Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 29 January 2020

Michelle Montrose preached this sermon at Liverpool Parish Church on 26 January. Do read it to the end.

Ray Gaston Medium On being pastorally (ir)responsible — and not waiting for bishops

Mandy Ford ViaMedia.News What the Bishops Could Have Said…

Janet Fife Surviving Church Vignette in the Vestry

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of safety in church

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Savi HensmanRod GillisSusannah ClarkInterested ObserverFr. Dean Henley Recent comment authors
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John Wallace
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John Wallace

Again and again, I come back to what I have said here and in so many other places, why do we keep harping on about sex? It is at the best a secondary issue – adiaphoria- (for theologian readers), so for most of us totally irrelevant in a needy world that desperately needs the Gospel. As a liberal catholic anglican, the preaching of the Gospel is paramount at the present time. In my last post I quoted ++Coggan’s enthronement text ‘ Woe betide me if I preach not the Gospel.’ I am convinced (and as a Classics graduate would use… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I remember Donald Coggan saying something which I hardly dare to quote now, “The ‘new morality’ seems like the old immorality”. Notwithstanding his strictly traditional view of morality, he was, without doubt, a progressive and reforming archbishop and, surely, the first one to promote the ordination of women – although on this he was stymied by the Lambeth Conference of 1968. He also went to Rome and astonished the RC church by proposing inter-Communion. Of course, he didn’t succeed then, but possibly laid the foundations for a cautious rapprochement later under Pope Benedict. In retirement he lived in Winchester and… Read more »

Fr John Harris-White
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Fr John Harris-White

Thanks to all these contributors. Each one has spoken out from their experiences, and now been listened to. We know many have spoken out, and felt silenced by the public statement of the House of Bishops. But the witness of these voices will drown out the dead spirited Bishops, and the Bishops will have to listen, or we will have a rudderless Church.

Fr John Emlyn

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

I thought it was rudderless already!

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Janet I could so identify with your vignette from the vestry. I encountered Desmond Tutu by accident after a service where we had had the world famous jolly public persona; privately he was as cold as ice. Perhaps if you’re that senior it is only the public persona that really matters but I can’t get past his lack of congruence even now. When he was cooing over the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s baby son I thought ‘is this just for the cameras?’

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

I don’t for a minute doubt Janet’s experience in the Vestry – all of us have feet of clay – and feel sad that she has not been able to speak of it for so many years. But, to balance Fr Dean’s experience, I had a meeting with Desmond Tutu even longer ago, when he was still Dean of Johannesburg, and found him funny, engaging and warm. it was a “private” occasion – a group of about a dozen. Dean, maybe you encountered him when he was exhausted.

James Byron
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James Byron

I remain humbled by ++Desmond’s life and witness, and don’t seek to undermine a moment of it: but we’re all human, and regardless, he owes Janet Fife a decades-overdue apology for his moment of extreme thoughtlessness compounded by his ignoring her challenge. I’m rarely shocked by episcopal misbehavior, but this has done it.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

People change and mature over the years. That was 30 years ago. I don’t condone what happened one little bit, but I do give profound thanks for Desmond Tutu, his life and ministry. He has been a true champion of justice. Janet raises a very real issue: our tendency to internalise cultural values that diminish us, and limit our lives by the limits other people set around us. Transitioning gender 11 years ago, gave me an insight and a shock, because of the way some powerful men have a tendency to talk across you if you are a woman, to… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I don’t consider that Desmond Tutu was any more to blame than the other men in the vestry. Indeed, as an overseas visitor he may have felt it necessary to fit in with what he perceived to be local custom. What I am trying to say is that in the Church (and elsewhere in British culture) we have a problem with institutionalised disregard of anyone perceived to be less important. When we moved from the USA to the UK in 1974 I was struck that waitresses and shop assistants were hardly acknowledged, whereas in the USA they were generally treated… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

I wonder whether your intervention may have prompted Desmond Tutu and maybe other senior clergy present to do more thinking afterwards, Janet?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Michelle Montrose’s sermon is both inspiring and very topical.

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

A beautiful and powerful sermon from Michelle Montrose. In my current work, I am asked to provide feed-back to preachers regularly. If doing so for Michelle, I would suggest gently that perhaps she has conflated two different men called James, but that detail doesn’t detract from an excellent presentation. The introduction and body of the sermon provide a great foundation for the kicker at the end.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

In her helpful analysis of the present mess, Mandy Ford is right to trace its roots back to the confused and misguided response to the invention of CP’s. It reminds me of how this same Church struggled when reliable and affordable contraception first became available in our society a hundred years ago. The Church Assembly and the then all powerful Mother’s Union fought fiercely against it. Successive Lambeth conferences from 1908 onwards condemned it. Not until the 1958 Lambeth conference do we find anything approaching acceptance when it decreed it was on the ‘conscience’ of parents to decide the number… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

