That the Bishop of Coventry has had to release a humiliating apology shows that the bench of bishops are like North Korea on a bad day. Had they all been warned that there would be "consequences" if any of them had shown any independent thought?
Simply: thank you for the consistently excellent coverage and labour of love that is this site.
I can't help asking how ordaining women as bishops (or priests for that matter) has made any of the long-promised difference to the way the church challenges the politburo politics of power games in the House of Bishops? If anything, it's worse now. No wonder Lucy Winkett is still Rector of St James's, Piccadilly. There's no way she would collude with such a sham. At least we now know why we are ordaining women to the episcopate: so that that they can galvanise the centuries of male dominated control. Thank you, Rachel and Christine. You're doing a super job!
To accuse another member of telling lies is a very serious. Quite upsetting to read Ian Paul's analysis and, reflection. Clearly quite a lot of anger, whatever, he says about anger directed towards Simon, Bishop Paul and Archbishop Justin. Also a real irony in his criticism that in this era theology is being done through social media.
Simone Weil (of whom some bishops, surely, must have heard) once wrote that if it ever comes to a choice between Jesus and the truth, we must always opt for the truth because truth will always lead us back to Jesus.
If it ever comes to a choice between unity and the truth, surely we have to choose truth because the truth will set us free and lead us to unity - unless, of course, you are the Church of England House of Bishops.
This theologically dubious fiasco shows us exactly why there needs to be a complete rethink about how bishops are appointed. Not only do we have 42 people devoid of intellectual gravity; many of them are lacking in moral integrity, too. For Cottrell, Thornton, Chessun, Conway, Lowson, Inge, Holtam, Walker, James, Foster, Treweek, Hardman and several others to allow this statement to be issued in their name tells me all I need to know about them.
It's about time we scrapped this ridiculous system of allowing Dioceses a 50% say in the appointment of bishops. This is why we are getting prefects instead of prophets, and obedient clones instead of incisive questioners who can speak imaginatively beyond the ecclesia. Even the women in the House and College seem more concerned about the institutional survival of the Church of England than they are about leading people into all truth.
David Jenkins, John V Taylor, John Robinson and David Sheppard must be spinning in their graves.
Ian Paul writes, "Many who support the Church’s current teaching, particularly those who are celibate as single and/or same-sex attracted, were fearful of speaking because of the atmosphere of intimidation, manipulation and even bullying. The response of one campaigner to this? ‘Now you know how we have been feeling.’"
Instead of reflecting on the feelings of frustration and (hopefully) becoming a more gracious and open individual, I was disappointed to read his forecast that, should a bishop take a different theological stance to his own, "...evangelicals will start to withdraw both cooperation and funding—so keep an eye out for the next diocese to run out of money."
Real difficulty with Ian Paul's thesis that the church cannot bless what God does not bless. There is so much underlying premise here that it is difficult to see where he gets the idea about what God blesses or not, or what criteria he uses to determine if God has blessed something or not.
So let's address the thesis itself. To what end did Christ commit the keys to the church if not to allow the church to use them? Which is to say, is this simply an exercise in redundancy, or an actual commission to be able to make decisions and take actions? Ian seems to think in terms of the laws of the Medes and Persians, rather than to take the approach Jesus did in setting aside portions of the law of Moses as having served their purpose. There is an old saying that the will of God is living and active precisely because it is open to reinterpretation and reapplication. To what end did Jesus commit the keys to the church if not that?
(And please let's not get into "but the Church of England is only one little part of 'the Church'..." since it has already applied its hand on the keys any number of times in ways contrary to the other churches of Christendom.)
Re David Hunter's comment, it's virtually impossible under the present system of 2/3 of 14 to get anyone 'outside the box'. I'm not sure that the damper is the diocesan reps, rather the central 2:2:2 (roughly, (trad) catholic, liberal,evangelical, admittedly a very rough categorisation) can effectively block any diocesan desire to be radical. Still amazed that +Nick got Salisbury. We need to get prophetic vision rather than the Diocesan CEO model into our bishops.
But prophets are always dangerous and tend to get stoned - these days by the Daily Mail.
I found David Hunter's comment very helpful, thoughtful, perceptive and true.
And yes, his evocation of David Jenkins, John V Taylor, John Robinson and David Sheppard is touching. To whom I would like to add Michael Ramsay.
