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Church of England leaders defy liberals and condemn same-sex marriage

(26 Posts)
EdithSimcox Fri 15-Jan-16 13:06:07

I'm so so sad about this, almost in tears in fact. It's bollocks there are 'no victors and no vanquished'.

Please don't say 'well what do you expect from a bunch of hypocritical morons'. Criticising them more won't make any of us feel better. Anyway, since I have no Christian friends to talk about this with I'll risk it.

So, any Anglicans out there who think they are getting this very very wrong, and would prefer a split to unity at all costs, is there anything we can do about this appalling decision?

EdithSimcox Fri 15-Jan-16 13:33:12

One response I've seen so far is this from Revd Dr Sam Wells
Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He says (amongst other things):

My prayer today is that a slow, but ultimately beautiful, transformation will happen in the Anglican Communion: that words of antagonism, ultimately rooted in fear, will be displaced by a renewal of even deeper bonds of affection; and that those who reproach and condemn will come to realise that the ones they are really impoverishing are themselves.

HUH. Fat chance.

[Btw, those few who know me this is 'news' not 'religion' so I'm permitting myself].

EdithSimcox Fri 15-Jan-16 15:28:15

Or am I wrong? Is unity of the worldwide communion worth it?

NellWilsonsWhiteHair Fri 15-Jan-16 15:33:46

It's not. I cried last night at the news (having been moved to tears by an unexpectedly-strident sermon on this issue by my vicar at lunchtime yesterday). I feel so, so disappointed. Especially after the high of that sermon - my vicar has for a long time dealt with this issue by avoiding mentioning it, and it was so wonderful to hear him move past that - not to simply preach Christian compassion etc but to talk about the bravery of LGBT people coming to church/the Church, knowing what hostility often exists; and arguing that we should all be angry at anything short of full loving inclusion of LGBT people within the Anglican Communion.

I am lesbian, and an adult convert to Anglicanism. It feels horribly personal and I feel so SO disappointed.

Tuo Fri 15-Jan-16 15:36:17

I'm gutted, Edith. I'm full of cold, too, so not thinking very straight, and not sure I can make much sense on this atm (I woke up contemplating moving to the US, which is not altogether a practical response!), but so so disappointed. I was always dubious that this meeting would be able to achieve very much (the TEC and GAFCON elements are poles apart on these issues), but this is not even stalemate or business as usual, or 'living with our differences' in an unsatisfactory but very Anglican way; it feels like a huge step backwards.

I have no idea what liberal Anglicans can do practically, but will be watching to see what happens next.

EdithSimcox Fri 15-Jan-16 16:41:17

Nell I was all optimistic at the beginning of the week for similar reasons. I checked the list of signatories of the open letter and was pleased to see my vicar on it. And given the type of lefty liberal reading material I see daily everything I read on the topic was pretty sound. So I was surprised as well as gutted. And it feels personal to me for the same reason as you.

Tuo if you go to the US can I come with you? oh hang on, they have Donald Trump, I'm not sure that works...
But yes, it is backwards for sure, not even agreeing to disagree.

If I was actually in the church (which for reasons I won't explain right now I'm not, really, atm) I would consider leaving. As it is it might stop me going back. I think I'm a bit heartbroken.

Tuo Fri 15-Jan-16 18:24:40

I have thought about leaving, though I admit that I'd find it hard to go somewhere else (other than TEC - it was TEC that brought me back to faith after a long time away - but I'm in the wrong country for that now). What will probably stop me doing so is the certain knowledge that many many Anglicans, lay people and priests, feel like we do and the hope that this terrible decision will be the catalyst for those people (including me) really to raise their voices and express their disappointment and dissent. I don't know yet how we fight for change, but I know that there will be people doing just that, and I think I'd rather be fighting with them than simply saying 'not my problem any more'. I guess if I felt I was a lone voice of dissent then I'd feel differently, but I know (at least where I worship and among the people I know) that that's not the case.

NellWilsonsWhiteHair Fri 15-Jan-16 18:41:31

Yes, I suppose that's true Tuo - it's not permanently over, and hopefully all sorts of good (progressive, powerful, angry) conversations will come out of it. At a church level, I feel real warmth about it - that the people around me think largely what I do, especially the vicar and his curate, the regular visiting clergy etc (yep, I also scoured the list of signatories Edith smile). That's really valuable. But I feel so hurt and disappointed, and also tbh really embarrassed, by the Church at its highest levels.

