Sunday, 19 February 2012

When bishops disagree

What should bishops do when a bishop breaks ranks and violates the collegiality of the House of Bishops?
That would seem to be the question confronting the Church of England since the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, apparently stated, in an interview with The Times, that he did not see any need to “sublimate” his support for same-sex marriage to the views of the Church.
Given the inevitable shortcomings of newspaper reporting, that may not be exactly what he said or exactly what he meant, but given also that there has been no refutation from him, for the moment we must assume this is the case.
When we speak about ‘the views of the Church’, however, we must take into account that since 1991 this has included Issues in Human Sexuality: A Statement by the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England, which was followed up in 2003 by More Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate, which was a discussion document from the House of Bishops’ Group on Issues in Human Sexuality.
Both these document took an essentially conservative line, but the first in particular became notorious as the ‘fall back’ position for bishops under pressure. Like a PoW giving just his name, rank and number, any bishop who was pressed uncomfortably on his views about homosexuality would reply, “My position is to uphold the views expressed in Issues in Human Sexuality.”
Since The Times interview, however, this is apparently no longer the situation, for one bishop is prepared not just to state his support for same-sex marriage, but to advocate the case:
“Part of responsible leadership is having the vision, the sight, to see that’s where I want to go,” he told The Times.
And presumably he hopes to take much of the Church with him. So what are the other bishops to do?
First, it would seem, they can no longer use the ‘name, rank and number’ defence of Issues in Human Sexuality on the basis of collegiality. That is to say, they cannot cite the position of Issues in Human Sexuality as being the one they must uphold ‘as a bishop’ unless they are to embarrass the other bishops. Any reporter, synod member or individual faced with that response can simply reply, “That is not what the Bishop of Salisbury does, and obviously he’s a bishop. So what do you think?”
A bishop may, of course, still say that he holds to the position of Issues in Human Sexuality, but that now has to be a personal viewpoint only — not the collegiate position of the bishops.
Secondly, other bishops may take this as a cue to express their own doubts and disagreements about Issues in Human Sexuality. These are known to exist, not least in the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has so far used precisely the defence Nicholas Holtam now refutes. But there are others in the same position. Will they go with conscience now they can no longer go with collegiality?
Or thirdly, the bishops could insist that collegiality must nevertheless be maintained. Indeed, it may well be that moves are already under way, individually or collectively, to remind the Bishop of Salisbury of this principle.
However, the omens are not good. The Bishop of Sherborne, Graham Kings, who is the theological secretary of the evangelical group Fulcrum and nearest in administrative and physical terms to Nicholas Holtam, has expressed not only his support for an old friend but his ability to live with the differences between them at this point.
In response to a direct question from blogger David Ould, whilst stating that he disagreed with his diocesan, Bishop Kings nevertheless replied as follows:
We are new colleagues but old friends. We are committed to working together creatively even when we disagree. The position of the House of Bishops and the Church of England remains unchanged.
It is, however, the latter point which is in question. How can it be said that “The position of the House of Bishops ... remains unchanged” if bishops individually are free not to uphold that position?
Of course, it may be replied that the position is unchanged, in that bishops have always been free to disagree with it and to teach otherwise than what the House of Bishops’ statements maintain. But in that case we must ask what, if anything, is the significance of such statements and why have they held sway for so long?
And we must mention a name that, for the Crown Nominations Commission, must be taking on overtones of Lord Voldemort. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you — Jeffrey John.
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  1. You must add to this farrago the appointment of Jonathan Clark of 'Affirming Catholicism' as Bishop of Croydon, in succession to Nick Baines.
    There are already a number of parishes in Southwark privately offering 'same-sex blessings' and I can't see this stopping. Maybe a new work by Co-Mission in Putney will offer a bibilcal alternative.

    Sadly, 'Fulcrum' has turned out as many of us feared, as a means of brokering in more liberalism into the church hierarchy. They may not have intended it that way, but their attacks of conservative evangelicals and their support for the institution first of all have led to this. I do not want to call them 'useful idiots' but it's beginning to look that way.

