Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Opportunities and Perils for the Church of England

This month's 'Anglican Update' for Evangelicals Now:
As never before in my own lifetime, the Church of England is at a crossroads moment of great opportunity and yet great peril.
I have mentioned before in these columns the opinion of a colleague on the Crown Nominations Commission that the senior ministers of the Anglican Church are “staring into the abyss” when it comes to declining numbers.
Consequently, a new breed of bishops is emerging who are ambitious for church growth. At the same time, existing bishops and their dioceses are being required to come up with proposals to reverse the decline.
Just a month ago in our own diocese of Chelmsford, I thus found myself for the first time sitting listening to a bishop, who had just come from speaking at an evangelistic event himself, telling a gathered group of his clergy how to do evangelism.
Wherever this is happening, it clearly presents even the most conservative of Evangelical Anglicans with the opportunity for involvement not just in the evangelism itself but in the structures of their diocese.
Some may find this extraordinary — not that a bishop should be doing such a thing, but that it took so long for it to happen. Surely the Church of England has had Evangelical bishops before now? And indeed it has, but sadly they have almost to a man failed to produce a more ‘evangelizing’ denomination. In our case, that has been achieved by a man from (formally speaking) a Liberal-Catholic tradition.
And therein lies the peril, for at the same time as these developments are taking place, the Church is under immense pressure, both from without and within, to change its teaching and practice on human sexuality.
Early in December there were headline reports about the Church’s refusal to allow the registering of civil partnerships on its premises. But in a subsequent interview on Radio 4’s Sunday programme, the Bishop of Burnley made it clear that this prohibition could be overturned by the General Synod.
At present that would not happen, but already on the bench of bishops there are several, including some self-identified as Evangelicals, who would not uphold orthodox teaching. Moreover, the House of Bishops itself has recently set up a ‘review group’ to look at the whole issue of civil partnerships and specifically to consider whether clergy in such partnerships could be made bishops.
Furthermore, back in July the House announced the commencement of “further work on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality more generally”. It would be surprising if none of the ‘unorthodox’ bishops found themselves involved in these processes and (sadly) just as surprising if the orthodox stood up to them robustly.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of churches are openly identifying themselves as ‘inclusive’ regarding sexuality. Doubtless the pressures for this come from the clergy. The laity are generally more traditionalist. But as society as a whole has shifted ground on the subject, so it is becoming easier for Liberal clergy to persuade their congregations to accept the changes. The significance of this will be seen, no doubt, in Synod elections a few years hence.
The orthodox therefore face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, it is vital that they do not withdraw from the institution just at the point where the whole issue of gospel proclamation can be brought to the fore. At the same time, they must develop and make the case for sexual orthodoxy and, if necessary, must be willing to confront even those bishops who are leading the evangelistic charge in their dioceses.
These are difficult days indeed, but in God’s plans nothing that hasn’t been thought of already.
John Richardson

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59 comments:

  1. John - it is tragic and sad that once again - and in Christmas tide - you can only post negatively about things that the vast majority of people are really tired of people going on about in the Church of England. Orthodoxy is about a great deal more than sexuality. Extreme conservatives are having to face the fact that ordained women are here to stay, and some are even being converted to the good news that they represent. Fortunately at Chelmsford you have a bishop who can be positive and inclusive about both ordained women and same sex partnerships. You have now seen that it is still possible to support such things AND be evangelistic. That is the good news. They are not difficult days at all. They are days of rejoicing. If extreme conservatives want to sit and whine then can you please encourage them to do so quietly whilst we get on with the crucial task of proclaiming the good news?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

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  2. Evangelising for what, though, Andrew? A church based on error cannot grow. 'Truth is still truth even if nobody believes it, and error is still error even if everybody believes it.' (Bishop J Fulton Sheen.) Thank God for John Richardson who perseveres with the Truth.

    More from Bishop Fulton Sheen, the first ‘televangelist’: (try replacing ‘divorce’ with ‘homosexual practice’)

    The real thinker who is willing to embrace a truth at all costs generally has a double price to pay—first, isolation from popular opinion. For example, anyone who arrives at the moral conclusion that divorce prepares the way for civilization’s breakdown must be prepared to be ostracized by the Herods and Salomes of this world.

    Nonconformity with popular opinion can be expected to bring down opposition and ridicule upon the offender’s head.

    Second, those who discover a truth must stand naked before the uplifted stroke of its duties or else take up the cross that it imposes. Those two effects of embracing truth make many people fearful. In their cowardice, they keep their minds “open” so they will never have to close on anything that would entail responsibility, duty, moral correction or altered behavior.

    The “open mind” does not want truth for truth implies obligation, which predicates responsibility, and responsibility is the only thing the “open mind” is most eager to avoid. Avoiding responsibility only results in the abdication of one’s free will to another, whether it be to an ideology or to a director. The only real solution is for those with “open minds” to grasp truth, even though it does involve a change in behavior, for ultimately it is only truth that can make them free.

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  3. Andrew Godsall said...
    "Orthodoxy is about a great deal more than sexuality."
    True enough. But orthodoxy is not a sex free zone either. Orthodoxy means orthodoxy across the whole stratum of morality. And if it's in the area of sexuality that orthodoxy is being attacked, then that's the area the orthodox have to defend, no matter how tired people are of hearing it, until the battle is won or the sides go their own way.

    As to evangelising alongside those who have not till now been keen on evangelism, the liberal vs orthodox issue has neither gone away nor been dealt with. Two churches under one roof remains the problem, and begs the question: into what will the evangelised be introduced - the Christ of scripture or the Jesus of someone's imagination?
    Lo

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  4. Fully agree with the last comment . And now the " imagination " is a much bigger , looser domain than could ever possibly have been envisgaed by our biblically faithful Christian forbears . So the tension is correspondingly greater , more like a gulf now . This is the time to stand up for age long truths like family , scripture and the tradition understanding of God's word . We are called to give witness to this generation and if we do the fruits of gathering in God's people will be gifted to us by Him .

