Comments: Inclusive Church open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

This message makes me quite tearful. As a transsexual christian I know first-hand (as do those close to me) the ways in which society can exclude, and the harrassment that can happen on the street. I feel that TEC has shown exemplary courage in standing by the full participation of ordinary men and women who happen to be lesbian, gay or transgendered, in the life of the church. I wish I could convey to Rowan, first-hand, just how acute the difficulties and cost may sometimes be, not only for oneself but also those you love, when diversity is subjected to exclusion or something somehow marginal.

I reflect further, and I see that it is important to subvert the 'official' marginalising process that has become, with regard to TEC. It's important because the gospel so obviously demonstrates a spirit of inclusion, and broadening engagement with people at the margins, and I feel that TEC is itself being constrained from full participation and inclusion, because of its courage and decency and solidarity towards people like me.

So I wholeheartedly and publicly affirm my full communion both with the Church of England *and* with the Episcopal Church - we are ONE in Christ... forever. Please let love win, the bonds of love that draw us together not apart, in Jesus Christ.

If you like (but only if you wish) please sign this facebook page "Positively in communion with the Episcopal Church":
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?profile=1&id=128612660494946

As Giles Goddard suggests, the distancing of TEC from other Anglicans through restrictive measures (other Anglicans like myself) does seem to be "a diminishing of the diversity of the Anglican Communion" and I regret that.

I would strongly want to affirm the integrity of faith that people may possess, even if they disagree with me. I think the kind and courteous respectfulness of love is very important if we are brothers and sisters in Christ. So my facebook page is non combative in tone, and acknowledges diversity, but calls for the embrace of fellowship and love, not the threats or exclusions because someone sees things differently.

I am positively in communion with TEC and with my own province, England, and with Rowan. The exclusions can't be targetted at 'outside' provinces, because the differences and diversity are within our own church. There is no consensus: 30 years has shown this. Common sense says to find our unity in Christ, and to recognise diversity (and maybe grow through it), and to love...

We have got a daily life of Christian service to get on with.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 2:07pm BST

Well, I am glad that someone in the C of E is stating the obvious.

Since the arrival of Augustine, no appointment to Canterbury has been such an overwhelming disappointment. I do not see how anyone can dispute this.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 2:26pm BST

Very Good. Any one or any body who can must speak up and speak out.

This is worse than the Carey years and that is saying something.

Williams will not be able to subvert the church in his own image. We are not following ...

Posted by Pantycelyn at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 2:42pm BST

Dear Dr. Williams, Peter Akinola, Henry Orombi, Drexel Gomez and destructive accomplices at the Anglican Communion and ACNA, Please note the words of Brazilian President who calls homophobia a "perverse disease" Homophobia: "the most perverse disease impregnated in the human head."

Is it not time YOU start educating yourselves and preaching enlightenment instead of endangering the lives of other Anglicans with superstitious, taboo and emotionally/spiritually sick notions collected from Selective Scriptural sources and the ¨minds¨ of those who would harm others in the name of God who COMMANDS us to ¨love thy neighbor¨ (not exclude, punish and humiliate thy neighbor)?

Ditto: Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion

http://leonardoricardosanto.blogspot.com/2008/08/emotionallyspiritually-sick-realities.html

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 3:29pm BST

I thought that was rather well written: certainly puts the argument clearly.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 3:37pm BST

This comment from an older book by Wolfhart Pannenberg has come to mind during the increasing controversy over Williams Pentecost letter, and the increasing hierarchical direction of the Communion. I commend the whole section of the book from which it is taken. "The theological identification of the church with the kingdom of God has all too often served the purposes of ecclesiastical officials who are not attuned to the kingdom of God. Many church leaders like to think they are in possession of the truth, or at least they posses the ultimate criterion of the truth. Because they feel themselves to be so indispensably related to the very kingdom of Christ, they fail to recognize the provisional character of all ecclesiastical organizations. ... Precisely because the Church mistakes herself for the present form of the kingdom, God's rule has often had to manifest itself in the secular world outside, and frequently against, the Church." (Wolfhart Pannenberg "Theology and the Kingdom of God. ed. by R.J. Neuhaus. The Westminster Press, 1975 p. 77 ff.)

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 3:53pm BST

Many thanks Susannah Clark. Many thanks.

Have signed up.


'If you like (but only if you wish) please sign this facebook page "Positively in communion with the Episcopal Church":
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?profile=1&id=128612660494946

As Giles Goddard suggests, the distancing of TEC from other Anglicans through restrictive measures (other Anglicans like myself) does seem to be "a diminishing of the diversity of the Anglican Communion" and I regret that.'


I find your writings here moving, clear and challenging.

Posted by Pantycelyn at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 4:08pm BST

Thanks so much for the Pannenberg. Seems spot on to me. Gives me words for something I felt and was groping after within myself.

Very, very helpful. Prophetic

Posted by Pantycelyn at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 4:10pm BST

A thought I've had for some time but not expressed before is about the phrase 'in communion.'

I do find the term 'in communion with' and its variants strangely unAnglican, and suspect it to be another borrowing from RC concepts. I don't think it is to be found in the BCP (1662) and I'm not sure it makes much sense in reality.

But also, I don't think it a very helpful or useful kind of term, in the current context. I don't think 'we' get to pick and choose.


