Comments: Reviewing Church of England policy on sexuality

Savi's point - about the second thoughts of John Austin Baker on the acceptability of gays in the Church - must by now surely have been replicated in the enlightened understanding of many within the Church of England who have taken the time and effort to listen to the experience of the people most intimately involved, as being either gay or the immediate family of gays.

I hope and pray that the Bishops will be prepared to listen with ears and hearts open - this time.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 4 July 2011 at 8:25pm BST

A question for those who know the ins and outs of appointing bishops: Is it within the power of the HoB (all clergy, all male, all straight-at-least-officially), to make a ruling that no honestly gay person can be appointed to their sacred company until they have studied the issue over the next two years? Or is this just a suggestion?

Posted by Sara MacVane at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 5:55am BST


I don't think that is quite what has been said. The HoB said two things I think:
1. They were going to review their policy on whether clergy in a civil partnership should be allowed to be nominated as bishops, timescale report in 2012
2. They were going to review their entire policy on sexuality, timescale for report 2013.

That said, your question is a good one. I suggest that the House of Bishops can indeed express its opinion on this, but has no formal power to put such a policy into effect.

That lies with the two archbishops who may decline to consecrate absolutely anybody at all. But even they do not formally have the power to prevent a really bolshie CNC from democratically electing somebody whom they, the archbishops, do not want. Southwark wasn't bolshie enough to achieve this, as revealed in the Slee papers. Bullying won the day for the archbishops there.

Whether any of this is a breach of the civil law is of course another matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 9:01am BST

Simon...what about suffragans? which I believe depends far more on a bishops nomination. Could a bolshy Diocesan Bishop X nominate gay cleric Y....would it be just another re-run of the Reading fiasco?

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 9:23am BST

This review is long overdue. My impression is that the bishops have rather been forced into it because of the continuing pace of change within and outside the church when they would have preferred to continue their policy of doing nothing. The bullying around the Southwark process, followed by the leak of the legal advice have done the Bishops no favours at all and in the glare of the light of day their actions have been seen to be mean spirited and unChristian.

The situation is parallelled by the Women bishops issue. It was obvious that the ordination of women to the priesthood could not be separated from their elevation to the episcopacy. It was obvious ten years ago with 'out' gay priests in same sex partnerships and the position was exacerbated after the introduction of civil partnerships. The cowardice shown around the Jeffrey John nomination should have been the trigger for a proper, open and civilised debate with the whole church. As it was, because of the noise and the threats to stop paying, the HOB decided that it was better to pretend the whole thing hadn't happened and to hope it would go away.

The statement that the House of Bishops has hardly discussed the issue of homosexuality and gay priests/bishops in the past five years is a statement of a dereliction of duty coupled with cowardice. The reliance on a document 'Issues' of 1991 which was a discussion document elevated into an article of faith for want of anything else has been a way of avoiding the issue. Now the chickens of in-action are coming home to roost. The bishops have to grasp this nettle.

Savi Hensman's excellent article should be read by all the Bishops and form the basis for their terms of reference (what are these by the way - shouldn't we see them?). He is right. This isn't an issue just for the bishops. It for the whole people of God and we should have a positive input into the process and help shape the result. I would also add that the process needs to be open and transparent and the whole of the submissions and recommendations must be published. We have had enough of secrecy, bullying, leaks and half truths.

However, I do wonder whether this isn't just another way of putting of the evil hour yet again. Don't we know the results of sociological and scientific enquiry and biblical study? Hasn't there already been enough discussion within and outside the Church? Don't the Bishops know how much their stance and that shared with some loud mouths in the Church alienates those who believe that the Church's official position on homosexuality is unfair, unkind, illogical, hypocritical and un Christian? Don't they also know that any 'liberalisation' will inevitably alienate the biblically based hardliners who continuously threaten to take their money elsewhere? Don't they know that they have to face these challenges? They have prevaricated for two decades. They can no longer put off the day of decision and it has to come soon.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 10:11am BST

"Now the chickens of in-action are coming home to roost. The bishops have to grasp this nettle." Nicely mixed metaphor to go with the morning coffee. Thanks Richard.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 11:47am BST

Y'alls bishops sound like they think that if they delay long enough, glbt people will leave the C of E, so they won't have to decide anything. Now, women bishops will take longer to [pardon the expression] stonewall, but your guys seem to have nothing better to do than stall and delay and twiddle their thumbs. Too bad,

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 12:28pm BST

HE??? Savitri is a She, please, Richard.

Posted by JeremyP at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 12:45pm BST

"the biblically based hardliners who continuously threaten to take their money elsewhere?" - Richard Ashby

Hang on a minute, Richard. You say "biblically based"? Things have come to a pretty pass if even the "biblically based hardliners" resort to extortion above truth.

Posted by A J Barford at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 2:05pm BST

What a compelling statement of the truth, from
Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 10:11am

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 2:11pm BST

Aopologies to Savitri.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 4:13pm BST

You don't really expect this review to produce any change in the CofE's policy or practices, do you?

I expect hypocrisy to prevail, or, to put it another way, for coercion from the Right to prevail.

Posted by jnwall at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 4:28pm BST

No problem, Richard.

jnwall, I believe that, if enough people make it clear to the bishops that truth-seeking should be given higher priority than political expediency, the review may be of value.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 11:57pm BST

A bold act of witness to the truth :,GTD0,3FVQU6,1DEFW,1

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 6 July 2011 at 3:22pm BST

In respect of the announced review, I'm not enshrouded by the collective cloud of clerical cynicism in this comment thread. Sure, the outcome will be as much of an unsatisfactory compromise as the result of the 30-year long debate on Divorce and Re-Marriage. However, in the end, it will be seen as clear, though limited progress by many liberal commentators. 

We can also look forward to an exciting two-year festival of theological gymnastics, so all front-line debaters will have to develop their discourse to attain supple, sharp supremacy and refine their responses to achieve olympian flexibility.

I doubt that any motion will be passed with anything like the 395-vote majority one saw at General Synod 1987. Life moves on and, as Savi's article indicates, we should learn from the past. 

Strangely, all some have learnt from that motion in 1987 was (given the proportion of elected members) how terribly misled the church can be...Oh, and how to become more insistent and politic in their calls for voting reform until a more favourable outcome is finally achieved.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 6 July 2011 at 7:28pm BST

"an unsatisfactory compromise" - David Shepherd

A more accurate analogy would be the Act of Synod.

"In 1993 the General Synod of the Church of England passed the Act of Synod, which arranged for special bishops to oversee those who would not accept women priests. This book argues that the act was a disaster and has damaged the image of the church." - Monica Furlong RIP

Therefore no compromises, please. A clear decision one way or the other so we all know where we stand. Peter Ould is right about this.

Posted by A J Barford at Thursday, 7 July 2011 at 9:30am BST
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