Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Opinion - 6 June 2018

Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News Changes – Facing the Strange…

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love How comfortable are the bishops with the Love that Dares to Speak its Name?

Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau New directions for the Church 4: beyond church services

The Bishop of Maidstone has written this Reply from Bishop Rod Thomas to the Bishop of Lichfield’s ad clerum on ‘Welcoming and Honouring LGBT+ people’ in the diocese. We linked to the ad clerum here.
Colin Coward has written this Open Letter to Archbishops Justin and Sentamu re: +Maidstone in response.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Encouragement for Churches: 4 Points On Welcoming Children

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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I am spitting mad with Bishop Rod because as I read it he is saying it is right and proper to deny Communion to those in same sex relationships and marriages until they repent. I guess I would also have to repent for going through gender reassignment.

I am sorry but for me this is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 12:45pm BST

'Repentence' eh.

Looking forward to that , whenever it is forth-coming from Rod Thomas and others in power in the Church....

And to think some queers / gays are daily communicants !

RT., "What are daily communicants ?" :)

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 4:27pm BST

Kate,
It's a lot more subtle than that -- but perhaps even more nefarious.

The message is: "It's up to you whether or not you come to communion, I won't stand in your way. But I will preach that your lifestyle is sinful, and repeat that in any conversations seeking spiritual guidance/counsel, and remind you that those who take the sacrament unworthily are damned."

Hardly welcoming!

Posted by: James Pratt on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 4:37pm BST

I have read Colin Coward's letter to the Archbishops. Can anyone tell me please whether and how I can raise a complaint against the Bishop of Maidstone under CDM?

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 4:47pm BST

I am intrigued by Rod Thomas' view of the distinction between worthy and unworthy communicants. His stress is of course on the individual viz a viz the worthiness of the community. But, the doesn't the liturgy, through the prayer of humble access stress that 'we are not worthy,' or in the alternative version 'our hands were unclean, our hearts unprepared...' and yet God, through grace, invites us to partake of the blessed sacrament alongside all others who are equally unworthy? The only alternative to accepting our unworthiness is to say 'thank you Lord that I am not like the other lot....'

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 6:07pm BST

It seems that all I need to do is to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury with a complaint under CDM.

James, you are right, thank you but there's a clear subtext that it is OK for ministers and and even other lay Christians to discourage LGBTI Christians from receiving communion. He even suggests that I should go for therapy before I receive communion. I am apoplectic.

BTW how unusual is it for one bishop to publicly criticise another like this - and it might be sweetly written but it is still very much criticism

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 6:29pm BST

Kate, the public CofE information is here:
https://www.churchofengland.org/about/leadership-and-governance/legal-services/clergy-discipline

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 6:44pm BST

Kate, I'm hoping that someone with better knowledge of the CDM process will give you advice here. I think you have to live in the diocese and be a person with an interest in the complaint being made.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 6:52pm BST

The Bishop of Maidstone's letter reminded me of something. Then I spotted what it is. It's the figure of the creepy clergyman that is portrayed in Victorian fiction.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 7:42pm BST

Colin Coward is right to voice his evident frustration at what it takes to effect any kind of change in the Church of England. Do we acknowledge all gradual change as positive (blessings for example) or do we reject all interim moves and head for equal marriage, not passing Go! in the process? I don’t know. But what I do know is that Parliamentarians who care about this do not have endless patience. The sword of Damocles which I believe should be dangled over the Church of England is the risk of Parliament legislating to withdraw the right of clergy to solemnise opposite gendered marriage unless and until the Church embraces SSM. I don’t think it will happen any time soon, but it would be the catalyst to wake up the House of Bishops, who are enjoying two years’ freedom while the Teaching Document is developed.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 8:57pm BST

Here's the thing. My colleague is in a long term relationship, now civil partnership, a good, kind, much appreciated (and loved) member of our team. Their relationship status is not only open and known but celebrated and honoured by everyone in our church - not one person has ever mentioned sexuality as an issue.

When we gather for Holy Communion I have always assumed we are all aware of our sinfulness, which we articulate through our prayers of confession, following which we are reassured of our salvation through absolution.