Posted by Pantycelyn at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 4:16pm BST

A very fine letter from Inclusive Church. Thank you, and thanks also to my sisters and brothers in the C of E who have voiced support for TEC and Canada. MLK said that the long curve of history is on the side of justice. It's heartening to have you guys along.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 5:27pm BST

Thank you to Inclusive Church. I'd be happy to sign up on Susannah Clark's face book, but (apparently) would have to join face book first. Could Inclusive Church have a 'sign up' page for their letter? That might be easier and more direct.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 7:12pm BST

Of course, I'm entirely in agreement with others here that this is an excellent letter and encouraged by the way liberals in the UK, as elsewhere, are beginning to speak out, as perhaps they have not done sufficiently hitherto.
I thought the following was particularly trenchant and near the bone:

'Supporters of Inclusive Church have spoken with you on a number of occasions about the vital urgency of speaking generously about the breadth of Christian experience. Unless we do, we will be unable to re-engage with the communities we seek to serve in this country and who are bemused by the Church of England’s continuing rejection of LGBT Christians.'

But - here's the difficult bit - even as we proclaim 'the breadth of Christian experience' - we have to continue to provide space for those who in all good conscience do not agree with us.

Posted by john at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 8:06pm BST

I think Inclusive Church's letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury is both insightful and well composed. The thing that most concerns me and I'm certain I am not alone in this thought, is that the Archbishop's sly "handlers" will never allow Rowan Williams to even see this fine letter, yet alone know that any letters of constructive criticism will ever reach the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is essentially the same issue Roman Catholics who are critical of the Pope and the hierarchy face on a daily basis. Letters never reach the hands of the top people because their handlers control what the leaders actually read or see. This is my main concern. We Roman Catholics have yet to figure a way to make sure the Pope or high ranking cardinals and bishops actually see the letters we write. There is a loss of trust and hope as a result of this problem. If our Anglican brothers and sisters can find a way to insure that the Archbishop of Canterbury will indeed read such a fine letter as this one by Inclusive Church, perhaps a window of light will open in the Archbishop's eyes and heart. This is the big problem with a top down imperial model of hierarchy. The "handlers" have the real power and this is many times to a great disadvantage of the People of God. It is a shameful and almost evil problem and a major obstacle that we must find a way to overcome if we are to have a Church that empowers EVERY member, not just the inner circle of the top leaders. As a Vatican II Catholic, I am encouraged by the brave and loving tone that Inclusive Church has tried so hard to put into this letter. Let's hope and pray that the Archbishop of Canterbury actually sees this letter uncensored, without the editorial doctoring of his handlers. I wish we could find a way to publicly shame and hold accountable the very "handlers" of our top leadership. It seems the right thing to do.

Posted by Chris Smith at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 8:39pm BST

" suspect it to be another borrowing from RC concepts."

No, no - just Catholic ones. ;-)

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 9:28pm BST

Folks can only determine when, how, and if - to speak up now. Nobody but nobody has any say in whether RW or any of the other self-regarding traditionalists (aka insider club homophobes?) are listening or ever will listen to the active fruits of the Spirit expressed in the daily lives of so many queer folks, thriving around the planet despite all the prejudices and violence so customarily exercised against them.

It is as if the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles at Cornelius House, only to have the believers in Jerusalem repeat, grimly and blindly: BUT they are still Gentiles.

Speaking up now is a privilege, a call, a moment of genuine pilgrimage. Thank goodness, thank God.

How odd, how very odd indeed, is RW emphasizing a global Anglican moratorium on plain truth telling about the fruits of the Spirit in the daily lives of queer folks, instead of him daring to call for a global Anglican moratorium on antigay prejudice and violence. Oh yes, I know he has sort of mouthed the words - but I haven't met many who think he meant what he said - and his actions speak contrary to, and louder than, his mildly self-serving disclaimers of antigay prejudice and violence.

How ironic that this reputed Liberal Christian believer is leading a fast, hard Anglican charge to separate and silence the voices of queer folks and allies who know the daily life truths about the fruits of the Spirit as such. RW engages in a dangerous sort of church business as usual when he seeks to stop the mouths, ears, eyes, and hearts up of Anglicans everywhere. Then of course, there is the widespread knowledge that a whole lot of queer friendly stuff is going on below the Establishment Radar Screens whose banners these official pronouncements are - underground queer friendly stuff, right in the good old UK. That little bit of local hypocrisy will surely grow sharp teeth, over time and situations.

Inclusive Church's letter to Rowan Williams was obvious, yet needed to be written, to be published ... on behalf of all Big Tent Anglicans.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 11:43pm BST

John
"But - here's the difficult bit - even as we proclaim 'the breadth of Christian experience' - we have to continue to provide space for those who in all good conscience do not agree with us."

That depends on what you mean by "providing a space". We would, in this country, not accept people who believe that women are inferior to men, although of course, we would pray side by side with them in church.
We would not provide a nice space for people who didn't like blacks, we would believe that to be illegal and highly immoral.

It really depends on where you feel lgbt people fit into the grand scheme of things.
Are we something you can take or leave, something where you agree that others should be free to hate us and discrimminate against us, or do you genuinely believe us to be just like you are, and therefore beyond being treated as second class citizens?

Only you can decide for yourself. But I am beginning to think that all those kindly "oh, let the others keep on discrimminating" people haven't fully taken on board what is at stake.

I think it's about time we moved away from believing there is anything moral or acceptable about homophobia and I think it's about time that no space is left for it anywhere under whatever pretence or label.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 11:46pm BST

This is a wonderful letter.

I have heard more than once that the ABC does not see things such as this letter because his "handlers" control the information he does see about things going on around the Communion. Can someone say more about this - who are these handlers? How did they get the job? Does the ABC not do any of his own research or reading without them? Is this normal protocol for an ABC to be shielded or fed editorialized information?

