Thinking Anglicans

More about the exclusion of some spouses from the Lambeth Conference

Updated Friday evening scroll down for additional press releases from TEC House of Bishops meeting

Updated again Monday

Here is the response from the University of Kent to those who have written to them complaining about their hosting of a discriminatory event:

We reported previously on the row about invitations to spouses of bishops attending the Lambeth Conference next year, first here, and then also here.

On 14 March Ben Bradshaw MP asked in the House of Commons about this matter.

Watch the video here.

Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

May we have a statement from the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, on the outrageous decision by the Church of England to issue the official invitation to next year’s Lambeth conference and explicitly forbid the same-sex spouses of bishops from attending, when the heterosexual spouses of bishops have been warmly invited? This is a totally unacceptable position for our established state Church to adopt, and this House needs to tell the Church we have had enough of it.

Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I was not aware of that situation, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising it. If he would like to write to me, I will certainly raise it with my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman.

Today the Church Times has a report about the Canadian bishop, Kevin Robertson, affected by this:  Gay bishop accuses Primates of homophobia.

…When asked if he believed the fierce opposition to his presence, let alone Mr Sharma’s invitation, from GAFCON­ aligned Primates was driven by homophobia, he replied “I do.”

“Because it appears there’s an inconsistency,” he said, pointing to a blog by the Secretary-General of the Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, which announced the policy of barring gay spouses (News, 22 February).

Dr Idowu-Fearon wrote that it was because same-sex marriages were inconsistent with a resolution on marriage from the 1998 Lambeth Conference which defined marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

“I know as we approach 2020 that there are bishops who have been divorced and remarried, in some cases more than once, who are being invited, and their spouses are also being invited,” Bishop Robertson said.

“So to hold up Lambeth 1.10 as the reason for Mohan and Becki not to be invited seems a little thin; it doesn’t seem particularly consistent…”

Meanwhile, the American bishop affected, Mary Glasspool, has addressed the American House of Bishops. Read the whole of what she said: The Way of Love and Lambeth: Bishop Mary D. Glasspool speaks to the House of Bishops.

…I’m going to close by making three brief points, and then offer some questions that we might choose to consider. The points are mine alone, although you certainly may agree or disagree with them. The first is this: Spouses are autonomous people – they are not simply extensions of the bishops to whom they are married. As children of God in their own right, in my view they have the agency and prerogative to make their own decisions about Lambeth. It is my hope that we will listen to their voices, individually, and to whatever degree they can speak collectively, as a group. I trust we will listen, and not attempt to speak for them.

Second, I really believe that it is better to be at the table when you’re on the menu. How will people come to see and know the love of Christ as it lives and bears fruit in the lives of married LGBT people if we are not at the table to bear witness to that love?

And third, I want my own life to be centered in the life, ministry, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I dare say you do, too. It is so easy, and at times very tempting, for me at least, to be drawn away from that center. So, I’m asking your help to stay centered. I’m keenly aware that the Way of Love is also the Way of the Cross. You all know this, too. The sacrificial aspect of Jesus’ love for us is also the most precious, and for that, and for all of you, I am eternally grateful.

So here are some questions. How will we continue to be a hospitable house? At the Fall Meeting we will, God willing, welcome into our midst Bishop Thomas Brown and his spouse, Tom, and possibly other LGBT married partners. Certainly before the Lambeth Conference there may be more. How will we welcome them?

What is the best way to bear witness to God’s love and justice at Lambeth? Are there creative ways to do this?

And there is a detailed news report from Episcopal News Service: Bishops consider response to Lambeth decision not to invite same-sex spouses to 2020 gathering.

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops spent time on March 14 in both open and closed sessions considering how to respond to the decision to exclude same-sex spouses from the 2020 Lambeth Conference of bishops.

“We are not avoiding it. We are being prayerful, thoughtful, strategic about what is the loving action for us,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told Episcopal News Service after the closed session ended. “We as a house are now thinking and considering what are the creative possibilities and loving ways that we can bear witness to the Way of Love that we are committed to as the way of following Jesus….”

…Before he closed the house, Curry asked the bishops to enter “the vision that Mary has invited us into” with two questions that she had just put to them: How will they continue to be a “hospitable house” and welcome new bishops with same-sex spouses? And, What is the best way and most creative way to bear witness to God’s love and justice at Lambeth?

He invoked theologian Paul Tillich’s idea that there is a “creative and saving possibility in every situation.”

Curry asked the bishops to consider how to employ Tillich in finding ways to “witness to the communion that we love and that we are a part of, and on behalf of our sisters and brothers whom we love. What are those creative and saving possibilities that reflect the Way of Love even though it is hard?”

Curry suggested that they consider forming a small group of bishops and spouses to generate some ideas before the house’s Sept. 17-20 meeting. The bishops and spouses will meet together in September. Spouses do not normally attend the spring meeting.

Updates from ENS

Bishops object to Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to exclude same-sex spouses to 2020 Lambeth Conference

…The majority of the house plans to go to Lambeth, according to the statement. The bishops said they want to continue to build relationships across the communion, “further the conversation around the various cultural expressions of marriage” and “reflect our understandings of marriage, as well as our commitment to the dignity of all human beings, including the human rights of LGBTQ+ persons.”

The statement passed on a voice vote. At least one bishop, Dan Martins of Springfield, could be heard voting no….

