C of E bishops refuse to change stance on gay marriage

Report says marriage can only be between a man and a woman but says church must stand against homophobia

Bishops have met four times since last July when the two-year process of ‘shared conversations’ on sexuality ended.


Church of England bishops have upheld traditional teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, in a move that has infuriated campaigners for gay rights and risks further alienating the church from wider society.

After two years of intense internal discussion involving clergy and laity – and at least two decades of bitter division within the church – the bishops have produced a report reaffirming that marriage is “a union permanent and life-long, of one man and one woman”.

The church should not “adapt its doctrine to the fashions of any particular time”, said Graham James, the bishop of Norwich, at a press conference to present the report.

However, church law and guidance should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without a change of doctrine – meaning clergy will have some leeway in individual cases – the report said. “Maximum freedom has no definition but it’s part of this exploration we’re engaged in,” said James.

While calling for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbians and gays, the report offered no concrete change.

Gay campaigners within the church denounced the report as “cruel” and an “utter failure” that could herald an increase in clerical disobedience over issues around sexuality.

Bishops have met four times since last July, when the two-year process of “shared conversations” on sexuality ended. Their report will be discussed at next month’s synod but no vote will be taken on its substance.

The report suggests that everyone seeking ordination or appointment as bishops should face questions about their lifestyle, irrespective of their personal sexual orientation. At the moment, gay ordinands and clergy are required to commit to celibacy even if they are in long-term relationships.

James denied the bishops were proposing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. All ordinands and clergy were expected to commit to “fashion [their] own life … according to the way of Christ” but, James said, current questioning was overly focused on sexual activity, with an explicit expectation that gay and lesbian clergy should be celibate.

Instead, “questioning about sexual morality should form a part of a wider examination” or heterosexual and gay ordinands and clergy.

The bishops also say the church needs to repent of homophobic attitudes of the past and stand against homophobia.

Current advice to clergy, which allows them to provide “informal prayers” to same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages, should be clarified, the bishops said. However, the report does not propose official church blessings.

The church said the document represented the consensus of opinion among bishops rather than a unanimous view. The bishops also stressed their report was part of a process rather than an attempt at a final resolution.

However, James acknowledged “it’s possible there will never be an end [to the process]”.

He said: “We hope the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some.

“This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same-sex relationships within the church, and within the house of bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture.”

At the press conference, the bishop acknowledged the church faced a tension between “fidelity to the scriptures, the traditions … and the culture of our times. This is why it’s such a testing issue for the church to deal with. But I don’t think that if the church adapted its doctrine to the fashions of any particular time, that would mean it would be expressing the historic faith.”

Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for equality within the C of E, said the report was “unbelievable, unacceptable and ungodly”.

“Being nice to us whilst hitting us is still abuse,” she said, adding: “The nation will look on incredulous, and yet again will recoil from a church that fails to show love or understanding to those it has constantly marginalised and victimised.”

The report “fails to recognise the mounting evidence that was given of the prolonged and institutionalised spiritual abuse that has been meted out against the LGBT community. To demand that they be celibate for life because of their sexual orientation, and to only recognise one interpretation of scripture on the matter is cruel, unjust and ungodly.”

Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a vicar who married his partner in 2014 in defiance of church rules, said the report was an “utter failure of leadership”.

The trust that bishops had demanded from gay and lesbian Christians had been betrayed, he said, adding: “Now it’s time to get on with it ourselves, to start trying to provide what they have failed to provide: a genuine welcome to gay Christians.”

He anticipated an increase in clergy offering de facto services of blessing to same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages.

The church said it recognised that some clergy were defying church rules at the moment. “But there’s much less disobedience than people imagine,” said James. “Rebel clergy” would be dealt with on an individual basis by bishops, the church said.

Simon Sarmiento, the chair of the LGBTI Mission, said the key feature of the report was procrastination. But he added: “The bishops’ intent to change the tone of the C of E debate will be a serious challenge for conservative Christians.”

Reform, a conservative organisation within the C of E, said it was grateful that the bishops were not proposing changes to the church’s doctrine of marriage. But it voiced concern about “permitting maximum freedom within this law. In adopting a framework which seeks to take a middle path between biblical truth and cultural sensitivities, the bishops have ensured theological incoherence and hypocrisy will prevail for the foreseeable future.”

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Retired Catholic priests call for abolishment of celibacy

‘What moves us is the experience of loneliness – as elderly people who are unmarried because our office required this from us, we feel it vividly on some days after 50 years on the job’

By Lucy Pasha-Robinson

The Catholic Church should end the celibacy vow, a group of senior priests in Germany has said.    

In an open letter, the group of 11 high ranking clerics said every man should have the right to choose to take the vow or not. 

The retired clerics were ordained in Cologne in 1967, and wrote the letter as part of a review of their 50 years in the Catholic church. 

