Comments: Discrimination alleged in the Church of England

A thoughtful article from Jerome Taylor, though it's unfortunate that he seems to think that the Scottish Episcopal Church is part of the Church of England... (a pity, it's otherwise well-informed).

Posted by anchorhold at Monday, 16 January 2012 at 3:49pm GMT

Please can someone tell me when this idea that the bishop should be 'a focus for unity' came into being? I accept that the bishop should be the principal priest of the diocese, and that all should be in communion with him (her), but I don't remember it being thought, until recently, that all of the diocese should agree with the bishop on everything. Now, we have a state of affairs where many clergy are out of communion with their bishop, for a variety of reasons. So, as far as eucharistic doctrine, and the validity of women's orders, and the nature of salvation, and the character of the Bible, and the remarriage of divorcees (lay and ordained and episcopal) and a host of other things are concerned, there is room for disagreement, but not on the single issue of homosexuality. That seems so inconsistent as to be a scandal.

Posted by toby forward at Monday, 16 January 2012 at 5:29pm GMT

Jim, the interesting thing about the Jerome Taylor article is that it speaks of Jeffrey John as being "celibate." Since he lives with his partner, I found that curious.

Posted by Mary Carolyn Lawson at Monday, 16 January 2012 at 5:55pm GMT

So I looked it up in my English English dictionary. Seems that in "Meddy Olde," the word celibate denotes one who refrains from sexual relations with anyone other than one partner. In America, however. . .

Posted by Mary Carolyn Lawson at Monday, 16 January 2012 at 5:57pm GMT

Mary Carolyn, In UK English usage, "celibate" indicates refraining from sexual relations altogether. "Chaste" is the word we use for one who refrains from sexual relations outside of marriage. [Source: Chambers 21st century dictionary] Yet another example of two peoples separated by a common language.

Posted by RPNewark at Monday, 16 January 2012 at 10:04pm GMT

At the risk of raking over an old argument, "celibacy" technically means "unmarried", from the Latin 'caelebs, caelibis' meaning - er - "unmarried". So technically all our gay bishops are celibate, and a jolly good thing too. Whether a gay priest who cohabits with his patner - albeit chastely (from 'castus, -a, -um', pure, spotless) - really adheres to the spirit rather than the letter of priestly celibacy is perhaps debatable. But as the dear old C of E gave up priestly celibacy at the Reformation (and a jolly good thing too), it's hard to see why it should be an issue.

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 5:53am GMT

Actually the original and root meaning of celibate is 'single' ie not married (caelibatus in Latin, a civil state deserving of punishment in Caesar's Rome). How it has come to be (mis)used as 'without sexual relations' I don't know, though perhaps as a euphemistic shorthand (those who aren't married should be sexually inactive, therefore 'celibate' covers both). It would be more accurate I think to separate the two idea. In that sense JJ is not 'celibate' because his civil status is 'in a civil partnership' - the bedroom question is something else entirely.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 6:21am GMT

I don’t care about the real meaning of celibate, all I want to see in my life is for the church to honestly practice the gospel of Jesus Christ and get out of people’s bedrooms. The Dean of St Albans might not win this case in court but he will be contributing to expose the church’s high level homophobia and hypocrisy towards its LGBTI members and clergies. I am optimistic that attitude will change and in the near future we will be celebrating openly gay bishops in the church of England.

Posted by Davis Mac-Iyalla at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 8:47am GMT

Perhaps the answer to Andrew Brown's comment and question is to invite Archbishop Tutu to give us the benefit of his thinking on the subject. He has spoken clearly on the subject. Also the Bishop of Liverpool who once had the courage to speak of his misunderstanding of the subject, but now a clear view. Has he, the Bishop been silenced ?
Let us never forget we are speaking of real people called by God, and who have shown in their living deep spiritual life and awareness.

Posted by Fr John at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 8:50am GMT

I never heard of someone suing because he was passed over for a bishopric. Surely not a good idea.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 9:11am GMT

The "Independent" leader gets it just right. The C of E can claim the privileges of establishment. Or it can claim exemptions from UK equality law. It can't plausibly claim both at once. If it does not choose which to claim, the state may shortly wish to do so.

Posted by Iain McLean at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 11:15am GMT

'"unmarried". So technically all our gay bishops are celibate,' rjb

Apart from the gay bishops who are married to women.

Posted by Laurence at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 11:24am GMT

Chris' question as to who should speak positively on the subject. We have two such Bishops available. First Archbishop Tutu has spoken on the subject, and would be a refreshing change to ABC.
Secondly is the Bishop of Liverpool, who has expressed a change of heart, and an understanding on the subject. Sadly he appears to have gone silent. By choice? or pressure from the Archbishops.

Finally I again wish to remind us all, we are talking of fellow priests, who have shown to us their depth of spirituality, and we are richly Blessed by them.

Fr John

Posted by Fr John at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 3:02pm GMT

There was once a Welshman and a Welshman and a Welshman ........

This increasingly acrimonious and hugely damaging story has emerged from where? And this very private letter was released by who and to what effect?

Nowhere can I find a reference to the supposed quote in the Mail on Sunday headline, and as the letter is from a lawyer, when is Jeffrey supposed to have said this? Isn't that rather key information to the story?

And who, on this Commission, would leak a legal letter - surely this is yet another breach aimed at damaging John? Did the last secret enquiry throw up a culprit who revealed the names on the shortlist for Southwark?