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  5. Thank you for writing this. I see one of the enemy turned up. I think by now we all know just which group of people complain about us writing "endlessly" about this while they incessantly shove the issue in our faces -- it's just a demand that we be silent.

    But it's difficult, isn't it? Establishment policy is to appoint only people who intend to conform. It's not very different to the Soviet policy of appointing KGB officers as bishops, in terms of intended effects.

    What to do? I think there's room for a variety of choices. But let's remember that the victory of the establishment will be loud and triumphant, and enforced ruthlessly and with contempt for any disagreement.

    Indeed I have never forgotten one priestess despitefully holding her lacquered fingernail on the communion bread and refusing to remove it until the "communicant" said "amen" (and thereby forcing them to acknowledge her "right" to celebrate -- never went there again). The sufferings of honest clergy faced with wimmin priests must be considerable, and, I think, undocumented.

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  6. Don't let your evangelical gifts be shackled to those who are spreading the bad news, the news that the spirit of the age would like people to believe is the Gospel.

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  7. Dear John I can't quite understand why there seems to be so much ignorance of the contents of After the Ball by Kirk and Madsen (1989). There the authors lay out the plan for homosexual activists to use in 'converting' first America then the world to gay 'rights.' That plan has been followed. Seize the heights of the mass media, desensitize the population to the threat posed by homosexuality, 'jam' that is silence any objectors by calling them haters of homosexuals ie. homophobic, then converting waverers to support 'gay' rights through propaganda in TV soaps and movies.

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  8. When most comments are anonymous, or have a first name only (Jill) or refer to me as 'the enemy' and then go on to talk of 'wimmin priests' (Roger Pearse) you must know that you really are on a losing team John.
    It is regrettable that people can't either be honest or at least basically polite, but it does speak volumes for the extreme conservative constituency.

    Jill - I suspect you didn't actually read my comment. The bishop of Chelmsford is an evangelist for the gopsel - the good news of Jesus Christ. John Richardson himself confirms this. Yet he is also an 'inclusivist'.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

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  9. Andrew, I must be careful not to misrepresent +Stephen. However, from what he said when he spoke to the Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association in May this year, I would say that it is simplistic to characterize him simply as "an 'inclusivist'".

    I may have misremembered or misunderstood what he said. However, in response to a direct question on this issue my understanding of his reply was to the effect that he saw no sufficient reason to change the church's present teaching.

    Now as I say, I may be wrong in my recollection, but at the time I was frankly relieved by the answer he gave, particularly in the light of our uncomfortable experiences with his predecessor.

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  10. Many 'inclusivists' will tell you that John. And as a bishop he abides by the teaching of his church. You have to if you want to be a bishop.
    What you can't misrepresent are those who refer to me as 'the enemy' and refer to 'wimmin'. You might, of course, choose to make very clear that you do not wish to associate yourself with such views - which I note you have not done.

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  11. I have lived in many parts of the world and I would receptively like to say that the problem is summarized by seeing the world through your culture. In the West we are big on forgiveness but weak on the teaching of heterosexual monogamy. In many parts of the world it really is the forgiveness aspects of the Bible they struggle with.

    In many parts of the world you need to be ready to die for your faith. Ask yourself if you are ready to suffer and die for the current push to include non Biblical teaching in the Anglican Church?

    In my experience persecution breeds orthodoxy and strong Christians. I know many who are praying for more persecution in the West.

    James Rowlands Germany

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  12. I am pondering the phrase, Andrew, that "as a bishop he abides by the teaching of his church".

    I would hope that as a priest one would also, indeed as a deacon and as a layperson!

    Of course, as those standing in the Protestant tradition, we accept that the church itself, through its councils, may get things wrong (Articles XX and XXI). Nevertheless, the church "hath ... authority in Controversies of Faith".

    This is one reason why, on the women's ordination issue, the Church of England has decided not to decide - even as it considers the consecration of women bishops. (Incidentally, the Bishop of Chelmsford has also said in my hearing - and this I remember clearly - that any of us "may be wrong" about women's ordination, by which he included himself.)

    I can only repeat what I understood him to be saying on the issue of sexuality, which was that he saw no compelling reason as yet to change the church's teaching. This is not the same as I understand Rowan Williams and some other bishops to be saying, which is that they disagree with the church's teaching but will 'uphold' it (though how you do that in good conscience I do not understand).

    As I said though, we are at a crossroads where the leadership of the church seems poised to rediscover the call to evangelize (in the sense of seeking to see people brought to explicit faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord), whilst at the same time that leadership is under pressure to adopt a previously-unheard of teaching which will jeopardize the Church's entire future.

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  13. John it is encouraging that you can embrace such diversity and be so supportive of an Affirming bishop. And I am glad the partnered gay and lesbian clergy in Chelmsford still find the diocese such a safe place to be.

    As to the C of E not deciding about women in the priesthood I am afraid that is wring. The C of E decided decades ago that there were no theological objections to such a decision and has now ordained rather a large number. They are not ordained differently to men - there is nothing provisional about their ordinations. The great majority of Provinces of the Anglican communion do ordain women. There is no question of not deciding.

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  14. And of course that should read wrong... not wring. How do you edit posts?

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  15. Andrew, I'm not sure you're actually taking on board what I'm saying, for example about Bishop Stephen's comment on women's ordination.

