Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Dear Church of England: from a gay ordinand.

NB: This was written prior to my selection conference in November. I've since heard back and I've received a positive recommendation to train for ordination.


Dear Church of England,

It's me. I'm one of yours - one of the very small cells way out on your western limb. You don't know me very well, but I'm part of you, even if you don't notice me most of the time.

It's been a long journey, CoE. From finding in you a warmth and embrace I'd never known, and the unlikely friendship we struck up, to that strange moment two years ago when we looked at each other and suddenly realised we were both thinking the same thing about priesthood. The past two years have taken us on quite a rollercoaster, haven't they? You've been busy grappling with grumpy synods and a restless global communion, I've been busy grappling with the bells at eucharist and how to girdle an alb.

And now it's all coming to a head. In seven days time I will arrive in Cambridgeshire for three days of intense, gruelling assessment. I'll meet a panel of strangers who will poke and prod into each darkened corner of my personality, penetrate me with questions, observe and note my reactions. Then they'll sit and pray and come up with a report deciding whether or not to recommend me for ordination training.

This is it, CoE. This is the moment that decides the rest of my life. 

So I have something to say, just before I go. I want you to know what it is you're asking of me.

I'm gay, Church of England. I'm gay and I want to give you me.

I'm offering you myself: my hands and feet, my energy, my time, my intellect, my career. And I'm doing it gladly, because I believe in you. You're asking me to give you my entire life in service, to lay it down on behalf of the poor, needy, vulnerable, wounded and lost. You're asking me to work six days a week, sometimes for fourteen hour days, to live on the job, and to bring my family with me. I understand that. That's the call.

But, apparently, for me the call is more.

For me, I'm only allowed to serve you if I'm celibate for the rest of my life. I'm never allowed to marry the woman I love – or I'll be sacked (you've made that clear). I can never bless a marriage of friends who share a gender. And according to this transcript released last week, I can never become a bishop unless I am silent about my sexuality.

I love you. I love your bumbling, old-fashioned, slightly pompous traditions. I love your terribly English lack of cool. I love your willingness to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into the very ordinary mess of life, from foodbanks to Wonga to school assemblies.

But this – this is wrong.

You tell me that the reason I have to be silent is because bishops are a focus of unity. You tell me the conservatives will leave if you change the rules. You tell me the African churches will kick up a raucous tantrum if I'm seen to be accepted by you. You tell me I have to be silent, to be patient, to put up with the abuse. You tell me it's my cross to bear.

Well here's the thing. I love you. I love my conservative brothers and sisters. I love my African family. But I am exhausted with you sacrificing the LGBT community on the altar of a false unity.

We have borne the brunt of your fear of conflict for decades. We have hidden ourselves away, tucked our loved ones out of sight, for fear of upsetting our delicate counterparts. What is the cost of your strained harmony? It is our lives, our families, our happiness, our wellbeing.

Did you know that I ended a two year relationship to pursue ordination? Did you know that I wrestled with this call until I bled from the pain and the anguish of it? Did you know that I spent months weeping because I had to follow where God was calling, but how could I, when you demand I be celibate forever, and I don't have that gift? Did you know that deep in the depression this triggered, I came to the conclusion that suicide was preferable, because my only other options were to deny God's call (impossible) or to force my sexuality into repression and go without love and companionship?

And your communion is fraying. You confuse unity with agreement. You allow yourself to be held to ransom by selfish, loud voices who demand we disappear or they'll walk. You sacrifice your LGBT children so that those who refuse to live with difference get their own way. And you barely acknowledge the sacrifice you make of us.

Like I said – I love you. I even respect you. In seven days time, I will walk into a room full of strangers and tell them why I want to offer you a lifetime of service. But while I make this sacrifice, I want you to be honest about all the other, secret sacrifices you demand I make - and why, and for whom.

With love, prayers, and a dusty, stubborn hope,
Me.

109 comments:

  1. This is so well written. Thank-you. I'm not sure it's widely realised just how many ordinands it could have been written about.
    Praying for change.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rose, I will be praying for you at your BAP. Be yourself and be blessed. x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this Rose. I am not Gay, but I am a supporter of your right to live an open, honest life with the person you love in Christian marriage.
    Praying for your BAP, and praying for the Church of England that they may recognise what a wonderful future priest they have on their hands.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Rose, I saw your post shared on the Changing Attitude Facebook page. I too am a young LGBT+ person who feels called to ministry, although I do not yet know if that means ordination. Your words, 'with a dusty, stubborn hope,' hit pretty close to home and I just pray for you and your journey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi PJ. Thanks for your prayers. There are more and more of us, and I'm hoping together our voices will be heard :) hope your journey is smooth and you have good people around you as you explore it.

      Delete
  5. Rose, I pray that your offer of your life will be accepted, because our church needs people like you; and I pray that the sacrifice of your need for love and intimacy will very soon NOT be demanded of you, because, as you so eloquently point out, it is wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bless you dear one! I hope some day to have the privilege of meeting you. In the meantime i will wreath yourself, Bishop Woodford House, and all those gathering with you in oodles of prayer - with love and hope - Andrew Dotchin (@suffolkvicar)

    ReplyDelete
  7. God bless your time at BAP. I was at Bishop Woodford House just over a month ago doing the same thing. It felt like a good place to be, has a peaceful chapel, there's the most perfect cathedral just around the corner, and the food is good too!

    One tip I have would be to take some sort of sleep mask unless you're good at sleeping in rooms which are quite light. The lights in the rooms have a green LED which glows when the light is switched off. Very annoying!

