Changing Attitude goes for the Jugular

My, my, we are getting excited.

The Revd Peter Ould, curate of Christ Church, Ware, has published an item on his blog entitled “Will Gene perform Hocus Pocus?” The article insinuates that Bishop Gene Robinson is going to preside at a Eucharist on Sunday 20th July in Canterbury organised by Changing Attitude and Integrity. The Eucharist begins at 2.30pm and is preceded by a picnic at 1.30. Peter further implies that the picnic is the Eucharist. He says he is sincere in wanting to know who will say ‘the magic words’ and yet he describes the service as ‘hocus pocus’. Readers will draw their own conclusions and judge Peter accordingly.

It’s so refreshing that despite the fact that only last week someone called me “inconsequential” to my face, I discover that actually I’m not.

We need to begin this Fisk (for that’s what this blog post is my friends) with a little lesson in linguistic development. To describe a Communion Service as Hocus Pocus is not to denigrate it or those leading it. In fact, the words Hocus Pocus come from the Roman Mass:

The origins of the term remain obscure. Some believe it originates from a parody of the Roman Catholic liturgy of the eucharist, which contains the phrase “Hoc est enim corpus meum”. This explanation goes back to speculations by the Anglican prelate John Tillotson, who wrote in 1694:

In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation.

So I hope the only judgement that people will make so far is that I actually know a bit of my liturgical history. Shall we carry on (because Colin does).

Peter writes: “I have it on the highest authority that the Changing Attitudes team have had it spelt out to them in no uncertain detail what the implications are if Mr Robinson as much as waves a finger towards anything vaguely resembling the elements.” Changing Attitude, not Attitudes, Peter; and which highest authority would that be?

Well Mr Coward, when I write as a journalist I don’t reveal my sources. Ever. Would be a bad thing.

And you’ll notice that in the rest of this piece Colin doesn’t actually deny that conversations have been had with those further up the chain about what the implications of various people take part in the Eucharist might actually mean, but he does take the opportunity to use even those conversations to cast me in a bad light.

The story has been given further publicity on the Anglican Mainstream website. It is based on a series of emails exchanged privately between himself and Brenda Harrison, honorary administrator for Changing Attitude England.

Actually, when Stand Firm published the story *that* was the catylyst for the huge interest (Gotta love that Greg Griffith). The reason why it took off on that site and here is because we both allow comments. Anglican Mainstream (when I looked at the site) doesn’t allow comments, so you can’t really have the vigorous discussion there that has happened here.

But of course, the reason why Colin names Anglican Mainstream is because he doesn’t like Chris Sugden.

Why do Peter Ould and Anglican Mainstream report in such a malicious and un-Christian way? This has troubled me all through the Anglican debate about homosexuality, which is in truth a debate about the presence of loving, faithful LGBT people in our Communion – in every Province of the Communion and every parish in England. Peter and Canon Chris Sugden claim the moral high ground, maintaining that they are ‘true’ Christians. They are indeed Christians, but not in the way supporters of Changing Attitude identify as Christian. We are followers of Jesus Christ for whom telling the truth and not bearing false witness against our neighbour are cardinal virtues. Not so Peter Ould and Chris Sugden.

Woah!!! Where did this attack on Chris Sugden come from? How did he get involved? Has Colin actually read how much commentary the Canon has actually made on this issue. Let me tell him. Not one jot or tittle. I can’t find a single whisper from Chris on the subject of whether Gene Robinson is presiding at the Eucharist on Sunday (which is the issue at hand).

But that doesn’t stop Colin having a go at him.

Who is presiding isn’t the most important detail of the service for us. What is important is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Christians, both those who support the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion and, we suspect, some who are opposed, will meet to break bread together and pray for the bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference.

Here’s the deal though. The Changing Attitude website proudly proclaims that Susan Russell of Integrity is preaching at the same service, so obviously personalities are important sometimes for Colin. The problem is of course that one particular personality, that quiet country bishop from New Hampshire who just wants to get on with the job and not be “the gay bishop”, is controversial and has been refused a licence to officiate in England.

The motive of Peter Ould and Anglican Mainstream is malicious and implies that Changing Attitude is secretive and deliberately hiding something. It should be of no surprise to Peter that we decline to give him information when he has attacked Changing Attitude on his web site in the past. He has shown himself to be un-Christian in motive and attitude, and we, wise as serpents, doubt that he asks questions of us from a kindly perspective.

My motive isn’t malicious, My motive is truth. The truth about who’s going to be presiding at the Eucharist. Frankly, the continual refusal to give any indication of who will be officiating is what is making this such an important item. Frankly, just the publishing of a simple statement like “Gene Robinson will not be involved in celebrating or con-celebrating at the Eucharist on the 20th” would be enough to kill this story dead. But here we are 48 hours later and all we have from Changing Attitude is the very same secrecy and deliberate hiding of the facts of which they say they are not guilty.

