Comments: More discussion on appointing gay CofE bishops

This is getting way too foolish as a few grown men scurry around trying to exclude honorable/qualified LGBT people and heterosexual women from ¨the highest¨ levels of participation of Anglican/English Churchlife...levels formerly reserved for gallant Anglican heros and apparently some timid bisexual men and closeted homosexuals...suddenly, it´s becoming clear that some of the people at the ¨top¨ know little about evaluating true human character, their own or anyone elses...looks like transparency is the only way forward for the Archbishops and everyone else.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 1:01am BST

Seriously, this is a pointless exercise. Whilst there are some - let's keep it simple - gay men who are happy to be entirely frank about their sex lives, there are very few gay clergy (male or female - we haven't got quite as far as the women yet) who are likely to do so in the public domain. Much the same as for heterosexual men, women and clergy. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the various groups cannot understand each other, though I suspect that gay-soc has a better understanding of het-soc than vice-versa. All of this makes the so-called 'listening process' utterly meaningless. Indeed, there is a validity in the intrinsic privacy of anyone's sex life, gay or straight, married or unmarried, clerical or lay. Superinjunctions?

Can we begin, at least, to stop using 'celibate' as meaning anything other than 'unmarried' whether that be vocational, circumstantial or temporary? Abstinent is the word for those who do not engage in whatever is being discussed, be it sex, drugs or rock 'n roll.

The great deceit is in the silent denial of the intimate interview process of many a heterosexual couple who come gloriously into the limelight when they announce their engagement and proceed to marriage. The Church is, I believe, right to continue to make and require a distinction between Christian marriage and other forms of civil marriage and civil partnership. But the C of E (at least) is mainly supportive of the latter, even for clergy, if they have sought their bishop's consent on the grounds of the abstinence from sexual intimacy, sometimes, but not always, a deceitful deceit in itself.

People who are interested in the sex lives of others - mainly (in the Church) of those who are are not declared heterosexual by orientation - cannot believe that everyone else (apart from themselves) is not at it like rabbits. And because no-one much is prepared to go into the details of their happily and perhaps lovingly abstinent, extra-curricular, recreational or intimately faithful domestic details, no-one can listen! Or if they do hear and listen, they are full of disbelief as to how excitingly disgraceful, or abstemiously boring their stories are. Don't ask, don't tell - for all human beings. Mind your own business!

As for bishops, male or female, married, celibate, abstinent, partnered or still interviewing candidates - the same fundamental principle. To the bishops of today, don't ordain as priests those who by gender or by other perceived failings cannot - in your humble and accurately informed opinion - be the bishop's local representative; and don't give your own licence to those whom you don't think can step up to your own temporal plate when you are but, frankly, just history. You were once 'just' priests, and before that you used to be 'just' human beings! Some of you are already dinosaurs; and one day you will all be dead, as well as (possibly) history. Remembered for what?

Posted by Peter Edwards at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 1:14am BST

It is interesting that even Dr.Chris Sugden admits that there are 40 bishops in the Church of England who 'know about' the existence of practising Gay clergy within their diocesan teams. The fact that he denounces them as being wrong-headed does not help the situation of either the bishops or the clergy concerned, but it brings the problem of the culture of enforced duplicity out into the open.

It does draw attention to the fact that the Church of England needs to get its act together on the issue of the reality of the place of Gays in the Church - thereby lessening the possibility of having to call the Church to account on it's own endemic culture of hypocrisy on the issue.

Only open discussion on gender and sexuality will rid the Church of the spectre of hypocrisy - a situation which the rank and file of the Church would rather have tackled by the hierarchy, NOW, before it's too late!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 1:33am BST

So the CofE has taken a lesson from British Rail in blocking the admirably qualified Jeffrey John from the episcopate in that it seems he is the wrong kind of homosexual!

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 7:25am BST

As a retired priest who spent my whole active ministry in the church of England, and now resides in the care of the Scottish Episcopal Church near Edinburgh, I am more than saddened to see the unholy mess the Cof E finds itself in. Reading how the early church prayed together, and then under the guidance of the Holy Spirit chose, 'elected' the new member to be an apostle. It seems to me that this a good example to follow, as is done in the Scottish and American episcopal churches. Here in Scotland we have some fine Bishops and Primus, without the angst of the South, and the Primus simply being the chairman of elective body./

If this happened in Southwark clearly Jeffrey would have been chosen, the choice of priest and people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. , or maybe Nic. At least it would have been the choice of the christian family in Southwark as in new testament times

Would the Archbishop then have attempted to over rule the wish of the Southwark family?.

Posted by Fr John at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 11:30am BST

It's fairly simple. There's a Biblical precedent in the case of Matthias. Every time a vacancy for a bishopric arises there should be two candidates, one gay, one not. Then toss a coin (or draw lots) to see who gets it. God will determine which way the coin lands, as he did in the Acts of Apostles.

Posted by toby forward at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 1:19pm BST

How disappointing to read that interview transcript. Classic Radio 4 "balanced reporting", i.e. "Let's get two people to talk past each other for a time just short enough to preclude any substantial exploration of the topic."

Here's an interesting (if facile) experiment: imagine that they're talking about marijuana instead of sexuality. Coward notes that the bishops encourage their clergy to smoke up at home, so what's the difference if a bishop himself inhales? Sugden, by contrast, is persuaded that pot is a gateway drug and that the pot-smoking activists are trying to get heroin addiction recognized as a legitimate, nay normative, lifestyle choice.

Of course it's silly to compare a person's sexuality with drug use (though Dr. Sugden seems to think that Christianity's message on this subject really is "Just Say No!"). But the transposition reveals just how perfectly the world-views of these two interviewees negate each other. They can't have a real conversation, because they share absolutely no common ground.

What would it have taken for the Sunday producers to find, say, a theologian and a sociologist who could have talked about the question in the round, rather than presenting entrenched opposing views? But then, maybe they only want "activists" for Radio 4 cage matches.

And yes, let's be precise with our terminology. I believe Roman Catholics distinguish between "celibacy" and "continence". One may be an incontinent celibate!

Posted by Jesse at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 1:55pm BST

A fitting tribute to the late Colin Slee will be the implementation of root-and-branch reform of the process for appointing bishops in the Church of England, which has been brought into disrepute by recent events.

July’s General Synod should appoint a fresh inquiry to find out what happened during the Southwark CNC, allow all other participants to put their side of the story, and to publish its findings with the aim of restoring public confidence. Given the very stringent demands the candidates were subjected to with regard to their personal lives, it follows that the conduct of the appointment process should be utterly beyond reproach. Baroness Fritchie (of the leak inquiry) was a Commissioner for Public Appointments. Were the Nolan Principles adhered to, as required for public sector senior appointments, particularly in relation to the selection process being based exclusively on merit? The Presidential address should acknowledge that something was amiss, set out an action plan, and announce that all appointments of bishops will be placed on hold until this is completed.