…The bishops refused on a 44-42 show of hands to pass a second resolution calling on Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to ask Welby to change his mind. Curry told the house before the vote that he has had “one long conversation” with the archbishop and has exchanged letters with him as well.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t expect he’ll change, but I’m willing to say that this house really would like it to be reconsidered if there is any way that it can be,” he said.

Episcopal House of Bishops March 2019: The Bishops’ Mind of the House Resolution on Lambeth and a statement from the Bishops’ Spouses Planning Group

A STATEMENT FROM THE BISHOPS’ SPOUSES PLANNING GROUP

We join our voices with those in The Episcopal Church who have expressed their disappointment and dismay at the exclusion of same gender spouses from the invitation to Lambeth Conference. We especially stand with our fellow spouse, Becki Sander, spouse of Bishop Mary Glasspool, who is one of the spouses being excluded.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has stated that the theme of this Lambeth Conference is “God’s Church for God’s World: Walking, Listening, and Witnessing Together”. The spouse community understands that the Anglican Communion is not of one mind with regard to marriage, and that, in the life of the Communion, this is a complex issue. Exclusion of same gender spouses, however, seems like a simplistic reaction to this complex issue. It saddens us that all are not welcome to walk, listen, and witness with us, and that all voices will not be heard at this gathering.

As Christians, we strive to live out our Baptismal Covenant and respect the dignity of every human being. A faithful expression of that Baptismal Covenant would be including same gender spouses to walk, listen, and witness with us at Lambeth.

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Dean Henley
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Dean Henley

Well done Ben Bradshaw for raising the institutional homophobia evident at Lambeth Palace and in the Anglican Communion in the chamber of the House of Commons. Homophobia, but also hypocrisy as the spouses sometimes second and third time around of divorced and remarried bishops are being warmly welcomed; despite Our Lord’s teaching that such marriages are adulterous (if one interprets Him literally as conservative evangelical bishops presumably ought to do, at least for consistency’s sake). ++Justin doesn’t seem to understand that the game is up. He carries on feeding these crocodiles buns but he doesn’t realise that when he runs… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I’m in total sympathy with those who have not been invited, but I’m nervous about the colonial idea that the British House of Commons thinks it can tell the worldwide Anglican Communion what to do. It’s as head of the Anglican Communion that Archbishop Welby issues these invitations, not as Primate of All England.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

The Archbishop of Canterbury is not “head of the Anglican Communion.” He or she is one of four Instruments of Communion, the one that gets to issue invitations to another Instrument, the Lambeth Conference. But the Anglican Communion is not a unitary organisation; it is a family of autonomous churches, nothing more. I too disagree with Ben Bradshaw’s suggestion that it is the “Church of England” discriminating in this instance. It really is only the Archbishop of Canterbury. So I look forward to Parliament telling the Archbishop what to do. And if the Archbishop wants to suggest that it’s up… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“So I look forward to Parliament telling the Archbishop what to do.” “…then I look forward even more to Members of Parliament telling the Archbishop of Canterbury…”. Would it be fair to say that in matters related to the role of the Archbishop vis-a-vis the Communion (invitations to Lambeth; chairing the ACC; calling Primates together) you believe Parliament should “tell the Archbishop what to do”? I am not English though I hold a PTO in the CofE. I must say this is a very strange polity. Perhaps it makes a certain kind of sense to you, Parliament ordering the ABC… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

CRS, you’re obviously on a campaign to limit Canterbury’s role in the Communion. So I suspect you’re not really confused, but are merely zeroing in on the Archbishop’s dual role. That’s fair. In my opinion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has divided loyalty, and this Archbishop is not handling it well. But you know as well as Ben Bradshaw does that the Church of England is the established, government church in England and that the U.K. Parliament has a voice in running it. Just remember the women-bishops failure, when MPs were telling bishops that things had to change, and fast. And… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“…you’re obviously on a campaign to limit Canterbury’s role in the Communion.” Not one iota. I am on a campaign to know whether the present system is busted. Given what you are arguing for, the question is obvious. “Did its urging have any effect outside the Church of England? No.” And that is because other provinces had already moved forward on this. The analogy is broken. TEC et al did not ordain women because of Westminster political intrigues. By all means nudge away. It is internal CofE business. But watch out for the effect when it comes to the ABC… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“Actions have conseqences. If we come to a situation where Parliament is “telling the ABC what to do” (your statement) it would be little surprise if provinces said, and perhaps the ABC himself, the status quo is no longer competent. We cannot have the British House of Commons telling us what to do.” This is hilarious. Provinces of the AC don’t have any say in what the British Parliament of a church established in that land might say to it and about it. And the Houses of Parliament certainly have a right to indicate particular direction as they did in… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“Provinces of the AC don’t have any say in what the British Parliament of a church established in that land might say to it and about it.” Who said they did? The point is that if the Anglican Communion were to find itself being so obviously affected by a legal entity in a single province, in a way without any analogy elsewhere, this would have consequences. There was a confessing church in Germany during WWII for a reason. Governments telling churches what to do can swing in two directions. Westminster may have all kinds of good reasons to seek to… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

I think you said they did. And I observe the same campaign that Jeremy notes.
The point, Christopher, is that the Lambeth conference is scheduled to take place in a country and a place where the kind of discrimination that it is exhibiting is no longer allowed. That’s why the MP for Exeter will press this question. It’s why the Parliament of a country with a church established by law has a legitimate interest. Nothing whatever to do with Brexit.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Let the Parliament seek to constrain the CofE if it wishes. No one has said this is not possible. “I think you said they did.” No, I did not. The point being made is that should this kind of legal constraint/persuasion have effect, it will affect how the Anglican Communion thinks of itself as a Communion. Obviously it cannot be a Communion consisting of autonomous and independent provinces if one single province’s realities end up encroaching on the wider Communion identity. The CofE may be an established church. In this it is sui generis, however. If you want Parliament to… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“There was a confessing church in Germany during WWII for a reason.” What an histrionic application of Godwin’s law.

