Comments: Question on CNC and human sexuality

Justin Welby's reply to April Alexander seems disingenuous, given that she is a central member of the CNC, and has presumably seen the guidance to which Justin refers in the written answer to Q44.

Posted by Iain McLean at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 5:52pm BST

But not apparently regardless of marital status.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 6:16pm BST

Excellent questions.

If General Synod want to stop this, clergy and laity can pass a measure to ban discrimination in episcopal appointments on grounds of theology, then dare the bishops to veto it. This should be done anyway, to safeguard theological diversity in the church.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 6:36pm BST

Even a day later, Cantuar still mishandles the question.

"[C]ommitted to nurturing the vocation across the whole of God’s people, regardless of sexuality, and regardless of lay or ordained...."

This is the most obfuscatory doubletalk.

Candidates for bishop are not nominated "regardless of lay or ordained." Quite the opposite!

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 7:34pm BST

Some good work keeping the pressure constantly on. We must keep reminding the Powers that none of this is acceptable practice.

Posted by DBD at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 7:47pm BST

Well done, well done. And the attack quite rightly continues and the disingenuousness of our archbishops is laid bare to public scrutiny. Perhaps Bishop Pete would care to explain why we've all got it wrong.

Posted by John at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 8:38pm BST

"The current version of the guidance material provided to CNC members... I shall want to consult the House of Bishops on whether it should be made more widely available."

I think we should just walk in the light of truth and be open with one another.

Transparency of process is really important. In the age of FOI requests it seems strange if criteria for important church positions remains hidden.

Complete openness is particularly apposite when it comes to contested issues like human sexuality. It should all be above board and open for anyone to read.

It would also seem strange if diversity of views cannot be accommodated in the church's leadership. Such a diversity would only reflect the reality: that the members of the Church of England are divided down the middle on these issues.

As a lesbian member of the Church I want to know that a lesbian woman can be called to leadership role in the Church of England. There should be no hint of hidden terms and conditions, applied by a cabal, but hidden from public view. Obviously selection criteria and conditions should be available for all to know, to understand, and to debate.

Maybe they are. I'd like to know.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 13 July 2015 at 10:25pm BST

Going back to Q15 from the February sessions I see that this is the second Synod in a row at which questions have been asked about the CNC and nominees' views on human sexuality.

More power to the questioners. The Archbishop cannot dodge this question much longer.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 1:37am BST

April Alexander's question does not seem to be a difficult one, on the face of it. I suspect that why the ABC does not understand it is that he simply cannot allow himself to believe that the de facto requirement exists, and, on having it exposed in front of him, cannot reply, because to do so would end the game that he and others have been playing for too long.

All strength to AA and JW - this needs pursuing relentlessly.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 6:15am BST

One of the central findings of the Pilling Report is that the current policies towards gay clergy encourage a culture of dishonesty - and a tacit acceptance of that culture by the hierarchy. The Archbishop of Canterbury has clearly demonstrated that this propensity for dishonesty goes right to the very top. It is absolutely unacceptable and Welby's credibility cannot be sustained on this basis - except among his supporters from the Global South and the hard-line Evangelicals.

Posted by James A at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 7:17am BST

I do hope we are going to get a new thread on the questions as a whole - although this one gets us off to a very good start. @Will Richards has already commented on Tim Thornton's abysmal performance on the Green Report and its associated projects on last Friday's thread about the questions. Yes, I agree, the pressure does need to be kept up on the CNCs shenanigans; but we mustn't lose sight of the car crash in slow motion which is happening at heart of the Reform and Renewal programme, either.

Posted by Tom Marshall at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 7:31am BST

John Ward's comment 'given that bishops who won’t ordain women cannot always be a focus for unity for everyone" is what the Synod legislated and works both ways. It's just not good ecclesiology and it is difficult to see how it can possibly work. Those opposed to women as priests and bishops actually don't think they are so how does that create one church?

Posted by Joseph Golightly at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 7:47am BST

Tom Marshall, we will have more threads on Reform and Renewal soon.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 8:12am BST

The culture of dishonesty is endemic in the Church of England and starts in my opinion in the ongoing expectation that church attenders should forever pronounce the Nicene Creed ceremoniously, warts and all.

As a disbeliever in a physical resurrection and as a renouncer of the Virgin Birth because the biological form of generational genetic reassembly is so much more interesting and amazing, I find that the only way to express honesty in the current Church of England is by silence, which presumably precedes banishment and cumulative steps towards the inferno.

Posted by Paul Edelin at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 9:21am BST

Well then,when will we have a lesbian or gay bishop? The Dean of St Alban's would be much better than anyone recently appointed.We really do need some bishops with theological knowledge and more catholic outlook.

Posted by Jean Mayland (Revd) at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 5:01pm BST

Martin Seeley?

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 11:52pm BST

... as in catholic with theological knowledge.

But of course we were told at GS that all bishops are theologians.

