Comments: 'I stay because I love God'

Remarkably clear and thoughtful. Thank you for posting it.

Posted by Davis d'Ambly at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 8:50pm GMT

'One senior London cleric, himself in a gay partnership, says: "We are asked to make sascrifices of relationships, of part of our lives, that are unimaginable to our heterosexual colleagues, which they would never be asked to make. There is a failure to stand up for honesty, against prejudice, that is quite horrible. I stay because I love God and love the church, but it is like being in an abusive relationship."
- Stephen Bates, Guardian article -

This is a reality for any gay person ministering in the Church of England today. Stephen Bates' article in The Guardian should alert Anglican congregations in the C.of E. to the enforced climate of hypocrisy on the part of Bishops who know about the existence of gay clergy within their parishes, but pretend they do not exist. This can only be detrimental to the spiritual integrity of thye Church.

Stephen's excellent article will no doubt foster more debate about the Church's blatant disregard for the reality of claims by the LGBT communmity to be recognised and respected as legitimate members of the Church community.

Hypocrisy was one of the aspects of his Jewish contemporaries that most exercised the anger of Jesus. As we prepare to celebrate the full humanity of God-in-Christ this Christmas, perhaps the Church needs to be more open about our gays-in-the-midst.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 20 December 2009 at 10:14pm GMT

And what of women? They now provide between a quarter and a third of the church's clergy, though many give their services unpaid, but, 15 years after they were first ordained, they still can't become bishops, because a handful of male clergy insist they could not accept their authority or abide their episcopal touch.

Do remember that the same 'handful' who have doubts about that sure episcopal touch you refer to, have a consistent view as well regarding the validity of any sort of female ordination. They simply disagree with you, dear Mr Bates - even 15 years on...however contemptuous you may be!

Posted by neil at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 12:42am GMT

I find it hard to understand how anyone could 'love' the church when it doesn't accept and affirm them with regard to something so basic.

I grew to detest and despise it and although I sometimes miss the aesthetics and transcendence I just couldn't feel any affection for something so institutionally homophobic

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 11:53am GMT

Nothing to do with me, Neil. It's never been my church.

Posted by stephen bates at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 12:33pm GMT

It would be interesting to know if anyone in Lambeth reads articles like the excellent one above. My guess is that somebody does, and then feeds bits and pieces to the resident gutless wonder [oops! I fell off the Rowan wagon].

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 1:40pm GMT

Although the C of E is mired in controversy and controlled by powerful, wealthy elites, the solution to the current crisis is actually very simple:

A populist Act of Parliament - overriding Synods - amending the Marriage Act to include same sex couples, and removing bishops from the House of Lords; bishops elected by transparent, democratic processes with the consent of the whole diocese, using the Episcopal Church as model.

Or better still: abolish the vainglorious episcopacy entirely, as probably the main stumbling block to effective mission amongst the general population - especially the young - and a wholly inappropriate means of governing a broadly-based organisation in the 21st century.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 2:32pm GMT

Amen, I STAY AND BELONG, AS DOES MY PARTNER, BECAUSE WE KNOW GOD LOVES US, HAS CALLED US TOGETHER, AS HE HAS CALLED ME TO BE A PRIEST.

In the words of an Archbishop of Canterbury to a priest friend of mine, you are a better priest because of your partners love and support.

May God Bless us all, his family this Christ Mass

Fr John

Posted by Fr John E. Harris-White at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 2:39pm GMT

Merseymike. That is the paradox which so many of us find so difficult. The local gathered church is so often a place of positive inclusiveness where there is love, acceptance, toleration along with the aesthetics and transcendence which are so important. In complete contrast is the Church, as institutionally homophobic as it is mysoginistic. Its message of love is completely belied by the actions and pronouncement of bishops and others who want to turn us into clones of their intollerant selves.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 5:59pm GMT

PS How does one Evangelical parish get three representatives onto a panel of six advising on the selection of the new Bishop of Rochester? Surely either mal-administration or procedural shenanigans.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 6:02pm GMT

As Anglican pilgrims, the constant tasks of discernment and change never quite settle down, nor leave us completely finalized on earth, static, done. Both society and church life are weighed in the balances, found wanting in this respect where surprise changes are bubbling away, and found dearly beloved in that respect since people who change for the better as citizens and as believers are nourished to do so both in society and in church life. How deeply odd that Anglicans - who used to have the clearest long-term grip on citizenship and believers changing for the better, nearly unceasingly - now run in fear and confusion from change on so many different levels across so many different hot button domains.

