Comments: Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 3

I think the House of Bishops is beginning to realise that the much heralded "facilitated conversations" is yet another example shewing that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Pinning their hopes on these talks after issuing their pastoral letter is merely whistling in the dark.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 1:39pm GMT

Fundamentally, if a priest wishes to marry their partner, or commit in whatever way they choose, in the integrity of their love, then that cannot be countermanded by a top down authoritarianism.

It is a situation that should be shared (and in many cases celebrated) by the local church community (that is, the real community of a church and what they want and believe in conscience). It should be in the hands of the PCC and the actual people living their lives at a local church, and expressing their faith.

Not a single priest should be sanctioned or removed from post. If it was attempted, the local church should resist, and decline to accept episcopal violation of their conscience, and if needs be should seek alternative episcopal oversight.

Additionally, an attack on *one* priest in this context would be an attack on all local churches of good conscience, because it sends an appalling message to lgbt members in the heart of our local church communities, and you cannot just collaborate in that discrimination by silence and inaction.

A coalition of churches of conscience on this issue is needed, to enable collective response and resistance to what is a violation and trampling of conscience, and an authoritarian exclusion of gay and lesbian full participation in our local church communities.

Quite simply, this episcopal dictat should be set aside and effectively ignored, and a collective date set, from which blessings and priestly marriages will commence. Otherwise, my partner, many decent lgbt church members, will feel demeaned and reduced, and for their sakes, we have a duty to follow the beacon example of the Episcopal Church in the US, and even seek its support, mandate, and oversight.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 2:55pm GMT

A contrast can surely be made between the Archbishops' Pastoral Letter and the support given way back in the Swinging Sixties by Archbishop Michael Ramsey in the House of Lords to the Wolfenden Report. For this support Ramsey was much vilified. Viscount Montgomery said of the report "One might just as well condone the devil and all his works" another critic castigated Ramsey for " the sanction given to sodomy by the Archbishop of Canterbury". But assisting in its safe passage into Law Ramsey thought that he has helped to make the law " more humane, more Christian and more just". However later asked whether the Church should ever bless a marriage between two persons of the same gender he replied:- " I don't see the Christian Church ever giving its blessing to that. Because the Christian Church gives its blessing to the best and perfect use of sex, which is the union of a man and a woman in marriage. We confine our blessing to that." ( see Owen Chadwick's "Michael Ramsey A life" pages 145 to 149)

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 7:01pm GMT

It's worth reading this:

It appears that so far as the House of Bishops are concerned, adultery is OK, because (point 7) without being relaxed about adultery, they'd be short of bishops (and one bishop would have to get another job, for a start off - I wonder if his "wife's" husband
attended his ordination?).

So that's OK, then. Everything Jesus said about divorce is wrong, because the CofE is short of bishops and it's not reasonable to expect bishops to live a celibate life. Whereas, everything Jesus said
about homosexuality (all, er, none of it) is right, and gay people should accept that their love disqualifies them from the priesthood, in the same way that bishops' adultery, er, doesn't.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 8:53pm GMT

Thurstan Stigand of Anglican Mainstream ended his article thus: "Overall, therefore, the pastoral statement is untheological, incoherent and unhelpful. It will do little to help those in the Church of England to bear a clear and faithful witness to our culture. The bishops need to think again."

I expect that all the signatories of the petition against the Bishops' statement would wholeheartedly agree. I certainly do.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 9:47pm GMT

Savi Hensman - for 'Ekklesia'' - points out the inconsistency of the Church of England's treatment of heterosexual and homosexual people in the Church.

Despite the Church's acceptance of Divorce and re-marriage - seemingly un-scriptural - there seems to be no such liberality towards homosexual people, who actually want to strive for monogamous and faithful relationships in Same-Sex Marriage - with the blessing and recognition of the Church

If Divorcees can be married with the blessing of the Church - despite scriptural inhibition - why on earth should not faithful Same-Sex Couples be given the same chance to model their fidelity?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 11:13pm GMT

With reference to David Pocklington's analysis, it seems to me that the only way bishops would be able to enforce their guidance on pain of disciplinary proceedings would be by requesting Synod and Parliament to amend the CDM, as happened last year to prohibit clergy membership of racist organisations. Highly unlikely under the circumstances.

Posted by Andrew at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 12:42am GMT

The bishops are being shot down from the right as much as from the left (which being translated means from the homophobes as much as from the gay friendly). Is this then a case of Veritas in Medio Stat? Or of shoddy compromise wobbling and falling between two stools?