Changing Attitude is an organisation whose supporters are mainstream, faithful, committed, prayerful Anglicans. Whatever Peter’s attitude towards lesbian and gay people (and he brings considerable personal experience from his past life), he is acting in an un-Christian way by trying to denigrate other Christians. This is the strategy of those associated with Anglican Mainstream – bear false witness, spread rumours, undermine the ministry of other Anglican organisations. Their opening strategy for Lambeth doesn’t bode well for the future of the Communion.

I’m not trying to denigrate Colin, or Brenda or Gene or Susan or anybody else. All I’m asking for is a little bit of honesty. There has been no false witness because I haven’t said “Gene Robinson will be presiding”. All I’ve done is ask a reasonable question to which I’ve received no reply. I’m not spreading any rumours because so far there is no rumour to spread. Any speculation over who is presiding at the Eucharist has been caused by the refusal to simply say who it will be.

So here we are. We’re now almost 48 hours since I first approached Changing Attitude to ask a simple question. It is their refusal to answer that question that has made this story run and run. I honestly believe that this latest missive from Changing Attitude has made it worse, because it is simple a long piece of ad hominem that doesn’t vaguely address the issue at hand.

Shall we have one more go my friends?

Changing Attitude, tell us who will be presiding at the Eucharist on the 20th. We’re not interested in personalities, we just want the truth…

32 Comments on “Changing Attitude goes for the Jugular

  1. Peter,

    Moral question for the day: ‘Are journalism and Christianity compatible?’

    At the moment, I think that your journalistic writings are a distraction from your Christian and priestly duties. Surely, your parochial duties are your first priority – it is what you were ordained for isn’t it?

    I do not mean to lecture you on your duties, but, as one priest speaking to another, you do seem to be spending a great deal of energy trying to find out who is presiding at a eucharist. You are reminding me a great deal at the moment of another evangelical priest who writes me letters about the nature of my relationship when the sick need healing, the dead need burying, and the Gospel goes unpreached.

    Let Changing Attitude do what they want, and let them face the consequences that you predict if it is Gene who is to celebrate. Why would you want to stop it? Surely, stopping it would only gain great sympathy for the liberal cause?

  2. Hi Winston,

    A very fair point (you always make good points by the way). Yes, if I was stuck here at my desk all day writing this stuff I’d agree, but the reality is that I’m making a post and then coming back to engage with the furore in between Home Communions, pastoral visits, administrative meetings and the like. I’m amazed I even have time for this inconsequential blog…

    This site and my wider ministry fits in after everything in the parish. For example, I’m not going to Canterbury over the next few weeks because I simply don’t have the time to. We’ve got a fantastic holiday club happening once school finishes, summer services to plan and to execute, people to pray with and to love.

    And I have no problem with the Eucharist going ahead. As a good catholic I know that the sinfulness of the president doesn’t effect the validity or the efficacy of the Eucharist. But it is important that Changing Attitude be a touch more honest about who will be presiding or con-celebrating, as at present they haven’t made it clear that it won’t be Gene Robinson.

  3. As a matter of policy MANY churches don’t publish who will be presiding, but DO say who is preaching. That is because the real president at the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. But the person who is preaching is a personality, and that makes a difference. The point abnout the unworthiness of the minister in regard to the president is the key one. Therefore CA are right to be suspicious of your motive in asking Peter. It strikes me as entirely dishonourable.

  4. It’s not dishonourable Sound, because this is not a normal Eucharist. Gene Robinson has not been given any permission to officiate in this land and there is still a query as to whether he will nethertheless be involved in this celebration of Communion. The issue is not the worthiness of the president at the Eucharist but whether Gene Robinson will disobey the clear instruction from the Archbishop in this regard.
    If Gene Robinson *does* celebrate, it won’t make the Eucharist invalid. No-one is arguing that so it’s a red herring to bring it up.

  5. And your response to the question of Gafcon disregarding the advice of the Bishop of Jersualem and the Archbishop of Canterbury in holding the meeting in Jerusalem without proper permission? I note you are silent on that…..
    As I say, it is a matter for Changing Attitude to decide if they wish to publicise whoever the president is before hand. Clearly they don’t for the reasons I have given and because the real president is Jesus Christ whatever you, they, or the Archbishop of Canterbury says. Get over it…..

  6. It is a pity that you are devoting so much energy on this issue… what do you want to prove? If you are happy as a post-gay guy, good on you. It does not mean that 2 men or 2 women can have a Christian family together… I think Gene Robinson and so many others are a living proof of that.

