Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 8 February 2020

Jeremy Pemberton From the Choir Stalls Sexuality and Intimacy: are we thinking straight?

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News After the Apology – Surely the Centre Cannot Hold?

Helen King and Judith Maltby ViaMedia.News Living in Love & Faith – What the Bishops Need to Learn…

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Love, honesty, openness, courage and integrity please, bishops
Living in Love and Faith – a doomed project

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of trust, mission, leadership and governance

Helen King sharedconversations Bishops to show us the way

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Church of England’s response to IICSA

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Interested ObserverJanet FifeDavid RuncornKateSimon Dawson Recent comment authors
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Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

An interesting crop today. I’m particularly taken by those that are concerned with the gulf between bishops and parishes, and between GS and parishes – at least, the parishes in which I’ve served where nobody could afford time or money to even consider standing, let alone attending. I’ve had to deal with a good deal of unhealthy anger on the crassness of episcopal words and actions. But now I’ve cured myself. In a revelatory moment I saw that the bishops are like Nora Batty pointing the finger and haranguing her poor husband (us), with added layers of defensive behaviour, fear,… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Wonderful and deeply moving article by Jeremy Pemberton. As a nurse, I have had the privilege of serving alongside families and couples in hundreds of these cases. I’ve seen the intimacy. And I’ve seen the precious work of Chaplaincy. It grieves me greatly that Jeremy, with his obvious experience and compassion for the sick, had a job of care in hospital… of CARE, for goodness sake… taken away from him. There was NOTHING in his private life that stopped him doing what he had faithfully done for so long: caring, comforting, being present. It cost the Church of England half… Read more »

Robert Ellis
Guest
Robert Ellis

Susannah you speak for so many people…..Jeremy was treated abysmally and it was a very, very sad story…..and for the C of E to spend all that money……it really makes you want to give up on what is at present a toxic institution.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Colin, I support so many things you say, but when you say you “wonder how the OTHER dozen lesbian, gay, and bisexual bishops are feeling” that ‘other’ implies that this particular bishop is gay. Fine if he is and has said he is. Surely not fine if people are outing him, if he prefers to keep his sexuality private? No-one should have to come out about their private relationships or sexuality. Are we saying we should ‘out’ all gay bishops because of hypocrisy? If so, that’s a road I’m just not willing to go down. There have to be better… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

If Colin believes a bishop is behaving inappropriately, he should write to the bishop privately. Repeating scurrilous gossip on a public blog is not a loving act.

Colin Coward
Guest

Repeating scurrilous gossip, Kate – that’s quite an accusation to make. What is your evidence for making such a claim? I think closeted gay bishops failing to protect LGBTI clergy and assenting to teachings that are abusive is also not a loving act, but one that is difficult to address.

Kate
Guest
Kate

You include a quote from Private Eye about the Bishop of Birmingham

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Susannah and Kate, I can’t agree with your description of the Private Eye article as scurrilous gossip, or your argument that describing somebody as possibly gay in 2020 is a wrong thing to do. Nothing is a straight forward yes or no decision. There is always a balance of good and bad in any action, and before acting one must make a judgement on whether the good outweighs the bad or (in journalism) whether the invasion of privacy outweighs the public interest in knowing certain facts. A few decades ago outing a gay person could result in unemployment, blackmail, risk… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Well said, Simon. When someone in a public office supports discrimination against certain behaviours and lifestyles, while appearing to participate in those behaviours and/or lifestyles himself, I think that is very much a matter of the public interest.