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 4:19am GMT

Dermot. O'Callaghan's article on the different understanding of the word "fidelity" within the Gay community is awesomely "wicked" in the newer street wise understanding of that word.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 5:07am GMT

Do the bishops now expect clergy to discuss with the 95% of heterosexual people living together who approach the C of E for marriage the churches teaching and why the couple have chosen to depart from it? How I wonder will that square with recent attempts to increase church weddings?
I wonder what would happen if clergy decided to emulate the late Fr Dilworth Harrison who,where there was fornication, demanded repentance and sacramental confession.If this was refused the couple were married at a side altar,early in the morning,the priest wearing a purple stole.

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:21am GMT

Doesn't the splendidly delightfully eccentric Fr. Dilworth Harrison provide the perfect solution in allowing same sex marriage in church? An early morning service in a side chapel with the priest wearing a purple stole, preferably with a reading of the BCP service of Commination (The Denouncing of God's Anger and Judgements Against Sinners) preceding the marriage! I jest, of course, but this must be how homosexuals feel they are being treated after reading the Archbishops' Pastoral Letter which is far from pastoral.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:01am GMT

"Is this then a case of Veritas in Medio Stat? Or of shoddy compromise wobbling and falling between two stools?"

I don't see why this cannot be yet another one of those topics where we simply disagree and allow different actions. We've just learned with regard to women bishops that it is possible to keep everyone together. Why should that not work for marriage equality?

If those churches who actually mean it when they say they welcome us fully were allowed to do so, the problem would slowly erode away and we'd eventually have a conservative fringe that was still staunchly opposed to same sex equality while the rest of the church moves on.

This doesn't have to be make or break.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:29am GMT

Is 'Anglican Mainstream' trying to pretend that it speaks 'ex cathedra' since it allows no comment or discussion on its posts?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:46am GMT

Michael Nazir Ali takes a swipe at those who made comments on the bishops' statement before him as if they were merely ill-considered, imbecilic rantings, while his work (we must assume) is thoughtful and magisterial ...... he then goes on to tell us precisely ...... nothing.

Other than claiming any argument that would improve the lot of gay people would have to be fallacious .....

It is no surprise this man finds himself unemployed........

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 10:42am GMT

Father David,

I rest my case. (Joke.)

Posted by John at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 10:51am GMT

It wasn't that long ago (or perhaps it was) that I was wishing you the best, Erika, because you were leaving. Now you are advocating institutional muddle. Presumably an institution that stands for something has a policy that implies boundaries one way or another around which there might be some fuzziness but not complete contradiction.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 11:10am GMT

Fr David,
did you see Tobias Haller's "Form of Prayer for a Same-Sex Marriage in keeping with the Pastoral Guidance of the Church of England's House of Bishops."

Almighty God, who orderest the world in families, and in furtherance thereof didst make Mankind in thine Image, male and female: We give thee thanks for the couple here standing in thy Presence, who, notwithstanding the immediately preceding invocation, have chosen to enter the estate of civil marriage with each other, in disregard of the fact that one of them is not different in gender to the other. Pour out upon them a rush of common sense and enlightenment to the error of their ways, and guide their feet to safer pastures in fulfillment of what, we do not doubt, is thine actual Will for them. If however they should persist in this Folly, deal mercifully with them, as the poor deluded wretches that they are. Father, forgive them, for — in spite of all our efforts to the contrary — they know not what they do. Amen.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 11:16am GMT

Ways round this authoritarianism.

1. Creating a coalition of conscience provides a collective platform which the media can report on. It also creates a solidarity for priests put under pressure.

2. Setting a date from which time coalition churches will 'a bit more formally' seek God's blessing on couples will create a collective focus which challenges bishops to take down *all* those churches, not just single out individuals.

3. Be subversively imprecise and diverse in methods of celebration. Hold quasi-marriages outside a church building or grounds, then come into the church for what may not formally be a wedding but everyone will know that it is. Or let the priest say, "Technically I'm not allowed to bless this couple, even though I personally desire their blessing, so would someone else like to come up and bless them? Are the bishops going to 'excommunicate' ordinary members if they do so? Get gay couples to write narratives for church websites/magazines describing their *love* and sense of alienation. Then get them totally affirmed and celebrated in services. Invite US priests to 'privately bless' a couple in a side room, then welcome the couple to cheers and praise as they re-enter. Get PCCs to write to bishops stating their total backing for their priests.

There are so many ways to expose and subvert the authoritarianism that thinks it can curtail a community's conscience and faith expression.

