Thinking Anglicans

Discrimination alleged in the Church of England

Updated again on 1 February

There were two news reports in Sunday newspapers concerning the Dean of St Albans.
One was in the Mail on Sunday and written by Jonathan Petre, see ‘I’ll sue Church of England if it bars me from being bishop,’ says gay dean. (A later version with a quite different headline appears here.)

The other was in the Sunday Times by Kate Mansey but is hidden behind a paywall. However, I can say that it included a long quote from the memorandum written by Colin Slee and published some time ago in connection with a Guardian news story.

Several other newspapers have followed up these reports. The most thoughtful is the Independent which has today published the following items:

Updates
Andrew Brown has this analysis: Why is this gay cleric considering suing the church if he won’t win?

…Look at the small print of its legal opinion on civil partnerships, transparently designed to prevent John from being able to sue for discrimination. No selection committee would ask straight candidates for a job whether they had ever had pre-marital sex, and, if they had, whether they were jolly sorry for it. Yet the Church of England believes that it is legally and morally OK to ask the equivalent questions of gay men: “Whether the candidate had always complied with the church’s teachings on sexual activity being solely within matrimony; whether he had expressed repentance for any previous pre-marital sexual activity.”

That is offensive enough, but the real point is found in the apparently balanced statements of disagreement. “It is clear that a significant number of Anglicans, on grounds of strongly held religious conviction, believe that a Christian leader should not entire into a civil partnership, even if celibate … it is equally clear that many other Anglicans believe it is appropriate that clergy who are gay by orientation entire into civil partnerships.” This formulation gives the game away. It is only conservative evangelical opinion which is described as “strongly held religious conviction”. The liberals merely “believe it is appropriate”, with the implication that their beliefs on this are not religious at all. This kind of nonsense was dealt with decades ago where women priests were concerned. What needs saying, loud and clear, is that the case for liberalism here is every bit as religious, and as theologically informed, as the case for the conservatives…

Two further analyses:

New Statesman Nelson Jones Bishop sacrifice

When it was announced that the Church of England had established an advisory group on human sexuality, consisting of four bishops and a retired civil servant, there was some criticism of the fact that all its members were (ahem) male. But that was only to be expected, and not just because it happens to be a group of bishops, which remains, for the time being at least, an exclusively male club. In Anglican parlance, “human sexuality” is code for, “What do we do about the gays?”

…In the case of the Church of England, there are currently two major sticking points, which may or may not be linked: the question of whether civil partnership ceremonies should be allowed to take place in church, and the question of whether openly gay men, even if celibate, should be allowed to become bishops. In both cases the present situation is one of studied hypocrisy…

Episcopal Café Jim Naughton Misleading media coverage: the latest in the Jeffrey John saga

There is a full report in the Church Times see C of E policy on appointing bishops may face legal test

And the Press column by Andrew Brown is now also available to non-subscribers: An enemy hath spun this

…Right at the bottom of the Mail’s story was the line that “one source said Dr John suggested he would drop his legal threat if he felt he would not be ruled out for future posts.”

Of course, a huge amount turns on whether this source was a friend or enemy of Dr John, because the Sunday Times story and the Mail on Sunday’s headline both invite the riposte that they got from George Pit­cher on the Mail’s web­site.

He wasted no time on the ball, and went straight for the man: “We’re forced to ask how seriously we’re likely to take him as a bishop if we har­bour the sus­picion that he won his post, even by sugges­tion, because he’d declared that if he wasn’t de­livered such-and-such a bish­opric then he’d sue.”

But is that really why Dr John was discus­sing legal action? It is clearly true that Alison Downie has been corresponding with church legal authorities on his behalf. But friends — real friends — of his, and allies, too, suggest that what he was trying to do instead was to ensure that civil partnerships are not in themselves a bar to promotion. That is just as upsetting to conservative Evangelicals as if he were actuated by personal ambition.

It is actually much more difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury to handle, and much more appealing to public opinion. One begins to see why the story might have emerged from his enemies with the spin that it had.

