Tom Brazier – A Promise is a Promise

Possibly the best blog post you’ll read all week on the Bishops, the Clergy and Gay Marriage.

Revd Tom Brazier (C) Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates
Revd Tom Brazier
(C) Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates

Promises are binding. But who is it who does the actual binding?

We have such a love, don’t we, of binding other people. We love to point fingers. We love to hold others to account. We externalise morality: making it about how others behave. This is odd, because the only people we can control directly is ourselves. But then maybe that is it: what a terror to actually have moral volition, to be responsible for choice. Far easier to stand on the sidelines and wring one’s hands about the behaviour of people over whom we do not have control. The responsibility of applying one’s morality to oneself is terrifying!

Awkwardly, though, Jesus has a word for externalising morality: hypocrisy. Our primary moral concerns, as Christians, must be to do with our own behaviour. So, with promises, our first objective must be to keep our own promises. Only once we are reasonably on the path to integrity in this regard (none of us being perfect), can we turn our (mostly-log-decluttered) eye to to our brothers and sisters.

Given what I have said so far, you might ask whether we should ever, in fact, hold other people to their promises. I think we must for the sake of justice. When a promise is broken, there is a party who is the victim of that broken promise and, in so much as they are a victim, the voice of justice (and therefore the voice of God) is on their side.

So, taking the concrete example of divorce, our society rightly insists on intervening and ensuring that justice is done when wedding vows are broken. And so we have rules about the conditions under which we will allow a marriage promise to be broken. And we sometimes insist that, even after divorce, some of the conditions of the promise continue to be honoured in the form of alimony. Sometimes, it must be said, we get this horribly wrong: most notably when we forget that a husband made a promise not to beat his wife whilst remembering that the wife made a promise to remain faithful to her husband. But even this underscores the point: we should be holding the husband accountable to his promise.

So promises are binding. The primary party who ensures that a promise is kept should be the person making the promise. When this fails, a necessary, but very much second best, form of binding is imposed by society upon the person who made the promise.

This leaves a last few things to say concerning recent conversations about same sex marriage.

First, there has been a lot of talk about the Clergy Discipline Measure and the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure. There is a lot of fear that bishops will be heavy handed in using these rules to hold clergy to their promises. There has been discussion about whether these rules can apply in this case.

The primary thing to say, though, is that it ought never to come to a question of the use of the CDM or EJM. Clergy who have made promises should behave with integrity and this should obviate the need for these measures to be imposed. In fact, as with all law, it is only in the case where things go as they should not have done that law needs to be applied. We write laws in the hopes of never having to use them.

In this regard, we have to be very careful in how we interpret what we say to each other. Are we acting as society imposing promises, or are we acting as brothers and sisters exhorting each other to keep our own promises? Is it a first or second person kind of conversation? I hope it is clear that this entire blog post is a first person conversation, exhorting “us”, rather than imposing on “you”. In fact, in this regard, I am more blessed than a bishop because it should be clear that I have no authority to impose the CDM or EJM, and therefore cannot be forcing promises on “you”.

Second, there are clergy who are threatening to enter into same sex marriages in defiance of their bishops and the present teaching of the Church of England. I exhort these clergy (as a brother) to think very carefully about their reasons for breaking their promises. We can intentionally break promises because we no longer want to keep them and we can intentionally break them because we can no longer keep them in good conscience. These are very different cases. If you plan break your promise in this way, do you do so as a matter of justice to others, or do you do so for you own, personal, sake?

Finally, there are clergy planning to conduct blessings of same sex relationships in defiance of their bishops and the present teaching of the Church of England. I exhort these clergy to think very carefully about whether this is an act of integrity. You may be certain that the church is mistaken in its teaching, but what is the correct response to that? Several options present themselves. Do you withdraw from the church in good conscience, perhaps finding another church which agrees with you? Do you keep good faith with the church whilst fighting for change? Or do you make yourself into a liar in your relationship with the church whilst simultaneously offering God’s blessing to same sex couples as a minister of the church? For my part, it feels like the latter choice is an act of injustice against both the church and the couple in question.

42 Comments on “Tom Brazier – A Promise is a Promise

  1. Breaking a promise of obedience to discriminatory and homophobic rules is the only honorable course of action for gay clergy. Some causes are greater than an individual’s word.