    What makes you think your interpretation of the Bible is the right one, what if it is not?
    What makes you believe that your path is the “one”?
    Being GLBT and being a Christian are not contradictory.
    GLBT Christians are not trying to convert you… so why don’t you leave them alone?

    all the best,

  7. Sound,
    Would it not be “entirely dishonourable” to flout canon law by inviting someone to preside who does not have the permission of the metropolitan to minister in the relevant province?

    Regardless of whether Changing Attitude wishes to publicise who its president would be, and regardless of whether the sacrament administered by someone without such permission would be valid and effective, do you believe in upholding canon law or not???

    The participants in GAFCON had a right to meet somewhere – could you explain in what way the canons of the
    Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East were flouted by GAFCON?

  8. Yeah, Peter. You’re spending too much time on this issue. And it’s not that interesting either. Well, perhaps it’s a little interesting. I have to admit that when I ask someone the same question a half-dozen or so times, and they evade the question at every turn (sometimes accusing me of asking a different question, sometimes trying to make me feel guilty for asking the question), it’s a little interesting.

    Then too, I have to admit that it’s a little interesting that Changing Attitude is going after you as well as dragging some other poor soul into their tirade.

    Okay, well… maybe it’s interesting. But you shouldn’t be writing about it in your blog. Come to think of it, you shouldn’t have a blog at all. Or, if you do have a blog, you should really ask Changing Attitude for permission to write about them. Also, you should ask them if you can write about other stories. Come to think of it, you should ask them what time to get up and go to bed, and follow their advice to the letter.



  9. Of course you have upset their day in a major way. How dare you to ask a question.

    My guess is the attention to the event will now focus on if VGR does or does not. The message they want to give will get lost. That is a good thing.

  10. It does not mean that 2 men or 2 women can have a Christian family together… I think Gene Robinson and so many others are a living proof of that.

    Well, at least you hit the nail on the head here, Angelo. Gene Robinson proves a lot of things but being an example of Christian family is not one of them.

    Peter, you do seem a bit like Winnie the Pooh here. Having stuck your hand in the honey pot, the bees seem to be buzzing quite noisily. One really has to wonder exactly what they have to hide. Can you imagine such furor if you intended to have – say Archbishop Orombi or Akinola – over for a visit and you refused to answer Changing Attitudes questions as to who would celebrate. Oh the horror.

    And really, Peter, the audacity of having a blog! Did you seek the proper permits? Surely you queried all your Worthy Opponents for their permission for you to use your free time to set up, pay for and maintain a blog? Well, worry not, as soon as they complete the Mandatory Revisionist Review Program, all articles will come out with the proper spin. :P

  11. I note that Changin Attitude refer to Peter as reverend, yet he (and others here) refer to +Gene as merely Mr Robinson or VGR; you really think that’s going to aid your cause?

  12. He is Mr Robinson, and Jesus loves him more than he would know. Oh, oh, oh….

    Seriously though, yes several of the revisionists have got very annoyed that I haven’t given Gene the title they think he deserves. I am, however, one of very many people, bishops, priests, deacons and laity, who simply do not recognise the validity of his consecration as bishop. As such therefore I will refer to him as a priest, and Mr Robinson is a perfectly acceptable way of referring to an ordained priest.

  13. Peter,

    I was going to remark on Angelo’s unintentionally self-contradictory comment, but Jackie beat me to it.

    Blessings and regards

  14. I’m all for it, Peter. Quite frankly, their claims of being loving Christians, etc… is all talk. Calling you inconsequential is proof of that. What true Christian would infer that another human being was of no value? I think Colin’s knickers are in a twist because he can not debate honestly with you on this.

  15. Angelo:

    You asked David, “What makes you think your interpretation of the Bible is the right one, what if it is not? What makes you believe that your path is the ‘one’? Being GLBT and being a Christian are not contradictory. GLBT Christians are not trying to convert you… so why don’t you leave them alone?”

    He’s probably far too gracious to answer you directly, so I’ll have a go at it.

    First, your question about whether David’s “interpretation of the Bible is the right one” is the easiest one to answer. David is not positing “his” interpretation of the Bible. Indeed, neither are most of us who affirm that homosexual conduct is sinful. Instead, we are defending two thousand years of the Church’s teaching on faith and morals. The Bible, the Word of God as affirmed by the Tradition of the Church, teaches that homosexual conduct (note this differs from the state of being attracted to the same sex) is sinful. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has interpreted the Bible to exclude homosexual conduct from holy behavior (pardon my US spellings, I am, unfortunately for this Anglophile, a poor, ugly American). Thus, when someone argues that the Bible does not call homosexual conduct sinful, and indeed, as many in the US and UK have argued, advocates the Church’s blessing upon homosexual couples (who will engage in homosexual conduct, obviously), they are arguing for an innovation in the understanding and teaching of the Church.