    Other than that, the two best general pieces of advice I was given (which I'm sure you've already been given) are to try and enjoy your time there, and to be yourself. The latter is clearly something you've spent a lot of time thinking about already. If God wants you to be a priest, he wants *you*, not some image the church has of what a priest should be like.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Blessings on you dear sister, from a retired, gay, married priest from Canada presently praying for you in Mexico.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So well said, so brave and so called to be a loving priest. My thoughts and prayers are with you x

    ReplyDelete
  10. So well said, so brave and so called to be a loving priest. My thoughts and prayers are with you x

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think of Christianity as a pathway to Heaven. Jesus has explained that, in Heaven, there is no sexuality. So why do we make it a stumbling block on the way?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Rose, I hope things go well for you at the meeting.
    If that door doesn't open for you though you would find a warm welcome in the Quaker community.
    All blessings to you on your journey wherever it takes you
    Be happy x

    ReplyDelete
  13. PS The above is a comment from Jo Weedon but we share a computer and I'm not good with technology, and this is the only way I could get my message to post. This one also!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks so much everyone for your prayers and lovely comments. I should clarify that this blog post was written a week or so ago before BAP (I didn't publish it a week or so ago when it was first written because I wanted to go into BAP with the right attitude: not angry, not defiant, not on a 'cause'). I've since been and heard back from the Bishop - I've been recommended. Since prayer is an eternal act to an eternal God and not time-bound, thank you for all of yours as they clearly contributed! :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. May our sisters and brothers in the CofE hear your exhortation for mercy and justice for all of God's children. You are right in naming this a "false unity" - it is a demand for uniformity, something over which we had a little Reformation a few years back. Prayers for your journey and know you have friends across the Pond and elsewhere who support you being you ... all of you.

      Delete
  15. Dear Rose, thank you for what you have written. And for being you. I will pray for you and if you need someone to yell to or whatever while you are at BWH, contact me via FB. I am a hop, skip and jump away from BWH - and I know what being at a BAP is like. Take good care of yourself - but your name is written on God's hands who holds you whatever happens. Mary Hancock

    ReplyDelete
  16. Delighted you've been accepted. Be bold. Be brave. The Church of England wider Anglicanism needs you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because there just aren't enough gay clergy already? How about making being gay a precondition for ordination-would anyone really notice-AngloCatholics especially?

      Delete
  17. So glad to hear that you have recommended the Church of England for your training. Blessings, good wishes and prayers. Be assured that many of us continue to pray, struggle and work for change.

    ReplyDelete
  18. One day, Rose, nobody will have to write this. Thank you for your faith and courage. I'm on Synod to helpi, if I possibly can, make it possible for the next generation to not have to do what you have to do. God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. One simple solution. Find a gay friendly church. My sympathy is muted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most of the C of E is gay friendly. Just the hierarchy need to change.
      P.S. Would you have said the same to black people living in the American South in the first half of the last century? Would you have told them to find a black-friendly country if they wanted civil rights?

      Delete
    2. I suspect unlikely, since 'orientation' is not a racial identity.

      Delete
  20. Rose, thanks for this very interesting posting. I don't know you (a friend directed me to this) so I don't know if this is you speaking or another contributor. Either way it is very moving.

    I don't know if you are interested in a comment from an evangelical perspective, but if so, I would just note the following differences. (If you are not interested, feel free to delete!).

    1. I don't think I identify with ordination as the all-encompassing sacrifice that you depict it as. That happened in my baptism.

    2. I don't think I identify with your loving the 'church' and making a sacrifice for it/her. For me, ordination was a call from God first; the church is a frail and fallible institution, and I would counsel anyone not to love it *too* much. (Loving God's people is something different.)

    3. For me, the main reason for the Church's current teaching is not about unity, or about keeping things quiet, or any of the practical things you mention. It is about being faithful as a people to the good news that God has made know in Jesus, which is an unconditioned but not unconditional call of compelling grace, to live forgiven lives of growing holiness. If that's not what is at stake, I am really not bothered about it.

    I am very aware that for you and others the Church's current teaching doesn't feel like that. But I think that is the only place that it belongs.

    I have not idea whether that is either interesting or helpful to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ian,

      Thanks for your graciously worded thoughts. I actually am evangelical - but good to hear your views nonetheless!

      1. I don't think ordination is any more an all-encompassing sacrifice than any other call of God, but I do believe that God's call is always to follow him utterly, with everything, above and beyond every other demand on us (Luke 9:23-6; 57-62). For me, that leads down the path to ordination: it is not about the end of that path (wherever it may lead), but the following of God that is sacrificial and all-encompassing.

      2. The sacrifice is for the church (by which I mean the people of God - in this particular, very local, expression of the CoE) because the church, not God, is demanding it of me. I believe God blesses same-sex partnerships as he does heterosexual marriages. I believe the church is demanding I make sacrifices which God would not have me make. Those sacrifices are therefore made for the sake of grace, humility and respect, or love. I love the spiritual church, the Body and Bride of Christ. Believe me, I'm unlikely of falling too much in love with the institution!

      3. The church's current teaching hasn't changed from its traditional viewpoint, and I do understand that (although many, many people within the CoE now hold a different theological view to the church's) it needs to be a long and thorough process to approach any change to that teaching.

      The church's *practice* is a different matter. The church says one thing (celibacy for all gay clergy) while doctrine says another (no enforced celibacy for clergy); it affirms the love, fidelity and holiness found in gay partnerships ('Issues in Human Sexuality') while condemning gay sexual acts as immoral ('Issues in Human Sexuality'). It acknowledges celibacy is a gift, while enforcing it on a whole group of people willy nilly. And all the while it allows gay partnered priests to engage in sexual activity behind closed doors, just so long as no one is too obvious about it near the papers.

