 9 November 2015 at 11:09pm GMT

O yes, and if The Episcopal Church lacked 'teachers' in favor of 'The Teacher' -- this would be the mercy of God.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 12:14am GMT

"Any licensed minister who taught or practised otherwise (than a conservative sola-scriptura view of homosexuality) would not be spiritually and morally fit to instruct Christ's people in any context."

- Julian Mann -

Any more than would a priest whose ministry is inclined to moral judgement more than God's mercy towards all God's children (including Gays & Women).

Christian priests are not there to judge (that is the task of God alone) but to dispense mercy and forgiveness.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 2:10am GMT

Julian Mann,
you see, my personal view would be that anyone who seriously believes that God randomly singles out 5% of humanity and tells them they must never fulfil their inborn natural human longing for love and intimacy, knowing is highly likely to cause them mental harm, has such a shaky understanding of God that it invalidates almost pretty much everything else they could say to me about that God.

But that's beside the point.
The point is that it should be the office that is the focus of unity, not the incumbent.

When we debated women priests it was perfectly possible for bishops to have their own personal views and to voice those views, without anyone thinking they could not be bishops.

What kind of unity is it that is in word only? What kind of unity is it that is enforced against the opinions of over 50% of people in the church? What does it mean to say: we are currently having a debate about sexuality in the church, but we officially already declare that only one view in this debate is valid and allowed? Before General Synod has said anything about it at all? When everyone knows that we’re having this debate precisely because lay people, clergy and bishops are NOT agreed about this issue?

I want a church that is honest. And honesty would suggest that we accept that there is a genuine conversation going on. And that we do not manipulate it with a false cloak of theological hocus pocus.
The task is to have that debate, properly, openly, with all the from all sides theology at our disposal.
Not to punish those who hold a view officialdom currently doesn’t like.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 10:16am GMT

From the Bishop's exhortation in the Ordinal (Ordering of Priests):

'You have heard, brethren, as well in your private examination, as in the exhortation which was now made to you, and in the holy Lessons taken out of the Gospel and the writings of the Apostles, of what dignity and of how great importance this office is, whereunto ye are called. And now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you have in remembrance, into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge ye are called: that is to say, to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.'

Surely totally incompatible with postmodern narcissism and self-serving careerism?

Posted by: Julian Mann on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 10:25am GMT

With all due respect, Ron, I really don't want mercy and forgiveness. I want recognition that my love for my partner is right and true and beautiful. I want recognition that it is just as moral as the love between a man and a woman. I want justice.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 11:04am GMT

Once again Father Ron you demonstrate your insight, thank you

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 12:42pm GMT

"The BCP order of Holy Matrimony is not less than biblical in its description of sex outside heterosexual marriage. It calls it 'fornication'."

But of course the BCP also states that Matrimony was "ordained . . . to avoid fornication."

So if LGBT people wish "to avoid fornication," then they should marry.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 1:26pm GMT

Erika, I agree with all you say, but this is decided by realpolitik, not what's right.

Same-sex relationships will never be accepted in the Church of England until either of two things happens: a majority of evangelicals are persuaded that Paul isn't in fact saying that homosexuality per se is a "salvation issue"; or other wings of the church (including accepting evangelicals) can make up the shortfall in bodies and cash. Or, as a minimum, mitigate it enough so the church in England can survive.

That's where we are, and all focus needs to be on finding solutions to that specific problem. Because until they're available, all appeals to justice will fall on deaf ears. The English bishops simply don't think in those terms, and never will, however wrong it may be. They're pragmatic, and so too must be the solutions.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 2:30pm GMT

I don't understand why it is okay to block traditionalists from becoming diocesan bishops because it would undermine women clergy but on the other hand it is perfectly proper to appoint a diocesan bishop whose teaching undermines the ministry of those in the diocese who teach the CofE official teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman. If we block diocesan sees to traditionalists then simple justice and consistency means that we also block them to those who publicaly dissent from the teaching of the CofE on the traditional view of marriage.

