Gay Bishops, counted but not outed - and we all, shall we stand and be counted?

"In the Times interview, Archbishop Rowan said “there’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop … there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there’s always a question about the personal life of the clergy.” The interviewer commented that it is an unappealing idea that the Church makes such unnatural demands on its clergy.

If there is no problem with a celibate gay person being a bishop, why are none of the 3 gay Primates in the Anglican Communion able to be open about their sexuality and why are none of the 10 to 13 gay bishops in the Church of England able to be publicly open? Some are married, some are single and celibate, some are not, all are closeted. The recently published survey estimated that 1.5% of the UK are gay or bisexual. Eight percent of Anglican Primates are gay and 10% of Church of England Bishops."

So there are three gay Primates and 10 to 13 gay bishops in the CofE. Who might they be? 

The ethics and politics about disclosure or self-disclosure is a bit unclear to me (I am sure others will help me in that) but the assertion that 8% of the primates of the Communion are gay does raise the question: why are they not able to come forward and openly stand with both bishops Robinson and Glasspool AND with the church in which those two serve? Silence keeps trouble from the door, but it sends trouble elsewhere to other doors. 

We can suppose that not all of these Primates are in celibate relations, or all of the 10% of CofE bishops. Some of these bishops then are precisely the sorts of bishops the that the ABC might have "trouble" with.

If Coward is right we can reasonably ask, "when will any of those come forward so that the two who are clearly out and the church that ordains them to not take the whole brunt of condemnation alone?"

And for that matter we may ask if is it time for all of us to put on the pink triangle so that when in Anglican land they come to bash the queers who are troublesome we are all queer, or at least trouble? 

But some argue there are reasons to keep it all quiet.

I have recently heard again the argument that the actions of The Episcopal Church in confirming and ordaining gay bishops has put our fellow Anglicans elsewhere in danger, and that therefore we ought to restrain our actions for our brothers and sisters sake.  I don't know the accuracy of the charge, but  I've been thinking on the "therefore" for several days now and have some suggestions for possible directions we might consider.

This business of Restraint:

Restraint because it might cause someone to harm to another is a mixed bag. The reader can follow out various scenarios - but the point is that there is no direct connection between our restraint and other's actions. Specifically, in areas where Muslim and Christian communities are in conflict, association with TEC may add fuel to the fire, but the fire is already ablaze.  

Still, the point is taken. When someone says we are putting them in danger, messing with their minds or faith or otherwise confusing them, we need to take them seriously. Likewise when others call homosexuals worse than dogs, they need to take seriously the danger that presents for gay and lesbian people.

So here is a thought - just a thought for consideration:
Perhaps for the safety of others The Episcopal Church ought to stand apart from the Anglican Communion for a while. 

If we stand with our gay and lesbian members in affirming their full inclusion in The Episcopal Church, perhaps we can also stand with them in their exclusion from those churches who find this stance impossible. If Bishop Robinson can not celebrate in England and can not go to Uganda and be honored as a bishop there, if our Presiding Bishop can not celebrate in England and is shunned at the Eucharistic table by some Primates, then perhaps all Episcopalians ought to take on the honor of being so excluded.
An example: In the mid eighties I went to a conference of campus chaplains in England. My host, knowing the anglophile ways of us Episcopalians asked if I would like to celebrate the Eucharist in the chapel of the cathedral where we were meeting. I would have loved to have done so. But I said, "No, thank you, but my sister priests can not celebrate here, so I join them in that limitation. Until they can, I can not." My host, a fine and gentle person, understood completely. Perhaps it is time for us all to join the excluded.

Perhaps we could say, if it happens to any of us, it happens to all of us. 

We may need to say, "I am an Episcopalian," and just that. If asked, are we Anglican we would say, "No." In this way those in other parts of the world who are in danger of being identified with us as as Anglican, and fear that, could clearly say they are Anglican and we are not.  