CRS
Guest
CRS

You want the Canadian government telling the ACoC what to do? You want Westminster Parliament telling the ABC what to do, when it comes to affairs affecting the ACoC? The confessing church idea is borne of the problem when governments take charge of churches. Histrionic? It was a hallmark of the Tractarian movement to resist this kind of thing. You are welcome to justify a “Communion” of independent and autonomous provinces in which one province’s ABC is constrained by one province’s parliament, with a knock-on for provinces that are in the Anglican Communion but not in the CoE, insofar as… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

More melodramatic overstatement. Your debating technique tends to decontextualization in the service of assigning notions a meaning their very opposite. Hence, a church that is discriminatory and wishes to be exempt from civil rights in a democratic society is somehow a ‘confessing church’ —trivializing the Barmen Declaration in the process. Good on Westminster parliamentarians for raising the question of civil rights. Members of our Communion who live under sexually oppressive regimes in places like Africa or South East Asia ought to take note.

CRS
Guest
CRS

The question Jeremy is posing, quite properly, is how the ABC ought to be constrained by Parliament and how this in turn affects a role he is said to have vis-a-vis the Anglican Communion.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Not quite. I am suggesting the first part—that it is high time for Parliament, representing the culture, to give the Church of England some direction.
There would be little new about that: church and culture are always in dialogue, often in tension.
I’m not particularly interested in using Ben Bradshaw’s question as a wedge between the Church of England and conservative elements of the Communion. I acknowledge, however,, that others might use it as a wedge.
Given that several Instruments of Communion have become Instruments of Discrimination, it seems that a much looser understanding of the Anglican Communion would benefit all.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Parliament giving the CofE direction is not a typical church and culture dialogue. It is specific to the CofE as a church by law established and it sets it apart from every other province.

Others do not use it as a wedge. Others look at the way the CofE functions and take stock when it comes to their own life as anglican communion bodies.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Do you join your fellow Canadian Tim Chesterton in his stated concern “I’m nervous about the colonial idea that the British House of Commons thinks it can tell the worldwide Anglican Communion what to do”? If not, why not?

You tend to inflate and go verbose. The question is rather simple.

Leonel Abaroa Bolona
Guest
Leonel Abaroa Bolona

Aside from your patronizing tone, which is only regrettable:
The CoE is the established church of the realm.
The ACC is an established charity in the UK and the actual decision-making body for the Communion. It is also the only of the four instruments of communion with legal standing as it pertains the Anglican Communion and its governance.
The AoC is a MEMBER of the ACC.

CRS
Guest
CRS

All not in doubt.

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“You tend to inflate and go verbose. The question is rather simple.” The words pot, kettle and black come to mind. So let me put the simple question to you Christopher, which is the subject of this ‘thread’: do you think it entirely right that an event which enshrines discrimination (the Lambeth conference, by not inviting the spouses of same sex married bishops) should be held in a country which no longer allows that kind of discrimination? And do you not think it appropriate that one of the members of the governing body of that country in which the Church… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Happy Lent to you Mr Godsall. Given my remarks, you should know my general view: that holding the Anglican Communion captive to issues plaguing the CofE is not a good idea. Do what you wish in the CofE. As Tim Chesterton points out, it is not a polity shared by anyone else anywhere else in the Communion. You have sufficient challenges on your plate. I have no problem with the idea of a conference of AC Bishops meeting anywhere in the world and indeed would think it an appropriate idea given CofE peculiarities. I have no problem with a conciliar… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Happy lent to you too Christopher.
My question is quite specific and nothing at all to do with the verbose inflated waffle you have written above. I don’t know why you can’t simply answer it. Let me put it again, even more simply if I can:

Do you, Christopher, think that the spouses of those bishops in same sex marriages should be invited to Lambeth 2020 or not? If not, why not?

Tim Cnesterton
Guest

Thank you for your terminological correction, Jeremy. I stand by my assertion that Ben Bradshaw is out of line. The Anglican Communion is not under the authority of the UK parliament. Let me repeat, I say this as a person who is entirely sympathetic to the point of view that all spouses should be invited.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

The Anglican Communion is not under the authority of the U.K. Parliament. But the Church of England, by law established, most certainly is.
I think the Archbishop of Canterbury is about to find out—to be shown by others, as seems necessary—where his ultimate loyalty must truly lie.

CRS
Guest
CRS

If you are right, this will be a good thing for provinces of the Anglican Communion to know.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I’m surprised they don’t already know it – if indeed they don’t. The Church of England is part of the legal framework of the English state. Bishops sit in the Upper House. The canon laws agreed by General Synod become part of English law, and have to be scrutinised by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. Parliament mostly takes a ‘let them keep their own house in order’ approach, but does exert influence and pressure, and can act if it feels the Church is getting too distant from the country’s values. The churches’ exemption from parts of the Equality Act was… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“I’m surprised they don’t already know it.”

If the exemption is withdrawn, as you appear to hope, the provinces will know something they do not yet know.

