20 June, 2011

Gay bishops

The late broadcaster Michael Vestey was once asked to train some bishops in coping with the media. Not being religious, he asked around quietly what it was they didn't like to talk about. He was told 'homosexuality in the Church'.

As he took the clergy through the experience of being filmed and recorded, he would put them at their ease ('I expect it's a difficult job being a bishop') and suddenly introduce the topic. The poor bishops were terrified and the experiment abandoned. Thus Michael saved us from a race of media-savvy clerics which we are better off without.

It has been remarked that the Church of England entered the twentieth century in favour of foxhunting and against homosexuality, and entered the twenty-first with the positions reversed. Amusing, but the matter is not quite so simple. The official position of the Church has been expressed twice: in 1987 the Synod stated 

 - that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship;
 - that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
 - that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;

Then in 1991 the Synod declared that 'homophile' orientation and activity could not be endorsed by the Church as a parallel and alternative form of human sexuality as complete within the terms of the created order as the heterosexual.

Pretty straightforward, you might think. Now however they have decided, without, apparently, changing the above views, that homosexuals can be bishops, even if they are in a registered civil partnership (gay marriage) as long as they do not indulge in sexual activity. So, no bonking bishops.

Is this one law for the bishops and one for the rest? How do they check it is being adhered to? Do they take the bishop's word?

For myself I find it very difficult to regard homosexuality as a sin but I do object to the Established Church making a complete idiot of itself. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a liberal but surely even he must detect some lack of intellectual rigour here. He should get a grip.

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