“We believe that requiring that every man who becomes a priest to remain celibate is not acceptable,” group member Franz Decker told DW

“We think, every Catholic should be allowed to choose if they would rather be celibate or not, regardless of whether they want to work as priests or not – just like in the Protestant Church or the Orthodox church, really, every church but the Catholic Church.”

The group argue celibacy causes many modern priests to suffer from seclusion and believe the men have little to gain from church-imposed solitude. 

“What moves us is the experience of loneliness – as elderly people who are unmarried because our office required this from us, we feel it vividly on some days after 50 years on the job… We agreed to this clerical life because of our jobs, but we didn’t choose it,” the group wrote. 

The letter also makes a number of suggestions as to how the Catholic Church could “modernise”, including allowing women to join the clergy. 

Clerical celibacy has often been an issue of contention in the Catholic Church. 

The discipline, believed to have been introduced in the fourth century, requires men to be unmarried in order to be ordained, and to practise sexual abstinence. 

Proponents of clerical celibacy see it as “a special gift of God” where they can devote themselves to their religion more freely. 

However, according to theologian Wunibald Müller, many priests struggle with the vow. He says some overcompensate for their  loneliness by over-eating, drinking to excess or worse. 

“Even if you decide to live celibate, your sexuality is still there,” he said 

“If someone suppresses their desires, for warmth, for intimacy, this can backfire – they are more likely to cross a line, to abuse their position of trust to get intimacy.”

Complete Article HERE!


Pope meets with men who left the priesthood

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy is rapidly coming to a close, the pope reached out once again to those in need of mercy – men who have left the priesthood. 

For two hours, Pope Francis met with seven men, who now have families, and spent time listening to their stories and getting to know their wives and children. 

Pope Francis did not intend to judge or justify them, but desired to express his closeness to these men, who felt they had made a mistake by becoming a priest. Many faced extreme opposition from their diocese, family or friends for leaving. Because of this, the pope wanted to send a gentle message of mercy to the five Italians, Spaniard and Latin American men he met during the surprise encounter.

Additionally, the families asked him to autograph various objects, like this cell phone case and gave him gifts as well. 

The pope ended the visit by reciting a Hail Mary with them all together and giving a group blessing. 

When the pope headed outside to leave the apartments on the outskirts of Rome, however, he was greeted by masses of people who waited for him with cell phones posed and ready for pictures. 


Complete Article HERE!


Church of Ireland ‘turning blind eye’ to clergy flouting gay rules

People gathered at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle in 2015 for the historic announcement of the gay marriage referendum.

People gathered at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle in 2015 for the historic announcement of the gay marriage referendum.

A Church of Ireland cleric has slammed his own denomination for allegedly teaching traditional marriage in public but privately “turning a blind eye” to gay clergy engaging in sexual relationships.

Rev Stephen Neill – a passionate supporter of LGBT rights in the Church of Ireland (CoI) – made the allegations in this week’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

It is understood to be the first time such explosive claims have been made with such frankness about the inner workings of the CoI.

According to rules in the CoI and sister Anglican denomination the Church of England (CoE), defining oneself as gay does not preclude anyone from becoming a cleric – nor even from entering a civil partnership – so long as those involved give an undertaking to remain celibate within the arrangement.

But Rev Stephen Neill from Celbridge, near Dublin, says that the rules are being widely flouted in the CoE by clerics who publicly claim to be in celibate gay relationships which are privately sexual – and all with the full collusion of CoE bishops. Rev Neill goes on to say that the CoI is in “exactly the same dishonest position”.

His comments were prompted by the Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain of Grantham, who last week became the first Anglican bishop to openly declare his homosexuality – and that he was in a relationship, which he said was celibate.

Rev Neill said the bishop’s relationship was “the worst-kept secret in the church”.

Bishop Grantham’s ‘secret’ was also known to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Lincoln and many others.

Rev Neill went on to quote CoE cleric Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who stated that “quietly” across the CoE “clergy are getting married or converting their civil partnerships to marriage; gay ordinands in sexual relationships are getting the nod through while appearing to comply with the selection procedures; and clergy are having sex in their civil partnerships”.

Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain had said last month: “Priests are offering services of blessing and thanksgiving to gay and lesbian couples and parishes celebrating with them. The bishops all know this and many even collude in the dishonesty around the current position with private words of support and public obedience to the official line.

“One recently married priest I know of was invited into the episcopal study, handed his letter of discipline and then the bishop’s wife arrived with two gin and tonics – and as she said ‘Congratulations’, the bishop toasted the new couple.”

Rev Neill, whose father is the retired Archbishop of Dublin, said he despaired over the lack of honesty in the CoE – “but we in the Church of Ireland find ourselves in exactly the same dishonest position”.

