Comments: More reactions to the House of Bishops statement

Valentine's evening of tearfulness gave for Septuagesima's morning of joy upon hearing the bishop's radio interview and the absence of any specific penalties or a joined up 'uniform policy'. It was one of those delightful Paxman moments though with fewer questions. Clearly it will be a free-for-all and dependent on the individual opinions of diocesans just as their guidance on civil partnerships has been. Clergy can simply up sticks and move to a more welcoming diocese if necessary. Or they could just call their bishop's bluff and get on with it.

Posted by Andrew at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 12:10am GMT

Link for Peter Ould's piece is broken. Should be


Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 7:07am GMT

The Bishop of Sheffield should consider a career change and go into politics as he was ace at avoiding the question of what penalties could be imposed upon clergy who choose to enter into a same sex civil marriage. Ecclesiastical Consistory Courts are more used to sorting out whether or not ancient pews can be removed from a parish church rather than sorting out whether or not the vicar's licence to officiate should be removed upon entering a same sex marriage.
Unlike the pope the greatest power the Archbishop of Canterbury has is the power of persuasion and on this issue methinks that Justin is pissing into the wind.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 7:50am GMT

My problems with any Peter Ould statement about homosexuality is that he claims to be an ex-Gay. My belief is that there can be no such thing. Of course, to believe that, you either have to be intrinsically gay yourself or able to trust those Gay people you know who have entrusted you with their ontological experience of actually being Gay.

From the records - such as are available - no intrinsically Gay person is able to be tempted to achieve heterosexual congress. Anyone who can be persuaded to engage in heterosexual sex is either experimenting (an experience found disagreeable, or is fundamentally bi-sexual; which is not Gay.

I strongly suspect that 'ex-Gays' who go on to marry and produce biological children are not truly homosexual, but rather, bi-sexual; which is very different; and are able to be re-directed to achieve the benefits of heterosexual connubial congress. Even bi-sexual people are not freed from their potential for homosexual behaviour. Some choose to ignore their homosexual feelings - notably when it is in their interest to claim to have been 'cured' of them.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 9:40am GMT

Peter Ould has nothing much to say. His first point makes clear that there is considerable latitude already offered clergy in relation to devising liturgical acts to follow a civil same sex marriage - nothing new there. His last point tries to stir the pot of outrage by hinting that some bishops will be outed soon - well, probably, yes, but so what?

The interesting point is the middle one. What he does not consider is the question of what code bishops can use to discipline clergy. Everyone assumes it will be the Clergy Discipline Measure - but, apart from offences committed under criminal law and some matrimonial matters (i.e. divorce), the rest of the Measure covers "Disciplinary proceedings concerning matters not involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial".

The Bishops have however, made clear that their pastoral guidance is very definitely a matter of the doctrine of the Church of England. As they say in paragraph 9:
"From then there will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer."
As a matter of fact they are wrong - this has to be at least the third time when the civil understanding of marriage and the doctrine of the Church have varied (over deceased sister's husbands and over divorce) but we will let that point go. However if, as they are so careful to tell us, this Pastoral Guidance is about the doctrine of the Church of England, then they cannot prima facie use the CDM to discipline clergy who contract civil marriages.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 10:00am GMT

On Radio 4 the Bishop of Shaffield was pressed on this question (in various ways):
"So I’m wondering what are the penalties if any clergy person decides to convert their civil partnership (because you already have some gay clergy in civil partnerships), into a marriage or if they enter into a marriage from the start when this legislation comes into place. What are the penalties?"

A short compilation of what the Bishop of Sheffield had to say in reply reads thus:
"We said the House of Bishops considers it would not be appropriate conduct for somebody in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives and to live by that and we would hope that clergy would respect that advice and guidance. I would strongly suggest and all the bishops would prefer to have conversations with people initially if they are contemplating going further than that and we would not want to …
And it’s really hard to predict exactly what they will be and how they will be shaped because it’s hard to predict the particular circumstances …
I think our hope as a House is to develop a consistent approach across the Church of England, that was the point, really, of having significant conversations between ourselves and issuing a statement together, we wanted there to be uniform guidance across the whole church."

So, to put it in a nutshell, the Bishops have decided to issue guidance including a ban on clerical same-sex marriages with bits in bold to emphasise their seriousness and the implicit threat against clergy who decide not to accept their guidance - but have no idea how they intend to enforce that ban, despite wanting to have a uniform policy across the church.

I feel sorry for him having to go on the radio to defend that.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 10:11am GMT

Ron -

I don't usually leap to Peter Ould's defence, but I do now. He doesn't describe himself as ex-gay - and never has, as far as I know, but as post-gay. He doesn't want to have his identity structured around his sexuality but around his being "in Christ". I think it is probably not unfair to say that he acknowledges that he still has homosexual feelings, but that his sexual life has been channelled into the marriage that he has felt called to, and which he feels very strongly is faithful to the calling of God on him and on everyone else. And there, as Shakespeare would say, is the rub.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 10:16am GMT

Oh dear!
The suffragan bishop of Europe writes this as his conclusion:
"I know that the letter and appendix may come as a disappointment to some in our Churches. It is important to note that while the Church's doctrine of marriage remains the same, so does our commitment to welcoming all lay people fully into the life of our Church and fellowship, regardless of sexual orientation, civil partnership, or marital status."

But, dear bishop, the opposite is true ..... "marital status" now becomes an explicit barrier to the full life of your Church, particularly when these lay people are called by God to ministry.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 4:04pm GMT

'But, dear bishop, the opposite is true ..... "marital status" now becomes an explicit barrier to the full life of your Church, particularly when these lay people are called by God to ministry.'

And as bishops already discriminate against partnered lay people at will, barring them from licensed lay ministry if they feel like it, there is no welcome "fully into the life of our church". Hasn't been for years.
Do they ever read what they write? Do they ever think?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 7:26pm GMT

'Pissing into the wind'??? Bring me my smelling-salts. Father David, I have often thought that with only a little 'tweak' you would be a liberal. Witness also your evident infatuation with not one but several prospective women bishops. But I have no desire to coerce you (or anyone like you). I do, however, think that the ability to 'inhabit' the thought world of one's 'opponents' (let the term stand)is a great aid to a sort of harmony.

Posted by John at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 8:33pm GMT

John, what a delicious comment which made me laugh out loud. I think you'll have to work a little harder to bring me over to the liberal cause. As to the ability to inhabit the thought world of ones "opponents" (surely you mean brothers and sisters in Christ?) isn't that all part of the process we call mutual flourishing?

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 8:35am GMT

Dirty job, Father David. Someone's got to do it.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 12:59pm GMT
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