Are we now somehow supposed to believe that although we are all sinners, some are more sinful than others simply by virtue of our nature? Is my colleague now more sinful than me? It's not only preposterous it's absurd.

Posted by: Another Fr David on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 10:03pm BST

Wow. The Bishop of Maidstone said that gay people in relationships are not worthy to receive the Eucharist!!! Wow.

God does not need a gatekeeper. Let alone a bigoted one. There is no Good News in this fellow's harsh and ugly judgment. He is exuding the darkness that will never blot out the Light. How do such people become bishops?

Colin Coward points out that Maidstone is out-of-line with more recent teaching, so Maidstone cherry picks the teaching he likes and ignores the rest. There's really no integrity there. Sad...

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 10:22pm BST

The Bishop of Maidstone's letter put me in mind of "newspeak": orthodox = not thinking. For one who has waited 68 years before reading 1984, parallels are striking. Vatican, AngCom, Pyongyang ... I was interested to read of celestial events marking the birth of Kim Jong-Il. Fascinating stuff.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Wednesday, 6 June 2018 at 11:55pm BST

"I think you have to live in the diocese and be a person with an interest in the complaint being made."

There might be a problem

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 1:15am BST

I have some movie-buff friends that regularly invite a couple of dozen people or so over to have dinner and watch movies they like but think that others probably haven't seen.

The one last week was "Maurice," the Merchant and Ivory film of the late 1980s based on the E.M Forster novel of the same name, written around 1913 but not published until the early 1970s after Forster's death.

After watching the movie, I was inspired read read Forster's novel.

The Bishop of Maidstone reminds me of the scene where Maurice seeks medical care to cure him of his homosexuality. The doctor's treatment is unsuccessful. The doctor suggests that Maurice emigrate to France or Italy where homosexuality is not criminal.

[Maurice] "You mean that a Frenchman could share with a friend and yet not go to prison?"

[Doctor] "Share? Do you mean unite? If both are of age and avoid public indecency, certainly."

"Will the law ever be that in England?"

"I doubt it. England has always been disinclined to accept human nature."

So here we are a century later. Plus ca change and all that.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 3:11am BST

Despite their difficulty, I welcome the Bishop of Maidstone's remarks for two reasons. First, they remind us that the Church is indeed still a diverse place where disagreements happen on theological grounds. It's incredibly refreshing to have the opportunity to speak about something that isn't merely bureaucratic and actually goes to the core of what we believe about the character of God and the meaning and intention behind the sacraments. The fact that his letter and Colin Coward's response generate such strong emotions is a sign that theology still matters in the CofE. Second, as both an openly gay man and an ordinand (to be ordained this month! yikes!) +Maidstone's letter reminds me that, whatever the Church hierarchy may decide, I am ultimately subject to God and must order my thinking and ministerial practice as best I am able so to honour God's gracious rule. The Church of England may be by law established, its supreme governor may be the Queen, but its true Head is Christ. One may, of course, differ in particulars with some of what +Maidstone has said, but the reminder of one's true priorities in ministry is, to me, most welcome at this point in my life.

Posted by: Evan McWilliams on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 6:52am BST

May I respectfully advise Evan McWilliams to think again. If he is remotely in agreement with Rod Thomas, his life will be beset by unhappiness because of evangelical bigotry and dogma. Far better to be a happy layman than a miserable cleric. Free yourself from the Church's shackles now!

Posted by: FrDavidH on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 8:00am BST

I can't help but be struck by the parallels with Brexit.

Everyone knows there are different views.

A form of words is cobbled together that all cabinet members/bishops supposedly agree to.

A cabinet member/bishop chances his arm and goes public with what we all already guessed was his private disagreement.

The prime minister/archbishop is simply not in a strong enough position to take action against this open dissent.

