An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Muddying Waters

The latest blog post from Colin Coward of Changing Attitude on the Winchelsea affair is an exercise in obfuscation that anyone with half a forensic mind will be able to see right through.  Once again Changing Attitude attempt to combine two issues in order to both engage in character assassination of a Bishop they don’t like AND to distract attention from the real issues at hand. Let’s fisk shall we?

The BBC has now published a report about David Page, Fr Howard Cocks and David’s lack of a PTO although he has been preaching and taking services at St Thomas the Martyr in Winchelsea, as reported on Wednesday by Changing Attitude.

The Diocese of Chichester said that Mr Page had been ministering even though he had not been granted a Bishop’s licence or Permission to Officiate. In a statement, the diocese said: “This is a requirement of canon law and may not be disregarded. This is now the subject of internal disciplinary proceedings.”

The Bishop of Horsham, the Right Reverend Mark Sowerby, told the BBC: “The Church of England lays down very clear regulations concerning those who officiate in our churches. These regulations should not be disregarded even in the case of sincere disagreement with bishops. Apart from considerations of canon law this is central to the integrity of our safeguarding policy.”

Up to this point there’s nothing wrong with the piece. The facts of the matter are very simple. Rev Page was refused a PTO because he refused to give the Bishop the relevant assurances that his relationship was non-sexual. Despite Rev Cocks knowing this he still invited Rev Page to preach, lead and preside at the Eucharist when he had no permission to do so. In doing so both men clearly broke Canon Law.

Now however Changing Attitude start to throw mud around to see both how dirty they can make the lens through which these simple facts can be viewed and to see if they can make any of it stick to Bishop Wallace Benn.

Bishop Mark Sowerby’s invocation of the diocesan safeguarding policy is breathtaking. Bishop Mark’s colleague in the Diocese of Chichester is Bishop Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes.

The Diocese of Chichester invited The Rt Hon Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to conduct an independent re-examination into the Past Cases Review conducted in the Diocese of Chichester in 2008-9. She had been asked to look at the cases of two priests serving in the diocese who were the subject of historic child-abuse allegations which occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Bishop Wallace Benn is implicated in the report, because he had granted a PTO to one of the priests and had misled the enquiry by reporting events inaccurately.

The report looked into the cases of Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, who abused children in the 1970s and 1980s. Pritchard served as the vicar of St Barnabas, Bexhill, until 2007 – after he was arrested over sex abuse claims. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and was jailed for five years.

Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s, and went on to abuse at least 10 boys from Eastbourne. Cotton died in 2006, two weeks before Pritchard was arrested. In 1999, the year when Cotton retired as a priest, Bishop Benn gave him permission to continue with his priestly duties.

Apparent inaccuracies in the Butler-Sloss review came to light after a BBC investigation. The bishop told the baroness that he had given Cotton permission to officiate in 1999 to permit him to celebrate communion in the nursing home where he was then living but the BBC discovered he was not admitted to the nursing home until September 2003.

It seems the Bishop of Lewes gave Cotton a PTO after he had been convicted, knowing that he was officiating in parish churches, and didn’t report this truthfully to the Butler-Sloss review.

OK. That last paragraph seems a bit worrying, so let’s go and look at what the Butler-Sloss report said. First, the time-line from the addendum which was added after the “extra information” came to light.

1) Cotton retired on the 31st January 1999. He applied for and received PTO in May of that year. He moved to Sedlescombe shortly after retirement, although the exact date of that move is not known.
2) Cotton took the following services in 1999:

  • Ninfield & Hooe – 28 services
  • Christ Church St Leonards – 23 services
  • St George’s, Brede – 8 services
  • Sedlescombe – 19 services
  • Whatlington – 5 services

3) Cotton took the following services in 2000:

  • 9 services: 3 in Jan., 1 each in March & April, 3 in August and 1 in Sept. (unsure of location – believed to be Sedlescombe)

4) The events of 2001 are produced in more detail below:

  • Service taken in Sedlescombe in February
  • Service taken in Sedlescombe in March
  • May: Cotton written to from Bishop Wallace’s office requesting that he fill in a confidential declaration form. Letter sent to his home address in Sedlescombe.
  • May: Cotton replies declaring the 1954 conviction. Letter sent from his home address in Sedlescombe.
  • September: Cotton took two services at Whatlington and one in Sedlescombe.