Posted by: Geo Noakes on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 2:42pm GMT

The thing is, Julian Mann, that on matters of morality it is the church, which, guided by the Holy Spirit, makes the rules. The fact that once, when the 39 Articles were compiled, or the exhortations in the BCP written, the church thought one thing does not preclude its now thinking that at the time it did not have all the facts at its disposal. It has done this over women priests, and over women bishops. This issue is the same.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 2:42pm GMT

James,
it's tricky, isn't it.
Because this proposal comes close to foul play designed precisely so that there can be no free debate and consequently no discovery that evangelicals are, in fact, far less conservative than is generally assumed.

All research suggests that almost half of all evangelicals are by now privately supportive of gay relationships.
This research is well known.
What stops people from speaking out? Peer pressure and fear of reprisals.

It's almost as if the hierarchy knows this and wants to make sure that the fear of reprisals doesn't lift - because in a genuinely free debate where all views are heard and respected, they would lose.

Does CoE realpolitik now include deliberately silencing of those who support a particular view?
Then the answer has to be to shine a very bright light onto that practice and ensure it changes.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 2:54pm GMT

Jeremy / Simon. Thanks for suggestions on my draft question. I've hopefully improved it in the light of your comments and it's now gone off to Secretariat. Hopefully it will produce a helpful response on the day and the two supplementaries, I may not use mine, will enable follow up.
Malcolm

Posted by: Malcolm Halliday on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 4:45pm GMT

Erika
I am afraid your logic is flawed. Why does God permit so many to be born into abject poverty? Why are some born with physical disabilities. Suggesting that being born gay cannot be a God-sent challenge can feel like a kick-in-the-teeth to those born with other challenges which cannot be rationalised away. It is an argument I suggest you eschew if you wish to avoid causing upset.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 4:56pm GMT

Kate,
please help me here.
Anyone can be born into poverty, or end up poor later in life. Gay or straight.
Anyone can be born with physical disabilities. Gay or straight.
When my daughter had leukaemia, we knew that this was one of those things that could have happened to anyone.

All sorts of sad and tragic things can happen randomly to anyone.
And it's the randomness that's the key.
There is, as far as I'm aware, no other instance in the Bible where God consistently singles out one particular group of people for a lesser life.

The other difference is that there is no notion of sinfulness involved in being disabled or poor or suffering from mental illness etc.
But gay people are being told that God believes their natural human desires for love to be sinful and that that is why they must suffer. When there is no single obvious answer to just what is sinful about it and why it is sinful.

That random God does not exist.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 5:34pm GMT

" to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.'

Surely totally incompatible with postmodern narcissism and self-serving careerism?

Posted by: Julian Mann on Tuesday, 10 November

Frankly, Julian Mann, I don't see anything there that is incompatible with the recognition of God's creation at work in people whose intrinsic sexuality is different from 'the norm'. In fact, a priest might just be advised to make a real effort to understand why God created up to 10% of human beings in this way that is 'different'. Perhaps this is just one more way of respecting the infinite variety of God's Creation.

Another aspect of the priestly ministry is to welcome people on the margins of society - which is probably how you see the LGBT community.

However, like Rosemary, I want the Church to be pro-aqctive in recognising the fact that there are many Gay people who are already part of the ministry of Hod's Church - whether, or not, they choose to exercise their God-given sexuality.


Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 9:40pm GMT

Erika,

I am not saying whether your conclusion is right or wrong. But your logic is wrong.

And where does this "lesser life" thing you now mention come from? If male gay sex is wrong (and I say "if" not "because" quite deliberately) then choosing to express that one loves the Lord more than one's partner by engaging in abstinence is no "lesser life".

And what of those born unable to have a normal physical relationship? Those for instance born female in gender and spirit but with a male body for whom any sexual contact is impossible. In a modern Western society they might receive surgery but for thousands of years that was impossible and is still unavailable to many in the modern world. How should they reconcile their state with your statement that,

"You see, my personal view would be that anyone who seriously believes that God randomly singles out 5% of humanity and tells them they must never fulfil their inborn natural human longing for love and intimacy, knowing is highly likely to cause them mental harm, has such a shaky understanding of God that it invalidates almost pretty much everything else they could say to me about that God."

