Comments: Harriet Sherwood interviews Jeremy Davies

This wonderful book will help those struggling to appreciate all that gay folk have contribute to culture, spirituality and life; and perhaps act as an amplification to this interview.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 26 December 2015 at 12:29pm GMT

I do so admire the shirt adorned with British postage stamps that Jeremy's husband Simon is wearing in the Guardian photograph which heads this particular article. I have plenty of black clerical shirts that Jeremy is depicted wearing but would dearly love one like Simon's which would be a splendid addition to my wardrobe when I embark upon my Canary Islands post Christmas cruise. Does any one know where such a distinctive item of apparel can be purchased?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 26 December 2015 at 3:25pm GMT

"facilitated conversations” MORE of them? REALLY?

“bedroom issue" Really? Does the hierarchy really think a marriage only happens in the bedroom?

Much as I love England and the liturgy of the C of E, I will continue my personal boycott of C of E worship when I am in the UK until the church climbs out of the evasions and ignorance so completely exposed by the above two phrases, and actually deals with real life and the real people it is so embarrassed by.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Saturday, 26 December 2015 at 7:19pm GMT

"... illustrating the C of E's gay marriage postcode lottery, the bishop of Salisbury -- Davies's own diocese -- merely rapped his knuckles with an obligatory letter of rebuke."

This is entirely the problem. Rebuke isn't obligatory, and by issuing it, not to mention by putting his name to the "pastoral guidance," Nick Holtam betrays his stated beliefs, betrays his friends and supporters, and is complicit in homophobia.

He should either defy the bishops and refuse to apply this discrimination in Salisbury diocese, or resign in protest. Actions, not words. Is he a man of conscience, or a careerist?

Advocates of institutional discrimination have the courage of their convictions; for whatever reason, "liberals" like Holtam don't. That's why they're losing. White moderates and whited sepulchres both.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 26 December 2015 at 8:57pm GMT

Once again, if further proof were needed, this shews that the great divide within the Church of England is no longer between Catholic and Evangelical but between Traditional (Winchester) and Liberal (Salisbury).

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 5:23am GMT

Fr. David, if it's a sign of liberalism to issue a rebuke when someone gets married, liberalism is in much deeper trouble than I thought.
Isn't it rather that we don't have many genuinely liberal bishops? Either that, or we have liberal bishops without courage and integrity.
A truly liberal bishop would send someone a 'congratulations on your marriage' card.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 9:43am GMT

Well said, Erika!

I've no doubt that Holtam's genuinely liberal on affirming gay relationships: in addition to his post-consecration support for equal marriage, he can be seen forcefully defending equality in Diarmaid MacCulloch's 'A History of Christianity.' The latter came when Holtam was still Rector of St. Martin Church-In-a The-Fields, London, and could've endangered his appointment to the bishop's bench, so he's clearly willing to stick his head over the parapet.

The problem, I suspect, is that Holtam sincerely believes that episcopal collegiality obliges him to toe the party line, however much he disagrees with it. This may change. If any English bishop can be persuaded that to change tack and go against it, it ought to be him. Question is how, and by whom.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 1:15pm GMT

Is not the 'problem' that the Canon does indeed say (at the moment) that marriage is between a man and a woman - and marriage implies/presumes sexual activity? That means that even a liberal bishop is bound to enforce the church's discipline or face possible action themselves - hence the 'token' actions of the Bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln in dealing with these matters. Until the Canons change, bishops remain bound by them as much as anyone else - taking an action is their duty within Canon Law, which has not yet been changed by General Synod, and by taking a 'lesser' action they have probably prevented the need to take stronger action if challenged.

Of course, they could resign their see rather than take the least possible action. But then it is more than possible that the dominant voice in the HoB will become the only voice in the HoB.

What remains is not so much to throw bricks at the bishops en masse, but to challenge General Synod to reflect the will of the wider nation/church so that bishops do not need to act.

Posted by NJW at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 2:32pm GMT

James Byron is right - too many are complicit in actions they say they disagree with but they're often not willing to risk their personal positions (pensions) in the church. Looks like hypocrisy? Perhaps they think they're playing a long game but it seems to me Martin Luther King, Ghandi & Mandela risked a tad more personally to get change & achieved a lot more in much More difficult situations. People in TEC risked more too in the last 30 years & they achieved much more. But they can't tell Welby they have millions in church on a Sunday and are growing. Perhaps the reality is that English liberals don't really believe they can grow or get much change. Why risk jobs and pensions after decades of doing little for change and achieving little change? As James Byron says elsewhere, the numbers & cash of the churches archbishop Welby comes from in England give them confidence in what they believe & they have an affinity with very large numbers in African Anglican churches which aren't really going to change whatever Holtam says or if a few clergy get married here. They won't change; it is obvious. Playing the long game is just creating misery; institutionalised hypocrisy. A split is the only way forward if integrity matters to anyone. ACNA is in the US; TEC can (therefore) be in England..... And people who don't want to affiliate with Nigeria could work for an Anglican Church they agree with for the first time in their careers. Maybe they'd like the change if they were brave enough to risk embracing it.