5) Cotton took a wedding in February 2002 in Sedlescombe.
6) Between 2001 and 2003, Cotton spent some periods in hospital, dates unknown. They were apparently for a few weeks at a time. But he remained resident in Sedlescombe. He was increasingly ill over this period.
7) Cotton went into the nursing home in Sept ’03. He had been in hospital for a few weeks before that. He was reluctant to go in at this point, but was persuaded by Colin Pritchard and another friend. His stay in hospital prior to going to the home was no more than a few weeks, according to Pritchard.
8) He remained in the nursing home until his death in 2006. His health deteriorated further, necessitating an amputation of a leg at some point shortly before his death.

Let’s be very clear on the timeline. Cotton applied for a PTO in 1999 and at that time the Bishop (Wallace Benn) was not informed by others in the Diocese who knew about previous concerns about Cotton. Remember, page 8 of the BS Report makes it perfectly clear that although the Bishop of Chichester was aware of the 1954 conviction he did not inform Bishop Benn of it and he intimated that he expected a PTO would be granted. The concurrent police investigation into Cotton was closed and no charges or even a warning had been made.

It was only in 2001  that Cotton wrote a letter declaring his 1954 conviction following a report in the local newspapers naming Cotton as a paedophile, but even then Bishop Benn did not see a copy of that letter. The letter was sent not to Bishop Benn and instead went to the Bishop of Chichester. Bishop Benn did not receive any further information from this and, crucially, when a new list was published by the DOH POCALS (Dept of Health, Protection of Children Act List) which Bishop Benn would have seen, Cotton’s name was not on it.

In all this it has not been demonstrated that Bishop Benn knew that Cotton had a conviction in 1954. The conviction was in the Blue File prior to 2001 but Bishop Benn was not shown it. On top of this, Cotton’s disclosure in 2001 of the 1954 conviction went not to Bishop Benn but to the Bishop of Chichester’s office and it was not shared with Bishop Benn.

It was only through Cotton actually telling Bishop Benn face to face later in 2001 that Bishop Benn finally knew.

In 2001 WB was told by RC of his 1954 conviction. RC had lied to his Bishop and I would have expected WB to be seriously concerned about it but he had retired, was ill and in a nursing home and it was believed that he could do no harm. WB told me that, after discussion with NR, they felt it was unnecessary to stop RC taking Eucharist in the nursing home where he was resident but imposed stringent conditions. That was an inadequate step to deal with this serious situation which should have dealt with more robustly and openly by immediate suspension. The stringent conditions, however, probably provided at the time a sufficient safeguard to meet the potential risk.

So let’s be totally clear. Up till 2001 Bishop Benn was not aware of Cotton’s previous convictions so he had no reason to deny PTO. Once Bishop Benn knew about the 1954 conviction he immediately placed a severe restriction on Cotton’s PTO allowing him to only officiate in the nursing home / hospital he was currently in (he spent the next two years in and out of hospital / nursing care) or in Seddlescombe parish, but only Home Communions. According to the timeline in the BS Report, the only service that Cotton undertook after being granted this restrictive PTO was a wedding in Seddlescombe Church.

So let’s look again at Changing Attitude’s claim.

It seems the Bishop of Lewes gave Cotton a PTO after he had been convicted, knowing that he was officiating in parish churches, and didn’t report this truthfully to the Butler-Sloss review.