The legal checklist which has come to light echoes almost word for word the public inquisition Jeffrey John was subjected to during the Reading affair and represents a corruption of the Church of England’s exemption from aspects of equality legislation. It describes a sort of vicarious discrimination: ‘I may not have anything against this man, but I can point to a crowd of people who do, and who shout the loudest about their own strongly held religious convictions regarding this or that requirement relating to a characteristic of the candidate’ - a type of justice Pilate would be proud of.

These disclosures deliver an almighty coup de grace to the Windsor Process and places the ABC as Instrument of Communion in an untenable position vis-à-vis the moratoria on gay bishops. By voting down the Anglican Covenant, synod members would relieve the ABC from the burden of what is a highly politicized role and allow him to devout his energies to what he is best at – as spiritual leader.

Parliament should make the continued presence of bishops in the House of Lords conditional upon the appointment process for selecting them based solely on merit, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

On this feast day of the Visitation of the BVM during Rogationtide, the words of the Magnificat have an added poignancy.

Posted by A J Barford at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 2:48pm BST

Christ was forthright enough to not only castigate the nit-picking Pharisees, but to recognise the devil at work in Judas (John 6:70). He also denounced Peter's worldly triumphalism, with the words, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' (Matt. 16:23)

The much-quoted saying, Judge not, and you will not be judged' (Luke 6:37) didn't stop Paul from exposing the hypocrisy of the Judaizers and any powerful internal leaders who sided with them (Gal. 2:11). His fair-minded approach even recognised the earnest (though misdirected) intentions of his opponents, 'For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.' (Romans 10:2)

So, Colin Coward got the opportunity in a public forum to distance and distinguish the Changing Attitudes Christian stance on monogamy (heterosexual or homosexual) from that of his non-Christian allies: those who do not particularly uphold permanent monogamy as suitable for any sexual orientation. He didn't take it, but avoided political suicide ('I am not going to denounce anybody') on the 'whole camel' of permanent monogamy itself, only to strain the 'minority' view of Christians on the same-sex marriage.

What a pity when you can't afford to alienate your powerful allies with a forthright denunciation of any outspoken indifference to permanent monogamy (heterosexual or same-sex) on all sides of this debate. What's the point of any alliance in support of same-sex marriage, that goes on to reject the Christian belief in permanent monogamy as outmoded? Where, in the gospels, do you see Christ embrace that sort of grimy, double-dealing realpolitik?

Perhaps, he could have stated that he was unaware of, or unaffiliated with any groups who hold a more permissive position on marriage itself. There's even been plenty of time to do this, since the interview. It's not enough to dig up a convenient 'position statement' carried on some obscure part of your website after the event.

So, just loudly vaunt the common cause, then. Even if it's at the expense of Christ's avowed position on marriage itself!

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 3:49pm BST

While I agree with Peter Edwards that it might have been good had all of this not become a part of the church's pelvic obsession, sad to say, it has. The problem in the current debate seems to be, once again, the double standard applied to gay and lesbian persons. If the "rules" applied to Dean John were in place, as I understand them, a man who had premarital sex with the woman who became his wife would be disqualified from consideration.

For those, such as myself, who do not believe that morality is determined by biology, I think the same standards should be applied to glbt persons as to strait persons: either continent celibacy or marital fidelity. If one wants to move with the times to the extent of recognizing that premarital sexuality is a large part of many persons' lives, then that standard should also be applied across the board. This appears to me to meet the test of the gospel.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 4:47pm BST

So, David S, you insist that Colin Coward should have told us WHEN he stopped beating his wife (er, husband). Got it.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 7:33pm BST

I suspect you mean 'straight' not 'strait.'

"a man who had premarital sex with the woman who became his wife" and then taught as Bishop that this was the acceptable practice of the church and ought to be allowed whether marriage followed or not...is this what you are suggesting?

That is the analogy and yes it needs to meet the 'test of the Gospel' and it does.

This is the 'across the board standard' I believe you are looking for. Can you name a Bishop of the Anglican Church who believes the acceptable teaching of the church is that Christ permits sexual expression outside the bounds of marriage tout court?

The old adage holds true: 'hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue.' You apparently wish to argue that sexual expression outside of marriage is acceptable for Gay folk if it is consensual; indeed, by some accounts, it is constituitive of being Gay (hence the concern to 'out' celibate 'gays'). This rises to the level of acceptable Christian teaching and practice, on this account.

This is a different thing to arguing that premarital sexual activity takes place simpliciter.

This is Pastoral Theology 101. It is not inconsistent. What may not appeal is the idea that sinful activity exists, on the one hand; and can be forgiven, on the other. This has nothing to do with consensuality or even intentions of doing good.

Here the two different 'Gospels' likely diverge, which is why presumably the ABC and ABY are trying to find their way with some kind of traditional account in a climate where the boundaries have been shifted.

Posted by seitz at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 8:25pm BST

seitz; ""a man who had premarital sex with the woman who became his wife" and then taught as Bishop that this was the acceptable practice of the church and ought to be allowed whether marriage followed or not...is this what you are suggesting? That is the analogy and yes it needs to meet the 'test of the Gospel' and it does."

This is what Abp Sentamu seems to teach nowadays, in his comment that it was good for Prince William and Kate Middleton to have lived together before marriage, as it's as well to "test the milk before you buy the cow" (infelicitous phrase!).

However, this is absolutely NOT what the traditional Christian view was when I was a child. Living in sin was the word for it then, and priests used the term in pulpits, as I remember well. Interesting how standards are allowed to change for straight people, though...


Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 10:22pm BST

Was Sentamu as Bishop of the Church saying that the sexual behaviour of Kate and William was acceptable as a new version of the Christian faith and practice, or was he acknowledging a fact about this couple independently of the church's teaching?

You give out above that the ABY said 'it was good for W and K to have lived together before marriage, as it's as well to test the milk...'. I don't think this is what he said, but it is interesting how his remark is recollected in the form you have given it.

No this is not the 'traditional Christian view when you were a child' and I doubt it has ceased being that for Sentamu.

I suspect the rub in this is expressed in the language quandry of 'gay.' Does the term refer to an ontological fact? the choice of a homosexually inclined person to adopt an understanding of his/her own ontology, and identify publicly with that? is a celibate person with homosexual inclinations therefore 'gay'...or 'celibate'? If the latter, can they be outed to 'benefit' the cause of the former?

Because the answer to these questions is not universally agreed, a 'progressive' Bishop could stand up and say that 'Gays' are to be allowed sexual expression as Gospel teaching, but be unable to say the same thing of 'heterosexuals' with the same zeal/justice concern; after all, sexual expression of a non-same-sex kind is just a cultural given, and can be tolerated without pulpit remonstration or approval both because no one is demanding this as a class-action matter. 'I insist in my identity as a sexual person and don't care whether marriage follows or not.'

William and Kate walked the same walk as any Christian couple contemplating marriage, with the stakes probably higher precisely because they did not seek to hide their private lives. Should they have been made to stand up and renounce their sexual intimacy before marriage? Maybe. But in a manner that is what happens when people marry.