And so will the ABC.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I’m not sure if I do want the exemption withdrawn – but as a friend of mine once remarked, ‘The churches at least ought to look at the law now and again.’ It’s difficult to conduct mission in a society which regards your conduct as immoral.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

The Roman Empire considered Christianity to be entirely immoral (see the Letters of Pliny, for example). That didn’t seem to stop the Church from doing mission, and growing at an unbelievable rate.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Actually the Anglican Communion is subject to the law of England, and ultimately Parliament, because it is legally constituted as an English charitable trust. Properly framed, is it acceptable for a religious charity to discriminate against people in same sex marriages. At present, subject to certain caveats, the law says it may. It is entirely appropriate for Parliament to discuss whether that status quo should be permitted and to prevail in future. And that’s the thing. The more often Parliament has discussions like this, the more likwit will decide to legislate to remove some or all of the exemptions in… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

I do not disagree. If one is in the CofE, this is the character of a church by law established. My question has to do with the impact of that on a role the ABC exercises outwith the CofE vis a vis independent provinces of the Anglican Communion. No other Archbishop is declining to invite spouses or paying for special places for them. This falls to him. As such, should he be constrained by the CofE, it would in turn affect his role in the eyes of provinces which do not have such a system and who do not wish… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“No other Archbishop is declining to invite spouses or paying for special places for them. ”

So Christopher do you think the spouses in same sex marriages should be invited in exactly the same way as every other spouse? What is your answer to that central question?

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

thank you, this is very helpful.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

thank you, this is very helpful i.e. a comment intended in reply for Kate’s comment above

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“[I]is legally constituted as an English charitable trust.” You are speaking not of the Anglican Communion, but of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Secretary General of which likes to give himself airs and call himself “Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.” People, we have to stop falling for the terminological mission creep. For reasons of their own, those who are in charge of the Instruments of Discrimination like to give the impression that there is some legal entity out there called the Anglican Communion. No matter how many times they try, it just ain’t so. For the umpteenth time: the… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

I for one have no interest whatsoever in “legal entities” of any kind when it comes to Anglican Communion affairs, judge it a specious affair belonging to the CofE and now encroaching on one of the instruments, the ACC.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

As a priest in a non-established church, the thought of a secular parliament legislating for my church what version of Christian morality it must follow appalls me. That’s why I believe in separation of church and state. Once you accept that a non-Christian parliament can tell the Church what version of Christian morality it must follow, where does it stop? Today parliament is trying to impose a belief/practice that you agree with. What about tomorrow, when it tries to impose something you find incompatible with your vision of Christian discipleship? I don’t want to speak for Christopher, but I think… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

That is precisely my point. Thank you.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

This is reminiscent of the situation in Rome from 1870 to 1929. The Popes claimed they needed territorial sovereignty and could not be subjects of the Italian State, and ended up holing themselves up in the Vatican. “Hail hail, the Popes in jail” as the Orange children used to sing. If the Archbishop of Canterbury needs to be independent of the British state maybe he needs his own little micro-state? On the other hand his mistress sets an excellent example of performing multiple roles, combining Supreme Governor of the Church of England with Queen of Papua New Guinea, for example,… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Developments on the ground like these may well spell the end of the idea that two roles can congenially go together. “It’s as head of the Anglican Communion that Archbishop Welby issues these invitations, not as Primate of All England.”

Can one be the “head of the AC” absent being “Primate of All England”?

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Christopher: as Jeremy points out about, the Archbishop is one of the instruments of communion, rather than head of communion. The idea of ‘head’ doesn’t really work does it? First among equals, perhaps. Either way, the historic position the archbishop occupies won’t be undone by the opinion of the members of the C of E (as you so often suggest it should be) and still less by a random conservative blog poster.

CRS
Guest
CRS

My comment entails language quoted from the person I am replying to, Tim Chesterton, who spoke of a “head of the Anglican Communion.” Just to be clear.

As for Jeremy, my question has to do with a polity in which Parliament tells the ABC what to do, and how that would obviously impact his role both in the CofE and the AC.

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

See Jeremy’s excellent answer above Christopher.
Just to be clear, do you see the Archbishop as ‘head’ of anything or do you prefer another term?

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

CRS, above you said “not one iota,” yet this comment very obviously proves that you are trying to separate the Archbishop of Canterbury from his or her role as an Instrument of Communion.
I might, for very different reasons, sympathise with that goal of separation.
I do not sympathise at all, however, with your attempts in this thread to have it both ways.

CRS
Guest
CRS

No, Jeremy. My concern is a workable polity for a bona fide Communion. I have no “goal” of separation. It is simply the case that if in his role vis-a-vis the Communion (invitations to non CofE Bishops, gathering Primates, chairing the ACC) he is constrained by internal CofE realities, then effectively the Communion would be constrained as well. It would better to find out if that is so and you are clearly testing the matter, consciously or not. As you summarise your previous remarks, “I might sympathise with that goal of separation.” “That goal” is your language. I think you… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I’m not sure the Anglican Communion needs a “polity”. It is u not a governing body…it is a confederation or family of national churches.