Have people then born into the wrong sex body but unable to access surgery been singled out for a "lesser life"? That seems to be what you are saying.

I am sorry but your logic is wrong. (But I am not commenting on your conclusion that gay sex is OK, just your logic to support that conclusion.)

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 2:45am GMT

Rosemary,
Again, while your conclusion may or may not be correct, the comparison is if not inaccurate, at least imperfect.

"The fact that once, when the 39 Articles were compiled, or the exhortations in the BCP written, the church thought one thing does not preclude its now thinking that at the time it did not have all the facts at its disposal. It has done this over women priests, and over women bishops. This issue is the same."

With women priests, the Lord has chosen in modern times to reveal fragments of various non-canonical gospels, some of which suggest that Mary Magdalene might have been a teacher like the male disciples. That is a new fact which has come to light in relation to women priests. It is *possible* to believe that the modern recovery of alternative Gospels is a modern-day revelation of teaching lost since the time of Jesus. A *possible* new fact.

There have been no new revelations in those lost gospels, so far as I am aware, in relation to sexuality. Indeed, one of the key challenges to the whole argument that in terms of sexuality the Bible only spoke in relation to the morality of the times, is why the Lord has not released further revelation on sexuality in modern times through the recovery of lost gospels.

Again, I stress I am not saying that gay sex or marriage is wrong, just that I don't think the comparison with the theology of recognising women priests is a particularly accurate one.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 3:02am GMT

Mark wrote "Cynthia claims that, "Jesus never calls for unity"; I'm astounded by this comment! What about John 17?"

Please explain, Mark. I presume you mean this passage: "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one."

We are one in the Eucharist, not in being homophobic jerks.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 4:05am GMT

Erika, agreed that many lay evangelicals don't take a hardline POV, especially since many are "evangelical" in only the loosest possible sense. They like charismatic services with modern music, and feel they have a personal relationship with Jesus, but don't obsess about the minutiae of Corinthians or the anthropology of Eden anymore than you or I do.

Also agree that peer pressure plays a large part. Evangelicals are, by and large, instinctively loyal to their leaders, and its those leaders who must either be persuaded to change their interpretation of scripture (unlikely), or to tolerate a "lifestyle" they believe will send those who live it to Hell (slightly less unlikely, but sill, an uphill strugge).

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 6:01am GMT

The terms the Ordinal uses to describe the role of the pastor are firmly grounded in the Scriptures. For the minister as 'watchman' warning of the consequences of disobeying the Lord's Word, see Ezekiel 33; for the minister as one entrusted with the 'stewardship' of the Lord's message, see 1 Corinthians 9v16-17 and Ephesians 3v2.

These Ordinal terms resound with the objective, supreme and final authority of God's revealed Word in the Bible. On sexual ethics therefore the pastor is failing in his duty if he does not teach and practise consistently and publicly that for the Christian the choice is between celibacy and heterosexual marriage.

The Ordinal breathes biblical holiness.

Posted by: Julian Mann on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 8:04am GMT

Kate,
Let’s start with observed reality. We know that gay people are capable of forming the same stable, loving attachments as straights and that these lead to the same emotional stability as they do for straight people.
We also know that telling gay people that they are, for some completely inexplicable reason, sinful if they form a loving life-long bond, to the extent that they must not even think of it, leads to mental health problems, to a vastly increased rate of self-harm, attempted suicide and completed suicide.
If you tell one child in your family that, for no obvious reason, they are loved and cherished and they will one day be able to get married and lead a happy life with a beloved person, you are guiding that child towards believing that they are capable of being loved and of giving love.
If you tell that child’s sibling that, for no obvious reason, they are loved and cherished, but that there is something so sinful about them that they must never think of dreaming about a first kiss, about romantic love and about family life, you are guiding that child towards a life of deep emotional trauma.

You say that that’s the price to pay if God has declared that gay sex is sinful.
I say that is theological evidence that God cannot have declared that gay sex is sinful.
Trans people are in the same sorry boat, when we tell them that they cannot just decide who they think they want to be, when we insist that they must not use the public toilets they feel most comfortable in, when we tell them (as we used to), that on gender reassignment surgery they must divorce their spouse.