Haller spoke of inconsistent standards. Perhaps that is exactly what he does want if he thinks carefully.

The ABC and the ABY did not say that a 'heterosexual' candidate would be free to serve as Bishop and endorse the state of pre-marital sexual affairs. A 'gay' candidate would be expected to hold to an analogous standard.

But given the lack of agreement over ontology and behavior, the analogy for same-sex advocates will break down. Or is the idea that when 'gay marriage' is brought in and justice done, then pre-marital gay sex will be viewed as inappropriate for precisely the same reasons that a traditional view held out for a standard of conduct, even when broken?

I don't think standards are changing so much as entire categories of being and acting as Christians have understood these.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 11:07pm BST

Dr. Seitz, you are reading between far too many lines here, and missing the lines. I did not say, nor do I intend, most of what you presume here, at least as far as I understand you. But I do not recognize your attributions as coherent with my opinions.

Did you bother to take a look at the point to which I was responding in the list of criteria? A man who had premarital sex with his wife and was not abstinent in marriage would be disqualified from ministry. I said nothing about teaching... nor does the guideline to which I was responding.

That guideline would eliminate from consideration for appointment to the episcopate even "repentant" gay priests who later entered an abstinent civil partnership, and who taught against liberalizing trends.

Nor am I suggesting that tolerance for premarital sex should become the norm. (That does seem to be happening, however: The ABY has suggested the former might well even be wise, in his homey reference to milk and cows, and the ABC just officiated at a very public liturgy involving such a couple.) Rather, I said that if such tolerance comes to be the norm it should be applied across the board to same-sex and mixed-sex couples. Naturally I am assuming marriage for same-sex couples is a part of this calculus.

Of course, for you where this all breaks down is in your position that any and all same-sex relationships constitute sin. That still doesn't address the repentant person, however, who comes to that mind. So let me try an analogy that may be more meaningful from your perspective.

A priest has an adulterous affair. His wife divorces him. He then marries his paramour, but pledges abstinence, with his now-wife's agreement. (I confess it is difficult to come up with a perfect analogy, and this likely strains credibility.) The question is, should such a man be considered for episcopacy? Or for a teaching office in the church? I take it there is no question if abstinence is not part of the picture.

This is, of course, a purely hypothetical scenario -- but it would be from the traditional position on adultery an equivalent to the traditional position on same-sexuality, at least that is my intent, for the sake of argument.

Finally, I meant "strait." You may be unfamiliar with the usage, which while not the norm, is common enough. Both are slang or colloquial usages, of course. Strait : gay :: bound : loose. Straight has connotations of moral uprightness, which I do not automatically grant to or assume of all heterosexuals.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 11:23pm BST

JCF:
Lithe lunge, rapier ready. Yet, wrong-footed response to *written* remarks requires 'remise' rather rapidly.

'En garde!'

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 11:30pm BST

"That guideline would eliminate from consideration for appointment to the episcopate even "repentant" gay priests who later entered an abstinent civil partnership, and who taught against liberalizing trends."

Is this truly so? Please corroborate.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 1:29am BST

'Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:'

So, the eternal safety net isn't guaranteed by a pluralist, laissez-faire society, then? God knows who'll join the heterosexual crowd in losing the automatic imputation of moral uprightness!

No prizes for guessing those who'll maintain the presumption of innocence regardless.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 2:03am BST

"is a celibate person with homosexual inclinations therefore 'gay'...or 'celibate'? If the latter, can they be outed to 'benefit' the cause of the former?"

- cseitz -

One of the problems about your question here is that the ontological reality - that gayness is a fact of their normal biological nature for a small percentage of human beings - is still not at all acceptable to most homophobic 'Global South' style theologians like yourself, Christopher.

The fact that some gay people are disposed not to act upon their natural sexual inclinations hardly renders them free from 'blame' by the homophobes; who really believe they have no right to exist. One only has to read the opinions of some of the G.S. Primates to gather that information.

The real point at issue in all of the extended conversations connected with homo versus hetero-sexual ethical propriety is really more about the relative measurement of the justice meted out by the Church where the two different circumstances do not receive the same treatment - relative to the action taken.

For homosexuals; the fact that their heterosexual counterparts may exercise their sexuality within the bond of a committed monogamous relationship - while gays and lesbians are denied that facility; this amounts to an institutional injustice.

If 'being Gay' is not considered by the Church to be 'sinful' (in the same way that 'being straight' is equally blameless); then why should homosexuals be barred by the Church from a monogamous, committed and faithful relationship? I suspect that the Church is not willing to tackle this, or to admit it's endemic duplicity!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 2:04am BST

"I suspect the rub in this is expressed in the language quandry of 'gay.' Does the term refer to an ontological fact? the choice of a homosexually inclined person to adopt an understanding of his/her own ontology, and identify publicly with that? is a celibate person with homosexual inclinations therefore 'gay'...or 'celibate'? If the latter, can they be outed to 'benefit' the cause of the former?"

Is this a parody (ala "Christwire")?

I fear it isn't. (It ought to be!)

[@ DavidS. My work here is done. But please, continue petard self-hoisting if that's your thing...]

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 4:38am BST

And that was the best you could come up with. I pity that poor congregation...

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 7:26am BST

I hope I live long enough to see this carry on played out....I expect in 20 yrs time the C of E will either have realised the current situation is unsustainable ( Who knows, the government may intervene to like Peel in the 1830's!) and "adjust" as it did on women and the vote, contraception and divorce; it may fragment into its constituent parts or ,perhaps the most likely, it will simply become economically unviable!

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 8:45am BST

If the House of Lords is reformed and the bishops retain their seats.. this will be the only modern western democracy which reserves seats exclusively for men and by implication seats where active open gays are accepted!

12 seats reserved for bishops ( on £300 a day) for a denomination, whose regular adherents represent less than 2 per cent of the British population.

It's time for the Church of England to do what the Church of Sweden did, politely ask for disestablishment before it is embarrassingly forced upon them.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 11:48am BST

These situations are incredibly difficult (I write as one wholly committed to full gay equality in all areas). But I do think that in this particular situation, IF JJ was (in other respects) the best candidate, he should have been appointed. He is 'celibate' (to use a word). He is in compliance with C of E policy. If the objection then is he hasn't 'repented', the reply is that there can be legitimate difference of opinion about these matters, provided people observe official policy officially. If the objection then is: he cannot be a focus of unity, the reply is: he upholds official policy and to make his private objections to it a stumbling-block is a very, very minority position and gets things right out of proportion. Many, many Evangelicals are extremely uncomfortable with JJ's non-promotion, as they believe, quite rightly that he has done enough. It's a pity that our archbishops don't have the moral discrimination or the guts to fight for this position. I think actually they do have the former - it's the latter that is so deficient. The 'signal' that would be sent would be tremendously encouraging both to gays and to the decent majority.

Posted by john at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 12:01pm BST

"Does the term refer to an ontological fact? the choice of a homosexually inclined person to adopt an understanding of his/her own ontology, and identify publicly with that?"

