Comments: Same sex couple banned from a church in Exeter

It's time to revisit the church's opt out from the equality legislation.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 2:21pm BST

Sounds appalling, but before we rush to judgment we don't know (i) which church (ii) any of the exact circumstances and (iii) what the vicar at the church has to say about it

Posted by Peter Ould at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 2:53pm BST

I have contacted the diocese, and they say that they have so far not received any more information than is in the public record here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 2:58pm BST

Pink News has this report http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/07/10/labour-mp-ben-bradshaw-exeter-church-banned-same-sex-couple-from-worship/
which includes the comment:


"Tom Cook, of the Exeter Independent Evangelical Church, which said it did not refuse the couple, told the BBC: “We believe what the Bible says and it says that lots of different things are wrong, including homosexual relationships.

He added: “We have never faced that problem and ***I could not say for certain whether we would refuse someone to worship in the church.”*** (my emphasis)

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 3:12pm BST

Very heartening that the Cathedral has said that the couple and their children are very welcome and are invited to play a full part in its life.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 3:23pm BST

Catholic schools in the US have refused the children of gay couples.

Perhaps it would be interesting if someone actually got on the phone and asked the priests of the diocese. It might take a few days but I and many others would be very interested in the results

Posted by Fr Alan-Bury at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 4:51pm BST

> Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such intolerance and bigotry have no place whatever in the Church of England?

Quite right, too. But it seems to have taken place *not* in the Church of England but in an independent evangelical church. That doesn't make it any the less distressing and wrong, but the Diocese of Exeter would have no power to act in the matter.

Posted by Veuster at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 4:57pm BST

So Tom Cook says: “We believe what the Bible says and it says that lots of different things are wrong".

No shell fish eaters in that church then, but presumably polygamists are welcome?

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 5:13pm BST

Well, let me first say loud and clear that there are gay couples in our church (which does not mean that everyone in our parish is of one mind on the subject), and personally I'm glad that it should be so.

However, I'd be very, very wary of allowing a secular government to tell a church how it may practice Christian discipleship. I'm not saying that the government always gets it wrong or that the churches always get it right. I'm just saying that once you go down that road, there are bad consequences ahead. What happens when Jesus disagrees with the government? Constantine has an answer to that, of course, but I'm not sure it's a good one.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 5:37pm BST

Tim,
ok, but then we must have disestablishment. There is a level of immorality people within church can dress up as theology, but no modern state should have any official links with it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 6:45pm BST

If the church in this case is indeed not part of the CoE, then my question is moot, but:

It's my understanding that ANYONE who lives within the geographical boundaries of a particular CoE parish is, by law, a member of that parish. How then could any CoE parish ban any such person from the church or the church school?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 6:58pm BST

Tim -

this is not about how to practise Christian discipleship. It is about churches which for years have "enjoyed" an opt-out from treating people decently finally discovering that time is running out on racism, sexism and homophobia.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 7:04pm BST

Tim. you said "However, I'd be very, very wary of allowing a secular government to tell a church how it may practice Christian discipleship. I'm not saying that the government always gets it wrong or that the churches always get it right. I'm just saying that once you go down that road, there are bad consequences ahead. What happens when Jesus disagrees with the government? Constantine has an answer to that, of course, but I'm not sure it's a good one."

Sure. I would agree with that if there was a clear boundary, the Government ran education and the Church ran the churches. But there is a problem if the Government contracts with the Church to provide mass education for both Christian and non-Christian children. Surely the government has every right to tell the church exactly how it wants that education to be done, and it has every right to demand that all schools, including church run schools, teach about gay issues in a way that is non-discriminatory. If church run schools find that doing so conflicts with their faith position then surely they should withdraw from running schools for the government.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 7:21pm BST

I know many gay couples who send their children to church schools but I know an equal number who were given the cold shoulder and a significant number who were told (probably illegally) you can't come here.

This happens all the time, most people just can't be bothered to make a fuss about it.

Read the submission to the gay marriage bill by the charity New Family Social. There are a few examples there.

It doesn't matter so much in urban areas but it does in rural areas where the church controls the only nearby primary school.

Posted by CW at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 8:06pm BST

Am I reading this wrong? I can see nothing in the account by Ben Bradshaw that implicates the Church Primary School in the actions of an independent evangelical Church. The very presence of the children in the school tells me that they have not been excluded there.