    How many tyrants have been overthrown or constrained by subjects who set their oaths of fealty to one side because of more pressing imperatives? Do we celebrate or criticize the barons at Runnymede? Or King Henry IV? Or Archbishop Cranmer (the real one, not the pseudonym of the blogger otherwise known as Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells…) How about William and Mary and the Protestant Wind that blew them back to Blighty where they overthrew their undoubtedly legitimate king, Mary’s own father? A double whammy of oath breaking and filial impiety, and yet in the national mythology they’re celebrated rather than condemned, and rightly so. When the cause is just then personal oaths must be weighed against the greater good and choices must be made. We find ourselves at just such a juncture right now.

    I bet James II’s apologists would have written very similar blog posts in late 1687 had they had blogs to post to. As exercises in desperation and futility they would certainly have been interesting documents. But no more effective at turning the tide than the diatribe above.

    When their last ditch defence is a legalistic appeal to form and arbitrary, fossilized notions of honour, you know you’ve got the other side on the run.

    • Breaking a promise of obedience to discriminatory and homophobic rules is the only honorable course of action for gay clergy. Some causes are greater than an individual’s word.

      In every example that you mention for comparison, there was means to effect democratic change. King John, Henry IV, Mary I are all examples of despotic rule.

      In contrast, the church has a synodical government capable of reviewing church issues and amending canon law (women bishops) or providing a pastoral accommodation (re-marriage of divorcees).

      Only cowards abandon their oaths under those conditions.

      • The obedience in that oath is conditional on honesty and lawfulness. It’s not a foregone conclusion that using episcopal fiat to ban same-sex marriage is lawful.

        If it is found to be lawful, the bishops are unelected and unaccountable, and can block any democratic change. Even if they weren’t, the tyranny of the majority comes into play.

        • Indeed.
          Article XXXII helps us to understand how the power of bishops or synods are rightly limited in this area.
          Further, this piece misses completely the long tradition within Anglicanism that says: “Please don’t ask or I shall have to refuse.” All the bishops I served under operated under this ancient principle.
          Finally there is honourable dissent. There are clerics who having made their decision in good conscience to marry, might inform their bishop, get married and receive the letter issuing a stinging rebuke and command not to do it again. Again, that seems a perfectly normal and Anglican way to deal with this subject where the Church is so divided.
          One suspects too that in some diocese the rebuke might be accompanied by a card signed, “With our love and prayers for a happy future for you both +Peter and Janet”.

          • Sounds about right!

            I don’t find it charming. This two-faced clubby BS is what’s gotten the Church of England into its current mess.

            Disagree as I might with evangelicals, I share their contempt for port-soaked duplicity.

            • Honourable dissent is not to be dismissed lightly.

              Evangelicals are the principal beneficiaries of this policy.

              Without a magisterium, Anglican polity will never be rigid.

              • Oh, I couldn’t agree more about evangelicals benefitting from diversity, and the merits of a broad church.

                I just have no time for the culture of patrician indifference that grew up around it, a legacy of the days when the church provided a living for second sons.

                They could only afford to be indifferent when it didn’t affect them. As witnessed by the reaction to the 1992 vote on ordaining women, when the clubhouse was threatened, the mask dropped, and those suave gentleman clergy ranted and raved with the best of ’em!

          • Ah, a reading of Article XXXII in contradiction of the BCP ’causes for which Matrimony was ordained’. Innovative, to say the least.

            As I’ve said. All it will mean is that those who do enter a same-sex marriage will be routinely denied preferment, regardless of the support of their parishioners. They will lack any voting power to influence change through Synod. A spectacular own-goal!

            If the Church of England can tolerate thrice-married priests who can go no further than the parish that they will run for the rest of their lives, it will be the same for those clergy who reject the pastoral guidance enter same-sex marriages.

            • Only the gay clergy won’t take such shabby treatment lying down. There aren’t many thrice-married priests willing to campaign for their rights. Most of them are conscious of their personal failings and only too willing to fade into the background. The same cannot be said for LGBT individuals in orders. They are conscious of no sins or failings that would prevent them playing a full role in the life of the Church. And they’ll fight for full inclusion. The time of being sidelined and excluded is over. Forever.

              • So very true.

                The oppressive culture has only persisted for as long as it has ’cause of the use of a DADT policy to keep many gay clergy closeted and afraid. It’s manufactured a sense of shame where none should exist.