Not a satire, but an entirely valid question. I would suggest neither: beyond vague and shifting categories of sexual response, it's hard to identify any essential 'fact' about persons that makes them 'homosexual' other than the cultural discourse that deems them to be so. The 'outing' of (mostly) celibate priests by well-meaning but misguided gay rights campaigners in the 1980s demonstrates that nobody is above being labelled with terms they may not elect to identify with, and certainly can't opt out of. Human relationships have reality, identities do not. But just because 'homosexuality' is a cultural construct that lacks reality (an idol, perhaps, in the ABC's definition of the term), it doesn't mean we can simply choose to escape it. As David Halperin (I think) observed, "if one could simply think oneself out of one’s acculturation, it wouldn’t be acculturation in the first place.".

Posted by RJB at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 2:10pm BST

The question is not whether it is 'acceptable' (is this an aesthetic category?) but whether it is based in fact/reality.

A person with homosexual inclinations (even 'science' declares these are on a sliding scale for all people) who chooses a life of celibacy cannot without further ado be declared 'gay.' This has nothing to do with 'acceptability' to me or to you. It merely shows the difficulty of the logic of so-called inherent 'gayness' (to extend the neologism one more time).

Posted by seitz at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 2:26pm BST

"A person with homosexual inclinations (even 'science' declares these are on a sliding scale for all people) who chooses a life of celibacy cannot without further ado be declared 'gay.' "


Well, that seems distinctly odd. It would never occur to most people to consider celibate straight people as somehow "not straight;" I can't imagine why it would apply to gay people. Why is sexual activity an indispensable part of being gay, but not of being straight?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 3:50pm BST

"William and Kate walked the same walk as any Christian couple contemplating marriage, with the stakes probably higher precisely because they did not seek to hide their private lives."

The Royal Family does not seem to have striven to make their private lives open to the public at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. From this side of the Atlantic they seem to control access to their private lives (or, rather, attempt to control such access) rather strongly.

"Should they have been made to stand up and renounce their sexual intimacy before marriage? Maybe. But in a manner that is what happens when people marry."

I have been to many weddings - Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish - and not once was their any hint that any such thing was going on, or expected, or needed.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 3:59pm BST

"A person with homosexual inclinations (even 'science' declares these are on a sliding scale for all people) who chooses a life of celibacy cannot without further ado be declared 'gay.' "

Let's do some substitution work with this to see how valid it really is:

"A person with heterosexual inclinations (even 'science' declares these are on a sliding scale for all people) who chooses a life of celibacy cannot without further ado be declared 'straight.' "

Nope. Doesn't make any more sense that way.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 4:03pm BST

Dr. Seitz, you ask,

"'That guideline would eliminate from consideration for appointment to the episcopate even "repentant" gay priests who later entered an abstinent civil partnership, and who taught against liberalizing trends.'

Is this truly so? Please corroborate."

Here is point three from the list of "impediments"

• whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex relationship;

Note that it says nothing about abstinence, though that is assumed as part of the whole concept that any continued same-sex sexual activity is an automatic disqualifier. "Repentance" is added as a possible fourth consideration, but does not appear necessarily to guarantee a "pass." So perhaps I should have more precisely said "could" rather than "would." (Thought I imagine the Civil Partnership would weigh against the fervor of faith in the depth of "repentance." -- Hence my analogy with the adulterer who remains in an "abstinent" relationship with his paramour.) And as point five is that bugbear "unity" (what bishop is able to make all of the members of his diocese not find something to disagree about?) there is always a way to say "No" in particular on an issue on which there is clear division of opinion.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 4:04pm BST

I am deeply uncomfortable with the concept that those who desire the full acceptance of gay relationships promoting anybody on the grounds that they are 'gay but abstinent'. I understand of course that they are furious at seeing able gay candidates passed over when said candidates seem to filled all possible requirements previously made. But I still think it is more wholesome to simply insist that gay relationships are morally equal to straight ones.

Despite this, I do acknowledge the deep hypocrisy involved in calling on gay people to 'repent' of sex with somebody they love. Pause and consider. Why is sex, alone, treated like this? It is not the only sin Jesus condemns. Indeed it is not the chief sin Jesus condemns.

Let us take another sin traditionally condemned by the church, and hardly mentioned by Jesus. Let us take gluttony. Shall we ask all stout bishops (and I have seen some) if they repent of the meals they have eaten? Not, you understand, repent in a general way of being greedy - I hardly think that would do(I am sure we can all repent generally of occasions of inappropriate lust) - but actually repent of the last meal they eat to celebrate a birthday, say? And if not, why not? Because of course, we remember with regret that we have over eaten (I am speaking here of a sin which is very much one of my sins, you understand). But we very rarely regret particular meals.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 6:31pm BST

"A person with homosexual inclinations (even 'science' declares these are on a sliding scale for all people) who chooses a life of celibacy cannot without further ado be declared 'gay.'"

Does that mean that any celibate person (regardless of whether happily or unhappily so) is neither heterosexual or homosexual but asexual, or does this strange definition only apply to gay people?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 6:51pm BST

Would the restrictions that were applied to Jeffrey John to disqualify him from becoming a bishop be applicable to a heterosexual candidate in a married relationship who "slept" with his (or her, some day, I hope) spouse before they were married?
I strongly suspect the answer is "no".
Homosexual, gay, ontological, not ontological, that's all beside the point to this particular Yank.
If there is one set of rules for open heterosexuals, and another set of rules for open homosexuals, then, as far as I'm concerned, the CofE ought to be ashamed of itself.
Thank you, Father Ron Smith for your characterization of Global South primates and bishops and their fellow travellers in the West. To these types, the only acceptable position for homosexual men or women in the CofE and all “correct" Anglican churches is on their knees, in the pews, openly and continually bewailing their mortally sinful status, without any hope of Earthly mercy, and with no possibility whatsoever in any form of holding a position of authority in the Church. Period. In fact, ideally, such persons would disappear from the Church, in their opinion. Meanwhile, forgiveness and mercy are available to heterosexuals, but of course.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 8:04pm BST

seitz: "A person with homosexual inclinations (even 'science' declares these are on a sliding scale for all people) who chooses a life of celibacy cannot without further ado be declared 'gay.'"

For a time when I was younger, I thought that, as I was sure God was callng me to be a priest, I was also therefore being called to celibacy. However, I was certain that I was also gay. The thing that made me realise that I wasn't necessarily called to celibacy was knowing some really screwed-up older gay clergy, trapped in denial and with perpetually wandering hands, a couple of whom are now C of E bishops, and thinking "When I am older, would it be in any way healthy or good for me to be like them?"

I do think there is something a little gross in all the personal energy and animosity that some straight men (yourself included?) are investing in this struggle to sound rational while pushing us self-accepting gays out of the Church. Firstly, it won't work, because you just get left with the gays in denial, who are evidently acceptable as bishops, despite being so obviously in need of someone who loves them to come home to of an evening. Secondly, do I care what any of you straight people get up to in private? As long as it doesn't involve coercion or exploitation, certainly not; and perhaps that's how we should all be towards each other, as indeed the whole of the rest of Britain is, bar a few Evangelicals on the lunatic fringe.