But the resistance should be collective. Discrimination needs to be repudiated... for the sake and the dignity of decent people.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 12:09pm GMT

it's precisely because as someone said (bemoaned?) on another thread - people's loyalties are with their parish not with The Church.
I could not care less whether a conservative church somewhere else digs its heels in and does not bless/marry its gay couples, provided my own church is allowed to do that.

Those gay people who are happy with being discriminated against can then stick with the conservative churches.

We should not forget that despite all the hype this is not a first order issue.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 12:29pm GMT

@Richard Ashby

Is 'Anglican Mainstream' trying to pretend that it speaks 'ex cathedra' since it allows no comment or discussion on its posts?

No, it just speaks of their laager mentality and unwillingness to engage in any kind of conversation. Also, their website is really hideous, never mind content (if they can lob stones, so can I), but hey, i guess they know best about web design as well. Both things speak volumes about the size of the "mainstream" support this gimcrack organisation must actually enjoy.

Posted by ExRevd at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 1:35pm GMT

I agree with Erika that a sensible solution is the concept of unity in diversity. The whole 'gay-affirming' or 'gay-vilfying' debate throughout the Communion could be defused for the time being by basing a realpolitik on conscience.

If in all conscience a local church community does not agree with gay blessings, or if in all conscience a local church community totally agrees with gay bleesings, then the collective conscience and faith expression of that local church should take priority over any distant top-down 'authoritarianism'.

Of course, one of the problems has been the unwillingness of some parties to accept this concept of unity in diversity... vis a vis "the covenant"... which was basically a conservatively anti-gay initiate to try to impose a top down uniformity on everyone.

Surely there's a lesson in the demise of that project?

This issue is a profound conscience issue, especially for all the people who are seeking or on the margins of our local church communities.

I feel aggrieved, not for myself, but for my partner, and the deplorable message it sends to her and people like her. A message of disrespect, of devaluing of tender love, a reduction to a form of marginalised 'toleration', an outlawing of faithful devoted relationships from blessing.

We have already had the failed attempt of 'the covenant' to impose just one view on a clearly divided church (YouGov's most recent poll showed a narrow majority of Anglicans *in favour* of gay marriage). The episcopal statement is just the covenant all over again, except this time by episcopal dictat. It is out of touch with the reality of our lives today and the conscience, decency and legitimacy of local church communities.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 3:16pm GMT

Thank you Erika. I agree wholeheartedly and expected the House of Bishops to promulgate more conversations on the model that was used in General Synod about women bishops. No one in the Church of England is obliged to marry divorced people if it is against their conscience and that should be the same for homosexual clergy who get married by State law. This is just a punitive episcopal statement, in no way tempered by pastoral wisdom. Una Kroll

Posted by Una Kroll at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 6:31pm GMT

With us, in our local Episcopal church in Seattle, a beginning was made when our vicar decided that it would be doing right to declare ourselves and Open and Affirming congregation.

He wisely realized that this could not occur at once, or by fiat, so we engaged in almost a year's dialogue, including sermons (which included lay preachers and some from outside our congregation), discussion groups, reading lists... In the end, the congregation was very largely for, and the vestry was unanimous (with one abstention).

We have come so far that during our recent search for a new vicar, the vestry a) declared that there MUST be at least one LGBT person on the search committee, and that b) the question "Will you gladly and joyfully perform same-sex marriages if/when they become legal in our state?" was a "deal breaker". Now same-sex marriage is legal in Washington, and we have performed quite a few, including that of one of our assistant clergy.

I go over all this wondering how many churches in the C of E have gone through such a process? Initially, all we did was to declare ourselves Open and Affirming - but the process brought formerly unaware persons into the discussion and in the end gave us almost 100% solidarity on the issue (I believe we lost only one family, but the result has been a steady influx of LGBT people and couples).

Can the C of E be brought around by this sort of "trickle up" effort? In our case, we were far ahead of our House of Bishops, but saw a huge swing within a few years as more and more individual churches followed more or less the same course.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 6:33pm GMT

Hopefully all who value justice above expediency will hear and heed Susannah Clark's prophetic call to unite and resist authoritarianism. When your leadership turns against you, solidarity is your only chance.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 7:28pm GMT

The comparison with the failed Anglican Covenant enterprise is a valid one I believe, Susannah. It galvanised everyone in favour of progress on the status of gay and lesbian people in the Church and wider society into action. And it worked. It was a project which can't be resurrected. So any remaining obstacles to the acceptance of gay marriage in the Church of England become progressively easier to overcome by a number of incremental steps.