What seems to emerge from all this is that these letters changed hands some time ago, after the Southwark fiasco where Rowan was discovered browbeating the Commission members to reject Jeffrey. bullying some to tears.

The legal exchange must be seen in this context, the aftermath of the Southwark fiasco when it now seems clear a conservative evangelical member of the Commission revealed that John and Holtam were on the shortlist - probably the same person who has now revealed this letter. Jeffrey John would have discovered that although clearing with Rowan Williams that he was OK to allow his name to go forward for Southwark he was then stabbed firmly in the back and ruled out. This despite having be assured by Lambeth that a few years after Reading he would be acceptable as a bishop.

Cont.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 3:24pm GMT

So, contrary to George Pitcher's vicious little piece in the Mail, John was not saying "make me a bishop- or else!" ....He was saying: "start telling the truth, or else..." - rather a different way of looking at the facts.

Pitcher's unnecessarily nasty account does, I believe, reveal the Rowanesque spin that Lambeth has put on this whole tawdry affair. An affair that has nothing to do with "gay rights" - Jeffrey has assiduously avoided being "tainted" with any support for LGBT causes and has for ever been willing to tow the CofE party line on gay issues even to the point of giving up sex with his life-long partner! In fact Rowan has a much higher profile as a gay campaigner. But everything to do with - Misleading and duping a rather nice, devoted and faithful Churchman and Christian into believing that what bishops and archbishops say can be believed.

Jeffrey has not once given an interview or acted anyway disloyally to the Church of England - he was right to question what underpinned the appalling treatment his candidacy had in the secret dealing of the Commission - the mauling his supporters had was unsupportable, approaching abuse. That this close questioning of the actions of Rowan Williams - combined with the opprobrium rightly heaped on his shoulders when he forced John to resign from Reading and then failed to acknowledge messages from John rescinding his withdrawl - makes the Archbishop and his staff uncomfortable - indeed uncomfortable enough to attack Jeffrey - is perverse in the extreme.

What we now know is that as soon as Jeffrey (through his lawyers) started to question the actions of the appointment commission then the third Welshman in this miserable joke, the lawyer John Rees sought to justify what had already happened by writing that awful document misnamed a legal opinion claiming gay people had to repent if they wanted preferment.

It was another evil and malicious step from Rowan in his dealings with gay people since he took office.

George Pitcher says that Jeffrey's actions in questioning the duplicity of Lambeth Palace and its occupants would throw the rights of gay people back decades.

George completely fails to see that Jeffrey has never been interested in being a "gay bishop" any more than he has ever had an genuine interest in "gay rights" in the Church - Jeffrey is an advocate for honesty, faithfulness and trusting people at their word - he believes they are the mark of a true Church - that is what he is chasing.

Cont:

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 3:52pm GMT

Jeffrey didn't get Southwark as there was a "better man" - because of Colin Slee we all now know the truth and George Pitcher can't spin that Lambeth Palace line and expect to be believed. That's not what happened.

Now we have ended up with the horrendous "legal opinion" from Welsh lawyer John Rees - I do wonder what the future holds for the Church of England after three three Welshmen have done their worst/best.

George Pitcher mistakes who has been responsible for throwing back the place of gay people in the Church - it is not careful, diligent, cautious, courteous almost obsequious Jeffrey John - it is ambitious and determined Rowan Williams who has savaged us and demeaned us in his failing attempt at keeping the communion united and keeping ecumenical dialogue open. It is cruel, but a common characteristic, that abusers blame their victims.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 4:10pm GMT

Thank you Martin for taking the trouble to put the facts clearly. Not a pretty picture at Lambeth, but faithfulness at St Albans and more, Christian love.

Fr John

Posted by Fr John at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 4:54pm GMT

"Or it can claim exemptions from UK equality law. It can't plausibly claim both at once." Ian Maclean

Well it's managed to exempt itself from gender equality legislation and retain its establishment privileges quite happily since 1975.

Posted by Laurence at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 5:23pm GMT

Heart-rending comments from Martin Reynolds. But it's not the fault of the Welsh, but rather of those who welsh.

One C of E theologian of the utmost distinction who might argue the case is Keith Ward. In fact, he has argued the case (e.g. in his bible books) and has done practical things too (I say no more).

Posted by john at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 5:54pm GMT

"Apart from the gay bishops who are married to women." -Laurence

Presumably such bishops do not 'self-identify' (ugh, do not like these new reflexive-verbs) as gay. And I for one do not feel disposed to go around telling bishops (or anyone else) what their sexual orientation is.

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 6:04pm GMT

Martin, the quote in the headline that you open your comment with is 'I'll sue Church of England if it bars me from being bishop' - is that correct?

Your analysis and theory makes perfect sense and fits all the evidence. It explains why people were phoning me on Sunday and Monday in a fruitless chase for inside information, which I certainly don't have. But someone inside Church House or someone with an axe to grind and access to the correspondence certainly would have access.

This places responsibility yet again on the practice and culture inside Church House where devious tactics are being employed to block any progress towards a re-examination on church policy, let alone real change leading to the full inclusion of LGB&T people. It feels a bit like war!

Posted by Colin Coward at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 6:19pm GMT

Yes Colin, that's the "quote" I can't find except in the headline. Perhaps I missed something?