    However, the often-quoted 'decision' by the Church of England that 'there were no theological objections' to women's ordination was (a) clearly counter-factual, since there are and (b) clearly ducked by the subsequent acknowledgement in the process of ordaining women to include those who disagree with it.

    If there were 'no theological objections' possible then no provision could, or should, be made. As it is, the Church of England respects the fact that there can be and are objections.

    But I return to my earlier point - the Church of England's leadership is, in some ways and some areas, waking up to evangelism, and that is a good thing. We (by which I mean we who call ourselves evangelicals) should seek to affirm and support that. But at the same time we must be vigilant about the Church's teaching. Opposition to it is not something to be taken lightly.

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  16. John, I'm quite sure you are not taking on board what I'm saying - nothing new there and understandable as you find it hard and need to maintain your position. But the facts speak for themselves. The majority of Anglican provinces ordain women as priests and teach that there are no theological objections. It is quite true that the C of E has made provision for those who can't accept this teaching. Presumably you don't take advantage of that provision and seem to be in communion with a bishop who does ordain women and has, at least in the past, affirmed the place of partnered gay and lesbian people within the church.

    I certainly affirm the desperate need for evangelism. So at least we agree on that.

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  17. Andrew, we do take advantage of that provision and are Resolutions A, B and C. However, we are also in communion with those who ordain (and indeed those who are ordained) women, because (thankfully) the Church of England recognizes both to be true Anglicans.

    Furthermore, the Church of England affirms the place of gay and lesbian people in the Church. However, it makes it clear that individuals and their relationships ought to remain within the parameters of Christian teaching, which is of celibacy outside marriage.

    I am not sure of the wisdom of saying that this is a requirement for clergy and an ideal for the laity, but that is the interpretation the Bishops have adopted.

    I may therrefore question the coherence of some of the application and interpretation of this, but so far I can live with it. The problems come, obviously, where there are departures from this, but at the moment we can say that those departures are departures from the Church's understanding and application of Scripture.

    If that were to change, then there would be serious difficulties, as there were in this diocese until recently. But we hope that will not happen.

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  18. John it looks as if we can both maintains our positions with integrity and agree to differ.
    That said, it seems very inappropriate to judge those whose integrity is different to yours as 'unorthodox' or 'the enemy' and I'd like to think that in the interest of christian charity you could put that aside.

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  19. Hi Andrew

    How about starting an "inclusive" Anglican Church in N Nigeria or Egypt, with of course a "priest" (How can you have a gay leader?) who shares your inclusive stance.

    How here is a challenge for you. Let us see you all rush off and rise to the challenge!

    If you did and God saw fit to bless it we might have more respect for you and your views. At the moment your respect with most Christians especially outside of Europe ..... is zero.

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  20. Thanks 'Phil'. a very blessed Christmas to you and yours.

    Andrew

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  21. I found it interesting that Andrew above defined John as being on a 'losing' side, on the basis that several posters agreed with John and disagreed with Andrew! Oh what a terrible thing it is when others have the temerity to disagree with the 'established' position.

    John, great post. These things need to be highlighted. The episcopal church in the USA has seen not only the loss of dioceses and parishes, but also steadily declining numbers in those that remain. This is the inevitable wages of liberal teaching.

    One thing that has been shown over and over again is that liberals cannot grow churches. They can only take over what others have built up, and they then inevitably cause decline in that which they take over. By contrast, one of the marks of the true orthodox is that they can evangelise and disciple.

    In other words, if a liberal-led congregation or diocese is not growing, no questions need be asked - that is after all their normal state. But if an ostensibly orthodox diocese or church is not growing, then serious questions do need to be asked.

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  22. Michael what I actually said (but don't let facts get in the way of a good story) was that when people post anonymously or refer to me as the enemy or refer to ' wimmin' i.e are abusive THAT is when John knows he is on A losing wicket. It's not about people agreeing with John. I know and count amongst friends and colleagues those who agree with John. They have the courage to use their full names, and refuse to be abusive.

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  23. If I may interject for a moment (though I will probably not be in a position to contribute further for some time), I think you are right, Andrew to oppose anonymous commenting which is, I believe, the bain of internet discussion.

    That is why I have a policy of trying to encourage people to give a full name and location. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to 'police'. Anonymity, or quasi-anonymity, is so much part of the internet culture that there would be very few comments here indeed if I were rigorous on the matter. (Indeed it amused me to discover recently that I was taken to task for this lack of rigour in a post on a blog published entirely anonymously as far as I could tell.)

    Abusive posts are, of course, never to be condoned, but I believe there would be fewer of the latter if there were also fewer of the former. At least that way if someone is rude everyone has some idea who it is.

    I cannot, however, accept any logic in the suggestion that I must 'know' I am 'on a losing wicket' because of the anonymous or abusive nature of comments by people who might agree with me. That is simply an ad hominem argument once removed, and is no more valid for the distance involved.

    If positions supported by anonymous or abusive people on the internet were thereby revealed as invalid then none of us would believe anything!

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  24. John comments, in reply to Andrew: "Anonymity, or quasi-anonymity, is so much part of the internet culture that there would be very few comments here indeed if I were rigorous on the matter."

    Yes, and the truth is that there are people trawling the internet to find incriminating (in their eyes) statements or opinions by people which are (not yet) illegal but can easily be turned against them as they seek work, or even seek to hold onto their jobs. The Digital Witch-hunt is a fact, and today it isn't zealous anti-communists doing it but zealous promoters of homosexuality. Witness the comments on Facebook by a Christian on 'same sex marriage' which led to a massive demotion at work and an employmeny tribunal. Or the gay-led campaign against the Christian B&B owners driven out of business. Has the Reverend Canon Andrew Godsall spoken up on behalf of these Christians? If so, I've missed it. It is easy for those who are secure in their jobs or positions to decry the use of anonymity when they agree with regnant liberal social climate, because it costs them nothing and calls for little courage. The truth is, "political correctness" has chilled public discourse by hurling abuse at expressions of traditional Christian morality. Andrew Godsall is swon to uphold the Church's teaching, but disagrees with this traditional sexual morality, and he should be open about his dissent.

