Thursday, 17 December 2015
Reactions to Winchester banning of married clergyman
There have been a lot of people writing letters to the Bishop of Winchester to complain about his refusal to issue a Permission to Officiate to the retired priest, Jeremy Davies.
Three of the most thoughtful articles about this matter are these:
Rachel Mann An Open Christmas Letter to Bishop Tim Dakin. Do read it all the way through. Here’s the last bit:
I pray to God that your decision was not an easy one. (Although, if it was, I hope you have pause to ask ‘Why?’ in the weeks to come. Surely any decision that can have costly emotional and personal fallout for others should not be taken from the safety of ‘due process’ and ‘best legal advice’.) I also think that these might be quite difficult weeks ahead for you. Even with the most robust sense of self, negative press is wearing.
I know it’s tempting in such circumstances to attempt to rework this emotional distress into a kind of positive; that is, into an opportunity to participate in Christ’s woundedness and sufferings. To ‘play’ a part that saves us from moral culpability or villainy. You may well do this and I’m hardly in a position to argue you shouldn’t do that. We all work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
But – I hope you can forgive my boldness – may I commend another aspect to consider? In those distressing moments I think you will have (my constructed version of you, my hopeful version of you, thinks you will have them) I ask you to pause and pray. To think of Jeremy and Simon. To not lose sight of their human being and their particularity and their distress. And though (I admit my limitation here) I don’t think your distress is exactly commensurate (you being a bishop with all the privilege that goes with that etc.) I hope there may be a conversion to ‘the other’ in the mysteries of prayer and distress. The theatre of Tragedy, after all, reminds us that there is some knowledge that only comes through pain and wounds. And the Christian story reminds us that tragedy is very close to comedy; to the possibility of a world in which wounds are bound and the falsely imprisoned set free.
Forgive me. I get carried away. Especially at Christmas. Christmas is so very cheesy, but it can still startle me in the most extraordinary way. The Christ-child always reminds me that God comes among us not with clever arguments or theological constructions, but as that most fragile and defenceless thing, a baby. His only power is to elicit love. The encounter we make with God in the Christ-child is beyond the obvious delights of reason. It is in our shared humanity and holy simplicity. A thousand theological and political arguments come crashing down in Bethlehem on that Holy Night.
So may you have a blessed Christmas, Tim. But also, - along with Canon Jeremy, his husband Simon, me, and everyone who is simply trying to get on with being faithful and hopeful – a disrupting one. Where the Saviour without Safety pulls down the walls between us and we can never be the same again.
Beth Routledge The Appalling Silence of the Good. Here are some extracts (but again do read the whole thing from the beginning):
…The silence from the hierarchy of the Church of England has been deafening.
Senior figures of the Church have either been living under a rock since Saturday, or else they are all keeping their heads down and hoping that if they stay quiet then this will all go away…
…I still struggle to find any love or common sense in the response of a Church that chooses to punish someone for marrying the person they love. I’ve witnessed it from inside the process — on this matter, the Scottish Episcopal Church cannot claim any moral high ground — as well as watching from the outside when something like this happens in England. I find anger and hurt and pain. I rarely find any sense of pastoral response or responsibility. I cannot believe I am seeing what God wants.
And three days after this story broke, still that deafening sound of nothing from everyone associated with the Church of England.
That is a strategy that isn’t acceptable and never worked anyway, and speaking for myself I find that I’m no longer able to pretend to respect individuals who are supportive of me just so long as I never expect them to say it out loud or in public or when it might matter.
Because here’s the thing:
Either people in the Church think that LGBT people are made in the image and likeness and love of God, and recognise that LGBT people are in and of the Church, and want the Church to value and cherish the hopes and dreams of its LGBT clergy, or they don’t.
The more we hear of stories like this one and the more senior figures in the Church of England avoid talking about them, the louder I hear their answer.
Christina Rees The Church has banned a gay priest - here’s what you can do about it
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Thursday, 17 December 2015 at 9:22am GMT
…At some point, the Church of England is bound to change its legal position on same -sex marriage too. But changing some people’s hearts and minds on the issue will take much longer.
