Monday, 30 January 2017

The Bishop of Liverpool reflects on the ministry of bishops

Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool has written a reflection on the ministry of bishops for Via Media.News.

Elders of the Tribe

“The weak bishops.” “The lying bishops.” “The bastard bishops.” “I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can spit.” “The only way they’ll give a straight-line response is if you ask them to design a corkscrew.”

A few months ago on this site I wrote a piece which spoke of the need for people to express their anger if they were angry. I have seen all the phrases above on social media in the past few days, and I am glad of them, though I am not a masochist and I do not enjoy them. I am particularly grateful to the people who have contacted me directly to express their emotion and to make their points about the recent bishops’ statement.

For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the Church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document? …

Do read it all.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 11:55am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Paul Bayes' words, as forthright and thoughtful as they are, are not the words of an outsider, they are not the words of someone who has been pushed to the limits of their endurance, their love, their very being. Yes, anger is part of the response to the Bishops' report and it jolly well should be. But beyond anger is always love. And the church desperately needs a new way of doing love.

Posted by: Pam on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 8:26pm GMT

It is a good bit of writing. Perhaps Bishop Paul would like to reflect that while it may be painful to abandon collegiality a little more, it would at least bring him the support of one side of the fence, and would have its own comforts. Something sitting firmly ON the fence will never do.

And being called a bastard is rather less painful than being forced to choose between a: lying or b: abandoning the person you love and who loves you either totally, or to a sexually unfulfilled relationship.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 8:55pm GMT

I directed Bishop Paul to MLK's words about white moderates. I'm sure it'll do no good -- England's made appointing company men into an artform -- but I'm always happy to be surprised.

Regardless, the solution isn't appealing endlessly to bishops' better natures: it's reforming English church structures to get the right people into position to effect change. This is a political battle, that must be fought and won via political means.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 10:17pm GMT

At least, Bishop Paul seems to understand the ignominy of the Church of England's Bishops' lack of initiative in 'doing the theology' that will need to be done to accept Equal Marriage into its oh so parsimonious pastoral care for people in the Church who have no other way of deep personal relationship than with a same-sex partner.

It has taken other Provinces, like TEC; the Anglican Church of Canada; and our own New Zealand Provincial Church (ACANZP) to bring into the Anglican provenance issues like the ordination of women as priest - not to mention bishops - to enable the tippy-tappy footsteps of the C. of E.'s Bishops to enter into that area - that neither Rome nor Constantinople has yet broached. We in N.Z. had a woman bishop decades before the C.of E. so cautiously deemed it right and proper. We are a catholic and yet REFORMED Church for goodness sake!

Maybe this further step into Semper Reformanda will need more that the USA and Canada to open up the Church to its existing LGBTI membership in a way consistent with the Gospel openness to people on the margins. I am hopeful that our next General Synod in 2018 might, yet again, help lead the way for the Church of England on this important matter.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 1:20am GMT

Some of us whose active life and ministry was in the Church of England have grown tired of the double speak through many generations. But grateful to Bishop Paul for his thoughts.
I am more than grateful that I now live in the Episcopal Church of Scotland, where Robert and myself are loved, and recognised for who we are, a couple brought together by God.
I CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE church OF England, the church of my birth, and hope the Synod meeting will actively support the total membership of the church. Change will happen. Love will triumph.

Posted by: Fr John Harris-White on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 8:08am GMT

Further to my comment, I apologise for typing error. It should read the Episcopal church IN Scotland.


Fr John

Posted by: Fr John Harris-White on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 12:16pm GMT

James has cited MLK's words, which I have quoted in similar contexts before. They bear repeating (they're from his Letter from Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963):

"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

The key words for the likes of the Bishop of Liverpool are "feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom" and "prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension". What is being said, in every case, is that the speaker cares deeply about injustice, and cares deeply about its victims, but has broader concerns which the likes of the victim are nor able to discern but would understand if they could and those broader concerns mean, regretfully, that the injustice must continue. The victims are thrown under the bus, but with love in the hearts of their attackers.

"And then the road will go on, and no one’s voice will be silenced, as I do not believe mine has been silenced, or will be. And we will continue to learn together what it is to listen, and to dissent, and to pray."

But there is another quote to set against that, from Omar Khayyam:

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Our brothers and sisters whom the CofE refuses to embrace are only young once. They are only 41 once. They are only 63 once. Every season in their life happens just once, and every year that they are not welcome is a year that they can never live again, a year that they were not welcomed but could have been They do not have time to wait for the Bishop of Liverpool to listen, and to dissent, and pray, because every year that he continues to congratulate himself on being moderate is a year in which our brothers and sisters are still in pain. He "lives by the myth of time and...constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."". Why not now? Why not stand in your Cathedral and welcome our brothers and sisters, and pray with them, and bless them, and marry them? Fiat justitia ruat cælum. But no: the timetable for freedom is not to be set by those seeking freedom, but by their oppressors. Even the ones who think they are not oppressors.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 12:01am GMT

Interested Observer, I agree with everything you say apart from you think that the Bishop of Liverpool has love in his heart for LGBT people as he decided to support the bishops' paper. I do not think that he did.

I look at how Jesus reacted when asked to heal someone on the Sabbath. It was ostensibly against the Law but he did it anyway. Justice and love (and the Law of the Lord) are not concepts which apply to abstracts like doctrine or to unity. They apply uniquely to individuals. The loving thing is to do as Jesus did: put the welfare of those affected above any other consideration.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 10:26am GMT

Interested Observer, I hope you will be leaving this comment on Via Media News too.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 10:52am GMT

According to Reuters, the Lutheran Church in Norway has voted to allow same sex marriage

The Church of England is supposed to be a leader, not a laggard.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 12:48pm GMT

"According to Reuters, the Lutheran Church in Norway has voted to allow same sex marriage"

Will the Church of England regard itself as out of communion with Norway? What will GAFCON say, as it's going to be pretty difficult to paint Norway (Norway!) as being an imperialist reminder of the colonialist past?

I've copied my previous article to Via Media, and it's waiting approval.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 2:34pm GMT

The more I read this blog, the more we need to hold the General Synod members in our prayers. The hopes of so many folk rests on the synod members speaking out for LGBT people, and moving the church of England forward to become loving and inclusive. As Our Lord calls us to be.

Posted by: Fr John Harris-White on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 3:40pm GMT

How I wish Interested Observer had their own blog! Another brilliant comment from whoever they may be.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 5:50pm GMT

Should those of us who can travel to meet, arrange to come together to talk, share and pray face-to-face?

With possibly a net video link for TA participants from further afield.

Many of us have journeyed together for several years, spent hours preparing comments here, and yet - speaking for myself - I only actually know two people.

We face a pretty pivotal stage here in the Church of England. The next Primates' Meeting may not bode well for TEC. The Bishops seem to be trying to pre-empt and impose their consciences on everyone else. Many LGBT+ people (and their straight allies) feel dismay and despondency.

Going beyond TA correspondents, there would even be a case for a kind of Extraordinary General Meeting of those Anglicans who are deeply unhappy about the Bishops' Report and the sense of let down and endless marginalisation.

Just a thought.

I for one would be more than happy to meet with say a dozen correspondents on a Saturday, frame an agenda and allow space for each person to say a few words, followed by informal discussion, listening, prayer - and maybe a shared meal too.

I appreciate that this is not my website, and I mean no disrespect to the team who run it, just raising a possible way of growing and developing a less 'virtual' angle to the dynamic that exists here.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 7:30pm GMT
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