The Church’s approach to contraception has laid the seeds for the present problems. The Catholic Church can genuinely claim that sex is tied to procreation. A large part of the problem in Anglicanism is the double standards in play: sex for same sex couples is sinful because the purpose isn’t procreation; however, opposite sex couples who use contraceptives (doubtless including some bishops) to have sex other than to procreate aren’t regarded as sinning. Regardless of where one stands on the debate around same sex marriage it seems clear that the inconsistencies around contraception and divorce need to be addressed. I… Read more »

Charles Clapham
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Charles Clapham

I think artificial contraception was actually permitted by the 1930 Lambeth conference (article 15). But it was certainly denounced prior to that, and remained controversial afterwards, one African Bishop (the Bishop of Bloemfontein) withdrawing from the conference as a result. Plus ca change. The declaration from the same 1930 conference (article 18) that sex between unmarried couples is “a grievous sin” would not be out of place in the bishops latest missive. What is also striking is that the 1930 Lambeth conference also discussed at some length the ministry of women in the church. No doubt the bishops told those… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Charles. Thank you for giving more precise detail – I couldn’t track my notes. Interesting link to women as well.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

On the subject of deference which Janet raised in her article, I think it can also be applied to the continuing problem of human sexuality. This week, over 800 clergy and 2600 other people signed a very strong letter of protest over the ‘Pastoral Statement’ that reasserted the claim that gay people should be celibate for life, and directed priests not to bless civil partnerships. And yet how many of those priests will act on conscience? Why don’t these priests put obedience to God and what is right before obedience to their ‘superiors’? Why don’t many or all of them… Read more »

Cathy
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Cathy

Susannah I agree. I signed that letter and would certainly bless a civil partnership / gay marriage in my church(s).

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Oh Cathy, the Church needs courageous acts of conscience like that so much. At the same time you need and deserve protection for your decency, and local churches and individual priests need to act together, so people like you who care enough to convert words into acts of justice are not isolated and picked off one-by-one by authority. I am about to release a proposal which I hope others will support (completing it right now). I’ll post the web address when I’ve published it (hopefully later this afternoon). But on the personal level, I know first-hand what it means –… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Proposals for Action to Affirm True Radical Inclusion:

http://www.RadicalInclusion.co.uk

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Thank you Susannah.
Your piece needs several reads to assimilate all that you are saying.
One small point though. In paragraph 1, second line: I think the date should read 2020.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Thank for that helpful observation – you are right and I have corrected the typo.

I agree that my prose can be rather dense. This website at Radical Inclusion is not meant to spearhead anything, but I’m presenting a case in the hope that people who feel similarly may develop the idea (and probably put it across more succinctly!).

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

I get the impression that Living in Love and Faith is not intended to provide recommendations but will set out arguments for and against affirmation, Susannah. However this will hopefully pave the way for exploring a way forward involving respect for conscientious difference. But this may not be clear for some months yet. If it turns out to be yet another stalling device, I think there may indeed be mass grassroots action and already numerous congregations practise a far more inclusive way of being church. One reason however why institutional change is needed is that legally recognised marriage cannot be… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

There is a problem, Susannah in that priests have made the mistake of making vows of canonical obedience so were priests to do as you suggest they would (depending on the attitude of their bishop) be breaking an oath freely given before God. That oath is why I could never be ordained.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

But the oath of obedience is not a blind/passive subservience. It is ‘in all things lawful and honest’. That builds in a faithful tension and the place of conscience. I even think it makes possible faithful dis-obedience! But I do think the Oaths are important because, as one website puts it ‘they involve recognition that a person does not exercise ministry in isolation or on their own authority but within a framework of relationship with others and within the tradition of faith as the Church of England has received it.’ Of course there are times/issues like ours where that tension… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

What would God want them to do? Only each individual priest can find the answer to that in their hearts and through prayer. Balanced against sense of duty to a bishop is sense of duty to the marginalised, the people the Church discriminates against, or demeans, or portrays as sinful or ‘other’. When two people marry they make promises to each other, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. One or the other matures or changes, and it turns out their promises – out of pity’s sake – have to prove provisional because their values diverge. In the case of justice… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“priests have made the mistake of making vows of canonical obedience so were priests to do as you suggest they would (depending on the attitude of their bishop) be breaking an oath freely given before God” When people join the armed forces they make, depending on the country and the branch, various similar oaths. They are at least as bound to obey a superior officer as a vicar is their bishop. Nuremberg gave the lie to the idea that this absolves them of moral responsibility for the orders they obey. Indeed, modern armies spend a lot of intellectual and philosophical… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Susannah the clergy are also subject to the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 which can result in the cleric losing their vocation, livelihood, their home and access to a, now rarely found, defined benefit pension scheme. So quite apart from legal sanctions, ambitious clergy will not want to rock the boat with their bishops. ‘Successful’ clergy are rewarded with a greatly enhanced pension as though they’d been a bishop, archdeacon or cathedral dean from the moment they were first ordained to the diaconate. The Church has ensured that there are very few carrots to reward defiance in the clergy and an… Read more »