This is factually incorrect. Bishop Benn, believing Cotton to be dying permitted him to officiate only in home environments in the parish of Seddlescombe (i.e. Home Communions to the elderly) and in the nursing home he was in. From the granting of that 2001 PTO Cotton was not “officiating in parish churches” and indeed only presided at one service, a wedding, which it is clear his PTO did not give him permission to do. It is abundantly clear that the terms of the PTO in 2001 were a far cry from the impression Changing Attitude give of Cotton being give a remit to continue as before. Indeed, Bishop Benn went as far as to say

 Roy Cotton could not thereafter carry out any public ministry.

Back to Changing Attitude.

On 3 November 2011 the BBC reported that the Bishop of Lewes may face disciplinary proceedings for alleged misconduct. The safeguarding advisory group to the Diocese of Chichester had written to Lambeth Palace stating its intention of making a complaint against the Rt Rev Wallace Benn under the Clergy Discipline Measures.

On 10 November 2011 the BBC reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office was set to investigate the complaint made against the Bishop of Lewes. On 22 December 2011 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams set up a visitation of the operation of the Church of England’s Child Protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester. The Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Bishop John Gladwin (a patron of Changing Attitude) and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to carry out the enquiry.

I was told earlier this week that the Bishop of Lewes wants to retire after his name has been cleared, though his retirement is due next month.

Here are the facts. A charge (possibly two I believe) under the Clergy Discipline Measure has been laid against Bishop Benn and this is being investigated by Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC. No outcome to that charge has been published and it is presumptive to assume it will result in any particular outcome. Until the panel report we cannot assume either way. That however doesn’t stop Changing Attitude flinging mud.

The Diocese of Chichester has taken instant action to inhibit and investigate David Page for officiating in churches without a PTO. He was refused a PTO by Wallace Benn because he declined to answer intrusive questions. David is in a civil partnership and was not prepared to discuss the nature of his relationship.

The Diocese of Chichester, having failed to protect vulnerable children from abuse by priests, and Bishop Wallace Benn having failed to take appropriate action against priests he knew had abused children, is now taking action against David,who is gay and in a civil partnership, because the vicar and PCC of his parish church enthusiastically supported his application for a PTO and authorised him to officiate when Wallace Benn refused to grant it.

I’ve highlighted those two sections because they are egregious in the extreme. The first, in red, claims that the Diocese failed to protect vulnerable children from abuse by priests. This gives the impression that the Diocese not only knew that it had clergy that were child abusers but also, and this is key, that the failure to act on this led to actual cases of abuse that could have been avoided. This is completely untrue. As the BS report clearly states, at no time did any of those who were accused of child abuse commit such abuse during the period 1999 to 2007 which is under investigation. There is simply no evidence that any failures of process (and there were such failures in the Diocese) led to any child being abused. To suggest otherwise is potentially libelous.

The second statement claims that Bishop Benn failed to take appropriate action against Cotton knowing about the 1954 conviction. However, this depends whether one views the restriction of Cotton’s PTO to Home Communions and Eucharists in his Nursing Home as “appropriate”. One might very well argue that he shouldn’t have even been permitted this, but Bishop Benn did allow him to undertake such appropriate restrictive ministry out of a desire to be graceful to a dying man. It is for the panel investigating the Charge under the CDM, not Changing Attitude, to decide whether it was appropriate.

And so to Changing Attitude’s conclusion.

This would not be happening if the Church of England was not in a total mess over same-sex relationships and the ministry of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clergy (of whom there are over 1,500) and laity in the Church.

Some bishops grant licences and PTOs to lesbian and gay clergy in civil partnerships (without asking intrusive questions) and some don’t. British society doesn’t understand why to be gay or in a civil partnership is wrong and punished by a minority in the Church.

David and Howard’s case represents a national failure of Church teaching and policy. Gay clergy in civil partnerships should not be refused a licence or PTO in any diocese by any bishop. They should not be subject to Clergy Discipline procedures. This case will have the effect of intimidating other partnered clergy who fear their bishop will act against them if he discovers they are partnered or in a civil partnership.

As Changing Attitude told the House of Bishops’ Review Group last week, a change of policy is desperately urgently needed, welcoming couples in civil partnerships and celebrating them in church.