Posted by Fr Mark at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 8:12pm BST

There is a point here of the utmost importance, which concerns not only the issues themselves but also the manner in which the debate about them is conducted. There are 'orthodox', 'traditionalist' people (the terminology doesn't matter, because the reference is sufficiently clear) who are straight (strait?) and true, and whom we should strive to the utmost to accommodate (that is, share our home with). These people are in practice also pragmatists, because, despite their absolutist theological claims, they recognise that within the shrinking Christian community people have to get on, despite differences, and that here (in the UK, and doubtless in many other places) there are countless border-crossings and interpenetrations which render the polarity 'liberal-traditionalist/orthodox' not meaningless but highly simplistic and disproportionate. Then there are those who twist and distort and wriggle. We have an ultimate duty to them, of course, but in practice, in discussion, we shouldn't bother with them, because they don't play fair. And presumably they don't play fair because they are 'ends justifies the means' people. In which case, they are deeply corrupted.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 9:05pm BST

The simple reality is that using a term like 'gay' because it is a neologism means its meaning is not univocal. RJB puts his finger on the tricky landscape this new language lives in.

The present discussion appears to assume there are distinct categories of 'being' that are more trenchant than gender (or more vague, like the 'genderless' fiction in Toronto, with the young infant 'Storm').

So, one is 'Gay' and that means adopting the acculturation of Gay life (being and acting as conjoined). Or, it means, someone who chooses not to adopt that life and indeed rejects the term, but who also does not identify with 'straight/strait'. Are monks/nuns of necessity either gay or straight monks?

Is Gay a political term as much or more than a quasi-biological term? Hence its appearance latterly but not before the 19th century?

Here we also run into the problem of 'sliding scale.' Does a 'straight' person with 'homosexual' inclinations become 'gay' when these reach __ %? When they have a same-sex encounter?

So on the one hand the terms are used as if they refer to states of being/biological givens. X is 'straight.' Y is 'Gay.' And yet one also speaks of inclinations and desires as semi-autonomous and declarative in some sense.

Add into this the business of social construction, and the *process* of maturation, and at what point is boy X 'gay' and at what point 'straight' and how does that come about?

All these areas of confusion are not the homophobias of 'global south style' incubation, but belong to the welter of our age. To declare terms univocal is not to make them so. This is why it is equally false to speak of 'scientific' facts independently of a sociology of knowledge.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 9:33pm BST

Bill D--'celibate' people are routinely classified as 'gay' or 'homosexual' because they have not married. To say there is a self-evidence called 'celibate straight people' is again to demonstrate how assumptions are not realities.

As for Christian marriage. The vows still include faithfulness, for life. If one had been engaged in pre-marital sex, that life is over, and a new life begun. Sex outside of marriage is adultery and sinful. That is a fact whether people choose to live accordingly or not.

So you have indeed witnessed this in marriage ceremonies.

T Haller. Your category was:

"gay priests who later entered an abstinent civil partnership, and who taught against liberalizing trends.'

I am unsure what you mean by teaching against liberalizing trends and entering an abstinent civil partnership. Is the idea that a Bishop in such an estate would uphold Christian marriage as a lifelong vow, made to God in Christ, between a man and a woman, entering into Holy Matrimony and also oppose same-sex intimacy as against the teaching of the church, and so would cease being a public defender of it? If so, I am unclear what the impediment would be.

Except that I cannot imagine such a case.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 10:12pm BST

Bill D and Erika B: +1000!

The idea that you can't be/ID as "gay" w/o current/former same-sex activity is LUDICROUS (as I could testify to first-hand).

People *know* their sexual orientation (as they also *know*, independently of their orientation, whether they're called to celibacy *or not*). The only question is whether the Church is going to continue, on the basis of faulty and/or bigoted Bible translations/interpretations, to try to COERCE persons of one orientation (Teh Gay one) to think its *inherently* sinful to act on.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 10:45pm BST

Dr. Seitz, got it in one. I too would say it ought not be an impediment, but there it is in the list which started this whole discussion.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 11:30pm BST

"Bill D--'celibate' people are routinely classified as 'gay' or 'homosexual' because they have not married. To say there is a self-evidence called 'celibate straight people' is again to demonstrate how assumptions are not realities."

Hmmm, that pesky passive voice. Just who is doing the classifying, Mr Seitz, and why should we pay attention to it?

"As for Christian marriage. The vows still include faithfulness, for life. ...So you have indeed witnessed this in marriage ceremonies."

Oh, I've seen marriage ceremonies. I simply do not believe your spin on them.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 12:42am BST

I'm not sure what the term "sliding scale," in describing sexual orientation, as used in some of the comments above, means. The comments ascribe to this "science" (quotation marks in the original). This is a very misleading term, particularly if it implies some kind of straight line.

A great number of human characteristics are best described by a bell curve. For example, there are relatively few very short people and relatively few very tall people with most people falling in increasing numbers toward the middle.

There are some human characteristics, however, that don't fall into a bell curve. For example, left and right handedness fall into a J-curve. There's a large proportion of right-handed people one side, a smaller group of left-handed people on the other, with those that are truly ambidextrous falling into a much smaller curve on the bottom.

I am aware of some studies, much more recent that Kinsey, indicating that innate sexual orientation (as opposed to sexual practice, discussed a bit more below) falls in the J-curve rather than the bell-curve pattern. According to these studies, the majority of people simply do not fall into the completely bi-sexual category that would expect in a bell-curve model. Instead, the orientation of the vast majority of people is either fully heterosexual or heavily inclined in that direction, the orientation of a much smaller group either fully homosexual or heavily inclined in that direction, with a fairly small truly bi-sexual orientated group along the bottom of the J.

The "everyone is bisexual" theme came from both Freud and Kinsey. These later studies criticized both of them. Freud was a theoretician, not a clinician, and on this (like much of what he wrote) he didn't really know what he was talking about. Kinsey focused on sexual practice, not sexual orientation, and the two are not the same. A heterosexually oriented man who repeatedly receives oral sex from another man is neither homosexual nor bisexual. A homosexually oriented man who marries and has children is neither heterosexual nor bisexual. There are certainly bi-sexual men who fall into both of those categories but that’s something else yet again.

These studies date from about 10 years ago so there is certainly more recent work on this subject. (I know that this subject has become quite politicized and that all clinical studies concerning sexual orientation are very difficult to accurately complete.)

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 2:06am BST

cseitz: "sex outside marriage is adultery and sinful". Adultery is normally sex in contravention of a marriage vow. The content in various contexts is not only sexual, but to do with protecting property, inheritance and the continuity of the family name. Hence the marriage custom illustrated in Ruth, which is also about ensuring that the brother's widow is not abandoned and family honour.