Perhaps we need to open a way to disassociate The Episcopal Church from these churches so that IF they desire to continue the association with us they do so of their own free will and by their initiation. 

And, we, in order to make this work, would have to identify ourselves, all "ourselves" with those parts of this body that are despised and rejected. If women are rejected, we are. If gay and lesbian persons are rejected, we are. If vocational commitment is discounted, so it will be for all our commitments. We will need to be one body.

Following on this possibility: We ought not expect others in the world to stand with us when our actions put them in danger, rather we ought to empty ourselves of that expectation and live in hope that it may come anyway at some point when God in God's mercy so allows. Meanwhile, we are The Episcopal Church and we work out how we are true to the Gospel as we can and must.

And, should The Episcopal Church find itself without cognate churches, close relatives, sister churches, etc, in various parts of the world so be it. If TEC withdraws and no new affirmation of connection takes place, and the Anglican Communion goes on without us, so be it. 

Short term autonomy is not the end of the story, for it is in Christ that we are united, not in the broken churches of Christendom.
But woe to the church that believes our leaving is an invitation to step in and join those who consider us unsafe, presenting themselves as the Anglican Communion in North America, untainted by this peculiar form of inclusion, safe from all the unwelcome dangers of association with homosexuals, or women clergy or bishops, and so forth. They will have their reward. 

And woe to the churches that claim purity before their far neighbors because they are not like us, their near neighbors. No one can claim purity, no one is without sin. They will have their reward.

No, better it is that for all of us, our "yes" should be "yes" and our "no," "no."   When asked, "are you part of the same church that those Episcopalians are?" they would be better to say, "no" and leave it at that.  And we will say, "yes, that is true." But one day we will together again have courage to say, "yes, we are one." 
Well it is just a "perhaps."  But I am of a mind to go in that direction. We have said yes to some possibilities and others have said no. It is a marker of many joys and sorrows, and perhaps it is time to empty ourselves of the world of compromising restraint, a restraint that does not grow from the love of others in Christ, but from a fear of rejection by others.


  1. Fr. Mark,

    Strategically, you propose “civil disobedience.” Tactically you propose both boycott and sit-in. There is no surer witness to the oppressed as standing with the oppressed.

    I think I like it; and its gospel based to boot!

  2. Father Mark,
    We HAVE been saying that! No one has been listening. The are all caught up in the echoes of their own strident voices.

  3. Interesting ideas, Mark!
    What if they were put into practice for 20 years with review at the end? Pros and cons, progresses and regresses, statistical growth and statistical decline.
    Surely someone currently prognosticating on Anglican futures will be proved to be a seer of Old Testament calibre at the conclusion of the review ...

  4. Let me second Peter Carrell. I only wish that had not been proposed earlier. Think of all the litigation money that has been spent. Millions of dollars at the same time we are properly asked to help out Haiti. Also, is this proposal meant to anticipate the Dublin gathering? Alex

  5. Splendid post.

    I would support a campaign of civil disobedience.

    I would not support unilaterally leaving the Communion. I'd rather be kicked out of the club. Let them go to the trouble of throwing us out.

    I also think it's time to publicly and forcefully disassociate ourselves from all the holy homophobia coming from religious fundamentalist movements of all kinds from Anglican to Hindu.
    That stand is turning the moral authority that Christianity once enjoyed with the rest of the world into crap. The constant drum beat of scandal and hypocrisy on the gay issue is making our faith into a laughing stock (another powerful homophobic "bishop" caught in bed with several live boys). Holy homophobia puts Christianity in the same company on the same side as all kinds of toxic folk, from mad mullahs to Christian Dominionists to the Phelps clan to legions of bullies and hostile communities driving gay teens to suicide.
    Our church is finding itself in the same historical company as all those prooftexters who used the story of Ham to defend slavery and segregation.
    On the science behind this whole issue, holy homophobia is the equivalent of clinging to Ptolemy's cosmos while space ships are shattering the crystal spheres.