    Mark B., W. Kent

  2. I wonder why some or any Bishop needs to define his position on SSM in terms of a 20 year old document - Issues In Human Sexuality - excellent though its two principles by of a summary of its position may be? So much more has happened, said, and been written since then.
    Take for example the current article by Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship which for sheer simplicty, clarity, and relevance to the issue of SSM would be hard to better.
    If I may use the courtesy of this blog I reproduce this material which unfortunately is not present for reference yet on the CMF web site. IMHO no bishop should be without such ammunition to use in the coming debate:

    Christians should also have confidence that there are many strong arguments for not redefining marriage that make sense to those who do not share our faith.

    1. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman

    Throughout history in virtually all cultures and faiths throughout the world, marriage has been held to be the union of one man and one woman. Marriage existed thousands of years before our nation began and has been recognised in our laws as the ‘voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life’ (Hyde v Hyde 1866). The UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) recognises that the family, headed by one man and one woman, ‘is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’. It is not up to governments to redefine marriage – but simply to recognise it for what it is, and to promote and protect it as a unique institution.

    2.Same sex couples already have civil partnerships

    Virtually all the legal rights of marriage are already available to same sex couples through civil partnerships so there is no need to redefine marriage to include them. The President of the Family Division has even described civil partnerships as conferring ‘the benefits of marriage in all but name’. Such a move would also inevitably lead to calls to open civil partnerships to opposite sex couples on the basis of ‘equality’. But marriage and civil partnerships have been designed for two very different types of relationship and should be kept distinct. It is not and should not be ‘one size fits all’.

    3.Redefining marriage without consultation is undemocratic

    None of the political leaders who are supporting the legalisation of same sex marriage announced it as a priority in their election manifestos. There is already a huge amount of opposition to the move and pressing ahead with legalisation will lead to considerable dissension and division. Legalising same sex marriage to appease a small minority is wrong and it should not be foisted on the British people without proper consultation about whether rather than how it should be done.

    4.Equality does not mean uniformity
    In a free democratic society we accept that many human activities are not open to everybody. Not everyone is allowed to drink alcohol, drive a car, buy property, cast a vote, own a firearm, attend university, visit Buckingham Palace or participate in a 100m women’s Olympic event. This does not mean that those who are not eligible for these activities are in any way denigrated or demeaned, but just that there are eligibility criteria. Same sex couples do not fulfil the eligibility criteria for marriage, which should be reserved for the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life.
    (more follow in separate posts)

  3. Contd.: Dr Peter Saunder's : '10 Reasons to oppose SSM.

    5.Protecting traditional marriage safeguards children and society.
    Stable marriages and families headed by a mother and a father are the bedrock of society and the state has a duty to protect the uniqueness of these key institutions. Though death and divorce may prevent it, children do best when raised by a married mother and father. Whilst single parents or same sex couples may do a good job in raising children, social policy has to be concerned with what is normally the case, and children have a right if at all possible to have a married mother and a father involved in their upbringing. In general the evidence shows that marriage provides a stability for adults and children which is hard to beat in terms of outcomes. There is considerable evidence to show that marriage leads to better family relationships, less economic dependence, better physical health and longevity, improved mental health and emotional well-being and reduced crime and domestic violence. By contrast sexual freedom and relationship breakdown cost Britain £100 billion annually and other models of the family have not been shown to have the same stability as traditional marriage. Same sex marriage, in comparison with marriage, is an unproven and experimental social model.

    6.Marriage is a unique biologically complimentary relationship.
    Marriage is the only legal union which can naturally lead to children. It takes both a man and a woman to produce a baby. The fact that there is a natural link between sexual intimacy and procreation is what makes marriage distinctive and different. Redefining marriage will undermine this distinctness and difference and risks normalising the technological instrumentalisation of reproduction and increasing the number of families where there is confusion of biological, social and family identity.