Did Jacob commit adultery? If so, how is this identified as sinful?
Did Esther commit, or encourage, or condone adultery? What allows her action to be approved?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 6:10am BST

"Here we also run into the problem of 'sliding scale.' Does a 'straight' person with 'homosexual' inclinations become 'gay' when these reach __ %? When they have a same-sex encounter?"

This is rarely the issue you're trying to overthink it into, and I certainly do not need sexual experience to give an accurate account of my sexual orientation. I sincerely doubt you kept your options open as an "undeclared major" before your first sexual experience ruled out your possible homosexuality! The facts of the case, to fall back on legalese, is that a given number of the population will at any time find themselves to lack a sufficiently robust degree of interest in the opposite sex to form a family on the basis of marriage thereto. In this respect, therefore, they differ from the great majority of persons; like their more numerous counterparts, however, their orientation is not generally a matter incumbent on their will.

Both groups, too, will inevitably have a certain proportion of persons with genuine vocations to celibate chastity as the Church has traditionally understood it. There is, however, no reason to believe that this proportion wll differ greatly, and the existence of families being raised "in the fear and nurture of the Lord" by parents of the same gender according to the prayer book's exhortations on marriage preclude certainly any blanket equation of the celibate estate with a homosexual orientation.

So the question becomes what to do about these couples. And at one level, it almost doesn't really matter what one's view is on the congruence of same-gender relationships with God's plan. Either we can support the souls in our cure in adhering as closely as their circumstances (however fallen, as are we all) feasibly permit, or we can disqualify Christians from full communion, thereby ensuring that they haven't a hope at all of any degree of such conformity! (The elided question in so much of the conservative literature is if the blessing of same-gender unions is as evil as they so, how much greater an evil must a union without the benefit of blessing be? Placing adoptive children with same-gender couples may or may not be God's ideal but it a perversely selective "catholic" doctrine of family life that does not consider it more so than serial bouncing between foster homes).

Ultimately, no matter how many webs you weave about how heterosexuality is written into the fabric of ordered creation, the leap you ask people to take - to disfellowship members of their (natural and church) families for desiring the same goods for which they themselves are freely offered blessing - is just too much of stretch for most to make. And for anyone under 35, the efforts of some quarters of the church to tie these burdens without lifting a finger are taken as conclusive evidence that the institutional church has become so irredeemably unmoored from the message of Christ as to be extremely challenging to lend any credibility.

Posted by Geoff at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 6:24am BST

'Is Gay a political term as much or more than a quasi-biological term? Hence its appearance latterly but not before the 19th century?'

A common fiction. In fact, Rick Norton, (Mother Clap's Molly House)shows quite clearly that men self-identified as being homosexual as early as the 1700s.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 7:48am BST

Christopher Seitz: "All these areas of confusion are not the homophobias of 'global south style' incubation, but belong to the welter of our age. To declare terms univocal is not to make them so. This is why it is equally false to speak of 'scientific' facts independently of a sociology of knowledge."

You know, I don't care whether identifying myself as gay is an action you want to question and challenge and disbelieve. Exploring and investigating the 'welter of our age' and saying that it is equally false to speak of 'scientific' facts independently of a sociology of knowledge traps me in head stuff and fails to honour the wholeness of my being in Christ.

Gay is the word adopted which best describes the way I am and understand myself congnitively. You may not understand the way I am and feel, that's part of the human condition affecting all of us, but as a Christian priest, I know what I mean when I describe myself as a gay man, and the 'global south style', the denial of my reality, feels abusive and is something the Church has to deal with and overcome - and it will.

Posted by Colin Coward at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 8:17am BST

I don't know why we get tangled up in ever more esoteric discussions about what gay "means".
It's a completely irrelevant conversations.

Either same sex relationships are sinful or they're not.
If they are, no-one should enter into them, if they're not, anyone who falls in love with a person of the same gender should be able to.

If someone tells me that they have never in their lives fancied a woman and feel repulsed by the mere thought of a relationship with one, it is not up to me to query why they feel that. Unless I believe them to be liars, it's simply a fact, an experienced lived reality.

Why do some people feel so terribly threatened by gay relationships that they have to explain them away and discredit those who tell us that they really can do no other?
What is it about the psychology of some people who can look at closeted gay bishops who have to fear that their whole world will collapse if the truth about them is discovered - and who deduct from that that these people aren't really gay because gayness doesn't exist?

What is it about people who can look at gay people being thrown in jail, tortured and executed and still believe that this is a wanton lifestyle choice?

Further up on the spectrum, it’s still as simply if slightly different.
As a bisexual, I did, indeed, choose to be with my wife. Why ever wouldn't I? For what earthly reason should I turn away from the truest, closest, most loving, most respectful and faith-filled relationship I've ever known?
Whatever "caused" it is irrelevant. It's a gift from God for which I am truly grateful.

I find this whole conversation about the “truth” of people’s gayness extremely immoral.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 8:23am BST

"Add into this the business of social construction, and the *process* of maturation, and at what point is boy X 'gay' and at what point 'straight' and how does that come about?" - cseitz -

Again, Christopher, you are clouding the issue. If you were ever brave enough to talk seriously with an intrinsically gay person about when he/she perceived the fact that they were 'different', he/she would most likely tell you that he/she can hardly remember a time of 'not knowing'. This is the situation for many gays who would find it very difficult to form an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

There are some, however, who will tell you of their struggle to become other than what they actually are, and may even - later in life - take on a married partner of the opposite sex. Sadly, some of these marriages may turn out to be sexually, and perhaps spiritually, unsatisfactory for both parties - maybe even after the arrival of children to the partnership. This is when the result of 'going against' their innate sexual identity and affinity can become a disaster for everyone involved.

Honest gay people, whose sexuality and affinity is uncompromisingly accepted by the person early on in life, have to make a choice: to marry one of the opposite gender and thus risk complications in their relationship; to remain single, and perhaps become promiscuous (like some heterosexuals); or look for a same-sex partner with whom they can establish a settled and monogamous life-style - with or without the Blessing of their Church.

There is, of course, just one other option - to surrender to the current culture of the Church by becoming a celibate priest or a member of a Religious Order. This does not guarantee a lifetime of sexual abstinence, but it's a way of avoiding gossip about one's sexuality. (I hasten to say that I am sure most priests, monks and nuns do remain faithful to their vows of chastity, but from the recent uproar in the R.C. Church, this is not the case for all of them.)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 10:57am BST

Race and ethnicity are at least as complex as sexuality and gender. Yet, in the primitive church, they managed to see off the Judaizers, on one hand, and those who held a completely permissive view of grace, on the other. They ensured that those on a 'sliding scale' of gentile origin and acculturation complied with the Noahide code (Acts 15). I believe that a contemporary version of this code would work. In spite of this, it will be for some, as back then, an unsatisfactory compromise.
St. Peter's appeal to that Council was founded on:
1. the recognition of the divinely endorsed authority of his role;
2. the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a mark of equivalence for both Jews and Gentiles;
3. equality of demands: ‘Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?'
St. James added the scriptural endorsement.
So, there are issues of authority. Who do we recognise through scripture and tradition to be responsible for arbitrating an end to this interminable debate? The Roman Catholics have resolved this. Consider the Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. It may have been criticized externally, but it didn't hinder his reign or canonisation.
We have problems in replacing form and ritual with a common experience (the baptism of the Holy Spirit as described in scripture) that establishes us in the body of Christ.
We need to establish a contemporary Noahide code as a reasonable expectation of all Christians under grace.
Before this, our church leaders should emulate the Council of Jerusalem by establishing their credentials through sacrificial Christian commitment. When compared to Paul and Barnabus, ‘men that have risk their lives for the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 15:26) would not aptly describe many of them. In place of secret fiats, they must openly declare a simplified, biblically-sound and empirically-supported approach. That’s what the Noahide code did. We don't need to add unnecessary layers of philosophical complexity to this debate.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:57am BST

When persuasion fails, there's always tiresome pedantry.