If you don’t like what’s happened to Jeremy Davies and others in similar positions, then you have some choices. Write to the bishops and let them know what you think. Stand for deanery, diocesan or General Synod - although you’ll have to wait nearly five years for the next elections.
Join a group like Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church, LGCM or Accepting Evangelicals and support the work they’re doing, both within and outside the synodical structures of the Church of England.
One of the most valuable characteristics of Anglicanism is its commitment to being a broad church, where people of differing views - even sharply differing views - can continue to worship, discuss and debate together.
General Synod’s wheels may turn slowly, but at least we have somewhere that lay, clerical and episcopal voices can be heard and where each member’s vote holds equal weight.
So whatever else you do, don’t just sit around getting angry or depressed.
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Church of England
Bishop Dakin has taken a very brave, counter-cultural stand for biblical truth. He's actually done the loving thing both for Jesus' people and for wider society because it is loving to uphold God's truth about the heterosexual nature of marriage, as expressed in Canon B30.
He is clearly paying a cost for this stand because he is bound to be subject to considerable pressure from revisionist lobby groups in the institutional Church, from the secular media and from the forces of political correctness in power.
God willing, he and all who are speaking Christian truth to power will draw encouragement from the Apostle Paul's words in 2 Timothy: 'Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord nor of me his prisoner but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God' (Timothy 2v8 - RSV).
Wow, Julian, I have to admire your chutzpah. Talk about light the blue touch-paper and retire to a safe distance! Speaking as one who is not a member of a revisionist lobby group, the secular media or a force of particular correctness; I find Bishop Dakin's 'stand' petty, mean-minded and spiteful, blighting the end of the career of a talented and gifted priest and pastor, whose only 'sin' appears to be marrying the man he loves.
And as for 'counter-cultural?" Don't make me laugh! I love it when those who have wielded power and bullied and isolated people in the name of 'biblical truth' begin to bleat about being an 'oppressed minority' as soon as they sense that the secular world and the enlightened more than half of the CofE no longer want or need to listen to them.
Julian Mann is always right about everything because he always quotes the Bible. It must be a joy to know everything!
If Simon thinks it's appropriate I copy my email to Bishop Tim here:
Dear Bishop Tim,
I thought I’d drop you a line to give you a real life example of how your treatment of Canon Jeremy Davies pans out in the real world away from church politics.
This year, we will be having 4 young people in their early twenties with us for Christmas. With youthful idealism they try to live by the principles of love, kindness, generosity and tolerance. They believe that Church should stand for those values. They have been brought up to believe that those are Christian values.
They can see that the real world isn’t like that, that it is often politically corrupt, selfish and arbitrary. They live in the harsh world of student loans, bedroom taxes, austerity, we’re not all in this together. Imposed by politicians against the evidence of the damage this does to so many in society.
Church should be counter cultural.
What they have seen is yet another bishop dishing out summary justice without due process. Who abuses his hierarchical power just because he can. Who knows about rigid rules but who, in their eyes, knows nothing about compassion, love and kindness. Who just doesn’t get that being gay, to them, is just what some people are, and that what counts is with how much love and care for others they live their lives. Who cannot for the life of them understand why anyone would want to punish someone for getting married.
They will not accompany us to church this Christmas after all.
I don’t know how likely it is that your actions will have impressed four young people somewhere in the country. Here, you have lost four young people who were just contemplating giving a Midnight Mass or a Christmas Day Service a try.
And the C of E wonders why fewer and fewer people come to it...
Julian, since the Cofe made certain that it obtained a quadruple lock to prevent 'it' having to marry people of the same gender in committed, faithful, loving, relationships, it has created a breach between canon B30 and civil marriage. The Church has done this and not the State.
What is 'biblical truth' and how does it differ from any other kind of truth?
"share in suffering"
What is it about other people marrying that makes you suffer?
These are terrific letters. They certainly are powerful Witness against the charade that bishops who punish gay clergy are a "focus of unity."
It's crucial to end the silence. The CoE leadership uses silence and inaction to justify themselves and live in a false "unity."