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anchorhold
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anchorhold

A thoughtful article from Jerome Taylor, though it’s unfortunate that he seems to think that the Scottish Episcopal Church is part of the Church of England… (a pity, it’s otherwise well-informed).

toby forward
Guest

Please can someone tell me when this idea that the bishop should be ‘a focus for unity’ came into being? I accept that the bishop should be the principal priest of the diocese, and that all should be in communion with him (her), but I don’t remember it being thought, until recently, that all of the diocese should agree with the bishop on everything. Now, we have a state of affairs where many clergy are out of communion with their bishop, for a variety of reasons. So, as far as eucharistic doctrine, and the validity of women’s orders, and the… Read more »

Mary Carolyn Lawson
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Mary Carolyn Lawson

Jim, the interesting thing about the Jerome Taylor article is that it speaks of Jeffrey John as being “celibate.” Since he lives with his partner, I found that curious.

Mary Carolyn Lawson
Guest
Mary Carolyn Lawson

So I looked it up in my English English dictionary. Seems that in “Meddy Olde,” the word celibate denotes one who refrains from sexual relations with anyone other than one partner. In America, however. . .

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Mary Carolyn, In UK English usage, “celibate” indicates refraining from sexual relations altogether. “Chaste” is the word we use for one who refrains from sexual relations outside of marriage. [Source: Chambers 21st century dictionary] Yet another example of two peoples separated by a common language.

rjb
Guest
rjb

At the risk of raking over an old argument, “celibacy” technically means “unmarried”, from the Latin ‘caelebs, caelibis’ meaning – er – “unmarried”. So technically all our gay bishops are celibate, and a jolly good thing too. Whether a gay priest who cohabits with his patner – albeit chastely (from ‘castus, -a, -um’, pure, spotless) – really adheres to the spirit rather than the letter of priestly celibacy is perhaps debatable. But as the dear old C of E gave up priestly celibacy at the Reformation (and a jolly good thing too), it’s hard to see why it should be… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Actually the original and root meaning of celibate is ‘single’ ie not married (caelibatus in Latin, a civil state deserving of punishment in Caesar’s Rome). How it has come to be (mis)used as ‘without sexual relations’ I don’t know, though perhaps as a euphemistic shorthand (those who aren’t married should be sexually inactive, therefore ‘celibate’ covers both). It would be more accurate I think to separate the two idea. In that sense JJ is not ‘celibate’ because his civil status is ‘in a civil partnership’ – the bedroom question is something else entirely.

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Guest
Davis Mac-Iyalla

I don’t care about the real meaning of celibate, all I want to see in my life is for the church to honestly practice the gospel of Jesus Christ and get out of people’s bedrooms. The Dean of St Albans might not win this case in court but he will be contributing to expose the church’s high level homophobia and hypocrisy towards its LGBTI members and clergies. I am optimistic that attitude will change and in the near future we will be celebrating openly gay bishops in the church of England.

Fr John
Guest
Fr John

Perhaps the answer to Andrew Brown’s comment and question is to invite Archbishop Tutu to give us the benefit of his thinking on the subject. He has spoken clearly on the subject. Also the Bishop of Liverpool who once had the courage to speak of his misunderstanding of the subject, but now a clear view. Has he, the Bishop been silenced ?
Let us never forget we are speaking of real people called by God, and who have shown in their living deep spiritual life and awareness.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

I never heard of someone suing because he was passed over for a bishopric. Surely not a good idea.

Iain McLean
Guest
Iain McLean

The “Independent” leader gets it just right. The C of E can claim the privileges of establishment. Or it can claim exemptions from UK equality law. It can’t plausibly claim both at once. If it does not choose which to claim, the state may shortly wish to do so.

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

‘”unmarried”. So technically all our gay bishops are celibate,’ rjb

Apart from the gay bishops who are married to women.

Fr John
Guest
Fr John

Chris’ question as to who should speak positively on the subject. We have two such Bishops available. First Archbishop Tutu has spoken on the subject, and would be a refreshing change to ABC.
Secondly is the Bishop of Liverpool, who has expressed a change of heart, and an understanding on the subject. Sadly he appears to have gone silent. By choice? or pressure from the Archbishops.

Finally I again wish to remind us all, we are talking of fellow priests, who have shown to us their depth of spirituality, and we are richly Blessed by them.