      If the church could acknowledge that while the conversation around human sexuality is ongoing, the cost falls on the gay clergy it has forced celibacy upon, without equipping or supporting those ungifted clergy, that would go a long way for starters. But there is a silence about the strain and burden it heaps upon gay priests.

      The link in my post to the statement on the selection of bishops very clearly focuses on unity; and the church's approach to this issue in the Anglican Communion clearly focuses on the same issue. Where a stand can be made either for unity or to stand up for LGBT people, the church consistently chooses unity.

      I hope that clarifies my position. Sorry it's such a long response. Thanks for your thoughts.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for responding. I think there is a third option: that the church and bishops stand for unity focussed on the church's teaching, not simply unity as not upsetting the apple cart.

      I don't know if you have read The Plausibility Problem by Ed Shaw? He would agree with you on issue around support and realism. But, where I think you would like to see the church's teaching align with its practice, he would like to see its practice align with its teaching and the teaching of the NT on this.

      http://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/can-the-traditional-view-of-sexuality-ever-be-plausible/

      Delete
    3. Ian, your third option would work better if it wasn't precisely that church teaching that was increasingly being questioned. The enforced unity covers over that crack and pretends that all in the church are agreed and that it's only a question of making practice follow that agreement.

      In reality, it's stories like Rose's and countless others, who speak of their suffering, their depression, their thoughts (or more) of suicide, that is making an increasing number of people within the church question whether they really understood the bible correctly - because God cannot will that amount of suffering for no apparent moral benefit. People look at our relationships and cannot, for the life of them, see anything sinful in them. And they re-examine the theology behind it and come to different conclusions.
      I know you don't accept that line of argument.
      But it is a real line of argument being lived out in the CoE and it is changing the CoE.

      And so the third option really is for the church to work out what it now believes about same sex relationships, in the light of the genuine and deep and honourable disagreement about them.

      Let's talk about unity once we've answered that question.

      Delete
    4. Erika, I don't accept this kind of prioritisation of experience over theology. But neither did I really want to get into a debate you and I have had elsewhere in the context of Rose's account of her experience. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I am just not that pugnacious.

      Delete
    5. Ian, I must have expressed myself badly.
      I though I had said that I know you do not accept what you call the prioritisation of experience over theology.

      But it is a reality that the church is currently having a major debate about its theology of same sex relationships, and that many people find that experience causes them to revisit their theology.

      So what I'm saying is that your third option is based on the false premise that there is one widely accepted church teaching everyone can rally around and that the only challenge is to enforce it in practice.

      There may well be one accepted church teaching at the end of our debate. But not before that time.

      While the concept of unity is used to mask a very genuine and passionate ongoing debate it is not real unity and Rose is right to point that out.

      Delete
    6. I never said I thought the teaching was accepted. I said I thought it was true.

      Delete
    7. The point is that an increasing number of people no longer believe it to be true and that the church is having a major conversation about it.
      Unity - the real thing - will be restored when that conversation has runs its course.
      Until then, all talk of unity is make belief.

      Delete
    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    9. Ian, the problem is that you make your very personal reading of Holy Scripture a norm by which all must live. There are many of us as faithful as you, as orthodox as you, as committed to Jesus as you, who have come to a different understanding. But for you we are just miserable apostates. And this is the heart of the problem. I would never deny you your Christianity. But by using words like "true" and sentences like "align with its teaching and the teaching of the NT on this" you have already made sure that any other argument besides yours is "untrue" and does not "align with the teachings of the NT on this." No longer do we then have a dialogue among Christians sisters and brothers. You do not listen to me anymore as somebody expressing a discerned Christian viewpoint. But you only engage with me to convince me of your personal hermeneutics. And, thus, you are closing your ears and hearts to what the Holy Spirit might be saying. This is why this is difficult.

      Delete
    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    11. I agree, Markus. There is an inconsistency here, insofar as the CofE has continued to call for further study on what's weirdly referred to as "human sexuality." The Higton Motion, as a private member's bill, pre-empted proper study and consultation. Issues in Human Sexuality, which has been affectively weaponised against LGBQ clergy nonetheless claims not to be the final word on the subject. Lambeth 1998 commits the church to further study on the issues. And yet we are told, again and again, that 'human sexuality' is a settled matter of church teaching.

      Delete
    12. Markus, a couple of things. First, my view is not a 'personal reading'; it is one that has been formed in conversation and in community. Second, I have never described you as 'a miserable apostate.' Please don't project. Third, as my blog www.psephizo.com and continue to listen to and engage with people with whom I disagree.

      But both sides are (rightly) insisting that one of the views is true, and if so the other must be false. Erika believes unity will come when the church agrees with her position, or at least that this is not an issue of morality, and therefore is optional.

      I aim to be constantly open to the what the Spirit is saying, and because God is one I don't believe the Spirit contradicts what the Spirit said in Scripture, rightly understood.

      Delete
    13. Ian, I have been mulling over your representation of my position and I don't think I agree.
      I believe that we are currently in a state of deep disunity and that unity will only come when we have resolved this question.
      I don't think that is the same as saying that we will only have unity "if my position wins". Because I can envisage a compromise solution.

      And I don't think that it is not an issue of morality. On the contrary, because of the serious harm traditional theology does to gay people, it is one of the main moral issues of our time. But I do believe that a compromise is possible, because we compromise on virtually every other issue too.
      I'm still reeling from the shock of Justin Welby speaking out in favour of attacks on Syria, for example. But war is a moral question where we have learnend to live with different opinions, yet violence is a much more serious problem than consensual sex between two adults.

