Funding the Work

In response to a comment in a previous thread, I want to repost part of a piece I wrote two years ago in response to the Martin Dudley affair in London.

We are rapidly approaching the point where the traditional wing of the Church of England needs to work out what its priorities are. There is only so long that those who pastor in this area can continue without support to offer a place of safety and healing to those who have experienced all kinds of emotional and sexual brokenness. Either the Bishops and leaders of the large churches want to support this kind of work or it will simply not happen. If we are to prevent the same fate happening here that has happened in the USA then we need to provide not just a reasonable theological defence but much more vitally a practical pastoral solution. It is simply wrong for us to preach the sermons but not to do anything practical afterwards.

Let the reader understand.

—–

Last year I wrote a letter which was published in the Church Times in which I said the following:

In contrast to those who have seemingly dedicated their lives to rejecting the words of Scripture and are therefore obviously troubled by those who might call them to a holy life, many of us with same-sex attraction have lived simple, celibate lives in the full knowledge that the surrender of our desires to God is not “psychological onslaught” but rather the path of grace. Some of us have then, by the mercy of God, moved from the single life to one of marriage as the church teaches and others have remained unmarried but content in a singleness that glorifies Christ in its surrender to him. Such a path is not without its struggles, but ultimately it is the journey that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself commends when in a recent interview he clearly stated “Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the bible, gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practicing homosexual relationships don’t.”.

The Church’s statements about healing, wholeness and pastoral care only ring hollow to so many because countless clergy up and down the breadth of this country do not in any way support the ministries of those like myself who seek to come alongside people struggling with issues of homosexuality and other sexual brokenness. Perhaps now is the time therefore for the Church and its Bishops to put its money where its mouth is and make specific diocesan stipendiary appointments of men and women who can encourage those with same-sex attraction to live a life faithful to the teachings of Scripture?

I stand by those words and today I wish to repeat them as a clarion call to the traditionalist community in this land to do more than just spout off everytime that some action takes place that they don’t like. Although I agree with many of my traditionalist colleagues, I am frustrated that despite their godly abhorence of same-sex activity, they seem hugely reluctant to provide any form of material resource to help pastor those who struggle deeply in this area.

In England it is left down to very few of us to minister to those who find themselves attracted to those of the same-sex but believe on reading the Scriptures that they cannot engage in any relationship that would come from following through on such emotions. Often at personal expense, both materially and emotionally, the few of us involved in this ministry seek to help those who struggle, whether it is to aid them finding healing for the brokenness in their lives, or simply to provide support and encouragement in their day to day battle to live a celibate, god-fearing existence. We long to be able to reach out to more people and to help equip the church to do so, but our hands are tied by having other, stipendiary driven, priorities.

Why is this? Why are evangelical church leaders not willing to fund this work when their churches are flooded with other pastoral workers and woship leaders and youth specialists? Why are traditionalist anglo-catholic bishops not able to provide stipendiary diocesan roles for this vital task when their offices are sometimes over-burdened with a whole host of advisors and minor canons addressing this that and the other?

Could it be that we simply don’t believe that God is able to support those who struggle in this area, that we aren’t convinved he brings peace and healing into brokeness? Or might it be that we believe that all we have to do is tell someone to be celibate and happy about it and the job’s over? Or is it possible that we just don’t want to stir the boat, that we’re happy being seen as those who are theologically correct on this issue as long as no-one actually asks us to be pastorally responsible as well.

My great fear is that we will lose the battle in the Church of England on this issue, not because we do not read the Bible correctly, but that we have failed to carry out the call of Christ to bring his kingdom into being by offering the healing and transforming power of the cross. At least the liberals resource the heresy they believe. At the moment it appears that we in the traditionalist camp cannot materially support the truth.

I long to see a Church of England that puts its money where its mouth is. I long to see diocesan advisors on emotional healing and sexual freedom, funded by the church and backed by their bishop. When that happens the society we live in will know two things – that the Church means what it says and that there is a place to go with your brokeness. At the moment though, all we are ultimately saying is that we don’t like what you’re doing, but we have nothing to offer you instead.