Posted by Ian at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 8:07pm BST

We have to be careful. There is no indication that the children or the couple were banned from the local primary school or that they were treated inappropriately by it.

They were asked not to attend their local conservative evangelical church.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 8:27pm BST

Why will liberals not concede that some conservative Christians have a genuine concern for their brothers and sisters.

They believe that active gay people are going to Hell fire and judgement, and so they cannot be full church members in good standing and that it is sinful for them to approach the table of the Lord. In fact they belive it will add to their damnation.

Its exactly the same in the Catholic Church and we ban divorced and re-married Catholics from Holy Communion too.

You may not agree with their analysis but it is one of integrity and not bigotry.

Posted by Robert ian williams at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:06pm BST

I live in a state in the USA where a lot of us are very upset with our government, which has passed a budget which makes vouchers available to parents, to help pay tuition to non-government-run schools. This means that some church-related schools will be paid for, in part, with our tax dollars. This is an intolerable violation of the separation of church and state. But this is nothing compared to the entanglement of the two in the UK. Does an established church really make sense in the 21st century?

Posted by Old Father William at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:31pm BST

RIW,
I find Catholic churches doing the same just as immoral.

But this is worse, it's not excluding people from direct communion with God (which is vile enough), but from even sitting in the church praying and singing!

If you were genuinely concerned about people's soul - would you exclude them from the one place where people worship and talk about God?

On no, this is all about retaining a sense of moral superiority and judgmental self-righteousness. Nothing to do with genuine care for the souls of sinners.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:43pm BST

Ben Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter, when asking his questions of Tony Baldry, clearly believed that the church and school in question belong to the Church of England. The questions make no sense otherwise. Nevertheless I have taken the trouble to check with Mr Bradshaw's office and have now had this point positively confirmed to me.

So we are definitely not talking about an independent evangelical church.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:47pm BST

If there is a "church school" involved, where as I understand it, the local government pays the school to educate pupils, then -- s/he who pays the piper, names the tune -- the government should insist on a non-discrimination agreement.
Decades ago, in my home town of Denver CO, a judge adjudicated a case about Church and State, and quoting an English philosopher whose name I have forgotten, said, "Whenever government and religion -- church and state -- mingle, it is to the detriment of both".
I quite agree.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:54pm BST

Thanks Simon,
but are we talking about the church that has links with that CoE school? And is the school implicated in any way?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:54pm BST

It's quite important that this church is unmasked, especially if, as it seems, it is a CofE church, not least so it can tell its side of the story. The Second Church Estates Commissioner would not get involved if it were not a CofE parish. Its incumbent and the churchwardens would be well advised to issue a statement. The beacon evangelical churches I know are very careful in ensuring that they do not get caught up in controversy over these issues, while also not compromising what they preach and teach to their congregations. They need to welcome all and not judge any, save in the case of gross public misconduct, which this cannot be. The CofE is not a membership church which lays down rules. This is the stuff which impedes the mission.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 9:59pm BST

Peter
In fact the funding of schools is mostly from central, not local government in England.

Erika
Yes we are talking about the church that has links with that school. But at the moment we have no knowledge of whether or not the school is implicated in what occurred.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 10:11pm BST

I'm puzzled as to why Mr. Bradshaw didn't name the church in question. On the floor of the House of Commons, he was covered by parliamentary privilege, and therefore perfectly safe from the libel laws.

Posted by Feria at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 10:30pm BST

This could be very damaging.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 10:39pm BST

A welcome post from Simon. We need to be sure exactly what we are speaking about here.

There is no implication of any wrong behaviour on the part of the school.

There is also no implication in the BBC story that Exeter Independent Evangelical Church is the church in question. It is very unlikely that a church like that would have church primary school. The Minister in the church was merely asked for comment by the BBC, and supplied it. We can all form our own opinion of how consonant his comments were with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

There is a clear implication in Ben Bradshaw's question that the church in question is a Conservative Evangelical Church of England parish church, to which the church school is attached. (Note to those outside the UK – this is obvious if one has an understanding of the nature of state-funded church schools in England.)

I think Peter Ould is reasonable in asking for more details of the case. I hope these will be forthcoming, although it is understandable that in cases like this the injured parties often wish simply to shake the dust off their shoes.