    It's time to say no and to take a stand apart.

  6. With the church casting itself into the role of spiritual cop and enforcer of social conventions (conventions that conveniently serve the interests of the very established and very powerful), it's no surprise that the fastest growing single religious identity in the deeply religious USA is "None of the Above."

    If there is prophecy to be fulfilled, then perhaps it is Karl Marx's observation that the priest is the landlord's best friend.

  7. Amen to Counterlight! And to Mark!

    And to Father Carrell: Your suggestion is as usual thoughtful and moderate, but that 20-year review suggests that TEC would be evaluated as to whether it was worthy of re-inclusion. I suppose I don't have to bother saying what I think about that...

  8. Bob McCloskey2/10/10 9:16 AM

    Mark -

    No one is more knowledgable about this matter than Colin Coward. My own experience in the C of E is that there is some sort of fear driven agreement between closeted bishops and closeted parish priests. The fear may well be legitimate.

    Another complicating factor is the extreme partisan divide between some of the clergy involved, esp. conservative gay anglo-catholic clergy and bishops vs. more progressive colleagues.

    In any event your question about disclosure may or may not have been rhetorical, but that fact is that a broad spectrum of clergy et al know full well whome some if not all of the primates and bishops in question are. I certainly do. This makes the concealment even more sad.

    Bob McCloskey

  9. Lovely. Yes, lets. I imagine many of us have been anguishing over religion's ideological complicity in this week's awful suicides.
    In fact I bet a lot of us (myself included) have already taken to identifying as "Episcopalian" because, at least here in USA, "Anglican" -- as in breakaway congregations -- has become code for adherant of religious heterosexism. At least in my mind.
    Of course (at least for me) this may just be a first step toward throwing out the baby AND the bathwater as long as religion persists in being a stone of shame affixed to the ankle of human rights. A morally-tainted luxury. But that's my issue. I cannot forget the PB's "fast for a season." It rankles, still.

  10. Withdrawing from the AC will potentially have a devastating effect on the Communion's direction and development. As for ACNA and its fellow-travelers, as Greeley, mistakenly, said of the Confederacy, "Wayward sisters, depart in peace".

    [Leaving the silver at the door,of course.]

  11. Mark, you have said something very much like this before, as have a number of us. My guess is that in 2012 we will reject the Covenant-as-presented, and unless a number of other national churches in the Communion have also and already done so, separation may be where some of the chips fall. We will maintain our position that participation in the Communion is a matter of recognition by Canterbury and the Church of England, and by participation in the ACC, and let others fight about what it means to not participate in the Covenant-as-presented.

    Frankly, I'm not sure the Communion will be able to sustain that long even the already tenuous condition is has today even through the next two years. However, many of us could imagine at least that manner of "stepping back," at least for a while.

  12. I have long thought that it would be better to stay in the Communion until we were thrown out. However, I now see that we have already been de facto thrown out and that this may be the moment to withdraw formally. IMV, we are longer part of the same communion as the proponents of a confessional Anglicanism (an oxymoron) and it is they who have abandoned the via media.

  13. "However, I now see that we have already been de facto thrown out" -- just what does this mean, please.

  14. I am able to refute your argument almost entirely with hackneyed phrases which lends great support for my position as the the more traditional one. Somehow are you not really advocating the same non exsistent purity?
    And such temporary breaks become permanent, (I'm appalled as unsurprised at Fr. Carrel's suggestion of 20 years- might as well make it 200) and I feel that you have thrown in the towel before we have begun to fight. Surely we are so not so conflict adverse that we don't see a winnable war. To do anything less is to participate in the complicity of the suicidal deaths of gay teens. The "conservative" primates and their ilk are a bunch of bullies and the Archbishop is a wuss who doesn't comprehend in his weakness that he is being blackmailed for his lunch money.
    As for the claim that this particular argument is interfering with the business of the church, I would quote that "the interruption of our business is our business".(see lost sheep) and in any case we can "chew gum and fart at the same time" which I believe is the original indelicate expression.
    If we have to change anything I think it should be the name of the communion. Change it to the Celtic Communion which describes our spiriitual origins and emerging future rather than our political origins and in one full sweep, tremble the episcopal thrones in Rome and Canterbury as we accomplish reconciliation with all the Irish and Scots around the world. I'm not sure how that will sit with the anglophiles such as your delightful self, but Churchill did begin negotions with the Irish in saluting them as "we Celts".