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39 Comments on “Funding the Work

  1. Exeter Diocese certainly puts its money wheres its mouth is. We have very clear objectives in growth and ministry development (just as 2 examples), and our synod votes for a budget that delivers resources in connection with those. We have no spare 'advisers'. Common Tenure will bring even greater demands for ministry development (currently about 0.5 of my post is CMD) and we need to develop local ministry teams – work which is crucial to the health of the ministry of our growing communities. The kind of work you describe here Peter is not – and would never likely to be – on the agenda.

  2. "The kind of work you describe here Peter is not – and would never likely to be (sic) – on the agenda"

    You sound almost proud, Canon Andrew. Do you really think this is a good thing?

  3. Do I think the work Peter describes is a good thing? No – I think the focus is very narrow and our priorities are, and need to be be, about church growth and evangelism and the proper equipping of Church leaders. People need healing and wholeness in all kinds of ways. I don't think many Dioceses can even fund a person who is dedicated to prayer and spirituality – only a couple of dioceses have paid officers in that area. Abnd what about thje minsitry of deliverance and healing? Again – tend to be very very part time – usually parochial clergy with experience in that field. Some dioceses have serious funding issues at present, so providing for work in such a narrow field is not going to attract the support of the synods who have to agree the budgets is it?

    • I think Peter is saying something more like: If the church doesn't do anything to present/defend/support traditional sexual morality as a viable option, we will all slouch towards the default position (by human nature) of serving ourselves – which, as the Bible teaches us, never leads to a happy ending.

      • I don't think that's what he is arguing for. If that was what it was it could be achieved by our bishops and all clergy taking up that message – we wouldn't need the special appointments he is arguing for. He is trying to argue for a very specific type of ministry – a specialist ministry that would take funds away from parish ministry. It's a non starter, especially in these financially challenged time.

        • So we really don't need any special appointments at all do we by the same logic. I mean, why are we paying you to do clergy development (a very specific kind of ministry) when that is taking away from parish funds?

          • Clergy development is hardly a specialist ministry. Are you suggesting clergy don't need any training and development? Have you actually cottoned on to what common tenure is about? And have you read what the new Ministerial Development and Review schemes are about? Didn't you have any pre-ordination and post ordination training? Who do you think did it.. the fairies?!
            But what you are advocating is such a specialist role. Here's how to get it accepted in your Diocese Get your deanery synod to make a motion to diocesan synod to debate the need for the role.. and then for the necessary funding to resource it. Let us know how you get on!

              • Once again Peter, you simply don't answer any questions…..so let me ask them again:
                Are you suggesting clergy don't need any training and development?
                Have you actually cottoned on to what common tenure is about?
                And have you read what the new Ministerial Development and Review schemes are about?
                Didn't you have any pre-ordination and post ordination training? Who do you think did it?
                Now….the training needs of the thousands of ordained in the C of E seem to me rather more than a 'few'. You don't think these people need any further training?
                And why haven't you put your idea to your Diocesan synod? Thay can decide to prioritise your idea over and above the needs of clergy training or adult discipleship (another area I oversee) if they think it more important.

                • I'm sorry, we're you actually expecting me to answer your questions when you refuse to answer mine or provide any evidence to support your wild allegations? Do you realise how hypocritical that looks?

                  Let's ask you again – Why do you think the training needs of the few are so much more important then then healing of many?

                  • Still many remaining questions for you on this and another thread Peter. So you want to maintain that there are many more people in England seeking the kind of 'healing' you offer than the thousands of C of E clergy? You want to put a figure on your 'many'? But the question you put here is one for Diocesan Synods. Why do they think the training and formation and discipleship of clergy and lay leaders is more important than the work you outline on this thread? Because every single diocese funds people to do the work I've described and none fund the work you describe. The answer must be clear when you look at the simple facts. Why haven't you asked your diocesan synod to debate this issue? And have you had the debate with the senior priest in your diocese?

                    • Peter – you put a question to me here that I answered so far as I can. And I've gone on and asked you for clarification about some matters – repeating questions on this thread that I had asked about your idea. If you can't answer, that's fine and we draw our conclusions from that. And I'm not 'demanding' anything. It's a free choice. But it seems odd to have a debate on this topic in which you don't actually want to participate. And it seems odd that you have a proposal for the C of E that you haven't even tested out in your own diocese.

                    • You haven't answered it. Your response is "I'm not going to back up my allegation". How on the basis of such a response you then criticise me for not answering your later questions is beyond me.