Posted by Penny Nash at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 12:59am BST

Thank you Canon Goddard.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 2:23am BST

"The Anglican Communion has been more open than most about its struggle, and has earned the respect of many of our partners in this."
- Inclusive Church -

However, the Church of England's part in all of the struggle has been rather minimal so far - except, of course, for the dogged determination of those on the edge, like 'Inclusive Church' and others who have championed the cause of the emancipation of women and LGBT persons. This makes it all the more important that the ABC and the English House of Bishops pay attention to what this excellent Letter is saying to them - that 'Mother Church' needs to pull up her skirts and enter into the field of human rights and justice, in order to challenge the status quo of outmoded theology and praxis on the issue of human sexuality and gender,

The has been far too much hypocrisy and cultural cringing to the fundamentalists on matters which ought to have been brought into line with human development - as science and sociology have revealed new learnings to us over the past few decades. The Church is not a mausoleum for old ideas, but destined to be a platform the new understanding of the relationship between human beings, and how that relates to our relationship to God. "Wake, O Wake...."

Thank God for the visitation of the Presiding Bishop of TEC to the UK. One hopes that the voice of the Holy Spirit in and through Bp. Katharine's testimony at USPG, the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod, and the pulpit of Southwark Cathedral will bring new light and life into our moribund Communion. God knows, it needs it!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 2:30am BST

"The thing that most concerns me and I'm certain I am not alone in this thought, is that the Archbishop's sly "handlers" will never allow Rowan Williams to even see this fine letter, yet alone know that any letters of constructive criticism will ever reach the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury."

That concerns me also. It further concerns me that the ABC has had lots of time to listen to the likes of Dunkin' late of Pittsburgh but not other voices.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 4:21am BST

The IC letter is a masterpiece and speaks what so many of us what to have Rowan hear. Susannah Clark's piece is at least equally to-the-point. I am indebted to the authors of both.

But let's note that neither contains any of the bile or venom which now passes for 'thinking Anglicanism' so often in these pages.

Our disagreement with Rowan and our sense of terrible disappointment at the path he has chosen - even when it feels like betrayal - doesn't give us the right to descend into personal attack. I find it amazing how many people can impute to him motivation which simply cannot be proven and how others can then build upon those imputations as thought they were solid fact. This sort of judgementalism shames the liberal cause (let alone Jesus Christ!) and certainly betrays it. It is also the opposite of 'inclusivism'.

Thank God for Bishop Katherine - whose depth and integrity also gets challenged and vilified by her opponents. She is someone whom it is difficult to think of as ever uttering an intemperate word, especially in matters as grave as those before us all. Thank God she is PB and not some of her less-intemperate colleagues.

If we repeatedly descend into unchristian vituperation do not we lose our right to be heard because we have shown ourselves not to be speaking with the mind of Christ, as we trumpet other standards of behaviour? How can that possibly help move things forward? 'Right-on' liberalism founded in vilification, insult, personal denigration, name-calling and the rest looks like a poor recipe for a brave, new, inclusive church.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 8:50am BST

"the Archbishop's sly "handlers" will never allow Rowan Williams to even see this fine letter"

This may have been true in pre-internet days but, handlers or no handlers, surely RW browses the blogs in his own time.

"I think it's about time we moved away from believing there is anything moral or acceptable about homophobia and I think it's about time that no space is left for it anywhere under whatever pretence or label"

Thank you Erika - spot on

"the visitation of the Presiding Bishop of TEC to the UK. One hopes that the voice of the Holy Spirit in and through Bp. Katharine's testimony at USPG, the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod, and the pulpit of Southwark Cathedral will bring new light and life into our moribund Communion"

A view not shared by all the clergy in Southwark diocese - see this nasty little letter from some of them in The Times:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article7148346.ece

This letter has been amusingly parodied on the Anglican MainstreamS site:

http://anglicanmainstreams.blogspot.com/2010/06/straight-priests-condemn-schori.html


Posted by Laurence at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 10:53am BST

If Rowan sees nothing but what his staff or other "handlers" want him to see, it is because he, himself, does not want to. It is rather like those dentists and physicians who hire receptionists precisely to prevent direct contact.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 11:24am BST

Erika,

We've been over this (and analogous cases) millions of times. I'm talking of people who, not personally homophobic, believe they have to uphold church tradition on the matter. For most such people, such 'upholding' takes only the reduced form of 'withholding' positive endorsement. Such people, in my book, are not 'per se' homophobic. The core difficulty for them is the bible, and that inevitably leads us all into very charged areas. In this case, personally, I think a lot of bosh is talked on both sides. BOTH. I wish liberals didn't have to say: 'it's all a matter of interpretation', instead of: 'the bible is simply wrong on this, as on so much else'. To say that - which is far more honest - would produce uncontrollable debates and disagreements about absolute fundamentals.

Posted by john at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 1:13pm BST

"But - here's the difficult bit - even as we proclaim 'the breadth of Christian experience' - we have to continue to provide space for those who in all good conscience do not agree with us." - Posted by john

I'm fine w/ that . . . as long as that space is not on my (Imago Dei) neck, thank you! :-/

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 3:44pm BST

Erika Baker says "We would, in this country, not accept people who believe that women are inferior to men". Surely, many evangelicals and some ACs believe that women and LGBT people ARE inferior to straight men. Her being a woman is partly why some 'straight' Southwark men objected to ++Katharine being in 'their' Cathedral.

Posted by Rev Sidney Jensen at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 5:27pm BST

Since the arrival of Augustine, no appointment to Canterbury has been such an overwhelming disappointment. I do not see how anyone can dispute this.

Must I be the one to stand up for the middle? Extremists on both sides excoriate the current ABC for failing to take their side. He serves the Communion and serves it faithfully in difficult and turbulent times. He only does that which a majority of provinces have asked him to do. He has tried to by time. Those too impatient to allow others to see the fruits of their efforts dislike him immensely for this.

I thank God for Rowan Williams who has done difficult things. I think we would be in a very different place with a George Carey still in Lambeth over the past decade.