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 7:57am BST

Mr John Ward: "simply saying that the church’s teaching on human sexuality is wrong, is enough to prevent you from being appointed as a bishop. Given this is rather shocking doctrinal discrimination"

ABC Welby: "I don’t accept your presupposition."

OK then. So HOW is Ward's presupposition mistaken?

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 9:50am BST

What Jean Mayland says.

As for all bishops being theologians, let the record show that this passes no judgement on the quality of their theologising.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 10:06am BST

I have to say @Charles Read, that I found that claim about theologians by the Bishop of Truro during the questions about the Green Report quite extraordinary - and highly unsatisfactory. At first I thought it was a joke (an extremely unfunny one in the current climate) and then realised it was brazen arrogance. Meanwhile the theological imbalance among the C of E's bishops continues. I find any attempt (especially by Pete Broadbent) to suggest this is merely coincidence quite unconvincing. We now know, courtesy of Jo Spreadbury's courage at last February's Synod, that St Edmundsbury got Martin Seeley because it was another case of blocking Jeffrey John. Thankfully, Martin Seeley emerged rather than another clone of the two Archbishops. How long can this nonsense go on for? No wonder institutional Christianity is a toxic brand among critical-thinking Europeans.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 10:36am BST

I hope that somebody, e.g., Susannah, will put in an FOI request to see the guidance mentioned in the answer to Q44.

Posted by Iain McLean at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 1:55pm BST

Iain, the Church of England is exempt from FOI's.

We should just be able to see it, because there should be nothing to hide.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 5:39pm BST

The fact that the ABC does not accept a proposition put to him by a questioner at General Synod does not necessarily mean that the proposition is invalid. It may just mean that the proposition is too embarrassing for the ABC to address adequately for the satisfaction of the Synod. It would seem that the ABC is reluctant to address some real questions of concern about the treatment of Gay candidates for episcopal ministry; e.g., what about the obvious contender in the field - the Dean of St. Albans?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 5:44pm BST

"…Let me just say, given a couple of the questions that came up last night, which I handled badly, for which I apologise to the questioners and also to the synod, that we are committed to nurturing the vocation across the whole of God’s people, regardless of sexuality, and regardless of lay or ordained…"

In context, the Archbishop appears to be talking about the vocation of "leadership." This is manifest nonsense. Leadership abilities are assessed as part of the discernment for ordination process. Those of us who are/have been candidates for ordination are, in many dioceses, standardly asked questions that would never be asked of a straight candidates. All gay and lesbian candidates are, in theory, expected to make a commitment to celibacy; straight candidates never are. And sometimes the commitment to celibacy is even extended to candidates for lay ministry and leadership. There is no commitment whatsoever to act "regardless of sexuality."

Posted by David Beadle at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 9:32pm BST

With at least one eye on the Global South, Justin Welby remains bound and determined to forestall the ordination of an LGBT person as a bishop in the Church of England.

The question is whether Synod and the CNC will be complicit in this discrimination.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 9:45pm BST

David Beadle, that was just my point about "regardless of lay or ordained," but you have expressed it better, and of course with real evidence.

In both cases--sexuality and ordination status--it's quite clear that for the Archbishop, "regardless" actually means "having very careful regard to."

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 10:58pm BST

I may have got this wrong, but the current guidance (which we are not allowed to see until ++Cantuar has consulted the HoB) must be based on the legal advice received and which is contained in GS Misc 1044 Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010 (revised). This was issed in June 2013. Not much has changed since in this particular area. The reality is that the CNC (re nominations to diocesan sees) and diocesan bishops (re nominations to suffragan sees) have considerable freedom as to how they consider candidates who may identify as LGBT, or indeed any candidate with regard to their views on human sexuality. They must, as a prerequisite, be able to confirm that they are living lives that are consistent with Issues in Human Sexuality, that rather opaque document that is regarded as law writ large. But in addition, as the text of GS Misc states:

"It is, therefore, lawful for the Church of England, when nominating bishops, not merely to give effect to the general legal requirements relating to the qualifications of those to be consecrated as bishops but also to take into account the particular convictions and Church tradition of candidates where that is relevant to the office for which they are being considered and the context in which they would be exercising their ministry if appointed."

Those with the patronage are therefore able to make a subjective assessment and if they don't like a candidate's convictions (assuming those convictions are relevant) they can decline to nominate them. They retreat behind the 'focus of unity' stuff.

GS Misc continues: " ... it is open to those responsible for making a particular nomination to form a view as to whether, in the light of the understanding of a bishop’s role ... being in either of the categories referred to in the preceding paragraph [divorced and remarried in the lifetime of a former spouse, or married to such a person, or in a civil partnership] would be an obstacle to effective episcopal ministry, as a focus of unity in the see in question. Such a view would need to be justifiable with reference to the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of those worshipping members of the Church of England to whom the holder of the episcopal office concerned would (once appointed) be ministering." The net result is that they can in effect discriminate and not be challenged.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Thursday, 16 July 2015 at 12:40am BST

Anthony Archer says, "The net result is that they can in effect discriminate and not be challenged."