    Mark B., W. Kent

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  25. Hi Mark

    I've spoken up about all kinds of things - you'd need to come to the Cathedral on a virtual weekly basis to find out all the things I speak up for!
    I'm not aware that I do not uphold the church's teaching, or that matters of human sexuality are part of any credal statement actually. I think you will be aware that the archbishops made it clear some time ago that clergy (or lay people) were at liberty to raise questions about matters of human sexuality, but not free to set aside the various agreed lines at the present - for example on public blessings of same sex partnerships as if they were a marriage. As John points out, some of these things are about to be discussed again.

    John, I think when anyone starts using 'ad hominem' comments (such as enemy) or derogatory and respectful terms like 'wimmin' then the argument is substantially lost.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

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  26. Canon Andrew,

    Your complaints about anonymous comments sound contrived. One would think that you would be responding to all comments on the basis of their *content*, not on the status or importance of the person who made them.

    Mind you, whilst I have at no time labelled you or anyone else "the enemy", you do seem abnormally sensitive to those that have so labelled you. Have you cast your eyes over blogs like Thinking Anglicans lately? You will read far more abusive comments made there about people who disagree with the liberal line. The internet is a robust place and if you shrivel up merely because someone calls you 'the enemy' perhaps you should leave internet debate to those robust enough to handle it?

    "I think when anyone starts using 'ad hominem' comments (such as enemy) or derogatory and respectful terms like 'wimmin' then the argument is substantially lost."

    If you think an argument is "lost", just because someone uses (actually rather mild) language like this, you really do need to get out in the real world. I know from personal experience that sometimes those who use much more derogatory language than this can end up listening to reason.

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  27. Andrew Godsall:

    I take it from your evasive non-reply then you didn't speak up on behalf of the Bulls of Penzance. Fine - that's your prerogative.
    As for Christian teaching on sexuality, this isn't confined to views of ceremonies. The teaching of 'Issues 1991' makes this plain.

    Mark B., W. Kent

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  28. Andrew Godsall, Exeter29 December 2011 at 15:19

    Indeed Mark - I was just using ceremonies as one example.

    Worth recalling what the Bishops said about 'Issues':
    Issues in Human Sexuality made it clear that, while the same standards apply to all, the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship. ‘The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion'

    Also worth looking at the Southwark Cathedral website for a practical outworking of this:
    http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/worship/Weddings,Baptisms&Funerals#civilpartnerships
    Scroll down to the part about Civil partnerships

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  29. Andrew, on two counts I need to challenge your view of which terms are offensive or abusive.

    On the one hand, "wimmin" is a widely-accepted slang word referring to *flamboyantly feminist* women; as such it somewhat pokes fun at them/it but isn't downright offensive unless you're determined to see it as such. Andrew, has it occurred to you that many women are simply not feminist?

    Besides, looking back at the context it was used above, it was coming after a description of a nasty attitude in one particular 'priestess' - one which reminds me of that letter in the Church Times by Mavis Jacobs, which please look up if you haven't seen it. The substantial point about the distress being caused, stands above the noise of the repeated quibble Andrew has raised about that one word.

    Meanwhile issue must be taken with the label "extreme conservatives" applied to historic orthodoxy. If we must make a binary choice, it is in fact Andrew who would be called the extremist.

    Dan

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  30. Perhaps we all need to read again what Jill says and 1 John 4 (in the case of Andrew)

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  31. "...the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship..."

    Note what this means: 1. that people can "in good conscience" choose to do something that is objectively wrong (which means their conscience is mistaken); 2. that such people cannot be leaders of the church.
    That 50+ clergy in the C of E are in civil partnerships is a scandal.

    Mark B., W. Kent

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  32. Andrew, as the (rather traditional) father of a devout Christian daughter in a same-sex marriage, I want to thank you for your respectful attitude toward people like her.

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  33. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of churches are openly identifying themselves as ‘inclusive’ regarding sexuality. Doubtless the pressures for this come from the clergy. The laity are generally more traditionalist.

    I’m sorry, John, I disagree. There are many lay people in many congregations who have gay friends, family members, work colleagues and neighbours, some in committed relationships or civil partnerships. These lay members themselves have ‘made the crossing’ from a traditionalist to an inclusive point of view without succumbing to any pressure from any clergy – we lay people are able to think for ourselves, you know! We are attempting to deal with the reality of our current cultural situation in a grace-filled and hopefully Christ-like manner. All churches should be inclusive, indeed not to be inclusive is to be discriminatory, and all people should be made welcome in all churches. The problems come thereafter with some churches making an issue of sexuality, as if it is our job to micromanage other people’s sexual lives rather than to concentrate on extending grace, allowing the Holy Spirit to work as and how he wishes to work.
    Thankfully there are many inclusive churches where LGBT people can fellowship, serve and witness, and there will indeed be more as time passes. As Andrew rightly says ‘these are days for rejoicing’.