Shall we see their like again in our lifetimes ?
' fearful of speaking because of the atmosphere of intimidation, manipulation and even bullying.'
I have known this since I attended Salisbury Theological College with my then partner (now husband) in 1975 and onwards into ordained ministry. The then principal forced upon us the rubric of 'celibacy' while we, in our twenties were driven close to breakdown.
I can well believe that Evangelicals who are trying to be 'celibate', rather than being themselves, are coerced to toe the line -at least publicly, by various means, none humane or ethical, and some possibly nefarious.
Modern Church repeat the tired old distinction between leadership and management, described by John Adair as the Zaleznik Error. The bishops were trying to lead, but in order to lead, you need followers, and given that the church is full of people determined not to follow anywhere but where they already want to go, the bishops are in a difficult leadership position. The sooner they create the space for divergent practice, as we have on so many other issues, the better. We know where the end point on this will be - the question is, how long will it take, what will be the price, and who will pay it.
I find Dr Paul’s finely written essay illuminating, and disturbing. There is the customarily compulsive tendency to preach and to underpin his perception of morality by recurrent appeals to Scripture – a game which everyone can play. Then, as Graham K Smith has noted, the mask slips:
“It is difficult to see how the position of the bishops will change; if some break ranks, many will respond ‘Why didn’t you speak up earlier?’ It might lead to a fracture in the House of Bishops, as some clearly hope—which will mean dioceses diverging in their teaching and policies. If so, evangelicals will start to withdraw both cooperation and funding—so keep an eye out for the next diocese to run out of money.”
So, the position of the conservative evangelicals is clear. If they end up not having the numbers within two of the three houses they will always be able to rely upon the House of Bishops. They will be able to do so because they know full well that the dioceses are dependent upon a few relatively wealthy evangelical parishes in each diocese to prevent financial collapse: if Synod does not do as they please they will turn off the taps, and if Synod rebels and goes against their understanding of right doctrine they will walk.
The motion advanced by the bench was not historic; it was another blundering attempt to square a circle that cannot, and never will be, be squared. What was historic was the evangelicals’ reaction to the defeat. It has provided ‘a moment of clarity’. They are saying that, even if only c. 17% of domestic Anglicans back their attitude, they are willing to act out Judges 16: 28-30, and that will be sufficient to keep the bishops cravenly compliant.
This bullying can be avoided if: (i) liberal parishes adopt the worship styles, organisation and social engagement of their evangelical counterparts, and do so quickly (they must do so quickly as the devotees of traditional liturgies are fast disappearing); (ii) liberals organise more effectively; and (iii) Synod overturns the 1998 decision to make the dioceses liable for prospective pension accruals, so that the liability falls back to the Commissioners (who have benefited from that decision). If the dioceses are liberated from a large proportion of those liabilities they (and the bishops) might also find themselves freed from the conservative evangelicals' ‘moral suasion’ (i.e., blackmail).
Ian Paul's blog post shows that compromise on this is likely impossible.
Paul's as "open" as evangelicals get before they head off down the Steve Chalke path of radically reconsidering every core evangelical doctrine from penal substitution to biblical authority. He's against any kind of compromise on this (and I've suggested hypothetical compromises to him on his blog that, in all honesty, gave up so much that they'd cause me to go against my own conscience if they were ever put into practice).
Yet after this debate, and this vote, he's as resolute as ever that even "good disagreement" is impossible. He speaks for many. Unless Paul and the other leading open evangelicals can somehow be persuaded to at least tolerate people in gay relationships having an equal place in the church, the only solution now is for the CoE enact some kind of divorce, as amicable as it's possible to make it.
How sad it's come to this, but we are where we are.