Posted by ruidh at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 6:05pm BST

To Cynthia and the others worried about those close to the ABC: I don't think you should let the ABC off the hook. Surely he knows how to turn on his computer.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 6:41pm BST

Times online letter: well, unless Sandy Christie is a woman (??) they are all ...... men.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 7:24pm BST

"To Cynthia and the others worried about those close to the ABC: I don't think you should let the ABC off the hook. Surely he knows how to turn on his computer."

I wouldn't be so sure. The Dio of Va's recently retired Bishop Lee didn't. He had his secretary print off his emails so he could read them. He typed a reply and she converted it to email. This ws so widely known that he was teased about it at his retirement party. The ABC is a younger man that +Peter, but still could be a non-user. I have some near contemporaries in academia who are internet-phobic and use it and email only under duress.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 7:45pm BST

John
We’ve been over this millions of times, but largely with respect to women’s ordination and women bishops.
The lgbt debate is different because it doesn’t just bar a group of people from certain positions in the church but it treats them as second class in every aspect of church life. In many of the AC countries it treats them as criminals and immoral creatures.
I don’t care why people feel like that, or whether they dress it up as a belief in the bible, it simply is not acceptable. I don’t really care about why BNP supporters hate blacks as long as I live in a country where these views are not given any decent houseroom and worship in a church where they are deplored too.

All social advances start out follow the same pattern. At first, the advance is considered to be immoral, then both positions become equally acceptable, and finally the traditional view is rightly considered to be completely unacceptable.

There is enough theology around for interested people to discover what pro-gay bible believing Christians think and why.

I know that not everyone who does not support gay rights is homophobic. In fact, I would contend that the large majority isn’t. But so what? To me, it doesn’t actually matter much why people believe they should have the right to put me in my place, all that matters is that they are not given the power to do so.

I also struggle with your argument that liberals should simply say “the bible is wrong on this” instead of saying that it’s all a matter of interpretation. Because of a large number of us, it IS a matter of interpretation. That’s an intelligent stance too, as anyone who has read, say, Tobias Haller’s Reasonable and Holy with an open mind has to acknowledge.

Liberals are as little uniform as conservatives are and there are those who were persuaded precisely because they believe a positive biblical interpretation is possible, just as there are those who believe the bible is wrong on this.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 9:40pm BST

Rev Sidney
I don’t believe that all those who oppose women’s ordination believe that women are inferior. Many do, I grant you!
But just as many genuinely believe that a woman acting as priest is as ontologically impossible as a man having babies is biologically impossible. No value judgement, just the genuine belief that God doesn’t allow women priests.

In practice you’re right, it’s the same principle as the lgbt debate, only further advanced – the theology has been done and the CoE as a whole has accepted it, there are women priests and there will shortly be women bishops.
That’s precisely where the gay debate needs to head too.
Think and believe what you like, but you will not be given the power to discriminate on the basis of those beliefs.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 9:42pm BST

"A view not shared by all the clergy in Southwark diocese - see this nasty little letter from some of them in The Times:" - Laurence on Sunday -

If the signatories to this Letter in the Times are indicative of supporters of the ABC in his bid to impose discipline on TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, no wonder the Church is in such a mess.

The opinion expressed in the letter - that TEC has flaunted the moratoria imposed by the Windsor Commission without any justification, is simply unfair and pays no attention to the facts.

Those who have put their names to this defamatory
proclamation of their conservative anti-TEC stand have not helped the Church of England to come to any understanding of the need for reformation of out-dated and unjust structures that inhibit the preaching and outworking of the Gospel towards the marginalised and powerless.

What these clerics seem not to have understood - nor taken into account - is the fact that other Provinces, which have invaded the ecclesial territory of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada without permission, have not been subject to any discipline by the ABC and the ACO.

To vilify the Presiding Bishop of TEC for her defence of the actions of an independent Province of the Communion - especially when she has been invited to address particular communities of the Church on matters which she and her Church have discerned to be inequities in the Church - seems a little 'ungentlemanly' to say the least.

As for the actions of the ACO and the Archbishop of Canterbury, many of us in other Provinces of the Church, who still have a great deal of respect for Rowan Williams, as Bishop and theologian; are appalled at the degree of pressure being exerted on him by the likes of these Southwark clerics to hold back the emancipation of women and LGBT persons by and in the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 11:25pm BST

"Think and believe what you like, but you will not be given the power to discriminate on the basis of those beliefs. "

That's why the Voter's Right Act was passed in the states in the mid-1960's. You can feel all you want, it just isn't legal. Period.

There are still racial jokes told around the table in many families (mine included embarrassingly at our "stag" fitting-out of my family cottage in northern Michigan last weekend, then again, I come from a 'conservative' family)

But you don't act on such impulses, as you know despite the tittering, giggling and guffawing in the alcohol-induced depravity that it's wrong, and that's the first step in changing behavior. Behavior that deep down inside you know is wrong, and most of us can hear our mothers scolding us for such in our sub-consciousness.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 3:43am BST

I think Rowan Williams retains his iconic radiance despite the murk of church politics. Erika Baker, I wish the Church (both RC and Anglican) would just get over it, accept gay couples, admit it's been wrong for centuries, and apologize. But it does not help to over-simplify what is involved here. For the church to reach that decision, and to provide the theological justification, and to ensure a minimum of consensus on it among faithful and clergy, a lot of time and patience is required. Recall that the argument for gay marriage has been a vibrant one in our society for only a few brief years, and has scarcely been formulated in our churches. The issue is not an open and shut case of human rights (most churches explicitly support the human rights of gays) but a matter of altering moral doctrine. It has taken most of us many decades to come to the conclusion that the old moral doctrine is false and damaging; to expect the whole church to jump into synchronicity with us is unreasonable. Truth takes time.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 6:41am BST

Spirit
Truth takes time, I accept that.
But that does not mean that lgbt people have to actively take the place of their opponents and cushion them with understanding.