Posted by S Cooper at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 5:55pm GMT

there are several questions here.
One is that Bishop Inwood said to Jeremy Pemberton that he had four options open to him, one of which was to do nothing. So that's clearly an option open to bishops.

That is a result from the fact that the pastoral guidelines don't mention any consequences for priests who enter into a same sex marriage.

So if you're a liberal bishop and believe that the guidlines are wrong and that they're just that - guidelines - and that doing nothing is an option you have (which even a conservative bishop stated), why would you have to issue a rebuke?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 8:22pm GMT

"People in TEC risked more too in the last 30 years & they achieved much more. But they can't tell Welby they have millions in church on a Sunday and are growing."

You are probably correct that the severe decline is likely a warning. A church that is 60% women over 60 isn't going to get better. The next several years will see dioceses struggling to pay a bishop and one staff person in 45% of the case.

To speak of a general decline is fine. But not when it is a matter of viability as such, which is the case for TEC given its size.

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 10:34pm GMT

"they have an affinity with very large numbers in African Anglican churches"

Recent surveys are indicating that the number of African Anglicans is GREATLY exaggerated. It could be that people banking on those numbers are going to lose their shirts, and their souls.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 27 December 2015 at 10:55pm GMT

"Is not the 'problem' that the Canon does indeed say (at the moment) that marriage is between a man and a woman - and marriage implies/presumes sexual activity?" - NJW -

NJW is correct, whatever we think of the situation in the Church of England on the matter of bishops licensing clergy who are 'same-sex married'; there can be little doubt that bishops, per se, because of their sacred office, are duty-bound to toe the canonical line.

What really is needed, is for the Canon of Marriage to be altered to recognise that fact that two people who love one another, and intend to share that love exclusively for the rest of their live (according to the law of the land) may, without prejudice, be allowed to marry in Church.

Until that actually happens, bishops, even with the best will in the world, are powerless to prevent the exclusion of married, same-sex persons from exercising an official Church ministry.

Of course, we all know the degree of enforced hypocrisy involved in the current situation; where clergy in Civil Partnerships are discreetly allowed to exercise priestly ministry. There are even pension arrangements allowed for such clergy spouses!

It really is time for the Church to be more open and honest about the reality of the situation - in a way that will convince the secular world of our Gospel integrity.

"Where charity and love are - there is God" - Maundy Thursday antiphon.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 6:26am GMT

"You are probably correct that the severe decline is likely a warning."

Of what? Not that being liberal leads to decline, surely: denominations everywhere and of all traditions are in decline, and despite those who love to hold up TEC as an example of increasing liberalism leading to decreasing congregations, there is no data to back up that view. At least none that a High School stats student would take seriously. Correlation does not equal causation; nor can one predict the years ahead by simply plotting figures on a graph for the last few years and continuing the line into the future, (unless it is the future of say, an isotope's radioactive decay).

Perhaps then you mean a warning of the need to stop the runaway conservative cataclysm in its tracks before it destroys the Anglican Church?

"A church that is 60% women over 60 isn't going to get better. "

I suspect women and older people may beg to differ on that one.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 9:35am GMT

I'm grateful to a clergy friend for reminding me (after I made public my outraged e-mail to the Bishop of Winchester) that, in one sense, +Tim's actions were inevitable because Canon Davies was seeking PTO after his marriage, and the House of Bishops guidance is clear. So only a bishop looking to kick over that particular anthill (i.e. NOT Tim Dakin!) would have granted PTO. In salisbury, as far as we know, Canon Davies' PTO hasn't come up for renewal after his marriage, so this dilemma hasn't yet faced the Bishop of Salisbury. Given that he chose to issue a rebuke when (per the advice given to +Southwell in Pemberton) he could have done nothing, I'm not confident that Nick Holtam will renew PTO if the need arises.

We're completely institutionally entrenched along some very well defined battle lines. I can't personally see what will change that in the short to medium term. I doubt there is the same appetite for Parliament to act as there might have been if we had continued to bungle the passage of the women bishops legislation. There are plenty of contituents who will tell liberal MPs that they agree with Justin Welby not me! And there are plenty of conservatives in the new Synod. I'm tempted to say, with the Psalmist, How long O Lord, How long?

Posted by James Allport at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 11:16am GMT

Some people opine that runaway liberalism has destroyed TEC's chances of surviving.

It's a strange perspective, given that affirming and improving the place of women and gay people in church life may be said to mirror similar movements in the greater society. By that metric, TEC ought to be growing rather than declining. So that issue must lie elsewhere, I think.

It's worth noting that churches in my diocese (and elsewhere I think) that hold up whole and wholesome witnesses to the goodness of such changes are often not on death's door. My parish, St Luke in the Fields, in Manhattan, is perhaps the best such case I know of. A subtext of this discussion is that "liberal" somehow equates with heterodoxy and/or infidelity to the Gospel. That can hardly be said to be the case in my parish.