One does wonder, Colin what the CofE is doing. Take the appointment of Robert Paterson as the chair of the group looking into Civil Partnerships, he was one of only two English bishops to vote AGAINST giving civil partners pension parity.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 17 January 2012 at 6:59pm GMT

Many of these comments about celibacy remind me of the narrow definition of 'sexual relations' that was applied during Bill Clinton's sworn deposition prior to his impeachment hearings.

If we don't consider how the 'celibacy' is employed in common parlance, its use become as much of a deception as Bill Clinton's declaration (of Monica Lewinsky) that he 'did not have sexual relations with that woman'. His later admission of deception proved that he could not really expect the American public to adopt the stringent three-part legal definition required for his deposition.

The problem, then as now, is that once the word or phrase is expressed in circles where its etymological roots no longer apply, the understanding of that audience must, at least, be considered.

It's right for the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy to be challenged, but the prospective doomed law-suit is just a lame attempt at engendering public sympathy.

'If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you.

Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?' (1 Cor. 6:1 - 6)

Apparently, not!

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 8:09am GMT

After all the Machiavellian side-stepping that has been revealed in the matter of Jeffrey John's being barred from episcopal post for which he was canonically nominated - the Church needs to 'come clean' on its institutional homophobic outlook.

All this, despite the ABC's protestation of his acceptance of Gays, in his remarkable treatise written before he became Archbishop.

If, indeed, the suing of the Church were to happen, it would certainly serve to 'out' the Church of England for its endemic hypocrisy.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 8:22am GMT

The complaint would not be that Jeffrey John has not been made a bishop. It would be that he has been excluded from consideration. The question would then be whether the exclusion was unlawful.

The problem for the CofE is the documentation which means they might well lose any case, notwithstanding the religious exemption. The CofE has no doctrinal or other problem (officially) with people who are gay but celibate. Indeed, their teaching is that gay people should be celibate. The CofE accepts that its clergy can be in civil partnerships - indeed, it allows civil partners pension rights. So Jeffrey John should be in the clear - he is gay - he is partnered - but he is celibate. Indeed, the fact that he was put forward as Bishop of Reading proves that the CofE has no principled objection to him.

Yet the CofE has imposed a requirement that gay candidates should publicly repent of past sexual conduct which it does not impose on straight candidates with past sexual conduct not in accordance with church teaching.

This would not be lawful if challenged. And, even scarier for the CofE, the religious exemption is probably in itself void under EU law, so if the case went to the European Court of Justice - which it might - the CofE might lose the exemption, and not just the case.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 1:32pm GMT

"Presumably such bishops do not 'self-identify' (ugh, do not like these new reflexive-verbs) as gay. And I for one do not feel disposed to go around telling bishops (or anyone else) what their sexual orientation is." rjb

I agree - of course it is up to the individual to identify what his or her sexual orientation is. My point is that - if Changing Attitude is to be relied upon - there are, currently, one or more self-identified gay bishops who are married to women.

Posted by Laurence C. at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 4:38pm GMT

Discrimination alleged in the Church of England

I simply cannot believe it ! You cannot be serious !

I can no more believe it than I can accept that global warming is untrue, or that water is wet.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 6:22pm GMT

If the reports are to be believed, then it is irrelevant to his case whether or not he is a homosexual:

'The guidance added that candidates could be blocked if they were regarded as divisive because their views or behaviour had angered a significant number of their flock.'

The Get Out of Jail Free card for the church is that Jeffrey John has expressed views which are divisive - that's enough to bar him from becoming a bishop.
Until the church gets rid of this clause it's never going to be a matter of lifestyle alone, but of divisive teaching. By this standard David Jenkins could (and well might) be barred from appointment.
That's all dishonest, of course, but, hey, if it keeps gays out...

Posted by toby forward at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 8:25pm GMT

"Apart from the gay bishops who are married to women." - Laurence

"Presumably such bishops do not 'self-identify' as gay" - rjb

rjb. As we are talking definitions, such as "celibate" and "chaste" it may interest you to know that in the gay community there is a third definition of relevance.

"Beard" - a woman who acts as the girlfriend or wife of a gay man and provides a disguise for his homosexuality. Whether a gay man married to a woman is chaste (either with the wife, or with other men) will vary according to each individual relationship.

It used to be common for man to have enjoyed a homosexual youth, and then wishing to develop a career in the armed forces, or politics or the church, to find a wife who knew the score and who was happy to enter into such a relationship. The motivations for the woman were many and varied, and love should not be discounted in many such relationships (for example Cole Porter and Linda Lee Thomas). But although the man may have loved the woman, and the man was married to the woman, that does not exclude the possibility that the woman would have given permission for the man to have sexual relations with other men. That is the way of the world.

Simon

Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 9:00pm GMT

Thanks you, Badman, for the precision and insight of your comment. This is exactly the issue, and the double standard cannot legally be applied -- unless the church changes its teaching and allows that premarital sex is not a problem. (Odd isn't it that gays are the ones who get blamed for starting the slippery slope, but that it is the heterosexuals who merrily ride down the slide of premarital sex, serial monogamy, easy divorce and remarriage, while the gays and lesbians are stuck immobile at the top.)

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 9:04pm GMT

Martin,

My understanding is that the legal correspondence has only occurred since the leaking of Slee's memo and then the publication of the legal advice.

Posted by Peter Ould at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 9:10pm GMT

When I left my slightly humorous comments (as an attempted antidote for anguish and tears) I had not read Martin Reynolds heartfelt comments and others following. I would not wish to be seen to respond flippantly to that.