Abuse trends are surely coming to a boil in our current global communion, thanks in no little part to the erstwhile success of the IRD type campaign plans and the resonances policing-punishment arouse, especially among conservative believers - all convinced that using force against various hot button target people for their own good is, well, good and right and holy.

To be perceived as having fallen off the squared Anglican flat earth, as say in Los Angeles? Nearly a momentary Advent honor?

Is the babe in the Christmas manger really a tiny terrorist, with God's bombs strapped to his newborn torso? Many conservative believers narratives seem to say so. Is Christmas all about force then? Right in the midst of the Ugandan hostilities, God calls us to be otherwise as Anglicans. To believe at all these days as a participant in Anglican church life (which means, wars) is to be drenched in surprise grace; God may not sanction the trench warfare, yet meets any and all right in those trenches, often when we least expect to encounter grace, Spirit, or anything else transcendant.

Even while all the conservative Anglicans relentlessly target one as the essential sinful victim of God's red-black and utterly deliciously sadistic wrath, only a surprise Other still allows one to resist and live otherwise in citizenship and in church life?

Posted by drdanfee at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 7:22pm GMT

Hugh of Lincoln said "Although the C of E is mired in controversy and controlled by powerful, wealthy elites, the solution to the current crisis is actually very simple:"

I agree with Hugh. The solution, at least for the gay issue, is very simple. All takes is for all the closeted priests in the C of E, many of whom post and complain on this blog. to be honest and come out.

Over the past twenty of so years profession after profession has taken that step - teaching, police, armed forces, fire brigade. The list is long. There is a period of difficulty as we work through the issues raised by people coming out - and there are real difficulties I am not denying it - but it is a proven method. Coming out publicly in large numbers works.

So to every gay priest on this blog who moans about the C of E's attitude to gays, I would say the answer is in your hands, not your Bishop's or Rowan William's. Take responsibility for yourself. Come out publicly and honestly to everyone, and persuade all of your friends to do the same. It is a proven method. It works.

And to those who will tell me it is not as easy as that to come out, that there are risks and difficulties, I will say sure, I agree, but if the police, fire brigade, armed forces, and many others can take that step, and even now professional rugby players, what is it about priests that makes it not possible? It may be an interesting question to discuss.

Good Luck

Simon

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 8:24pm GMT

Richard
I think it's actually "only" two reps from St Nicolas Sevenoaks.
The process is an election from and by the members of the Vacancy in See Committee. Most of whom were in turn elected by the members of diocesan synod.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 10:40pm GMT

"So to every gay priest on this blog who moans about the C of E's attitude to gays, I would say the answer is in your hands, not your Bishop's or Rowan William's. Take responsibility for yourself. Come out publicly and honestly to everyone, and persuade all of your friends to do the same. It is a proven method. It works." -
- Simon Robert Dawson, on Monday -

Simon, if only it were as easy as you suggest! I'm sure that if the Bishops in the House of Lords were not actively seeking to discriminate against gay clergy, then your plan might work. Yes, the police the fire brigade and the military have allowed their gay membership the freedom to reveal themselves without prejudice; but the Church Bishops may not yet be ready to allow their clergy the same freedom. This is precisely why the hypocrisy of the Church hierarchy is hard to confront and be resolved - in favour of gay clergy being honest. (Although I suspect that many congregations are already aware of their priest's sexual orientation, and choose to accept them to be as they are - without prejudice.)

Someone has already said that Bishops in the House of Lords is an anachronism - lordly splendour and privilege - without any degree of responsibility to respect the House of Commons' decisions on issues of simple justice. Until these proud prelates surrender their status, there may be no justice on the issue of LGBT and women Bishops in the Church.

