Monday, 27 September 2010

Archbishops empty words

When I wrote my blog on Saturday - I'm not aginst religious people - just religion - I hadn't read the full interview in with the Archbishop of Canterbury which appeared in The Times that day.

Having now read it, I am saddened at yet another expression of the same phenomena that I described that day. Once again the Church of England through the voice of its Archbishop has said "I'm not against homosexual people - just homosexuality".

In his apparently open minded comments on the suitability (or not) of homosexuals to be priests and bishops, he has once again treated their sexuality as optional 'add-on' to life by insisting that while he would have 'no problem' with a celibate gay bishop, he regards the issue of homosexual relationships as 'a particular choice of life'.

Leaving aside the obvious question as to why, if he has no problem with a gay bishop who is celibate, he has prevented the appointment of Jeffrey John as a bishop twice (the most recent being this summer) - there is a deeper issue. That of the forced celibacy of homosexual clergy.

To treat gay clergy in this way dehumanises them. It requires them to take on a burden which most do not feel called to, and to live in a manner of self denial which is unsustainable.

When God created Eve in Genesis 2, the purpose expressed was not that of procreation (as some would have us believe) but of mutual love and companionship. In this story of creation, "No suitable helper could be found" (vs 20) and so God created Eve out of Adam to be 'bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh' - to be the one who completes Adam and brings the wells of human love and fulfilment to a lonely Adam.

This sense of needing to have that special someone who completes us is at the heart of our human desire for mutual love. It is something which is common to all humanity, gay or straight. So to say to a homosexual person that because their attraction is to someone of the same sex, they should set aside this fundamental part of their humanity, is both damaging and wrong. We simply can't split ourselves in two like that and expect everything to be fine.

I witnessed this at first hand in a fellow student at Theological College who simply could not bear this burden imposed by his church - and it ultimately cost him his life. See Benny's Tale - Part 2

The approach which says 'I'm not against homosexual people - just homosexuality' simply does not cut it - ethically, morally, or theologically.

I am reminded of a powerful speech made by an elderly nun at General Synod in 2004. (Yes - good things appear in the most unlikely places sometimes!)

Sister Rosemary CHN, representing Religious Communities, spoke in the debate on Human Sexuality, and her theme was celibacy - something she knew a great deal about. She began by celebrating her vocation to the celibate life...
"I speak in this debate from the perspective of a vowed celibate life in the monastic tradition. For me, this life, freely chosen in response to the call of God is, at the deepest level, a way that brings blessing, joy and fulfilment... I would therefore strongly defend both vowed celibacy and singleness as valued ways of being human, reflecting the love of God and growing into the likeness of Christ"

before letting loose this thundering condemnation of the kind of forced celibacy the Archbishop is demanding for gay and lesbian clergy...

"For those of us under religious vows, who treasure celibacy as call and gift, the idea of forced celibacy is as abhorrent as the idea of forced marriage"
I leave you with her words which expose the bankrupt reality of the Archbishop's words this week.
"Some gay clergy have reluctantly accepted celibacy as an imposed discipline. Some of these, I feel sure, have found that through their struggles they have been given grace... For others, however, misery remains just misery, and they are exposed to the danger of a kind of withering of the heart, which makes them less able to love anybody."
"Christians who are happily married can bear witness to the way in which a partner's love can be both a means of grace and a school of the Lord's service: a channel of God's love to them and through them. Gay Christians in committed relationships say that it is the same for them. When I observe the quality of their lives, and feel warmed and healed by their friendship, I know that it is true."
"A lay member of the Church in which I used to be a curate, when interviewed by a local newspaper about Gene Robinson's consecration, said 'When God calls a man, God calls all of him, including his sexuality'... Is it not more than time for us to open our eyes to what God is doing in our gay brothers and sisters? To find humility to learn from them? To repent of the cruel way the Church has treated them and is treating them, and to join with God in loving and valuing them for all that they are?"
Amen, sister!!


  1. When the Anglican Church wakes up to Sister Rosemary's words, I might consider restoring my own communion with the Anglican Church.

    Until then, I remain out of communion.

  2. Good for you David Townsend - me too.

    And well said


  3. God bless Sister Rosemary. The situation would be much aided if the word "abstinence" were used instead of "celibacy." Abstinence is something you [don't] do, but celibacy is a state of life, as Sr R. points out, like marriage.

  4. Good piece. Well argued. Here's my take on it.

  5. Thank you for this article. I love your take by the way, Poppy.

  6. Brava, Sister Rosemary!

    Thank you for a wonderful post, Benny. This is my first visit to your blog, but I will return.

  7. Brava Benny!
    Thanks for sharing this with us Benny.

  8. Thanks to everyone who left comments. Next Blog - "The Sin of Honesty" is now on the Blog.

  9. Awesome ! Article was so commendable . I hope , you will give more information ........................................................