      I understand Sean's concern that it will be harder for celibate gay people to believe that their church truly supports their counter-cultural choice. But I think when weighed up against the cost this current protection comes at, it cannot be (morally) sustained.

      Delete
    14. I agree with most of that analysis. You sincerely believe that the present teaching is damaging people. I sincerely believe that changing the present teaching would be damaging to people. Where I find your analysis harder to follow is your view that compromise is possible given that neither of us wants the church to promote what we believe is a damaging view. I think what we therefore need to explore more is what would that compromise look like. For example, what if the present teaching was the norm and your view was treated as a conscience exemption like with those who object to the ordination of women? Or what if it was the other way around? Or do you want a less exact parallel with the ordination of women in which both views are regarded as equally valid? (Remember that those who do not support the ordination of women are officially at odds with the church's teaching but pastorally accommodated rather than regarded as holding a view of equivalent weight to the church's settled view on the matter.)

      These are genuine questions!

      Delete
    15. Sean, I think like with the women bishops question, it's not so much a case of "what I want", but a case of what will be possible.
      I was very impressed when the seemingly intractable women bishops debate made progress after the concept of "mutual flourishing" was introduced. It eventually came to be interpreted as "you must ensure my flourishing", but it initially meant "we must focus on the flourishing of those who hold a different view". Who knows what kind of compromise solution may become possible one that becomes the official strategy.

      The principle is well established, and I mentioned war as an example earlier. Divorce is another issue where the church has found a way of holding different interpretations of what is moral and Christian in tension. In practice, we are very skilled at tolerating what we personally believe to be immoral and what we believe God would consider to be immoral.
      And I know Ian would argue that those issues are not remotely the same.
      But they are in one important sense – emotions run high on both sides of the debate and people and the church have learned to live with a messiness that includes all.

      Delete
  21. The fact that this is still an 'issue' is abysmal. The 'corporate ignorance' is exhasusting. Why not jump across the pond...the Episcopal Church seems to be getting it right...

    ReplyDelete
  22. I do think that on this subject the C of E is moving forward albeit amidst a struggle. So many other denominations cannot even dare to look at this subject, never mind do something about it. So those of you who are disheartened, do not be, please? Change is slower in other parts of Gods church x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually trash you are so wrong. Other denominations are totally accepting: the URC and Methodists as a start. You Anglicans are hidebound by all this episcopal nonsense. Ditch that and you might get somewhere.

      Delete
  23. Dear Rose, from what you have written - your eloquence, your honesty, you will make an amazing priest. I am not gay, but have been ordained for 4 years and divorced for the last 18 months. Calling is hugely demanding and something we cannot ignore, but God is so obviously calling you from what you write, and I hope and pray that the assessors on your BAP will recognize this. God bless you and those you love.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think it was John V. Taylor who said "Jesus is God's Good News and there is nothing in him that is anything less than good news." I am delighted that the Church is, albeit agonisingly slowly, recovering this perspective on our calling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's helpful, but also challenging. At some level, then, people being cast into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth must be some kind of 'good news'.

      Delete
  25. Hi Rose you have eloquently and clearly inspired so many Anglicans seeking vocation, especially young people. Remain faithful to your call from the Holy Spirit and keep looking forward to the exciting ministry before you. x

    ReplyDelete
  26. Rose, I think I saw you at a training institution directly after your BAP. I remember thinking how amazingly determined you were to go straight from BAP to a day of being asked questions by yet another group of people about your calling, only to have to head all the way back to Cornwall.

    I am glad you have got a yes, and I pray that one day God's good grace leads us all to the right place on this issue. Every blessing on your journey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul, I remember! Thanks for your kind words.

      Delete
  27. I hear your anguish, but I must argue that you have mis-directed your "affections." The Church will not save you. The Church cannot love you back. The Church is an organization built up by humans and run by humans. It will let you down.

    Your affections should be to the Infinite. Your ultimate identity should not be determined by the church or your sexuality. You are far far far bigger than those. If you want the Church to be the vehicle you exercise to express your love of God, you are free to do that, but I urge your to keep your eyes open and your heart elsewhere. It can be a wonderful institution, but in the end, that is what it is.

    Best wishes (and love) on your journey from one who is still traveling his own (who is also an Anglican priest).

    ReplyDelete
  28. Blessings and prayers, Rose. You are called and loved. I hope your BAP affirms that - but whether it does or not, God calls you and loves you, and God who has called you is faithful.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Glad to hear that your BAP went as you hoped - trust it was not too much of an ordeal (in the old fashioned sense of the term). See you again.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Every blessing Rose. God has called you and you and will be faithful you will make a wonderful priest with your honesty and love. I will continue in my prayers for you and hope you enjoy your training,and eventual ministry in his name.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thank you for posting. May your heart be open and always full of love. XxX

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thank you for posting. May your heart be open and always full of love. XxX

    ReplyDelete
  33. I think it's really important that your voice is heard, Rose, and thank you for bravely sharing this letter. The only thing I would want to add though is that thankfully your experience of feeling sacrificed on an altar of false unity is not the only gay experience in the church. As an openly gay evangelical I was always welcomed and accepted in the church and I am actually glad that the church teaches what it does. It has helped me to seek what I believe is a faithful life of either singleness or opposite-sex marriage although obviously you have reached a different conclusion about that. What feels to you and many others like being sacrificed on false unity feels for me and many others that the church is bravely protecting a space where we can flourish and live in obedience to what God has space.

