New Year, Old Posturing

Is it just me or is Colin Coward over at Changing Attitude getting a bit boring?

Gay bishops  There are 13 gay bishops among the 114 English bishops, nearly 15% of the total. They are all closeted to a greater or lesser degree, those in the House unable openly to contribute their personal experience to the conversation. In the House of Bishops, 2 gay bishops are privately supportive, one is opposed.

Should CA expect more from the 20 publicly supportive bishops in 2012? Should we rather collude with their fears and anxieties and maintain a respectful silence about our campaign goals, accepting that to disturb the House of Bishops might be counter-productive?

Or should we adopt a tactic of disarming honesty, speak the truth as we know it in the church and prepare ourselves for the fall-out?

Didn’t we do this last year? Didn’t we talk about outing bishops and the way it might backfire?

Most readers of this blog would agree that it would be hypocritical for the Church of England to refuse to appoint Jeffrey John to a Bishopric whilst it continued to have bishops installed who were in identical situations as Dr John and his partner. But, I am led to believe, that is not the case and the bullet points above have been drawn up because they cover safely in their five points any of the men that some might wish to out in their angry response to the leaks of this week. If it were not so then the Church of England, quite rightly, would open itself wide up to the charge of blatant hypocrisy and despite the fact that people at Church House and in the highest echelons of the CofE do make mistakes, they do not deliberately make those kind of mistakes. Those kind of mistakes lead to resignations at the highest level. If that is all true, then what would the outing of gay bishops in the Church of England actually achieve?

Well firstly, it would expose to public view as homosexual a number of men who have been faithfully celibate and abiding to the church’s teaching steadfastly for all of their lives. They would be outed for the only reason that they were single and gay rather than single and straight, outed by folks who argue vociferously on their blogs and websites that people should not be singled out just because they were gay and for no other reason. Who at this point would be the hypocrites?

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.

Thirdly, and controversially for some in the conservative camp, it might even expose to public view men who had managed for well over a decade to live in a “covenanted friendship” without any sexual activity whatsoever. It would demonstrate to all that deep friendships do not need to be sexualised and that Christians can find ways of ordering their lives clearly, of committing to others whilst staying faithful to the purity of the marriage bed.

Am I the only one who is getting a bit tired, nay even annoyed, at Changing Attitude’s constant “will we, won’t we out the bishops” spiel that gets regurgitated every month or so? I so wish someone with some real clout would go to Changing Attitude and tell them to either put up or shut up. This constant threat to reveal who the “gay bishops” are is unbecoming and only lowers the opinion that those in the debate have of it’s proponents.

And this is all the more pertinent as the Church of England moves forward in its review around issues of human sexuality announced last year. Yesterday there was an indication of the make-up of the committee that will advise in this process, which includes Keith Sinclair (Bishop of Birkenhead in Chester Diocese and one of the patrons of the True Freedom Trust), John Stroyan (Bishop of Warwick in Coventry Diocese) and Michael Perham (Bishop of Gloucester who spent 15 years up to 2001 as a major player in the formation of the new liturgy, Common Worship). Add to this news the membership of the Committee looking at the pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships and the impression is not so much of a conservative dominance but of definitive no liberal bias in the process the House of Bishops is going to go through over the next 24 months.

So this brings me back to Colin Coward’s blog post. He concludes by writing

Throughout the drama of the Arab Spring last year, I wondered whether is wasn’t time for the Church of England to be visited by her own tsunami of grass roots expectations for changed relationships and attitudes – we the people rising up against the institutional inertia, power play and prejudices in the House of Bishops and General Synod.

At the moment, the jury is out. But regime change is needed, not just for LGB&T Anglicans in England or for the tens of thousands yearning for spiritual transformation. Change is desperately urgent for LGB&T people, Christian, Moslem and secular, in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe – in every Province and every country where we are routinely abused and treated as less than fully human, inferior members of God’s creation.

Mmmmmm …. I feel the urgency for change stirring in my heart and guts!

I read that as a call to gay clergy and others to stand up and be more vocal. Whether such a campaign would include the outing of gay bishops and Synod members is yet to be seen, but as long as there are cries of hypocrisy, cowardice, betrayal and the like aimed at the un-named bishops, one can hardly expect it not to.

What do you think? Do we expect CA and others to become more vocal? Will there be an attempt to out at least one bishop this year (Kelvin Holdsworth certainly thinks so)?

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