I suppose for me the worry is about how far the apathy towards LGB(T) people extends, within the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Uganda's position is appalling but if it's an appalling outlier, thats one thing. OTOH the Archbishop of York is (IIRC?) pretty explicitly 'traditional' on matters of sexual orientation, for all he's fairly progressive on other sexuality issues. I've been fostering this small hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury is privately supportive of true LGBT inclusion, but has simply been preoccupied with maintaining some sort of cohesion - ie. that if the most conservative elements of the worldwide Communion did break over this issue, he might feel empowered to be a bit more progressive on this issue. But actually, maybe he's not at all. Maybe hardly any of them are. I'm not sure I'm making sense - I'm very tired, and very upset by it all.

EdithSimcox Fri 15-Jan-16 18:55:22

You are right about Sentamu I'm sure, Nell. You only have to look at his role in poor old Jeremy Pemberton's saga. And I was harbouring the same fantasy about Welby as you, based on no evidence really, just a sense that surely he'd be more progressive if he felt able to be (look how anti-establishment and forthright he's been over welfare benefit cuts for instance). Now I'm more inclined to believe that his attitude is basically the same as the 'traditionalists'.

I suppose as Tuo says the onus is really on us to support inclusive churches and the organisations that are campaigning on this rather than to run away. So perhaps I should do the reverse - not not go back, but use this as the excuse to go back so I can fight.

NellWilsonsWhiteHair Fri 15-Jan-16 19:11:47

Ah - actually you've just reminded me of something the curate at my church told me, about Welby's direct personal involvement in blocking Jeffrey John's appointment (as a bishop? I forget the exact level of seniority which was proffered and then retracted, apparently on the basis of his sexual orientation). Ugh, perhaps there really is no hope in the higher echelons. But maybe if a huge majority of actual congregations come round unequivocally to wholeheartedly support explicit LGBT inclusion and feel outraged at anything less than this, the archbishops will have to address the issue more sensibly in the near future?

niminypiminy Fri 15-Jan-16 23:26:52

I also feel gutted - though tbh I didn't have very many hopes from this meeting. I have no idea what kind of politicking +Justin's trying to do and whether he was just overwhelmed by a better-organised group of operators in Gafcon. Whatever, it's pretty nauseating.

Sadly I'm in too deep to leave. But I'm at a training weekend for ordinands where the mood for many is one of frustration and anger. If all of us go on to parishes and make them properly inclusive then that is something. In the end, the Church isn't it's primates or even its bishops - it's the people. And if the people want the body of Christ to be a rainbow body, maybe there is some hope.

defunctedusername Sat 16-Jan-16 00:03:14

Firstly I admit, am not C of E, but have lots of friends who are. Is it possible to explain how/why this decision is so important? I honestly don't understand why anyone wants to be part of a group that is so against LGBT.

BooAvenue Sat 16-Jan-16 00:15:18

Jeremy faith is generally not something you choose, it's more of a calling.

Viviennemary Sat 16-Jan-16 00:27:29

I don't go to church much nowadays. I'm a Catholic and do look to the church for moral guidance. They can't re-write Christian teaching to suit themselves.

defunctedusername Sat 16-Jan-16 00:29:19

Yes I get the personal 'calling', what I don't understand is why anyone feels called to a god that thinks they are ... 'wrong' ? I don't know how else to put it. Surely everyone is equal? I do get this is very upsetting for everyone.

niminypiminy Sat 16-Jan-16 06:49:09

Jeremy, it's not God who thinks anyone is wrong.

This is one of the central facts about Christianity: God loves us unconditionally, absolutely and totally. He loves us for who we are, not who we aren't.

We can do wrong, sure. But we can never be less than loved.

EdithSimcox Sat 16-Jan-16 11:42:21

Jeremy, as niminy says it is not God who discriminates but the church.

The issue for me is whether the C of E is in a place where it has a hope of ever changing. I can accept that change is slow, and that it is better if possible to bring people along with you when things change, where you can. But if it is hopeless (within my lifetime say) then perhaps it's worth finding another church with a different attitude to this issue.

But in so far as I am anything I am Anglican through and through: from the clergy ancestors, my churchy home and school upbringing, the buildings, music and liturgy that I love, and, by and large, in the creed I believe in. To leave all that seems a step too far, and yet to stay (in my heart, if not in action) seems unbearable too.

I am kidding myself however that this is a conversation about news rather than about religion, which means I must wave hello and goodbye to niminy and tuo. This is starting to get dishonest again. I'll be back when I've sorted it all out.

defunctedusername Sat 16-Jan-16 14:37:00

Ok so that is closer to the reason, it is not God who discriminates but the church. Which leads me another dead end. I thought the heads of the church received, interpreted and disseminated, through sermon, what Gods will was? If they don't then what are they for?

If its an individual who interprets what god does or doesn't believe then is that individual really part of a church?

Tuo Sat 16-Jan-16 14:53:21

This response kind of says what I wanted to say. It's an 'institutional' response on behalf of the Episcopal Church, whereas each of us can only respond as individuals, but it kind of sums up what I meant about not leaving...