    7.Redefining marriage will be complex and expensive.
    Redefining marriage could cost billions and involve amending hundreds of pieces of government legislation. Introducing same sex marriage is a legal can of worms which cannot be achieved without changing the common and legal definition of the word marriage and other words which define it(eg. ‘husband and wife’, ‘consummation’ and ‘adultery’). These changes will inevitably change the definition and nature of marriage for opposite sex couples by trying to accommodate these two very different kinds of relationship under one legal umbrella. According to an assessment done for gay rights group Stonewall by a former civil servant, the cost of implementing one favoured option would be around £5 billion. This figure relates to a theoretical increase in straight couples taking up the opportunity of civil partnerships, with knock-on implications to their entitlement to pension and tax benefits. This is simply not a priority for government at a time of economic recession as it will confer no new rights.

  4. Dr Saunder's: Contd.

    8.Schools will be forced to teach about the new definition of marriage.
    Under existing education law schools will be required to teach children that marriage can be between a man and a woman, between two men or between two women. This will confuse children whose parents may wish to teach them according to their own values and worldview. Those parents who object could be undermined in their children’s eyes, stigmatised as homophobics and bigots and prevented from full involvement in schools.

    9.Redefining marriage will not stop with same sex marriage.
    In Mexico same sex marriage was followed by two year fixed term marriage. In Canada legalising same sex marriage has led to supporters of polygamy demanding in the courts for their unions to be recognised. If the legal definition is changed to accommodate same sex couples other minority groups with a vested interest (eg. Muslims, Mormons, Bisexuals and Polyamorists) will have a much stronger case to argue for the legalisation of polygamy and group marriages. The best defence against this is to keep the legal definition of marriage unique and distinct – ‘one man, one woman, for life’.

    10.Redefining marriage will lead to faith-based discrimination.
    We have already seen a rising tide of discrimination against people who support traditional marriage as a result of the legalisation of civil partnerships coupled with new equality legislation.. If same sex marriage is legalised faith-based employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex ‘spouses’. They would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action - no matter how modest - against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil ‘marriage’ with a member of the same sex. Faith-based adoption and fostering services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly ‘married’. Marriage counsellors from faith backgrounds would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counselling in support of same-sex ‘married’ relationships. All these moves would place faith groups in the invidious position of being forced to act against their consciences or face marginalisation, exclusion and litigation and would further fuel social fragmentation, sectarianism, antagonism and civil unrest.

    Finally, for those not convinced as to the effects of legalised SSM and its full potential consequences I would refer you to where it has been done. The following is an extract from the well informed comments on Bill Muehlenberg's web site where he has written extensively on this issue:

    "The American state of Massachusetts legalised SSM in 2004, and it has been all downhill there ever since. So much negative fallout from this has occurred that I cannot even begin to document it here. The best way to see what horrors have befallen the people of Massachusetts is to see this incredible document:

  6. John

    A lay member of General Synod tried to persuade the assembly that the Bishop of Salisbury was a very bad and disloyal bishop - she was unsuccessful, producing just a great deal of hot air. You've tried before, and not a lot happened. May I ask what your aim is?
    As to the significance of statements like 'Issues' - many of us have been saying for years that they are not very significant. You have not wanted to believe that. Do you now?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  7. Andrew, my aim is to pose the questions I have put above because I think they need answers.

    My position on Issues in Human Sexuality is made clear in the article.

  8. Yes John - but who do you want answers from?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  9. Andrew, that'd be "whom" ;-). I think the whole church needs to be thinking about the whole issue, wouldn't you agree?

  10. Yes John I agree, but It looks, from voting so far on the Covenant in England, that 'live and let live' is the approach that is favoured in the church about this issue. Hence the General Synod were not inclined to address the questions you are putting here.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  11. Andrew, I think you've misunderstood. My primary question is about collegiality. I presume I am not alone in thinking that the House of Bishops has maintained this as a principle, and that the principle has been important to its understanding on how to tackle the potentially divisive issue of human sexuality.

    The key question, then, is what has happened to collegiality and what are the consequences for how bishops relate to bishops, how they handle contentious issues and what this means for the present and future life of the Church.