CRS
Guest
CRS

You have a very narrow definition of what goes by the term polity.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“You have a very narrow definition of what goes by the term polity.” Perhaps…but my family–extended and otherwise–has no need of a “polity”. I see no reason the extended family of churches that call themselves “Anglican” should need one either.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

A very sad reflection on the officers of the Anglican Communion, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, so lacking in generosity of spirit, and Christian love, that it requires the officers of our parliament at Westminster to call them to account. All spouses should be invited to the Lambeth Conference, they are all part of the Anglican family. If the stony hearts of Lambeth cannot invite them, then I would encourage a Diocese to adopt them, and invite them.. The souses absence would be felt, and make a mockery of the Anglican Communion being a family meeting together in fellowship. We… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

The Irish Taoiseach can take his male partner to the White House, no less but a different rule applies to Lambeth Palace.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

From among the items above, it is the perspectives of Bishop Kevin Robertson and Bishop Mary Glasspool that are the most poignant. The articulation of their long experience contending with and navigating bigotry and misunderstanding is what most deserves to be heard. Perhaps their presence at Lambeth will be an education for some of their colleagues at several levels. At the same time the homophobia directed at their spouses surfaces the politcal reality facing Lambeth, showing Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon’s “global excitement” about the Lambeth Conference for what it is—hollow public relations spin.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Bishop Mary Glasspool, in the third paragraph of her letter, describes an encounter between her and Archbishop Rowan Williams (by then retired)in New York, a giving and receiving. Since reading it a few days ago, I’ve been searching for a word that best describes how I felt about her description of the event. The only word that comes to mind is ‘sacramental’ i.e. an outward sign of a deeper grace , and not just for them, but for all of us enmeshed in the controversies that become existentially important to us in the church.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Facts. 1. The Church of England is a “national church” which less than 10% of the nation of England attend as a church. To call this a national church is, increasingly, a curious use of language. 2. The House of Commons MP tells CofE to change. Response from Bishop is, let us get there first so it is us doing the changing and not you telling us to. This kind of thing may make some odd sense to the remaining CofE church remnant, but for those outside it is a sad declension and certainly no model for a role vis-à-vis… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

You are often on about the demographic decline of TEC & C of E, as if the decline is simply a function of support for same sex marriage and the like. It’s not. Do you know what is in decline, what produces a big yawn and roll of the eyes in contemporary western society? It is any kind of traditional conventional religious belief and practice, including the conservative ‘remnant’ brand which you advocate for in your comments. Churches are under a huge microscope in democratic societies including because of their dysfunction, hypocrisy, and bigotry with regard to all matters sexual.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I’m sorry, Rod, but I don’t see that ‘any kind of traditional conventional religious belief and practice’ is uniformly in decline and produces a big yawn and roll of the eyes. In my neck of the woods traditional evangelical churches (i.e. traditional in doctrine and moral teaching, not in the way they do worship) are doing much better than liberal mainline denominations when it comes to attendance in general and particularly involvement of younger people. I’m not cheering for this; I have some real problems with some of the things they teach. I’m just saying that if you were right,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Tim, I’ve attached some stats to place along side your anecdotal observations. They are American; but I’ll venture a guess the Canadian scene is even worse. While some forms of Christianity are experiencing sharper decline than others, Christianity is in decline in terms of over all population, and it is aging. A specific application of my larger point is that conservative Anglicans are also, to use the argot, a ‘remnant’ sociologically & demographically. Strange or not, one would expect an established church to (i) face heightened public scrutiny over its discriminatory practices and (ii) be prepared to be challenged on… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Yes, I’ve seen that material. This Pew Research material would seem to indicate that church attendance has declined much more markedly in Canada than in the US (I suspect it’s still far more of a cultural value there). However, the Pew Research folks just classified people as ‘Protestant’ or ‘Catholic’ and didn’t differentiate between ‘evangelical’, ‘conservative’, ‘progressive’ etc. As far as I can tell, up to date statistics about trends in Canada just don’t exist.

Tim Chesterton
Guest
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Tim, quick follow up. I’ve attached a set of stats from Canada’s Angus Reid Polling. Check out the ‘four categories’ pie chart. You might also be interested in the data on the praires. Generally, I think this supports my contention about participation in organized (Christian) religion v. the larger population. However,the numbers also suggest ( see the pink slice of the pie) that there may be value in public discourse on religion–depending on what Christian religion has to say to people who are ‘uncertain’ or ‘privately’ religious. But I’ll bet you that discriminatory religious messages will be a non-starter, no?… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Hi Tim, I always value your thoughts and the graciousness that accompanies them. And I come from an evangelical background myself, and I’m indebted to that tradition in many ways, both for myself and for the love my children received in evangelical care. Nevertheless I think we should be careful about numerical measures based on church attendance. Personally I attribute much of the decline in church attendance nationally to the paradigm that is championed by many evangelical churches, asserting a traditional but in some ways out-dated concept of scripture as inerrant when it isn’t. This elevated view of scripture superimposes… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“… not down to liberalism, but to the implosion of an Old Paradigm’s claims to authority and belief at the basic narrative level…[etc.]” I think that is pretty much right on. There is some very good theological reflection on the distinction between scripture as revelation and scripture as a response to revelation–some of it done by Catholic theologians.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Hi Susannah, thanks for your kind words as always. I share some of your concerns about some evangelical emphases. However, I’m not sure how much weight to give to conjecture here. You say, ‘In my opinion’, and I respect that. But I’m not aware of anyone actually doing research into whether evangelical Christianity is ‘putting off’ more people than it is attracting (I’m talking about actual statistical research, not anecdote – of which I’m as guilty as anyone else!!!). And again – if it is true that liberal Christianity removes most of these barriers, then it should be growing more,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

P.S. Susannah, if you’d be willing, could you email me at timchesterton@outlook.com? There’s something I wouldn’t mind chatting with you about. On the other hand, if you’d prefer not to, that’s fine.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Mr Gillis, I could honestly care less about correlations. Decline is decline.