What is happening in reality is that the more time you give people to change their minds slowly, the longer they take and the more entrenched they become.
What needs to happen is that more and more people stand up and say "enough of this nonsense".

I understand why my toddler has tantrums, but I wouldn't be a good mother if I set up a system whereby tantrums were accepted as a matter of course regardless of the effect they have on the rest of the family.

We can each all just define our own place in any debate. And my personal role in this debate is not to be complicit with anti lgbt people.

Straight liberals might just be able to do that and feel mature about it. To expect it from lgbt people and tell to tell us that we really ought to be a bit more balanced is no longer acceptable.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 7:58am BST

Erika,

You're polarising like mad. For you there are only 'pros' and 'antis'. I understand this psychologically (believe me, I really do), but it's not the way to conduct an argument nor does it adequately describe reality.

The trouble with the notion of 'interpretation' as applied to the bible is that it sort of implies that the bible is always right - it's just our reading which is wrong. At the same time, as I've said, I think we are stuck with it, otherwise divisions risk getting of hand. But in my heart of hearts I just think Paul was a homophobe.

Posted by john at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 2:04pm BST

John makes a good point about interpretation. The fact is that most Anglicans, liberal or conservative, don't look to Paul as an authority on marriage. We tend, whatever our views on the same-sex dimension of it, to view marriage as "an honourable estate" and not a Plan B for those too incorrigibly horny to achieve the perfection of Christian abstinence. So "reasserters" are just as selective in this respect as anyone else, which is why I'm actually more sceptical about the other half of John's point:

I'm less and less convinced that it is possible to oppose same-sex unions without being (if not homophobic, a slippery concept) heterosexist. I think it may be Colin Slee who wrote that there is something disingenuous about middle-class clergy with a house and a car and no intention of giving the lot to the poor to turn round and say "Sorry, we have to give you a hard time because Scripture says we must, and we have an absolute duty to Scripture."

The fact is that if they wanted to they could get round it as they have done with divorce and remarriage. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to use the Bible to confirm their pre-existing prejudices. It is interesting that while opponents can glibly cite chapter and verse, in about four years as an Anglican I have yet to hear a logical argument for the harmfulness of same-gender relationships to either God or neighbour, which presumably is the only real definition of sin.

Posted by Geoff at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 4:39pm BST

John
I'm not polarised, I'm biased.
I know that there are not only "pros" and "antis", there are also a lot of in-betweens.

What interests me is not anyone's psychological state, but the power they have over me and people like me.

And I'm finding it astonishing that people like you can genuinely expect me to just go with the flow.
It just shows that we still have way to go until everyone has finally understood what's at stake. At least I presume that you would not ask a black person to go with the flow if people felt he ought not to grace their B&B or that he should have to sit in the back pews and not ever try to become a priest. But with lgbt people, it's somehow still quite acceptable among enlightened liberals that we have to see all sides and not be too hard on those who want to discriminate just because they're oh so sincere about it.

In all of these debates there are always three groups. Those who start a battle for an issue, those who are somewhere in the middle, and those who are against change.
The groups are fluid and their weighting and influence will change over time.

But it really is a liberal fallacy to expect me to side with anyone who, for whatever reason, believes that my life should somehow be curtailed.
They can be nice about it or hateful.
They can have all kinds of reasons for it.
Ultimately, that doesn't matter.
In the overall scheme of things, it is my task to be with the ones who push for change, and who keep pushing the boundaries until we finally got to full equality.

Regarding the bible, there are those who believe the bible is always right. I don't happen to believe it, but I accept the integrity of those who do. And I accept that this group includes a large number of lgbt people who are, precisely, persuaded by the interpretation argument. Who am I to tell them they’re wrong? What matters is the conclusion you come to, not how you get there, and the more strands of argument there are the more chance there is to touch a wider and wider number of people.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 4:53pm BST

Thank you, Erika Baker @ 7:58am BST!
Yes, there are honest differences, but when men (and it's mostly men) refuse to acknowledge PB Schori's title, refuse to attend communion with her, insult her, I can't help it, it's just plain wrong.
"Think and believe what you like, but you will not be given the power to discriminate on the basis of those beliefs." -- beautifully put, evensongjunkie.
I still fail to get why TEC has to instantly obey every jot and tittle of the Windsor Report as if it is Holy Writ, but provinces engaging in diocese poaching are given a free hand.
I'd love to know the number of concessions the anti-WO side has made, while we in the pro-WO side are expected to bend over backwards and stay there fore eons.
And to take a few verses, a couple from Leviticus for example, or St. Paul telling women to shut up (I suspect there is a broader historical context that is being lost here) and elevate them above everything else the Bible tells us is not just bibliolatry, it is -- if I may coin a word -- versiology.

Posted by peterpi at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 5:15pm BST

John

Leaving personal feelings aside, I still have philosophical problem with your comment that we have to provide space for those who disagree with us.

We're seeing this in the debate on women bishops. The CoE wants them, FiF cannot accept any compromise that does not involve complete seggregation for FiF.

What kind of practical "providing space" are you actually thinking of? I can just see the whole women bishops' situation being played out again if you start allowing openly lgbt priests and bishops. People will want to be protected from them, we will end up creating structures in which they can remain pure and untainted, and we will end up with precisely the same situation as we are with regard to women bishops: FiF will leave the church to all intent and purposes, either as a pure and untained group within the church, or as a pure group outside it.

Leaving aside nice sounding inclusive statements, how would you actually solve this impasse in practice?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 5:29pm BST

No, Paul wasn't a homophobe. That wasn't invented. The Concept homosexual is from 1869 and it's symmetrical opposite only from 1890.