    Oh, I just thought of another thing (sorry!). I don't see celibacy as a 'gift' in the way you do. When Paul talks of the gift of singleness or the gift of marriage, he just means 'the situation you find yourself in'. It isn't a reference to how called you feel to such a situation or how able you feel to sustain it. Similarly, plenty of people called to monastic life who presumably have the gift of singleness if anyone does still experience huge challenges and frustrations of that way of life. To turn it around, married people are called to marriage not because they feel they have a gift for it but because they are already married. Most Christians wouldn't think they can get divorced if they come to feel like they don't have that gift. On the whole I think the language of gift does more harm than good in this area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is it not a tad disingenuous? You write that "What feels to (Rose) and many others like being sacrificed on false unity feels for me and many others that the church is bravely protecting a space where we can flourish and live in obedience to what God has space (sic, commanded?), but no one on the other side of the argument wishes to force you to be in a same sex relationship. As for your claim that when Paul talks of the gift of singleness he means 'the situation you find yourself in'... then surely it is in no sense a 'gift' comparable to marriage. marriage is not a 'situation you find yourself in', it's a choice, a carefully considered one at that, for Christians.

      Delete
    2. I hope that nobody is 'forcing' anyone to act one way or another. I know quite a number of noble LGB clergy who are in favour of same-sex relationships but who have committed to order their lives in accordance with the church's current teaching. I hugely admire that even though I don't agree with their views. I also know LGB people who feel called to ordination but who do not feel they are able or who do not wish to choose to remain abstinent within a same-sex relationship and therefore have chosen not to go forward for ordination or in a couple of cases to leave public ordained ministry. That's not what I want either, and that is clearly hugely costly for them, but again it is a choice I admire and respect. Clearly some people's theology means they believe there should be other choices available, but that doesn't mean that anybody is presently without choice or being forced to make a particular choice.

      Delete
    3. The point is not who or what you admire or not (I'd fit into the abstinent yet in favour category you praise), but that it's disingenuous to say that the church 'bravely protects for a space where you can flourish' as allowing others to be in a relationship would in no way endanger that space.

      Delete
    4. That's interesting. It seems pretty obvious to me that it would. It's not like 'you like tea and I like coffee but we can both flourish' but about the church being a place where counter cultural obedience to its teaching is nourished and honoured. When I was celibate (I'm married now) the support of the church to live the way was absolutely essential and for that it needed to be clear that the way I was choosing to live my life was good in a situation where most of those around me did not understand that in the least.

      Delete
    5. Sean, I don't understand... many people believe that any form of chosen celibacy is against the cultural norm, and yet the church successfully support straight married people, single people, people in single consecrated life, monastics... why would it not be able to do that for gay people too?

      Delete
    6. My point is that it DOES support gay people. The support I needed as a celibate gay man was the support to live in a very counter cultural way.

      Delete
    7. Yes, just as a celibate straight guy would need that support. But same-sex relationships do not have to be deemed bad for 'gay' celibacy to be good or supported, just as marriage between people of different sexes does not need to be declared bad for 'ordinary' celibacy to be supported.

      Delete
    8. What I am saying is that an inherent and essential part of the support I received was to live in a way that many people around me thought was daft. Some people actively put pressure on me not to do so. If the church also supported same-sex sexual relationships, it would not have been in a place to support me.

      There is no simple answer here: if the church changes its teaching now in order to support a group that currently feels extremely marginalised, it will make another group feel extremely marginalised. Telling me that I shouldn't feel extremely marginalised by that change would be like me telling gay people who support and feel called to same-sex sexual relationships that they shouldn't feel that way now. Clearly they do. I'm just asking for the same courtesy to be extended both ways.

      Delete
    9. Sean, thanks for your thoughts, and it's right that the church hears and allows space for all voices in this conversation.

      It seems to me that you feel the church has to have one clear teaching which everyone agrees with. I think my ideal would be one church where a multiplicity of views can be held in unity (true unity - where those with diverse views nevertheless remain in mutually respectful and loving relationship). This has happened with regards to women - the church affirms the ordination of women, but has made space within it for those who feel this is wrong. It has a responsibility to support those on both sides of that.

      I don't really understand how the church supporting those who believe same-sex relationships are right means the church can't support those who believe same-sex relationships are wrong, in the same way it supports those who believe the priesthood of women is right, and those who believe it is wrong.

      Aside from the institutional support, most of that support is realistically provided by the local church, and it would be perfectly possible for individual churches to sit within a particular view on same-sex relationships (as they can on the ordination of women).

      I'm not saying that would be easy - it is difficult around the women issue even now. But it is possible.

      Delete
    10. Also: I want to stress that for my part, I really, really do not want the teaching of the church to be changed 'in order to support a group that feels marginalised'.

      The practice of the church may be responsive to people's experience, but the *teaching* of the church should only be changed if it is wrong. Truth is not relative, and the teaching of the church should only be changed after deep and prayerful consideration, if we believe the church has been mistaken up until now about what that truth is.

      Experience, I believe, needs to be taken into account, along with scripture, reason and tradition, but not as trump card. In my opinion :)

      Delete
    11. I'd definitely agree with that definition of unity - rather than uniformity - as the ideal where one group doesn't have to be marginalised at the expense of another.

      Perhaps groups within the Church who are practising and learning how to hold different views and practices together within loving community could be looked to and learned from to help this happen - not to blow our own trumpet, but in the Community of St Anselm, we hold really varying views on all sorts of things from sexuality to eucharist to charismatic worship... and we're learning to find and practice unity within that diversity. I'm sure there are also plenty of others who are doing similar and could share that experience with the wider Church.

      Delete
    12. Thank you for your gracious response Rose. I'm sorry for portraying your view carelessly and I completely agree and understand that you believe what you believe to be true rather than for pragmatic reasons. If I phrased my comment more carefully as 'if we changed our teaching with the result that some people no longer feel marginalised, then others would then feel marginalised' then I think my point would still stand.