The issue here is about the peculiar status of the CofE. Decline free or not.

Lenten blessings. And, answer the question…

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“…answer the question…” I never answer loaded questions. It tends to validate them.

CRS
Guest
CRS

I’ll take that as in favor of “I look forward to Parliament telling the Archbishop what to do” in respect of AC affairs.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“I’ll take that as in favour of….” Circular reasoning, knock yourself out.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘1. The Church of England is a “national church” which less than 10% of the nation of England attend as a church. To call this a national church is, increasingly, a curious use of language.’ I saw a statistic quoted last week (I have been trying to discover the source) that said less than 3% of young people under 25 attend the ‘national church’. On the other hand, the church my brother attends in Manchester, which meets in a rented school hall on Sundays, appears to be full of young people under the age of 25. My brother is 58… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

What percentage of the total population of Manchester under the age of 25 do those young people in your brother’s church represent? I’d be surprised if it were over 5%, even if we counted the under-25 church goers in all the “traditional evangelical” churches in the nation…and I suspect that same figure holds true on my side of the pond. Yes, the traditional evangelicals seem to be better at getting their young people to stay in the fold, as it were…but a miniscule portion of a population is still a miniscule portion, no matter how young it might be.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Pat, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I don’t have that statistical information at hand. However, the implication of your question is that my brother’s church, by itself, has to exceed the total attendance of young people at all the Church of England churches in Manchester. That seems like a strange comparison.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Sorry, Tim. The problem of composing on the fly. Naturally I was not suggesting anything of that nature. It was a poor attempt to say that the number of young people in the traditional evangelical churches (in England or the US) is but a small sample of the total population of that age in the nation as a whole.

Kate
Guest
Kate

That’s a very disappointing response from the University of Kent.

Richard
Guest
Richard

What would you prefer to hear from the University?

Susannah Clark
Guest

The University of Kent should have its own policies with regard to the Equality Act, and should follow them. If they are hosting an organisation that contravenes the principles the University stands on… actually the Law of the Land… then they have at least 2 basic choices: 1. Collaborate with the organisation in its exclusion of people because they are in legal gay marriages, and take the money. 2. Explain to the organisation that this is not the British way, and such exclusion cannot operate in a conference they host, and tell them to find somewhere else. I would prefer… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I would prefer to know on whose advice “our understanding” is based.

Has the University of Kent sought its own legal counsel?

Or is the University merely repeating what it has been told by . . . wait for it . . . the Church of England?

Kate
Guest
Kate

I would prefer they reflected upon how their decision to accept this discrimination might adversely impact the confidence of their students, faculty and staff that the University of Kent is actively opposed to discrimination.

Susannah Clark
Guest

It is interesting to get alternative viewpoints from Anglicans in provinces beyond England, not least because this website is ‘Thinking Anglicans’ and not ‘Thinking Church of Englanders’. That said, the Church of England operates down a particular channel of Providence, and I strongly believe that God’s grace has worked and continues to work through its very identity as a ‘national church’. Part of that providence involves contract and relationship with government and the people. I think that vague tension and structure is desirable and part of the Church of England’s challenge and also duty. It is not simply a stand-alone… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Most interesting! Thank you.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Disestablishment or not is a matter for the CofE.

“So I look forward to Parliament telling the Archbishop what to do” in respect of affairs of the Anglican Communion is a different matter.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Okay, that’s a point of view, but the quote in response to my comment isn’t mine: just to make that clear. I was simply putting the case for Establishment in England. The nature of the relationship between Church and State in England means that *anything* the Archbishop of Canterbury says or does may involve tension and interaction with the instruments of government and English society at large. That is simply the nature of our Church here. In the English context, discrimination against gay spouses by the Archbishop of Canterbury (in whatever sphere he carries out those acts) will be seen… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Of course you are a National Church (though very few in England any longer attend).

The question is whether the two roles of the ABC are compatible given cultural realities within a single province out of 38+ worldwide.

Susannah Clark
Guest

What would you like to see happen after 2020? And meanwhile, given the actual situation with 2020, do you think that Justin should rescind his exclusion of the gay and lesbian spouses? Otherwise, what kind of message and precedent does that send out to those in the Church of England who want to exclude gay people at a local level? My proposal is that he should back down and at least say that each bishop (including singles, widows and widowers) should be allowed to bring a ‘companion’ who could also engage in the programme. The trouble is the inflexibility of… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Thank you for your question.

I have stated my position already. Independent autonomous provinces ought to be on an equal footing. Rotate presiding roles (ACC and Primates Meeting). Let things like “Lambeth Conference” meet in places all over the globe.

Historic see polities have centers that ebb and flow. Alexandria and Antioch were once vastly more influential intellectually and otherwise than Rome. Canterbury is sui generis inside an established church set of constraints. The CofE is a “national church” pretty much only in name, and decline happens.

Share. Reach out. By all means. De-center and re-center the AC.