It i s about interpretations. Interpretations w r i t t e n into the translations of the sacred Texts by unreliable zealots into Social Politics.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 6:21pm BST

Erika,

I would give FiF people who want to stay (in some sense) within the C of E what they want. They want a system which avoids their being under a woman bishop. It is not true that this would involve complete segregation. They would still be within a certain diocese (as well as within whatever other structure there was). People who attended such churches would not themselves necessarily be 100% anti-women bishops (they frequently aren't). In practice, as you must know, there is much lay traffic between FiF and other C of E churches. And when I go on holiday in the UK, I go to the nearest Anglican church: it doesn't matter whether or not it is FiF. When male priests fill in during holidays, it doesn't matter whether or not they are FiF. Where male priests preside in certain contexts, it doesn't matter whether they are pro- or anti- women priests or women bishops. I would, however, try to encourage one thing: joint services, where, in the case of a woman president, FiF people could receive reserved sacraments. This was tried at Blackburn Cathedral, only to be howled down on all sides, including on this site. But I note that there were not similar howls of protest when there was a joint RC-FiF national Eucharist in honour of the trailed 'Ordinariate'. I also think that, as part of the deal, FiF people would have to accept the legitimacy of male bishops/archbishops who ordained women priests/consecrated women bishops (as some of them now do not). Such an arrangement would enable FiF people to remain within the C of E. Some of them - including bishops - fervently want to.

Such a solution would not be perfect, but - I sincerely believe - would maximise the good over the widest range of factors. The 'loss' to supporters of women bishops (of whom I am one) - or, dare I say it? - to women bishops themselves would be trivial.

Posted by john at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 8:10pm BST

"The fact is that if they wanted to they could get round it as they have done with divorce and remarriage. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to use the Bible to confirm their pre-existing prejudices. "

I am reminded of a cartoon I saw many years ago. One man watches another rapidly flipping through a very large book:

"What are you doing?"

"I'm looking for irrefutable proof of my pre-existing convictions."

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 9:14pm BST

"Where male priests preside in certain contexts, it doesn't matter whether they are pro- or anti- women priests or women bishops. I would, however, try to encourage one thing: joint services, where, in the case of a woman president, FiF people could receive reserved sacraments. This was tried at Blackburn Cathedral, only to be howled down on all sides, including on this site." - John on Monday -

And this John, In my opinion, is precisely why theologically informed 'Thinking Anglicans' were not in favour of the idea - that anti-women members of a congregation should be given the Reserved Sacrament while everyone else is content to share in the ministry of the presiding priest. This would proclaim to everyone present that the Body and Blood of Christ was only valid - in part - when received from the Reserved Sacrament. This pretty dodgy theology!

After all the doctrine of 'receptionism' is not really a catholic precept. Or is it?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 14 June 2010 at 10:39pm BST

I think the Rowan Williams who got it right was the one who wrote a letter of protest along with many other bishops at the 1998 Lambeth conference, asking for the debate on the ethics of homosexual relationships to be kept open in a spirit of mutual respect. This Rowan Williams still peeps out even in his unpleasant official role as a vigilant overseer of church order. He recognizes that the TEC are acting according to their conscience. Unlike all Roman Catholic bishops, he has never condemned gay couples or the idea of gay marriage (which, by the way, seems to be more in accord with traditional ethics than just being "partnered").

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 6:07am BST

As I've gotten older, I've begun to think that, regardless of stated belief, in practice traditional Christianity has at least *two* objects of worship: God as revealed in Jesus the Christ, and Paul of Tarsus - or, as Goran Koch-Swahne would rightly point out, those writings attributed to Paul. I honestly don't think "worship" is too strong a word to use for Christianity's traditional approach to Paul.

Now, setting aside my own reservations about Paul and his conversion, it presents a real crisis, as Paul's teaching is seen as co-equal to Jesus', even superseding it, at times! I have been told by several Episcopal priests that "we base our theology in Paul," or, even, "Paul is the patron of our church." I would believe that the base of both our theology and ecclesiology should be Christ - alone. Paul's writings are given a deference that no other epistles, even those attributed to Peter, are given. Reading about the Ebionites, even I - a confirmed questioner of Paul and his theology - found myself shocked at the idea of excluding Paul's epistles, that, somehow, that wouldn't really be a *Bible*!

Leaving aside the whys and wherefors, it seems to me a problem that Christianity has set Paul's writings up as the final illuminator and arbiter, rather than color commentary, of Christ's mind. In those places in which the Pauline writings clearly, to any rational mind, contradict Jesus, or even themselves, incredible mental convolutions are drawn just to prove that really Paul *was* saying what Jesus said. Where Jesus is silent, Paul is taken to be the final word.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 6:47am BST

John
Your solution for FiF would have worked before women bishops. FiF have since said themselves that they cannot accept a male priest who was consecrated by a woman, nor can they accept a male priest consecrated by a male bishop who also consecrates female priests, and they cannot work under a female bishop. To cater for all those caveats will, in future, be much more complex and restricting than your simple solution which worked perfectly well while we were talking about female priests only.

But my real question, bearing in mind the topic of this thread, is how you would, in practice, accommodate anti-lgbt people. You spoke of supporting Inclusive Church’s aims but said you would like space to be made for those who do not share the same views. Leaving aside my personal feelings about tolerating those views anywhere under any circumstances, how, looking at the complexity of what is happening in the female bishop debate, would you “make a space” for those who will oppose lgbt involvement in the church regardless of where the church moves.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 7:56am BST

Erika,

I think if you read me more carefully you would find that what I suggest would be acceptable to most FiF people.