Where would we be without Martin, Colin and Colin Slee and Malcolm Johnson to take a stand, making this witness against concerted anti-gay behaviour in the Church ?

But mainly there has been very little resistance to the antigay policies--liberals and others need to act! Cancel services! work to rule! Omit the eucharistic prayer (can it work anyway in such a church?!) have lay led eucharists! -- and any and every other form of resistance!! Shake the dust from our feet - who will ?

I too wonder about the C of E.

But I am unlikely to take the bread and wine again in the C of E as such until all this is sorted. Rowan has wasted the opportunity he was given.

Fancy putting the chap who wanted to deny our partners pensions if ministers died first in charge is plain crazy-- a nice mistake ! - I intended the less interesting plain crazy.

Like Israel of old in Babylon the C of E will go on declining until it repents of all its anti-gay deceit, dishonesty, thoughts, words and deeds; and embraces lgbt people and women fully.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 11:39pm GMT

Contrast the confusion in the C of E over gay or gay-but-not-practicing bishops with TEC's forging ahead and ordaining gay bishops.

And it is to prevent this, that we are to have an Anglican Covenant?

Dear Church House: The modern world awaits you. So does humanity as God created it.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 5:16am GMT

In Tony Judt's book of memories: Memory Chalet, he tells how when he went up to King's College Cambridge there were rules which today would be considered very strict - no girls overnight, everyone in by a specified time unless you had a special permission and so forth. However, everyone 'knew' that the rules weren't there to be obeyed; the housemaster would turn a blind eye as long as you didn't compromise the dignity of your 'bedder' by having the girl still there for instance when the 'bedder' brought you your morning tea. According to Judt everything changed two years later. What struck me about this story though was the institutionalised and formative use of hypocrisy, which smacks of class in some sense as well - that is: we are the ruling class and must keep up appearances in front of society as a whole, but of course we know ..... I don't know if it was the same in women's colleges at Cambridge or elsewhere, but what the C-of-E is up to seems similar to me, even though it is so many years later. A query really by an American woman who's also a C-of-E priest.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 8:28am GMT

Toby Forward writes: By this standard David Jenkins could (and well might) be barred from appointment.
That's all dishonest, of course, but, hey, if it keeps gays out...But from the point of view of the conservative evangelicals, it's not at all dishonest. They still think David Jenkins should never have been a bishop, and any system which allows it is flawed.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 10:32am GMT

Malicious leaking is pretty commonplace in the CofE bureaucracy it would seem, and when I have pursued the matter in my own case it has been met by obfuscation and stonewalling. Perhaps some of our various Diocesan officials are waiting their turn to appear at the Leveson Enquiry?

Posted by Ex Revd at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 2:38pm GMT

The whole thing is a tragedy and underlines the fear that by the way it is behaving, the church is driving young people away by the busload.

I'm no longer a young person, but much as I have always loved the C of E and its liturgy, I cannot any longer bring myself to attend services in a church so honeycombed by hypocrisy, conniving and mutual recrimination.

Posted by Nat at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 5:04pm GMT

Come on, Nat, cheer up! Most kids are probably too wrecked from clubbing on Saturday night and couldn't even name their local vicar, far less a talented cleric who's been denied preferment.

As for 'hypocrisy, conniving and mutual recrimination', I guess this saga has unfolded like the last season of Dynasty...only this time, they all get to power-dress, don shoulder-pads and pout like Alexis Carrington.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 7:24pm GMT

Peter, I don't believe that Jeffrey had to wait for the posthumous publication of Colin's memorandum to find out what had happened.

I would be very surprised indeed to know that he waited for the scandal to become public before he took legal advice.

Nor do I believe Colin's is the only account circulating of this infamous affair.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 9:02pm GMT

I do not understand why the CofE has spent so long in such a hypocritical position.
Jesus had plenty to say about divorce: the CofE allows both remarriage and ordination of divorcees. Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality yet the Church has built up a complicated theological position on this issue.

Posted by Richard Ballam at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 9:46pm GMT

Archbishop Williams is in love with the authority and trappings of his office, and is obsessed with holding the Communion together at all costs by dumping on the liberals and GLBT folks -- because he senses that they will just quietly go along.
It's time we stopped quietly going along.
Jeffrey John's alleged threat may be just the kick-in-the-shins needed.
He's saying "This far, and no further." I don't know the legal outcome of such a suit, but if it puts a public face on the hypocrisy and humiliation gay people face in the church hierarchy -- a straight priest candidate for bishop would scream bloody murder at the questions and insufferance gay candidates face for bishop, and rightly so -- he will have done a great service.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 10:10pm GMT

"Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality" Richard Ballam

More accurate to say that there is no surviving evidence of Jesus having said anything about homosexuality. He may, or may not, have said any number of things on the subject. Nobody knows.

Posted by Laurence C. at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 11:04pm GMT

I think Andrew Brown's comment on "straight sex" needs unpacking too. I attended a marriage prep course at a conservative evangelical church (Reform these days) - as I recall I was the only virgin amongst the males - the others had had sex with people other than their prospective wives, and asserted that they would never disclose that fact to the women they were intending to marry.

I have to say, I was shocked and the way in which this dishonesty and lack of trust was condoned - is this the relationship, nay covenant, that Christ has with the Church? I was an inexperienced idealist of 27, but I still thought that I could never marry a person to whom I could not disclose the truth about myself. It was a pain getting selected to be trained to be a vicar too, with the idea that God might be calling the real me to be myself rather than some fantasy of me to pretend.