First, given that those institutional structures intended to block local change were never put in place, and never will be, more reliance will need to be placed on the type of erroneous and unenforceable pastoral statement we have seen in recent days. Second, this attempt at coercion will prove to be ineffective as the reality of gay marriages increases their acceptance in society and the church.

Third, the presence of women bishops will utterly transform the leadership of the Church. The guys will have to listen to the gals, who won’t feel bound by collective responsibility about statements issued without their consultation (we assume) prior to their admission to the episcopal ranks. Hence, they will be able to make independent judgements and are more likely to find affinity with marginalised groups and the opinions of other women, none of whom would relish the prospect of a woman bishop disciplining a gay cleric or a gay-friendly PCC as one of her first actions on gaining a diocesan see.

Fourth, as soon as it has become apparent who the diocesans are who do not enforce the guidance, then married gay people who have a calling to the ministry will not be blocked, and neither will those seeking blessings in church. Fifth, the facilitated conversations will be given purpose by using them as a grassroots initiative to formulate prayers and a liturgy. Sixth, the last remaining obstacle being the quadruple locks themselves, their eventual unpicking will come about after a liturgy has been agreed upon nationally informally via social media. A Private Members Motion in Synod to amend the Marriage Act gathers momentum, eventually succeeding by a process of sustained argument and changing demographics.

Posted by Andrew at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:29pm GMT

As always Interested Observer makes provocative observations and brings relevant information to the table.

The document he refers to above in paragraph 11 shows how the Church can move in its doctrine and still value those who hold the conventional, orthodox position:
11. The Church of England’s teaching is that it can be said of two living people that they were married and are no longer married. Nevertheless, the Church of England recognizes the sincerely held convictions of those who do not believe this because, on theological grounds, they hold that marriage is indissoluble. It also respects the convictions of those who, while not holding an indissolubilist view, believe that further marriage after divorce is not an option for those in ordained ministry.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:38pm GMT

Martin Reynolds makes the point
"Interested Observer makes provocative observations and brings relevant information to the table.

The document he refers to above in paragraph 11 shows how the Church can move in its doctrine and still value those who hold the conventional, orthodox position:"

There is a current attempt at the same sort of process regarding Women Bishops.

One of the trickier aspects of that is the provision of a conservative evangelical bishop. This has not been enthusiastically received by posters on this site.
But if Martins point that "the Church can move in its doctrine and still value those who hold the conventional, orthodox position" is true then
surely the prospect of a conservative evangelical bishop should be welcomed?

Posted by John Sandeman at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:49pm GMT

John Sandeman wonders why some liberal voices struggle to welcome the prospect of another conservative evangelical bishop.
Perhaps things might improve if some conservative Calvinist Church offered something along the lines of the Ordinariate to give a home to those who see themselves unchurched by the doctrinal changes being contemplated and advanced.
Though the Anglican patrimony they might retain could be equally as thin as those who are newly become RCs. We have discovered here on this blog before that the BCP while quoted frequently by this constituency is rarely used.
Remembering those who once populated the Catholic wing, we might feel more comfortable with those who would survive this cull.

As it is, there is something deeply chilling about the prospects that makes a welcome difficult to muster.

But to bring us back to the topic of the thread!
If a man could be found who would suit, then let us hope he has the knowledge and wisdom to stop the House of Bishops make such a complete ass of themselves as they have over the history of marriage.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 10:34pm GMT

Re: Dermot O' Callaghan's post on AM...I think Father David his agenda is in the last sentence...Can't help feeling those who wish to split the Anglican Communion think they have found the issue to do it....and then take up the Reformation where Edward 6th left off.

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 10:09am GMT

'How, then, are the people concerned meant to be brought to repentance and thus to eternal life? If no one is allowed to address the sinful nature of their behavior, how can they ever turn from it?'

This 'holier than thou' attitude is endemic throughout the article by Mr Stigand. I object to being so threatened by hell fire and damnation if I dissent from Mr Stigand's interpretation of a limited number of biblical passages. His concern for my immortal soul is unwelcome, patronising and intrusive.

And I might well ask him whether, in the light of the fact that 95% of heterosexual couples have lived together and presumably had sexual intercourse together before marriage (and indeed often display the offspring of that union as bridesmaids and pageboys etc) he requires a discussion of their sexual activities and their 'repentence' before he will marry them. But then of course heterosexual intercourse can be regularised by marriage and thus forgiven and that is entirely different!

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 6:22pm GMT
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