4ThoughtTV – Can Bishops be openly gay?

Next week 4ThoughtTV are running a week on the topic, “Is it wrong for Anglican bishops to be openly gay?” The broadcast schedule (after the Channel 4 News at 7) is as follows.

  • Monday 11th July - Vicar Trevor Donnelly says the Church is hung up on sex despite the bible hardly mentioning sexuality.
  • Tuesday 12th July - Evangelical, wife and mother Lorna Ashworth thinks practising homosexuals shouldn’t be clergy and must repent.
  • Wednesday 13th July - Peter Crawford was brought up a devout Anglican. He believes that denying his homosexuality is a sin and wants gay bishops as role models.
  • Thursday 14th July - Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah is a lesbian feminist. She believes that Jesus himself may have been gay.
  • Friday 15th July  – Canon Chris Sugden understands that some people may have homosexual tendencies but says that it is sinful to act on them.
  • Saturday 16th July  – Mike Davidson believes childhood trauma caused his homosexual feelings. Now married with children he thinks that ordaining gay bishops would send the wrong message about Christian teachings.
  • Sunday 17th July  - The author of the Gay Gospels Dr Keith Sharpe believes there may be a dozen secretly gay bishops in the Church of England.

So, what about the question? I guess it all comes down to what one means by “openly gay”. Obviously the doctrine of the Church of England is that sex belongs within the marital relationship of husband and wife. In some senses, especially when you consider all the myriad of Levitical instructions around the subject, in a Biblical context sex is marriage. So an openly sexually active homosexual could not be appointed Bishop.

At the same time we have a number of Bishops who are alleged to be gay, but celibate. None of them are open, but one is very easy to find with a quick hunt around Wikipedia articles. As I wrote a month ago, the current calls to out these celibate (as far as we know) Bishops would probably backfire on those who claim the need to engage in such pernicious behaviour.

Secondly, it would expose to public view men who had in the past engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, who had repented of that sin and had then ordered their lives to be very clearly in line with the church’s teaching. Attempting to out these men would simply show for public view the glory of the good news of forgiveness for sin repented of. It would demonstrate to all that the church does grace and restoration and does it for any and all who will accept their sinful error. Whilst initially it might be embarrassing and uncomfortable for the individuals involved and their families and friend, it would then provide ample opportunity for the clear distinction in the church’s teaching between orientation and behaviour to be explained and to be shown to be perfectly manageable for individuals to live, even individuals who had erred in the past. The men outed would become instantly heroes of orthodoxy, icons of repentance and grace.

Of course, we have had an Archbishop whose sexuality has been a grey area, but perhaps we are getting near the point where we can have a Bishop who can publicly stand up and say, “Yes, I’m homosexual in my attractions, but I have chosen to live a life in accordance with the church’s teachings and I’m happy and fulfilled doing so”. I know that those men who fit the criteria are out there, but at the same time I and others understand why they just don’t want to make such a definitive statement on their sexuality. But friends, wouldn’t it be an amazing game changer if it happened?

Gosh, if no-one else wants to be the man in purple admitting to less than 100% heterosexual desires, I’m currently unemployed and willing to do the job…

You can follow 4ThoughtTV on twitter and their website will have the videos online shortly after broadcast.

32 Comments on “4ThoughtTV – Can Bishops be openly gay?

  1. The problem with a series such as this one is what if you don't watch on say Tuesday (club meeting), Friday (dinner out with mates), or Saturday (pub)? You would certainly not get a balanced overview and might even misinterpret the overall purpose of the series.

    "Openly gay" is pretty inclusive in acceptable behaviour, but is it? Are there not many in the gay community who believe multiple sexual partners an acceptable part of being "openly gay"?

    What about the meaning of celibate? Is it restricted to sexual contact? Is it retricted to sexual orgasm? What about kissing and cuddling?

    We must be very clear in our definitions or we will simply be muddying the waters even further.

  2. Yes indeed, since we have started let's have aa go at defining what 'celibacy' is. I once read a book called the 'Sexual celibate' which seems to posit that everthing was ok up to but not including full intercourse. I look forward to Peter and others defining the word in the case of gay bishops.

    Let's see now –

    hand holding, knees touching, goodnight peck, sitting side by side touching, arms round the shoulder, embrace, heads together but no kissing, mouth to mouth kiss, what happens if one or other gets an erection – go and have a cold shower I suppose. Is sharing a bed but not touching, sharing a bed and touching but nothing else? Are separate bedrooms necessary?

    Isn't this fun!