      At this point I am not seeking to defend the view that the church should have one clear teaching, although that is what I believe. (I would certainly not add, 'which everyone agrees with' though!) All I'm trying to do is explain why, if we opted for the kind of unity you describe, many people like me would feel that the church no longer offered the support we need. The idea that different congregations could have different approaches is too individualistic for me and indeed, I would argue, not consistent with Anglican ecclesiology. I am part of the Church of England before I am part of my local church (we're not congregationalists).

      Delete
    13. 'I don't really understand how the church supporting those who believe same-sex relationships are right means the church can't support those who believe same-sex relationships are wrong, in the same way it supports those who believe the priesthood of women is right, and those who believe it is wrong.'

      Rose, the problem is that this is a logical impossibility, and the parallel with women's ministry does not hold. That's because the issue there was not about morality, but about possibility. Those who do not agree with women's ordination (including to episcopacy) simply do not recognise their ministry, since they believe that laying on of hands does not effect anything.

      On same-sex marriage, those holding to the Church's current teaching position don't simply believe that same-sex sexual unions don't constitute an equivalent to other-sex marriage, they believe that such belief falls short of what Scripture describes as a pattern of holy living. So there is a moral dimension at stake, and for the Church to continue 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic' would require the response of discipline.

      You cannot have a church which includes people who affirm SSM, and people who believe that the right response is discipline. These two are inherently incompatible, not because some people are obstinate and inflexible, but because of what is at stake in the discussion.

      Proposing 'live and let live' is *not* the protection of two views; it is the imposition of one view (this is not a matter of morality and holiness) and the proposal of two variations within that.

      This is why the conversation is so difficult.

      Delete
    14. Ian - this may not be true across the board, but at least in the conservative evangelical circle I moved in, people did think women's in church leadership was a moral issue more than a practical one, because it was considered a matter of obedience to the Bible – staying strong against cultural pressure in order to be true to the gender differences laid out in God's word.

      From that perspective, it felt very comparable to homosexuality.

      Delete
    15. "if we opted for the kind of unity you describe, many people like me would feel that the church no longer offered the support we need." Then the support you need necessarily requires the condemnation / disciplining of other people's relationships. Just wow.

      Delete
    16. Just no. It requires the affirmation that we are making the right choice in a world which thinks we are not. That doesn't require the condemnation of any other relationship - although it does require the teaching that sexual expression within such relationships is a sin.

      Delete
    17. Sorry, that was badly expressed. I should say, 'that sexual expression within any relationship outside marriage is a sin (and that marriage is between a woman and a man).'

      Delete
    18. And this is the point where I can never understand why the church can live with a multiplicity of views on some *moral* issues, but not on others. Some people in the church accept the re-marriage of divorcees; some do not. But it seems, Ian, if I understand your view correctly, that you do not feel it possible even for any similar kind of "pastoral accommodation" to be offered to same-sex couples?

      Delete
    19. However, Sean, the church ought to support celibate people regardless of sexuality - and in the Church of England it has always been a minority calling. We do not have a tradition of imposed-celibacy in the CofE. Hence we have a real problem, when the church now accepts the idea of homosexual orientation, because celibacy is then mandated for many who are not of heterosexual orientation. I hope I would absolutely support any friend who made a commitment to celibacy; indeed, I have friends who have done so and who are considering doing so. But I don't understand how my deciding I must make a commitment to life-long celibacy would be any more supportive of their personal commitment?

      Delete
    20. Sorry but to me this comes across as the worst kind of sophistry: not condemning such relationships but still teaching that 'such relationships are a sin'? What does it even mean? How do you not condemn a sexually active gay partnership and still teach that it's a sin?

      Delete
    21. Because the words you have put in quotation marks are not a quotation. I don't think such relationships are a sin but that sex outside marriage is a sin. Even though that is still a very different view to yours, surely it is a preferable one to a hellfire and brimstone approach to same-sex couples (or, for that matter, cohabiting straight couples etc etc).

      Delete
    22. David B, there are different views on remarriage after divorce, but there is a single teaching position of the church: marriage is a life-long commitment, and divorce is a failing from that. Remarriage after divorce is a pastoral accommodation to what is clearly stated as a failing—which makes the process pastorally painful for those involved.

      There is no diversity of official views within the church that marriage should or should not be for life—nor, I think, informally.

      The parallel would be to admit same-sex marriage, or blessing of SS relationships, but explicitly noting this is not God's intention but an accommodation for a failure to live in line with God's pattern of holy living. This might form the kind of compromise that Erika hopes for, but I am not sure that that would please many people.

      Delete
    23. That was, indeed, what I was wondering, Ian. Would those opposed to SSM welcome that sort of "pastoral accommodation?" It wouldn't go far enough for me, to be honest, because my biblical and theological understanding is that SSM can be relationships blessed by God.

      Facilitating a "dual integrity" in the CofE for those who have differing beliefs on SSR would, however, be much more like the church's current "dual integrity" on gender re-assignment. This would seem to me to be one quite close precedent.

      Delete
    24. OK, 'although it does require the teaching that sexual expression within such relationships is a sin,' the reality remains that for the church to support you this condemnation must remain.

      Delete
    25. "there are different views on remarriage after divorce, but there is a single teaching position of the church [on] marriage"

      Except that there clearly ISN'T a *single* teaching position regarding marriage! That's why we're here.

      Your perspective on dialogue, Ian, is "First, we aren't have a dialogue. I represent the Church's position; you're outside of it." Why would anyone want to talk to you, when you define us as outside-the-bounds to begin with? "Heads, I win/Tails, you lose."