I wonder if the issue lies in that, in many places, institutional churchfolk continue insulting the intellect, sensibilities and social attitudes of inquiring persons by insisting that they subscribe to things no reasonable person can be expected to entertain. Fundamentalist biblicism is one example. The perennial penchant many church people have of being loud about what they're against (mostly the reality of the world we live in) is inevitably off-putting to people who seek in church a resonance with their interior experience; but encounter instead a list of people they're supposed to hate.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 11:40am GMT

Obviously those over 60 are now the backbone of TEC; that was the only point. It wasn't a criticism of them!

The question it poses is TEC's viability, unless something dramatic changes very soon.

This is uncontroversial and agreed by the leaders of the denomination. The next several years will be critical ones.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 1:24pm GMT

I think the declining numbers in the Episcopal Church are of a piece with declining numbers across the board in American Christianity from the very liberal to the hard shell fundamentalist. They are all declining (I can even see it here in my neighborhood in Brooklyn where all the churches are dying). Liberal versus Conservative is ultimately beside the point. What really matters is that large numbers of people are voting with their feet and leaving institutional Christianity entirely. "None" is currently the fastest growing religious identity in the USA (we're rapidly catching up with the UK and the rest of Europe).

Shameless Lefty that I am, it's clear to me that the continuing hostility to women's equality and to LGBTQs (together with a string of scandals involving clerics caught with their pants down) is hurting the Church deeply with a general population that has moved on, and especially with a younger population that more and more finds such archaic stands to be baffling and offensive.

Posted by F. D. Blanchard at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 4:18pm GMT

"A church that is 60% women over 60 isn't going to get better."

Liberal parishes are far more likely to have young families than conservative ones. And 30 percent of liberal parishes are growing, like mine. And I deeply admire those women over 60 and aim to be much like them in another decade - energetic, principled, outspoken, and willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work while only God knows what the men are doing, and while young families are busy raising their children. (Blessings on those handful of men who take on responsibility without insisting on dominating everything).

The overall trend of all religions is in decline.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 4:44pm GMT

These, and many other stories show how the church remains inward looking when it should be outward in its leadership and example.

When the Jesus movement began, it was a movement based on radical equality, and total acceptance of individuals. After 325 C.E. when the church was handed power from the Emperor, it began its long and slow slide towards perpetuating its own power above, and in place of Jesus and Paul's true teachings.

The CofE should be a driving force for change in Parliament and the nation, but it has not accepted this task. The reverse has happened. Parliament has done the job the church has failed to do (support marriage equality).

I am not sure the CofE is ready to assume a prophetic stance on any subject which may have an impact to better the lives of its flock.

I wonder if the best path for the English Church would be for Parliament to separate church from State.

Posted by Anthony Keller at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 4:45pm GMT

Father Ron, English bishops are not powerless to force change, and on its face, no canon of the Church of England obliges them to discipline clergy who contract same-sex marriages. The marriage canon doesn't require discipline: it merely defines marriage.

Even if a canon did oblige a bishop to discipline clergy in same-sex marriages, the bishop could conscientiously disobey it, publicly ask General Synod to change it, or resign in protest.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 4:57pm GMT

Cynthia, I don't think your post casts any serious doubt on the large numbers in Anglican churches in Kenya and Nigeria. TEC numbers and demographics are a matter of record by TEC. Again, little doubt regarding its stats and trajectory.

In England, Welby knows HTB and its thousands of members, it's African links and its many self-sustaining church plants. Why should he risk their support when he is from them? Especially while liberals actually discipline people they agree with and take nearly no personal risks, Welby has got little incentive to leave his home constituency and see the Anglican communion split under his leadership.

While most English liberals do nothing much that risks their pensions, a few clergy marrying in England won't change a thing. Another 30 years of liberals getting nice jobs and pensions and changing nothing much (except behind closed doors or after retirement) would be miserable for everyone. Only a split gives integrity to all in the church. Why can't we have TEC(UK)? Do senior liberals have too much to lose personally to call for an amicable split and TEC(UK)?

Posted by S Cooper at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 6:10pm GMT

Speaking of the need for 'women over 60' at the heart of the Church. Are we not speaking here of the 'Anawim', some of them elderly women - like Anna the Prophetess, and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist? Each of them called to a specific witness to the power of God in an unbelieving world. I say, give us MORE women over 60 who are, like them, looking forward to the Kingdom of God on earth.

Kalo Epiphania!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 8:28pm GMT

Wow, S. Cooper, and I thought I laid it out starkly! ;-) Not that I disagree, well said.

There's some hope of holding the Church of England, and wider Anglican Communion, together: but liberals and other affirming Anglicans will have to defend themselves and, crucially, others; just as traditionalists must accept that their beliefs can't be imposed on all, even if we want to.

The best solution I can see is a loose coalition, in which provinces and churches that depart from traditional teaching are tolerated, and in turn, some kind of provision is made for traditionalists to pretend that they're not in the same organization.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 9:35pm GMT

James Byron: "Even if a canon did oblige a bishop to discipline clergy in same-sex marriages, the bishop could conscientiously disobey it, publicly ask General Synod to change it, or resign in protest."