    As you can see it's nonsense.

    • Indeed, I do laugh when considering evangelical churches that are chock-full of people who flirt, date and kiss (not necessarily in that order) and still consider themselves 'celibate' because they don't (usually) engage in penetrative sex. That's celibacy? It is to lol. And of course I know some evangelical guy in good standing who've had more 'partners' than most gay men of my acquaintance 'combined'. That said, and despite the greater proportion of women to men in such churches, it can't be a lot of fun as a nominal straight guy, having to sing unintentionally homoerotic worships songs, "firm up" (!) huggy friendships on Men's Weekends, and expected to pick a prospective wife from a congregation knee-deep in 30something bunny-boilers! They have my sympathy ;-)

    • If that's a serious question, then the answer is "pretty much almost all of that is not on if you are not in, or proceeding via marriage towards, a sexual relationship with someone".

      The real question that is begged is whether it is holy to initiate such a relationship in the first place. Since a Christian cannot consummate a same-sex relationship, why would he/she choose to initiate one? Why would he/she have any same-sex relationships that were intended to be anything else then friendship?

      Of course, within a relationship that may proceed towards a sexual union in marriage, one can begin to establish appropriate levels of physical intimacy as the other aspects of your relationship (spiritual, intellectual, emotional) progress. Holding hands with someone who you may be sexually intimate with in the future is a natural progression. I counsel unmarried Christian couples however to avoid touching parts of the body in their partner that they don't have, and to avoid activity that leads to sexual arousal. Such arousal is preserved for the marriage bed. My wife and I didn't even kiss until we got married, and let me tell you how many of her girl-friends tell her how much they envy her that we concentrated on the other aspects of our relationship before we brought sex in at the last possible moment.

      • >>>>>>>Such arousal is preserved for the marriage bed. My wife and I didn’t even kiss until we got married, and let me tell you how many of her girl-friends tell her how much they envy her that we concentrated on the other aspects of our relationship before we brought sex in at the last possible moment.

        But that's a false dichotomy surely? If you decided to start kissing the week before your wedding, say, then the other aspects of your relationship would hardly have been diminished, no? If you'd proposed and set the date then surely your wife-to-be had clear signs of commitments, meaning that you'd already avoided the most common pitfalls of girls thinking that 'putting out' (albeit with just kisses) is all the guy's after? I suppose that if one aspect is removed from encounters then that might force other aspects to develop, but arguably a relationship that needs such forcing lack the natural rapport necessary for permanent relationship. If anything, it sounds like an unintentionally veiled criticism of you and your wive's relationship that mere avoidance of kissing is postulated as the reason why you have such a enviable "spiritual, intellectual, emotional" relationship! And in any case there's probably *more* couples who say sex before marriage is necessary to establish whether they're a good couple, which, from a Christian perspective, surely shows the error of making over much of anecdotal experience.

        And, men being men, I think 'going on dates' can be an "activity that leads to sexual arousal". Avoiding kissing in no way leads to a cessation of hard-ons – one reason why all the middle-sex unisex hugging that flourishes in evangelical churches is more problematic than it first appears. If "avoiding lust" is the goal then dating hot evangelical women is about as likely to

        succeed as thinking of Cheryl Cole snogging Scarlett Johansson. And, although e.g. pornography might whip up ungodly sexual desires, the acceptance of wet dreams seems to me a (commonsensical?) acceptance that some form of sexual release that doesn't involve fornication is acceptable, as it leads to a DECREASE in obsessive thoughts around sex. And what about guys who don't have wet dreams? Can they masturbate? I don't agree with the "Kissed Dating Goodbye" phenomena, but it does at least indicate evangelicals grappling with the fact that their traditional dogmas around sexuality and dating are overly culturally-inflected and, frankly, don't work.

        And, more generally speaking, guys indeed thinking that its better to marry than burn has often lead to many a dodgy marriage.

        • Getting into interesting territory here. I think the problem with masturbation is not the act itself, not the "spilling of seed" (there's plenty more where that came from) but rather the thought life that tends to accompany it. As for nightfalls / wet dreams, most men don't actually experience them, and many do not experience uncontrollable desire to ejaculate (though admittedly if you have been used to a cycle of sex or masturbation, your body and mind will expect such a cycle to continue). But you raise a good point and it is severely under-addressed in teen / young men's ministry – what to do with all the spunk build up?

