Bishop Alan Wilson on ‘Double-Speak’ in the C. of E.

SLIDING ON THIN ICE
John Tenniel, Punch 1869
It is understandable that the anonymous author of the latest letter from House of Bishops(of which I am not a member), must, like Agag, “walk delicately.” Perhaps the best they could produce is what one early tweeter, retweeted by John Bingham of the Daily Telegraph, called “a masterclass in doublespeak, obfuscation and internal contradiction.”

The real issue was articulated by a member of the General Synod,  Simon Butler, who asked the following question at its recent session:

My question requires a little context and a large amount of honesty. I’m gay; I don’t have a vocation to celibacy and at the same time I’ve always taken my baptismal and ordination vows with serious intent and with a sincere desire to model my life on the example of Christ simul justus et peccator. Those who have selected me, ordained me and licensed me know all this. My parish know this too.

My question is this: at the end of the process of facilitated conversations will the College of Bishops tell me whether there is a place for people like me as licensed priests, deacons and bishops in the Church rather than persisting in the existing policy that encourages a massive dishonesty so corrosive to the gospel? For my personal spiritual health, for the flourishing of people like me as ministers of the gospel and for the health of the wider church I think we will all need to have a clear answer to that question..

Clarity will need to emerge, then. We haven’t got it yet. Is the answer to Simon’s question, “yes”? Well, apparently so. Recommendation One of the Pilling report states “We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained.” Surely the existing policy, with all of the moral drawbacks Simon enumerates won’t continue, then? Well, apparently it will. Abiding by traditional teaching is the watchword. The massive dishonesty of which Simon speaks was not intentional. It was the only way kind hearted people could maintain what they understood to be traditional teaching in the real world.

As it was in the disputes of the 1860’s the way things pan out will largely be settled by what people do, not  policy statements or sabre rattling. Whilst a great fan of facilitated discussions I am still fuzzy about exactly who will talk to whom about what and why. Also, if it is axiomatic that nothing will change, what exactly will the point be? We may be far gone in the hypocrisies of past years, but why add to them? Jesus had far more to say about hand wringing Pharisees than he did about gays.

If facilitated conversations are to mean anything, it’s important not to derail them by what bishops do to the people with whom they are supposed to be talking in a safe space. Whoever wrote the new document is plainly out of their depth. Even after twenty years of listening, nothing much has been heard and the watchword remains “Life, Jim, but not as we know it.” Captain Kirk’s next line was “We come in peace, Shoot to Kill.” Adopting that now will not facilitate honest or productive conversation.

But where do I want it to end, I am asked, and where are the Bishops really coming from if the chips are down? two quotations came across my desk, by sheer chance, this morning:

One is from Sister Simone Campbell, a Roman Catholic Nun.

The Catholic hierarchy has done very poorly at engaging the issues of sexuality, period—their own, or anybody else’s… what we need is a real spiritual renewal among our leadership because for me, following the gospel means be not afraid—welcome everyone, hug them, welcome them close, and live and love.

The other is the gospel for the Third Sunday before Lent, year A, on which I am preparing a homily for tomorrow morning. St Matthew 5, and verse 37:

Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

______________________________________________

I’m often surprised by the co-incidence of the Gospel of the day (in this case, the alternative for the 3rd Sunday before Lent) with the theme of the times – in this instance, coinciding with the current  hierarchical response to the Pilling Report – from the General Synod of the Church of England.

Bishop Alan Wilson, the area Bishop of Buckingham, is a known supporter of the LGBT community in the Church. Here he points to the fact that, at the Synod, one of the clergy asked a question of the Bishops:

“My question requires a little context and a large amount of honesty. I’m gay; I don’t have a vocation to celibacy and at the same time I’ve always taken my baptismal and ordination vows with serious intent and with a sincere desire to model my life on the example of Christ simul justus et peccator. Those who have selected me, ordained me and licensed me know all this. My parish know this too.

My question is this: at the end of the process of facilitated conversations will the College of Bishops tell me whether there is a place for people like me as licensed priests, deacons and bishops in the Church rather than persisting in the existing policy that encourages a massive dishonesty so corrosive to the gospel? For my personal spiritual health, for the flourishing of people like me as ministers of the gospel and for the health of the wider church I think we will all need to have a clear answer to that question..

From the ensuing statement issued by the two Archbishops; Canterbury and York, it would appear that there will be no authorised service of Blessing in Church for monogamously-partnered gay people – even though priest may be allowed to ‘say a prayer of blessing to meet the pastoral situation’.

The ‘double-speak’ involved in all of this is that, although General Synod has already provided pensions for the surviving partner of a same-sex clergy relationship, that relationship may never be publicly acknowledged officially in a Church ceremony. Nor may any clergy person undertake to be part of a Same-Sex Marriage relationship – whether for themselves or for any of their parishioners!

This intention to remain true to the current Church of England doctrine of Marriage will apparently prevail – despite the other expressed intention to facilitate further discussion on the whole question of Marriage and Same-Sex Relationships.

If the intention – as stated by the English Primates – is never to depart from the current doctrine of the Church of England, what on earth is the point of going on with the charade of  ‘facilitated conversations’, which will never lead to any change in doctrine?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Advertisements

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s