  15. Sir - we sometimes disagree but I come back to this site because I respect your integrity (i.e. that you are willing to the consequences of your principles).

    I am sorry but I cannot respect people who pursure insider, under-cover strategies ....their position lacks integrity.

    Let's all be honest about what we think....and if that means walking apart, let's do that.... respecting each other post separation rather than staying in the same club to please Rowan but knowing that will mean endless strife....institutional unity is not worth that painful price.

  16. If, Observer, you are a supporter of the ACNA/GAFCON crowd - and it is not clear, at least from your new post, that you are - your statement that you "cannot respect people who pursure insider, under-cover strategies ....their position lacks integrity" would be more than a little disingenuous.

  17. Anonymous said...

    "However, I now see that we have already been de facto thrown out" -- just what does this mean, please.

    What I meant was that in many churches of the Communion I, as an Episcopalian, would not be welcome to preside at the Eucharist. And, as Mark pointed out, many of our Bishops would not be welcome to confirm or ordain in the Church of England. That sounds like being thrown out to me.

  18. Lapin - you might notice that the ACNA crowd have left...they are not pursuing an insider strategy...they are putting their principles into action. They have left TEC because they are close to sharing what the ABC calls "the mind of the Communion".... I respect them for giving up pay and pensions and property where they have (and don't support legal action for property, even if people feel they have a real case....because the litigation is not good for anyone, even if they are in the right)

  19. I should remind Observer that clergy who leave the Episcopal Church once their pensions are vested don't lose them. That group includes all of the bishops who left and a large percentage of the priests. Although I don't know about pay across the board, my friends who have left are still working and, as far as I can tell, still being paid fairly well.

  20. You weren't throw out. You were judged to have walked away and so treated accordingly. No one can throw people out. Instead they choose to depart from the mind f the Communion. What I hear Mark H say is, 'we should be prepared to pay the price of our convictions.' I agree.
    I thought maybe you were talking about being 'thrown out' of the Primates Meeting. I didn't think that had happened. But it is hard to know what kind of Meeting can take place given TEC's position. It would be best, consistent with Mark H's idea, for TEC to recuse itself. AJM

  21. South Africa has adopted the covenant. AJM

  22. Thought you had better things to do with your time, Curious Observer. If it's devious "undercover strategies" you're on the lookout for, check the 2003 Chapman Memo.

  23. Using "thrown out" was not helpful, but clearly being in the Communion has lost much of its meaning if some of us are not welcome in other churches of the Communion. "Walking apart" is not an entirely inaccurate expression, although it suggests that the Episcopal Church has departed from the Anglican understanding and practice of the faith. I still affirm the points of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, still worship with the BCP, and still recite the Creeds without crossing my fingers. On the matter of human sexuality, about which Anglicans may have an unhealthy obsession, I disagree with perhaps most others within the Communion, but I don't see that as an abandonment of the Anglican path.

  24. I do. I'm not 'Observer.' C

  25. Lapin - what is behind your reaction? I wonder if you think it is ok for some people, sometimes, to deceive their bishops, even their congregations, re their behaviour i.e. you sometimes justify people saying one thing and doing another? Maybe to advance a cause or just to reject the restriction, even though questions of integrity must arise?