I think i'd find it hard if I thought that the people around me, priests and fellow worshippers, felt very differently from me on this (and other similar issues) but I know for a fact that they share my views (more or less). If mine were a lone voice I would not have hope that I could single-handedly bring about change, but I know that it's not, and I know that plenty of those who feel differently from me have more influence than I do.

defunctedusername Sat 16-Jan-16 15:50:50

That's closer to what I was thinking, so the C of E is morally supporting LGBT, because they believe God loves everyone. But won't accord them equality because it would upset the larger world wide group, that they want to be part of, but believes God doesn't love LGBT equally.

So the likelihood of the C of E changing their mind and fully supporting LGBT in reality is dependant on agreement from countries like Sudan, where being gay is punishable by the death penalty.

Tuo Sat 16-Jan-16 18:57:32

Cross-posted with you and then had to go out Jeremy... not ignoring you.

I don't think the leaders of the C of E think that they are 'God's representatives on earth', with a direct line to the Almighty, and they certainly don't claim to be infallible, which means that they can't say 'Right: the correct answer is this, and I know it is because God told me, so the rest of you can shut up' and instead we go around in endless circles.

Having said that, I rather prefer the endless circles (as long as there is real debate and space for dissenting voices to be heard) to the alternative.

I think the problem is that 'the C of E' - or, more to the point, the 'Anglican Communion' worldwide - isn't really 'a thing' in the sense of a single entity with one unified voice (as this vote shows). So within the C of E there are those who feel that this decision is an outrage and discriminatory, and others who feel that it is supported by what the Bible says and therefore correct...

So I'd rephrase what you wrote: Many people within the C of E support LGBT rights, because they believe that God loves everyone, and - I'd add - that the message of the Gospels is a fundamentally inclusive one (there are endless stories that testify to Jesus' acceptance of those considered to be unclean or otherwise beyond the pale: tax-collectors and prostitutes and Samaritans and lepers...). The Church's leaders are desperately trying to hold the worldwide communion together (possibly for good reasons - I've seen the argument expressed that gay people in certain parts of the world would be less safe if the church in their countries was allowed to split from the restraining influence of the C of E... not sure if that's true?) and they have preferred to stick to their line (which has been the line to date - that hasn't actually changed, except in TEC which changed its view on this quite recently) that marriage is between a man and a woman. So I think it's problematic to say 'the C of E thinks...' because there may be a difference between what individual members of the Church (and 'the Church' is us, its members, we are 'body of Christ') think and what the official line from the Church's leaders may be.

So (sorry, I'm going on and on), while I'm depressed about the decision made by the Church's leaders, I take heart from the reaction to that decision that I have seen from individual members of the Church (both lay and ordained) whom I know and trust, and the strength of that reaction gives me hope that the debate will go on...

defunctedusername Sun 17-Jan-16 00:24:47

I think we have gone as far as my understanding can cope with, sorry.

I know its a different religion but the pope is infallible, so you are saying the head of the protestant church is? I have learnt something.

If the 'Anglican Communion' isn't a thing, they why are English christians so desperate to be part of it?

Are you saying christians around the rest of the world are lying about their beliefs because its dangerous to be honest?

So I really don't get two things, why do you want to be part of a group that despises gay people? I just don't get this worldwide grouping you want to be part of.

Also if the Bible make it so clear that god loves everyone, why does the majority of the world say the bible clearly states that god loves marriage between a man and a woman and not between a man and a man (or woman and woman)?

NellWilsonsWhiteHair Sun 17-Jan-16 02:03:24

The bible says a lot of things (where's that helpful picture depicting all the various arrangements that marriage accounts for in the bible? It's an extremely culturally bounded concept, and Christian culture/s have evolved considerably since it was written). It has many different authors, has been translated from different languages, and also needs to be viewed in the context of the time it was written. (Admittedly many evangelicals, including within the CofE, will tut at this as 'picking and choosing the bits of scripture that suit you'.)

So, a lot of the opposition to male-male sexual relations in the bible is likely to refer to pederasty - sex between older men and boys.
Much of it is contained within the Old Testament, which is broadly a guide on how to live as a good Jew 2500 years ago (see also prohibition of shellfish etc).

It is quite fascinating to look at different early translations of key biblical passages - the way they render the 'sin' of homosexuality is quite different, and in some instances and certain translations, the reference is so vague as to be uncertain, or missed out altogether.

The archbishop of Canterbury is not regarded as infallible in the way that the Pope is. Rather, he is the 'first among equals' which is a position of pragmatism more than anything else. One of the central points of the break with Rome is the idea of being answerable directly to God, rather than to the Church hierarchy.