                It’s all falling apart now, as decades of pent-up anger erupts. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the church, and it’s long overdue.

              • But it isn’t ‘shabby treatment.’ Clergy, and other religious workers, who don’t believe and follow the moral beliefs of that religion should *expect* to lose their posts. In fact they should be honest and resign rather than having to be put through disciplinary procedings…

                • Anglicanism has no clear “moral belief” on gay relationships. The church is divided.

                  It’s not at all clear that clergy who marry people of the same gender are breaking the laws of their church. If they are, there exists a mechanism with due process, instead of unofficial sanction.

                  • “Anglicanism has no clear “moral belief” on gay relationships.”

                    I don’t wish to be rude, but you obviously can’t read. In the CofE alone ALL the official doctrinal statements for the past 50 years have been the traditonal position.

                    “The church is divided.”

                    In that there are some who disagree with the official position (and do so loudly) you are correct. In the same way that my son sometimes disagrees with my parenting decisions (especially the ones about bedtime). On this basis you would argue that my family is divided.

                    “It’s not at all clear that clergy who marry people of the same gender are breaking the laws of their church.”

                    Er, yes it is. But as soon as we have the first test case we’ll be absolutely clear.

                    “If they are, there exists a mechanism with due process, instead of unofficial sanction.”

                    Yes, as we are very soon to find out.

                    • In England, those “official doctrinal statements” are political documents from the bishops. Even the 1987 vote was crafted by the bishops and rushed through Synod to head-off a worse motion.

                      The reality on the ground is division. We all know this situation is unsustainable. What I don’t get is why conservatives aren’t trying to cut a favorable deal while they’re still in a position of strength, as they did in 1992.

                      I’m seeing no evidence of strategy from a group that’s usually masters of the art.

                    • In reality, the deal is being pre-emptively cut for all shades of Anglicanism by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

                      There’s the Pilling Report that just happens to emphasize his penchant for virtue ethics over scriptural discussion. Pastoral guidance and facilitated conversations are set to maintain the current doctrine, while contradicting the same as it relates to pastoral direction. All in the interest of mutual flourishing.

                      There’s nothing in the Archbishop’s current deal that suggests that liberals are favoured over conservatives.

                      I’ve previously used the parable of the shrewd steward to explain why some Christians will not try to cut a deal. Your end-game may be ten years away, but what’s the worst that can happen? Conservatives return to an ‘early church’ minority status. It’s not all that bad when compared to the prospect of eternity.

                    • As the same-sex marriage debacle shows, Justin Welby isn’t in control of events.

                      LGB Anglicans and their allies are simply done with accepting second-class status. It’s not for Welby to decide. He doesn’t get to dictate a “deal” people won’t accept.

                      What’s the worst that can happen? The Church of England becomes a pariah in its own country, before it’s brutally cleft in twain.

        • ‘The tyranny of the majority’?

          Oh, you mean like the tyranny of Parliament voting for same-sex marriage with minial protection for those who dissent. Or is it only tyranny when you don’t get your way?

          Listen to yourself.

            • People’s conflicting rights should be balanced against each other – rather than religious people always losing.

              • I prefer bright-line rules to balancing tests, but regardless, equal marriage has come to England with a ton of safeguards. What, exactly, d’you think it lacks?

                • JB. The problem is that the protections for individual conscientious objectors on both sides of this issue aren’t worth the paper their writtten on.

                  For instance, for marriage solemnised by religious rites, the SSM Act purports to protect individual ministers and even organists and flower arrangers from compulsion to participate in an ‘opt-in’ activity. Take these examples from the Clause 2 explanatory notes:

                  ‘An organist who usually plays at wedding services at a church does not wish to play at a wedding service of a same sex couple. This would be lawful because he is involved in the religious act of worship i.e. the religious ritual of the wedding service. This is the case whether he is a volunteer or employed by the church.

                  A commercial photographer is asked to photograph a wedding of a same sex couple. It would be unlawful sexual orientation discrimination for her to refuse because she does not approve of marriage of same sex couples. This is because her role is not part of the religious marriage service.’

                  On one side, without the due process of Synod, you believe that the law should compel the CofE to permit clergy to enter same sex marriages.