The Private Eye article was published on Wednesday, and as far as I know Bishop David has issued no rebuttal or clarification.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Well the assumption that what Private Eye reports (like much else in the media) must be accurate, reliable and a basis for ‘balanced’ opinion is not one I can make.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Their record for accuracy on Church of England matters seems to be at least as good as our Archbishops’ – if not rather better.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Susannah I couldn’t follow your argument. I’m confused about your understanding of the closet and what you believe ought to be protected and what should be transparent. I haven’t seen the Private Eye article referring to Bishop Urquhart, but I think it’s entirely right and proper for them to draw attention to a possible discrepancy between what a parliamentarian says publicly about sexuality in one forum and what he says publicly in another – his social media accounts. Any cleric who uses social media knows that their accounts are forensically scrutinised by the ‘Church’ in one or other of its… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

Jesus’ teaching does not, on my reading of the Gospels, invite us to become “thoroughly decent people.” Indeed, there is a good case for arguing that Jesus modelled the power of being a thoroughly indecent person, challenging power and authority in public and allowing women and men into his intimate company and physical space.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Well I agree, Colin. As I agree with many things you say. Power and authority do need to be challenged, when they demean people, and discriminate against them, and vilify the integrity of their lives. I believe ‘power’ is often in charge of ‘process’, and process has resulted in delay after delay after delay. Here and now, even after the release of LLF resources, we are being told they will lead to a period of reflection (and hence further delay). Process is being used, top-down, to maintain a status quo. So process needs to be disrupted, because it tells a… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

I share Susanna’s specific concerns about Colin Coward’s blog. I also question his claim that in our present situation the ‘guilty party in all of this is the bishops themselves. They are responsible for enforcing a closeted life’. This is a serious over-simplification of the situation. One outcome of the Bishop’s statement has been to lay bare how divided they are among themselves on this issue. But in this respect they reflect the struggles of a divided church.

Kate
Guest
Kate

David, bishops could have signed the open letter objecting to the pastoral statement. They didn’t.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Kate. There was, apparently, a vote taken in the College of Bishops to withdraw the statement but it was not passed. But it is still their official policy. They would only have signed the open letter if they had first revisited and agreed to revise this briefing paper (it is not a pastoral statement) which a previous generation of them (the majority?) agreed back in 2004. They have not had opportunity to do this and in any case this has all been waiting for discussion in the LLF process.

Kate
Guest
Kate

David, it seems to me that there are two groups of bishop. a) Those who don’t support same sex marriage. b) Those bishops who support same sex marriage but aren’t prepared to condemn the content of the pastoral statement unambiguously. The first group at least are acting in line with their consciences. It is very hard to think of anything kind to say about the second group. Several seem to be trying to have their cake and eat it: do nothing to reject the statement while trying to signal that they object really. It is signally unedifying behaviour and just… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I think you are over-simplifying here. There will also be bishops who are undecided, or who are conflicted on the subject. And as David has said above, they aren’t in a position to reject the statement until LLF has completed its study and reported. The ‘Pastoral Statement’ reflects current official policy, though there is widespread dissent from it. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the document’s public release as a ‘pastoral’ statement was never intended by the bishops; see the acting Bishop of Oxford’s statement issued today.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“The ‘Pastoral Statement’ reflects current official policy, though there is widespread dissent from it.” Yes, that’s true. But the new “problem” the statement addresses is the case of an opposite-sex couple who for reasons best known to themselves contract a civil partnership and then seek a blessing in church. Yes, this is possible: a couple, one of whom is a practicing Anglican, while the other is not only opposed to church weddings but to marriage in general, might be in this position. It doesn’t, however, strike me as a mass-market proposition. I think I am right in saying that there… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

As Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, said: “Please know that bishops are not of a mind on this.”

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Indeed, Kate. I confess myself singularly unimpressed by the complaints of bishops who were part of the production of the statement now claiming that, in essence, the dog ate their homework. The Bishop of Gloucester is, I am sure, genuine in her contrition, and similarly Norwich, but you do have to ask: why are they agreeing to the publication of documents they do not agree with? +Gloucester’s defence, that she didn’t realise how it would be published or used, is wafer-thin: it implies there is a means of publication, or a context, which would make the document acceptable. Fifty years… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

