In May, our view was a negative one, since the document listed several reasons why the appointment of a gay bishop could be blocked. This week’s positive spin has not changed our opinion. As the leaders of the “gay-led” Metropolitan Community Church in Manchester wrote to Dr Williams this week, “We note that [unlike a gay candidate] heterosexual candidates for bishoprics are not asked to repent of any sexual activity with which the Crown Appointments Commission may be uncomfortable.” More than one serving bishop has said that he would have considered it an impertinence had he been asked about his sexual history.
The legal advice has no more weight now than before it was circulated to Synod members. It was not approved by the Bishops when they discussed it in May, not least because, to many, the brief was not how to remove discrimination within the Church, but how to continue it untroubled by the law.
The full text of the letter to Rowan Williams from MCC leaders mentioned above (and which was published here) is copied in full below the fold.
Dear Archbishop Rowan,
As leaders of the lgbt-led Metropolitan Community Church in the United Kingdom we wish to publically voice our dismay at the legal advice which has been given to the Church of England regarding the possibility of openly gay men being consecrated as bishops.
We understand that the legal advice suggests that there should be no bar, per se, to gay men serving as bishops provided that they repent of any same sex activity before they entered the priesthood, have lived by the requirement to be celibate since ordination and promise to continue to be celibate.
We feel that the spectacle of the Church of England trying to avoid complying with the law is unedifying and betrays a deep unease about the wonderful diversity of human sexuality. We note that heterosexual candidates for bishoprics are not asked to repent of any sexual activity with which the Crown Appointments Commission may be uncomfortable. We also note that Jeffrey John, an outstanding priest and leader of the Church of England, has publically stated he remains celibate out of fidelity to your church’s teaching yet he was still blocked from preferment. Even when we keep your rules, we’re still discriminated against.
We also think the policy of requiring celibacy will simply make the Church of England look even more ridiculous and open yourselves up to the most dreadful kind of casuistry as people wonder what, exactly celibacy requires. Could, for example, a gay bishop kiss his partner? Does the bishop and his partner have to sleep in separate rooms in the episcopal palace, or would twin beds in the same room suffice? If twin beds are acceptable what would be a “celibate” distance between the beds – 5 feet, 10 feet, or opposite ends of the room? Do any lapses in this celibacy rule have to be reported and, if so, to whom? The Archbishop of the Province? Her Majesty The Queen? The Prime Minister? The Diocesan Synod or just the local press?
The failure of the Church of England to embrace the reality of the diversity of human sexuality repels people from the wider Church as we are all deemed to be intolerant.
We are an lgbt-led church, yet we talk far more about mission than we do about sexuality. We commend this approach to you. In an age where many people are “spiritual but not religious”, where society is increasingly open to lesbian and gay people and where there is great hunger for authentic spirituality it is sad to see the energy and resources of the Church of England be used to avoid the provisions of the Equalities Act.
The Reverends Andy Braunston, Kieren Bourne, Jane Clarke, Catherine Dearlove, Chris Dowd, Debbie Gaston, Sharon Ferguson, Dwayne Morgan, Maxwell Reay, and Ruth Scott.