                  On the other, should the CofE opt into same sex marriage, would you want the same CofE to be able to compel its ministers to perform the same-sex marriage ritual, as it can compel them to perform baptisms? If the CofE opted in, would you still maintain the ‘two integrities’ approach?

                  Now, on the basis of case law, I don’t believe that Clause 2 would stand up to ECtHR scrutiny because that court has repeatedly defended the Article 9 rights of religions above those of individual ministers. However, that’s beside the point.

                  Either you want a regime where the religion can compel its ministers to comply with its current doctrines, or you don’t. A Canon law clause to protect conscientious objection to doctrine can’t only be applicable when it favours your cause.

                  • Sure it can. I doubt there’s many Anglicans who’ll defend a minister’s conscientious right to segregate their congregation, however devout the minister’s belief in the curse of Ham. Each instance must be taken on its merits.

                    As the Church of England is established, Parliament calls the shots. Synod enjoys delegated authority only. A vote in Parliament is sufficient due process.

                    Whatever my personal views, I’m realistic enough to accept that a “two integrities” approach is gonna be the immediate solution. Anglican evangelicals are known for being tactically savvy (a trait I admire, as it happens), so I have no doubt they’ll go along with it before long.

                    • Whatever my personal views, I’m realistic enough to accept that a “two integrities” approach is gonna be the immediate solution.
                      By ‘immediate solution’, I assume that you mean short-term expediency. In which case, we can clearly see that ‘two integrities’ is short hand for tactical insinuation of same-sex marriage affirmation. So much for your advocating ‘bright line rules’ above the balancing of conflicting rights. Or is that only in the secular domain.
                      In respect of the question of performing civil partnership registrations in church, thanks for letting us know the strategy. Caveat ecclesia!

                    • All politics is expediency, inside or outside the church.

                      I believe that Synod should change the canons to make marriage gender-neutral, and make clear, bright-line provision for dissenters.

                      How this comes about we’ve yet to see. I suspect it’ll be driven by events.

      • Read your history books. William III and Mary II (not Mary I, you’re out by more than a century) were invited by a (for that time) democratically elected Parliament to take the throne left vacant by the departure of James II. This is why we call that event the Glorious Revolution, because it was one of the first examples of a democratically inspired overturning of an orthodoxy that had failed to keep up with the times.

        When a rigid and unyielding system denies expression to popular sentiment, it’s time for that system to be reformed or be swept aside. Any attempt to impose disciplinary measures on gay clergy who marry could be the match that sets a massive conflagration blazing. I think the bishops know this and are looking for ways to avoid the confrontation, although their poorly judged communications in recent weeks look likely to hasten the conflict rather than defuse it. Still, shots fired across bows do no real harm to anyone. What sets a war off is the first strike and that will be in the form of a disciplinary measure being imposed on a member of the clergy who marries his or her same sex partner. I personally don’t think they’ll dare, despite all of the egging on coming from extremist and belligerent corners of the Church such as this one. Too many people have too much to lose. But time will tell, and not very much time at that.

        • I mentioned Mary I in respect of Cranmer (whom you cited), not William and Mary, so clarify why that historical reference is wrong.

          How is synodical government ‘rigid and unyielding’? If, as you say, the options are for it to be reformed or swept aside, why is it not reformed?

          The rest of your rallying cry of republican wish fulfilment should be set to ‘Do you hear the people sing?’, but you’re mad if you think that a few vicars entering same-sex marriages will undermine the episcopal polity of the Church of England.

          Swept aside? Dream on!

          • We shall see. Martyrs have a habit of galvanizing change, no matter how few they might be in number. And believe me when I say that gay clergy who lose their places because of their marriages will be seen as martyrs.

            If this happens then the truly unreformable nature of the Church as currently instituted will be laid bare for all to see. No government will want the State associated with such blatant discrimination and as we all know, as long as the Church remains an organ of the State, Synod is subject to parliamentary sovereignty. While it’s certain that the current government is in no position to aggravate the traditionalist wing of the Conservative Party by imposing reform on the Church, with Ukip splitting their vote they won’t be in power for much longer. So all we have to do is wait for the next election.

            In the meantime you can be sure that the LGBT community knows all about the importance of creating a groundswell of public opinion in our favour. Time can only help our cause.

            • There will, I hope and expect, be no martyrs. At worst, there’ll be failed attempts to create them.

              Perhaps the Church of England will get its long-overdue disestablishment as a result. It could then set about fixing itself.

