Saturday, 15 February 2014

Personal Response to the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement


"The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives."

Few in the Church of England can be surprised by the tenor of the House of Bishops’ pastoral statement, though many will be sad that it was issued around St Valentine's. For as a statement of ‘love’ about ‘love’ it is at best equivocal.

I want to flag up one aspect of my reaction to it. I accept that this reaction is visceral and emotional. This is precisely why I want to mention it – to remind anyone who reads this blog how it can feel to be on the wrong end of something like the House of Bishops' Statement. Such things are not mere paper but have human consequences.

I actually cried when I read the statement. Weeped. I am an emotional person but I was surprised. And then I realized where my own particular pain was coming from.

Members of my church have often said to me, ‘Rachel, we want you to be happy.’ They know I can be a miserable so and so (:-)) and they know that I am alone, without a partner. They want me to have a partner. They also know that this will not be the solution to everything, but who does not want the joy, challenge and reality of a loving relationship?

The last time I was in a relationship my dream was that we might get married one day. That it would be possible for two women to marry each other. Because – and call me old-fashioned – I wanted that covenanted expression of our love. Alas – for many reasons - it was not to be and our relationship ultimately came to an end.

But now if I and another woman fell in love and became deeply committed to each other we could – in the eyes of the secular state – get married. And there would be much rejoicing! There would even be bishops who’d be invited along to share in our joy. My congregation would no doubt want to come and throw confetti.

And yet…the church qua church might ask me to leave a cherished ministry. In truth, if it wanted me and people like me so little, I’d probably just go. But the joy of being married to one’s beloved would bleed into the pain of being seen as one who is failing in God's love as it is being shown in the Church.


I weep for all my sisters and brothers – good, ordinary and faithful LGBT Christians and clerics – who are in committed relationships and yet are being pushed ever to the outside where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. I sense God is weeping too.

28 comments:

  1. It is the implication that the love we experience as flowing from God, to God, and entwining sacramentally in our hearts, is somehow corrupt and wicked: that is the most painful, sorrowful thing of all.

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  2. As angry as I am that once again the church to which I belong has again failed the LGBTQ community, this is not about me: it is about the hurt being inflicted to you, to my brothers and sisters in Christ - and to the wider LGBTQ community who will look at this and interpret this as further evidence that the church (that God) does not love them or want them. So I offer my solidarity and love to you and all my brothers and sisters in meagre recompense and pray endlessly for this, for a deeper love and understanding from the church hierarchy, and a path that we can take together through this.

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    1. Does not St. Paul warn the Brotherhood?
      "7 And don’t forget the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, all full of lust of every kind, including lust of men for other men. Those cities were destroyed by fire and continue to be a warning to us that there is a hell in which sinners are punished.
      8 Yet these false teachers carelessly go right on living their evil, immoral lives, degrading their bodies and laughing at those in authority over them,"
      Jude 1:7-8 (TLB)

      We must not be taken in by the decadent immoral values of today's Satanic secular society.

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  3. When the Church takes this type of stance my simple response is What Would Jesus Say and Do?
    That rarely seems to be at the root of decision making by the "hierarchy" . So, so sad

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    1. Is it possible he might say "Neither do I condemn you. Go, sin no more"?

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    2. No Edwin, I don't think He would. I do not believe that being gay is a sin. Neither do I believe that expressing love for another person of the same gender as myself is a sin. I believe that Jesus would accept us as we are.

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    3. Well said Carole :)

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    4. Why would you believe Jesus accepts people as they are? If that is the case, then his death was and is meaningless!

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  4. It was with a heavy heart that I read the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement this morning, especially pertinent as I was celebrating with two friends, one of whom is in CofE ministry, as they got engaged last night. I wept with tears of joy yesterday and tears of sadness this morning - as they have to now make the choice between ministry and marriage, just because they are the the same gender. It came as a terrible blow - I'm sure God is weeping too...I pray that love will prevail.

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  5. This has just made me cry as well. Damn, this hurts. Thank you for writing this. God is certainly weeping, but hir might also be losing patience here.

