There has been strong, hostile reaction to the Men and Women in Marriage report. For many it is the last straw. Gay and staright, lay and ordained, the number of people who have been hanging on to active involvement with their local Christian community but have been provoked by the report into abandoning their church commitment has shocked me.
There’s a probably unfounded fear that so many will simply give up and leave that the work of Changing Attitude and other pro-gay or pro-inclusion groups will simply decline in numbers and effectiveness. That’s a faithless if understandable response.
I know in the core of my being where I am being led by God. I along with thousands of others have been called to protest against the prejudice and ignorance of many in the Church and to campaign for the Christian values of infinite love, grace, and justice.
Another part of me envies those who have given themsleves permission to leave. “Attendance” at church can at times be depressing, frustrating and unrewarding. It’s the curse of priesthood, of course (especially when the freedom to function as a priest is denied) to sit in the pews with a critical heart and mind, frustrated by the various inadequacies which I know could be done so much more imaginatively and creatively. Worship too often skates over the surface of experience or reinforces people’s apathy. Why do we tolerate dull worship and deradful church reports?
It isn’t simply attitudes to women or LGB&T people that make me angry and frustrated. It’s the lack of spiritual depth and contemplation and the tyrany of those who force the Church to publish theologically illiterate reports and the energy that is consumed in the maintenance of tradition that is so debilitating and depressing.
I’ve gathered together a variety of reactions to the report from threads on Facebook and Thinking Anglicans. I will post all but the first anonymously (though if you trace the original you would be able to identify who they are).
I’m posting them in the hope some bishops and members of the committee and staff memebers at Church House will read this and be roused from complacency (or whatever attitude it is that tolerates the publication of such a dreadful report) to an energetic determination that things have to change. They may form part of the letter Changing Attitude intends to write to every member of the House of Bishops.
To begin, Andrew Wilshere, a freelance musician, has posted a public statement. He writes:
“After over twenty years’ involvement in church and cathedral life, as a chorister, organist, and musical director, it is with sadness that I announce my unavailability for all such duties in future.
“The Church of England has today officially reaffirmed its short-sighted doctrinal commitment to the inferiority of same-sex love in the report Men and Women in Marriage and the official statement which accompanies it. It states that “there are forms of human relationships which fall short of marriage in the form the God has given us,” insinuating that these forms are homosexual ones, since it is a debate over same-sex marriage that has prompted this report.
“It refuses to bless faithful and committed relationships, in spite of being happy to bless pets, ships, and missiles. The bald statement that “public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone” is, quite clearly, factually untrue. As part of this inept report, the church has managed to deny the existence of intersex and transgender people too: “persons are not asexual, but are either male or female”.
“This is a pastorally irresponsible document from a spiritually lost church. I cannot, in good conscience, continue to work for an organisation that does not liberate or love many of its flock, but burdens and stigmatises them. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)”
And the anonymous posts:
“I withdrew from the communion of the Church of England last year. There are harder and better responses, I am sure, but it felt too peculiar to continue to support it with my resources and association. Nevertheless, I’m gladder today that I did.”
“I am becoming increasingly ashamed to call myself a CofE Anglican when their various statements afford no clear loving dignity to over half their members, not to mention all those we are called to serve.”
“So this means I am banned from blessing same sex marriages as well as not doing the marriages. No wonder more and more of us are packing up this job!! And the pews are emptying. Roll on my retirement that’s all I can say. It stinks…3 years at university, 2 years at theological college, and I am not even allowed to use my brain to decide that I can at least bless two men. Ye godz.”
“An absolutely horrible report, on several counts. The wording and logic of this document are so deeply flawed as to be an embarrassment to the Church of England, profoundly out of touch with what we know from science and from pastoral engagement with people, and, for many of us, from our own lives. I will state publicly here as I have in other fora that as a priest, and a human being, I am deeply ashamed to be associated with this statement.”
“This report has reduced me to tears of frustration and disappointment. As a heterosexual woman I feel huge embarrassment as an Anglican and am getting to the point of wondering how much more exclusion I can take.”
“I turned my back on the CofE due to its part in the break-up of my long-term relationship as my ex partner was following his vocation and I got shoved back in the closet, a year down the line I am still quite angry.”
“This is more about placing something on the record, and ceasing to be complicit in the church’s discrimination. So many of us serve a church which is doctrinally committed to the immorality of the most important thing in our lives – the love for our partner. I think the patience of many, certainly in my generation, is almost at an end.”
“I know three liberal clergy who have resigned over the last few years. They go quietly and with a heavy heart. They don’t make a big song and dance about it like the opponents of women priests did. But maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they did. It’s about time the church realised how damaging its policies are to so many people.”
“A reprehensible document: confused, lacking in any engagement with scientific evidence, pastoral experience, or willingness to understand how things really are; a garbled, weak, theology and warped anthropology, and a veritable apologia for prejudice. As a person and as a priest, I am deeply ashamed to be associated with the Church of England in this matter.”
“I am heterosexual and my Bishop knew exactly why I resigned and could no longer be in the pay of the CofE having witnessed terrible abuses. I nevertheless pray it will not be the call of others and firmly believe it is important for supportive LGTB clergy to remain in post. We note that the Holy Spirit is giving great wisdom and insight to those who speak in favour of equality and now is the acceptable time for their voices to be heard. We hope for more of this, especially from Bishops.”