Posted by Counterlight at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 12:27pm BST

Reading these blogs, I find many of them insulting, and simply dry as ditch water accademic arguments, about other people, as if they were not human. All human beings have been created by God, whatever their sexual orientation. Created for Gods glory, and the benifit of the human race.

Many of us have accepted the call by God to serve as priests in his church. Sometimes after deep questioning , because of our sexual orientation, but in the end God Called, the Church accepted that call, and many of have served a life time ministry.

So please do not discuss us as objects of an argument, but human beings who give and receive love, and live fully human lives.

Most of us do not wave our undies on a flag pole, but get on with living day by day, according to Gods grace

Yes at the age of five I knew I preferred a boys lap to a girls, and the heartache came from my evangelical friends as I grew up who could only see sex between male and fe male. Try telling that to a young lad who ticks differently, and is not interested in girls. Luckily for me much later it was a franciscan brother who brought me home to accept my sexuality as God given to His glory.

So be practical, and listen to those whose life is real, and lived as a ' gay' person.

Your arguments insult and bore us.

Posted by Fr John at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 2:09pm BST

When one compares the ten or so last responses, what is clear is that no one gives the same account of affairs. Freud is wrong. Kinsey is wrong. New studies will say X. Maybe. I am Gay and I know it. Gayness did not begin in the 19th century, but in the 17th. Discussing what terms actually mean (so that people can talk to one another rationally) is immoral. Words now used fit me and whether anyone else understands is irrelevant. Head stuff traps me and I don't like it. Lifelong vows in marriage is a spin.
The lack of agreement on terms, etiology, medical science and the reasons people themselves insist on goes hand in glove with the difficulty of rejecting traditional accounts of Christian sexual life and practice. This confusion is likely not fateful and certainly the challenge before the churches will not go away if greater clarity existed. But it does illustrate one of the major reasons for caution as well as disagreement.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 2:39pm BST

Exactly Erika, and thank you.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 3:11pm BST

Whirling words cseitz - do me a favour and quote accurately. I said, 1700s not 17c.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 5:37pm BST

Kudos to Erika @ 8:23, and Fr. John @ 2:09.
There is supposed to be in Christianity, last time I checked, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.
If that's the case, then how about One Set of Rules to judge candidates for Bishops by?

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 7:08pm BST

Reading some of the comments here, this line from a very familiar poem comes to mind:

"And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?"

Posted by Counterlight at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 8:02pm BST

cseitz "This confusion is likely not fateful..."

Erm, could you translate that into English for us please?

Posted by Fr Mark at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 8:20pm BST

I entirely agree, Fr John: you (and your people) are here being 'insulted'. DS (whatever you think of his views) is not insulting you; cseitz certainly is. However, the large majority of supposedly heterosexual Christians, at least in the UK, are now on your side. We should all cling fast to that. It is surely a vast improvement on the past.

Posted by john at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 8:26pm BST

"Freud is wrong. Kinsey is wrong. New studies will say X. Maybe." And, of course, General Councils of the Church "may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God." Perhaps in all things we are required to look through a glass darkly.

But God, I think, calls us to use the gifts he has given us to do the best we can. We are not called to hide our talents in a hole in a ground until the king returns and all is revealed when we meet him face to face (to shamelessly mix biblical metaphors).

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:00pm BST

"Lifelong vows in marriage is a spin. "

I'm afraid I didn't make myself clear, because you certainly have not understood what I wrote. It's not lifelong vows that are the spin - it's your attempt use them to back up your assertion that when people get married, repentance for past sexual acts is part of the service. That doesn't happen - at least in Anglicanism. If I'm wrong, I hope you'll refer me to the correct place in an authorized wedding liturgy.

Earlier someone referred to premarital sex as "adultery." Technically, I think it's "fornication," if neither of the parties is married to someone else. "Adultery" is the sin of being unfaithful to one's marriage vows, yes?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:52pm BST

Sorry -- 'fatal.' The vast majority of Christian Churches worldwide will continue with the tradition of the church and others will move in their direction. So, the confusion will not be 'fatal' even as the mission of the church will be confused (as it presently is in its divided state anyway).

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:53pm BST

Peter Ould is impossible for me to understand.

He writes: "Wouldn't it be much better instead to just have a full public discussion of all the issues, have an unambiguous vote in synod and get it all over and done with once and for all?"

For a prominent Evangelical at this point to call for an open discussion and vote on this question is a very novel development. I have to confess I have no idea what lies behind it. Any thoughts?

Posted by Charlotte at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:55pm BST

Charlotte,
I can only guess, but in his blogpost Everybody Out http://www.peter-ould.net/2011/05/28/everybody-out/ he comments on the legal advice given to the CNC leaked in the Colin Slee memo. And he writes:
“The presence of the five bullets though represents a present victory for the conservative position in the debate. The fact that it was suggested that any of these reasons were good enough to disbar any candidate (not just Jeffrey John) from preferment, and the recognition that these were the same arguments used in 2003, has led in part to the irritation of those in the revisionist camp. That irritation has been expressed over the past few days in blog posts and comments railing at the unfairness, the hypocrisy of this situation for, it is claimed, there are already gay bishops and if it is OK for these bishops then why not for Jeffrey John. Here though is the fundamental error in the revisionist complaint...”

I can therefore only assume that he is very confident that the conservative position would win the day in an open debate and vote.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 8:05am BST

I am interested to hear an evangelical curate now seeking his second post ( and only 6 years in orders I think) described as a prominent Evangelical. It just shows what having a website can do for you!!! It reminds me of Cardinal Heenan's remark back in the 60's....these days anyone with two A levels calls themselves an intellectual.

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 8:34am BST

Erika,

I am sure that is right. But would it win the day in the country at large? I doubt it. And of course 'the problem' will never go away, can never be 'decided'. Only time will do it, and time is on (y)our side. Which doesn't mean that one shouldn't fight in the interim.

Posted by john at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 9:59am BST

John.8.22PM

Thanks for your comments, and I am more than thankful to those who today support us, and are prepared to say so on their blogs and in public.