The humility of Our Blessed Lady and her Divine Son might well be a challenge to Bishops at Christmass-tide!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 21 December 2009 at 11:21pm GMT

To add to Simon's comment above, he is correct to say that most of the members of the Rochester Vacancy in See Committee are elected within the diocese. But they are a mixture of general synod members (elected by deanery synod members) and others elected by the diocesan synod.

The members of the Committee are listed in this extract from the Rochester diocesan magazine.

http://rochester.anglican.org/pdf_files/vacancyinsee/link_page_july_09.pdf

Somebody from Rochester diocese has written on a Ship of Fools discussion board that there are three members of St Nicholas' Sevenoaks on the Vacancy in See Committee and that two of them were elected as diocesan reps on the CNC.

http://forum.ship-of-fools.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=013896;p=1#000048

Posted by Peter Owen at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 12:14am GMT

Yes, Simon Dawson, it puzzles me why more gay priests can't be open. But that really isn't the issue, and I guess they have their own pensions to consider just as much as the bishops do. Best not to rock the boat even when it might benefit huge swathes of society.

No, the real crime scene was the bishops' collusion with civil partnerships - a progressive step provided you are not religious - but which denies couples any religious expression. This strikes me as being antithetical to the Faith, when the Church should be acknowledging committed relationships with ceremonies incorporating a strong spiritual dimension against the grain of permissive 21st century mores.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 11:53am GMT

Hugh of Lincoln scripsit: abolish the vainglorious episcopacy entirely, as probably the main stumbling block to effective mission amongst the general population

I don't know about vainglorious, but up here if mission were left to just the churches themselves without bishops to organize things at diocesan (and higher) levels, even more church doors would be shut through can't-be-arsed-itis.

Posted by Tim at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 1:23pm GMT

I wish every gay priest who participated in Rowan's silly secret Mass would come out - and I wish every gay C of E bishop come out - statistically, there must be some. And if they don't, then their gay clergy should out them. I know none of this will likely happen.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 3:46pm GMT

Father Ron Smith says "Simon, if only it were as easy as you suggest! I'm sure that if the Bishops in the House of Lords were not actively seeking to discriminate against gay clergy, then your plan might work. Yes, the police the fire brigade and the military have allowed their gay membership the freedom to reveal themselves without prejudice"

How easily we forget. The members of the police and others now have that freedom because they fought for it, in the Armed Forces case fighting all the way to the European Court. It was not a freedom given unasked.

"but the Church Bishops may not yet be ready to allow their clergy the same freedom".

I am sorry don't understand. What power does the bishop have to stop a person being honest about himself?

I agree that coming out and being honest takes a degree of courage. What concerns me is that the priesthood and professional sport, as professions, now seem to be the only professions in England not yet to have found that courage.

Simon

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 7:35pm GMT

I and my partner have been out for decades, but I'm not sure it has done much good overall, as the Church of England has gone backwards. It's better for those who come out of course, as long as you can live with or survive all the institutional consequences....

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 10:40pm GMT

Yes - I can testify to Laurie Roberts' honesty.

He was very open 35 years ago, and I think his reflection is of value.

Of course Rowan welcomed openly gay couples ..... but that seems a lifetime away now .......

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 22 December 2009 at 11:34pm GMT

Laurie,
The point still has to be that the more of us live openly and normally as out gay people or gay couples, the more those around us will begin to see us as just like them, and the less the hate rethoric will affect them. There are still far too many people who truly believe they don't know a gay person, and the one thing that has personally surprised me is the number of people who have said to me that my simply living here as a member of a normal family in the village has changed their minds.

We'll never change the extremist, but their influence will eventually decrease to nothing if enough of us have the courage to stand up and be counted.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 9:55am GMT

Rev L Roberts said "I and my partner have been out for decades, but I'm not sure it has done much good overall, as the Church of England has gone backwards".

Laurie,

I hear what you say and well done for that. But I think it needs a critical mass of people to come out to have an effect, and we are nowhere near that critical mass yet.

Simon Dawson

Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 2:05pm GMT

Simon Dawson: on clergy coming out, it's not that simple. Bishops can be great abusers of power.