I do hope the couple in question, who Bradshaw said were Christians, are given the grace and strength to allow their story to be made public. Pray for them. The Church continues to live in denial about how widespread homophobic incidents like this are - yet a significant minority body of opinion in the Church does not even see why this behaviour is a problem. Note the unwillingness of the Evangelical Alliance’s spokesman to condemn the approach of the church. Many senior C of E clergy, including some responsible for priestly formation, are members of this organisation.

The Bishop of Exeter was a trenchant opponent of same-sex marriage who, of course, claimed that he was opposed to homophobia. If Ben Bradshaw’s understanding of this incident is correct, let him now demonstrate that really is the case by intervening forcefully with the parish concerned.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 11:12pm BST

Although I have encountered some examples of disconcerting rudeness in a surprisingly high number of the churches I have attended (not least from the clergy), this story rather beggars belief - and rather destroys one's faith in human nature. It also reminds me of the anecdotes of black immigrants to the UK in the 1950s who, whilst being thanked for having come to church, were kindly asked not to return, as the presence of black people in the congregation offended the sensibilities of white worshipers.

Name and shame!

Posted by J Drever at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 12:45am BST

It is clear from the accounts given, that the school and parish have not been cited, in order to protect the privacy of this family.

'Let right be done.'

Posted by Laurence at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 1:50am BST

I assumed from the initial reports that the problem was that the couple had decided to try to worship at this church because of its links with the school. That might have been so that their children had a better chance of a place there, or so that they had a better chance of a secondary school place in a church school, or simply because the children thought of that church as "theirs" because it was the one whose vicar came in to take assemblies, hosted the carol service etc...
In giving them the cold shoulder, the church would then have made it harder for the children either to get a place in a church school, or to feel part of the one they were in.
Part of the problem, it seems to me, is the way church schools operate, which gives undue power to the parish church. If the admission/oversubscription criteria privilege pupils who regularly attend a particular church, then anything that church does to discriminate against or make groups of worshippers (e.g. gay or divorced people) feel unwelcome puts their children at a disadvantage.
I could be entirely wrong, but it is a scenario which is quite likely, and occurs often, not just discriminating against gay people but also those who for a variety of other reasons can't worship regularly at a local church. It is a pernicious effect of using church attendance as a criterion, and I can't fathom out why it doesn't evoke more protest.

Posted by Anne at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 7:37am BST

I now work with someone who is surprised that a gay relationship lasts more than a few years (let alone the 20 or 30 year relationships I know of). He would love to have children. I cry, he is so generous, he gives so much to his workplace, his mother, and to me, with no expectation or reward, yet we reject this soul simply because he is gay? When all the "straight" people turned their back on me during breast cancer, he was there. When all the "straight" souls turned my back on me and now my officially disabled sister, it was souls like this who were there. House of Horrors Survivors, Incests Survivors, Church Abuse Survivors exist. We know who whitewashes and who heals.

Posted by cheryl clough at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 8:01am BST

Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!

Let's not get too fanciful here.

Refusing sacraments on the grounds cited above, is as common as it is obnoxious, but it is certainly not universal.
It takes a certain type of Catholic priest to press this matter, one frequently finds they are former Anglicans ......... Ah, dear!

Posted by Fr Alan-Bury at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 8:30am BST

In the continued absence of any actual facts, 10 days on, why are we still speculating like this?
Can we even assume the MP had his facts right in the first place? Is this usually the case?
And any local church minister who has found themselves wildly misreported on social media for supposed comments made in a private pastoral conversation that 'went wrong' (for whatever reasons - there are parishioners from hell, as well as clergy) will approach a story like this with some caution.

Posted by David at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 9:19am BST

"Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!"

That depends on what lies behind Ben Bradshaw's words.
Gay people know all about not being welcome in churches and being made to feel extremely unwelcome indeed.
But if, as the article suggests, people within that church actually said "You are not welcome here", then that is, in effect, barring the door.
They couldn't exactly nail a paper on the notice board saying "partnered gays are not allowed in this church". Telling someone that they are not welcome is the next step.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 9:33am BST

It's not as far as you might think, Alan-Bury.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 9:45am BST

This sort of thing happens in the States all the time. Roman Catholic and evangelical churches frequently fire gay employees (even valued ones of many years) and throw out gay members (partnered or not) along with their families and friends. Children from same sex households find themselves excluded from religious affiliated schools and organizations. Anything goes to purge our houses of worship from the gay contagion.
Separation of church and state makes it all perfectly legal even in cities and states that have laws against discrimination in public facilities, employment, and housing. We retain our God-given right to close our churches to anyone we deem to be less than fully human.