          As to my wife and my choice to de-sexualise our relationship, yes you're right that in some senses kissing in the weeks leading up to the marriage wouldn't have been wrong in the slightest. But we decided, quite rightly I think, not to do that (which is not the same as saying we didn't want to do that) and it seemed silly not to just wait the few weeks extra. Frankly, once you've decided not to do anything sexual until you get married, it's not that hard to wait if you know when that date will be. Far harder to wait indefinitely.

          • I think that sexuality is one area where the Natural Law advocates fall down. It's pretty silly to say that perversion is anything other than sex-for-procreation when the male produces far, far,far more sperm than is necessary for two or three ejaculations ideally leading to childbirth. And I cited wet dreams because a number of (typically useless) evangelical sources (including Joshua Harris) cited it as the Godly mechanism for sexual release. If the principal sin of masturbation is the psychological component i.e. thoughts of sex then aren't wet dreams (comparably?) problematic? It could be argued that as dreams involve the unconscious then there's by definition no conscious embracing of an immoral act, but it would still be hardly ideal at best if someone who thought masturbation was wrong had sexual dreams that lead to them waking up come-soaked. I take the point about habit, but your point seems to link (sorry if I misinterpreted that) thought life with physical acts. Certainly someone who fires up porn twice a day will have lots of sexual thoughts, but I imagine that contemporary sexologists would provide evidence supporting the commonsensical point that , say, chaste once-a-day wanking (perhaps especially during puberty) leads to LESS distressingly obsessive sexual thoughts that endevouring to abstain? And endevouring to masturbate to non-sexual thoughts – even for the conservative – is surely *more* problematic, as it leads ultimately to paraphilia, and it would very morally perverse to imply that skirting mental illness is somehow a more god-pleasing choice than the 'natural' approach.

            Even stranger is the extent to which Our Lord and St.Paul's asceticism gets downplayed by the 'Family Values' brigade. Needless to say, you don't get a lot of sermons on the merits of celibacy (as distinct from 'dating whilst not putting out') in evangelical churches.

    • One more thought – certain aspects of couple behaviour are culturally conditioned. For example, holding hands in the West is generally accepted as an act of two people in a relationship, but in some oriental cultures it is a sign of friendship, so much so that in India (for example) you will very often see two people of the same sex holding hands but almost *never* see an unmarried couple doing the same. In that context one would suggest that two men holding hands was not inappropriate.

      • I don't think you'd see an Indian married couple holding hands either. Usually in a traditional couple the man walks ahead of his wife. Hand-holding is for same-sex friendships alone – any other manifestation has to be a recent Western influence, and it is recent even here. I was glad not to see the Cambridges going in for it during their tour of Canada, (even though their hands were dangling close!) Call me Mr Growser, but I hate to see middle-aged and elderly married couples walking hand-in-hand in our city centre. Apart from any aesthetic objection, it blocks the pavement as they come towards you and refuse to let go to let you pass…Why do they need to show the world they are devoted?

        • I think you're right re India, except in some of the very westernised metropolitan areas where societal norms are changing fast.

          And you're just plain wrong about older couples holding hands. My wife and I occasionally play a game as we walk down the street looking at older couples and deciding, based on their expressions of intimacy, whether they're still having lots of sex…

          • "…play a game as we walk down the street looking at older couples and deciding, based on their expressions of intimacy, whether they’re still having lots of sex…"

            But who cares?

                • It is possible to genuinely love someone but for it still to be wrong. I don't by the argument of some conservatives that all gay relationships are inherently dysfunctional.

                  • "It is possible to genuinely love someone but for it still to be wrong". I think the key word is "genuinely" if it genuinely is love then, given the central commandments, how can it be wrong?

                    in friendship, Blair

      • Never thought I'd hear you sounding like an afficiando of Queer Theory, Peter! ;-)

        The boundary between the homosocial and homoerotic is indeed fluid across cultures. This is one reason why the past laws in the UK against same-sex affection are rightfully positioned as having more to do with culture-bound bigotry than self-evidently objective and universal Revealed Truth principles. If you believe that of course men who hold hands or kiss in public should not be forced to leave pubs, or be sneered at and abused, then you are far closer to Stonewall than you are to those who draw up the assorted homophobically 'Christian' buggery laws in the UK.

        • I find it interesting that my boys will grow up in a generation that, in the West at least, seems to be growing to accept two people of the same sex holding hands in public in an erotic manner – I've certainly seen a few here in Canterbury. I still think, outside of gay ghettos (for want of a better expression) and one or two places like Brighton, that same-sex couples tend not to kiss in public in the UK, but I think even that might change over the next decade or so.