One aspect of this that I would not want to go unnoticed relates to the Anglican Communion. Perhaps unlike some other correspondents on this site I do believe profoundly in the Anglican Communion, and in the particular responsibility that the Church of England, partly for historic reasons, bears in relation to it. The Communion may be a result in part of flawed colonial history, but the word and concept 'Communion' speaks to me of being bound together, weaker and stronger, to support each other as part of the Body of Christ. However one thing that grieves me about the life of the Communion at the moment is what I might call the 'episcopal creep' (or even primatial creep). Namely that in some Provinces of the Communion the (for me deeply Anglican) system of checks and balances between episcopal and synodical roles does not seem to apply, as autocratic bishops increasingly dominate the lives of their churches in a way that does not allow clergy and lay people to have a shared voice. What happened this week in General Synod was a good reminder that part of being Anglican is the need for bishops to allow their episcopal authority to be balanced by the vox populi dei, speaking in Synod. Perhaps other parts of the Communion might take note (or do I hope for too much?). Incidentally, although I am writing primarily about the wider Communion I don't think that the Church of England is totally immune from episcopal creep either, and that in particular the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury vis a vis other C of E and Anglican Communion structures does bear watching. (Though I think Archbishop Justin's response after the Synod vote was gracious and appropriate.)
Jeremy Fagan: "The sooner they create the space for divergent practice, as we have on so many other issues, the better."
Correct - the Unity in Diversity model.
James: "Unless Paul and the other leading open evangelicals can somehow be persuaded to at least tolerate people in gay relationships having an equal place in the church, the only solution now is for the CoE enact some kind of divorce."
I refer you, James, to the top quote. The Unity in Diversity option isn't even mentioned in the Bishops' Report. Why not? Are people on both sides so embedded that they can't even take this solution seriously and debate here and elsewhere?
My pragmatic 'take' on this is that the Church of England would NOT divide if diversity of practice and freedom of conscience was introduced. There appears NO other solution, since the opposing views are not shifting. So why not the 'two integrities' approach? Why not Unity in Diversity?
In reality, if you look at local parish churches around the country, actually, most people with conflicting and diverse views co-exist, visit hospitals together, care for the elderly in the community, worship together, exist as a diverse community already.
In my opinion, since the local church buildings would continue to exist under the auspices of the Church of England, if bishops introduced Unity in Diversity, in reality most local people would still attend them, still co-exist, still be friends... it would only be a fringe of mostly dogmatic leaders who might talk about withdrawal. Everyone else would carry on. And with Unity in Diversity, no individual would be forced to go against their conscience.
In my opinion the Church would hold together, because most members of the Church of England are not primarily dogmatic, they are primarily pastoral. Community, as many people have said, is not ALL about sex and sexuality. Community is shared service, kindness in bereavement, shared sorrows, shared joys.
Yes, creating space for divergent practice is exactly what we need. There is no other way to avoid absolutism, domination, and schism. The test needs to be not "Who's right?" (We know we disagree about that) but "Do we have the grace to love one another and carry on local church life even with different views on the single issue of sex?"
That grace is available. Schism is not inevitable at all. Where is the discussion on Unity in Diversity? Why are people avoiding it?
"the dioceses are dependent upon a few relatively wealthy evangelical parishes in each diocese to prevent financial collapse"
Is there any data on this? I know it's what conservatives want us to believe, but is it true? Reactionary parishes may be big payers but do people seriously believe they're bankrolling the whole show?
Wasn't the diocese which most recently came close to financial collapse that well known hotbed of woolly liberalism, Rochester?
I'm sure I can be proved wrong, but without good evidence, I think this is yet another alternative fact like 'conservative parishes are growing'.
Abusers always want you to think you can't live without them. You can.
In response to Froghole and others....
The position of evangelicals is interesting and key I think.
1. We heard in this debate that there are a number of evangelicals who would support some provision of blessing same-sex partnerships - look at Nikki Groarke's opening speech.
2. There has been little space for discussion amongst evangelicals as any dissent from the conservative line is ignored or rebutted as 'unscriptural'. Hence some of us subscribed to Accepting Evangelicals ( http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/) to have a place where that conversation could happen. I have ceased to attend meetings of the evangelical group on GS (EGGS) as after 20 years of on / off involvement in the Synod I am fed up of EGGS being led by people who want to close down discussion rather than open it up. (Though I have recently thought about joining again...)
3. Ian Paul's theological position is more nuanced than some here allow - but he can speak for himself!
4. In many (all?) big evangelical churches, the congregation is often at variance with the leadership on this issue and on the ordination of women (where the leadership is against it) . One of my former students was visiting Jesmond Parish Church (this was quite a few years back) and the vicar preached what the student described to me as an 'anti-gay' sermon. My student asked the person sitting next to her (who she did not know) if this was how he usually preached and was told 'Yes - he has hang ups about sex. We all ignore him.' However it would take a very brave bishop to face a large and wealthy evangelical church down over this.
