David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester has corrected me in a comment on Thinking Anglicans:
“Indeed I did know about the group and am grateful for its existence.
“It is the suggestion of some sort of list that perplexes me. I wonder whether the word “monitoring” has been taken to imply that it is individuals that are being monitored, when in fact the object of the verb is the developing situation.
“Thanks for drawing my attention to this, so that I can clarify. And sorry if that spoils anyone’s conspiracy theory.”
And Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, has posted a comment on the CA web site:
“You’ve misread +Manchester’s comments. He says he hasn’t heard of a list, not that he hasn’t heard of the monitoring and reference group. Which he does know about.
“I haven’t heard of a list mentioned anywhere either – apart from on a thread on Thinking Anglicans, which is where the idea of a list seems to have been invented.
“So there’s no miscommunication or incompetence for you to rejoice in – on this issue at least… Just a load of myth-making on a Christian discussion board.”
But it’s clear that there is indeed miscommunication and incompetence.
The incompetence lies with Church House in their failure to communicate the formation of the group and its purpose when it was formed and allowing rumours to develop for several weeks before issuing Tuesday’s statement. Several different rumours have been circulating about the role of the Bishop of Norwich, including that he was compiling a blacklist of clergy. Clergy have been asking me for several weeks how they would know whether their name was on the list. The speculative rumours created anxiety for many clergy in a same sex relationship who are thinking about getting married.
The miscommunication happened because someone decided the only people who needed to be informed about the Norwich group were the members of the House of Bishops. The existence of the group affects the lives of lesbian and gay priests, deacons, ordinands and those testing their vocation. As soon as its existence was known, rumours were bound to develop.
The Church of England operates in a dysfunctional culture in which information is withheld and secrecy maintained. There is a shocking lack of trust and transparency. Lesbian and gay priests are directly affected by the existence of the Norwich group and information about it should have been made public. Even know, there is still a lack of clarity about what exactly the purpose of the group is.