There is no law under God that makes it a sin to disagree with church canons or to challenge them.

Sometimes I think Church of England culture is beset by infantilism, with obeisance to our betters.

However, when over half the congregation in Church of England pews actually affirms and accepts gay and lesbian sexuality - in clear defiance of episcopal dictats and sanctions - there is a really strong case to simply say "No, that's not what we believe, and we shall not discipline anyone for implications of being gay and living in gay relationships."

Whole churches could make a stand on that. Bishops certainly could.

The regrettable fact is that bishops opt to kow-tow to the establishment position, and acquiesce in a kind of authoritarianism, becoming part of top-down imposition of a false uniformity, and become party to what is frankly an evangelistic disaster as well as being oppressive and discriminatory.

The Church is divided on these matters of human sexuality.

Therefore, it would be far more representative of the reality of *everyone's* beliefs, if those bishops who (secretly?) accept gay and lesbian sexuality actually came out and dared to be transparent - and represent the conscience and viewpoint of one whole half of the Church.

This is a conscience issue, but at the moment the bishops (regardless of their private views) are presiding over decent people like the Jeremy's and their much loved husbands being hung out to dry for their conscience and fidelity to their partners.

We do not *have* to obey Church canons... there is no command from God, no tablets of stone... but what is lacking (it seems to me) is moral leadership.

As I have written elsewhere, I am completely opposed to a suggested church 'split'. I think that would be dreadful. But what I do believe in is honesty and transparency.

Why doesn't someone simply ask Salisbury why a reprimand was issued? And why doesn't Salisbury simply explain. Why silence and opaque actions?

And I believe that people who don't accept certain canons should simply not accept those canons. That would be honest.

Half the Church of England now accepts gay and lesbian sexuality - because Church membership is part of a society that has embraced it. And yet we have bizarre statements from 'church spokespeople' that "The Church of England does not accept gay sex, and celibacy would be better."

That's not true. The Church of England does not think that. Half of African provinces believe that. And threaten to break communion (in a hissy fit?) if their opinion is not enforced as a mandatory uniformity. And some bishops, especially those with evangelical roots like Justin, may think that.

But most people in the Church of England now do NOT think that. And that, too, is faith. And that is also conscience.

The Church of England needs to stop being so fake, and deferential, and ruthless towards people's diversity and consciences when they choose to honour their loved partners, and wish so much that the Church would (publicly) honour them too.

We don't need split and schism (at least on the liberal side) - we need unity in Jesus Christ with a diverse range of consciences. That is the polar opposite of 'The Covenant' and the bishops' quasi-Covenant enforcements. It is reality of what people actually believe, and respect, and grace rather than hard dogma (about which Jesus apparently had quite a lot to say).

Challenging injustice may itself be an act of grace, and more so than deferential submission to canons... just because they are canons and 'we should do as we are told'.

Learning to live together with people with different views to our own - a two-way challenge - offers prospect of grace and love in the tradition to which (I believe) the Church of England has been called through history.

That is why the Covenant, and the bishops' present quasi-Covenant enforcement, are so mistaken. We are not a sect where only one view holds. We are not a fundamentalist church. We are in union and communion with God, in all our diverse consciences and unique identities... and we need to learn how to accommodate that, and disagree, and yet... love one another.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 10:48pm GMT

@ Susannah Clark: one word: Bravo!

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 11:46pm GMT

"Why can't we have TEC(UK)?"

Well, I hear that our pensions are much better.

I'm not really ambitious for TEC to have any appearance of "striking back" or colonizing liberal parishes everywhere. Perhaps in the post modern world, choice is appropriate... I don't know. That's above my pay grade.

I do think that CoE leadership needs to get their act together, morally. Clearly, it's a charade to believe that a homophobic, discriminating bishop is a "focus of unity."

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 12:05am GMT

I think people are debating symptoms, not causes.

For the first time in centuries, the church, I suggest, is facing what to do about gnosticism (and I have deliberately not capitalised that). For centuries, the church has been able to control what the majority think. (And African churches still can.) There have obviously been exceptions, but the critical mass of the majority has been aligned to the tenets set by church hierarchy and change has been slow.

In 21st century Britain, the majority have their own sense of morality - gnosis - which is different to CoE teaching. So the question becomes, what is the fundamental foundation of a church? Is it based on top-down instruction and teaching which can become bureaucratic and uncaring, or is it based on bottom-up gnosis which in this case is liberal but with the concomitant risk of lack of discipline?

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 2:55am GMT

And a Merry Christmastide to you too, S Cooper!

"Why can't we have TEC(UK)?"

Conversely, why can't you have NigerianChurch(UK)? You can build yourselves shiny new edifices befitting your heirarchs. Ancient Norman&Gothic churches, w/ all their darkness and mystery, really isn't the Evangelical style. Fundamental certitude demands nice, bright clear churches, the better for preaching that "sin is SIN!!!"

The rest of the CofE will then just have to get along w/ TEC-style muddling through (trusting God, no matter what "numbers and demographics ...stats and trajectory" say).

Vaya con Dios!

