A little bit of bread and whining…

Before I begin, greetings from Utah. Gayle and I are out here for a week or so with friends so I’m just catching up on news in the UK and the wider Anglican blogosphere. Interesting…

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the story released by the Church Society and run by Ruth Gledhill. For those who have missed it, here’s a snippet:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is to celebrate a “secret” communion service for gay clergy and their partners in London.

Dr Williams will celebrate the eucharist at St Peter’s, Eaton Square, the Church of England parish known as a home to the country’s liberal and wealthy Anglican elite. Dr Williams will also give an address titled: “Present realities and future possibilities for lesbians and gay men in the Church.”

The event has been organised under the “Chatham House Rule” which prevents any disclosure of the discussions there or even when and where it is taking place. It takes place at 10am on 29 November.

Dr Williams has asked to know who will be present. Names will be on a list which will be shown to the Archbishop only and the list will be shredded once seen by Dr Williams. Among those attending will be convenor Chris Newlands, chaplain to the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Rev John Gladwin.

Also present will be the Vicar of St Peter’s, the Rev Nicholas Papadopulos, former chaplain to the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Rev David Stancliffe. Dr Williams’ mission to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion, rent with schism since the 2003 ordination of the openly-gay Bishop Gene Robinson, has never appeared less likely to succeed.


Now let’s be clear about this. The Church of England’s clear guidelines are that clergy should not be engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage, so that includes have a gay partner who you are active with. Does Rowan’s celebrating of Communion with such people (if indeed any on the secret list are disobeying the 1990 Issues in Human Sexuality Statement) mean that he is tearing that document up? The whole thing brings up the issue of whether the sacraments should be knowingly given and shared with active sinners who reject the moral compass of scripture? That’s a question to answer and I think it would be interesting if the commenting on Ruth’s Blog and Stand Firm might start to address these issues.

Of course, one of the commenters at Ruth’s blog thinks that Rowan might be preaching repentance to those assembled that day. If that’s true then perhaps it marks Rowan both being as gracious as possible and yet confirming the change in moral direction that he’s been taking since writing The Body’s Grace, a change that seems to be indicated by his 2005 AAC address and other instances.

Finally, I wonder if we did a private Eucharist for ex-gays / post-gays whether Rowan would come and preach at that?

Sorry if I don’t reply to comments – being a few thousand miles away from home makes it kinda tricky.

2 Comments on “A little bit of bread and whining…

  1. Just to reapply your own logic, do you celebrate Mass with those who have been divorced and are now living in continuing relationships with new spouses? Such relationships are contrary to Christ’s clear teaching in the Gospels. How ought the church to deal with such “active sinners who reject the moral compass of scripture?”

  2. Hello Peter (and Lorian),

    Peter, I think you could be being a little hasty here. That ‘if’ in brackets is key – how could you (or I) know how many members of Clergy Consultation have a gay partner whom they’re ‘active with’? CC’s website is very meagre but emphasises that it’s a confidential support group. It is possible that among its members could be people who struggle greatly with same-sex desire, and / or take a similar position to yours – or for whom coming out could be very difficult. And yes, some CC members may well be in sexual relationships with same-sex partners – but no-one needs me to say that not all Anglican opinion sees that as sinful… and isn’t discernment about that, part of what the listening process is about? (And as the listening process is current, it could be said that whether same-sex sex is always and everywhere a sin is a legitimately open question within Anglicanism). But anyhow, given the inevitable uncertainty over your ‘if’, it’s far from definite that this meeting “brings up the issue of whether the sacraments should be knowingly given and shared with active sinners”.

    Also, I would like to gently challenge your suggestion that Rowan Williams has taken a “change in moral direction” since “writing The Body’s Grace”. In his interview in May in ‘Time’ magazine, and I think elsewhere, he has said explicitly that he doesn’t retract or repudiate what The Body’s Grace says. In the ‘Time’ interview he said:
    “I still think that the points I made there and the questions I raised were worth making as part of the ongoing discussion. I’m not recanting. But those were ideas put forward as part of a theological discussion. I’m now in a position where I’m bound to say the teaching of the Church is this, the consensus is this. We have not changed our minds corporately”. As far as I can see (not that far maybe :) ) he has held pretty consistently to this.

    in friendship, Blair

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