    I hope this is now clear, and I would imagine it is something which the Church needs to address.

  12. John

    I think we are very well aware that the House of Bishops think very differently about things but manage to maintain collegiality. Women in the Episcopate and the Covenant are just two, very public, examples. I suspect what you are trying to do is what the lay member of GS tried to do - force some kind of 'split'. I don't think that will happen. They are all second order issues which do not threaten collegiality.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  13. Andrew, thanks for contributing your viewpoint. Others may disagree.

    1. John = that's the whole point. Others may disagree. But that does not threaten collegiality in the way you suggest. You are beginning to sound more like the lot from Kidderminster who broke away, and now find they can't come back.

      Andrew Godsall, Exeter

    2. Andrew, it would be interesting to hear what you think collegiality actually consists of. What is it based on? In what situations does it apply? What are its results?

      In the specific case in point, has this been an example of 'collegiality' in operation? If not, what has been the previous significance of the two major statements from the House of Bishops? If it has, then is collegiality now broken, and if not, why not?

      Over to you.

  14. @ Graham Wood

    I read the ‘article’ you kindly provided a link to and found myself rather perplex by 1) the sheer violence (not to mention nonsense) of its assertions and 2) the fact that in the main it appeared little more than a vitriolic piece of hate and fear mongering. I found one of the concluding sentences both disturbing and amusing because of its blatant irony: ‘Research shows that homosexual relationships are fundamentally dysfunctional on many levels... To the rest of America: You've been forewarned...’ Perhaps you would care to peruse this piece or research and analysis: which strangely enough notes the highest rates of divorce (and by extension, family breakdown) in the USA tend to be within conservatively religious communities and states. Obviously a website entitled ‘Religious Tolerance’ is not really going to convince some of our conservative brethren of the validity of its findings; however the USA Census Office readily confirms these sad statistics – and strangely enough, Massachusetts has a BELOW USA AVERAGE of marriage failure – whereas many of the Bible-Belt states (which of course also are most vehemently anti-gay marriage states) have the highest rates of divorce (not to mention teen pregnancy, single parenthood, violent crime, murder and incarceration of their citizens).

    So I would suggest great caution is necessary before promoting the vitriolic bleating of ‘Mass Resistance’ – the evidence suggests tolerant and liberal societies tend to have lower divorce rates, more stable two parent families, lower rates of teen pregnancy (not to mention violent crime etc.). I think it is time for many conservatives to stop pointing the accusatory, prejudiced, hate-mongering finger and instead hold up a mirror – the evidence suggests there is far more unwholesomeness within than without conservative societies... But perhaps that is why scape-goating and spreading hatred, discord, half-truth, innuendo, salaciousness and sometimes downright falsehood is preferable to the less palatable and more courageous action of looking a little closer to home to discover where the problems lie!

    Peter Denshaw

  15. @ Graham Wood

    Whoops - forgot to put the US Census link...

  16. Peter, there is just one thing I would like to pick up. You have many times alleged in your posts the lawlessness and violence of 'Bible Belt' States compared with the rest of the USA.

    I do not have time (obviously!) to make a complete analysis. However, I would make two observations.

    First, crime statistics across the whole of the United States seem to have been in decline since a peak in the late seventies and early eighties. For the overall picture, see these figures here.

    The murder rate, for example, which was 5.1 per 100,000 in 1960, peaked at 10.2 in 1980 (a very neat exact doubling), but is now down to 4.8 - the lowest since 1963.

    Secondly, although there is considerable variation by States, all is not 'peace and quiet' in Massachusetts compared with the Bible belt. Your were more likely to be robbed in Massachusetts than in Mississipi, for example, and more likely to be robbed there than in Texas, Mississipi or Kentucky - all of which are firmly 'Bible Belt'.

    Though your chances of being murdered in Massachusetts were below the national average (4.3 cf 4.8), your chances of being raped were only marginally below average (26.7 cf 27.5 per 100,000) and your chances of being a victim of aggravated assault were much higher.