Yes, there are people who are incapable of having sexual relationships. There is a shocking amount of human suffering out there.
But we are not (I hope!) saying that God wills that suffering and that he deliberately inflicts it. That would be adding an unbearable burden to what is already an incredibly difficult life.

It’s only in the case of gay people that we say that God actively WILLS that suffering and the associated mental health damage. And that he wishes it upon people who would be capable of lasting relationships. There is nothing to stop them – other than God declaring that they must not.
That is unique in Scripture.
And that is not what God does.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 9:31am GMT

I wonder if some of the tenor of the guidance (guidance to the guidance) document has been overlooked here. Thus, is it significant that it talks about both the content and the *manner* of public statements made? So far we've really focussed on the issue of content, not manner.

I think it's been made clear that clergy are free to question the traditional teaching on marriage, but it is the manner of questioning that may be significant. I would argue (although others will probably disagree) that this should cut both ways and that the manner in which one might have *agreed* with the church's traditional teaching on marriage could also be a factor.

So, simply expressing an opinion, a belief, and giving reasons for holding that belief may be fine. However,

- making any sort of dehumanising comments about those whose views differ from our own,
- intimating that those whose views differ from our own are bigotted,
- intimating that those whose views differ from our own are not "true Christians", or
- intimating that those whose views differ from our own would not be spiritually and morally fit to instruct Christ's people in any context (vide supra)

may be...less OK...

Demonstration of an inability to work alongside those from the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England (even if one does not simultaneously hold to all of those traditions, which is clearly impossible) would seem to be a reasonable bar from the episcopate. I think that currently it would probably be a bar from selection for training for ordination (judging from my own discussions in this area but YMMV).

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 11:11am GMT

"Demonstration of an inability to work alongside those from the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England . . . would seem to be a reasonable bar."

But Alastair, such a bar would be much heavier for LGBT priests. After all, some Anglican "traditions" deny that LGBT people can even be priests.

Such a "bar" is akin to asking everyone to be nice to unreconstructed racists. Obviously that task will be more difficult, if one is not white.

In other words, it's discrimination, plain and simple. It's asking LGBT priests to bear (even more of) a burden that their heterosexual counterparts need not worry about at all.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 12:16pm GMT

But unreconstructed racism is not within the breadth of tradition, teaching and belief of the Church of England, though, is it?

The "bar" you mention should surely therefore also apply to female priests, given that there are some within the CofE who do not recognise their priesthood? The number of women being priested, and now being consecrated to the episcopate, would show that that bar no longer exists.

Also, ability to work alongside others with whom we profoundly disagree does not mean tacitly agreeing with them.

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 12:55pm GMT

Alastair, you are the one using the term "bar" and saying it is "reasonable."

Unreconstructed racism, not now, no. But unreconstructed sexism, yes. And unreconstructed heterosexism, yes, obviously.

I'm not a female priest in the Church of England. I defer to them to let us both know whether they face challenges that male priests do not face, in dealing with Anglicans who do not accept women as priests.

On your reading, this CNC announcement puts a greater burden of being gracious on those who are discriminated against.

It also effectively would muffle calls for change. After all, those who challenge the status quo risk seeming less gracious, simply because (by definition) most people accept the status quo.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 3:39pm GMT

Well Kate, as regards the non-canonical gospels, frankly I would not turn to them for a great deal of help with the historical Jesus (though Thomas of course gets a somewhat different place among them). What really changed the attitude to woman becoming priests and bishops was a recognition that what the Pauline and pseudo-Pauline letters had to say on the role of women was something we saw as created by the conditions of that age, and not a universal. Indeed the very realisation that the overwhelming probability was that the 'pastoral' epistles were pseudonymous, and that we could trace increasing misogyny in them the later it was likely they were, drove our reluctance to take their teaching as valid for our age.
Moreover, the real driver was that we saw that women could perform all the roles required of a priest and perform then well. All that was lacking was to put all the roles into one job, instead of many jobs. Our experience of women as leaders, teachers, preachers and pastors was what drove change.
It became impossible for the majority of Anglicans to believe women were unable to become priests and bishops.
I think the parallels with the marriages of same sex couples are clear.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 7:42pm GMT

Theologically, it was a robust doctrine of baptism and an account of what the incarnation accomplished for the Old Adam -- male and female.