But, hey, sexuality matters more than honesty and integrity in the life of the Church even though this is not the case in the pages of the Bible. One day the Church will take the Bible seriously again ...

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 11:16pm GMT

I don't know Dr John, but I was ordained by Dr Williams and I have the highest respect for a humane man of strong Christian faith, keen intellect, and compassion. Some of the comments posted about him on this blog are nothing more than gratitutous personal insults of the worst sort. The idea that he is in love with the trappings of his office, for example, is laughable to anyone who has spent more than a few moments in his company. And it is a misunderstanding of his office to say that he ought to be an advocate for a particular group or policy: the Archbishop of Canterbury's job is to reflect the mind of the whole Church - which on these matters is divided and confused.

There's a legitimate argument about the rights and wrongs of the Church of England's practice in this area. But it diminishes the seriousness of this debate when it is couched in such unpleasant, ad hominem terms.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Friday, 20 January 2012 at 9:05am GMT

By their fruits shall ye know them, Mr. Hobday. I hardly consider your lack of personal distance any less "gratuitous" in the conversation than anyone else's comments.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 20 January 2012 at 10:50am GMT

"Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality" Richard Ballam

More accurate to say that there is no surviving evidence of Jesus having said anything about homosexuality. He may, or may not, have said any number of things on the subject. Nobody knows.

Point taken.

Posted by Richard Ballam at Friday, 20 January 2012 at 4:44pm GMT

"as I recall I was the only virgin amongst the males - the others had had sex with people other than their prospective wives, and asserted that they would never disclose that fact to the women they were intending to marry"

The CofE's sexual ethic, writ large.

Posted by JCF at Friday, 20 January 2012 at 8:48pm GMT

An important contribution from the Church Times.

It makes the offerings in the Mail look even more miserable.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 20 January 2012 at 10:37pm GMT

"the Archbishop of Canterbury's job is to reflect the mind of the whole Church " - Philip Hobday -

Really? I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury was called by God to lead - not merely 'reflect the mind of the Church'. Archbishop Rowan has tremendous gifts. He also wrote a treatise called 'The Body's Grace', which held out great hope for as certain marginalised group in the Church. His task as ABC has obviously inhibited his natural affinity with the group he formerly, and so eloquently, represented. If they become a little disappointed, perhaps they can be excused.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 9:15am GMT

"But it diminishes the seriousness of this debate when it is couched in such unpleasant, ad hominem terms."

That's probably because for many of us this is not an interesting intellectual debate but a seemingly endless waiting for the church verdict on our lives. And it's a debate in which we are not given a real say, apart from on blogs and in private. A debate in which a new advisory body has just been set up that consists exclusively of straight males who will, again, talk about us not to us.
And at the end of the process, we're all supposed to respect the outcome. And the pleasant even-handed man at the top of it all.

But being genuinely even handed means precisely NOT declaring one group of people as second class and giving them no voice in the process.
Being genuinely even handed means truly recognising the worth of every person and not to talk about them when you can talk with them.

If you don't give people a genuine voice and if you don't treat them as equals, and if you keep imposing special rules for them, they get terribly frustrated and occasionally angry.
The only way to change that is put this conversation on a more mature and more adult footing.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 2:18pm GMT

Erika

What the scripture makes clear - and it is perhaps a comment on the basic theological essay in the matter - is that it is the judgment of God in Christ, rather than the judgment of the church, which matters. That is what gives condemned sinners hope (indeed I had to point out to our youth group last week that the OT is replete with notorious sinners who become part of God's plan of redemption) and ought to give non-sinners a bit of a problem.

If anyone diminishes their own sin to be less than the sin of another, the Bible has their guts for garters. Be warned!

Posted by Mark Bennet at Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 10:18pm GMT

"If anyone diminishes their own sin to be less than the sin of another, the Bible has their guts for garters. Be warned!"

Being gay is as much a sin as being black ... (and I can remember when being black was indeed considered a sin complete with proof texts from Scripture, and I'm not that old).

Those who bear false witness, Be Warned!

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 23 January 2012 at 12:30am GMT

Mark,
there is such a thing as rightful anger. It comes from when people put themselves in a position of arbitrary power over you, when they kick you time and time again and then use weasel words to put you in the wrong when you have the temerity to fight back with the small means available to you, and when they suddenly wield the bible against you when your sense of injustice and frustration gets the better of you occasionally.

I might not have used some of the words Philip Hobday objected to here but I well recognise the sense of helplessness and powerlessness they arise from. They should engender compassion, not admonition.
And much as Rowan Williams is still seen by many as the even handed guy with that awful heavy burden it is only fair to point out that this debate is neither even handed nor fair and that he is one of the people responsible for that.

Your version of Christianity reminds me too much of "Jesus wants me for a doormat". No, he doesn't. He wants us to stand up against injustice.

Do not worry about what you perceive to be other people's sins. They're between them and God.
Please don't forget that the bible is, if anything, a guidebook on how you should live, not on how you should judge others and force them to live.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 23 January 2012 at 7:24am GMT

Class A category mistake, Counterlight.

Even if radical chic has evolved from the 60's into a fashionable declaration that to be 'gay is the new black', guess what? It really isn't.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 23 January 2012 at 10:22am GMT

I think (and I know it's easy to say) that the important thing to hang on to is that within the C of E (and Celtic versions) and within the Episcopal Church things are undoubtedly getting better.