    Your chances of being a victim of violent crime were actually bigger in Massachusetts than in Texas! (466.6 cf 450.3) and well above the national average of 403.6/100,000.

    This is simply to say that the picture is complex, but the statistics are out there.

  17. PS to Peter and Graham - none of this has anything to do with collegiality, I should point out!!

  18. Correction: I should have said re Mass, you are "more likely to be a victim of aggravated assault there than in Texas, Mississipi or Kentucky".

    The figures are 331.8, cf 284.4, 137.8 and 120.1 respectively.

  19. Andrew, it would be interesting to hear what you think collegiality actually consists of. What is it based on? In what situations does it apply? What are its results?

    In the specific case in point, has this been an example of 'collegiality' in operation? If not, what has been the previous significance of the two major statements from the House of Bishops? If it has, then is collegiality now broken, and if not, why not?

    Over to you.

  20. PS Andrew Godsall's last comment seems to be temporarily lost in cyberspace. He wrote,

    "John = that's the whole point. Others may disagree. But that does not threaten collegiality in the way you suggest. You are beginning to sound more like the lot from Kidderminster who broke away, and now find they can't come back.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter"

  21. Revd John

    Thanks for this - yes, as you say we're getting off piste... That said, I've not really talked about crime but MARRIAGE and how this seems to be an institution that seems far more likely to prosper in less religiously conservative states - as seems to be the case in Europe too (barring the UK and Sweden) - liberal, secular, tolerant societies tend to have far more two parent families, lower divorce and teen pregnancy rates. What I am saying is that the statistical evidence suggests 'liberal' societies - in the main - don't suffer the ‘moral assault’ on familial and community life that many religiously conservative voices would have us believe. Indeed, the irony is it appears religiously conservative societies tend to suffer more instances of the very problems they state a shift to liberal values will foster.

    I realise I can become something of a bore, keep harping on about the statistical disparities and anomalies of overtly conservative Christian societies – yet given so much effort (and statistical evidence – tho’ often from dubious sources) is put into showing same-sex partnerships will rock the foundations of our society; I think it is only fair to note, many religiously conservative societies seem quite able to undermine themselves.

    As you recently noted: 'My experience within conservative evangelical circles is that there are many areas of life - for example to do with business, ambition, class, culture, etc - where we do not give nearly enough attention to the implications of the gospel.' I think this is why the issue of homosexuality has become so much to the fore recently: it is ‘easy righteousness’ – the very fact there is such a hugely disproportionate interest in this subject, when it receives such scant attention in the Bible, is evidence enough for this: when people get their knickers in a twist about a moral issue that doesn’t personally effect themselves, then it is often the case that there is a good deal of displacement and scape-goating taking place...

    That said, I must stress, that the Bp of Salisbury’s position does not sit easily with me. The Church is not a democracy, but (in theory) the manifestation in time and place of the Body of Christ – that is the revelation of God made Flesh. I do not believe it is the role of a bishop to try and dovetail secular, liberal values with those of Christian orthodoxy: his role is to lead his flock, not pander to vagaries of the wider world. I, myself, spent twenty odd years living a (mainly) celibate, single life because of my orthodox Christian position on same sex relationships. The fact I now live as one half of a same sex couple is (on occasion) something that surprises me. However this is my personal choice – it is rooted in very difficult and carefully considered choices – as ++Desmond Tutu notes, who in their right minds wants to be part of a vilified and despised section of society? Yet it is a personal choice and I do not expect the church to bend over backwards to accommodate my personal circumstances. Marriage between a man and woman is the Church’s ideal - I think it is rather foolish to suggest the Church should change her view on this. The matter is a theological one: recourse to slander, innuendo, questionable reports, bias, prejudice, ‘easy-righteousness’ serve no purpose other than to tarnish the Gospel – state the case theologically, but don’t try and play on ancient prejudices or disseminate disinformation of questionable authority and integrity (as seems to be the habit of several Christian/Anglican orthodox websites at present). There is little evidence to suggest if everyone went to church and read their Bible, the world would be a better place – certainly this has never been the case in the past or the present. Christianity is not about creating moral utopias on earth (they always fail, as history demonstrates) – it is a means of salvation for sinful people who can’t (and can never) save themselves.