Lenten blessings.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Thank you. Much appreciated. I agree with what you say: it reeks of colonialism to position England as the meeting place each time, and the AoC as the overseeing ‘president’ to the extent that you have one. The challenge and difficulty is how to avoid replacing one kind of hegemony with another. It seems likely that the leaders of provinces with conservative Christian culture would be likely to try to impose ‘Covenant-style’ orthodoxy as a pre-condition for attendance and participation, and before you know it, you have a new grouping that is ‘Anglican’ in name but dislocated from what has… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Susannah, you said, ‘Up and down our land, in thousands of villages, hundreds of towns, there is a heritage of Christian presence, still visible in churches, halls, and (admittedly often very reduced) communities. What is still tangible is that Christian service and presence still continues to operate: the sick are still being visited, the poor still find welcome, the lonely and the bereaved still get comforted. Services are still held, prayers are still said. Across the land, religious communities continue a precious duty of prayer and welcome. And even though in many places all this is significantly depleted, in other… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

That’s absolutely correct, Tim, and it is good that a receptive ear can be found, one hopes, in Ms Clark. As a (CofE PTO) person living in France, who has served in Scotland, the US and Canada, and has visited provinces in Africa and SE Asia, one can observe exactly the same thing. Indeed, absent the ‘national church’ positive/negative assumptions of the culture, one must explain what the particular Christian witness is, why it is like and unlike Catholic witness, why Jesus Christ is Lord of all, what that means for Christians and non-Christians alike. In sum, it is the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The rhetoric of wedge Communion politics.

Susannah Clark
Guest

I agree Tim. It’s just a different place with a different history and journey. But equally valid, equally pastoral, equally offered and given to God. I’m not saying that the Church of England might not one day be disestablished. I’m simply suggesting that there may be providential purposes and reasons, in our dear God’s sovereign love, why nation, state and church are locked together in England, and have been through our history. My belief is that in England’s particular journey and community God may have judged to bestow grace to our nation in this particular way. In any event, it’s… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

PS. Should spouses be invited to Lambeth Conference? I think Andrew Goddard is probably right that a “Lambeth Conference” as originally conceived begins to cease being that if it fails to gather Bishops from everywhere. It becomes instead an instance of political breakdown. I will not summarise his much longer essay but commend it in its entirety. If I were a Bishop I’d have to ask what the purpose of this kind of gathering is, now. It isn’t continuous with meetings in the past. I’d want to know what percentage of the global south plans to attend, over and above… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“PS. Should spouses be invited to Lambeth Conference?”

And your direct answer to that question Christopher? Why will you not answer the question with respect to same sex spouses?

Susannah Clark
Guest

But the explicit exclusion implicit in the ban on gay and lesbian spouses? You may say that greater incongruences and breakdown render that irrelevant (I don’t know if that is what you’re saying) but is the ban itself tenable, however untenable you feel the wider AC is as it stands? Do you think it’s okay to ban spouses from coming because they are lesbian or gay? Thank you for the discourse though. I agree that the whole set up of the AoC heading up this conference, and assuming it’s in England, is questionable. It’s kind of embarrassing, maybe similar to… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Thank you for your question Ms Clark. I agree with your sensitivity re the ABC and locale. People repeat the description “federation of independent provinces” as if it is a good alternative to a genuine Communion, and yet it fails to attend to the fact that at present they are not equally independent and nor is there a federation. There is an “executive office” and it is held by the ABC, who is in turn constrained in some measure–some would like it to be more–by the laws of a single province. That makes the “equal, independent provinces in a federation”… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“So singling out spouses seems like an odd move from the standpoint of principle.”

Still doesn’t look like an answer to me Christopher. Do you think same sex spouses should be invited or not?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I think I’ve said just about all i can usefully say here, and the discussion has driven home to me the huge gulf in ecclesiology between those who see the idea of a state church as part and parcel of being Anglican (i.e. many, if not most, in the C of E), and those who see it as an anachronistic relic of Christendom which actually muzzles the church from speaking gospel truth (because, as so many have said on this forum, a state church can’t get too far removed from the values of the nation [whether or not they coincide… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Tim, I am sure you are right. It is not the only game in town. I feel certain God works in grace wherever people open their hearts to love. It’s also true that no-one can know for certain if at some point the Church of England will not dislocate from its role as the National Church and effectively become ‘A Church in England’. I do understand the persuasion that this might be a good thing at some point in time. However, I simply observe that at this point in history, in England the Church of England is ‘the’ National Church,… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

I think, at some point, we who regard ourselves as being both LGBTI and yet not ashamed or self-denying, who regard our sexuality as morally neutral, will have to figure out that we *cannot* ever be truly welcomed in a church that also embraces conservatism. The two are diametrically opposed.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The letter from the University of Kent is instructive. England has legislation protecting civil rights, outlawing discrimination, while protecting freedom of religion. So people are free to gather under cover of their civil right to freedom of religion while openly discriminating against others. If the venue for Lambeth was in any number of provinces, locals would likely be able to ban some bishops from the West. That is what this issue is all about, smoke screens about this or that polity aside. Be grateful for the ability to meet in England. There are a number of provinces to choose from… Read more »

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Susannah, It has repercussions within the state/ charity relationship, and also in the legal relationship between church and state in connection with the issue of visas by the Home Office to the visiting delegates to the Lambeth Conference.
Any monies given by the state to the church or connected charities is subject to the charities or church being non discriminatory..

It the Church of England is to remain the state church, with some of its Bishop having seats in the House of Lords, it should not have exemption from the Laws of the land.