LGBTQ inclusion is also Biblically based, Julian. "Love they neighbor," ALL of them, without legalistic exception. "Don't judge" because no man is justified. "Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God." Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the prisoner, shelter the homeless. The Bible calls us to radical hospitality and to forgive the debts of the poor. This is the overwhelming message of the Bible. That the powerful status quo continues to twist this message into one of hate to wield nasty power against God's Children is most unfortunate, to say the very least.
Many thanks to Erika Baker for saying so eloquently what I have been wanting to say.
Julian Mann. thanks for yet another message of hate dressing itself up as righteousness.
Cynthia's point is acute:
How can a bishop be a 'focus of unity' when he imposes sanctions for gay sexuality that half the Church membership think is decent, legitimate, and loving?
I also wish to thank Erika Baker.
Jesus of Nazareth may be the door, the Way, for Christians to enter, but there sure are a lot of people determined to put roadblocks, checkpoints, security screens, and trap doors in front of it, so that only the "proper sort" may enter that door.
Julian Mann is so obviously a prisoner of his own conscience. What a pity then that he cannot bring himself to reocgnise other people's desire and right to follow theirs.
His famous namesake, Julian of Norwich, with her 'Revelations of Divine Love' would probably have seen things differently from her sola/Scriptural latter-day conservative co-religionist.
Because the phrase "focus of unity," as currently interpreted, does not mean "focus of unity within the Church of England." Instead, at least through next month, the phrase means "focus of unity within the Anglican Communion."
In other words, English bishops must apparently give due regard to their actions' effects not only in Norwich, but also in Nigeria. This is of course laughable in a church founded on the principle that foreign prelates have no jurisdiction in England.
Fortunately I suspect that the January "gathering" will prove that the Communion does not want "unity" of this sort. Already the Sudanese bishops say they are out of communion with TEC. One suspects that in a month we will see that there is little institutional unity left to preserve.
Therefore even the supposed need for CofE bishops to be "foci" of Communion unity will wither away. English bishops can go back to worrying about what is best for England.
And the Anglican family will remain just that--a family of independent churches. Nothing more.
Yet another nail in the coffin. For those who seem to like Biblical quotes: "Where love is, God is"
You know those churches, by and large of a more fundamental nature, that believe that the words of Jesus as quoted in the Bible are more authentic and more meaningful than the narrative, to the point that they need to be printed in red to make them stand out?
I can only assume that in some parts of the CofE, there's an equivalent, although inverted, Bible in circulation in which the words of Jesus are printing in a very light grey, barely visible to the human eye in anything but the brightest light and the clearest conditions.
Because only that way can they read a Bible, get to Mark 12:28-34, and come away with the idea that they can remain Christian by engaging in legalistic haggling over other people's love.
Oh, and it's interesting that Simon quotes three fantastic pieces by women, at least one of them gay, and Erika adds another. I suspect that the people with the light grey letter Bibles would rather that women kept silent anyway.
One assumes in charity that those touting the "heterosexual nature of marriage" on countercultural grounds were equally strong in advocating marriage equality until circa the mid-90s!
"Already the Sudanese bishops say they are out of communion with TEC. One suspects that in a month we will see that there is little institutional unity left to preserve."
Several TEC churches have been giving sanctuary to Sudanese and South Sudanese bishops. My parish gives to South Sudanese causes and has hosted some of the people. The churches that I know who support them are VERY gay friendly. So on the one hand, having supported them robustly, this "schism" hurts. On the other hand, I seriously doubt they are going to eschew our money, our sanctuary, our political, spiritual, and material support. I think this is a publicity stunt and that not a single refugee bishop will pack his bags and move out of housing or give back all the money for schools and health projects.
Time will tell. If I hear of someone eschewing our support, I'll let you know.
How come such a talented and spiritual priest as Canon Jeremy Davies was allowed to remain for over a quarter of a century as Precentor of Salisbury cathedral (a ministry which I am sure he loved) but was never given his own Deanery? Was there any particular reason behind this significant oversight on behalf of the Established Church?