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  6. Why are they not listening to God? They are simply diminishing Him, in the eyes of most, by simply not listening to Him. How often are we taught that the message of God and Jesus is love? The more love in the world, the better. Everyone welcome and loved and equal. If the House of Bishops are making choices that do not represent what we think and what God thinks, why are we letting them do this? How can we make them hear us?

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  7. My heart goes out to you, Rachel, and others in the same situation as yourself. even those in ministry who have a partner.....but dare not say so. I truly believe that it is God who chooses those mortals He wishes to serve, therefore if He chooses you and knows you then what right has mere man to judge. As Christians we are supposed to life our lives with 'love' and I am sure God is also weeping along with many of us. God bless you. Barbara Gardner

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  8. It is the end of this Church in its current form. I couldn't personally care less about this but I know that many sincere people believe and have found in the Church of England a community that helps them. Others have chosen to make their lives in service of this Church – including by being ordained. I would contend that the sexuality of those who commit in any way to the Church is none of the Church’s business. There are no walks of life in which discrimination against homosexuals can be justified. None. And least of all an institution which claims the moral high ground in telling people how to live. Surely if a key premise of Christianity is : “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Then to judge those with a different sexual preference to you as unsuitable is a sin.

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  9. God knew us before we were born, and knows the number of hairs on our heads. I would think it correct then that He knows whether or not we are gay! Therefore if He knows all of this and still calls his people to ministry....Let the church accept this. I am gay, not in minstery, but my faith has always been important to me - more important than "the church". For goodness sake, and for the sake of our brothers and sisters, accept people for WHO they are, not what they should be in the eyes of man. I support Paddy Briggs response.

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  10. I found the tone of the Appendix to the Letter astonishingly anti-.

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  11. we are in the now and not yet, God has not finished speaking when God does finish we will all know. I still pray that I may be allowed to marry my son and his gorgeous boyfriend in church. Grace of God and peace to you all x

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  13. I also feel angry, sad, disappointed by the poverty of this unpastoral Statement and by its hypocrisy. I wonder what would happen if gay couples in ministry who wish to marry did so at about the same time – would they really all be dismissed? And if so, could that be challenged legally, now that clergy have employed status?

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  14. I am a gay priest married in Canada years ago before ordination.
    ??????????????????what now, ? can I be UN-married by the Church of England's
    Rules? It's bonkers

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  15. This part I do not understand. There are now choices of Churches and there are those of varying orthodoxies belief wise that accept same sex relationships and marriage. So the answer is to leave and join one of them. A Church, so long as it lacks compulsion over others, and this one now does, can surely define its boundaries. As it takes so many statements from the Book of Common Prayer, and as it says its leadership is in agreement over its view of marriage as limited, then surely the individual who wants to marry a person of the same sex will find a more compatible Church.

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    1. If your denomination did not allow gay people to be ministers would you just get up and leave or would you stand for what is right in your own tradition and spiritual home? We all have to take stands in order for the world to move forwards, if it were just a case of leaving then no church would have ever accepted change because there has not always been other options, you make them where you are.

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  16. In response, walking away from a loving supportive congregation who are co workers in God's mission, is easier said than done.
    My church is MY church I will not leave.

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  17. I am heading for ordination this summer and both I and my husband feel incredibly sad about this so-called 'pastoral' statement. I would love nothing more than to be able to bless and rejoice with those choosing marriage and I couldn't care less what combination of genders those people are. I will continue to work for change in the hope that one day - one day - we might have a church where all people are accepted equally.

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  18. All I an say is I stand with you and weep ... I have no idea on the level of pain you must feel Rachel .... but there are many others that wept with you and will continue to do so until this heartbreaking wrong can be put right.
    God bless you

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  19. I am glad of this decision and glad that the Word of God is still the foundation for God's people. I am really saddened that we have gone so far away from God and into this syncretism that we would think that God has changed His mind. I am glad that the church leaders are still strong enough to stand against humanism and the rise of this false theology of same-sex marriage or even the thought of ordaining homosexual people.

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  20. God is not weeping, only angry as His Holy Men both in the Old and New Testaments declare God's plain disapproval and forbidding of same-gender sexual relationships.

    .

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