Fr John

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

There was once a Welshman and a Welshman and a Welshman …….. This increasingly acrimonious and hugely damaging story has emerged from where? And this very private letter was released by who and to what effect? Nowhere can I find a reference to the supposed quote in the Mail on Sunday headline, and as the letter is from a lawyer, when is Jeffrey supposed to have said this? Isn’t that rather key information to the story? And who, on this Commission, would leak a legal letter – surely this is yet another breach aimed at damaging John? Did the last… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

So, contrary to George Pitcher’s vicious little piece in the Mail, John was not saying “make me a bishop- or else!” ….He was saying: “start telling the truth, or else…” – rather a different way of looking at the facts. Pitcher’s unnecessarily nasty account does, I believe, reveal the Rowanesque spin that Lambeth has put on this whole tawdry affair. An affair that has nothing to do with “gay rights” – Jeffrey has assiduously avoided being “tainted” with any support for LGBT causes and has for ever been willing to tow the CofE party line on gay issues even to… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Jeffrey didn’t get Southwark as there was a “better man” – because of Colin Slee we all now know the truth and George Pitcher can’t spin that Lambeth Palace line and expect to be believed. That’s not what happened. Now we have ended up with the horrendous “legal opinion” from Welsh lawyer John Rees – I do wonder what the future holds for the Church of England after three three Welshmen have done their worst/best. George Pitcher mistakes who has been responsible for throwing back the place of gay people in the Church – it is not careful, diligent, cautious,… Read more »

Fr John
Guest
Fr John

Thank you Martin for taking the trouble to put the facts clearly. Not a pretty picture at Lambeth, but faithfulness at St Albans and more, Christian love.

Fr John

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

“Or it can claim exemptions from UK equality law. It can’t plausibly claim both at once.” Ian Maclean

Well it’s managed to exempt itself from gender equality legislation and retain its establishment privileges quite happily since 1975.

john
Guest
john

Heart-rending comments from Martin Reynolds. But it’s not the fault of the Welsh, but rather of those who welsh.

One C of E theologian of the utmost distinction who might argue the case is Keith Ward. In fact, he has argued the case (e.g. in his bible books) and has done practical things too (I say no more).

rjb
Guest
rjb

“Apart from the gay bishops who are married to women.” -Laurence

Presumably such bishops do not ‘self-identify’ (ugh, do not like these new reflexive-verbs) as gay. And I for one do not feel disposed to go around telling bishops (or anyone else) what their sexual orientation is.

Colin Coward
Guest

Martin, the quote in the headline that you open your comment with is ‘I’ll sue Church of England if it bars me from being bishop’ – is that correct? Your analysis and theory makes perfect sense and fits all the evidence. It explains why people were phoning me on Sunday and Monday in a fruitless chase for inside information, which I certainly don’t have. But someone inside Church House or someone with an axe to grind and access to the correspondence certainly would have access. This places responsibility yet again on the practice and culture inside Church House where devious… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Yes Colin, that’s the “quote” I can’t find except in the headline. Perhaps I missed something?

One does wonder, Colin what the CofE is doing. Take the appointment of Robert Paterson as the chair of the group looking into Civil Partnerships, he was one of only two English bishops to vote AGAINST giving civil partners pension parity.

David Shepherd
Guest

Many of these comments about celibacy remind me of the narrow definition of ‘sexual relations’ that was applied during Bill Clinton’s sworn deposition prior to his impeachment hearings. If we don’t consider how the ‘celibacy’ is employed in common parlance, its use become as much of a deception as Bill Clinton’s declaration (of Monica Lewinsky) that he ‘did not have sexual relations with that woman’. His later admission of deception proved that he could not really expect the American public to adopt the stringent three-part legal definition required for his deposition. The problem, then as now, is that once the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

After all the Machiavellian side-stepping that has been revealed in the matter of Jeffrey John’s being barred from episcopal post for which he was canonically nominated – the Church needs to ‘come clean’ on its institutional homophobic outlook.

All this, despite the ABC’s protestation of his acceptance of Gays, in his remarkable treatise written before he became Archbishop.

If, indeed, the suing of the Church were to happen, it would certainly serve to ‘out’ the Church of England for its endemic hypocrisy.

badman
Guest
badman

The complaint would not be that Jeffrey John has not been made a bishop. It would be that he has been excluded from consideration. The question would then be whether the exclusion was unlawful. The problem for the CofE is the documentation which means they might well lose any case, notwithstanding the religious exemption. The CofE has no doctrinal or other problem (officially) with people who are gay but celibate. Indeed, their teaching is that gay people should be celibate. The CofE accepts that its clergy can be in civil partnerships – indeed, it allows civil partners pension rights. So… Read more »

Laurence C.
Guest
Laurence C.