"One assumes in charity that those touting the "heterosexual nature of marriage" on countercultural grounds"
Presumably there a "countercultural" strain in Anglicanism now organising boycotts of South Africa in the hope that they can bring apartheid back? No? Is there a "countercultural" strain demanding the return of the slave trade, on the grounds that William Wilberforce is just too damned mainstream these days? No?
Sometimes, society changes and accepts new ideas because the old ones were bad and the new ones are good. Ending bigotry and discrimination is a good thing, and the only thing achieved by railing against it is making yourself look vile.
Was this latest Jeremy, like the other Jeremy in a similar situation, aware of the bishops' guidance and likely consequences for his chosen actions? I guess so. It seems we can expect more public & legal challenges until such time as we give up pretending we are united even just in England and split. A split would be better for the integrity of everyone - no more blind eyes being turned; and no more inconsistent treatment of people depending on postcodes.
Cynthia - you don't want to help the Sudanese in need if they don't agree with you? You want your charity dollars back if they don't agree with you?
"Cynthia - you don't want to help the Sudanese in need if they don't agree with you? You want your charity dollars back if they don't agree with you?"
Excuse me? How did you leap to that conclusion? I said that I doubt that the Sudanese will refuse the help that TEC churches give and will likely continue to give. I've never, ever, heard of a liberal church ceasing aid to people in need over politics. Some Sudanese bishops are refugees from violence and have housing and support here, no one is going to throw them out. I was only musing if they were going to leave their housing because gay friendly churches are helping pay for it. I find it unlikely.
It's not so much a question of agreement as of agreeing to disagree.
The Sudanese bishops apparently cannot agree to disagree with TEC. The Sudanese bishops have declared their church out of communion with TEC.
If that doesn't change, i don't think anyone would blame TEC for shifting its philanthropy to those who are at least willing to disagree.
In response to S. Cooper (sorry, I don't know your first name, hence the formality):
A split would, in my view, be the easy way out - but might be dodging the challenge and blessing God actually offers us.
Living together is hard sometimes, as human beings, but it can lead us places of forgiveness and grace and love that wouldn't happen, just by turning our backs on each other.
There is no practical reason why we should not respect the consciences of people the other side of your proposed 'split'.
There are good grounds of conscience, as James Byron has accurately pointed out several times, for people who believe in biblical inerrancy to sincerely that gay sex is wrong. And yet they are as much 'children of God' as you or me. As Christians we are in communion with Jesus Christ, through our faith, and whatever profound disagreements we may have, that shared communion with Christ makes us sisters and brothers, whether we like it or not.
We can believe diverse views and still seek grace to co-exist, one with another.
It is the desire to 'control' the agenda of other people's consciences as well as our own, that diverts our communion in Christ to a more schismatic and sectarian focus on our own uniformity of view in the smaller sub-group.
I remain really surprised and disappointed that the Church of England won't simply say, "We have differing views on human sexuality - and need to accept those differing views as conscience issues - but with love and grace we can co-exist, and we don't have to try to dominate the sincerely-held views of the 'others', or split our Church."
Instead, we should allow believers on both 'sides' of the argument over human sexuality to exercise their own consciences.
At this juncture the blame seems to fall notably on our bishops' collegiate attempts to enforce a uniformity where no uniformity exists... and on those provinces that effectively want to blackmail the Communion into a uniformity, and to excise dissenters from 'communion'.
Yet we are all one in Jesus Christ by faith. What are we thinking of? To 'other'... to 'alienate'... is the tribal and sectarian mentality of the human race. It requires no grace. It belies the eternal union, and love, and bonds of the Holy Trinity - ever in communion together, as we are called to be.
Of course, there is a further issue - of the 'alienation' and 'othering' of minority groups. The erasure of gay and lesbian lives from parts of the Church.
But the Church I believe in is a Church of great diversity - of unique individuals, each known by God - and I believe the way of grace is to seek an acceptance of diversity, with those parts of the Church who embrace and affirm gay sexuality able to do so without being dominated (as they are at present) by a religious establishment or dominant group.
Equally, I believe if a church community and its PCC sincerely - in conscience - oppose gay sexuality as less than ideal, or downright sinful... then they should be allowed to live out their convictions as well.
Unity in diversity because our unity is in Christ.