I moved to a new diocese as an NSM (I teach for a living), and was out about being gay and living with my partner. I was asked to help out (unpaid) some distance away from where we lived during an interregnum, which I did for three months. Then the diocesan bishop (himself not a married man) insisted on visiting us at (actually my partner's) home, where he spoke right across my partner and asked me directly if we were in a "physical relationship." When I said I would not answer that question, as he had no right to ask it and it was none of his business, he told me that, in that case, he would not grant me a licence to help out (unpaid!) anywhere in his diocese. I subsequently discovered that there are several other cases in the diocese where he has behaved in the same way. The bishop is completely unaccountable, and so there is nothing clergy can do to gain redress in such a situation.

Dishonesty is rewarded in the C of E: there is a cadre of senior managers who believe that silence and duplicity for life is part of the deal that gay clergy sign up to, and woe betide us if we break the code.

I don't blame those who settle for secrecy, though doing so often screws them up terribly. One parish priest friend of mine has lived with his partner as the "lodger" in the vicarage for years. It is awfully sad to see the conversational hoops which they often have to jump through with parishioners and diocesan staff to maintain the fiction, which everyone has long ago seen through perfectly well anyway.

Posted by Fr Mark at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 3:55pm GMT

Thank you, Father Mark, for your contribution to this thread. The fact is, that almost anywhere in the Anglican Communion - except perhaps in the USA and Canada, any admission by a clergy-person as to their being gay, could immediately put their professional employment (or even their honorary status as clergy) in jeopardy. Bishops do actually have the power, as you have said, to refuse or withdraw a licence to minister in his/her diocese.

Many people may not realise that, at the moment, in the Church of England - unless the Equality of Employment measure goes through Parliament - with necessary safeguards for gay clergy - this right of a bishop to disenfranchise gay clergy is alive and well. Even bishops who are affirming of gays in ministry have to be very careful about their handling of this problem - for fear someone else in the House of bishops (+Winchester?) might *dob them in* to the Archbishop.

Such is the continuing culture of hypocrisy in the C.of E. that many legitimate vocations may be unanswered - simply because of the current coda of hompophobia. In the past, candidates either denied their sexual orientation in interviews with the CACTM Board, or they were compelled to suppress their intrinsic sexual identtity (some of these latter, more successfully than others - but always in fear of discovery, and compelled to contribute to the hypocritical status quo.)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 9:54pm GMT

Fr Mark,

Thankyou for your comment. I agree with everything you say, but I think you miss the point of my original question.

In the management trade it is called benchmarking; comparing your own organisation against others. And if you compare the priesthood as a profession, against other professions, it compares badly in the equality area, especially in the area of homosexuality and the way that priests in the UK have been able to drive this issue forward and claim equality.

I agree that certain Bishops may be abusers of power, but not uniquely so. Had you been in the Armed Forces 15 years back and answered in yes to that question you were posed you would have found yourself arrested, imprisoned, and interrogated about your sexuality, and your house and belongings searched for evidence of sexual activity. Yet gay Armed Forces members managed to fight against such treatment to claim equality for themselves.

So my question is this. Gay members of all professions used to get treated like ****. But gay members of most professions have managed to organise themselves and stop it. Gay members of the priesthood have not.

Why is that. I am not asking to make a rhetorical point. I am asking because it might be a useful thing to know.

With best wishes

Simon Dawson

Simon


Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 9:59pm GMT

Ron
The passage of the current UK Equality Bill is not likely to resolve this problem. The Government has no intention of rescinding the clause about "a requirement related to sexual orientation" and has no intention, despite all the rubbish being written about this point, of excluding clergy from the scope of the exemption. That is to say they wish to maintain the status quo for clergy.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 23 December 2009 at 11:47pm GMT

"this right of a bishop to disenfranchise gay clergy" ... " for fear someone else in the House of bishops (+Winchester?) might *dob them in* to the Archbishop." - Ron

This is shocking. What you're saying, Ron, is that no one in the C of E can defend a point of clear principle for fear of losing one's livelihood. What happened to the defiant spirit of the Reformers: 'Here I stand, I can do no other'? At least 'Reform' have guts, even if we disagree on some matters.