Changing Attitude might not like the law as it currently stands, but objecting to it is one thing and disobeying it is another. Both Page and Cocks disobeyed a very clear instruction from their Bishop that Page should not officiate in any public or private manner whatsoever, given that Page had been refused a PTO and that Cocks knew this. For a period of over three years they appear to have consistently ignored that instruction in open defiance of the Bishop. Why now do they complain when a charge is laid against them when they have admitted in public their offence? Not wanting the law to be what it is is not a valid defence.

The whole blog post attempts just to throw mud at Bishop Benn and to accuse him of things which have yet to be proven or are outright misrepresentations of the real facts. By trying to drag in the issues that the Diocese of Chichester have had with Child Protection they attempt to obfuscate the real issues at hand which is two clergyman blatantly and openly defying their Bishop’s clear, legally binding instructions. The two issues have little connection.

Or do they? Let’s read once again what Butler-Sloss wrote in her report.

WB reminded me that he” did immediately take action after the conviction was known about in 2001. Having consulted NR he instructed him to visit RC to tell him his permission to officiate publicly had been withdrawn. …He could only administer communion within his residential care home and nowhere else. This was a specific limitation on the PTO and effectively withdrew it except for occasional services in the home.” WB told me that RC could not thereafter carry out any public ministry.

As I learnt after I completed my Review, this restriction upon the PTO was not observed by RC.

In 2002 Bishop Benn had a local priest on whom he placed a highly restrictive PTO once that priest had stopped being dishonest with him. That priest then disobeyed that restriction but only on one recorded occasion. In 2012 we have two priests, the first of whom was the incumbent of the parish in which the other resided and the second being a priest who was refused a PTO because he refused to be honest with his Bishop. Both priests involved in 2012 disobeyed that restriction time and time again over three years.

There is nothing new under the sun.

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13 Comments on “An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Muddying Waters

  1. There is, of course, a contradiction at the heart of this post. That is that Wally Benn is innocent until proven guilty on his CDM charges, and it would be foolish to prejudge. But David Page is clearly guilty of his, and there is no need to wait to hear the results of that investigation.

    I think you also miss the point of the Changing Attitude position. I think they are arguing that any offences committed by David Page are minor details, and are not serious enough to merit a CDM. Don’t forget that immediately prior to requesting a PTO from Bishop Wally, David Page was an incumbent himself, so it really should have been a formality. And since he is retired and has no PTO, there is no punishment available to Bishop Wally, so this is a bit of a ritual humiliation and nothing more

    There is a lot we don’t know about this situation, so Mouse’s own view would be that we should hold on. That said, there is no doubt where Wally Benn is on these issues.

    • Let’s address those issues one by one.

      Guilty or innocent? Page and Cocks have admitted the charge so there is no dispute as to whether they are guilty. Your first point is irrelevant.
      The second is a fundamental misunderstanding of the gravity of what Cocks and Page have done. Licencing and Permission to Officiate are at the heart of good church order. Your claim that Page was an incumbent and therefore should easily qualify for a PTO avoids the clear fact that he refused to answer questions that the Bishop was reasonably entitled to ask. The fault here lies not with Chichester Diocese for practising that which its Bishops had agreed to (the 2005 Pastoral Letter) but with Page’s previous Diocesan for not carrying out that which he agreed to do.
      Finally, you skip over the way that Changing Attitude smear Bishop Benn with an interpretation of the events in Chichester Diocese that runs contrary to the Butler-Sloss Report.
      Let’s hold on though and see what comes next. We await both the outcome of the complaint against Bishop Benn and that against Cocks and Page. In the meantime, I doubt Changing Attitude will pause and desist from the egregious posts that they are currently outputting in an effort to attack the man they really really don’t like.

      • Peter

        What makes you think Page and Cocks have admitted the charge? The Changing Attitude post written by other people? And it is quite comment in legal cases to agree on many of the basic facts, but argue over motivations, reasons etc.