Fred
Guest
Fred

Just for clarification: the Clergy Discipline Measure explicitly excludes matters of ‘ceremonial, ritual or doctrine’ so I very much doubt that it would be possible to bring proceedings under the Measure against any clergyperson who conducted a blessing or similar service following a civil partnership. I am not aware of any such cases ever having been brought, let alone succeeding. Bishops might be able to make their displeasure and disfavour known in other ways, of course. I also believe that even if a clergyperson is prohibited under the CDM, they do not automatically lose accrued pension benefits, though of course… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

What you say is correct of the CDM 2003 (as amended), but there is a sting in the tail in section 7(2) where it goes on to say:

“7 (2) Proceedings in relation to matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial shall continue to be conducted in accordance with the 1963 Measure.”

Having made this point, I don’t pretend to have any detailed knowledge of the 1963 Measure.

Fred
Guest
Fred

The 1963 Measure is the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure. It’s generally considered so unwieldy as to be unworkable and I think no case of clergy discipline has been attempted under it for many years, if ever. I’m emphatically not a lawyer so take everything I say with a pinch of salt, but I do not believe any sensible person would attempt proceedings under the EJM against a clergy person who blessed a civil partnership (or who otherwise was perceived to have offended in ceremonial, ritual or doctrine). I do believe it’s the case that nobody has ever successfully been censured under… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

At least one of his clergy who married a same sex partner has been subject to the CDM because I was their union rep. I am confident that I know of two others who were also disciplined. A formal letter of rebuke is a CDM sanction and means that your name is included on the Archbishops’ official warning list. As the charmless bishop took delight in explaining: this means the cleric is highly unlikely to ever get another job requiring a bishop’s licence.

Charles Clapham
Guest
Charles Clapham

Thank you Fred for the observations. I’m sure you are right regarding pensions, but I’m intrigued to learn more about possible action under the Clergy Discipline Measure regarding potential repercussions for clergy conducting a civil partnership or same sex marriage blessing. Is this really exempt from the CDM? If so, what alternative action could be taken by an unhappy Bishop (or parishioner) ? Any canon lawyers or archdeacons out there able to comment? It is true I can’t recall a case of this happening. And if there genuinely is no effective action that a Bishop might take against clergy conducting… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

That worries me too, Father Dean. What worries me even more is that if a priest was removed it could seriously disrupt all the work they do in the community, meeting the great needs that extend far beyond issues of sexuality. However, if 100 PCCs took the decision, and worked with each other, I think that could create momentum for change, because a bishop is not exactly going to lock out a whole congregation, or 100 congregations nationwide. The bishop is in a way the outsider in a local community. The congregation could stand their ground, or even ‘sit in’… Read more »

Fr John Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Harris-White

Clergy hold a licence to officiate from their Bishop. It is both the cure of the Bishop and the priest.
When push comes to shove, it is the priest who loses his licence.

Many priests have suffered at the hands of their Bishop in that way, over many, many years.

The Mitre rules.

Fr John Emlyn

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

This is what people are afraid of, and why they do the wrong thing instead of the right. And of course, in the past and up to now, that has been the ‘de facto’ state of affairs. However, actually, God rules. And if enough people resist injustice, and act collectively, in line with what is in many people’s hearts, and if PCCs and local churches stand by their priests, and churches stand alongside other churches who also follow conscience, I believe change becomes a movement, and movements concentrate the minds of bishops, many of whom are good and decent people.… Read more »

Christopher
Guest
Christopher

Shame that in all this – significant – stuff Ray Gaston’s piece might be overlooked – one of the most moving and sensible things I have read in a long while and which reflects several of my own experiences.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Indeed: Ray’s message is deeply moving and rooted in actual experience and compassion.

His final reflection on maybe needing to get more radical and flouting the official line is also deeply significant in my opinion.

We should pay tribute to Ray for his long-term love and service, and insistence that relationships of many kind are worthy of blessing, treasuring, and celebrating.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The Michelle Montrose sermon is well crafted because all good sermons are well crafted opinion pieces. I have a different view of the movie The Two Popes. It was excellent. Using imaginary face a face conversations it suggests how the backgrounds of Benedict and Francis explains who they became later in life. Does God ‘uncall’ us? I don’t know, ask Amos. Who is to say that Benedict’s abdication is not a sign that God called him into a more contemplative life? Who is to say that the political cauldron of the Junta troubles was a major factor, as the flm… Read more »