Changing Attitude get it spot on

It’s not often I find myself agreeing with Colin Coward, but his blog piece this morning is right on the nail.

The Church of England is fact divided on sexuality. The House of Bishops is divided – they are not of one mind about homosexuality. The House of Bishops does not speak with honesty and the members of the House are not honest amongst themselves. The bishops are not in agreement about the policy which they claim is the mind of the church. Many bishops ignore the notional teaching of the church in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ (which was written as a discussion document) and ignore their own rules set out in the House of Bishops statement on Civil Partnerships.

Many bishops positively encourage their clergy to register as civil partners and to follow this by seeking the blessing of God on their partnership in a service held in their parish church. Bishops have attended both civil partnership registrations and the service which follows.

Of course Coward’s response is to be more public about the breaking of policy.

Conversations with members of the House of Bishops confirm the truth of Peter Selby’s comments. There is deep frustration amongst the trustees and supporters of Changing Attitude. We know many bishops actively dissent from the policy but will not publicly say so or make public their active dissent. We collude with them in maintaining a silence about it.

If we continue to be silent, we betray those we are here to advocate for and we help maintain “the pretence of unity” which has about it “a ring of falsity” that, says Peter Selby, “needs to be confronted for the sake of the integrity of our ecclesial life.” It allows the false notion to continue that “the sexuality issue is decided in the CofE – in fact everywhere except among a few dissidents in TEC and Western Canada” and that “betrays us all.”

What’s the solution though? At present the stated policy of the Church of England is that clergy are not permitted to have sexual relationships outside of marriage. If some Bishops are pretending that these aren’t happening (i.e. when they know about them they don’t take the necessary action) then perhaps we should play the same game? Short of those clergy who are breaking the rules standing up publicly and saying so, we should ignore and dismiss any attempt to suggest that the rules need to be changed, on the basis that no-one is reporting that there are rule-breakers in the first place, so obviously things are fine.


6 Comments on “Changing Attitude get it spot on

  1. I can’t agree with you, Peter that, “things are fine” as long as everyone stays firmly in the closet ( that seems to be what you are saying?)

    If I were a conservative, who felt that same sex unions were sinful, I would disagree on the basis that our moral integrity should not be just a matter of outward show – God sees every aspect of our lives. The gospel tells us of the importance of starting from the inside out in terms of our integrity – not the other way around. In short – I would call this hypocrisy.

    As a liberal, I also disagree – funnily enough on very similar grounds. If as LGBT Christians we are prepared to stand honestly before God in our sexuality and the integrity of our relationships, then surely we should be able to do so before society and the Church? If someone respectfully disagrees, that is their perogative, at least there is honesty before them and God. To constantly hide your true self (and your relationship with someone you dearly love) as though you were ashamed of both, is no way for anyone to live.

    I am not saying that priests in gay relationships who remain closeted are really “hypocrites”, I think they are forced into hypocrisy by the Church and I think that both wrong and cruel on the part of the Church.

    I would also argue that if someone enters into a civil partnership- that is a PUBLIC union, sanctioned by the state. How can people be placed in the ridiculous position of pretending a public commitment doesn’t exist or is something other than it is when everyone know the truth – isn’t this -er- LYING as well as terribly immature and a fractured way to live?

    I suspect your desire to support the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy arises from the best of motives. You would hate to see a witch hunt – and maybe you also know it would force the hand of the Church ( or divide the Church in two) as there would be immense public sympathy with the gay priests who were disciplined and disgust at the intolerance of the Church.

    What’s the solution? I wish I knew but I don’t think lying is.

    Yours in Christ – you and yours are still very much in the thoughts of many of us.

  2. Peter,

    I was intrigued to find that in my RSS reader, this post came with a visual advert telling me to “find someone right for you” by a gay dating service.

    Perhaps it’s not only the house of bishops that is giving mixed messages :)

    On a more serious note, can I say that I have first hand knowledge of Peter Selby as a diocesan bishop refusing all permissions for any service of blessing which he felt needed the honest theologically convinced approval of the church before they could happen, while still arguing for the Church of England to change and accept a theological integrity of committed faithful partnerships. Integrity is a very complex thing, but I must confess I always found Peter to exhibit it in spades.

    • Doug,

      I know that there are liberal Bishops who are complying with some aspects of the rules, but there are others who are flouting them left, right and centre. The point of my piece though was to think about how we politically oppose liberal developments.

  3. Politically, I think we have to get the discourse out of the rut it is stuck in. So here are a couple of facts and a question:

    1. Everyone I know, however conservative, is convinced that EVERYONE is equal!

    2. But everyone I know, however liberal, is convinced that there are some sexual behaviours or desires (however deeply ingrained and unchanging) that are NOT equal!

    So, can people be equal when their sexualities are not seen as equal?

  4. In other words, until “liberals” (Bishops or others) can be persuaded to move on from seeing sexuality issues as only a question of “equality”, they are unlikely to be persuaded to enthusiastically comply with Church disciplinary rules.

  5. I have it on very good authority that Cardinal Kaspar said, (back in 2003 when there was serious unrest about the ordination of an actively homosexual bishop in TEC)that ‘the RC church also has lots of actively homosexual clergy – we just keep quiet about it.’

    It’s one approach, but I really don’t think it has much integrity…..

    But of course the greatest number of actively gay clergy in the C of E are in the Catholic wing who claim to be ‘orthodox’.

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