    I have no problem with someone taking the opposite view..... but not with those who compromise principles because they play some political "long game"....principles are more important than that. Forget about ACNA leaving TEC, why has TEC not left the AC given its principles are now at odds with most of it? I would respect TEC more if it had left when BO33 was asked of it.....or when not all TEC bishops were invited to Lambeth (that was disgusting and unfair in my view...but TEC accepted it!) Principles and integrity matter, Lapin..... that is why I do not like insider strategies....

  26. "Principles and integrity matter, Lapin..... that is why I do not like insider strategies....".

    Well and good, Observer. And now back to the Chapman Memo. Or is an "insider strategy" (and, out of curiosity, exactly what "insider strategies" are you attempting to lay at TEC's doorstep?) by definition something only done by those to whom you are ideologically opposed?

  27. Anonymous said...

    "You weren't throw out. You were judged to have walked away and so treated accordingly. No one can throw people out. Instead they choose to depart from the mind f the Communion."

    So what you're really saying, Anny, is "f the communion?" Just curious where you stand, other than in the shadows...

  28. Did I fail to hit "post", or has a piece I have just written been deleted? Just asking so that I don't waste time re-writing if the latter was the case.

  29. Should it have been deleted?

    If not, perhaps 'twas lost in the nether.

  30. Either way, water under the bridge.

  31. If the Episcopal Church were to withdraw voluntarily from the Communion, perhaps the "traditionalists" would be able to stop talking about us and spend more time and energy talking about God's mission.

  32. Lapin - as far as I can see, the Chapman Memo had as its aim keeping TEC in line with the "mind of the Communion"..... it was not about TEC staying in but going against that mind despite the divisions that causes and also the damage to TEC itself.....

    THe insider strategies I have in mind are those who say one thing and do another.... who sign up to certain rules but never intend to keep them..... Moving to the organisation level, I can see the integrity in TEC saying to the ABC that it will not accept his pleas for delays any longer and will leave if that is what is required..... that should have been done in 2008 when not all bishops were invited (seriously, I was shocked TEC accepted that scapegoating.....and for what benefit since then?)

    Now, Mr Weir makes a good point re people not being focussed on internal battles but on more important things if we didnt have the internal battles....same goes for TEC, right? So much time wasted with the AC, by TEC and by the AC..... we'd all be better off with an honest acceptance that we have walked apart..... institutional unity is not what we are called to...except by the ABC?

  33. If that's as far as you can see, Observer, your telescope could be to your blind eye.

    Interesting contrast between your "Concerned" response to Father Weir on this thread and your decidedly less temperate post addressed to him yesterday at Baby Blue's, with its all-too-familiar, threadbare "tearing the fabric" rant. I commend it to readers of this blog interested in assessing your impartiality.

  34. I've always believed that the argument that the actions of the Episcopal Church were causing tensions between Muslims and Anglican Christians in other parts of the world to be a red herring. Heck, my own neighbors don't know what an Episcopalian is, much less an Anglican. But, if there is substance to these claims, maybe Mark is on the right path. If others are being harmed because of their association with us, and some of us are being harmed because of our association with them, we either need to get restraining orders or voluntarily separate.

    I do believe there is power in Jesus' stance of calling out the Pharisees and continually challenging their world view. We've been doing this for some time now, and the Pharisees are conspiring to destroy us. Maybe being reduced to second class citizens in the communion is an opportunity for the church to truly align ourselves with the poor and the oppressed and the marginalized and downtrodden. If we are marginalized by our own brothers and sisters in the wider church, maybe we will begin to understand what is like to be at the bottom of the social and economic ladders of the world. Maybe our role as Episcopalians is to eat the scraps thrown to the dogs; we've been feasting like kings for far too long.

  35. Lapin- I never claimed to be impartial... but in supporting the idea that TEC should not compromise its principles, that is not say one thing but do another, for the sake of institutional unity with the ABC, I am not being partial.... integrity is the point. It is sad to see it lacking in institutions and in individuals so often....especially for political reasons e.g. TEC accepting one bishop not being invited in 2008 - and for what benefit? Playing the "long game"? Price: integrity

  36. I agree with Daniel Weir; we in TEC have already been effectively removed from the Anglican Communion. The Covenant was never intended to do anything else, and it will do its intended job of separating TEC formally from the rest of the churches of the Communion. I think it's unfortunate. but probably in the long run more unfortunate for the Church of England than for us.