Or else, the Church splinters and splits forever. Everyone in their own 'remnant' group, thanking God they are not like 'those others' over there. I love the Church of England for its diversity, I am saddened by the Church of England when it lacks the courage to accept diversity.
"If that doesn't change, i don't think anyone would blame TEC for shifting its philanthropy to those who are at least willing to disagree."
It isn't like that. TEC churches that are involved in Sudan and South Sudan have built relationships with clergy, parishes, and in some cases, villages. Schools are supported, health projects, etc., and that involves working together at a grass roots level. Somehow I don't think that jerky behaviour by pompous men is going to rip out the roots.
I'm wondering aloud if this "out of communion" rubbish is something that happens at the top, while the rest of us just carry on with the job of loving our neighbor.
We live in a post modern world. Suppose the ABC and the primates really don't actually matter to relationships of the rest of us and the imperative of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Let them declare whatever they want and pretend that means something while the rest of us just do the job.
"It is the desire to 'control' the agenda of other people's consciences as well as our own, that diverts our communion in Christ to a more schismatic and sectarian focus on our own uniformity of view in the smaller sub-group."
Susannah has hit the nail on the head.
While TEC has a clear, inclusive, mandate at our national level, the parish level has a lot of room for conscience, conservative, liberal, whatever. Clergy are not required to marry anyone. Parishes can call conservative rectors.
What is ending, with some transition, is the capacity of middle and upper level leadership to forbid liberal parishes from exercising conscience within entire dioceses.
Some conservatives are deeply distressed that they can no longer oppress the inclusive crowd - save in those last seven hold out dioceses. Even in those dioceses, a couple of the conservative bishops are acting with true Grace to make provisions for gay couples wanting to marry and liberal parishes wanting to exercise conscience.
Despite the distress of those wanting to exercise control over others, it is possible in most cities and suburbs to go to a conservative parish. The rural areas are more problematic, with fewer parishes.
CoE is getting tripped up by it's hierarchy and this extreme desire for "unity" in elements beyond our unity in Jesus Christ and the eucharist.
Susannah - better to split with integrity than to stay together with hypocrisy
S. Cooper, I would agree and would put it more strongly.
Better to split with integrity than to affiliate with bigotry, discrimination, and the criminalisation of love.
"Bishop Dakin has taken a very brave, counter-cultural stand for biblical truth. He's actually done the loving thing both for Jesus' people and for wider society because it is loving to uphold God's truth about the heterosexual nature of marriage, as expressed in Canon B30."
- Julian Mann -
Are you comparing the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures with the words of Canon B30?
Canons have been known to err, have they not? And it could well be that, ere long, the words of Canon B30 could be proved inadmissable. While the 'Word of God' may not be changed; this does not mean that canons of the C. of E. are immutable.
" better to split with integrity than to stay together with hypocrisy"
Tolerance is hypocrisy? Agreeing on Jesus Christ and being one in the Eucharist isn't enough? Can we not agree on what Jesus actually said and leave open the things he didn't address?
What about our collective hypocrisy of supposedly following Jesus and yet both of our cultures are harsh on the poor and the refugee? Can you split from hateful policies and attitudes towards them to keep integrity with loving our neighbors and feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the prisoner, and sheltering the homeless? Wasn't Jesus more concerned about that? And is the fact that we aren't loving our neighbors nearly enough a problem, in fact a hypocrisy?
Why would tolerating an inclusive church be hypocrisy but tolerating a church and culture that is way out of line with Jesus' agenda not hypocrisy?
Can you see how someone might view this attitude as quite selective?
Cynthia - tolerance can be hypocrisy, obviously. You'd tolerate the church that justified apartheid? You'd tolerate westboro? I wouldn't. You want tolerance for acna in the Anglican communion too? There's a time to say that there can't be agreement, despite decades of trying, and good disagreement means splitting. Why be affiliated with people who'll never agree?