David I wonder if you are able to empathise with those of us who are experts through experience of the bishops equivocation about sexuality? The Archbishop of York encourages heterosexual men to taste the milk before they buy the cow; but then issues this dreadful statement on behalf of the rest of his colleagues which counters not only his previous advice to the Duke of Cambridge but continues the oppression of LGBTQ people as well. It is entirely legitimate for those of us with skin in the game to highlight the ridiculous position the bishops have placed themselves in; but… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Fr Dean. I am sorry you even need to ask! I long and pray for all you seek on this. To be honest I am not sure what, in my posts here, prompts your question? I am completely clear that bishops carry a particular responsibility and burden as leaders in the church. But I am also clear that the church itself is a very mixed bag of views and responses with their own perversity, ignorance, blindspots and prejudices – and that makes us very hard to lead.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“The Archbishop of York encourages heterosexual men to taste the milk before they buy the cow”

Which is, of course, a singularly foul metaphor. Were people to use equivalently racist language he would be up in arms, but apparently referring to women as cattle is OK in the Church of England.

The Church of England shouldn’t sound like a bunch of beery golfers in a saloon bar, eyeing up the barstaff and talking loudly about the little ladies. So why does it?

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Yet again I would recommend Jeffrey John’s analysis, available below from about 26 minutes 28 seconds into the recording. He says that many Bishops have had a public position of affirming doctrinal condemnation of gay relationships whilst in private affirming the same sex relationships of their own clergy. It is vital to realise that this is not a new position, but has been the informal corporate practice of a vast number of bishops (both Catholic and Protestant) for decades, if not centuries. In my own view (not John’s) on the one hand the policy had an effective compassionate element in… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“He says that many Bishops have had a public position of affirming doctrinal condemnation of gay relationships whilst in private affirming the same sex relationships of their own clergy.”

One rule for the party cadre, another for the proles. Presumably the idea is that if you have a theological education homosexuality is an amiable eccentricity, while if you’re one of the lumpen proletariat you need protecting from your baser urges?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Colin Coward says, ‘My first thought on reading this was to reflect on how carefully Private Eye is, by implication, alluding to a possibility about the bishop. The second was to notice the ageism and racism implicit in the story.’

Actually, it’s not clear whether it’s the restaurant or the manager that’s Indian, so I don’t think racism need be detected here. And might stating the nature of the cuisine, or age and nationality of the young man, simply be due to a journalist wanting to demonstrate that he knows the facts of the case?

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

I entirely agree Janet. Whilst there’s no suggestion that there is a safeguarding issue here, noting the significant age gap is in the public interest as Bishop Urquhart holds a high public office in which he seeks to influence young people’s views; not least about their sexual identity and behaviour. He also has a collegial responsibility for the House of Bishops pronouncements on sexuality unless he has publicly disowned them which I’m not aware that he has. The reference to the young man’s occupation is as you say entirely consistent with a journalist’s duty to check their facts.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

I wonder if one needs to be a gay man in his 60s to understand the nuances of Colin’s concern. In gay culture there is a stereotypical narrative of the elderly, educated gay man who falls for a young “bit of rough” or “bit of trade” and they shack up together. The story is often spiced up with allusions to the young man’s Mediterranean or Asian good looks. The implications of the story is that the relationship is entirely mercenary, offering the benefits of sex to one, and a comfortable life to the other. Private Eye journalists would be aware… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Thank you, that’s a useful insight.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I am surprised that there hasn’t been more comment on the Meg Munn piece which avoids commenting on any of the several elephants in the room – Safe Places, compensation for survivors, holding various bishops to account and the underlying problems of clericalism and deference to authority.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

I imagine the other LGBTQ bishops must be anxious that they might be about to appear in the Church News section of Private Eye. How much more dignified and gracious of them to ‘out’ themselves in an equivalent manner to that of Philip Schofield. If there were some regret expressed about their part in the oppression and persecution of LGBTQI people in the church and a commitment to not collude with it any more; I imagine that would render them pretty much bomb proof to an embarrassing press ‘outing’. Their bunker mentality has ceased to serve them well, I hope… Read more »