Posted by: John Swanson on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 8:45am BST

This is the one place the conservatives are correct: "tolerance" is not an absolute virtue. The entire disarray throughout the AC can be traced to the hand-wringing (or, worse, financial greed) that worried over making a "safe place" for the regressive form of theology. It was always a Trojan horse.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 8:51am BST

"In the case of those with concerns over gender identity, we know that a wide range of issues may be involved and in some cases the suggestion of counselling would be appropriate. I do hope that clergy would be supported in the help they try to give in this respect."

@Evan, as a gay man how would you feel about the suggestion that, because of your sexual orientation, it might be right for you to receive counselling before you receive Communion? Counselling with what purpose? Conversion therapy? It's utterly chilling.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 9:44am BST

Excellent article by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes; thanks for the link.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 10:47am BST

On a different subject for once, may I just note, in relation to what Bishop Thomas has written, that the Book of Common Prayer is the standard of worship in my Church of Australia (though subscription to everything in it and the Articles has not been required of any clergyman since the relevant Act of 1865). I cannot see any reference to "further discipleship development" in its rubrics or those of the 1928 service for the baptism of infants. Rather, unlike later alternative books with their narrower outlook, in some of the Prayer Book's most beautiful language, Cranmer links the baptism or christening of those children with our Lord's welcoming and blessing of the children brought to him. But we still have disciples who object and who wrongly turn parents and children away - with often lasting disaffection and alienation ! The welcoming and blessing by Jesus surely trumps anything else, Bishop Thomas.

Posted by: John Bunyan on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 12:31pm BST

"the Church is indeed still a diverse place where disagreements happen on theological grounds"

But it is also a place where bigotry masquerades as theology.

The Church of England is not always right; sometimes it is searingly, sinfully, blasphemously wrong, as in the perception of LGBT people expressed in extreme forms by the conservative factions.

God should of course be top priority in every life, lay or (pre-) ordained. For LGBT people that priority does not preclude an active sexual relationship: for those not blessed with the rare gift of celibacy, it demands it.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 3:47pm BST

I hope I didn't imply that I agreed in any way with +Maidstone's remarks, FrDavidH. I was merely attempting to suggest that further reflection might lead to at least some positive outcomes, personal or otherwise, from a statement that so many find deeply abhorrent.

Kate, I understand the sentiment you express very well indeed. As a matter of fact, I was sent for counselling on this question in another denomination when I was younger. I welcome all efforts to do away with intrusive and ineffective measures in regard to altering one's sexuality and, if the issue should arise, would gladly fight to preserve at the very least the status quo. I know the opposition from the inside but it no longer angers or offends. That, I think, at least for me, is spiritual progress.

Posted by: Evan McWilliams on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 3:51pm BST

"Do we acknowledge all gradual change as positive (blessings for example) or do we reject all interim moves and head for equal marriage, not passing Go! in the process? I don’t know."

This is IMO the wrong question, 'cause it presupposes a choice that doesn't exist: with its endless delaying tactics, Canterbury's made it abundantly clear that, if it has its way, change will be closed forever; since change must be forced through in any case, why not go all the way and force through equality?

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 7:10pm BST

"I think you have to live in the diocese and be a person with an interest in the complaint being made."

In 2018 it would be outrageous to bar complaints on the basis of residence, while granting people an international pulpit via the Internet. It would be like limiting complaints about the BBC to people who live in W1A 1AA.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 11:11pm BST

Canada, Scotland, USA and now Brazil.
Why go to Gretna Green, when you can go to Rio instead?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 3:07am BST

May I mention here as well as on the other thread this account of how a parish church responded to the suicide of a young teenager in their church, in a process that led to the adoption of an inclusive approach and policy to lgbt folk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G51jf2sGts8

I agree that we need to go full out for full equality for all our relationships in the church. I have been seeking this since the 1960s, myself, and tend to think 50 years is quite a wait in one lifetime at least !

I think things are hard for young gay people, and made harder for those who are accepting the call to follow Christ, in their lives.

I found it harder when I was younger, but over the years, I have become more settled, with my then boyfriend, now husband, but with no help from the 'official church'.

I am still trying to follow Christ in my life, as one who also happens to be gay, as it happens.