"tolerance can be hypocrisy, obviously. You'd tolerate the church that justified apartheid? You'd tolerate westboro? I wouldn't. You want tolerance for acna in the Anglican communion too? There's a time to say that there can't be agreement, despite decades of trying, and good disagreement means splitting. Why be affiliated with people who'll never agree? "
Precisely. This is no longer about making some sort of magical political unity. The only unity is through Christ. That's it. This other stuff is ego-stroking. Worse, it brings harm on us, and on those who look to us, when we engage in this game of thrones. No one is suggesting that we forcibly shut down those who disagree, but we can't pretend like we are the same thing, either. To use the family analogy, would you allow a cousin to live in your house, knowing that they will beat your children, as well as their own? Worse, would you allow the cousin to force you to beat your children, so that he'd be willing to call you family? There is hypocrisy in this political "tolerance," as it is actually the assurance of intolerance for those who actually will benefit from our protection!
S. Cooper: Why be affiliated with people who'll never agree?
First, we can agree on the important things. Of course, we'd have to agree on what's important. Why LGBTQ issues would be important enough to create schism doesn't make a lot of sense. There are maybe 6 passages devoted to it. Meanwhile, there's much more about divorce, Jesus himself addressed it. So the acceptance of divorce while not tolerating LGBTQ inclusion might look a lot like hypocrisy to some of us. We don't have schism over divorce, do we?
So getting a fix on core values would be important. Some of us think that the Bible is more about communal sin than individual sin, and that morality has a lot to do with whether or not people are being harmed. What are tax collectors to do? Take what is required and no more. Soldier? No extortion, be happy with their wages.
It's possible that we won't get a fix on core values. Some people can't get away from a piety that involves ticking the right personal boxes, rather than a piety that recognizes that our collective consumerism and government policies are crushing others.
And then how are we to disagree? Is it possible to disagree without anyone being empowered to enforce their intolerance on others? That, of course, requires inclusion at the policy level, and a method of opting out of participating in inclusion. Why would that be hypocrisy? Some churches are Anglo-Catholic and some are dirt low. Does that make a hypocrite out of anyone?
Mr/Ms Cooper---I completely agree that an amicable(as far as possible) divorce would be the best way forward, so that some integrity could be retained by those on either side of this issue. Or at the very least a much looser federated model of those aspects of unity we can still maintain.
But who would keep the seats in the House of Lords? Who would inherit the historic assets and liabilities? Who would pay the stipends and pensions of the beneficed clergy? Those issues are the abyss into which the bishops look.
Cynthia - the point is that after years of discussions and campaigns, it is clear that the issues are important & non-negotiable for many (even in the US, see the starting and growth of acna which is bigger than the Canadian church's attendance). Welby won't want an English equivalent of acna...
Turbulent Priest - tricky issues. Not convinced there should be lords. Whatever the Jan decisions, those who disagree could be given responsibility for their buildings and their costs (including pensions) and be set free. Some form of sharing responsibility for existing pension liabilities would have to be found....tricky, not impossible. Basically, split assets and liabilities based on parish data and get on with life without the misery of institutionalised hypocrisy - healthier for all sides
Thanks S....my comments about the trappings of Establishment were meant to be ironic! (The only countries which reserve seats in the legislature for religious leaders are the UK, the Isle of Man, and Iran.) I totally agree with all of what you say.
Cynthia...I do think we all have to be honest and understand that this really is a "top level" issue for those on both sides of the argument. Much as we might wish it not to be. Maybe it never needed to be but for the foreseeable future it is.
My impression is that ACNA is not growing. I know that there has been a trend where some schismatics have come back to TEC. I really can't imagine that ACNA has much of a future. In the US, Christians have passed the tipping point, 52 percent believe gay marriage is fine. TEC, mainline Protestants, Jews, and Quakers are way into 70, 80, and 90 percent. So maybe they will be a niche for awhile (at this point, a lot of religions are "niche"), but I can't imagine that there's much of a next generation that is going to perpetuate the homophobia and misogyny.
Misogyny, is of course, dead now that our cultures have a female Luke Skywalker.
One of the most valuable characteristics of Anglicanism is its commitment to being a broad church, where people of differing views - even sharply differing views - can continue to worship, discuss and debate together.
Coming from Christina Rees this has to be the funniest thing I have read all year.