  22. @PeterDenshaw

    I have never found your posts a bore in the least. They are in fact, intelligent and well considered.

    I would like to know how you think uncollegiality among Bishops should be addressed. Presumably you don't think benign tolerance is the the way?

    Chris Bishop

  23. John.You wrote: "PS to Peter and Graham - none of this has anything to do with collegiality, I should point out!!

    Well I agree of course that your initial point is about collegiality, but I moved on from there to try and raise the central issue which is going to concentrate minds more fully for all Christians, not merely a section of the C of E or the bishops concerned, important though the latter may be.
    When SSM "consultations" suggestd by government take place, before moving on to proposed legislation for SSM then clearly that is a matter of deep concern for us all. Bearing in mind also that the Home Secretary appears already to have concluded that such consultations are somewhat superfluous - all we need to work out she is reported to have said, is the "nuts and bolts" of the process!
    To Peter Denshaw: My reference to the 'mass resistance' link was something of an afterthought to the main thrust of my three posts quoting Dr Peter Saunders of CMF - an additional comment which I think consolidated his argument. We may disagree on that.
    However, I submit that he has made a very strong case indeed against SSM from the standpoint of Christian principle and and that his research concerning the adverse effects if legalised is well worth considering.

    You have said quite a lot in your last post to John R, and including the comment "Marriage between a man and woman is the Church’s ideal - I think it is rather foolish to suggest the Church should change her view on this."
    Apart from your own personal circumstances and views pro or con re SSM in the USA, and particularly Massachusetts, I take it then that in principle you agree that SSM should be opposed by the church on the broad basis suggested by Dr. Saunders 10 reasons?

  24. John - I'm short on time today. All your post evidences is a difference of opinion, not a lack of collegiality. Evidence of collegiality is working in a diocese in communion together for the furtherance of the Gospel. Graham Kings and Nicholas Holtam are still doing that. The breakaway congregational church in Kidderminster are not.

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  25. Andrew, there's no rush.

    What I am asking, though, is what is the nature of collegiality when one bishop (such as, in this particular case, Graham Kings), acts on the presumption that a fellow bishop (in this case, as we know, Nicholas Holtam)) is advocating a position that will, in the first bishop's opinion (supported, incidentally, by the House of Bishops itself), lead people into grievous sin.

    In what sense are these bishops 'colleagues'?

  26. Just for those who might have missed the post here, the House of Bishops has previously said (in 2003) that, "in the case of the disagreement about sexual ethics, the disagreement is about matters that go to the heart of people’s relationship with God, and which cannot therefore be treaed as subjects on which we can simply learn to live with diversity"(emphasis added).

    We must ask whether the present House of Bishops still holds this to be the case.

  27. John - I don't find your two recent posts make much sense I'm afraid. What's your point?
    The two bishops are colleagues in the sense that they are part of the same diocese - therefore in communion, working together for a common cause - the furtherance of the kingdom. In what sense are they NOT colleagues simply for expressing different opinions?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  28. John. I'm sure you are technically correct concerning the lack of full 'collegiality' where there is a division within the house of Bishops - in reference to gender issues and specifically on SSM.
    That said, the House of Bishops is not the whole church as you would readily acknowledge! Would you not agree therefore that there is a wider perspective calling for attention here, and which should inform both this discussion, and a future decision by the church on such a momentous issue to either accept or reject SSM?

    If wisdom in the wider church is lacking as it appears, then perhaps we need the reminder that corporately the church has "the mind of Christ",(1 Cor.2:16) but it must needs be sought through a process of discernment, consultation and discussion within all parishes and congregations in order to bring it to expression in line with that same "mind" revealed in Scripture.
    Thus a true and fuller collegiality will be manifested, and not confined to one section of the church.
    We know there are many NT precedents for this, and examples - e.g. the "circumcision" issue in the early church and the process of open discussion by all parties concerned - i.e. apostles,church, and elders together (Acts 15:3,4,12, and 22).
    Organisationally and practically it is not too late to initiate such a process so that the world will in some measure be able to see that Christians can indeed still "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel" (Phil.1:27)

  29. Of interest to posters on this blog, and if you were not already aware, the following camapaign has been initiated today to fight for the protection of traditional marriage.