“Presumably such bishops do not ‘self-identify’ (ugh, do not like these new reflexive-verbs) as gay. And I for one do not feel disposed to go around telling bishops (or anyone else) what their sexual orientation is.” rjb

I agree – of course it is up to the individual to identify what his or her sexual orientation is. My point is that – if Changing Attitude is to be relied upon – there are, currently, one or more self-identified gay bishops who are married to women.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Discrimination alleged in the Church of England

I simply cannot believe it ! You cannot be serious !

I can no more believe it than I can accept that global warming is untrue, or that water is wet.

toby forward
Guest

If the reports are to be believed, then it is irrelevant to his case whether or not he is a homosexual: ‘The guidance added that candidates could be blocked if they were regarded as divisive because their views or behaviour had angered a significant number of their flock.’ The Get Out of Jail Free card for the church is that Jeffrey John has expressed views which are divisive – that’s enough to bar him from becoming a bishop. Until the church gets rid of this clause it’s never going to be a matter of lifestyle alone, but of divisive teaching.… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

“Apart from the gay bishops who are married to women.” – Laurence “Presumably such bishops do not ‘self-identify’ as gay” – rjb rjb. As we are talking definitions, such as “celibate” and “chaste” it may interest you to know that in the gay community there is a third definition of relevance. “Beard” – a woman who acts as the girlfriend or wife of a gay man and provides a disguise for his homosexuality. Whether a gay man married to a woman is chaste (either with the wife, or with other men) will vary according to each individual relationship. It used… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Thanks you, Badman, for the precision and insight of your comment. This is exactly the issue, and the double standard cannot legally be applied — unless the church changes its teaching and allows that premarital sex is not a problem. (Odd isn’t it that gays are the ones who get blamed for starting the slippery slope, but that it is the heterosexuals who merrily ride down the slide of premarital sex, serial monogamy, easy divorce and remarriage, while the gays and lesbians are stuck immobile at the top.)

Peter Ould
Guest

Martin,

My understanding is that the legal correspondence has only occurred since the leaking of Slee’s memo and then the publication of the legal advice.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

When I left my slightly humorous comments (as an attempted antidote for anguish and tears) I had not read Martin Reynolds heartfelt comments and others following. I would not wish to be seen to respond flippantly to that. Where would we be without Martin, Colin and Colin Slee and Malcolm Johnson to take a stand, making this witness against concerted anti-gay behaviour in the Church ? But mainly there has been very little resistance to the antigay policies–liberals and others need to act! Cancel services! work to rule! Omit the eucharistic prayer (can it work anyway in such a church?!)… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Contrast the confusion in the C of E over gay or gay-but-not-practicing bishops with TEC’s forging ahead and ordaining gay bishops.

And it is to prevent this, that we are to have an Anglican Covenant?

Dear Church House: The modern world awaits you. So does humanity as God created it.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

In Tony Judt’s book of memories: Memory Chalet, he tells how when he went up to King’s College Cambridge there were rules which today would be considered very strict – no girls overnight, everyone in by a specified time unless you had a special permission and so forth. However, everyone ‘knew’ that the rules weren’t there to be obeyed; the housemaster would turn a blind eye as long as you didn’t compromise the dignity of your ‘bedder’ by having the girl still there for instance when the ‘bedder’ brought you your morning tea. According to Judt everything changed two years… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

Toby Forward writes: By this standard David Jenkins could (and well might) be barred from appointment.
That’s all dishonest, of course, but, hey, if it keeps gays out…But from the point of view of the conservative evangelicals, it’s not at all dishonest. They still think David Jenkins should never have been a bishop, and any system which allows it is flawed.

Ex Revd
Guest
Ex Revd

Malicious leaking is pretty commonplace in the CofE bureaucracy it would seem, and when I have pursued the matter in my own case it has been met by obfuscation and stonewalling. Perhaps some of our various Diocesan officials are waiting their turn to appear at the Leveson Enquiry?

Nat
Guest
Nat

The whole thing is a tragedy and underlines the fear that by the way it is behaving, the church is driving young people away by the busload.