It's little wonder people lose faith in the Church if the priesthood en masse loses faith in God.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 11:32am GMT

Simon Dawson: yes, it's a good question.

When I think about how much schools have changed for the better for both their gay employees and gay pupils over the last 20 years, I'm not sure that the gay teachers themselves did anything to bring about the improvement. I think it was entirely the result of human rights legislation being pushed through that protected gay teachers so that they cannot be sacked for coming out; at the same time, a massive attitude change on the part of young people occurred.

Is that not the same for the armed forces? The Government was told it did not have the right to discriminate any longer, and so the law, followed by the work culture, changed.

Therefore, it looks to me as if the only way the Church will change is by being told firmly by the State that it is to be prohibited from discriminating, and that it must urgently put in place a better, more ethical, work culture. When the Church has to try to avoid employment tribunals and their consequences like any other employer, then it will soon find it worthwhile to implement best practice. Until then, it has no incentive to improve, and is run by a level of senior managers who, by dint of having been removed from the employment market for many decades, have no experience at all of normal ethical employer conduct. They are therefore the very last people who could introduce appropriate reforms to bring up to date the Church's mediaeval employment practices.

It is a really awful situation, I think, and the worst of it is that church leaders routinely speak rather smugly as if the Church operates in some way which is mysteriously superior to "secular" society, when the reality is quite the reverse, as pretty much all NSMs with other jobs will attest.

Posted by Fr Mark at Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 1:16pm GMT

Fr Mark,

Interesting comments, thank you. It reminded me of a Quaker presentation I went to recently on their adoption of a policy of marriage for same-sex couples. I was struck by how important the Quaker's communication method's were in creating this huge change. If you get the process right then the outcome will often be good.

With that background I agree with your comments that it is the CofE's processes, especially outdated management processes, which would appear to be part of the problem.

Simon

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 6:11pm GMT

Simon, I'm sad to hear, on Christmas Day, that the Church still insists on the right to exclude any Christian who feels they have a vocation to the Sacred Ministry of the Church while admitting that they happen to be of a 'different' sexual orientation from the so-called 'norm'. It seems, though, that if they don't happen to mention their 'peculiarity' in this part of their being, they might be acceptable - all other things being 'equal'. God help us all, the Church won't

Celibacy, though practised by Jesus, was never a requirement from him for ministry. Neither did Jesus ever, as far as I can discern from the Scriptures, himself speak of homosexuals as being ritually impure, and not fit to celebrate the Sacrament of Love in the Eucharist. The Church will have an awful lot to answer for on the Day of Judgement.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 11:11pm GMT

Father Ron Smith: just a side note, we don't actually know if Jesus was celibate. Or even straight. There is a whole can of debate-worthy worms lurking, but an argument from what Scripture does *not* say (least of all explicitly) is invalid. (It's not unreasonable to think that, given the amount of editing of text that's known to have happened, references to a wife or partner might have been suppressed as well.)

Posted by Tim at Saturday, 26 December 2009 at 12:16am GMT

Well, Tim; even you must agree that the writers of Scripture (well, at least John Evangelist, who was bold enough to acknowledge that he, John, was "the disciples whom Jesus loved") Laying one's head on the breast of a friend is a wonderful sign of loving and being loved.

Myself, I do not try to manufacture scenarios in the life of Jesus that cannot be backed up by the scriptures; but, on the other hand, one can use one's imagination about what may have been 'left out' - without being too fanciful.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 26 December 2009 at 10:56pm GMT

Father Ron.

You said "Myself, I do not try to manufacture scenarios in the life of Jesus that cannot be backed up by the scriptures"

Surely by asserting that Jesus was celibate you, yourself, have "manufactured" such a scenario. I am not aware of any scriptural evidence that mandates such celibacy.

"but, on the other hand, one can use one's imagination about what may have been 'left out' - without being too fanciful."

This is the problem with scriptural work. One person's reasoned faith is another person's "imagination", and what is perfectly possible for one person is "too fanciful" for another.

Where do we draw the limits?

With best wishes

Simon


Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Sunday, 27 December 2009 at 11:30am GMT
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