Skip to comments.Bishops in the mire [CofE]
Posted on 07/27/2005 5:58:34 PM PDT by sionnsar
[Note: I suspect the first paragraph of the article below is actually a remark by David Virtue and not from the original. --sionnsar]
LONDON (July 27, 2005)-- The Church of England has given its blessing to gay clergy who want to enter into civil partnerships, but they will have to remain chaste. Ruth Gledhill says the Church's manoeuvrings are in danger of making it look ridiculous. Read her comments and send us your views - using the e-mail form at the bottom of this article
Once again, the Church of England is in danger of making itself look ridiculous in the eyes of the world in its complicated manoeuvrings over the issue of gay sex.
* Its pronouncement on "gay marriage", in response to the 2004 Civil Partnerships Act which comes into force in December, states that clergy can register their partnerships as long as they pledge chastity.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement - which reckons that more than 750 partnerships could involve one or more gay clergymen or women - has condemned the bishops' statement as consistent with the Church's "double dealing, duplicity and disregard for decency".
The bishops could do little else. Their 1991 statement, Issues in Human Sexuality, ruled out sex for gay clergy but granted it grudging acceptance among the laity - a temporary fix that merely papered over the fault-line in the Church. They were criticised then for double standards, but in 1998 the Lambeth Conference rejected homosexual practice as "incompatible with Scripture", so they are simply responding now, as they must, to secular developments while being true to the Church's doctrine and tradition.
The Anglican Church has already come close to schism, after the decision of the New Westminster diocese in Canada to authorise a liturgy for same-sex blessings. The Church of England bishops could hardly lead the mother church of the Anglican Communion further into the mire by suddenly inviting all its clergy to carry out wedding-style blessings for gay clergy and laity.
There is still more trouble ahead. Anglican Mainstream, the increasingly powerful evangelical movement that champions tradition over secular values has stated, correctly, that for the discipline to work, it will have to be exercised uniformly. "Whatever discipline is to be in place must encourage wholesome truthfulness, and not the systematic deceit that may be encouraged by a 'do not ask, do not tell' culture," it says.
And there is the nub of the matter. Because the "don't ask, don't tell" culture is precisely what has prevailed since the publication of Issues. And it is not going to work any more.
That document enabled the bishops to straddle the divide between the liberal Western churches and those of the deeply conservative Global South; they could proclaim an orthodox line while turning a blind eye to the dozens of gay clergy serving the Church well and faithfully, but enjoying fulfilling relationships with their partners.
Now, bishops will have to come straight out, as it were, and ask those gay clergy who wish to take advantage of their pension, tax and other civil rights under the new law whether they are having sex or not. The bishops won't want to ask the question, and the clergy will be angry at having to make such a pledge in a Church that does not demand celibacy of its "straight" clergy.
Clergy who tell the truth will face discipline, and possibly the loss of their licence to minister if their answer is "yes". Clergy who lie or equivocate will face a lifetime of suspicion from hostile parishioners.
And there are certain to be some at the ready with camera phones, waiting to snap an indiscreet kiss at the lych-gate and send it into the bishop for investigation. But will a kiss count as an active sexual relationship? In that case, the bishops should perhaps consider banning the "kiss of peace" during the eucharistic liturgy (at least one welcome outcome of this whole messy debate). Or perhaps, if the "kiss" remains intact, some gay clergyman might take advantage of this one legitimate opportunity to express his physical love for his partner, in full view of the congregation.
Christians believe that people don't choose to be called to the Anglican ministry. God calls them. Similarly, most homosexuals find they have little choice in the matter, and Christians take their sexuality to be a gift from God. So pity the poor gay man or woman who receives the call from God in the present climate, and pity the poor bishops destined to conduct the inevitable inquisitions to come.
As for God, if there is a God up there looking down on the world, one can only wonder what He makes of all that is being done in His name at the moment. And if there is no God, we have to wonder what in His name we think we are playing at.
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