    The question could — and probably should — be turned around so that we who affirm Scripture and Tradition may ask you, Angelo, “what makes you think your interpretation of the Bible is the right one” when so many Christians — billions of Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, evangelicals, and Pentecostals around the world (and not just in the developed West) and from throughout time — think you’re wrong?

    Second, as to what makes David think think his path is the “one.” Jesus is quite clear throughout the Bible that there is a right way, and there is a wrong way — not everyone will end up with God in the end. Indeed, in today’s Daily Office reading from the US Book of Common Prayer (1979), Jesus says to those who have followed his commandments, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34b). But in the same parable, Jesus also teaches that, at the last Day, He will say to others, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41b). Clearly, then, from today’s very Gospel lesson, we see that there is a right and wrong way. The question you ask is how David knows that “his path” is “the ‘one’,” as you say.

    I believe that David might point to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of St. John: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:17-18). Our Lord himself teaches that those who believe in him will be saved — not because of anything they’ve earned, but because of God’s grace. And those who are condemned are judged because “they have not believed” that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).

    I think that both David and I (though I should speak only for myself, since I have never met David personally) would agree that “being GLBT” does not exclude one from Christian faith. Indeed, I believe that there are very many faithful gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons who are ardently seeking God and his will. The place where I would disagree — and the place where I believe David would also disagree — is that homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered behaviors are not “holy” or “good.” Indeed, the Bible, as we have said, calls those behaviors sinful. The only sexual activity which the Church has been called to bless is faithful, monogamous sex between one man and one woman within the covenant bonds of Christian marriage.

    Finally, as for conversion: the reason that I would minister to GLBT people, and the reason I’m sure David does, is because, as we have said, homosexual conduct by such persons is sinful, but no one has told GLBT people that there is a way to be faithful to God that doesn’t mean denying “who they are” or giving up a holy lifestyle. There is hope for GLBT people just as there is hope for LGHS people (lying, greedy, heterosexual, slothful).

    The power of the Gospel is that God loves everyone, no matter what. And the fullness of the Gospel is that he loves us too much to leave us as we are: Jesus has called us into a radical, counter-cultural transformation from the way we are into the way he’s called us to be.

    And that is Good News that’s too good not to share.

  16. Diezba

    Happily, liberals are not merely relying on interpretation of Scripture to support their beliefs making, as they do, appropriate use of other perfectly valid theological sources. Sola Scriptura fundamentalism has its place, but anglicanism isn’t (or shouldn’t) be it.


    The name thing seems are puerlie as somoene refusing to call a President by the appropriate title for ideological reason. As regards valid consecration: I accept the BCP ordinal of Bishop stuff would preclude an active (as opposed to passive? sorry) gay man from consecration, but presumably the TEC were under different liturgy which made it possible?

  17. Well I hope that my post had made it clear (what with my capital “T” in “Tradition”), but I do not believe that I was arguing from sola Scriptura. Indeed, one would argue that I was making, perhaps, a prima Scriptura argument.Again, the question I posed, “[W]hat makes [liberals] think your interpretation of the Bible is the right one” when so many Christians — billions of Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, evangelicals, and Pentecostals around the world (and not just in the developed West) and from throughout time — think you’re wrong?”While it easier to ignore someone’s challenge as “sola Sciprtura fundamentalism,” it was not what I was arguing, and neither is it the question that I posed. You must also address the question of Tradition.

  18. How does what a priest is doing in the bedroom make his ordination to the episcopate invalid?  Why would someone be able to be a priest and a practicing homosexual but not a Bishop.  Confused.

  19. Tiffer,

    Someone *shouldn’t* be able to be a practising homosexual and get ordained (at least not in the Church of England), but as to the reasons why it does happen, you should ask the Bishops who flout the rules they have sworn to uphold, or the postulants who either lie to their assessors when asked about their sexual relationships or later on break the vows they have themselves sworn to keep.

  20. Well yes I know all that, but you don’t recognise +Gene’s ordination to the episcopate but you have no problem with his ordination to the priesthood/presbyterate – I don’t see why there is disparity.

  21. Aaaahhh gotcha Tiffer,

    To be fair, I was specifically addressing the issue of Gene Robinson presiding at the Eucharist and how that was different. As he was ordained long before I was, I wasn’t around to raise objections to that. He is a priest. He shouldn’t be because his lifestyle denies the gospel, but he is and there we have it.

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