    "A grassroots campaign group against the redefinition of marriage in England and Wales has been launched today.

    The Coalition for Marriage (C4M) is a group of organisations and individuals who support the current definition of marriage and opposes any plans to redefine it. The petition can be signed online here:

    Leading public figures including politicians from the Conservative and Labour parties, lawyers, academics and religious leaders, have already signed affirming that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.

  30. I'll spell it out for Andrew Godsall since he doesn't seem to get it.

    "The two bishops are colleagues in the sense that they are part of the same diocese - therefore in communion, working together for a common cause - the furtherance of the kingdom. In what sense are they NOT colleagues simply for expressing different opinions?"

    Bishop Holtam thinks two men or two women could be joined in the holy estate of Christian marriage and teaches thus.

    Bishop Kings thinks this is not possible, and that such a relationship would be sinful, contrary to the Gospel and the Kingdom.

    Do you understand this, Andrew?

    Mark B., W. Kent

  31. Andrew, as Mark B observes, your comment is fine up to the hyphen: "The two bishops are colleagues in the sense that they are part of the same diocese - ...".

    After that, though, it runs into difficulties I was trying to illustrate with my quotation from Some Issues in Human Sexuality.

    When we say people are "in communion", we ought not to mean simply, "they both receive the sacraments together". Rather, as you go on to observe, this mean "working together for a common cause - the furtherance of the kingdom."

    As the HoB document observes, however, on this particular issue they are not, as you put it, "simply ... expressing different opinions". Rather, they are stating opposite - and opposing - views about "The will of God for his people". This means they will give conflicting advice and instruction as to "what he requires of his people", who cannot be obeying both sets of advice simultaneously.

    This is why, as the document says, "there needs to be agreement concerning Christian ethics" and why it adds, "in the case of the disagreement about sexual ethics, the disagreement is about matters ... which cannot ... be treated as subjects on which we can simply learn to live with diversity", which is what the bishops in Salisbury diocese seem to think, nevertheless, they can do.

    So I would ask how, in your view, this can be either maintaining communion or collegiality?

  32. Peter Denshaw, thank you for your open and honest statements. (They remind me rather of someone I know in a similar situation.)

  33. Mark B and John

    You are quoting from a document that is some years old and that is an exploratory document. People keep assuming these are policy statements. The exploration continues

    Collegiality is about the ability to listen as well as speak. It's about the ability to see other points of view than your own. It's about understanding that there are several sides to an argument, and not just either/or. It's about knowing that someone else brings a perspective that you can't yourself. It's about knowing that you don't know everything, and that colleagues can make up the deficit.
    Graham Kings has said quite clearly that he regards the new Bishop of Salisbury as an old friend and a new colleague. Which bit of that do you have a problem with? We get that you don't agree with Nicholas Holtam. We get that you think his position differs from the HofB exploratory documents. But do you also get that the 'issue' is still being explored, and that Nicholas Holtam has a right to explore this as well? His conclusion might be different to yours. But it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit that he is chosen as a bishop...

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  34. Andrew, collegiality, by your own definition of 'communion' or 'koinonia' is "working together for a common cause - the furtherance of the kingdom".

    Bishop Kings says, in effect, "Same-sex sex is wrong - a sin and therefore not what God wants from his people".

    Bishop Holtam says, conversely, "Same-sex sex is right - a blessing and therefore what God rejoices to see in his people."

    In the midst of this 'collegiality', what is the ordinary Christian to do whilst the bishops are exploring?

    Furthermore, where and when will the exploration end?