        I don’t dispute the importance of church order. However, I dispute that Bishop Wally has the same view, since he is patron of organisations which send ordinands overseas to be ordained. Nevertheless, you did not address my point that not every breach of canon law should automatically result in a CDM – this is the root of the CA argument. The offence (if agreed) is minor, particularly since Page was an incumbent immediately prior to the request. This is important. You ASSUME that the former +Southwark did not ask the questions about David Page’s private life, but I don’t think you have any evidence for this.

        Finally, I did not “skip over” anything. I did focus my point on the elements I most disagreed with in your post. When it comes to the alleged smear of Bishop Wally, I don’t actually agree with you on that either. The quotes you seemed most upset with were, “The Diocese of Chichester, having failed to protect vulnerable children from abuse by priests, and Bishop Wallace Benn having failed to take appropriate action against priests he knew had abused children,”.

        This seems to be a mere statement of fact, given that child abuse happened repeatedly in this diocese under Bishop Wally. The hows, whys and werefores are a matter for the relevant investigations.

        It is, however, a perfectly legitimate response to point out that a child abuser was given a PTO, however, limited in nature, whilst a respected and much loved retired priest in good standing with his former diocese and parish, are now subject to a CDM.

        • Page and Cocks have clearly admitted the charge. On BBC local TV both Page and a parishioner do exactly that.

          I don’t assume anything about +Southwark. It is a reasonable assumption that if Bishop Benn asked Page that which he is entitled to ask in law and Page refused to answer, that either +Southwark never asked Page the same questions OR Page dissembled if +Southwark did. What changed between Southwark and Chichester?

          Child abuse did NOT repeatedly happen under Bishop Benn. If you believe this to be true please provide us with the evidence.

          And if to be “much loved” is a defence against breaking the law, then we all have the perfect defence to go out and do what we want!

          • Peter, I’m afraid there is just too much guess work in there. You’re guessing (“reasonable assumption”!?!?) that +Southwark didn’t ask the questions. We just don’t know. It is perfectly possible that David Page’s response to Bishop Wally was not just “get stuffed”, but along the lines of “I’ve already been forced to answer these intrusive questions about my sex life once before, which you know full well, as I’ve been an incumbent for many years. So asking me again now when I’m in my sixties and retired and just want to act as cover for my new incumbent when he is away is really not necessary. Get stuffed”.

            As for whether Page and Cocks have admitted the charge, could you provide a link. I’ve seen emails from Page saying that he and the PCC were “determined not to break the law”. Perhaps there is some subtlety in there?

            I’d also be interested in the piece you’ve not responded to, which I think is the central issue. Even if we accept that Page and Cocks misbehaved and allowed David Page to officiate without permission, is that really a CDM issue, or is this simply a show trial. David Page could not have any real sanction applied, so what is the point. And is it that serious, given the circumstances? It’s not as if he went overseas to get ordained or anything!

            • What nonsense!

              Page entered a Civil Partnership knowing that he would have to answer this line of questioning from a Bishop. His move to Winchelsea and the request for a new PTO brought with it the same understanding. The questions may very well be “intrusive” but they are not illegal and they are not innapropriate. Someone who is disobeying the clear teaching of the Church may very well find themselves uncomfortable answering such questions, especially *if* a prior Bishop did not ask them, but being uncomfortable about a legal requirement is not a reasonable defence.

              As to whether clear disobedience of the Bishop on a matter of Canon Law is a CDM charge? Come on Mouse….

              It is Page, Cocks and their allies who are making this a big deal. They broke the rules (presided without a PTO) and now they are pushing the issue because of their underlying disagreement with the Church’s position on sex outside of marriage. The two though are entirely separate matters. As we have said before, clergy are perfectly entitled to argue for a change in the law but they cannot break it with impunity.

              • Breaking an immoral law might actually be a moral action.

                Civil disobedience has a long tradition in the United Kingdom. Look at the suffragettes and the various colonial struggles against British rule, notably in India. Had unjust laws not been broken, would women still have no political voice and would Britain still rule over a colonial empire? Thank God for the lawbreakers, I say.