Item: one of our gay members died recently. Both at the crematorium service and at the requiem mass there was full public acknowledgement of the relationship, its devotion, the civil partnership, and the surviving member, for whom we prayed. Present were Anglicans of different hues (including both FiF people and kitted-out women priests), Methodists of different hues, Masons and lawyers. I do not think there would have been any difference if it had been the funeral of a dearly-loved husband or wife. So although both were desperately sad occasions, they were also occasions of love and affirmation, and I was proud of my church.

Posted by john at Monday, 23 January 2012 at 2:27pm GMT

David Shepherd

The prejudices against gays and blacks have one big thing in common, they are both completely arbitrary without any basis in experience, reason, or biology.

But of course, that does not stop people from searching out and finding justifications for ancient and deeply cherished prejudices in Scripture.

The Southern Baptist Church was founded over the issue of slavery (they supported it, and split with northern Baptists who were against it). For most of the history of the USA, slavery and segregation were vigorously defended from pulpits with appeals to Scripture, tradition, and to "natural law." A dark skin was the sign of Noah's curse of his son Ham (so I was told in my childhood). Deeply religious Bible-believing folk steadfastly defended the segregation of the races on religious grounds for more than a century.

That tremendous effort to defend that ancient tradition, and the vast literature it produced, now stand discredited with even the most rightward of churches eager to distance themselves from that legacy.

The defense of anti-gay prejudice is the same thing, and will eventually prove to be a similar embarrassment with die-hards holed up in isolated compounds clinging tenaciously to notions largely discredited by the rest of the world as morally repulsive.

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 23 January 2012 at 7:00pm GMT

The Church of England should be disestablished because it discriminates against a whole category of person. Inquiring only of gay or lesbian candidates for ordination whether they are celibate is logically inconsistent, failing the universality test. A prescription should be applied to everyone, saith Kant. Fortunately, many people are no longer affiliating with the C of E.

The state is little more advanced in that it allows civil partnerships, still a separate and unequal institution but at least they offer many of the rights and protections of marriage. The state is light years ahead of the church on sexual ethics.

I remember a priest several years ago preach about people may not feel they are worthy of the church. My husband and I told him later that week that we thought he got it wrong. LGBTs may feel the church is not good enough for them because it doesn't treat them as full persons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury seems more interested in preserving the perks of the C of E than getting on with building a fairer world in which all are granted rights and protections.

A final issue is that some say the people in the pews are more liberal than the hierarchy. It doesn't take fancy theology to figure that all persons deserve the same rights.

Any church gathering is still a gathering of sinful people, no matter how fancy their titles. Rules written by the privileged tend to favor the privileged and are not necessarily right.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 5:04am GMT

Counterlight,

The fact that gays also experienced prejudice shored up by biblical pronouncements doesn't entitle one minority to assume it can piggy-back on another's victim status. The ignoble tactic upon which your 'gay is the new black' parallel relies is the worst form of 'me-too'-ism and, without true merit, it attempts to evoke populist sympathies. While homosexuality and race both deserve legal protection, melanin is not a vague self-defined characteristic. Race is objectively derived from a person's genetic history without predisposing factors from elsewhere.

As the liberal media, such a Huffington Post, are now emboldeded by the 'laissez-faire' moral climate to undermine marital exclusivity of any kind by glamorizing polyamory (between consenting adults, of course) in their heavily promoted and slanted Op-Ed pieces, I'm sure the die-hards to whom you refer and who support monogamy will indeed be 'holed up in isolated compounds clinging tenaciously to notions largely discredited by the rest of the world as morally repulsive.'

St.Peter must have meant the die-hards when he encouraged Christian resistance to mainstream moral decline: 'For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead' (1 Peter 4:3 - 5) The intervention of that divine retribution of which he speaks may just make it bearable to be morally repulsive to the rest of the world.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 7:06am GMT

I second Gary Paul Gilbert's comment.

As far as I'm concerned, the "gay issue" is settled, and has been settled for 40 years. LGBTs are already integrated, or in the process of becoming integrated, into larger society including churches. The marginal status assigned to us is ending. Our criminal status is ended. Our status as "mentally ill" was the first to end 40 years ago.

And the sky didn't fall.

Many of our families accept us and our relationships. Our talents and abilities are now in demand with businesses and even the military now willing to accommodate us. Many churches now accept us, at least informally on the parish level, including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox congregations. Even younger Evangelicals are eager to drop this whole issue and move on to things like social justice and the environment.

Our church hierarchies continue to be in thrall to a shrinking population of reactionary fanatics and the huge sums of money put at their disposal by right wing American billionaires.
God may speak, but money talks.

Posted by Counterlight at Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 1:16pm GMT

Counterlight,
The fact that gays have also experienced prejudices shored up by biblical pronouncements does not entitle one minority to assume it can piggy-back on another's victim status. The ignoble tactic upon which your 'gay is the new black' parallel relies is the worst form of 'me-too'-ism and, without true merit, it attempts to evoke populist sympathies. While sexual orientation and race are both legal protected, melanin is not a self-defined characteristic. Race is objectively derived from a person's genetic history without predisposing factors from elsewhere.

St.Peter must have meant the die-hards with valid biblical objections when he encouraged Christians to defy mainstream moral decline: 'For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead' (1 Peter 4:3 - 5) That intervention of final divine retribution may just make it bearable for Christians to be morally repulsive to the rest of the world.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 2:46pm GMT

"St.Peter must have meant the die-hards with valid biblical objections when he encouraged Christians to defy mainstream moral decline: 'For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead' (1 Peter 4:3 - 5) That intervention of final divine retribution may just make it bearable for Christians to be morally repulsive to the rest of the world."

