English Bishops Compromised?

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude makes an interesting point in relation to the Evangelical response to the events in Anaheim.

Commentators in the USA and UK claim that the Episcopal Church has chosen to walk apart. Bishops Tom Wright of Durham, Pete Broadbent of Willesden, Graham Kings of Sherborne (and Fulcrum), John Hind of Chichester and others have criticised TEC.

Each of them is deeply compromised and lacking in integrity. Perhaps those newly appointed don’t yet know the reality of life in every diocese of the Church of England (I’m trying to excuse Graham Kings who I count as a friend).

Tom Wright knows partnered gay priests in his diocese. He knows he is impotent to discipline them. How dare he criticise The Episcopal Church for passing Resolutions which give permission to do things that happen in his own diocese and in the Church of England.

One of the other bishops named above is in a diocese where a previous diocesan was gay and another of the bishops is a partnered gay man.

John Hind is Bishop of Chichester, a diocese with one of the highest concentrations of gay priests in England, many of them partnered, and where a previous bishop was gay.

Pete Broadbent is a bishop in the Diocese of London, another diocese with a high number of lesbian and gay priests, many of them partnered.

Graham Kings has recently been consecrated and arrived in the diocese where I live, where I have Permission to Officiate and where there are many lesbian and gay priests. Graham knows many gay priests himself and it saddens me to read what he has written on the Fulcrum web site.

Colin’s point is very clear. How dare these Bishops get upset about what happens in TEC when they don’t sort out similar situations in their own patch. I’m not sure though where Colin wants to go with this. Is he suggesting that the Bishops in question should actually discipline the clergy involved? If so, I don’t think his claim that

Tom Wright knows partnered gay priests in his diocese. He knows he is impotent to discipline them.

is in any sense correct. It would be incredibly easy to lay a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure against any of the clergy he is thinking of as they are (if Colin is to be believed that they are sexually active) clearly not being:

diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.
Canon C26:2

Perhaps the solution is for Colin to out a few of those he is thinking of and to see whether the impotency he claims is bedevilling the Evangelical Bishops is as flaccid as he assumes?

In the meantime, he should perhaps pay more careful attention to recent developments. If anything the events of the past few days are healing the division lines that have arisen over the past few years, much in the same way that the appointment of a Cathedral Canon to a Suffragan Bishopric did a few years ago.

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6 Comments on “English Bishops Compromised?

  1. Hi Peter,

    Just because the procedures are in place whereby a bishop could act against his gay clergy who might be in a sexual relationship, it does not negate his impotency to do so. However, the impotency might come from other sources such as the amount of energy, time, frustration, anger, vitriol, division etc. that would result from such an action.

    Sometimes though, I would love a witch hunt to begin. Wouldn’t it be great for the hundreds of gay clergy in the Church of England to feel so threatened that they stand up and say enough is enough? It would be great to see deacons, priests, archdeacons, deans, canons, theology lecturers and bishops with their friends and family say enough is enough. It would be wonderful to let them tell their stories of the hypocrisy of an institution that says one thing to one group of people, while saying and doing the opposite to the other.

    Of course, no one is going to attack them because there is an easier target to throw stones at across the Atlantic. However, it will not play ball; it will not play the hypocrisy game of the Church of England on sexuality – hypocrisy from all sides.

    What remains to be seen is what will happen if anyone acts against it. This is the challenge that people like me and parishes like mine will have to face. It would be interesting to see what would happen if hundreds of liberal parishes declared themselves out of communion with Lambeth, withdrew their quotas, and sought alternative oversight with the Episcopalians.

    In some ways, we are too institutional, too English to do such a thing, but it is also these very sensibilities which would make it impossible for us to belong to a FOCA Church of England, an evangelical sect which would not connect with the majority of people in this country, nor which could hold itself together for too long. Like all such sects, it would constantly divide because those who seek purity, always need to find the next group to purge.

    Golly, the rain has induced an outpouring. It just seems to me Peter that in your usual appeal to canons, laws and axioms in your response to Colin, you refused to acknowledge the reality on the ground in the Church of England. Refused to acknowledge that the way this unusual Church works is often deeply flawed, ambiguous, political, institunal etc. Refused also to acknowlege that many an evangelical bishop, possibly out of a desire to have a measure of power, is playing a game that is not honourable, but pretty necessary in a Church like ours. Possibly, it is because you are a convert to Anglicanism, but it seems to me that what you so often write reflects a person who has the head knowledge of the Church of England, but not the lived experience of the Church of England as it has been lived out for decades in this country. This is not a Church for people who like tidy, neat little boxes with a strong sense of purity, and who do not have a deep theology of compromise. How can it be, we are the product of a king who wanted a divorce, a queen who liked a middle way, and a gay King who wanted a prayer book and a Bible he could call his own. A divorcee, a woman and a gay man – they would be at home in my congregation, what about yours Peter?

    • Perfectly at home in my congregation as well Winston. Can’t see your point at all, because the Anglican Church I grew up in was nothing like that at all.

  2. Anglican, Schmanglican, so who cares anyway if the CoE has hundreds of gay clergy, partnered or not. Hello, is Colin Coward’s comment actually news to anyone anywhere? Winston, its a ‘broad church’ for crying out loud, of course its got lots of people who are nominal Christians. And, by definition, nominal Christians are without the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, which is the only way by which our sinful nature by by transformed. So is any of this a surprise?

    As for the CoE becoming ‘an evangelical sect which would not connect with the majority of people in this country’, has the CoE connected with anything approaching the majority of people in the UK for the past few decades? And since when did ‘connecting’ with the majority ever have anything to do with the salvation that comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ?

    • Philip – a significant amount of what you have just said would be incomprehensible to the people of my congregation. Oh well, I will simplify it for them – we are going to burn in hell!! However, I think that we will be in good company.

      Peter – I see that you did not respond to any of my earlier points.

  3. Astute as always esteemed colleague. It will be interesting to see how long formal proscriptions against same-sex blessings will be legal under Labour legislation. If Sexual Orientation Regulations become by precedent applicable to clergy, then priestly duty will become civil disobedience. Which will thrill secularised Anglicans to no end.

    I must say God is good to have us here at exquisitely traditionalist Christchurch Priory in the faithful Diocese of Winchester in the formally orthodox (by definition for Anglicanism?) Church of England. I cannot imagine the frustration Lisa and I would face being back in Texas these days. My Dallas in-laws are ACNA, yet their TEC diocesan (+Stanton) is sound as a pound and orthodox. It’s madness.

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