I’m no longer a young person, but much as I have always loved the C of E and its liturgy, I cannot any longer bring myself to attend services in a church so honeycombed by hypocrisy, conniving and mutual recrimination.

David Shepherd
Guest

Come on, Nat, cheer up! Most kids are probably too wrecked from clubbing on Saturday night and couldn’t even name their local vicar, far less a talented cleric who’s been denied preferment.

As for ‘hypocrisy, conniving and mutual recrimination’, I guess this saga has unfolded like the last season of Dynasty…only this time, they all get to power-dress, don shoulder-pads and pout like Alexis Carrington.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Peter, I don’t believe that Jeffrey had to wait for the posthumous publication of Colin’s memorandum to find out what had happened.

I would be very surprised indeed to know that he waited for the scandal to become public before he took legal advice.

Nor do I believe Colin’s is the only account circulating of this infamous affair.

Richard Ballam
Guest
Richard Ballam

I do not understand why the CofE has spent so long in such a hypocritical position.
Jesus had plenty to say about divorce: the CofE allows both remarriage and ordination of divorcees. Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality yet the Church has built up a complicated theological position on this issue.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Archbishop Williams is in love with the authority and trappings of his office, and is obsessed with holding the Communion together at all costs by dumping on the liberals and GLBT folks — because he senses that they will just quietly go along. It’s time we stopped quietly going along. Jeffrey John’s alleged threat may be just the kick-in-the-shins needed. He’s saying “This far, and no further.” I don’t know the legal outcome of such a suit, but if it puts a public face on the hypocrisy and humiliation gay people face in the church hierarchy — a straight priest… Read more »

Laurence C.
Guest
Laurence C.

“Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality” Richard Ballam

More accurate to say that there is no surviving evidence of Jesus having said anything about homosexuality. He may, or may not, have said any number of things on the subject. Nobody knows.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I think Andrew Brown’s comment on “straight sex” needs unpacking too. I attended a marriage prep course at a conservative evangelical church (Reform these days) – as I recall I was the only virgin amongst the males – the others had had sex with people other than their prospective wives, and asserted that they would never disclose that fact to the women they were intending to marry. I have to say, I was shocked and the way in which this dishonesty and lack of trust was condoned – is this the relationship, nay covenant, that Christ has with the Church?… Read more »

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

I don’t know Dr John, but I was ordained by Dr Williams and I have the highest respect for a humane man of strong Christian faith, keen intellect, and compassion. Some of the comments posted about him on this blog are nothing more than gratitutous personal insults of the worst sort. The idea that he is in love with the trappings of his office, for example, is laughable to anyone who has spent more than a few moments in his company. And it is a misunderstanding of his office to say that he ought to be an advocate for a… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

By their fruits shall ye know them, Mr. Hobday. I hardly consider your lack of personal distance any less “gratuitous” in the conversation than anyone else’s comments.

Richard Ballam
Guest
Richard Ballam

“Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality” Richard Ballam

More accurate to say that there is no surviving evidence of Jesus having said anything about homosexuality. He may, or may not, have said any number of things on the subject. Nobody knows.

Point taken.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“as I recall I was the only virgin amongst the males – the others had had sex with people other than their prospective wives, and asserted that they would never disclose that fact to the women they were intending to marry”

The CofE’s sexual ethic, writ large.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

An important contribution from the Church Times.

It makes the offerings in the Mail look even more miserable.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“the Archbishop of Canterbury’s job is to reflect the mind of the whole Church ” – Philip Hobday –

Really? I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury was called by God to lead – not merely ‘reflect the mind of the Church’. Archbishop Rowan has tremendous gifts. He also wrote a treatise called ‘The Body’s Grace’, which held out great hope for as certain marginalised group in the Church. His task as ABC has obviously inhibited his natural affinity with the group he formerly, and so eloquently, represented. If they become a little disappointed, perhaps they can be excused.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“But it diminishes the seriousness of this debate when it is couched in such unpleasant, ad hominem terms.” That’s probably because for many of us this is not an interesting intellectual debate but a seemingly endless waiting for the church verdict on our lives. And it’s a debate in which we are not given a real say, apart from on blogs and in private. A debate in which a new advisory body has just been set up that consists exclusively of straight males who will, again, talk about us not to us. And at the end of the process, we’re… Read more »