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  34. Andrew Godsall, Exeter30 December 2011 at 11:10

    Thank you Tim and Jane. I think that your experience mirrors my own. I am in lots of ways rather a traditionalist - even though some people here would not think so but have been forced to see the grace of God at work in places I did not expect to.
    The irony of the first reply in this thread is telling. It comes (or purports to come, you can never tell on the internet) from a woman, Jill. John allows her to comment in a way that teaches us about error. A woman teaching us. And to do so she quotes a Roman Catholic bishop. Now as someone who is rather a literalist when it comes to the 39 Articles John will know that a bishop of the Roman Catholic church is hardly the person to be teaching conservative evangelicals about error.
    All of which is simply to say that as Tim and Jane (neither of whom I know) and I have discovered, God's grace can't be put into neat boxes. The crazy thing about the 'Issues' statement is that it seems to forget that clergy were once laity, and that those laity who have found lifetime partners of the same sex are not likely to forsake them once God calls one of them as a minister in his church. The Bishop of Chelmsford knows this, as do countless other bishops of the Church of England. Because these bishops serve such a variety of God's people they have, as St Paul says, to be all things to all people.

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  35. Canon Andrew writes:

    "John allows her to comment in a way that teaches us about error."

    You really aren't comfortable with people being allowed to express opinions contrary to your own, are you? You would apparently prefer that they be censored.

    "A woman teaching us."

    A woman expressing her opinion. And you call that "teaching"! On that basis I, a simple pew dweller, "teach" every time I open my mouth.

    "And to do so she quotes a Roman Catholic bishop. Now as someone who is rather a literalist when it comes to the 39 Articles John will know that a bishop of the Roman Catholic church is hardly the person to be teaching conservative evangelicals about error."

    Why? You really have me confused here, Canon Andrew. What part of the Articles of Religion suggests that a Roman Catholic (bishop or otherwise) is not capable of speaking the truth?

    "All of which is simply to say that ... God's grace can't be put into neat boxes."

    Of course it can't. But no-one has suggested that it can, so why bother saying this? What we do know is that God will be true to himself, and consistent with his revealed word.

    What is entirely missing from your posts (and Jane's), with the greatest respect, is any consideration for what God has said in his revealed word. Its simply a case of, "This suits us, so we need to do it, so it must be right". Unfortunately, God's standard of right and wrong doesn't change just because a bunch of people in England at the beginning of the twenty first century agree among themselves that it should.

    "The crazy thing about the 'Issues' statement is that it seems to forget that clergy were once laity, and that those laity who have found lifetime partners of the same sex are not likely to forsake them once God calls one of them as a minister in his church."

    What is 'crazy' is why anyone would imagine that a person who has "found a lifetime partner of the same sex" is going to be called by God as a minister in his church.

    "The Bishop of Chelmsford knows this, as do countless other bishops of the Church of England. Because these bishops serve such a variety of God's people they have, as St Paul says, to be all things to all people."

    Wrong again, Andrew. You really seem to be very confused when it comes to theology. St Paul never suggested that "being all things to all men" meant that he had to accept open sin in the church, much less accept an unrepentant person as a minister in the church. Those are the very people who cannot be ministers. Any bishop who teaches that they can is, simply, wrong.

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  36. As a wumman, let me say that I am not in the least offended by being grouped with ‘wimmin’. (Not, though, I hope, part of the Monstrous Regiment.)

    Canon Andrew, as I cannot believe you are an unintelligent person, I can only assume that your misrepresentation of the Women’s Ordination issue is deliberate. In my view the Queen did a far better job of standing up for Christianity this Christmas than either Archbishop, and the same applies to the several ordained women I know personally, who do a very fine job from what I can see. This does not make them priests, though, in my view. Perhaps you are confusing priesthood with ministry.

    As for the Other Issue – I know the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation was far from perfect, at least the parties concerned were only answerable to their own consciences, (and of course ultimately to God, as indeed we all are) and did not have to impose upon the consciences of others, forcing us into the uncomfortable position of appearing to be making moral judgments.

    In both cases, most of us ‘Opposed’ people are talking about the issues themselves, based on theology. It isn’t personal. Once we start reshaping scripture to suit individual desires, you must see that chaos will ensue.

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  37. "Andrew, as the (rather traditional) father of a devout Christian daughter in a same-sex marriage, I want to thank you for your respectful attitude toward people like her."

    Tim, although you're writing from Canada where SSM is recognised, you must understand that this blog (like I'd suppose almost all its contributors) is based in the UK where it isn't. In any case the church of Christ will never recognise such a thing.

    By (a) referring to SSM with a straight face and (b) calling a repeat offender a "devout Christian", you prove that you haven't a 'traditional' bone in your body.

    Incredibly, you call yourself a pastor!!

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  38. Sorry, that was by me Dan.

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  39. Andrew Godsall, Exeter30 December 2011 at 13:29

    The issue, Michael and Jill, is that there is no agreement within the C of E that faithful same sex partnerships constitutes 'open sin'. That's why we continue to have the debate and people like Jane and Tim and I move in our views. That's why 'Issues' made the judgment it did, and that's why we do not, as Jane right says, micro manage people's sex lives. You might find it useful to read 'Exchanging the truth of God for a lie' by Jeremy Marks to get the evangelical perspective on this.

    Jill - I am sure I am not confusing priesthood with ministry anymore than you are confusing Fulton Sheen with an Anglican bishop. Your personal view about whether women are priests or not is, unfortunately, not an issue. What makes them priests is that they have been duly and canonically ordained as such by a bishop with authority to do so. I quite recognise that sone people do not believe that our bishops have the authority to do so, and a few of those who think that way have now found they prefer the Roman Catholic Church as a place to exercise their ministry. The Ordinariate has enabled them to do that. Perhaps that would be an option for some here as well? The C of E is not going to un-ordain the thousands of women it has, quite properly and canonically, ordained as priests already and that has been made quite clear in a number of ways, and not least by the vast majority of dioceses making it abundantly clear that they wish to see women ordained as bishops. As Mgr Kith Newton has rightly said, even if that does not happen this synod, it is going to happen sooner rather than later and it is foolish to pretend otherwise.