Same-sex marriage will require a different theological warrant. The difficulty in accessing that is why evangelicals in the CofE may be said to see the matters differently.

'Woman can do the job just as well as men' did not persuade them on the matter of women in orders. It took a theological argument that was persuasive. And it did not persuade headship evangelicals or species of Anglo-Catholics.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 at 9:49pm GMT

"The terms the Ordinal uses to describe the role of the pastor are firmly grounded in the Scriptures. For the minister as 'watchman' warning of the consequences of disobeying the Lord's Word, see Ezekiel 33; for the minister as one entrusted with the 'stewardship' of the Lord's message, see 1 Corinthians 9v16-17 and Ephesians 3v2."

And where exactly does Jesus or God speak against equal marriage? Does the ordinal advocate stoning adulterers, people who eat shelllfish, sport tatoos, or wear mixed fibres? Does the ordinal advocate polygamy and treating women as chattel?

Scripture says a lot about divorce, is the ordinal firm on that?

The cherry picking that one has to do to exclude and oppress LGBTQ members on "the basis of Scripture" reeks of hypocrisy. Reeks.

Meanwhile, it is much clearer to look to Jesus who tells us to love all our neighbors and not to judge. Simple. Clean. And apparently impossible, but the least we can do is admit it.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 3:19am GMT

Well, cseitz, so you say. The fact is that until women began to become aware of their abilities, and began to become doctors, teachers, to press for and to gain degrees, to become head teachers of mixed schools and all the rest, until then nobody thought to look for the theology. Of course, some people were then persuaded by the theology, although almost all of us who debated women being ordained and consecrated have been met by cries of: 'But nobody has done the theology!' While most women who have been ordained have been met, sooner or later, by somebody who says: 'I used to be against the ordination of women, but watching you celebrate the Eucharist has changed my mind.'

Thus and so the changing of minds over the marriage of persons of the same sex.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 8:46am GMT

When the Ordinal uses the term 'watchman' to describe the Christian minister, it fully recognises that the Old Testament Scriptures have now been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his New Testament gospel. This is consistent with the 39 Articles, Article VII of which makes clear that the ceremonial, civil and ritual precepts of the Old Testament do not bind the Christian but the moral precepts do.

The Apostle Paul exemplified the role of the watchman in his address to the Ephesian presbyters in Acts 20: 'I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of everyone. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God' (v26-27 - NIV).

As regards sexual behaviour, Paul explicitly warned the Christians at Corinth that those who unrepentantly commit sexual sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6v9).

Posted by: Julian Mann on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 9:10am GMT

The Ordinal fully recognises that the Old Testament Scriptures are now fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his New Testament gospel. This is consistent with the 39 Articles of Religion, Article VII of which states that the civil, ceremonial and ritual precepts of the Old Testament are not binding on Christians but the moral ones are.

The Apostle Paul inspiringly exemplified the role of the Christian minister as ‘watchman’ in his address to the Ephesian presbyters in Acts 20: ‘I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of everyone. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’ (v26-27 - NIV).

As for sexual conduct, Paul explicitly warned the Christians at Corinth that those who persistently and unrepentantly commit sexual sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6v9).

Posted by: Julian Mann on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 5:33pm GMT

The question is Julian Mann: is marriage between to persons of the same sex a sin or not. I think you need to recognise that many Christians with no axe to grind at all think it is not.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 6:08pm GMT

To Julian Mann:

I recognize that this is an English (not a British or even an Anglican) site, and therefore I understand your arguments and your focus. To the extent that they are valid, they apply in England.

But to the rest of the Anglican Communion, such as it is, reference to the 39 Articles is simple irrelevance. In Scotland, for example, they never applied. They can't be a basis of theology for Anglicans outside England.