The CofE, and even more so the Anglican Communion, is a very, very broad church. As another example, beliefs about what happens in the Eucharist can vary dramatically between Catholic-style transubstantiation, consubstantiation, right through to much looser and vaguer ideas about the presence of Christ. It also sits in a weird place in terms of Catholicism/Protestantism - personally I feel much better able to class my own faith and liturgical practice as Catholic, rather than Protestant, but this is far from universal. So the organised Church has essentially evolved out of this odd muddle and consequently it is almost impossible to come to much of an agreement about anything at all.

To an extent, feeling part of a very large body of Christian thought is potentially empowering, reassuring and comforting to 'ordinary' (non-archbishop) Christians, lay and ordained. But I don't personally feel a great pull to remain part of the global Communion at any cost, and I suspect that is true of most. What the motivations at the top are for retaining this unity, I'm less certain. Giles Fraser comments in this week's Guardian that the balance of power between CofE/AC has shifted in very recent years. In terms of numbers, the relevance of the AC is increasing in the global south and declining here, which obviously has a major impact. The history of Anglicanism in Africa is a bloody awful and embarrassing one, which goes some way to explaining +Justin's reluctance to "impose current Western values" now. And there is this line of argument that avoiding a schism on this issue may help mitigate the worst of Christian homophobia in certain countries, although I have to say I'm not familiar enough with this to be convinced.

Also, though, gay people and other minorities have long had to fight to be (respected and truly included) part of different institutions who "didn't want us". That's not new, or unfamiliar, or inexplicable. I feel strongly that I have similar levels of choice involved in both my faith and my sexual orientation - it doesn't make sense to me that either of these ought to be called into question by the other.

Tuo Sun 17-Jan-16 12:11:23

Hi Jeremy. I don't think I've done a very good job of explaining what I mean and I hope I'm not making things worse here. I'll try to respond to what you wrote but others, including Nell, will be able to say it better.

I know its a different religion but the pope is infallible, so you are saying the head of the protestant church is? I have learnt something.

No, I'm saying the exactly opposite: that the head of the Church of England does not claim infallibility.

If the 'Anglican Communion' isn't a thing, they why are English christians so desperate to be part of it?

I expressed this badly. What I meant was that it wasn't represented by a single voice. A positive way of looking at this would be to think of it as a choir, where different voices singing different parts join together to produce a sound that is ultimately beautiful. At its best, the Anglican communion allows people to come together to worship God regardless of their differences. Of course, there's a danger that the different voices grate on one another and try to drown one another out so that you get cacophony instead of harmony...

Are you saying christians around the rest of the world are lying about their beliefs because its dangerous to be honest?

Umm... not sure what you mean by this tbh. I'm pretty sure that gay people in Uganda, say, choose not to be out because of the danger, yes, but that wasn't really what I was saying.

So I really don't get two things, why do you want to be part of a group that despises gay people? I just don't get this worldwide grouping you want to be part of.

OK, let me be really really clear. I do not want to be part of a group that despises gay people. Please, please don't think that. sad I am horrified and upset by the fact that the conservative element in the church appears to have got the upper hand this week and I want to do everything I can to try to help reverse that decision. However, I am an Anglican (if I were looking for a church to join right now maybe I'd make a different decision, but that's the church I'm a member of now and in many many ways it represents my approach to my faith) and I know that my church (as in, the local one that I'm a member of, rather than the Church worldwide) is as upset by this week's decision as I am (the spontaneous applause from the congregation this morning when the priest spoke out against it was rather heartening). I know for sure that I am not isolated in my anger and sadness, and therefore I am hopeful of change. Personally, I'm not bothered about being part of the worldwide communion - that's a political level which really doesn't bother me personally that much - I was merely saying that I don't want to leave a local church that predominantly feels as I do about this issue, and which is important to me spiritually in miriad other ways, however disappointed I am in the broader Church's leadership.

Also if the Bible make it so clear that god loves everyone, why does the majority of the world say the bible clearly states that god loves marriage between a man and a woman and not between a man and a man (or woman and woman)?

That's a massive question and not one I know enough of the history of biblical exegesis to answer here. But it's always possible to read multiple meanings into texts and in the Bible particularly so... and there are many factors that come into play here, but particularly, as Nell suggests, the difference between those who take the Bible as being 'for all time' and unchanging in its message and those (I'd put myself in this category) who try to read it 'in context'. There's a huge divide here (and not only on issues of human sexuality) and trying to bridge that (as ++Justin has attempted to do) is always going to be problematic [understatement] - the two sides of the argument are so polarised that it's difficult to build the pillars between them that will support the structure of the bridge (IYSWIM).

I'm going to be really busy in the next few days, so may not be back on here for a bit. Not running away from the discussion.

Viviennemary Sun 17-Jan-16 12:43:11

The Pope is only infallible in matters of doctrine and not in moral issues. Which I'd say this was. That is AFAIK.

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