He added: “There are, just as in the Church of England, many informal arrangements and turnings of a blind eye in our own Church of Ireland”.

He went on to affirm that he was one of those who “fervently believe that same-sex relationships should be recognised and affirmed without qualification by our Church”.

Scott Holden, Chair of CoI LGBT lobby group Changing Attitudes Ireland estimates there are some 65 gay clergy in the CoI out of 500 overall.

But Rev Dr Alan McCann, Rector of Holy Trinity in Carrickfergus and treasurer of conservative CoI lobby group ‘Reform Ireland’, challenged Rev Neill’s claims – and called on the CoI bishops to clarify what is happening in the wider denomination.

“He speaks of a blind eye being turned to such arrangements in the CoI,” Rev McCann said, “If that is the case, and he doesn’t document them, then the House of Bishops need to be honest with the church that they have such a policy in place. If such a policy is in place and they are turning a blind eye to sinful relationships amongst the clergy then they are failing in their vows as Bishops and that would place many of us in a very difficult relationship to our bishop [assuming they were turning a blind eye to such].

“I have not heard of such a protocol or guidelines existing in the CoI.”

He believed Rev Neill was raising the issue as he and other liberals had been “emboldened” by the Bishop of Grantham revelations about his gay relationship. He also believed liberals had been emboldened by the fact that no disciplinary action has been taken against Dean Tom Gordon from Carlow and the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory who appointed him. Dean Gordon revealed he was in a civil partnership in 2011 and remains a CoI cleric in good standing.

Rev McCann added that Rev Neill and others are departing from Scripture and from the historical teaching of the church, reaffirmed in General Synod 2012. “He can advocate change but he cannot change the teaching of Scripture and to do so is heretical”.

He added: “Mr Neill has called for honesty – and that is a good thing. The shadowboxing is coming to an end and we cannot ignore the fact that a realignment is happening all across the Anglican Communion and the CoI will not be immune from it.”

A CoI spokesman said it was not “appropriate” to comment on the “dialogue” between the two clerics.

“However, with regard to the question of there being any policy of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the sexual relationships of clergy, I would confirm that there is no such policy in the Church of Ireland.”

There has not been any disciplinary action taken towards the Very Revd Tom Gordon or his bishop, Michael Burrows, he said.

He reiterated that the Church passed a resolution at its General Synod in 2012 by 245 to 115 votes which clarifies that marriage “is between a man and a woman”.

The spokesman said that after same-sex marriage was enshrined in law in the Republic of Ireland last year, bishops wrote to clergy there and “encouraged restraint by any cleric who might consider entering a same-sex marriage, for the sake of unity and in order to be respectful of the principles of others”.

The letter acknowledged that “all are free to exercise their democratic entitlements once enshrined in legislation” but that members of the clergy are “bound by the ordinal and by the authority of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland”.

Complete Article HERE!


CofE bishop reveals he is in a gay relationship

Bishop Chamberlain is said to be in a long-term - but celibate - relationship.

Bishop Chamberlain is said to be in a long-term – but celibate – relationship.

The bishop of Grantham has become the first Church of England bishop to say that he is gay and in a relationship.

Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain, a suffragan in Lincoln diocese, was ordained last year by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – who has said he knew about the bishop’s sexuality.

He was in a “long term and committed” relationship, Archbishop Welby said.

Bishop Chamberlain says he obeys Church guidelines which say gay clergy must remain celibate.

The archbishop also said: “His appointment as Bishop of Grantham was made on the basis of his skills and calling to serve the church in the Diocese of Lincoln.

“He lives within the Bishops’ guidelines and his sexuality is completely irrelevant to his office.”

‘Not secret’

A Church of England spokesman said: “Nicholas has not misled anyone and has been open and truthful if asked. The matter is not secret, although it is private as is the case with all partnerships/relationships.”

Bishop Chamberlain made the disclosure in an interview with the Guardian, and it has been reported that he gave the interview because his private life was about to be exposed by a Sunday newspaper.

“It was not my decision to make a big thing about coming out,” he told the newspaper.

“People know I’m gay, but it’s not the first thing I’d say to anyone. Sexuality is part of who I am, but it’s my ministry that I want to focus on.”

It’s thought no serving bishop has ever before gone public about their sexuality. The former archbishop of York, Lord Hope, said in 1995 that his sexuality was a “grey area”.

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Jeffrey John, withdrew from the race to become Bishop of Reading in 2003 after an angry reaction from traditionalist Anglicans about his sexuality.

Bishop Chamberlain’s revelation is likely to cause further tension among Anglicans.

Last month 72 traditionalist members of the church’s ruling general synod wrote to all bishops, encouraging them to abide by biblical teaching on sexuality.

Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an interview that he “couldn’t see the road ahead” when it came to sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!