                • If the bishops rely on such underhand tactics, and they well might, I hope the priests who are discriminated against sue, and sue hard.

                  • Their only recourse is to take the government to court over the exemptions of the Equality Act 2010. Let’s say it goes all the way to the ECtHR. On the basis of the case law, where do you think ‘suing hard’ will end up?

                    • Before it gets to judicial review, they can try arguing that the church has exceeded its EA 2010 exemptions. If the church acts in an underhand way, instead of a hearing with due process, they may well have a test case.

            • What about the governments that explicitly legislated exemptions to equalities laws and the same sex marriage act to allow churches to continue to hold their traditional positions on homosexuality? If you think the government wants to deal with any more fall out over same sex marriage you’ll be in for a rude awakening.

            • Again, wish fulfilment. Gay clergy who marry won’t lose their current places. Politically, it will simply mean that they will lose all opportunity for preferment.

              To quote the Equality Act 2010. It does:

              permit a restriction relating to sexual orientation only if it is imposed:
              (a)because it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation, or
              (b)to avoid conflict with strongly held convictions within sub-paragraph (9).

              (9) in the case of a religion, the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers;

              It means that if any clergy claim that the church’s demand to not enter a same-sex marriage is unfair, their issue is with the State that has created the Equality Act permits it.

              They will have to take the government, not the church to the ECtHR.
              While other employees do not make an oath of canonical obedience, the ECtHR has always judged that such a commitment involves an awareness of incompatibility between the doctrine of the church and their personal choices (Obst v. Germany; Siebenhaar v. Germany).
              Even in Long vs. Bishop of Cape Town, Long’s refusal to attend the diocesan synod convened by the bishop to establish a new province was only because to obey was not canonical. He claimed that the synod was held in contradiction of the Canons and Constitution of the Church in England. In contrast, the obedience required by the bishops in relation to marriage is entirely consistent with the Canons and Constitution of the Church.
              So, your only real hope is, as you say, to attract a groundswell of public opinion. There will be no martyrs, just an unending lack of preferment, which cannot be remedied in the secular court.

              • ” They will have to take the government, not the church to the ECtHR. ”
                I pointed this out over a week ago and people keep forgetting this simple essential fact.

              • I think that clergy may well find that having a same-sex marriage does lead to losing their posts, not just lack of preferment – unless noone with an interest complains.

                Some people have been arguing that the (secular) legal status of the marriage should protect them from the CDM… The reason I think that is fundamentally wrong is because of European Human Rights law. Like David, I can’t think of any ECHR decision that has ever overridden a religion’s right to expect its clergy to conform to its teachings publicly and privately (and several European countries have had same-sex marriage for years).

                That’s because Human Rights protect the right of religions to have beliefs over and against those of the secular State.

                So, clergy who do not keep to their religion’s moral beliefs, and teach others to do the same, may find that they are less than least in the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Rather than reply directly to JB, I thought it wise to clarify how the law currently stands on religious exemptions in respect of sexual orientation.

    Prior to the Equality Act 2010, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 were promulgated in order to comply with the Council of Europe Directive 2000/78/EC.

    The directive noted: ‘in very limited circumstances, a difference of treatment may be justified where a characteristic related to religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, when the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportional’

    Section 7(3) of the Regulations granted exceptions when
    (a) employment is for the purpose of an organised religion;
    (b) the employer applies a requirement related to sexual orientation-
    (i) so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or
    (ii) because of the nature of the employment and the context in which it is carried out, so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers;

    In the Amicus case, a number of trade unions challenged this in court, claiming that the religious exemption was too broad. The court rejected their petition.

    In 2007, the EU Commission issued a Reasoned Opinion declaring that the wording of Section 7(3) was too broad.

    In response, the government informed the Commission that the Equality Act 2010 would amend this discrepancy. The Labour government sought to whittle down the exceptions to proportionate means and only for employment for the purposes of religion that wholly or mainly involves:
    (a) leading or assisting in the observance of liturgical or ritualistic practices of the religion, or
    (b) promising or explaining the doctrine of the religion whether to followers of the religion or to others.

    Objectors to these amendments claimed that they:
    (i) were introduced without consultation;
    (ii) lacked any recognition of the pastoral roles in religion beyond ritual and doctrine;
    (iii) would leave secular courts to determine what was proportionate to achieving a religious objective.