That is not necessarily true even per GS Misc 1044 Choosing Bishops. That guidance also states:

"A person’s sexual orientation is, in itself, irrelevant to their suitability for episcopal office or indeed ordained ministry more generally. It would, therefore, be wrong if, during the consideration of a nomination to a diocesan see by the CNC or the selection process for a suffragan see, account were taken of the fact that a candidate had identified himself as of homosexual orientation."

So even "permissible" discrimination has its limits. On such ridiculous distinctions does the current guidance rest!

I don't know how good GS Misc 1044 may be, as legal guidance. It was probably heavily influenced by the then-Archbishop's preference that Communion feathers not be ruffled.

But of course General Synod is not the synod of the Communion. Synod is the synod for the Church of England.

Perhaps Synod should therefore focus on what is in the interest of the Church of England.

Synod may request, and perhaps should request, that Parliament change the law in this area.

As for CNC members "not be[ing] challenged," they may certainly be called to account for their discrimination. This may be done both in Synod and in more public and political contexts.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 16 July 2015 at 4:12pm BST

I am grateful to Anthony for these interesting insights into process, and the ambiguities/leeway it allows for discreet decision-making.

What I do feel, though, is that it is appropriate for process to be transparent and accessible to all church members, and I should be interested in the exact and specific wording of all advisories sent to CNC (and indeed to bishops), both in the past and in the present.

If we are 'walking in the light' there should be no place for obfuscation or any kind of implicit deception of contending groups within the Anglican Communion on the subject of human sexuality.

In a situation in the Church of England where possibly a majority of members now condone gay and lesbian sex, open and honest communication is important, so people know exactly what the Church is doing in their name and in the name of Jesus Christ.

We should just be open and truthful.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 16 July 2015 at 4:25pm BST

What will change if the Church of England appoints an (openly) gay bishop?

They'll be a conformist, committed to the church's teaching that homosexuality is a sin, and to lifelong celibacy. They won't be an agent for change, and certainly won't be called Jeffrey John. If anything, they'll be, to coin a phrase, more English than the English.

Even if, by some miracle, a CNC appointed an outspoken gay candidate, as shown by John's coerced resignation, their position would be untenable. No one should be asked to endure that.

All focus should instead be on repealing the Higton motion, then 'Issues...' Not on getting a gay bishop consecrated, not on getting "blessings" for celibate relationships, but on changing the teaching that undergirds discrimination. Do that, and the episcopacy will be wide open to LGBT people, but, crucially, on equal terms.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 16 July 2015 at 5:16pm BST

I don't wish it to sound like a mutual appreciation society but: yes, what James Byron says. Not that I even remotely want it to become true.

Posted by Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente at Thursday, 16 July 2015 at 8:16pm BST

And, James, he (or she?) will not only merely be a conformist but an advocate for the cause, the talent pool for this is brimming over.

Posted by Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente at Thursday, 16 July 2015 at 8:21pm BST

Remember Higton is now irrelevant. The Gilbert motion from February 2007 (where lesbian and gay people were at last unreservedly accepted as full members of the Church) and the Perkins motion from later that day (when GS refused to endorse the HoB illogical, so called 'pastoral guidance' on CPs) were the last policy debates in GS on human sexuality. Those debates were miles apart from Higton. And we did change the CP survivor pension rules to achieve parity with married people in 2010. Someone else will have to take up the GS fight from November as I am not standing again. But there is much more work to be done.

Posted by John Ward at Sunday, 19 July 2015 at 6:17pm BST

John, the Gilbert motion, a vaguely-worded affirmation, doesn't repeal Higton's ban on "homosexual genital acts," as shown by compulsory celibacy still being demanded of English clergy.

What's needed is a short, unambiguous motion explicitly repealing Higton, disregarding 'Issues...,' and banning any discrimination in the ordination or consecration processes on grounds of sexuality, taken to include sexual relationships (with means of enforcement, say by appeal to an ombudsman).

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 19 July 2015 at 7:21pm BST

"And we did change the CP survivor pension rules to achieve parity with married people in 2010." John Ward

Interesting that there was no delay in the implementation of equal pension rights after the introduction of equal marriage. I received a letter of congratulation from the CofE Pensions Board shortly after my marriage, which went on to outline my surviving spouse's pension benefits.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Sunday, 19 July 2015 at 9:51pm BST

As a NHS GP principal for 37 years I had many patients in permanent, faithful relationships in which race, age and gender were irrelevant to their wellbeing. There therefore seems to be no theological objection to such unions being enjoyed by any couple whether they include clergy or not. RC celibacy is also seen more in the breach than the observance among clergy and even religious and needs review if not repeal as part of Canon Law.

Posted by Michael Jameson at Thursday, 13 August 2015 at 11:35am BST
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