Fr Andrew: Many thanks. I don’t think they are, of course, bankrolling everything. However, I suspect that they are probably a critical factor in many places, though I agree with you that this warrants further research. However, if many dioceses are treading a very fine line between solvency and collapse the withdrawal of support by one or two hitherto reliable parishes could make all the difference. Moreover, the problem (i.e., dependency on ‘successful’ parishes) is liable to increase over time as the pension burden magnifies the further we get from 1998, especially if interest rates remain near zero, life expectancies continue to extend and regular giving falls off as congregations expire. On that basis, it is possible that the conservative evangelicals believe they are indeed able to hold the bench ‘to ransom’. I cannot think of any reason why otherwise ostensibly liberal bishops should have fallen into line in the way they did (the threat of GAFCON or Anglican Mainsteam does not strike me as being a sufficient explanation; it would have to have been something ‘closer to home’ that would have persuaded them to vote against their advertised instincts).
As far as I am aware (and have been told) the financial distress of Rochester was about Dr Nazir-ali recruiting too many stipendiaries too quickly relative to a stagnating income. The diocese went from being one of the most solvent to being in a parlous condition within about decade (I have expressed concerns about hiring too many new stipendiaries elsewhere). There are a few parishes which might make a considerable difference to Rochester’s finances: St Mark Broadwater Down, Christ Church, Bromley, Ditton, Horsmonden, Riverhead, Southborough, SS Peter and Paul Tonbridge, St Stephen Tonbridge, St John’s Tunbridge Wells and St Nicholas Sevenoaks, etc., are obvious examples (with the last being very truculent at times towards the diocesan authorities and being a prime example of the point I was attempting to make).
The financial input of more liberal successful parishes like Ightham, Orpington, Snodland or West Malling is moot. I attended services at almost every church in that diocese in 2009-12, so am telling you what I have seen with my own eyes (though not every service I attended was representative of the ‘health’ of particular churches and my information is rapidly becoming obsolete). Also, the demographic situation outside the relatively few successful parishes in that diocese is often dire.
Susannah, I've suggested the unity in diversity model to Ian Paul several times, and in several different forms: he's been clear that it'd only be acceptable to him if this were an adiaphoron (indifferent matter); since he considers this a salvation issue, he's unable to support it. I expect that he speaks for most leading evangelicals.
As for my own position: full equality, including equal marriage, with no compulsion for individual rectors, provided they have the support of their congregations.
Froghole, good to see that others share my belief that liberals need to modernize our services! This doesn't have to mean a clone of Willow Creek: robes, focus on sacraments etc can be included. It does mean offering services in a modern, culturally accessible style; and as you so rightly say, the social elements that many evangelical congregations excel at.
"since he considers this a salvation issue...."
Does he have a good explanation for why his salvation depends on other people not marrying?
James, I agree that at the evangelical end of the spectrum occupied by people like Ian (and one of the bishops I've corresponded with) the problem with a two integrities approach is that marriage is regarded as a different order of issue to, say, women priests and bishops.
Having said that, my case is that as long as the Church of England retains ownership and stewardship of their churches across the country, then yes, some priests and a smallish number of evangelical Christians may 'walk', but I believe the number would be relatively small (and their own choice not to co-exist).
The vast majority of church-goers have long-standing commitment to their local neighbourhood around the local church, and indeed exist in community with Christians of many views, serving alongside all kinds of Christians for years. Church community is about more than sex.
Considering half the Church is reportedly completely happy and at ease with gay and lesbian sex, I believe the bishops could pull this 'trick' off, if they were inclined to. Politically they seem not to be, though. But what other option do thy have apart from never-ending delay?
I believe the Church would not fold and collapse if Unity in Diversity (and freedom of conscience) was introduced and sanctioned, whatever the alarums raised by the more ideological evangelical Christians who are the most vociferous.
Most people want the Church to survive. Most people are committed to Church as community, embedded parish by parish in the local communities. That, in a way, is another aspect of English conservatism. The Church as a way of life probably matters more to Anglicans, when it comes to it, than puritanism over sexuality. Especially if evangelical priests are not obliged to marry LGBT people themselves.