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 5:46am GMT

Please don't get caught up in numbers-rattling - TEC, at least, can be better than that. The whole thing started with a notorious enemy of progressives doing his usual "Surrender Dorothy!" nonsense. Fox News shows that fear-mongering is the conservative's bread-and-butter.

Keep in mind that these are the same people who have used their declines, in the natural ebb-and-flow of any organization, as a sign of their special chosen status and of their great purity and counter-cultural nature. It's all an attempt to demoralize and do psychological harm to progressives and the TEC.

Don't buy into it, and don't feed the gleeful malice that propounds it. God will know His own, whether liberal or conservative, black, yellow, white, or blue, in churches or out, gay, straight, bi, trans, gender fluid, or asexual. The weak labels and words of fallible men and women have no power in the face of God's ineffable Goodness. Numbers mean nothing, either greater or lesser, as Scripture, Tradition AND Reason have shown. Let's just stop this bickering over numbers right here, refuse to allow others to frighten and distract us for their own ends, and model a better way.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 6:43am GMT

James Byron - the coalition you describe is what we have had in England - institutionalised hypocrisy; misery for all with liberal bishops issuing rebukes to people they agree with to protect their own positions? Even with English confrontation aversion, the coalition is falling apart with the tiny number of ssm cases which have been out of the closet. We don't have anyone showing much personal courage. There aren't a few bishops and a few hundred clergy willing to resign if Davies and Pmberton aren't given PTO; the result is nothing will change.

If the Church of England, where people say 'How do you do?' because we can't cope with the confrontation of asking 'How are you?', cannot hold a coalition together, what hope is there for a coalition worldwide with people who won't go along with the don't ask don't tell disaster which sacrifices integrity for the sake of institutional unity.... which leads to English bishops disciplining people they agree with rather than risking their pensions for their beliefs.

Posted by S Cooper at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 6:58am GMT

"which leads to English bishops disciplining people they agree with rather than risking their pensions for their beliefs." S Cooper

If a Bishop really was risking his or her pension or continued employment I could understand their actions. I wouldn't be terribly impressed, but I could understand it. But a Diocesan Bishop's position is all but bomb-proof - would either of the Archbishops *really* dismiss a Bishop from their post for not issuing a rebuke or withdrawing a PTO, even if the CDM allowed them to? No, the worst that could happen is that a Bishop would receive a rebuke similar to the one they had failed to issue.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 8:57am GMT


I think (and I may be mistaken) that S Cooper is much more in the liberal end of the spectrum, and wouldn't regard the Nigerian, Ugandan, etc. primates "theirs" at all.

Like me, the harshness that may come across in tone is from being, as the younger folks say, "so over this" politeness and pretense that a communion is possible with a conservative wing that demands nothing less than total capitulation of both conscience and local practice. I've been trying to moderate my tone, but it is frustrating, hurtful, and a true temptation to spiritual despair to see people who are so willing to ignore justice and mercy to the oppressed in order to maintain power, position, privilege, and property, as well as what seems, increasingly, to be nothing more than a Victorian vanity project to create a weak copy of the Roman Catholic worldwide church.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 9:20am GMT

Since the ultimate authority in the Church of England is the Crown in Parliament undergirded by the Church Commissioners and parochial patronage rights etc a negotiated split is scarcely likely. Better perhaps for exasperated conservative evangelicals to emulate their fellow evangelicals in the Church of Scotland and " disrupt" as they did n the 1840s

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 10:22am GMT

Calls for disruption or withholding of parish contributions serves nobody other than Satan because both sides - liberal and traditional - can use the same tactics. All it would achieve is disruption and a greater sense of distrust.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 11:26am GMT

No bishop would risk their pension by supporting lgbt people. It's not a firing offence.
That's what makes it so infuriating. Not liberal bishop would risk anything at all, other than being a little more isolated at bishops gatherings.
Or not - if others also found a spot of courage behind the sofa.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 11:37am GMT

In the 1979 BCP, TEC instituted a baptismal covenant which asks, in addition to resisting evil and proclaiming the Gospel: "Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" and "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" The reply to both is, of course: "I will with God's help." My parish renews this covenant at Easter, on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, at All Saints, and at all baptisms. (See pages 304-305 of the 1979 BCP for the full covenant.)

As an Episcopalian, I see my church as living out its baptismal covenant in the actions it has taken in the ordination of women, the authorization of same-sex marriage, and in many actions to promote racial, cultural, and economic justice as well as world peace.

I would go further and say that these actions are more than implied in our promise to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

By the way, if you look more closely, you will find that the decline of mainstream U.S. denominations was greatly facilitated by their embrace of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Here in the U.S. South even on the verge of 2016, the word "liberal" is still code for anti-racist. You'd be surprised just how much discomfort there is among older white Southern Episcopalians that we now have an African-American Presiding Bishop -- especially one who embraces the full participation of LGBT persons in the church.

Posted by Susan in Georgia at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 2:06pm GMT

Mark Brunson, I share your frustration with the institutional unity focus at the cost of integrity. It's sick, really.