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  40. Andrew Godsall, Exeter30 December 2011 at 13:37

    Michael writes: "John allows her to comment in a way that teaches us about error."

    You really aren't comfortable with people being allowed to express opinions contrary to your own, are you? You would apparently prefer that they be censored.

    "A woman teaching us."

    A woman expressing her opinion. And you call that "teaching"! On that basis I, a simple pew dweller, "teach" every time I open my mouth. "

    Umm... Michael...how should I break this to you....I was being ironici!!

    I am extremely comfortable with people expressing different views. That's how we come to some synthesis.

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  41. Anonymous Dan writes By (a) referring to SSM with a straight face and (b) calling a repeat offender a "devout Christian", you prove that you haven't a 'traditional' bone in your body.

    Incredibly, you call yourself a pastor!!


    Well, let's see: I believe every article of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds without crossing my fingers behind my back, and I also believe the Nicene and Chalcedonian Christology to be true. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Universe and the one true Saviour of the world. I believe that by his life, death, and resurrection he has provided a perfect revelation for us of what God is like and of what God requires of us, provided forgiveness for our sins, won the victory over death, and given us the power to live for God. So my theology is pretty 'traditional' I would think.

    And as far as my practice goes, I've pastored churches in isolated prairie communities and in the high arctic in the old fashioned way - visiting people, proclaiming the gospel, challenging people to repent and put their trust in Christ as their Saviour and Lord. And I much prefer intelligent hymns to what we call in Canada '7-11' worship songs (7 lines sung 11 times). I believe in marriage and I've been faithfully married to the same woman for 32 years.

    Found any traditional bones yet?

    You see, this is what I hate about this sort of argument. I have not actually said to anyone on this thread that I agree with the choices my daughter has made. I have simply thanked Andrew for treating people like her with respect. I have not told you about the many hours of conversation we have had and the process by which we have come to respect each other's differing viewpoints. Nor have I told you how it surprises but also delights me that she and her wife, who also have a son, want to be Christians and attend church every week, while my other married son, who is married to a woman, never darkens the door of a church. But simply because I have spoken respectfully of gay and lesbian people, you dismiss me as completely unorthodox - you tell me I 'haven't an orthodox bone in my body'.

    And Dan, I take the teaching of the Bible very, very seriously, but do you? What do you think of the issue of lending money at interest, which is condemned in the Old Testament in no uncertain terms? Or what about the issue of Christian involvement in war? Jesus told us to love our enemies and the early church clearly and consistently interpreted this as requiring Christians to be pacifists for at least the first 150 years of Christianity. And what about money? Jesus said that we cannot be his disciples unless we give away all we have. Have you done that, Dan?

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  42. "I have not actually said to anyone on this thread that I agree with the choices my daughter has made."
    It is good that you recognise conduct as a choice and not an involuntary compulsion (like breathing or heartbeat).
    Most of us would agree we should "respect" every person made in the image of God, but the difficulty lies in respecting the person but not his/her actions or beliefs. How do we do this in practice? and *do* we actually do this?
    It is very difficult to talk about family life, as you have done, Tim, but are we really happy about a child having two "mothers" but no father?
    Mark B., W. Kent

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  43. Mark, I have no wish to enter into a debate about the rightness or wrongness of same-sex marriage, a subject on which I'm far from clear in my own views.

    The original point John was making in this article concerned cooperating in evangelism with people with whom we are not in agreement about points of Christian morality.

    My own view is that in the Anglican church we have many people who think it is perfectly legitimate for a Christian to put on the uniform of their country and disembowel a fellow-Christian with a bayonet because he or she happens to be wearing the uniform of another country. We also have some people who believe that the teaching of Jesus forbids this. Both of them are sincere in their biblical interpretation, and hold the position they do out of obedience to Jesus. And as the great Lutheran historian Roland Bainton pointed out, the first three centuries of Christian history were overwhelmingly pacifist. To many of the early church fathers, Christians who became soldiers were seen as having abandoned the faith. And yet we have made out peace with this in the Anglican Church and accept that this (not very minor) subject is one on which Christians can legitimately hold different opinions.

    In the 1800s where the slavery debate was going on in the USA it was very common for pastors to appeal to passages in the Bible that, in their view, condoned slavery and to castigate the abolitionists as being unfaithful to God's holy word. but I think that most of us here would now agree that the abolitionists were not being unfaithful - they simply recognised that the traditional interpretation of those passages was in error.

    Genesis 1 and 2 seem to uphold one man and one woman marriages as God's ideal, and Jesus affirms this. And yet in the Old Testament many of the patriarchs and others - people who were used and blessed by God - were married to more than one woman (Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, David come to mind. We use David's psalms thankfully without seeing them as somehow tainted by his polygamy. And how did he come to believe that polygamy was acceptable to God? If the Genesis passage had been written already in his time, and if he knew it, then he must have interpreted it differently than we do. If it had not yet been written, then surely it illustrates that the doctrine of marriage evolved in the Bible.

    Sorry for this long post but I simply wish to point out that the Church in general and the Anglican church in particular have a history of disagreeing over quite important subjects while still recognising each other as servants of God and co-operating in mission and evangelism.

    Now I must go and prepare my Sunday sermon. Blessings to you all, a blessed Christmas and a happy new year!

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  44. homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Like drunkenness and gluttony. All are sins but all are within our remit to do something about them.

    I don't live in the UK or N America but it seems that something that God abhors (homosexuality)is being seen as a virtue.

    In the Bible rampant homosexuality is only found when God is absent or has given up society

    Who will God bless in the next 100 years? Africa/ Asia not Europe or N America.

    God does not bless society (or Churches) that tolerates homosexuality.

