Permanent, Faithful, Stable republished with new foreword by Jeffrey John – and bishops asked about civil partnerships

Tomorrow evening I’m attending the launch of the revised edition of Permanent, Stable, Faithful in St Alban’s Cathedral. The new edition is subtitled: Christian same-sex marriage. Jeffrey has written a new Preface and Postscript and Mark Oakley, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, has written a new Foreword.

Jeffrey has abridged the new Preface for an article published in today’s Guardian. The Guardian also carries a news report.

In the new preface to Jeffrey accuses the Church of England of pursuing a “morally contemptible” policy on same-sex marriage, denouncing it for moving “in the opposite direction” to society and criticises Rowan Williams for changing his “public position” on the issue as soon as he was made Archbishop of Canterbury.

Jeffrey writes that, by setting themselves against same-sex marriage, the bishops of the Church have prioritised the union of the Anglican communion over the rights of gay Christians.

“This policy may be institutionally expedient, but it is morally contemptible,” he says. “Worst of all, by appeasing their persecutors it betrays the truly heroic gay Christians of Africa who stand up for justice and truth at risk of their lives. For the mission of the Church of England the present policy is a disaster.”

Changing Attitude learnt yesterday that all the bishops have been asked to report (presumably by the House of Bishops Sexuality Working Group) on how they deal with interviews with clergy in civil partnerships and to give their views on equal marriage. I wonder how honest each bishop is going to be, and whether disciplinary action will be taken against those contravening the House of Bishops own rules.

With a few honorable exceptions, the House of Bishops has shown a typical lack of courage and integrity in its responses to civil partnerships. Bishops signed off on a policy which a significant number of them have ignored in practice, and were acting contrary to before they signed it off.

The adjudication on Bishop Wallace Benn’s failure to deal appropriately with clergy cconvicted of child abuse in the Diocese of Chichester remains to be published. Meanwhile his Archdeacon has instigated a CDM investigation against the Revd David Page for preaching and leading worship without a PTO, which Wallace Benn withheld because David refused to answer a question about intimacy in his civil partnership.

Some think this whole sorry mess is going to explode in the next 6 months, with one or more of the bishops who are gay finally coming out, pre-empting being outed by others. And Changing Attitude knows that ‘sorry mess’ is indeed what the Archbishop of Canterbury has presided over. The bishops of the Church of England are in a bigger mess over lesbian and gay relationships than some of them can possibly imagine. Meanwhile, significant numbers of senior clergy are well aware of the hypocrisy that is rife if the Church, another reason why a bishop might choose to come out voluntarily rather than wait to be outed.

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