By Harry Farley
A row has erupted over a list of gay Church of England clergy published by a conservative Anglican group.
GAFCON UK released the list on Sunday of clergy known to be in same-sex relationships or who have officiated over gay unions. Although those named have already publicly come out as gay, it is the first time such a list has been compiled and raised fears it will lead to increased abuse.
The list on the GAFCON UK website said it was recently given as a briefing for conservative bishops around the world to highlight the state of the Church of England.
The notes described “chaos” in each Anglican province and listed a number of “violations” of the Church’s ban on same-sex marriages, as laid out in the landmark Lambeth 1.10 resolution passed in 1998.
“While orthodox believers certainly hope that the Church of England does not go further in violating Lambeth 1.10, the situation in England as it currently stands is already a scandal within the Anglican Communion,” said the briefing.
The “partial list” catalogues “some of the ways in which Lambeth 1.10 has been violated within the Church of England”.
Canon Chris Sugden, a retired minister on the Church’s conservative wing, told Christian Today the list was “a helpful gathering of information”.
He said the Church’s discipline rules for clergy who broke rank were difficult and expensive to enact but said there was a “simple route forward”. He called on bishops to declare they are “individually in impaired communion with those who have breached the Church’s teaching and discipline in these regards”.
But a number of LGBT clergy raised fears the list could lead to targeting and abuse.
Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a married gay vicar in London who regularly receives hate mail, said the list served “no other purpose other than to make us targets in some way”.
Foreshew-Cain’s marriage was highlighted by the list. He told Christian Today: “None of us are ashamed. I am legally married and that should be celebrated.” But he said the list would “encourage the harassment of clergy and lay people” who are openly gay. “If anyone is ashamed here it should be GAFCON.”
Canon Jeremy Pemberton, another married gay priest named on the list, said it was “disgusting to try and target people like this”. But he added he was “glad” GAFCON had made the point the CofE had crossed a line.
Tracey Byrne, chief executive for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), slammed the list as “contemptible” and added: “It is quite clear that their intention is to ‘name and shame’.
“This goes beyond political strategy – this is a deliberate attempt to deny God’s presence in the lives of real people, and to condemn them by public shaming.”
The list was released as senior bishops are preparing to meet in December to discuss the next steps for the Church over its ban on gay marriage. A group of bishops will bring a recommendation to the CofE’s ruling general synod in February. One possible option is some form of “pastoral accommodation” that would allow liberal clergy to celebrate same-sex unions in church without an official change in teaching.
GAFCON has made its opposition to any change in direction clear. The briefing on Sunday said: “To restore order and a credible Christian witness, the upcoming meetings of the House of Bishops and General Synod would need to not merely avoid going further in violating Lambeth 1.10, but it would need to take constructive steps to rectify the numerous public (and presumably private) breaches that have been strategically taken by some to undermine the teaching of the Communion.”
Rev James Paice, part of the GAFCON UK Taskforce, told Christian Today: “This report is shocking because it shows the extent to which revisionism has infected the the Church of England.” He said CofE leaders had turned a “blind eye to blatant violations” and added more conservative Anglican leaders around the world had “concluded that the Church of England is a sinking ship”.
Rev Canon Andrew Gross, press officer for Gafcon Global later said:
“There was never any intention to ‘name and shame’ individuals. How could there be? The document lists public actions taken by individuals who are very proud of what they have been doing. In many of these cases, these activists were actively courting the media in order that their violations of Lambeth 1.10 would have the greatest possible impact.
“For these same activists to then turn around and claim that cataloguing each of their media blitzes is some kind of personal attack is completely disingenuine. The “naming and shaming” narrative was invented by activists in a self-serving attempt to paint themselves as victims. It is completely inaccurate.”
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