As regards LGBT people, you are still reading and thinking in a completely polarised way. I specifically designated people who thought and acted 'in good conscience' and whose 'opposition' amounted to nothing more than unwillingness actually publicly to endorse sexual relations (and most of whom would regard it as grossly improper to question individuals about such matters). These people are not homophobic. I think their thinking is wrong but it is not prejudiced - it is actually principled. Trouble is, the principle is rooted in that notorious homophobe and misogynist Paul of Tarsus.

As for Goran's claim that the concept of 'homosexuality' didn't exist until 1869, as a professional Classicist, I think that's wrong, (try Aristophanes for a start), though the matter is of course disputed.

As for Fr Ron's objection, I'm simply not interested in - and attach little value to - that sort of 'theology'. Not many church people are or do - except, amusingly, FiF people. It seems to me profoundly anomalous for liberals to be so attached to it, especially as their attachment to it is inevitably opportunistic.

I'm much more interested in life as it is lived. I suggest people here attend a few services at some FiF churches where the priests don't want to pope (I can supply addresses if need be), register their virtue and their Anglican loyalty and 'feel their pain'. The current game isn't worth it. I'm afraid I think the most elementary moral calculus shows this.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 9:50am BST

Goran wrote
"No, Paul wasn't a homophobe. That wasn't invented. The Concept homosexual is from 1869 and it's symmetrical opposite only from 1890."

It's an interesting concept this - that a thing can be said not to exist because the word describing it did not exist. Did God not exist before mankind developed language?

"Cultural concepts" change over time, but we recognise a basic continuity from generation to generation. The cultural concept of marriage today is hugely different to the cultural concept of marriage in Paul's time, but we don't deny that marriage existed, or deny the link. Similarly for homosexuality. The concepts may be different (although not as different as many make out), but society still recognised the basic concept that some men and women swung the other way.

Simon

Posted by simon dawson at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 10:22am BST

"But my real question, bearing in mind the topic of this thread, is how you would, in practice, accommodate anti-lgbt people?"

Is there not an analogy to be drawn here from the world of work (except work in the church of england NB!)? I work in the NHS. No one is personally required to approve or applaud the private lives, arrangements, marriages or partnerships of anyone else - indeed people have the freedom to be espouse beliefs that are racist, homophobic, heterophobic, manhating, chauvinistic or whatever. No one either pretends to be able to or does in reality try to control anyone's thinking or believing in regard to how anyone looks at anyone else.

But what we all have to do is work and live with our colleagues in a way that is equal and that does not discriminate. We can believe what we like - but we may not either impose those beliefs on others, and in some cases may not express them, if that expression is likely to constitute discriminatory action (telling someone that you think that all people like them should be sent somewhere else is likely to mean that you are not able to work even-handedly with them thereafter).

I hope that one day we shall have a church where all are welcome and all are honoured and the gifts of all are received. That will be an LGBT affirming church. Accommodation? There will be some in the church the insides of whose heads will remain homophobic and gynophobic for a very long time. But they will be welcome as well - but not the institutional expression of their outmoded and discriminatory beliefs. I hope for the day when to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation or their gender will be something that our Church, for the sake of the Lord who welcomed everyone, will no longer tolerate, and will actively work to overcome.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 11:39am BST

Simon
Women "swinging the other way" is a completely meaningless concept in a society where fathers arrange marriages for their daughters and their preferences are of interest to no-one.
Men "swinging the other way" is relatively unimportant in a society where men could have relationships and sexual encounters outside marriage as long as they kept the dynasty going.

In many respect, the "problem" of homosexuality only became apparent when people wanted to form exclusive relationships.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 2:47pm BST

Jeremy and John

You must both be living in a different church to me. In my church, my parish has a fair mix of those who support me and those who would rather not know anything about it. There is only one person I know of who actively objects to my "lifestyle". There is no-one I know who I would call genuinely homophobic (they may exist, of course, but I don’t know of them).
But I’m not allowed to be a Reader in this church, nor was I allowed to have a blessing in it.

So it’s not the quietly tolerant or slightly anti lgbt people who cause me problems but those John so casually erases out of the conversation.

If the church should ever want to change and fully include people like me, there will be at least as much rabid opposition as there was to women priests, and who knows, some of those currently quietly not in favour of what they would call my lifestyle could well be seriously put off too.

So how would this play out in practice, if SSBs, openly lgbt priests and bishops were suddenly acceptable? How would you want to “make space” for those who didn’t like it? If "live and let live" was a real option we wouldn't be talking Covenants, removing TEC people from ecumenical committees and shutting down the conversation wherever possible.

I applaud the sentiment, but I completely fail to see how this would actually play out.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 2:50pm BST

But my real question, bearing in mind the topic of this thread, is how you would, in practice, accommodate anti-lgbt people?"

How do they need -- any further accomodation --
pray ?

They have had (and do have) it all their own way for centuries.

They jsut need to grow up-- the world doesnt / shouldnt revolve round them.

Posted by Pantycelyn at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 6:02pm BST

After all the doctrine of 'receptionism' is not really a catholic precept. Or is it?

No, it's C of E ! And none the worse for that.

In no time at all no one will be able to tell who is and isn't 'contaminated'-- gloriously. And although my 'pedigree is 'peerless', I do do, and will do everything I can to 'contaminate. myself in the eyes of those who are playing this silly and dangerous game - FiF etc.

I have recieved HC from women, presided with women and so on.

Faith alone will save FiF and any others with scruples.

Reading L'abandon may help; and also the writing of the Begunines.

Let go idolatry!


Posted by Pantycelyn at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 6:10pm BST

Erika - you wrote "swinging the other way" is a completely meaningless concept in a society where fathers arrange marriages for their daughters and their preferences are of interest to no-one.