Laurence C - yes. Apartheid would still exist if Mandela had the bravery of a liberal bishop. He might not have achieved as much if he'd taken a nice government job and argued for change from inside (while accruing pension rights).

Perry Butler - why would they disrupt when even Lincoln & Salisbury discipline people they agree with?

Posted by S Cooper at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 4:55pm GMT

'Better perhaps for exasperated conservative evangelicals to emulate their fellow evangelicals in the Church of Scotland and " disrupt" as they did n the 1840s'

Isn't that basically what the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion is?

Posted by Geoff McLarney at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 5:29pm GMT

S. Cooper, to clarify, toleration must extend to allowing same-sex couples to marry, live in loving sexual relationships, and to be protected from discrimination.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 6:37pm GMT

This is to echo those who say that a Bishop is not obliged to issue a rebuke to clergy marrying those of the same gender on the basis of Canon B30. The canon does not describe *every* CofE marriage. Canon B30 also states that marriage is "for the procreation and nurture of children" - the first ordinance for marriage according the BCP. And yet the Church of England has recognised for centuries that this does not apply to every marriage, allowing the omission of references to the birth of children in the marriage service (BCP and then CW). It's absurd to say that anyone whose marriage does not conform to every characteristic of the Canon is necessarily disciplined.

And here are other Canons which are flagrantly ignored with no discipline taking place. I don't see those so zealous for the disciplining of Jeremy Davies and others who are supposedly in breach of Canon B30 calling for the disciplining of those incumbents who breach Canon B14, failing to offer the Eucharist every Sunday at their Parish Church, without agreeing with their Bishops the exemptions in Canon B14A.

Posted by David Beadle at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 7:07pm GMT

James Byron - i think we may be agreed that that won't happen with the current Anglican certainly won't happen at the next primates' meeting (with acna invited). I don't even see the point of TEC wanting to be affiliated with Nigeria given what it's bishops say about TEC; even less reason for English liberals to sacrifice their integrity for the institution when they don't even have the freedoms of friends in TEC. A split is the only solution with integrity for all but who will take even tiny risks for integrity? After all, there may be a chance missed for tea with the queen.... Being in a new uncompromised TEC(UK) may jeopardise such important things.

Posted by S Cooper at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 8:46pm GMT

Well, MarkB, in re-reading S Cooper's posts, I still think I'm reading M/Cooper correctly (who's a big fan of HTB w/ "its many self-sustaining church plants"). [If I'm not, sort of appears like a "with friends like these..." situation.]

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 29 December 2015 at 11:41pm GMT

Since CofE claims a marriage is between a man and a woman there is no breach of Canon 30 if two people of the same sex marry [in civil terms].

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 1:15am GMT

The former ABofC, Williams, said that the question is "Is the game worth the candle?"

He believed the answer was yes, but, increasingly I and others believe the answer is no, and it isn't a game. The reasoning about being a support to poor, oppressed Christians in the Global South simply doesn't hold water, any more, when we are shown to be unwilling even to defend our own margnalized at home. The defense - shaky from the start - that we are endangering African Christians by including glbti's in the West is now demonstrably false. The violence has been ramped up with or without gay lib. The extremism has a violent life of its own that does not feel the need to excuse its behavior. Worse, in light of the questionable activities of ostensibly Christian leaders in Africa and the Global South, the Anglican Communion Council's and Primate's call for defense of Christians in those places comes across as imperialistic, partisan, and divisive in the extreme. It isn't just the secular humanists who look at conservative pronouncements about Muslims in Africa and note how little strain is put on the Anglican mercy.

The protests of wonderful bonds made across borders seems to come at rather a high price in terms of both integrity and overall health, when one realizes how much more effective public and secular organizations are at providing relief and agitating for intervention in human rights violations. If it takes us being in the same club to "establish bonds," one wonders how genuine those bonds are.

No. The primatial game of thrones is no longer worth even a tallow candle. Sorry.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 7:15am GMT


You may well be right.

If so, Cooper may still be right. I still won't get involved in numbers games, but the pretense of a communion that no longer exists, desperate hanging on, not for, but despite the good of "the children," is insane. It's a false idol of political order and discipline, not Church. The Primates, scuttling from region to region, cut a sad, seedy and desperate figure, neglecting the real issues of their own national churches for a sort of shadow-play at Holy Roman Empire, sacrificing their (and our) ability to be relevant and transformative again for being "important" again, for being special, outside and above the people sitting in their national parishes.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 8:03am GMT

Local churches should stop being deferential to bishops on issues of social justice, and should live by their own consciences when it comes to issues like human sexuality.

Local churches should not have conscience imposed on them.

In defying episcopal demands at local level, they will be acting in grace and integrity. If they are then sanctioned, they should just keep coming to church, keep building community, keeping maintaining integrity towards gay and lesbian members of *their* local community, trans and bi- people, genderqueer, and all th diversity of human beings acting in good intentions and good conscience.

Local churches should become *beacons*.

We don't need TEC to invade the English province (though they may encourage and affirm). We need local church communities to step up, and take a stand on behalf of our sexual and gender minorities. This is a HUGE social justice issue.