Well, Mr Hobday, if you're still reading, maybe you can now begin to understand why we sometimes feel so hurt that we lash out with words.


Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 4:11pm GMT

Minorities are the creations of majorities.

When people are singled out for any reason, skin color, hair color, religious affiliation, political loyalty, sexual orienation, ethnicity, left-handedness, whatever, then they are a minority. There's nothing "objective" about it. In the USA, White Christian Heterosexual is the majority, and therefore gets to proclaim itself the norm against which all variations and deviations are measured.

There's no legal or spiritual entity anywhere determining who gets to be a minority and who doesn't.

The "mainstream moral decline" is on the part of those who insist that something so arbitrary and meaningless, and so wicked, has divine sanction. The brutality and violence that such a notion permits and encourages is the height of decadence. There's no depravity like religiously sanctioned depravity.

As for the "abuse" heaped on the reactionaries, and their "suffering," set it to music!!

Tell it to Jamey Rodemeyer and the legions of lgbt kids bullied and driven to suicide. Tell it to the legions of people murdered in anti-gay violence around the world every goddam day!!!

(Sorry Simon, I'm not softening this. Post it or reject it)

Posted by Counterlight at Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 4:54pm GMT

Counterlight, you will not convince certain people. Especially those with a long history of confusing faith with hate. They are convinced in their hardened hearts that God agrees with their petty prejudices. There is no getting through to them, unfortunately.

Posted by Dennis at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 12:11am GMT

Gays aren't piggybacking on the victim status of blacks. We're just saying that gay rights is the civil rights issue of the moment. Melanin may be more obvious than sexual orientation, but same-sex desire isn't a matter of self-definition but of self discovery. And consider this: black kids are born into families like themselves, experienced in preparing them for the prejudice they'll encounter in life. Gay kids are born into families unlike themselves, which often teach them self-hatred, and reject them when their orientations become known. There's no comparison with the centuries of suffering inflicted on black people by self-righteous white Christians; but there's no comparison with the predicament of the gay kids -- black and white -- born to people who don't understand them, don't teach them how to survive, and often reject them as changelings. Different victimhoods, but plenty to go around.

Posted by Murdoch Matthew at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 4:18am GMT

While the declaration of setting opponent's abuse to music is considered permissible by TA, my reasonable response to Counterlight (that preceded this follow-up) might not be published this time.

Simon's always been tolerant and gracious in moderating diverse opinions, so it's his call. However, as Counterlight himself put it: 'Sorry Simon, I'm not softening on this'.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 7:27am GMT

"Race is objectively derived from a person's genetic history without predisposing factors from elsewhere." - David Shepherd -

There are those of us, david, who sincerely believe that being Gay is also 'objectively derived from genetic history without prediposing factors from elsewhere' - despite your inference that this is not so.

You, perhaps more than most, might understand what it means to 'be different' without being culpable of automatic 'perversion'. Justice is justice - for whomever.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 7:28am GMT

David,
by "reasonable response", did you mean your post that begins with:
"St.Peter must have meant the die-hards with valid biblical objections when he encouraged Christians to defy mainstream moral decline"?
And which is then followed by a biblical quote that lumps gay people with people who live "in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry"?
Without providing any supporting evidence for this astonishing claim?

And if so, do you really think, after all the time you've been talking to people here, that simply dismissing gay people as part of the mainstream moral decline is a reasonable response to the very well argued statement Counterlight made?

You are right to state that Simon is extremely tolerant in the way he moderates this blog.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 9:14am GMT

Father Ron: I appreciate sincere belief and your gentleness, yet the evidence is that self-identification is nor fixed by genetics (Wikipedia on self-concept).

Men are won through persuasion of the truth and after-life accountability, not the worldly sanctions that misguided societies have imposed. My p

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 9:40am GMT

Father Ron:
I appreciate sincere belief and your gentleness, yet the evidence is that self-identification is not fixed by genetics (Wikipedia on self-concept).

Men are won through persuasion of the truth and the demand of the Christian gospel for after-life accountability for their actions, not the worldly sanctions that misguided societies have imposed. That said, the gospel must be preached and taught by ordinary Christians, rather than a voice from the sky.

Erika:

It was a rhetorical contrast. Seeing as my own objections to mainstream moral decline are considered by Counterlight to be invalid, I suggested that St. Peter's statement regarding the nexus of behaviour acceptable to pagans must only undergird die-hards with valid objections.

You know my position on these issues already.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 9:56am GMT

I am really disappointed, David.

You are one of those who's benefitted from the same sort of "populist sympathies," and, rather than suffering having given you compassion, you respond with "Nuh-uh! My suffering's way worse than yours (because, of course, you chose to be what you are)."

I had hoped for better than that, despite what I know about self-identified christians.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 11:07am GMT

David,
whatever one might think about the mainstream moral decline, you still have to make a case for including gay people in that.

Simply asserting that it is so and saying that I know your position in this matter does not constitute a reasonable argument.

I have invited you time and time again to engage with intelligent theology on this matter, and although you said you had read some, you show absolutely no willingness to engage with any of it but keep reverting back to mere statements.

Like Mark, I am deeply disappointed. That after all the time of talking to us here you can still simply assert that we are immoral because... you say so... is really quite shocking.