                      I don't want to participate with you if you simply pick and choose what to answer and then criticise someone for doing exactly the same thing!

                    • That's fine Peter. This is a different thread and I assumed you had the maturity to debate appropriately.
                      As I say, I'm pretty clear from your lack of repsonse here that your idea here is not at all thought through and that is why it is a non starter.
                      People are always free to pick and choose what they do and what they do not answer. Sometimes (as Graham Kings has said in another place) silence is golden. Sometimes it is important for pastoral reasons. And that is my reason for not responding any further on a quite different thread about a quite different matter.

                    • It really doesn't do to suggest that it's immature of me to insist that you apply the same standards of debate to yourself that you do to others.

                      If, as you say, we're all free to pick and choose what we do, why are you suggesting it is wrong for me not to answer you. Sauce. Goose. Gander.

                    • I specifically said was not wrong for you to choose to remain silent if you wanted. That's your choice.
                      The maturity thing: just because you or I choose not to answer any further on one thread, it seems silly to carry the 'I'm not answering here because you didn't answer there' across threads. Your ot my silence on another thread has no bearing on the debate on this thread. And it seems a bit playground like…….

                    • Actually, it just makes it pointless to discuss with you. How can I understand what you think, when you won't answer? Should I assume that when you don't answer, that is conceding the point?

                      I'm happy to engage with your opinions and point of view, and to answer your questions. I find it rather rude when you won't reciprocate.
                      My recent post Less hopeful?

                    • What question have you put to me on this thread that I have not answered HO? I can't see one, but please correct me if I am wrong. (Or any thread for that matter….I think I've answered your questions, even if there is sometimes delay).

                    • Every time I ask you a question you reply with a question without answering the substantive point. You then get all in a tizz about me not answering the questions you've asked but at the same time you won't support your arguments when challenged.

                      It's playground all right…

                    • I'm sorry Peter but please tell me which question I have not answered on this thread…..I can't see one.. but I can see lots you have not answered…. or even being to answer. As I say, it's looking like you can't answer them….
                      And the playground bit is when you keep saying I haven't answered something from another thread. I've told you countless times- I'm not going to for pastoral reasons. If you don't want to answer my questions that's fine. It's your choice.

          • Clergy development is hardly a specialist ministry. Are you suggesting clergy don't need any training and development? Have you actually cottoned on to what common tenure is about? And have you read what the new Ministerial Development and Review schemes are about? Didn't you have any pre-ordination and post ordination training? Who do you think did it.. the fairies?!
            But what you are advocating is such a specialist role. Here's how to get it accepted in your Diocese. Get your deanery synod to make a motion to diocesan synod to debate the need for the role.. and then for the necessary funding to resource it. Let us know how you get on!

  4. Trouble is that any "work" offering "healing" and "deliverance" ( as in demon possession?) from sexuality is not going to be supported or funded on a large scale by the Church of England because it is highly dubious. Can you imagine the potential for bad publicity – especially if someone litigated for the psychological damage caused? And this type of thing is not very C of E, we tend to be a broad brush and by and large avoid extremes. I agree and I think this kind of thing can be very damaging.

  5. I can't see the Church of England ever funding or supporting this kind of work on a major scale. "Healing" and "deliverance" for homosexuality is very dubious and the potential for abuse and psychological damage is enormous. Can you imagine the bad publicity – especially when someone litigates?

  6. I am a social scientist rather than a theologian – tho’ to state my credentials I was an Evangelical Christian for many years before becoming more interested in the wider Church, esp. Orthodoxy and patristics. I was also a celibate gay man for many years. In my late 30s I decided this was an untenable position and what I see as an answer to prayer, was when I met male my partner seven years ago and life has never been better. Certainly the ‘healing’ and ‘wholeness’ so evidence in much Christian thought (often shamelessly borrowed and ‘Christianised’ from secularist Enlightenment paradigms of individual wholeness etc. – but that is another issue…) on the subject of sexuality never came my way; despite several years in a religious community and 20 years of considerable effort being given over to trying to tow the conservative Christian line. All it did was make me and unhappy and thwarted individual.
    (Cont…)

  7. As a social scientist, what I find interesting about this post is the faith in bureaucratic and economic structures of the church to solve a perceived ‘problem’. In many ways this illustrates just how far the ‘church’ gets it wrong and it is also possible see that some place their home in ‘traditional’ authority, which in many ways is one of the reasons for the Church’s ultimate failure in Western, secular, democratic societies.