      Delete
    26. Thanks for projecting your views onto me—but they are not mine.

      The Church does have a teaching position on marriage; but everyone either agrees with it or adheres to it. Shock, horror; that's never happened before.

      I am very happy to have a dialogue and engage with different views—but the dialogue is whether or not the Church should change the view that it already has. We are not starting with a blank sheet of paper here.

      Delete
  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you for this wonderfully brave and open letter, Rose. As we know, the C of E and Anglican commune are not the fastest movers when it comes to theological change and development. Even so, as a committed Christian woman of over 35 years, a lesbian, Queer Theologian, and a C of E congregant I have seen changes of heart, attitude and understanding that I once thought I'd never see in my lifetime. We have come a long way . . . and we still have a considerable journey ahead. Even so, I believe with a deep and peaceful conviction that the Holy Spirit is at work in this move - not unlike when, under Christ the Jews suddenly realized that Gentiles were being Covenanted by God into one gathering with them through the Messiah and 'polluted foreigners' were to be accepted as 'clean', just as they actually always had been! And as a work by the Holy Spirit, it will only gather momentum and will not be quashed by human kind.

    Every blessing for the future.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Rose, thank you, bless you, and I hope you know the angles of God are walking with you.
    And know that you are welcome here at St John's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh.

    ReplyDelete
  37. What a wonderfully honest, perceptive and compelling post, Rose - thank you so much for sharing it.

    I'm delighted that you have been accepted for training: you are just what our Church needs - though doesn't deserve. May God grant you everything needful - every blessing.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Beautifully said, Rose. Honorably spoken.

    ReplyDelete
  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thank you so much for this deeply honest and eloquent post, Rose, and for your courage. I felt unable for myself to choose forced-singleness over a call to ordination, as you know. I am absolutely delighted that the BAP has recommended you. Far too many of the most promising vocations have been lost to false unity and, sometimes, downright homophobia.

    Love and prayers
    David xx

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thank you for this beautiful and heartfelt post; you will be in my prayers as you proceed into your training. I am also a gay woman who has long felt a sense of calling to ordained ministry, but as I already have a partner I can't conscience the burdens it would put on her for me to pursue it in the current climate (not to mention that, as she isn't a British citizen, being forever confined to a non-internationally recognised civil partnership could endanger both of us when visiting her family). I often wonder just how many of us the church is either dissuading from the outset, or putting such intolerable burdens on from the very beginnings of ministry.

    ReplyDelete
  44. So it's all about you is it? Get over it. The C of E has saints in it but it's run by washed up Pharisees. It's image is everything.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I wish you luck but they will crush you. My advice is to get out and escape episcopacy which has no biblical or historical warrant. The URC will be more welcoming. The standard of modern clergy and bishops is lamentable. The discerning process was stricter in the past and they admit a lot of oddballs now.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Sean has all the usual guff about sex being a sin. No wonder people are abandoning Chritianity which does not mean they abandon Christ. Jesus did not set up the Masonic club which is the C of E.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I don't believe that sex is a sin and if I have said so then please let me know where and I will remove the comment. Yes I do believe that sex outside marriage is a sin and that is hardly an unusual view amongst Christians although it is of course not a universal view. And many churches which teach that sex outside marriage is a sin are not by any means failing to bring in new people (NB I am not arguing there is a connection between these two things, just that one is not a hindrance to the other).

    ReplyDelete
  48. You said, "I love the spiritual church, the Body and Bride of Christ."

    The empath in me wishes to reach out and reassure you that you are right and that Jesus blesses same sex unions in the way you write of them. I really wish I could but I may not (and that is written precisely, avoiding "cannot"). But nor may I tell you that a female priest should not marry someone another woman.

    The most I may do is to suggest that you might wish to pray and reflect upon what has traditionally been (and in many ways still is) a very male and patriarchal church being identified as the "Bride of Christ". The concepts of same-sex and opposite-sex marriage require a very firm grasp on what is male and what is female. Is some thing - or more pertinently to your situation, someone - which is male in worldly terms necessarily male at a spiritual level .... and mutatis mutandis for female.

    Sorry that is slightly obtuse. I know it is. I wish it need not be.

    ReplyDelete
  49. The Anglican Church made it abundantly clear to me 30 years ago that I could only be a proper Christian if I renounced my homosexuality (we're not talking about one night stands, but my inherent human need to love and be loved by the mate I've chosen to be with for life). Pain and suffering followed, until I realised they were right. You can't be gay and a Christian. I have since renounced my Christianity and nowadays consider religion not only irrelevant and unnecessary to inner peace, happiness and spiritual fulfilment but downright harmful to it. Evangelical Christianity, along with other fundamentalist beliefs, is especially insidious. We don't have to look very far out into the world to see this. Hold onto your beliefs if you want, but my advice is to get the hell out of there (pun intended) and enjoy your life.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Dear Rose, Thanks so much for this brave and important post. I am a Christian and here is my take on the matter, in response to you and also in response to all the discussion above:

    1. Gay people feel love for each other and want to be together.
    2. Straight people feel love for each other and want to be together.
    3. God is love.
    4. An honest church embraces all those who love as God intended.
    5. Those who disagree must spend significant time with gay people who form loving relationships before reading Scripture on this issue.

    Best of luck with your life, and your work with the beloved Cof E.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Dear Rose

    I'm so glad to read that you were accepted for training. I got as far as an interview with the bishop who decided that I was too 'difficult' to place and that because I'm gay and my partner wasn't (and still isn't) religious, it would be like 'being a musician with a tone deaf partner'. I ended up leaving the C of E because I didn't want it to become a fight for me to be who God made me because it would have overshadowed my ministry.