Times have indeed changed, so much so that my partner and myself can rejoice in our civil partnership, which is recognised by the Church Commisioners.

God Bless

Posted by Fr John at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 10:15am BST

John,
Of course, it depends on how you define the parameters of an open and honest vote. I would be surprised if it went any closer to grassroots than diocesan synods... like the open and honest Covenant debate and vote we currently witness.

I don't think anyone in the church would risk a genuinely open discussion!

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 10:31am BST

@erika and john: Thanks for your help. I have a better sense now of what might lie behind Peter Ould's latest maneuver.

Quite possibly the current Synod would pass a "five bullets" measure that effectually shot down any gay person's candidacy for orders. As Peter Ould is counting the votes, evos may still have their coalition majority in Synod, despite the loss of some conservative Anglo-Catholics to the Ordinariate. In fact, this might be the last Synod at which evos could muster a majority. given the growing outcry over the evo-led derailing of women bishops.

And, no, the rest of the nation would not be with them, but Synod is highly unrepresentative of the nation at large.

Evos long ago learned how to manipulate Synod elections so they might dominate the Church's affairs, and they do so very successfully. Of course moderates and liberals in the Church of England are too high-minded to dirty their hands with such backroom politics, and so the evos win, every time.

Posted by Charlotte at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 3:53pm BST

"Of course moderates and liberals in the Church of England are too high-minded to dirty their hands with such backroom politics,"

Balderdash.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 7:59pm BST

" "Of course moderates and liberals in the Church of England are too high-minded to dirty their hands with such backroom politics,"

Balderdash.""

I agree. You only have to attend Synod once or twice to see such politicking in action. I remember fondly the sight of Giles Fraser, not even a Synod member, moving around Church House with work to do...

I also find it interesting to watch the discussion debating the inner workings of my mind. Highly amusing! Lovely to be described as a "Prominent Evangelical" though. Isn't helping me find a job...

Posted by Peter Ould at Sunday, 5 June 2011 at 9:55pm BST

@Bill Dilworth: I thought it was Americans who couldn't understand irony? No, moderates and liberals are not too high-minded for backroom politics; they just don't do it very well.

Posted by Charlotte at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 4:50am BST

Peter
we only needed to try and work it out on our own because you didn't reply.
Seeing that you are clearly reading this thread, maybe you can answer Charlotte's question yourself?

I must confess, I too am interested why someone who has such a firm view on this issue is prepared to risk a genuinely open debate and open vote in a church in which opinion research repeatedly shows that the grassroots are much more liberal than the hierarchy.

Are you absolutely sure you would win the day, or would you genuinely be prepared to accept a change?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 11:28am BST

Erika,

I'm not quite sure what you or Charlotte want me to say, or even if I knew, whether I would say it anyway!

Posted by Peter Ould at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 7:51pm BST

@Peter Ould: Why does it matter what Erika or I might want you to say? What we'd like to know is what *you* have to say.

Posted by Charlotte at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 12:16am BST

Well, I think I've said what I have to say!

Posted by Peter Ould at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 8:47am BST

Peter
You write "Wouldn't it be much better instead to just have a full public discussion of all the issues, have an unambiguous vote in synod and get it all over and done with once and for all?"

My PCC recently received an information and discussion pack on "Women to the Episcopate" and we were asked to discuss the matter. However, there was no feedback mechanism back to Deanery Synod and from there to Diocesan Synod, so the whole thing was a completely pointless exercise.

A genuinely open discussion followed by a vote would have to reach as far down to local level as possible, especially with contentious issues, as otherwise nothing will be settled "once and for all".

I would just genuinely be interested to hear what kind of discussion and vote you are calling for, and whether you would genuinely be prepared to accept an outcome "once and for all" if it happened to go against your own beliefs.

Seeing that you opened up this conversation I don't understand why it should be controversial to ask you more about what you meant.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 8:54am BST

Erika the grassroots may be more liberal but Synod is hardly representative of the grassroots..the House of Laity especially.

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 9:02am BST

Perry
that's exactly why I would like to know what people mean when they talk of of "full public discussions" and "votes in Synod".

The thing is, unless people actually identify with the process and feel that they have been represented in it, it doesn't matter what the result of the vote is, nothing will be settled "once and for all".

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 1:30pm BST

>>> I would just genuinely be interested to hear what kind of discussion and vote you are calling for

What kind of discussion and vote do you think it should be?

Posted by Peter Ould at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 1:48pm BST

"I thought it was Americans who couldn't understand irony?"

California bred, Texas raised, living in New England. I've got as legitimate a right to miss incredibly subtle irony in internet postings as the next specimen of Homo americanus.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 2:52pm BST

Peter
I didn't write about it, you did!
Why on earth won't you explain what you meant when you wrote it? Or are you the first author who writes without wanting to be understood?

I would obviously want a genuine church wide discussion during which parishes vote and feed back to their PCCs, PCCs to Deanery Synod, Deanery Synod to Diocesan Synod, and then up General Synod.
It's about the only process I can imagine where there is any chance that all participants accept the outcome.

If it's anything like the Covenant debate, where most people don't get a say, where votes are guide by one sided presentations etc., then nothing will be settled "once and for all", because neither losing side will accept the outcome for a minute and we're just back where we started.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 6:06pm BST

Well, I think you've established very clearly what you think the process should be Erika. Thanks!

Posted by Peter Ould at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 8:03pm BST

Peter
you write something about an open process.
People ask you about it.
You come over all secretive.

Do you not want to be taken seriously?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 8 June 2011 at 7:49am BST

Phrases like 'I can only guess' and 'what might lie behind Peter Ould's latest maneuver' might cause Peter to think that some find it more useful to fuel a common suspicion regarding his motives than to pursue a genuine line of inquiry with him.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 9 June 2011 at 7:00am BST

David
I did say that I could only guess, because that's a fact. I did not mention the word maneuver and I tried several times, politely and constructively, to engage Peter in conversation once I realised he was reading the thread.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 9 June 2011 at 11:54am BST

Peter
you write something about an open process.
People ask you about it.
You come over all secretive.

Do you not want to be taken seriously?

Who's being secretive? I'm being coy, not secretive. I've answered what I want to answer and left unanswered that which I don't at this stage want to answer. What's wrong about that?

You have every right to ask me whatever you want, but I have every right not to answer.

Posted by Peter Ould at Thursday, 9 June 2011 at 7:55pm BST

Peter
of course you do have every right not to answer. This isn't a court of law, after all! You're not on trial!

But this conversation started because Charlotte asked about your possible motives for your comments, I pointed her to your blog post and wondered what level of openness you might be supporting, and then you found it hilarious that we were speculating about your frame of mind.

In the absence of any illumination from you, we have no choice but to speculate.
And if we got it wrong, there's no point in you finding it "highly amusing". It is in your power to turn the conversation from a joke to something worth having.

I assumed that's why you were blogging in the first place.
I apologise that I clearly got that wrong.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 June 2011 at 8:39am BST
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