Comments: A Time for Grace: Bishops’ responses to the concept of Unity in Diversity

excellent piece - the voice of reason -( purposely not a theological comment)

Posted by Stephn B at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 1:18pm GMT

I had not intended to make an observation on the appointment of the Bishop of Llandaff. Alas, the debate has become depressingly internal and ecclesiastical rather than open and ecclesial.

I used to be Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative at the European Institutions and I am still involved with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg where I represent an international NGO, as well as in other European projects. After twenty-two years of this work I believe that Human rights trump religion in their field. I also recognise that the right to religious liberty (Article 9) can enable some groups to set religious specificity against universal values.

Nevertheless, I want to support Jeffrey John, whom I remember as a young curate. I do not see that having a friend with whom one lives can reasonably disqualify a person from being a Bishop, nor do I see that mutual commitment can inhibit that person’s ministry. In this case, the legality of civil partnership or marriage by persons of the same sex is not applicable. We have the assurance that Jeffrey John is in a celibate relationship, while civil partnership concerns people living in the same house and need not concern sexual practice.

Human Rights are universal values, with the implication that they must apply. We have the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg court, to which he UK will still be bound by treaty after Brexit, to enforce them. .

The Christian Church like all religions is committed to search for (ultimate) truth in the context of its own life and doctrine. Internal debate and concomitant disagreement are quite proper. They are also inevitable because spiritual experience and awareness engage the ineffability and mystery of Christianity. Both ineffability and mystic awareness are profound aspects of what we call spirituality. The law like the Strasbourg Institutions, is neutral on confessional issues. As for ethic, though it is of interest to religion, it is too nearly universal to be a confessional prerogative, though believers can and do submit themselves to religious practice. Examples may include fasting in Lent or what are called Holy days of obligation.

Nevertheless, if religiously inspired conservatism were imposed for its own sake, we might wonder whether it would not engage a touch of arrogance if it inhibited universal rights.

In the quincentenary year of the Reformation, we, who are Christian and committed to the church, might do well to deplore intransigence if it were to distance her yet further from the society that she purports to serve by her parochial presence in so many communities, as well as by her expression of social concern.
James Barnett

Posted by James Barnett at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 3:03pm GMT

"Considering I am simply an obscure nurse..."

An 'obscure nurse' who should also be a bishop.

Very many thanks for this, Susannah!

Posted by Froghole at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 5:54pm GMT

I have no confidence in any bishop who expresses the views expressed above and then votes in the General Synod is a manner which would make the Chinese Communist party feel proud.

Posted by Chris A at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 6:07pm GMT

I just can't reconcile what you propose with Scripture. Paul's life work was trying to bring erring churches in line with correct doctrine. That is why we have his epistles.

In particular, I commend 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 to you. Disagreeing with our fellow Christians is a truly painful thing to do - or at least should be - but if they are wrong our duty is to correct them, not through lack of love as you suggest, but we must disagree because we do love them.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 7:36pm GMT

A very good set of arguments, Sussanah.

Perhaps the nearest paradigm for your position - of Unity in Diversity, is the current filial relationship existing between Anglicans and the Bishop of Rome - each party seeking to respect and work with the other - yet acknowledging there are some serious differences in our theological approach to doctrines.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 8:10pm GMT

The church can let love and grace into this situation. Thank you Susannah.

Posted by Pam at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 8:20pm GMT

It's a great piece. I would only say though, that it's vital to think about the most vulnerable and to speak for those who can't speak for themselves. In the case of WO and WB, it is girls who desperately need to flourish. Self-esteem, unequal pay, rape culture, domestic violence, objectification in culture, the church needs to lift up these girls.

As for LGBTQI inclusion, the church needs to lift up the downtrodden. This includes LGBTQI teens, where the rate of suicide is alarming, as is their rate of homelessness and being trafficked. And vulnerable adults too, where psychological wounds are deep (let alone physical ones from hate crimes). It's alarming to read that some "conservatives" believe LGBTQI inclusion to be a Salvation issue. After all, there simply is no Christian way to say "I'm sorry but you're going to hell and if I treat you with justice, dignity, respect, and inclusion, I'll go to hell too." Making someone feel so alienated is the road to suicide.

What purpose does this exclusion really serve? God? Does anyone actually believe that God needs a gatekeeper? God is too stupid to work out salvation, and justice, and compassion for all of God's children? Seriously, who and what is served by this cruelty?

Unity in diversity sounds great, and maybe it's possible. But it should not empower those who use language of alienation, that does real harm. That is the crux of the failure with +Philip. The theology of taint (dress it up any way you like, but it comes down to taint and an attack on women, that insane line exclusive ontological bit) is deeply, deeply, offensive and harmful. The 5 Principles merely empowered the SSWSH to hone and amplify that message.

To me, at this point, "unity in diversity" re women simply looks like the patriarchy will attack fewer women and girls... As for LGBTQI, nearly all bishops voted for that nasty piece of work that was the Bishop's Report. LGBTQI people were deeply betrayed. It's hard to see how these bishops can redeem that situation, though all things are possible.

CoE needs to stop thinking about views, and winning, and whatnot, and actually turn their attention to the impact of their words and decisions on the vulnerable. People are suffering and are staved for the Good News. The news that "most of you are accepted in some places but not others" is not the Good News. Though, ironically, I would say that local options tend to give most everyone what they need...

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 9:34pm GMT

I was strongly reminded of guest writer Cynthia Bourgeault's message on Richard Rohr's daily meditation one day last week:
Law of Three: (1) the enemy is never the problem but the opportunity; (2) the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but by learning to hold the tension of the opposites and launch them in a new direction. Imagine what a different world it would be if these two simple precepts were internalized and enacted.

Posted by AmandaG at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 11:18pm GMT

«The news that "most of you are accepted in some places but not others" is not the Good News»

Which is why universal recognition must be part of teaching: universal recognition of women bishops and the validity of their place in the line of Apostolic succession; universal recognition of same sex marriage. Anything less does say to people "you are welcome but only to some people" and that cannot be part of our teaching for the reason you give.

We have also seen in Wales what happens when acceptance is only partial. If teaching allows some people to refuse to accept ministry from women then they can validly vote against a woman for any office simply because she is a woman. Rather than give sexism as their justification, the spin is "some people would be unable to accept her ministry". So too with same sex marriage. The accommodation in Wales fails because bishops can vote against a candidate because of his (presumed) sexual orientation and still see no homophobia in their actions.

Unity in diversity does not work. It just gives cover to those who wish to discriminate, indeed it officially sanctions discriminatory thinking.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 2:16pm GMT

Thank you all for your comments.

Chris, some of the bishops whose views I have mentioned were not eligible to vote in the General Synod.

In total 32 bishops have so far written to me. 12 of these are diocesan bishops and the other 20 are suffragan bishops. 4 members of the bishops’ reflection group on sexuality wrote to me.

Of the 14 bishops whose views I have cited, 6 are diocesan bishops and 8 are suffragan bishops. 2 whose views I cited were members of the bishops’ reflection group on sexuality.

I found this very helpful: "the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but by learning to hold the tension of the opposites" - thank you Amanda (and Cynthia Bourgeault) for that.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 11:25pm GMT
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