                Seems to me that Page and Cocks know exactly what they’re doing. They’re fighting against the institutional homophobia of the Church of England by breaking its homophobic laws and highlighting the injustice of their punishment. Good on them. They have my support.

                • In some senses you are absolutely right. Changing Attitude seem to be wanting to use this specific case as a test of the Church of England’s policy in this area. The issue for them is not so much are Page and Cocks guilty (they have practically admitted as much) but whether they should be found guilty.

                  I suspect they will take this Judicial Review after the CDM process and then onto higher courts. That’s what makes it very interesting.

  2. I always hesitate to comment on articles like this, which deal with internal CofE business on the ‘gay issue’, as firstly I am not an Anglican and secondly I have lived in southern Africa since 1988 so I’m rather remote from UK debates. I want however to argue that Changing Attitude are a classic ‘culture wars’ organisation in the way that they operate in a similar manner to Anglican Mainstream, although obviously from the political left rather than the right.
    I’m posting after Steve Bradshaw’s post which clarifies the issues here for me. I agree completely with his first paragraph on conscientious objection and its importance as well as the two cases that he gives as justifying it. However, leaving aside the allegation of the CofE’s ‘institutional homophobia’ which is of course contestible depending on what you believe, his second paragraph misses the point.
    Beliefs, doctrine if you will in Christian language, are precisely what are at issue here as well as the manner in which the church changes its beliefs and orders itself as it does so. The Church makes the outrageous claim that it has received the truth of God and that it has a divine commission to guard that truth. The classic Anglican Church approach to discerning Christian truth has been through the much-quoted ‘scripture, reason and tradition’ – but always led by scripture. See here: http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=223 for a good Fulcrum article which impressed me on the topic.
    It follows that the discernment of Christian truth, and the ordering of the church as it discerns the need for change, is a very serious business. Divine truth and revelation are at issue here, as well as immortal souls, and not mere church or worldly politics.
    So the manner in which Christians order themselves and the church of God as they discern truth and, often painfully and slowly, discern the need for change is – or should be – done in a very different way to the way that change is made in the world, which is often achieved by the supremacy of power and the use of all its tools.
    Christians have the astonishing belief – perhaps foolhardy is a better word given current disagreements over sexuality – that we can collectively find the truth of God using these tools. Clearly Christians will always disagree as we are human. But we believe that led by God using scripture with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we can get there. So the way in which we get there is also important, and I would argue that this is where both Changing Attitude and Anglican Mainstream have gone astray.
    Clearly Christian conscience and actions taken in good faith are vitally important. We should always lean towards the free exercise of good conscience as it is such an importasnt safeguard of the truth down the ages. Clearly also Changing Attitude believes that homosexual practice, within committed, loving and faithful (CLF) relationships, is so important to permit within the church that it is an issue of conscience for them.
    But acting in ‘good conscience’, in Christian terms at least, means acting with clarity and integrity. As Martin Luther famously put it: ‘I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God’.
    Acting in good Christian conscience mens acting in honesty, integrity and transparency. It means that, while you may disagree deeply – even fundamentally – with other Christians, you are clear and open about those disagreements. It also means that you disagree within church order as Christian truth is such an important matter. And it is here that Changing Attitude have fallen down woefully. There are a number of facts which seem to be undisputable:
    1. The official teaching of the CofE remains that homosexual behaviour is a sin.
    2. CofE clergy are instructed to order their lives in line with this teaching and refrain from homosexual activities or relationships. While they are permitted to enter civil partnerships this permission is in the light of this instruction.
    3. Civil partnerships are widely seen by society as the framework for same-sex relationships which would usually include sex. CofE clergy in civil partnersips therefore have to give an assurance to their superiors that their relationship is celibate in line with church teaching. Whether individual bishops ask for, or get, this assurance is irrelevant.
    4. From Peter’s article and the thread it is clear that the priest concerned was asked for such an assurance and refused to give it to his bishop as he saw these questions as intrusive. That is his right, even his right in good conscience. It is not his right to do this outside church order and he must accept the consequences of breaking church order.
    Changing Attitude are perfectly free to argue that the CofE’s requirement that clergy in civil partnerships be celibate is cruel and hypocritical and must be changed. They are perfectly free to argue that the actions taken by this bishop are unjust and disproportionate. But the facts are clear and entirely support the suspension.
    It seems to me that if Changing Attitude and its clergy are acting in Christian integrity then they have three possible ways of dealing with situations like these:
    1. Clergy can do what this priest has done and refuse to answer questions that they see as intrusive. But if they do this in good conscience they must accept the consequences of refusing to abide by church order.
    2. Clergy in civil partnerships can feel so strongly that CLF gay relationships are blessed by God that they can live openly in such relationships and be clear that their relationship is sexual. But if they do this in good conscience they must accept the consequences of refusing to abide by church order.
    3. Clergy in civil partnerships can feel so strongly that CLF gay relationships are blessed by God that they utterly refuse to abide by the CofE’s clear teaching on sexuality and its proper boundaries. But if they do this in good conscience they must recognise that they are ordering their lives in contradiction of the CofE and its teaching and in integrity resign and minister in a church that teaches diferently.
    What Changing Attitude is not free to do, if it is acting in a Christian manner as the church discerns truth, is to act as if no consequences can be expected when its members break church order. This is clearly happening here …
    I would argue that this action is of a piece with their ongoing strategy of changing teaching by creating and publicising ‘facts on the ground’ of clergy who are living in contradiction of CofE teaching and then trusting in the unwillingness of individual bishops to follow CofE teaching and church order as well as harnassing the power of the media to increase this unwillingness. Its a strategy which was used very effectively by ‘Integrity’ in the Episcopal Church of the USA and it borrows heavily from the tactics of gay advocacy groups generally.
    It’s a decent strategy if you’re using power to get what you want and understand how power is formed, used and focused through campaigning. But it has nothing to do with the way in which Christian truth is discerned and with the need for church order as truth is discerned. As well as having nothing to do with any real integrity or honesty.
    ‘By your fruits shall ye know them …’