If you love someone, but are forced to marry somebody else, is that love really meaningless?

Responding to Goran, all I was arguing is that the concept that a man or women might have a stable primary orientation towards somebody of the same sex was recognised in ancient times. Whether society approved of that orientation, or allowed somebody to act on it, does not affect that argument.

Even today I am not allowed to marry the man that I love, that does not stop me being gay, nor does it mean that modern society cannot understand the concept of my gayness.

Simon

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 9:21pm BST

Simon
Loving someone and being forced to love someone else is a human tragedy but it has little to do with homosexuality, it applies to everyone. And in societies where it is common place to have arranged marriages the idea that you should marry for love is in itself strange. I remember talking to an old Japanese couple who found it difficult to understand some of our big romantic plays because the idea of marrying for love was so alien to them that they simply did not comprehend what it was all about and why it should be important. That does not mean that Japan doesn't know romantic love, but it didn't know it in the same context and it therefore rendered the whole Western idea of marrying for love incomprehensible, unthinkable even.

If you take another current day example, look at the battle against female genital mutilation. The fact that mutilated women have no sexual enjoyment is not even mentioned as one of the arguments against it, because the idea that women are sexual beings in that respect is too alien in those cultures and not even meaningful to the women themselves.
You and your surrounding culture have to be aware of something before it can become a real issue.

Your initial question was whether we can really argue that homosexuality as we understand it is a new thing the authors of the bible didn’t know anything about.
From that point of view, yes it is, because although a lesbian woman may have had a broken heart when she was married to a man she couldn’t love, her sexual orientation was not an issue for anyone in her church or her society, maybe not even to herself.
She would no more have thought of wanting to marry a woman than the Japanese couple would have thought of chosing their own partner.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 16 June 2010 at 7:40am BST

Erika,

Sappho of LESBOS!!!!

Posted by john at Wednesday, 16 June 2010 at 10:14am BST

"there was a joint RC-FiF national Eucharist in honour of the trailed 'Ordinariate'"

John, where and when was this?????

Posted by David Malloch at Wednesday, 16 June 2010 at 8:28pm BST

"FiF have since said themselves that they cannot accept a male priest who was consecrated by a woman, nor can they accept a male priest consecrated by a male bishop who also consecrates female priests"

The first point is the logical corollary of their position. The latter is the heresy of Donatism.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Wednesday, 16 June 2010 at 10:26pm BST

David,

Perhaps I expressed myself loosely. If you check Ed Tomlinson's site (somewhere!), you will find reference to a series of such communions on some set day (a month ago?), where the Anglicans could take pre-consecrated communion. Perhaps there was local variation - I don't know; I do know that there was reference to such a 'facility' in some cases.

Posted by john at Thursday, 17 June 2010 at 6:45am BST

John
I don't know much about Sappho, maybe you can educate me. But I seem to remember that she is said to have had a daughter.
Not quite the example for the kind of stable and faithful and purely same sex relationships we are talking about.

She could, of course, neatly fit into the pattern of the Japanese couple that understands romantic love but not marrying for love.

We simply don't know!
But to go from there to claiming that ancient people had precisely the same understanding of homosexuality that we have today, and that therefore Paul was a homophobe is stretching the possibility.

To me it doesn't actually matter what Paul thought or why, I don't see him as equal with Jesus as so many seem to do. But there are many to whom it really really matters and we're doing ourselves no favours if we close off that line of argument just because we don't believe it.
If they do, and if they can talked to using that language, then that's all that matters.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 17 June 2010 at 7:33am BST

Erika,

That Sappho had a daughter is an ancient 'reading' of a particular poem (it's possible but not certain). That she had erotic relationships with girls is certain. That Lesbian girls could be regarded as lesbian, is, I would say, pretty clear (though some will dispute that). I would say that recognition of the 'gay type' can be found in the ancient world (though this is disputed), as, indeed, one would surely expect.

I wouldn't call Paul a homophobe to Evangelicals, because it would offend them. On the other hand, attempts to sanitise Paul on the matter seem (to me) strained, hence my difficulty about how to argue this issue. As has been repeatedly shown, many Evangelicals just won't buy any 'reinterpretation' of Paul on this, or, really, on any other, issue. To be honest, I think only time will do the trick. More and more of the 'orthodox' will come upon church gay couples whom they find themselves liking and respecting, and they will change their mind, helped, of course, by ever more accepting attitudes in society at large. As you will know, a very substantial minority of Synod members (somewhere in the 40s%) see nothing wrong with stable homosexual relationships. When that becomes a majority - as it will - expect bishops to ease up on the orthodoxy. I remember a few years ago, in the Durham diocesan rag, an article precisely to that effect by a self-confessed orthodox Evangelical. his conclusion: 'if the doctrine's wrong, we must change it'. It gave me particular pleasure because it was opposite the usual loud banalities on something or other from Tom Wright.

I'm sorry I've been a bit tart: bio-rhythms.

Posted by john at Thursday, 17 June 2010 at 2:07pm BST

John
Have you been tart? No need to apologise! Apologies if you feel I have been!

I suppose the real problem we're discussing is whether there is only ever one type of reasoning that convinces people or whether there have to be different types of reasoning to reach as many as possible.

Some people are convinced homosexuality as we know it was known then and that this is precisely what Paul disapproves of.
Others don't share that view.

Some are sure that what Paul said has to be taken as absolute literal truth.
Others believe that if Paul (and the bible) are wrong on something, they are wrong and that's that.

And I think just as the interpretation argument irritates you and is conter-productive for you, there are others who find the "the bible is wrong" argument irritating and counter productive.

In principle, I don't see why we should artificially retrict the debate just because some of the things that work for some people really offend our own intellect or faith.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 17 June 2010 at 5:44pm BST
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