    I now split my time between the Religious Society of Friends, where I get to do interfaith community building, and the Unitarians, where I lead worship and write and my 'lay ministry' (a strange distinction for Unitarians) is completely accepted because sexuality is a non-issue.

    In any event, I hope that the C of E will come to affirm fully the ministry and gifts of all its members and ministers, recognising that that of God in us is in no way diminished or confused by sexuality. And I pray that your ministry will flourish and bring light and love to those whose lives you touch.

    Peace and blessings
    /Tristan

    ReplyDelete
  52. Thank you so much for sharing this. I was truly humbled because I am not as brave. I used to love the Anglican Church. I went for selection many moons ago in the Church in Wales but got knocked back because I "didn't have enough life experience". I got a job, or rather a vocation, because it was a calling, as a verger, and I moved to England. It went OK but after six years I couldn't take any more and I left, broken. I'm not gay, I'm not straight either. I'm bisexual. I just couldn't take the way my friends were treated and the Church I loved became the Church I hated. I had a curate threaten to out me because he didn't like my then boyfriend. I was told I was "too camp" with a thurible. Anyone who has seen me doing a figure of eight down the aisle would know it takes a degree of strenuous wrist action! I don't mean to be flippant at all here. We all have different viewpoints but an "up the candle" verger and an evangelical curate should be able to work together. The point is, if I had stood my ground and been more of myself, I would probably not have bolted and maybe, just maybe, in my wildest dreams I guess, the Church would be a more inclusive place now. I am truly regretful of that. One thing is for certain though; the Church needs more people like you. If it did, I wouldn't be typing this now. I rarely go to Church these days, but I still pray, and I will pray and give thanks for you.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Hi Rose
    Your scripture passage is very close to my heart. I felt called to offer for ministry in the Anglican Church and spent four hours sharing my life story with DDO in Rochester Kent this was 19 years ago only to be told by him that I had a very interesting life story to tell but I was too old at 40 as he felt I would get through the training in time. I shared with him some very personal truths about me in those four hours. I thank him for his time and said that I still felt very strongly that God was calling me into so I will carry on knocking on doors. Sure enough a door was open and after a tricky start I was accepted in the Methodist Church as a Presbyter. I'm very pleased for you that you had people with Christ like hearts and open minds who totally accepted you for you because the Grace of God was upon you.
    Shalom
    Rev Marie

    ReplyDelete
  54. that should read 'Would not get through the training' sorry for typo.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Mark 10:17-27, Jesus with the young ruler. This is a story we all know and love. Jesus presented a challenge to the young ruler - to give up all that he owns and to follow Jesus. Young ruler was perplexed by this request, and we do not know what choice the young ruler has chosen in the end.

    So often, we are facing a similar request by our Lord, we do not know why and how we could do it, but nonetheless, the request has been presented to us by our Lord.

    What we have been asked is to surrender our sexuality or our so-called 'rights' in the area of sex. We are asked to follow Jesus, and to take up our cross, whatever cross that means in our individual lives. For some of us, the cross might be indeed wealth, for others, it is something that we earnestly desire such as marriage.

    I don't think that this is an issue about LGBT. Rather, this is a request not coming from CoE, but from our Lord Jesus according to His Word in the Bible. For all Christians, we are called to restraint ourselves in the area of sexuality, we are asked to honour the sacrament of Marriage, and to honour the use of the sex which has been set in the content of marriage only.

    For many of us, we are living a celibate life for the sake of Christ, and we are willingly to sacrifice that part of our lives by the grace of Jesus. According to the world, we sure have a right to sleep with whoever we 'love'; according to the world, sex is a pleasure and is my right to exercise as long as I genuinely love that person; according to the world, the marriage is the only place where I can seek deep bonding and intimacy with another human being.

    However, I have chosen to turn away from the ways of this worlds, and to take up my cross to follow Jesus. I cannot say that I will do no rights, for that is not the point of my Christian walk. However, what I am being asked by the Lord, is to trust in Him and to believe whatever He asks of me is for my good.

    This is not politics of the church, but about what Jesus has asked all of us including the LGBT community.

    Having said all of above, I believe that the church has treated LGBT badly in the past, and the discriminations has been hurtful to our brothers and sisters in LGBT. We, as a church, ought to learn to love and accept each other better. To assist each other with greater bonding and encouragement, so that we could help one another on our daily exercise of taking up our cross in faith.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Hello to the people of this forum< Am chizzy from Texas and i can say that am the happiest person on earth since last week with what DR UKO has done for me , it all started last year October when my fiance left me in Texas and travel to see his parents in Ohio at first him was still calling me and show love even when him was away , but it gets to a point when he no longer gives a shit about me , and i noticed it so when i tried to confront him , he told me that he dose not love me again that he feel like being alone i was shocked and heartbroken when i tried talking he will hang the phone on me i was so heart broken and i was frustrated about this , but on a second thought i was not convince that he was on his right senses so i discuss this with my elder sister who lives in California and she directed me to DR UKO of ukospelltemple@yahoo.com saying that the man has helped her friend in such case before so i said to my self let me tried i contacted this man and explain everything to him and behold dr uko said to me what am to do and i did exactly what he and he said after three days my fiance will call me and once he calls me i should pick the calls and he gave some other instructions . so i said okay , but to my best surprise on the 7th of November my fiancee called me and started saying on the phone am sorry it was like a dream to me , with this i said i will tell the world of his dr UKO goodness in my life , so if any one is out there and needs help in his or her relationship can also contact him today via

    email ukospelltemple@yahoo.com or whatsapp him on ; +2347064650019

    ReplyDelete