    I suppose the root of the problem lies in Constantine’s placing of the Christian Church in a position of authority in the 4th century. It was at this point that there was a dovetailing of ecclesiastic and civil authority and the Church became burdened with large bureaucratic structures and plenty of temptation for corruption, that is a contingent of social power.

    Cont…

  8. But is the Church really about large and unwieldy bureaucracies and structures? If we take a look at where Christianity is growing, then it is the Pentecostal movements in the developing world and the former Soviet bloc that illustrate freedom for a relationship with ‘traditional’ authority structures seem to have paid dividends. The original church, as I understand it from Ramsey’s ‘The Gospel and the Catholic Church’ is the ‘suma’ or body of Christ expressed in the local community (this idea has now been revamped by Millbank). Perhaps it is time, here in England, for the Church of England to be disestablished and its large, bureaucratic mechanisms to be left to the mercies of the ‘real world’, where they can be tested by ‘market forces’. Local churches that can provide an environment for wholeness in Christ will (possibly) thrive while those empty husks of faith will fail – be they Anglo-Catholic reactionaries or wishy-washy Liberals or doleful Puritans who rant about the subject of sexuality because they can – i.e. someone is going to pay their wages no matter what they do or say (within limits).

    • Do we not already see some kind of 'market forces' at work in churches[1]. There are churches with large attendance, and those with small attendance. It would be interesting to see the what the overriding views of those 'large' churches are.

      [1] Actually I really don't like the idea of 'market forces' being applied to churches. The church is about an absolute truth, not something that needs to change with every passing fad or theory.
      My recent post Less hopeful?

  9. Funding for diocesan specialists and training and counselling is really an admission that the Church has failed to preach what she is supposed to preach and do what she is supposed to do at grassroots level. It is time to lobby, not for ‘specialists’, nestling in the dying and withered branches of the Church, but that the Church itself has to go it alone, at the individual parish level – with an umbrella commonwealth of Anglicanism, but little more. This would end the boring discussions concerning homosexuality and the church, because there would be more local and pressing matters to consider.
    Well, those are my thoughts on the subject!

    Regards:

    S.

    • Your last comment got stuck in the moderation queue, from where I've now rescued it.

      Thank you for sharing your story. In your analysis of the institutional church I believe you're making some errors distinguishing between state/church interactions and then the church by itself as an organisation rather than an organism. The two are of course separate issues but you are conflating them.

      I'd be interested to know what you were expecting as "healing and wholeness" from the church before you chose to abandon traditional orthopraxis in this area. To often I find that those with SSA are offered an unachievable prospect (full removal of SSA) and therefore are left rejecting that which is not actually what Christ promises.

      • Thanks for the reply – I am afraid I have to argue that I do not think I am in error; the church/state relationship and the church as an organisation is not a conflation, it is what it is – a large and unwieldy organisation, weighed up by a false sense of its importance in English society. The Church needs to go it alone and needs to be free of ‘specialists’. I note you are a fan of TFT – an organisation I have had dealings with – this is a typical example: it’s solution (besides fellowship) is a bastardised (aka Christianised), Enlightenment grounded, psychological concept of wholeness. This is not Christian (indeed, like much Charismatic Christianity, it sometimes veers towards white magic) and is plagued a psycho-babble pathology of the individual. If the Christian corpus of the local church could do what it is supposed to do, then you wouldn’t need specialisms.

  10. Your use of the phrase SSA appears to contain a covert, if not overt, mediatisation . I have a considerable grounding in the Orthodox/contemplative understanding of ‘conversion of life’ I gave up any ideas of ‘cure’ when I left the Evangelical fold, as I saw what was being promoted in much of its thinking, as almost idolatrous of a particular take on ‘wholeness’ . I’m aware this is not what Christ promises. I was more concerned with finding one’s place in the Body of Christ and gained from 20 yrs a monastic spiritual direction. I believed fellowship, prayer and repentance was the way forward. Thankfully, I realised in time that being gay is as natural as having hazel eyes and that Christianity itself has many flaws as theological whole.

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