    Simple.. Repent or suffer read the Bible. Especially Andrew and Tim. You are not worthy to lead a Church. The issue of homosexuality should not be up for discussion..

    God has spoken on this. We ignore it at our peril

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  45. "Mark, I have no wish to enter into a debate about the rightness or wrongness of same-sex marriage, a subject on which I'm far from clear in my own views."

    I fully understand your wishes but it's not a subject we can avoid any longer, because gay advocates have made this a leading political issue and it's affecting national politics on both sides of the Atlantic. It will be a big issue in the 2012 Presidential elections for the simple reason that Obama wants it (but can't say so openly), while the Republican candidate will have to oppose it. But politics aside, it's obvious to any evangelical or catholic Christian - what you would call "fairly traditional" - that "same-sex marriage" is an absurdity and against the laws of God - whatever the man-made laws of Canada (or soon to be in the UK).
    As for the other questions you raise, as an Anglican (not a Mennonite or Amish) I can speak confidently on these:
    1. Military service is not contrary to the Gospel of Christ and never has been. Did Cornelius stop being a soldier once he was converted?
    2. Kidnap-slavery (man-stealing) has never been right and is condemned in the New Testament.
    3. Polygyny was tolerated under the Old Covenant but has never been condoned for Christian leaders. The Pastoral Epistles are clear on this.

    Mark B., W. Kent

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  46. OK brothers and sisters, I'm going to bow out here. The subject is a bit too raw for me, and I really can't compete with this level of one sentence per issue certainty about one's own biblical interpretations. Andrew, thanks again for your respectful way of speaking about folks like my daughter, and if you're ever in western Canada, come to Edmonton and I'll buy you a coffee!!

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  47. "And Dan, I take the teaching of the Bible very, very seriously, but do you?"

    Fair challenges here, Tim. Yes I do - and rather more accurately than you seem to do, as will appear below:

    "What do you think of the issue of lending money at interest, which is condemned in the Old Testament in no uncertain terms?"

    Deuteronomy 23:20 says, "Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury." So the prohibition isn't absolute, and this makes it sound like the very thing people of your persuasion claim for homosex, viz. that it was just part of the holiness code for Jews only. Something which by the way flies in the face of the context of Leviticus 18:22, from verse 24 on.

    In other words, you have erred twice in simultaneously universalising the theocratic law against usury and relativising the moral law against sodomy.

    "Or what about the issue of Christian involvement in war? Jesus told us to love our enemies and the early church clearly and consistently interpreted this as requiring Christians to be pacifists for at least the first 150 years of Christianity."

    I had thought that that had to do with the idolatrous imperial oath Roman soldiers had to take, rather than a fundamental anti-war stance - but if I'm mistaken about that, the said church fathers definitely violated Article XX, not to "so expound one place of scripture, that it be repugnant to another." As referred to elsewhere, we have the examples of Cornelius, the centurion of the Gospels, and I'd say the soldiers whom the fiercely moral John the Baptist never told to abandon their profession. Why, Jesus even told his disciples to carry swords for self-defence!

    "And what about money? Jesus said that we cannot be his disciples unless we give away all we have."

    A rather loose and inaccurate quote I'm afraid - and one which would again set the Bible against itself seeing that so many rich people WERE disciples in both Testaments. What he said that we must forsake everything, i.e. abandon any claim to be lord to determine what to do with it - place it all at the Master's disposition. And yes, I'd like to think I've done that, and would beseech everyone to do so with their sexual urges as well.

    Dan

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  48. * Correction: "What he said is that..."

    Dan

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  49. Canon Andrew wrote:

    "Umm... Michael...how should I break this to you....I was being ironici!!"

    Great to hear!

    "The issue, Michael and Jill, is that there is no agreement within the C of E that faithful same sex partnerships constitutes 'open sin'."

    I don't think that is the issue. The CofE could disagree about whether pedophilia constituted sin, but that wouldn't make any difference to the fact that is. So why does the mere existence of disagreement in the Church of England matter?

    "You might find it useful to read 'Exchanging the truth of God for a lie' by Jeremy Marks to get the evangelical perspective on this."

    Unless you really have no knowledge of evangelicalism at all, you would be aware that Jeremy Marks is one individual, and his view represents a tiny fraction of those who call themselves evangelical. So why would you tell anyone they should read him "to get THE evangelical perspective on this"?

    "Your personal view about whether women are priests or not is, unfortunately, not an issue. What makes them priests is that they have been duly and canonically ordained as such by a bishop with authority to do so."

    That might be legally correct, in the same way that a Roman Emperor once declared his horse to be a senator. But what Jill raised was whether a particular priest is a priest in God's eyes.

    "As Mgr Kith Newton has rightly said, even if that does not happen this synod, it is going to happen sooner rather than later and it is foolish to pretend otherwise."

    Right, well then we can all just not worry about the issue, since what will happen is 100% guaranteed!

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  50. Tim Chesterton wrote:
    "The original point John was making in this article concerned cooperating in evangelism with people with whom we are not in agreement about points of Christian morality."
    True, that was one of the points he made. But I would have thought the main point of the article is summed up in the penultimate paragraph:

    "The orthodox therefore face a difficult challenge. On the one hand, it is vital that they do not withdraw from the institution just at the point where the whole issue of gospel proclamation can be brought to the fore. At the same time, they must develop and make the case for sexual orthodoxy and, if necessary, must be willing to confront even those bishops who are leading the evangelistic charge in their dioceses."