Split and schism contradicts our eternal status as Christians in communion with each other, through our union in Jesus Christ. People who affirm LGBT members of our society should not "jump ship" from the Church of England. No.

They should amplify their voices, and intensify their insistence that *they*, at local church level, will NEVER discriminate or treat someone differently because of their gender identity or orientation.

We need *beacons* WITHIN the Church.

Local churches do not have to defer to the rejected 'Covenant' idea, or its re-incarnated quasi-Covenant attempt to impose conscience.

Love is sometimes strong, not deferential. MLK had grace but he also acted in power and love, to stand by those who were marginalised.

Disunity will occur when conflicting 'sides' all insist on only their conscience not the other person's. Rigid uniformity is a missed opportunity of grace. What we need is co-existence, grace, and the real challenge of loving one another, even in disagreement.

But grace does not = weakness and submission. We should boldly and joyfully just go ahead and celebrate gay lives, lesbian devotion, bi-sexual fluidity, and the fantastic potential of trans lives.

And we should not give up on those who - tragically - are going under because of social and familial bullying, isolation, despair, and diminution.

Our church needs to be changed from WITHIN, by resistance, by refusal to deny conscience (full credit to those priests who have already done so, with great integrity and loyalty to their partners).

With much grace, we should be intransigent for our values, our conscience, our love... but there has to be love and respect. We have to listen. We have to allow others in our communion to disagree and follow *their* own consciences.

You can't FORCE conscience.

That is precisely the bishops' mistake.

But we can joyfully, abundantly, celebrate gay and lesbian lives in our local churches. We can make our churches open places of celebration for the lives of ALL people and relationships. We can hold services of wonderful affirmation and celebration of people's marriages. As whole congregations, we an affirm our solidarity and shared joy, and affirm the reality of their marriages.

And no bishop can lock communities out of their own churches in circumstances like these. Inclusive Anglican communities need to become like a virus. A signpost and beacon of what can and shall be. Like TEC has done in the US.

What do we actually fear? Loss of face in the Anglican hierarchy and its organisation and dictats and canons, or loss of face in our society and the communities we seek to draw in, and embrace, and share with in service?

Joyful defiance - projected and amplified by the media - not for the sake of defiance, but for the sake of love and justice and simple joy for life - is frankly unstoppable.

The bishops 'wear no clothes'. Their sanctions are ridiculous. Society is moving on. Our congregations are moving on.

Love will win, love can be affirmed. Honest people and church communities: where are you, and will you stand up and proclaim?

Because it needs proclamation.

You need to make plain that you are going nowhere, you are here to stay. Because you are The Church. And so can be every gay, and lesbian, and bi-, and trans person... every devoted couple... this is our Church too.

When we open our churches to unapologetic celebration of these lives, we also welcome in the families and friends of couples getting married. We signal to the local community: this is what inclusion is like, this is Jesus in your own community. We Christians don't tolerate gay lives (preferably celibate lives). We CELEBRATE gay lives and lesbian, bi-, gay, diverse other lives... and the wholeness of their relationships and wonderful sex and tender partnership.

We are engaged in resistance, out of fundamental grace and mercy.

I would argue this is prophecy at work. It is God at work, calling into being - by God's living word - the whole of who we are called into being to be.

We, too, are the Church of England. And we are here - open to the society around us - and a growing movement opposed to discrimination, while praying for grace to keep loving those also in our Church with whom we disagree.

For - like it or not - we are one in Christ.

Let us open our hearts to the love of Christ above all, and everything that means for justice, and let us never abandon love out of hurt and anger.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 11:00am GMT

Jcf, I was only saying that welby comes from htb and its size and links are public info. My point is don't expect too much from welby - and that we need to stop the misery of sacrificing integrity for institutional unity and spirit - hence my call for TeC(uk) to be established

Posted by S Cooper at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 11:03am GMT

"In the 1979 BCP, TEC instituted a baptismal covenant which asks, in addition to resisting evil and proclaiming the Gospel: "Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" and "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" The reply to both is, of course: "I will with God's help."

Susan in Georgia, I'm a member of TEC who occasionally lives and worships in England. The CoE has nothing that remotely resembles our Baptismal Covenant, that I can see. I love the people and the worship there. I do find that theological views are much more insular, less mission focused, and more centered on prayer and personal lessons from the Bible and relationship with God. It seems not to be centered outwardly on social issues, issues of justice and peace, or what we call mission.

In general, I'm not judgmental about this difference. After all, England has an NHS providing free point-of-service healthcare for all and Council Housing helps house people who might otherwise be homeless. Their social safety net is far, far better than ours.

I am judgmental, however, about a CoE leadership that does active harm to LGBTQ people (and still to women, to some extent). They contribute to the rhetoric of hate - even when they try to wrap their homophobia in polite language (as if that's possible!).

