Holy God, teach us not to be afraid of anything you have created, however threatened or repelled we may be. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, the Spirit that makes us holy people who may then draw near to transform us whatever we may meet, the Spirit that finds it’s home in our flesh and blood.
Out of the Silence … Jim Cotter, Coda to psalm 99, p293
I appreciate all the comments that have been posted on the previous two blogs. I want to try and respond to some of the points raised by taking my thoughts further.
The problem I am pursuing is not the presence in the Church of England of bishops who are gay. That’s a given – there have always been gay priests and bishops. I am pursuing the system, the establishment, Archbishops, bishops, General Synod, Crown Nominations Commission, Church House bureaucracy, selection conferences, Directors of Ordinands, the whole caboodle that maintains a culture which when it addresses LGB&T people in the Church is hypocritical, dishonest, secretive and collusive. The institution cares more about self-preservation, about its image (however false that may be), about survival and power, than it does about truth, transparency, integrity and love.
All of us are in one way or another sucked into this system and corrupted by it. We are all part of the game being played, the outing/not outing, the idea that the rules are reasonable and to be obeyed (and that apart from naughty people in Changing Attitude, everyone is playing according to the rules – so thinks Peter Ould). Well, it’s a fantasy, it simply isn’t true. Thanks be to God, there are now some bishops who are adopting a far more honest and edgy position.
One of the biggest fantasies, from those who are bishops and priests, gay and straight, to the teenage children of bishops and priests, teachers and secretaries, to the couples who present themselves for marriage in church, is that people don’t have sex lives before marriage, and gay priests and bishops don’t need sex lives after ordination. That’s part of the present insanity of Church culture.
No, of course Changing Attitude doesn’t agree with the rules as at present operated by the Church. We believe that adult gay lay and ordained gay men and women, quite appropriately as Christians living in the tradition, may enter a loving, faithful, lifelong relationship with a same-sex partner, and we believe these relationships are healthier for the couple, for their congregations and dioceses, and for the whole Church of God if they are openly affirmed and celebrated by the Church.
The present rules are widely ignored by bishops, and deemed not just irrelevant but laughable by those in their congregations who have freed themselves from the infectious guilt of the Church. The whole edifice at the moment is resting on mythical foundations.
It’s widely known who in ordained ministry, episcopal and clerical, is gay. It’s an issue for those of us who are gay because the knowing (but only at a certain level) traps everyone in the culture of deceit and denial. Changing Attitude believes this dishonesty is far more corrupting of the Church now than the presence of LGB&T people (which is what conservatives convince themselves of) and is having a deeply damaging effect on the ability of the Church to enthuse people with the radical love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Every day I am pursued by the same questions. Why tolerate a Church which goes on living with systemic sickness and dishonesty? Why do the leaders of the Church allow themselves to live with a fantasy? The delusion is maintained just as easily by bishops who present themselves as ‘orthodox, Bible-believing, traditionalists’, both evangelical and Anglo-catholic, and I include recent appointments amongst them).
In particular dioceses with large numbers of LGB&T people, London, Southwark and Chichester among them, where the ministry of LGB&T people, lay and ordained, is valued and respected at every level of church life, the denial of reality in Church House institutions and the House of Bishops is incomprehensible. These dioceses have often had bishops who are gay, inspiring, prophetic people. Forty years ago, in the time of Mervyn Stockwood, the level of public awareness that he was gay was about on the same level as awareness of Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams and others. They were camp figures who were loved for their gifts, but carried a deep sadness because they had to live in denial of their sexuality. Today, forty years on, bishops continue to live in denial while elsewhere, camp retains a certain attraction, but others are integrated into society and workplace and roles on TV and radio where their sexuality is not proclaimed but neither is it carefully and deliberately hidden.
Rowan’s abandonment of Jeffrey John looks even worse now because the Church has continued to promote other gay men, who may or may not be single or celibate, but who are different from Jeffrey because none of them are open. That was and is the reason for the campaign waged against Jeffrey’s preferment. He is transparent. Why of why punish honesty and openness and reward secrecy and the success of passing for straight or manufacturing an effective closet? Why??????
Ours is not a Church faithful to God and tradition but a faithless Church, trapped in a crazy, sick game of charades. Holy God, teach us not to be afraid of anything you have created, however threatened or repelled we may be.