    In the House of Lords, the narrowing amendment was defeated 216 – 178.

    What this means is that even a narrow interpretation will not override the current religious exemption that permits the Church to deny preferment for clergy who bypass the due process of Synod for amending current church doctrine and enter a same-sex marriage. Such an action might garner a few headlines as with the gay couple who want to challenge the CofE ‘opt-out’ from the SSM Act in court. Neither will succeed.

    In contrast, the Church of England does now understand that to impose sexual orientation restrictions on its lay workers will incur damaging litigation. This is due in no small part to its recognition of the homophobic treatment of John Reaney, whose 2007 application for a youth worker post in the Diocese of Hereford was vetoed because the Bishop did not accept his assertion of celibacy. It almost goes without saying that heterosexual lay workers would not have to provide a similar undertaking.


    • You helpfully saved me the trouble of digging out the 2007 case.

      What we can take from that is that any discrimination on religious grounds has to be proportionate and (so far as the exemption allows) fair.

      A church that denies clergy “preferment” because it can’t win a case in its own courts, under its own rules, may well be ruled against for being arbitrary and excessive. We shall see.

  3. Consider the Diocletian persecution. Haruspices complained that Christians within the royal household were marking the sign of the cross during their ritual preliminaries to state business and frustrating their attempts to discern the omens revealed by the entrails of sacrifices.

    As you’re aware, priests were routinely required to prove their allegiance to the State by acceding to the universal demand for acts of sacrifice to the gods.

    While this is an extreme example, you are aware of that Tyrannion, the bishop of Tyre and other were martyred during that persecution.

    It would have been unlawful for the bishop to demand that priests should refuse to participate in sacrifices. Yet, that is exactly what was encouraged when the church had no established status.

    Of course, at that stage of church history, there was no Act of Uniformity attempting to reconcile and balance the diverse reformed traditions into a single religion following the Book of Common Prayer. Many of the conscientious objectors of that time were ejected for maintaining the validity of the Solemn League and Covenant and rejecting what they viewed as unscriptural additions to worship and ritual.

    The difference is that clergy who now make the oath of canonical obedience do so with full awareness of this history. They know that from its inception, canonical obedience has involved a major compromise between Protestantism and Catholic ritual. For conservative or liberal anglican priests to suggest that they participate in a religion that knows no compromise is patently false. What they do know is that compromise is a better option than the theologically driven struggle between monarchists and republicans.

    It would also suggest that the oath of allegiance is made in full knowledge that bishops may have to make a compromise with those with whom they disagree for the sake of political peace. However, we should contend earnestly over where the line of compromise is drawn using the due processes of church government.

    Any oath must stand as long as you continue in an office established by episcopal or archiepiscopal ordination.

    However unlikely the scenario is, that would suggest that if a minister or bishop is so aggrieved by a lawfully imposed requirement as to find it impossible to render canonical obedience or allegiance to the monarch, the honourable path would be to resign from Holy Orders and either serve in a lay capacity, or join a church that was not born through a process of ritual and theological compromise.

  4. Canonical obedience is restricted to those things that are reasonably derived from Canon law. A bishop can command things consonant with it, but not those which it prohibits.

    ‘Does the bishop have the right to demand that I eat sprouts?’

    That might be a lawful request, but how would that be demonstrably consonant with the Canons of the Church? How would it honestly be deduced as a requirement derived from the understanding of the clergy’s role according to Canon law?

    No bishop can act canonically without the support and collegiality of his fellow bishops. So a canonical requirement issued by a bishop could be tested for whether it is consonant with the canons of the church and whether it has been issued with collegial support.

    Even if a person is believes that, as a matter of justice, a collegially agreed and canonically consonant requirement is unjust, it would seem equally unjust for that person to remain in office and disobey because they disagree with the canons of the church.

    Please note that in that letter from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King noted four key steps in any no violent campaign: In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.

    MLK’s direct action was prompted by the lack of any terms of negotiation revealed in the lack of any attempt to fulfil promises that racist signs would be taken down.

    In contrast, while some may think that the the Pilling Report did not go far enough, doctrinal change was outside of its remit. The fact that its recommendations were partially adopted by the House of Bishops means that step 2 is still in play.

    Honesty on both sides would allow for step 2 to achieve a possible reconciliation through due process.

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