Comments: General Synod - day 4 - Thursday 16 February

Josiah: "We are not up to the task of resolving them faithfully right now..." He said the differences could impede their common mission to the world. And he suggested the time might be right to set aside difficult matters. "It may mean self-restraint of a sacrificial kind, for now. It may mean patience of a painful kind, for now," he said.

Maintaining the status quo is not a neutral action.

It means LGBT people taking the rap for the Church's failure to treat them like everyone else. It means a continuing definition of lesbian and gay sex as sin because it is out of wedlock. It means demands for unnatural celibacy not required of everyone else. It means continuing alienation of many people, especially the young.

This is not simply about dogma. This is people's lives. Maybe we should put LGBT people in cryogenic stasis and wake them up in 200 years when the Church of England has finally decided to do something.

Talking about 'tone' and 'radical inclusion' remains bare rhetoric, if it's "time to set aside difficult matters". It's been that time for 40 years. There cannot be radical inclusion, right down to the roots of the matter, unless people's sacred and tender expressions and commitments of love are no longer sin, and we're told by the bishops that sex outside marriage remains sin, so maintaining the status quo means our tender lives and devotions remain sin, remain doctrinally vilified, remain 'outside' the dogma of the Church, remain less acceptable than other people's relationships.

Yes, there is continuing sacrifice. And hurt. And pain. Inflicted by the Church. It appals non-Christians. It diminishes us all.

And we should set that aside?

Here's the radical solution available: you let people follow their consciences. You stop dominating. You let them choose.

This could be done without requiring anyone "to be gay" or "to marry a gay couple". People from both sides of the issue could focus and concentrate on "common mission to the world", and poverty, and sickness, if only, if only, we found the grace to live and let live, to love those we disagree with, to allow diversity, and yet still, still, know our unity and brotherhood and sisterhood in the service of Jesus Christ, and our shared love of Christ.

But setting the issue aside is not neutral, it is partisan, and it perpetuates the harm the Church of England does to LGBT people.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 17 February 2017 at 12:20am GMT

I find the comments by Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon intriguing. It's the first time I've heard him express concern for the gay sisters and brothers in Nigeria and other parts of Africa who face dreadful criminalization. And he expressed the need for a change of attitude there and said that they (Africans) need the space to work it out on their own.

I'm not sure what he means by "space." He called for setting the matter of sexuality aside for awhile, saying "“It may mean self-restraint of a sacrificial kind, for now. It may mean patience of a painful kind, for now,” he said.

Is this a request that LGBT people in England continue to carry the heavy burden of injustice for the sake of moderating attitudes toward gay people in parts of Africa? And in the archbishops view, help make gays more safe there? I can't quite tell.

To me it seems like the archbishop is evolving in the Spirit. I'm not sure that continuing injustice in England will moderate human rights abuses in Nigeria. If anything, it seems that modeling Christ-like behaviour to all has a better chance. However, if "space" is moving on to other gospel imperatives, working together, I say yes of course. But not with the conviction that justice has to wait in order for that to happen.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 17 February 2017 at 4:35am GMT

Susannah is right, the comments of the secretary general are appalling. "It may mean self-restraint of a sacrificial kind, for now. It may mean patience of a painful kind, for now". It's cheap and easy to ask others to sacrifice so that you can continue to do nothing.

Worse than this particular piece of cowardly enthusiasm for other people to suffer so his life can be easier, Idowu-Fearon is arguing in bad faith. He has a long track-record of abusing and condemning homosexuality, comparing it with corruption, calling it abnormal, and then issuing tendentious "but, but, the dog ate my homework! a big boy did it and ran away!" statements in which he claims to have been misquoted or misunderstood, but without explaining what he actually said or actually meant. Like too many other senior Anglicans, he wants it both ways: homophobia for select audiences, and then a "well, I didn't quite say that, I said something else, I just can't quite explain what" when called on it. He can't speak out clearly, because the select audience might hear. You can see this sort of dishonesty in this statement:

which is full of denials of having said things, but is notably silent on what he actually did say, or actually does think.

His argument that he's confused by changes in Western thinking, for example, is dishonest. He is a clever man, with a PhD. He is used to critical analysis. Western culture used to hold that Africa was good only for exploitation and slaves, and cited scripture to support it, too. Now, with a few notable exceptions, we don't. The culture and thinking changed. Does he struggle to understand that, too, is it it just homosexuality for which he pretends not to be able to figure out that cultural values are not fixed?

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 17 February 2017 at 1:41pm GMT

I agree, Interested Observer: to use your own phrase, it's the racism of low expectations, bizarrely employed by the target himself. You don't set a timetable for another person's freedom. Only full equality is good enough, as quick as possible.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 17 February 2017 at 6:02pm GMT

'Susannah is right, the comments of the secretary general are appalling. "It may mean self-restraint of a sacrificial kind, for now. It may mean patience of a painful kind, for now". It's cheap and easy to ask others to sacrifice so that you can continue to do nothing.'

It need not be cheap. In advance of progressive marriage equality the bishops and Primates could agree that there would be no promotion of any sort for any bishop or primate in an heterosexual marriage, that no bishops would marry, and that married bishops remain celibate until this is sorted out. I think things might then get sorted much quicker.

So now, those primates and bishops who believe in equality can deliver it now. No doctrine or law stands in their way.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 10:44am GMT

Depending how it is handled, the Culture Change (Setting God's People Free) risks alienating many, perhaps most, regular worshippers in the same way the aftermath of the Parish Communion Movement did.

There are always wheels within wheels, inner and outer circles, those who are more committed in some ways than others are. Drawing individuals further in is a vital part of ministry, but will a Cultural Revolution achieve this, or merely create an us and them divide leaving many regarded as, and feeling, no longer proper church members.

In the early and middle decades of the last century only a small minority of regular weekly or twice-weekly churchgoers were frequent communicants. There was no idea that weekly, or even monthly, attendance at Holy Communion was a defining characteristic of a church member. Gradually the concept that "God's people" were only those who gathered for weekly Holy Communion gained ground and those who attended only Matins or Evensong ceased to count and drifted away. Perhaps there are more weekly communicants now than there were a hundred years ago, but the major effect is far fewer churchgoers overall.

After the Cultural Revolution, will there be more "seven-day disciples" than now, or will it just be that everyone else becomes persona non grata.

Posted by T Pott at Saturday, 25 February 2017 at 6:42pm GMT
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