I'm not keen on TEC colonizing liberal English parishes, even by request. It would be far better for more CoE gay clergy to "come out" and for liberal CoE bishops to speak out. In short, it would be great if CoE leadership found a moral spine.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 5:32pm GMT

"It would be far better for more CoE gay clergy to "come out" and for liberal CoE bishops to speak out. In short, it would be great if CoE leadership found a moral spine."

Also, it would be far better if CoE membership stood up and said "enough of this hateful nonsense" and took appropriate action. Lay members have no pension to lose.

The Church is the Body of Christ and it has many members and each has a role to play. This isn't a time for lay members to be passive. Comparisons with TEC keep coming up. Well, TEC determines things by a General Convention of over 500 members. The laity have a voice. It was the "mind of the church" to be inclusive of women's ministry and LGBTQ people. It didn't come from the top down. You can point to schism, but ACNA has something like 50,000 members and TEC still has over 2 million. We have more people in church on Sunday than CoE does - and we aren't the national church.

There is clearly a role for the laity here. If the treatment of all the Jeremys is unacceptable, then say so at every level. Put money behind it if need be. Shake it up. Make the ABC and ABY VERY uncomfortable about discrimination and hate coming from church leadership. Tell them it's unacceptable. Organize. If your voice isn't heard, then put your money in an escrow account instead of the church until they change their tune.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 5:31am GMT

Couldn't agree more about lay action, Cynthia.

The last time General Synod made a decision on gay relationships was back in 1987, when, by an overwhelming majority, they rushed through a motion that was, even by the standards of the time, deeply homophobic. OK, it was done in a panic to head-off an even worse motion, but however well intentioned, it was a grievous mistake, that ended up entrenching homophobia as the official teaching of the church.

Synod's had decades to undo its error, but it's done nothing. Even if the bishops blocked it, majorities in the other two houses would put pressure on them, maybe even persuade the Westminster parliament to intervene.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 8:02am GMT

Come the Midnight Hour it will be 2016 AD so not long now to wait for the Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion when all this sort of thing will be sorted out once and for all! At least that will be my new year's hope and hopefully the Primates resolution?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 8:24am GMT

Yes, Father David - resolution would be a wonderful thing; far better than more years of hypocrisy & principles sacrificed for institutional unity which already doesn't exist.

But the most likely result (given Anglican communion numbers (however much some would want that numerical reality ignored)) and given a desire to stay in touch with Rome and other major denominations), will be no change in the global church's teaching - safe in the knowledge that those who oppose that won't do much, TEc will still send cash to the centre wanting to be part of a big global club, and some liberals will even discipline people they agree with if it goes with their career.

Posted by S Cooper at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 12:39pm GMT

Thank you, Cynthia, for clarifying the situation with C of E and the idea of baptismal covenant. Living in Georgia as I do with its nearly non-existent social safety net, I am by no means an American or a TEC triumphalist.

I am, however, deeply grateful to belong to a church where so many have been willing to do the arduous work of spiritual growth around LGBT issues. Not everyone, but enough to make TEC's change to its marriage canons a genuine statement of the mind of the whole, no matter what conservatives say.

There was real jubilation at General Convention this year when the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision was announced and more when the canons were changed. No more "muddle," to use one of E.M. Forster's words. But it seems that the C of E has yet to learn the lesson of King Canute.

As Cynthia says, this is no time for lay people to be passive. They certainly aren't in TEC.

Posted by Susan in Georgia at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 5:02pm GMT

"[T]he most likely result . . . will be no change in the global church's teaching."

What global church are you referring to? What global teaching?

The Anglican Communion is a family of independent churches -- nothing more.

The upcoming primates' gathering will likely prove that quite clearly.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 8:12pm GMT

What news of progress do we have of the related neighbours' dispute: +Nick Sarum's CDM complaint against +Tim Winton's honorary assistant and AMiE bishop?

Posted by Simon W at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 3:35am GMT

"There is clearly a role for the laity here. If the treatment of all the Jeremys is unacceptable, then say so at every level. Put money behind it if need be. Shake it up. Make the ABC and ABY VERY uncomfortable about discrimination and hate coming from church leadership. Tell them it's unacceptable. Organize. If your voice isn't heard, then put your money in an escrow account instead of the church until they change their tune." Cynthia

My outsider's observation of the bulk of CofE laity (and clergy) I have met is, with some notable exceptions, that they are privately supportive but publicly wringing wet, terminally 'nice', and utterly confrontation averse. However strongly they feel about LGBT equality they don't actually *do* anything!

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 12:44pm GMT

Jeremy - say that there is no Anglican position and we are just a loose federation as often as you like - it doesn't change the fact that Welby, like Williams and others before him, believes there is an agreed position (see his invitation letter to the Primates for the upcoming meeting). Loose federation - why wasn't the previous bishop of New Hampshire invited by Williams to Lambeth 08? (And why did TEc meekly accept that?) I have called for TEc(UK) to be established so that people can act in line with the consciences - that's more important than trying to pretend the current situation is healthy or sustainable

Posted by S Cooper at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 4:59pm GMT

Simon W: can you give references to the earlier reports about Sarum vs Winton? This is the first I have heard of it

Posted by peter kettle at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 8:09pm GMT
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