    • So what do you think the clergy in question should do? Accept in stoic silence the homophobic treatment meted out to them by their own church? Or object to it and agitate for change?

      Of course they’ll be punished for contravening Church rules. But they have every right to make known their opinion that such punishment is unfair, homophobic and unChristian. Dissent has never been a crime in the English church. And freedom of speech is guaranteed for all citizens by what passes for a constitution in the UK. Even for priests. Or so I’m told.

      What conservatives really seem to be objecting to here is the timing of these events, coming as they do hot on the heels of the blatantly anti-gay position the Church has adopted regarding marriage equality. It’s a PR man’s nightmare: first Sentamu attacks the gays, then Williams has a go and now another bishop is telling the world that discriminating against us is right and good. The gap between the image the Church would like to project (loving and inclusive) and its real policies (discriminatory and exclusive) has never been wider. Or clearer for all to see.

      Isn’t this the conservative’s real objection to Changing Attitude’s position? How dare they reveal Anglican bigotry for all to see?

      • The choice is either to do so from within – obeying the rules and regulations as they currently stand whilst campaigning for change, or if they wish to break the rules and regulations then they leave the organisation and campaign for change from outside.

        • In other words: “it’s fine to rock our boat as long as you make sure we don’t ship any water … the slightest drop and you’ll have to jump overboard so the rest of us can stay dry.”

          But surely the whole point of boat rocking is to get everyone as wet as possible. Otherwise why bother? If these people were happy to go on supporting the status quo then they wouldn’t be rocking the boat. The fact that they are and that they’re willing to go to the lengths they’re going to should tell you that the status quo is no longer tenable. Change is upon you whether you like it or not.

          I guess it remains to be seen whether that change will entail the whole Church remaining in the same boat or whether the conservative faction will push the liberals overboard, or vice versa.

          Interesting times, eh?

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