Giles Fraser has written in today’s Church Times The Bishops are seeking to enshrine gay exclusion.
…This advice shows how much the Bishops have been straining every legal sinew to exclude openly gay bishops — even celibate ones — from their number. Do we really think that straight bishops have been challenged to repent of whatever they might have got up to at university, as it were? Of course not. And this double standard is a clear symptom of the fact that what is really going on here is prejudice, pure and simple.
The other weasel construction that those who pick bishops have alighted on is that a bishop must be “a focus of unity”. No: first and foremost, a bishop must be a man or woman of the gospel. Sometimes this means arguing for the right not to bring peace, but a sword.
To insist that bishops must be “a focus of unity” is a recipe for having bishops whose primary identity is that they are unobjectionable. Indeed, there is something almost heretical about this phrase; for it makes the quest for a quiet Church more of a priority than that of the preaching of the gospel.
The trouble is that, at the moment, a whole world of grammar is being invented with the express purpose of keeping gay people out of senior church positions. From the dreaded Anglican Covenant (whose purpose seems to be much the same) to this new advice, our Church is constructing its ground rules specifically to exclude homosexuals. And there is another phrase for that: institutionalised homophobia…
And the Guardian has published a series of articles this week, under the title How should gay bishops be chosen? which are all linked in this earlier post More discussion on appointing gay CofE bishops which has been regularly updated, but which has fallen down the page due to the number of other news stories since the start of the week.
The Guardian series has now been completed with this fourth piece from Mark Oakley Gay or straight, allow clergy to reflect the rest of us.
…If the bishops were to follow their lawyers’ checklist in deciding on new colleagues, history will repeat itself as religious leaders make themselves both inhumane and hypocritical.
Why inhumane? Well, gay people have no choice as to their sexual orientation but, when recognised, they do as the rest do – try to find someone to love and grow old with. Although some are drawn to a celibate life, most feel that it is not good for them to be alone and they seek intimacy and a togetherness that, as married people know, is easier to make stable when celebrated and supported publicly and without fear. Priests and bishops are no different. To stop such people being ordained because a group doesn’t like the fact that some people will always be homosexual would be as unjust as not having made John Sentamu the Archbishop of York because there was a theological argument going round for a white man. If talk of unity is to have any authenticity there has to be diversity and bishops should be signs and enablers of both. Instead, to make gay Christians even more afraid to be honest about who they are, and their need to love and be loved by someone, is not only inhumane but shameful.
Why hypocritical? Putting aside the fact that the present bishops were not questioned on their own sexual pasts, it would be an extraordinary policy to pursue this checklist when so many bishops know and privately support gay clergy in partnerships as well as those who are single who have been partnered at some stage. It would be equally duplicitous to imply that such gay bishops would be an innovation. Truthfulness would be the innovation…