Fr John Emlyn

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Perhaps because they speak so well for themselves, this thread has attracted little direct comment on the views of Bishops Glasspool and Robertson. Conservative comment on same sex issues is usually entirely absent any apparent effort to understand, reflect upon, wrestle with the experiences of members of the GLBT+ communities. Once social conservatives have, for example, studied comments like those above by Glasspool carefully, attentively, humbly, and with a view to learning even just a little something new, then perhaps their views will merit re-engagement.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Rod, when people do not talk about the things you want them to talk about, it is because they prefer to speak about the things they want to discuss. It is pretty simple. Most people get that. In this case, the relationship between the ABC and Parliament and the AC is the focus. Jeremy set the tone with his comment five days ago now. The rest is history. “then perhaps their views will merit re-engagement.” They don’t merit re-engagement. They are being engaged already. “Once one progressive commentator has, for example, successfully engaged with the topic as unfolding, then his… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Your comment makes my point by missing my point. The conservative cohort does not comprehend the articulated experience of members of the GLBT+ communities. Absent such a humble and thoughtful comprehension one gets a diminished view, the overall competence of which is lacking for proper engagement of sexuality. It’s talking about people without talking with them. Talk about whatever you wish:try talking with people who know something about this issue that you may not. Don’t confuse push back on controversy as ‘engagement’ with your position on its merits.

CRS
Guest
CRS

I am sure this all makes good sense to you and to the sorts of concerns you most care about. You do yourself a disservice constantly talking about what is merited, or how this or that must be the case. It imitates the very behaviors you believe are quite wrong in others. It is obviously possible to be concerned about the identity of anglicanism as a global catholic (or even federal) reality, and how certain developments help, hinder, or otherwise affect that. One can at the same time have views about what love, marriage, kindness, listening, sacrifice, caring and even… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“You do yourself a disservice constantly talking about what is merited…” Alas, my experience in conversing or debating with ‘true believers’ lo these many decades is that nuance is greeted as a weakness. “There is not one seamless account….” Agreed; but in seeking what Lonergan calls a “not numerous center”, avoiding both a scattered left and an anachronistic right, one must have all voices at the table. Shrouding minorities is a disservice to all.

CRS
Guest
CRS

“Alas, my experience in conversing or debating with ‘true believers’ lo these many decades is that nuance is greeted as a weakness.”

Perhaps you might consider this is a misconstrual. You might make more progress, individually and in dialogue.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“…progress, individually and in dialogue…” I’d be glad to eventually hear how your attentive engagement with and reflection upon the experiences of members of GLBT+ communities have informed your opinions on these matters.

Cseitz
Guest
Cseitz

Spoken like a genuine ‘true believer’!

Barry
Guest
Barry

I was told that after the anti-gay behaviour of bishops at the ’98 Lambeth Conference students who were waiting upon them at meals in the university conference centre (Kent?) silently showed their opinion by wearing rainbow coloured ribbons in support of gay people. Perhaps at the next conference students will again stand up for human dignity by refusing to assist in any way at a gathering which discriminates against same-sex partners, even though it is allowed to do so by the law of this country.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Barry I was present at an evening meeting of the ’98 Lambeth Conference, and witnessed first hand the verbal bullying of one of our bishops, by the African bishops. Our bishop was rescued by the Chairman who happened to be his Diocesan. Not a happy scene, well remembered by all present.

Fr John Emlyn

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Allowing people a voice, the ability to articulate their own reality, even just to be seen, is a basis of dialogue. Bullying, inhospitable behaviour, defining the reality of others for them, have the opposite effect. It’s a way of trying to control the conversation. Like many of my generation, I studied moral theology, the ‘revealed’ morality notion, including the theories of some very erudite guys, like Ceslas Spicq, for example i.e. the necessity of a revealed morality. However, it was only in actively listening to gay men over a long period of time that I came to recognize the inherent,often… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

“Allowing people… even just to be seen…”

Quite. It’s the old, old story of erasure.

You can imagine… Jesus at the feeding of the five thousand:

“I will provide food for all of you. But those people that I don’t like… don’t bring them here… just keep them out of my sight.”

This exclusion is a very sad affair.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Thank you for wanting to *listen* to trans people, rather than just doing theology ‘about’ them: this is about people’s actual lives. I have written about similar issues in nursing and healthcare. Sociologists like Namaste (2000) have spoken of the productive nature of power, with transgender clients reduced through dominant doctrine to medical or theological versions of themselves. In contrast, the principles of institutional ethnography are adopted by several studies, to build an evidence-base on the actual experience of transgender clients (Bauer et al., 2009), and initiate a form of ‘reverse discourse’ through which to critique the system. I hope… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Thanks so much for this detailed comment, and the link to your paper. Both are insightful resources in terms of talking with members of the trans gender community. I have an immediate family member who is both a registered nurse (RN) in the mental health field and a professional policy researcher. I will be able to have an in person conversation with them about this. The phrasing “…understanding and getting past prejudice through encounter…” is right on. I was raised in a community that was incredibly sectarian i.e. Protestant v. Roman Catholic v. Jewish. Every conceivable facet of community, politcal… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

‘The phrasing “…understanding and getting past prejudice through encounter…” is right on.’

Yes, I think that quite often this is a key factor.

I know two evangelical Anglican priests who both grew to greater understanding of human sexuality after their daughters came out as lesbian.

When we encounter people as the whole of who they are, rather than just a label in received dogma that focusses on a single aspect of their lives, I think that can really help to break down barriers and previously-held assumptions.

I hope you have some really good conversations with your nurse relative.