In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to implementing Unity in Diversity in the Church of England is not the threat of mass departures, but a lack of political will among the bishops under its present leadership.
However, as they say, "Death concentrates the mind." This is why there should be no easy acquiescence in the face of the Bishops' tendency to maintain the status quo. The stronger the opposition, the more resolute, the more media-reported (shifting into Parliament), the more the bishops may finally realise that the two consciences scenario is not only a demographic reality, but a necessary solution (and I'd argue, probably the only solution).
What Anglicans who are 'liberal' in their views on human sexuality should NOT do, is threaten to leave the Church. That simply hands the control of the national Church to conservative Christians, and in any case is the same kind of blackmail that is played out by GAFCON on the wider stage.
The Church of England, rooted around its local churches and communities, is going nowhere, and for the sake of all people - LGBT included - it must not be liberal-minded Christians who threaten to leave. In the end, the vast majority of Anglicans do not want to leave their local churches and set up a new building, and on that basis, Unity in Diversity could be implemented and the Church would carry on (and become more attractive to so many people).
We badly need that outcome because the status quo is an evangelistic disaster and an affront to many people in the nation at large.
There might even be unity in diversity evangelicals/catholics who didn't refer to the category 'salvation issue' but who simply do not believe marriage is extendable to LGBTI.
That is my understanding of many people, including Rowan Williams and most of the HOB.
Liberals do not need to accept the position to understand what it in fact is.
Susannah, I agree that many people in evangelical congregations, perhaps a majority, would stay put. Throughout the West, there's plenty churches that're nominally "evangelical," but they're attracted primarily by the modern worship and social activities in which evangelicalism excels, not doctrine. For them, evangelical means a church with guitars and youth work, not penal substitution.
However, there's a core of evangelical heavy-hitters who'd up sticks, and take a lot of money and members with them. TEC had hundreds of thousands leave over affirming gay relationships, leading to years of painful lawsuits. Due to the way England's finances are structured, it could be much worse there.
Restructuring the CoE as a loose confederation may offer an out. Evangelical leaders need to spearhead this if it's at all viable, and start offering constructive suggestions beyond imposing lifelong celibacy on gay people. I've asked several open evangelicals about this before, and gotten little. I repeat the request here: how do we move forward? Ball's in your court.
Jeremy, as I understand it, it's other people's salvation Ian Paul's concerned with, or more specifically, the church officially endorsing acts that he considers would imperil it.
Cseitz, since homosexuality allegedly being a "salvation issue" is the stumbling block to toleration, there's a lot more to work with among those who don't believe that marriage can be extended to same-sex couples. It doesn't appear different in principle to Anglo-Cathoics who don't believe that women can be validly ordained.
As for Williams, so far as I can tell, he's long since returned to a conservative position on human sexuality, but regardless, he puts the unity of the Anglican Communion above all other considerations. If a majority of English diocesans agree with him, and refuse to budge, then England needs new diocesans.
To cseitz: Rowan Williams supports committed same sex unions, if not SS marriage. Are you saying that many of the current HoB have a similar position? If so couldn't Susannah's idea have a chance of working as long as committed SS relationships aren't called marriage? That may be merely naive....but I'm not sure I fully understand your previous comment.
In friendship, Blair
There are civil marriages happening every day that prove that position, as stated, wrong. Not to mention religious marriages in many denominations around the world, including Anglican provinces.
If anti-marriage bishops want their view to command any respect, they will have to give a better explanation than that.
The simple point being made it that certain conservatives may have various attitudes toward the LGBTI position/s, including full support, but simply do not believe Christian marriage is open to re-packaging.
You can pull the 'Renault' sign off and replace with 'VW' but that doesn't make it 'VW.'
You don't have to agree with the position in order to understand it. Obviously you don't agree with it.
I think we all understand it, cseitz. The problem is why one position should oppress the other? People who are against gay marriage are free not to marry someone of their gender. Why should their view prevail and oppress those who are called to the sacrament of marriage?
In TEC, inclusive marriage has not caused a ruckus, that ship sailed with WO and +Gene.