    However, we need to finish mourning this sad event and get on with it. We have a better future ahead. We are already in full communion with other mainline Protestant churches in the United States. We and they have a shared history and shared culture. We ought to focus on cultivating deeper relationships with these near neighbors, and let ++Rowan pursue his faded dreams of imperial glory without us.


  37. If I could be forgiven a double post, I'd like to call the attention of the assembled group to a quotation from N.T. Wright, now retired from Durham, but indisputably the theological voice of the Anglican Communion in the past decade, and a close friend of ++Rowan Williams. Given the attitudes he expresses in this quotation, what chance is there -- and what reason is there -- for tolerant and thoughtful people in TEC even to want to continue in the Anglican Communion? Please picture your sister, brother, son, or daughter sitting in church and having to listen to Wright's personalized finger-pointing and denunciation. Ask yourself why we should want to be known as a part of the "Nasty Church," as many in England call it:

    "[W]hen Paul appeals for ‘tolerance’ in the church, the issues over which he is saying there should be no quarrels are precisely the issue where there were cultural boundary-markers, especially between Jewish and Gentile Christians. He is not being arbitrary in selecting some apparently ‘ethical’ issues to go soft on, while remaining firm on others. The things about which Christians must be prepared to agree or disagree are the things which would otherwise divide the church along ethnic lines."

    "In Colossians 3 Paul instructs us to ‘seek the things that are above’; and when he spells out what this will mean in practice the list in verses 5-11 boil down to two areas of life in particularly: sexual malpractice, and anger, malice and so on. (It is interesting, and important for debates within our Communion, that we note how he places these two side by side; there are many churches where immorality would not be tolerated but where anger and malice reign unchecked, just as there are many which are full of sweet tolerance and people being nice to each other but where immorality is rife and never rebuked.) "

    "Paul’s denunciation of homosexual practice in Romans 1 is well known but not so well understood, particularly in relation to its place in the argument as a whole. It is too often dismissed as simply firing some Jewish-style thunderbolts against typical pagan targets; and it is regularly thought to be dealing only with the deliberate choice of heterosexual individuals to abandon normal usage and indulge in alternative passions. It is often said that Paul is describing something quite different from the phenomenon we know today, e.g. in large western cities."

    "for in Genesis 1 it is of course male plus female that is created to bear God’s image. The male-plus-female factor is not of course specific to humanity; the principle of ‘male plus female’ runs through a great deal of creation. But humans were created to bear God’s image, and given a task, to be fruitful and multiply, to tend the garden and name the animals. The point of Romans 1 as a whole is that when humans refuse to worship or honour God, the God in whose image they are made, their humanness goes into self-destruct mode; and Paul clearly sees homosexual behaviour as ultimately a form of human deconstruction. He is not saying that everyone who discovers homosexual instincts has chosen to commit idolatry and has chosen homosexual behaviour as a part of that; rather, he is saying that in a world where men and women have refused to honour God this is the kind of thing you will find."

    NT Wright http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Communion_Koinonia.htm.

  38. Thank you, Charlotte, for the quotes from Bishop N. T. Wright's paper. Bishop Wright is an outstanding theologian and biblical scholar. Indeed, he is one of the reasons why the Anglican approach to the Christian faith retains its integrity among Christians across the denominational spectrum in our day. And this paper you excerpt (which is entitled "Communion and Koinonia: Pauline Reflections on Tolerance and Boundaries") looks absolutely excellent! I would not have known about it if you hadn't taken the time to share with us in the comments to this blog posting. Thank you for doing that, and keep up the good work.

    Francis A. Nietzsche


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.