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  51. Dan has amplified my 'one-liners' in a way I would have done, had I the time. If I thought military service was the equivalent of murder, I would never wear a poppy or contribute to 'Help for Heroes'. If I thought interest was intrinsically wrong, I could never have a mortgage. Yes, the issues are indeed 'raw', and no moral issue should be contemplated without prayer and repentance. There are bishops whose children are co-habiting; does this stop them proclaiming the Christian ethic?
    Mark B., W. Kent

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  52. "But what Jill raised was whether a particular priest is a priest in God's eyes"

    Ahh Michael I was not aware you knew the mind of Jill and that Jill knew the mind of God better than our appointed teachers within the C of E. Obviously I can't compete with those kind of magical powers.

    Tim: thanks for your good wishes and one day I hope to visit Canada and would love to have coffee with you. Meanwhile prayers and best wishes from this part of England and every blessing in Christ.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

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  53. It's incredible how inconsistent Andrew Godsall is. One minute he's complaining that there's no Church of England agreed position on same-sex activity, the next he invokes "appointed teachers within the C of E" as a source of authority. Which is it to be Andrew? Are the documents "Issues in Human Sexuality", "Some Issues in Human Sexuality", the House of Bishops 2005 statement on Civil Partnerships and the more recent statements this year authoritative or not?

    And watch how Andrew will once again fail to give us a straight yes or no in answer to this question.

    Or let's try this for size - he says "Ahh Michael I was not aware you knew the mind of Jill" in a highly derogatory manner, but this is the same man who bombarded me with emails trying to tell me what I was thinking and what I was feeling, a series of emails that ONLY ceased when I contacted his bishop.

    This is a man who berated me for not seeking a job in Exeter diocese but wouldn't apologise when I explained I didn't want a position down there because it would take my wife far away from her parents at a time when we were grieving the death of our second son. He NEVER apologised for this, but instead continued to accuse me of being inflexible. And this from the Exeter Diocese "Director of Worship and Ministry", who if he'd been genuinely concerned about my family's future would have sent parish profiles my way rather than just derogatory emails. God forbid anybody who is actually in his jurisdiction getting support.

    He is SO good at pointing out other people's faults but baulks when anybody ever takes him to task for his appalling behaviour. Perhaps 2012 might be the year to turn over a new leaf, but Andrew probably thinks he has nothing to apologise for and it is only us poor deluded evangelicals who are at fault.

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  54. You will all have to toe Andrews line soon or face the consequences

    I hope you will face the consequences as this has always been a good thing for the Christain Church.

    Orthodox Chrisitains need more persecution and it looks like it may also be God's plan.

    Happy new year!

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  55. Andrew Godsall, Exeter31 December 2011 at 17:21

    Oh dear Peter - your anger really is apparent and I'm sorry. I actually did send an e-mail apologising for any offence caused - an e-mail that was actually marked confidential - and am very happy to repeat that apology publicly here - for any offence caused. As all e-mails were marked confidential, I see no need to refer further to them.

    As to your question here, which you say I will not provide an answer to - I'm not actually sure what you are asking. You seem to be referring to several different parts of the thread. The appointed teachers in the C of E are our bishops - as teaching is the role of the bishop.

    Wasn't aware evangelicals were either deluded or at fault - I work closely with several and count them extremely good friends and colleagues!

    Do hope 2012 is a better year for you Peter.

    Every blessing in Christ Peter!

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  56. I actually did send an e-mail apologising for any offence caused - an e-mail that was actually marked confidential - and am very happy to repeat that apology publicly here - for any offence caused.

    This is untrue. No such email was ever sent. In all the emails you sent you never once apologised. I handle all my own email through my own servers and I never saw an apology, neither in my inbox or in my spam trap. Now, six months down the line you apologise, but only when named and shamed in public.

    And we can all see your equivocation yet again - I asked you a direct question as to whether four documents, authored by the House of Bishops were authoritative or not. Are you so spineless that you cannot give a simple yes or no?

    And I deeply resent you pretending to wish me well when all your actions towards me indicate the exact opposite.

    Now, be the man you should be - either give us a straight yes or no to the simple question I asked as to whether those four documents are authoritative or not OR go and play somewhere else. But for God's sake, stop prevaricating and stop being double-minded - saying one thing at one moment and then acting exactly the contrary the other.

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  57. Andrew, as you hold an official diocesan position in the Church of England, I would counsel you to be very restrained, even taciturn, in what you say. Please don't speak outside the bounds of your office, and don't disparage those who uphold the doctrine and discipline of the C of E, however much you disagree with it.
    Your statement "The appointed teachers in the C of E are our bishops - as teaching is the role of the bishop" is a mistaken exaggeration. ALL clergy in the C of E - including you and Peter Ould - are "appointed teachers", as John Richardson has pointed out on numerous occasions. Some of them - bishops included, like Alan Smithson (who gave up the Bible for Lent once in place of the Koran) or Stephen Lowe - are not very good at it (like a lot of schoolteachers), but they remain "appointed teachers", until dis-appointed.
    As a literate and intelligent man, you must also recognise - and never seek to obfuscate the fact - that the C of E has NEVER affirmed homosexual relations as right; it acts pastorally for those whose (impaired)conscience says otherwise, but such people cannot hold office in the C of E (as they do in Tec).

    Mark B., W. Kent

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  58. Andrew Godsall, Exeter31 December 2011 at 19:20

    Mark: Indeed, all those who are licensed (including Readers) have a teaching ministry, but bishops have a very particular role in teaching. That is why they have a chair in their cathedral, and that is why the house of bishops issues various statements. That's why Southwark Cathedral refer to those statements on their website with regard to Civil Partnerships.
    The official position is indeed that those in 'active' same sex partnerships can not hold office in the C of E. As Jill reminds us above, there has been a history of 'don't ask, don't tell' with regard to this, and that 'policy' still operates in a variety of places.

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  59. Thanks Mark B, for that clarification. Very helpful.

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