Ultimately, it seems to come down to whether or not one believes in continuing revelation, and whether or not one believes that the Incarnation did in fact come here to be the "Good News for all people everywhere." And it comes down to the fact that some people have self selected themselves to decide who should receive the Good News and who shouldn't. Further, it comes down to a morality that pits the here and now, (i.e. how people are treated, if the behavior causes harm, etc.) vs. a morality, or perhaps Salvation, by ticking the right boxes, regardless of whether or not harm is incurred. Finally, in CoE there is this question of "unity" that simply isn't authentic, and it is hard to fathom why fake unity would take precedence over actual compassion and justice.
Regarding unity, Cynthia, lots of it's hardheaded realpolitik, rooted in the fear that evangelicals could walk and bankrupt the church.
There's also the post-colonial aspect. English bishops are, in the main, members of the English elite, private schooled in institutions created to train young men for Empire. That toxic ethos lingers. Via the Communion, they get to bask in the afterglow of the time when Great Britain painted the map (oh irony) pink.
In England, the twin planks of change are getting a majority of evangelicals onside, and introducing elections for bishops, so that, at long last, the upper class stranglehold on the office is broken.
"In TEC, inclusive marriage has not caused a ruckus."
The mantra of the true-believer.
"The mantra of the true-believer."
In the US, could you name places where there's a ruckus? There are a handful of dioceses where the local bishop won't allow inclusive marriage. The liberal churches there have not gone with schism. The liberal parishes are not seeing anymore conservative parishes leave over the issue.
In the Anglican Communion, some of the primates made a ruckus, but the ACC chose not to. 38 primates vs. hundreds or thousands of ACC representatives. That is not a ruckus, in my view. Even if it qualified as a ruckus, it is self made by people self appointing as a central authority that no one signed on to. My guess is that the pseudo ruckus will be over in the next generation.
Neither the "extendable" metaphor nor the "re-packaging" metaphor stands up to much scrutiny.
"Not extendable" suggests that there's only so much of this thing called marriage to go around. That's ridiculous. Marriage is not a finite good; we are not going to run out of marriage if we give some marriage to LGBTI people.
Marriage is not like a too-small tent or a too-narrow blanket. More marriage for some does not mean less marriage for others. More marriage for some means more marriage for all.
Marriage, in that sense, is infinitely extendable. It is a well that can never run dry.
As for packaging and labels, it's a little late to object now.
We permit all sorts of marriages that we did not used to permit: interracial couples, interfaith couples, divorced people.
So marriage has already been repackaged, several times; and the culture is repackaging it again.
Previous attempts to hold an "original"-package line failed. This one will too.
"Marriage, in that sense, is infinitely extendable."
Perhaps in Outer Space.
Here is yet another place where people hold diametrically opposed views. I accept that. It strikes me that you and others do not.
Your great confidence "this will too" is predicated on a wish you have, and not reality. I suspect that is what many find so troubling, who have in fact reckoned with and come to terms with entrenched irreconcilables.
Cynthia: for you to say there has been no ruckus in the TEC context, given the demolitions of the past decade+, is, to repeat, the mantra of the true believer.
No one in any other province looking in thinks that. Of course the fallout has been enormous and continues to be.
God bless you both.
Cseitz, I said in the US that there hasn't been a ruckus since the decision to go ahead with inclusive marriage in June 2014. I had acknowledged that the ruckus had played itself out over WO and +Gene.
Internationally, there's a ruckus amongst the primates (January 2016), but the ACC chose not to enter into the ruckus.
I do not regard the primates as having spiritual authority over me or my church. I love the mutuality of the ACC. To me, that is the church. We picked our leader and it is +Michael Curry, not Justin, not the primates from Nigeria, Uganda, or anywhere else. They are at their best when presenting the social justice issues in their provinces, like the impact of climate change...
The "fallout" about SSM is self inflicted. And really, kind of crazy in light of the world's real problems right now.
Cseitz, Salvation is up to God, humans should not get too worked up about things like SSM. When people of good will stop trying to control others and start addressing the commandments of our Lord to feed the hungry, etc., we will be a great church.
Cynthia, thanks for your fruit salad of strongly held opinions parading as facts and done-deals. The fallout has been, is, and will continue to be considerable. Next in line appears to be the C of E. It is much harder to over-speak the conservatives in that Province and see to their silencing and withdrawal. TEC has become a party-line liberal american denomination now really only ruckus prone in 815 Second Avenue.
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