Surely, though, if theology is valid, it doesn't apply only in one country. Your argumentation only can apply, if valid, in one country. It does not establish a theological principle at all, it establishes, perhaps, a legal principle of no interest to anyone living outside England.

Fair enough if you are only concerned about England, and not about theology as it applies to the church.

As a christian interested in seeing the growth of the church, I cannot help but wonder about the evangelical effectiveness of walling oneself into a tight little community of those who agree with oneself and at odds with the rest of the society in which one is called to minister. How does it help the mission of the church to ensure that no one who doesn't already accept your viewpoint will ever pay you the slightest heed, because, if they think about you at all, they think your perspective is fundamentally flawed and worthless? (generic you, now)

Posted by: John Holding on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 8:09pm GMT

The question should surely be, what does the one, true and almighty God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, say in his revealed Word about the nature of marriage? Currently, the Church of England is defining marriage biblically in Canon B 30:

'The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord's teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.'

God willing, the Church of England will not surrender to the considerable social and cultural pressure to redefine marriage along politically correct lines.

Posted by: Julian Mann on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 9:17pm GMT

The Canons of the Church of England are the revealed Word of God?

I had no idea.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 12 November 2015 at 11:31pm GMT

"God willing, the Church of England will not surrender to the considerable social and cultural pressure to redefine marriage along politically correct lines."

A ha! This is where you err. Inclusive marriage, as practiced in TEC and wished for my many in England, is not based in political correctness. It is based in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A loving and inclusive Christ who stood up for the outcast, practiced compassion, and whose harshest words were for the religious authorities who used the Law to exclude and demean people, as the Church of England does today to LGBTQ people. A Christ who said "love your neighbor" with no exceptions and don't judge.

The Holy Spirit continues to do her work on the human heart and mind, which is why we no longer burn witches or support slavery and anti-semitism - all horrors that were supposedly supported by Scripture.

Revelation is not political correctness. It is God telling us to get along and respect one another.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 5:19am GMT

"The Ordinal breathes biblical holiness." - J.Mann -

AND, the Word-made-flesh in Christ, in the Eucharist exemplifies the holiness of God. Words in a book - however holy - have no actual breath. The words of the Bible, and even of the Ordinal, have to be broughgt alive in the flesh to become active.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 7:24am GMT

https://youtu.be/oALIgziVmfc

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 8:25am GMT

Shorter Julian Mann: my side, "biblically"; your side, "politically correct."

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 11:31am GMT

The word of God can be alive if uttered by a brute beast or if little child in a swing, as in Augustine's Confessions, sends one to Holy Writ with "take up and read."

Saint Augustine was admirably converted by words on a page.

Those like him are in the countless category.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 1:54pm GMT

It's worth remembering that this is only guidance. It is not necessarily an accurate statement of the law.

Ask a lawyer, "In what circumstances might CNC lawfully reject candidates who are known to be gay?" and one might get guidance like this.

Ask another lawyer, "What protections are there in law to prevent discrimination of gay candidates for elevation to a bishopric?" and the guidance might look very different.

To me this guidance reads as far from an impartial statement of the law, which might offer more protection that the document suggests. What is concerning, however, is what sort of instruction to lawyers would give rise to guidance looking like this and what does that say about the church? I think someone should enquire precisely what the terms of reference were for this guidance.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 7:05pm GMT

There's simply a fundamental problem with insisting that each and every bishop be a "focus of unity." The CoE has a disgraceful history of insisting on doing and supporting injustice for the sake of "unity."

Cynthia, they--we--have done far worse than that:

http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/dogma/tangled-anglican-web/

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Friday, 13 November 2015 at 10:36pm GMT

Kate
Perhaps someone can use a supplementary question to that effect. The deadline for tabling original questions is now gone.

Posted by: Malcolm Halliday on Saturday, 14 November 2015 at 1:22pm GMT

"The word of God can be alive if uttered by a brute beast" - cseitz -

Like Balaam's Ass, do you mean?

And as for Mr. Mann, there are very few Anglicans nowadays - outside of the C. of E. - who actually use the 39 Articles as an extension of the Christian Creeds - which are the basis of our theology.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 16 November 2015 at 4:26am GMT
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