Of course in the face of such practices, the words "Christian love" die on the lips.

I'm afraid that "unwelcome" and "barred at the door" is an awfully fine distinction lost on most of the rest of the public who remain epistemologically impaired.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 12:36pm BST

"Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!"

As a divorced and remarried Anglican now married to an RC ex-priest I would want to challenge this. We can (and occasionally do) go to Mass at RC churches for various reasons - family occasions, holidays etc . We can feel totally welcome until the moment of communion, but at that point, we have to confront the fact that we are excluded and judged. As an Anglican I wouldn't be able to take communion anyway, but I am acutely aware of the hurtfulness of the message to my husband, who is excluded from communion solely because he has married me, despite a life-time of faithful service to the Catholic Church up to that point. It is all the more painful because of the pretence that the fact we aren't actually barred at the door means we ought to feel ok about this. It is only when you are in this situation (and I am guessing it is the same for gay couples), that you really appreciate why this matters.

Posted by Anne at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 12:40pm BST

"Not being welcome is a long, long way from being barred at the door!"

Matthew 22

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

40.1 And then Jesus said: "But do not forget to make sure that the gays know they're not welcome. Everything about neighbours? I don't include gays, obviously. I know, I left that bit out in the first edition. But you know I meant it really."

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 4:45pm BST

Erika said,

'ok, but then we must have disestablishment'

I agree.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 5:49pm BST

Fr Alan-Bury,

I worship at a church entirely staffed by former anglicans, amore welcoming lot you could not find. Frequently former anglicans? I think you need to provide ssome evidence for that, it certainly does not square with my experience

Posted by Ian at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 5:49pm BST

I hope the editors will include this moving clip which amplifies, in A jungian and other, senses, the theme of exclusion of certain families, most movingly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5cuxo7qob0

Posted by Laurence at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 5:54pm BST

Would you think it appropriate for a converted jew to show up at an Orthodox synagogue sporting a badge stating, Jesus is Lord?

Its all about sensitivity.The Evangelical and Catholic churches I would know, would not turn away a gay person as long as thay didn't flaunt it. Its an opportunity for them to hear the gospel.

Posted by robert Ian Williams at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 8:48am BST

RIW
the problem is that other people's sensitivities about what "flaunting" it means are impossible to guess. For some it's not kissing in public, for others it's not holding hands. For some, even turning up as a couple is flaunting it, and turning up as a whole family is a kick in their sensitive teeth.

It would be much better if people stopped feeling so offended all the time and just got on with the business of loving their neighbours instead of being a constant stumbling stone for them.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 1:36pm BST

"Would you think it appropriate for a converted jew to show up at an Orthodox synagogue sporting a badge stating, Jesus is Lord?
Its all about sensitivity.The Evangelical and Catholic churches I would know, would not turn away a gay person as long as thay didn't flaunt it. Its an opportunity for them to hear the gospel."

That's the thing about being a gay Christian in this war that the churches have declared on gay people; to so many Christians, I'm a fatally flawed Christian and an inferior human being. Some even tell me that I'm one of Satan's commandos worthy of death.
When I tell gay folk that I'm Christian, as far as most of them are concerned I might as well reveal myself to be a Jewish Nazi.

Thanks, but I will continue to "flaunt" BOTH.

Homophobia plays the same role today that antisemitism did a century ago, as a focus for hatred of liberalism and the resentments caused by the displacements of modern life.
If you don't believe me, just ask the Islamists who've enthusiastically picked up the homophobia and kept the antisemitism, and hate liberalism every bit as much as my fellow Christians.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 2:00pm BST

What does one mean by "not flaunting it?" Really? We visit a church and I'm supposed to introduce my life partner as who or what? My roommate?

I've never said "we're here, we're queer, get over it," but I just can't go through the tortuous process of avoiding gendered pronouns.

I'm done with the closet. God made me and gifted me with a wonderful life partner and the Bible says we don't hide the light under a bush.

Flaunted.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 4:40pm BST

In this connection I found this posting interesting if not frightening.

http://sammymorse.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/evangelical-alliances-welcome-to-gay-couples-home-wrecking-faith-destroying/

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 9:02pm BST
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