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 -Â Vicar Trevor Donnelly says the Church is hung up on sex despite the bible hardly mentioning sexuality.
- Tuesday 12th July -Â Evangelical, wife and mother Lorna Ashworth thinks practising homosexuals shouldnâ€™t be clergy and must repent.
- Wednesday 13th July -Â 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 -Â Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah is a lesbian feminist. She believes that Jesus himself may have been gay.
- Friday 15th July Â â€“Â Canon Chris Sugden understands that some people may have homosexual tendencies but says that it is sinful to act on them.
- Saturday 16th July Â â€“Â 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 Â -Â 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 isÂ 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 churchâ€™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 beÂ embarrassingÂ andÂ uncomfortableÂ for the individuals involved and their families and friend, it would then provide ample opportunity for the clear distinction in the churchâ€™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 theÂ criteriaÂ 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…