          And I don't think I'm an aficionado of Queer Theology, but I am far more open then some of my conservative colleagues in accepting the shift in societal norms.

      • Some years ago I was bidding farewell to my brother at Waterloo who was going far away for several years, we warmly embraced for a long while and kissed each other (as we always have) on the lips, there were tears in my eyes.

        At that moment a man pushed into us and said:

        "People like you perverts ought to be locked up in jail."

        It was an educated sophisticated voice.

        We still talk about it today -though I must cough up to it being nearly 40 years ago!

          • Indicative, surely, that the oft-demonised 'gay lobby' has lead to a freer, more grown-up, and more relaxed UK?

            • In some senses yes, but also there is a much larger acceptance of gross immorality and promiscuity (which of course is not what we're talking about when we discuss two men kissing at St Pancras).

            • It depends what you mean by acceptance – heterosexual fornication often existed alongside homophobia (the swinging sixties were exactly that, but homosexual acts were illegal here in Scotland until 1980!). Forced to choose, isn't a society where people are free to fornicate still better than one where adults are locked up – or killed – for consensual sexual acts?

              It does puzzle me when that it seen as a liberal point. You've posted a lot of Republican Party bumf here over the years, and the central point of the non-liberal, evangelical George W.Bush's rhetoric on the War on Terror is that democracy is superior to theocracy – NOT that Christian theocracy is the solution to the toxic Islamofacist variety.

              Right-wing patriots, if they were really being philosophically consistent, would realise that the right to bear arms, the abhorrence of high taxes, and a realisation that "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation" have more in common than not.

              • Surely Libertarianism can be differentiated into Whiggism (economic libertarianism) and social libertarianism. There are some prime example of socially conservative cultures that are economically liberal (eg UAE, though admittedly corruption also plays a part there, and Singapore) and the fact that you permit some liberties does not necessitate that you are in favour of all liberties, especially if the prescribed liberties are themselves prescribed by an unalterable authoritative source.

                • Perhaps, but I was specifically citing the American context and you'd agree (not least as 'under God' was only added to the Oath of Allegiance under Eisenhower) that the Bill of Rights etc does logically encompass at least some degree of social libertarianism as well as the economic kind? And of course, if you're invoking theology, the history of Right-On C of E bishops , "Faith in the City", RC social teaching indicate that economic libertarianism is potentially problematic in a manner comparable to social libertarianism?

                  Your last point is true in so far as it goes, but sexual liberties result naturally from believing that people should have rights over their own body – which is surely a fairly central liberty? You can't do much in the way of "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" if the state has rights over your body (draft aside).

                  • Unless of course the State has much greater insight into whether a particular act might actually harm the body (individual and corporate) even though the individual believes it is good for them. Case in point – narcotics. Once you have conceded the right of the State to infringe individual liberty on this one issue, you then accept the principle of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" being not always what a particular individual believes will make him/her happy.

                    This is the fundamental conflict between libertarianism and collective responsibility / Rousseau's Social Contract.

                    • Many a libertarian does defend drug use, and not on the grounds that the state lacks 'knowledge' of their harm. Gun ownership carries all sorts of social dangers and that's allowed. And libertarians generally accept some form of state protection (as people have ideally freedoms 'from' certain things as well as the freedom 'to' do what they like). Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness has had obvious conflicts from the start that can be easily understood – your right to swing your arms has a point where it stops due to my right to not be punched.

                      Ayn Rand's rubbish tho ;-)

  3. Protestantism will suffer the fate of the Church of Rome in the Italian

    Renaissance and during the French Revolution. Sincere Protestants will

    follow the example of Catholics of the northern European provinces just before the reformation by retiring to private worshop.

  4. Hi Peter

    I retired 5 years ago, having specialised in prescribing, was a GP until 1988, so am a bit out of date. Although a "Baby Boomer" and only experiencing a very dilute form of the "swinging 60s" (even the Hoola Hoop came late to Aberdeen!) I had a pretty sheltered existence and knew nothing of homosexuality and never came across it professionally until about the time of the John Hurt ads. a nurse presented to me having suffered a cut at work and was concerned about the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Shamefully, I hadn't a clue…

    My question is : Where can I get INDEPENDENT facts about homosexuality? All I think I know is that there are physiological/pathological reasons why the homosexual act MIGHT be dangerous ie the rectum is not designed to take things in, I'm not even sure about that "fact". I don't think I'm alone in becoming more "conservative" as I age, I try to resist by watching Channel 4 News!!!!! jpr

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