An interview with Revd David Page was broadcast on the Stephen Nolan programme on Radio 5 Live on Sunday evening, at 11.45, 1 hour 45 minutes into the programme. Stephen Nolan quizzed David at length about his original interview with Bishop Wallace Benn, his involvement with the parish in Winchelsea, his attitude towards Church of England rules – and, in the line of Wally Benn’s questions, he asked about David’s sex life – No comment, said David. David concluded by saying the Church can’t go on behaving like this and said something will shift.
He was immediately followed by a discussion between Jerry O’Brien of Reform and Bishop Stephen Lowe, retired from Hume and a patron of Changing Attitude. This part of the interview, starting about 5 minutes to midnight and continuing after the news is very revealing.
Gerry O’Brien, representing what he would claim is the true Christian, conservative, orthodox voice, was appallingly arrogant and abusive towards Bishop Stephen (who maintained his cool). Gerry said things which he ought to be deeply regretting, the morning after.
Gerry’s argument is that lesbian and gay clergy ought to be keeping the rules of the Church of England. Bishop Stephen said Reform represented a tiny minority of the C of E – a remark guaranteed to get Jerry going.
Gerry countered by referring a small group of homosexual activists which Stephen parried by stating that he had a pretty good idea that 20% of clergy are gay. Gerry said this was absolute rubbish and Stephen had used a multiplying factor of 10.
At this point the temperature increased, Gerry clearly being incensed that there could be so many gays in the Church. He accused Bishop Stephen of being slanderous (with his 20% estimate), said he was telling a pack of lies to people on the radio and telling a whole sheaf of untruths. Gerry said these were wild allegations and he challenged Stephen to produce evidence that 20% of clergy aren’t keeping the rules.
This was a move typical of his ilk – accusing Stephen of something he hadn’t said, because Gerry assumes that if there are 20% lesbian and gay clergy in the Church, every one of them is sexually active.
Gerry kept interrupting Bishop Stephen, another characteristic of those representing conservative Evangelical Anglicans.
Calmly, Stephen said the majority of bishops don’t ask intrusive questions about sexual activity as Wallace Benn had done with David, adding that there was a cloud over the Diocese of Chichester as a result of the enquiry into the lack of candour and legality in relation to child abuse. The Clergy Discipline Measure is comparatively rarely used, he said, and to use it in this case is like a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.
Steve Nolan asked Gerry why it’s okay for two people of the same sex to love each other but for them not to have sex. Gerry surpassed himself by responding that it’s perfectly acceptable for two brothers to love each other but unacceptable to suggest that two brothers should have sex with each other.
Steve Nolan persisted with his question – why is the physical act so important? Gerry played his trump card – Church of England rule actually says sex is allowed in the parameters of marriage but not outside marriage, whether it’s fornication, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s homosexuality, whether it’s paedophilia.
Are you really equating homosexuality with paedophilia, Steve Nolan asked. The Bible puts them on an equal basis was Gerry O’Brien’s response (We know that time and again, Lisa Nolland of Anglican Mainstream attempts this argument, linking homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality and implying that any change would be the first step in a campaign to accept polyamoury).
Bishop Stephen said Gerry’s linking of homosexuality and paedophilia was shocking and appalling and he was stunned that Gerry could say this.
Why does someone like Gerry O’Brien, a member of General Synod who claims to be the representative of ‘true, orthodox Christianity’ behave in such an intolerant, abusive way towards a bishop, and why of why is his version of Christianity ever thought to be authentic – he’d rather we followed rules rather than be infused with grace.