I hope you will never find yourself in a position in life where people judge and dismiss you so casually and categorically as you judge and dismiss people here.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 12:07pm GMT

I am constantly amazed by the creativity of lgbt people - moral and otherwise - under great provocation from a society run by heterosexuals for heterosexuals, backed up with cruel and coercive anti-gay measures around the globe.

Gays never seem to seek their / our goals by terrorism or other violent means. How extraordinary this is ! It is really worth pondering long and hard good straight people. Something may be learned from it.


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 12:32pm GMT

I stand by my comments, their tone, and the lifetime of experience that shaped them.

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 12:53pm GMT

Mark,

To return to the original debate, I've stated that the DADT policy and disparate demands on gay candidates should be challenged. We should maintain equally rigorous expectations of all candidates for preferment.

I wouldn't assume that any race, gender or sexual orientation should be an automatic beneficiary of 'populist sympathies'. I certainly have no need for them.

A person's self-concept is never the complete result of choice and certainly not genetically pre-determined. However, there are many factors, including positive and negative stereotypes and experiences, parental expectations and peer pressure that influence how we self-identify.

The gospel identifies the level of transformation that the human self-concept should undergo when it responds to the grace of Christ. He clearly distinguishes the kind of genetically determined characteristics that we should leave alone: 'Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?' (Matt. 6:27).

We know that the gospel challenges and changes every aspect of the human personality. Bar none. Even if many of those factors are far too deep-seated for anyone other than God to transform, the Christian gospel consciously addresses them. It is because of this, that worldly mistreatment is unjustified.

Nevertheless, the challenge is only the start. It takes the ongoing internal wrestling between our consciences and Christ on all fronts to complete the work of salvation.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 1:26pm GMT

Philip Hobday,
It is not "ad hominem" to call a spade a spade.

As to David Shepherd's "melanin is not a self-defined characteristic": Try explaining that to Homer Plessy.

Posted by Paul (A.) at Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 6:22pm GMT

Paul (A.),

One of the benefits of growing up in the South is the degree to which one can see how bad racism can and did get.

There was a time when people could say - "You're only black because you choose to be! Iron your hair, bleach your skin, hide your relations! That's all you have to do to be almost as good as whites!"

It is so difficult for someone today, particularly not from this region, to understand that racism was just as creatively justified by moral judgments - blacks are black because there's something wrong in the makeup of their souls, Jews all bear the blood-guilt of Jesus' death . . . that's just white racist sentiments in the U. S.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 4:44am GMT

If my last attempts at reply to Mark and Erika aren't going to be published, there is little point in following what looks, in the latter posts, like the minutes of a liberal 'mutual admiration society' meeting.

Another time.

ED NOTE

As a result of this comment, I have been back through three days worth of automatically junked comments, which would otherwise never have been seen by a human, and have found several items that were not in fact junk, including two of yours.
Both of yours have now been published.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 8:06am GMT

I am glad a couple of posts that somehow ended in the junk bin have been discovered and placed on this thread.

Murdoch Matthews, I hadn't thought to distinguish between the way blacks and gay youth (black and white) are treated. It should have been obvious. I found your post balanced and helpful.

David Shepherd, I value your contribution to the discussion on this site though this is the first time I am commenting on it. I get, at least, I think I get that you are often pointing to something impossible fully to comprehend, namely the transformative power of the Gospel. Over the years I have been to hear the gospel proclaimed in evangelical churches and in charismatic churches as well as at fairly middle of the road catholic churches but its as though the transformative power doesn't get through so I plod on now as a lapsed catholic grateful for the fellowship and support of a local LGCM monthly meeting.

One of several posters who gives me heart on Thinking Anglicans is Lawrence Roberts so I keep coming back!

Posted by Ian Wilson at Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 5:17pm GMT

It is probably best to acknowledge that race and sexual identity both have objective and subjective components. How these realities (they are both real) are dealt with in societies -- as the content for discrimination or repression, are cultural in toto. There is nothing "natural" about racism or homophobia or sexism, any more than prejudice based on other human characteristics that are entirely self-selected, such as religion.

Most anti-gay prejudice of the most violent kind is not in fact directed against people for engaging in same-sex activities, but on the assumption that someone who "looks" or "acts" a certain way -- that is, it is a matter of perception, often aimed at effeminate men or manish women. In this, such violence is just as superficially based as is racism, which is based on how someone is perceived, sometimes incorrectly: look to the Sikh assualted as a Muslim by an ignorant bigot who thought anyone in a turban must be the latter -- as if that gave him license!

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 6:32pm GMT

Off-topic, but...

Ian: 'It's as though the transformative power doesn't get through'

Your frustration resonates with my own experience. It is part of the Christian experience:

St.Peter: 'Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man'

St.Paul: 'What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?'

The regretful opportunist: 'But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

They all experienced that hour of moral despair, despair over bad choices and ruined lives, but they voiced that despair before a loving God, the One who, in Christ, initiated our eternal reconciliation and understood our moral frailties, even before we thought to despair of them: 'Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.' (Ps. 51)

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 27 January 2012 at 12:04am GMT

"Ian: 'It's as though the transformative power doesn't get through'
Your frustration resonates with my own experience. It is part of the Christian experience:"

David Kato in Uganda certainly got transformed a year ago. Scott Lively is still trying to wash the blood off his hands.

Posted by Counterlight at Friday, 27 January 2012 at 12:37pm GMT
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