Happy festival of the Divine Compassion & Sacred Heart of our Blessed Lord.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 3:27am BST

Bishop Rod says that I misunderstood and that he stressed how his letter should be interpreted when he was interviewed by the BBC yesterday. At the time of writing, I can't find a link (and, on grounds of economy, we don't have a TV licence so I can't look on iPlayer). If someone can find and report, I would be interested.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 10:18am BST

Bishop Rod's letter eschews intrusive questioning, preferring "very gentle probing". I can't help imagining these words "very gentle probing" being said by a member of the Spanish Inquisition, as portrayed in various comedies.

Reading between the lines it seems parents requiring baptism for their children may become victims of "very gentle probing".

The Savoy Conference in 1661, which finalised the BCP, considered requests from Puritans that ministers have discretion to refuse baptism depending on the parents' beliefs or manner of living. This was rejected on two grounds. First, babies should not be refused baptism, and second, ministers should not have discretion.

Calvin said that to refuse baptism to children of atheist parents, if they had any Christian ancestry at all, was to deprive children of their privileges.

John Bunyan ( the commentor on this site, not the author) refers to the BCP baptism. In England this is still authorised and asks no questions to parents, but only godparents. However many clergy simply neglect to inform parents of this option.

In England the new alternative baptism services, requiring parental promises, pretty much coincided with watering down the ordination promises. Tough on babies , tough on the causes of babies, soft on ordinands, was perhaps a predictable consequence of ecclesiastical self-government, the monkeys taking over the zoo.

How different history might be if Cornelius, instead of baptising Paul, had invited him to consider joining a discussion group and spend a few months exploring whether he wanted to commit.

The C of E may be very tolerant of clergy diversity of opinion but too often the privileges of ministers seem to trump those of babies and older parishioners alike.


Posted by: T Pott on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 2:28pm BST

These knocks come often enough to impact on one's mental health, I find.

Various church leaders, including Roderick Thomas do need to keep this firmly in mind. It can amount to an abuse.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44412860?SThisFB

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 3:20pm BST

Anyone else have any responses to Miranda's article? It would be nice if we could have some discussion on a different subject from time to time.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 3:40pm BST

In the light of the Presbyterian vote against gay couples in Northern Ireland, it's a pity the people of the province don't follow their brethren in the Republic and throw off the shackles of religion.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 8:41pm BST

Re: Tim Chesterton, I read The Rev. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes' article because you adverted to it. It is an excellent article.

My first reaction was one of nostalgia regarding my own childhood in the church which was very different from that of the author. However, I set that aside to take in what is being said about today's situation--one very different with regards to children's cohorts past in so many ways.

The practical take aways suggested by the author are good ones. The third one, letting children participate in things that are not just 'kid things' is insightful.

The only thing I would add is that it is not just about ministering to children. Children have a ministry of their own to offer others--one expressed in so many ways relative to their various ages and stages. They do so even when their presence in a community may be somewhat transient by comparison with the past.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 9:39pm BST

There is no Diocese of Maidstone. The suffragan see in Canterbury diocese was filled again in 2014 for a bishop to provide alternative episcopal oversight for parishes that could not accept the ministry of women priest and bishops.
It is therefore not a geographical see.
In terms of a CMD - does this mean that only a member of a church under Bishop Rod's episcopal oversight could bring a complaint?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 8 June 2018 at 10:10pm BST

Erika, as I read it it takes 5 of them!

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 9 June 2018 at 12:57am BST

Thanks, Rod. In terms of nostalgia, it reminded me of my teens, when my best friend began attending our church because I asked him if he would play guitar with me in our music group (this was 1974). He ended up a year or two later being baptized and is still a faithful Christian today. But the vicar had the vision and good sense to welcome him into that ministry team before he had come to faith.

I was also a bellringer and a few of my friends were interested in that too.

But I liked this one best. 'find out about the actual children you have, and what they enjoy and are good at, and let them use their skills.' This is the big advantage of a smaller church (i.e. standard Anglican size) - we can actually get to know people (kids or adults) as individuals, and help them find a way of serving that fits for them.

Miranda, if you're reading this, thank you!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Saturday, 9 June 2018 at 3:03am BST
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