  35. As a PS on the choice of Bp Holtam, we do not have to believe that because he got the job the Holy Spirit approved!

  36. John - you don't seem to want to acknowledge that Graham Kings refers to Nicholas Holtam as a colleague. You are just trying to cause division, it seems. Maybe the thing to do is take it up with them directly?
    And if you really don't believe the Holy Spirt has any part in the selection of its bishops, what do you think God is up to in the Church of England?

    Andrew Godsall

  37. Andrew, I'm well aware of what Graham Kings has said, at least publicly, in this regard. I don't see how it can be said that I am 'trying to cause' division. Division exists - Graham Kings says publicly he does not agree with Nicholas Holtam. That is surely a 'division' of sorts.

    I also know of others who are taking these things up directly. However, insofar as they have chosen to 'go public' with what they each believe, I do not think a public discussion is unwarranted. (Indeed, it could be described as 'joining in the exploration'.)

    What I am asking is what significance it has for the Church of England when one bishop teaches that what was formerly held to be sin is not, and another bishop who says he disagrees with him says there isn't a problem with this or between them.

    I repeat my previous question. Whilst the bishops are expoloring, what are the people who are their pastoral responsibility supposed to do? Furthermore, when will the exploration end and the church be able to say one way or the other this is right or that is wrong?

    As to the Spirit and the Church, the observations of the Thirty-nine Articles about General Councils are, I think, wise: "when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God."

  38. If a foreigner and an outsider may chime in, could I just ask...

    Doesn't collegiality mean that the bishops are committed to acting together, whatever they may think or teach? Surely collegiality over the issue of the ordination of women, for instance, meant that bishops who disagreed on the subject were free to speak their mind, but not free to change their practice until the church as a whole changed its practice?

    Or have I completely misunderstood?

  39. "I repeat my previous question. Whilst the bishops are expoloring, what are the people who are their pastoral responsibility supposed to do? "

    I think article 26 is your friend there John.
    As to when the exploration will end - I doubt in our lifetime don;t you?

    I think Tim Chesterton makes the most obvious and helpful point - it's about practice; it's not what you says, it's what you do. (Except of course the C of E HAS come to a mind about the ordination of women, but we still allow people who disagree not to ordain them.....and discriminate against them.

  40. Andrew Godsall still doesn't get it, and I wonder if repeating the simple facts will achieve anything, but here goes.

    1. A primary canonical responsibilty of bishops is TEACHING the Christian faith (not 'exploring').
    2. Holtam TEACHES that homosexual relations can be Christian marriages, willed and blessed by God.
    3. Kings, Holtam's subordinate, TEACHES that homosexual relationships are sinful and not the will of God.

    Either Kings hasn't grasped the fundamental significance of this contradiction, or he is keeping silent in public for the difficulties this is causing him. In a word, he has been snookered.

    Differences over homsexuality are not adiaphora, although Andrew Godsall would like to pretend they are.

    Mark B., W. Kent

  41. At the risk of going OT (but that's been done before already), I take up Andrew's comment here -

    "the C of E HAS come to a mind about the ordination of women, but we still allow people who disagree not to ordain them.....and discriminate against them."

    That "mind" so far includes the two integrities doctrine, albeit Synod may chuck that out of the window in July. I have to say that hardly any bishops are dissidents - call that massive discrimination against that "integrity" compared to its proportion of churchgoers.

    In its original sense "discrimination" has none of the negative pejorative sense with which modern feminists (and others) invariably imbue it. Indeed to "distinguish spirits" is a Christian duty and spiritual gift.

    But insofar as any discrimination is going on re. men, women and the presbyterate, is it accurate to call it "against" women? Have we forgotten what a burden it is to exercise that office as the Bible requires? - including teaching all the "unpopular" doctrines of Scripture, and being first to stick your head above the parapet in time of danger?

    Why would anyone think it anything less than chivalrous to spare the gentler sex the rough treatment which conscientious priests must expect every day (to say nothing of being stabbed to death in your vicarage)?

    I'd really like to know what the feminist camp think about this.


  42. This thread is now closed. Please refer to the latest article on this topic and pick up from there.