THE clergy tweet was unambiguous: "Today I hate the Church of
England. I am under authority, but I hate and resent it. I call it
as I see it. It is wrong." So what had provoked such raging clarity
In preparation for the legalisation of same-sex marriage next
month, the House of Bishops recently offered pastoral guidance on
the subject (
News, 21 February). It was accompanied by a letter from the
Archbishops, a preamble, in which we are called to "integrity,
self-discipline, and grace": a sure sign in church circles that
there could be trouble ahead.
We are all familiar with the priest's opening prayer at the
difficult PCC meeting: "O Lord, who calmed the storm, so calm our
hearts tonight that we might be in peaceful agreement, and not
turbulent or disruptive like the weather is sometimes, which can be
Initially, I struggled to get past the tone of the words of the
Archbishops' letter and guidance. It had the strong feel of Uriah
Heep, with much hand-wringing and repeated talk of God's love. I am
suspicious when people speak of God's love quite so much: it
usually means that what they propose is the living incarnation of
quite the opposite. And so it transpires.
We learn that the Church has come round to accepting same-sex
relationships among the laity, because these embody social values
such as "mutuality and fidelity". So there is a change in church
thinking. We then hear of another: these relationships may include
sex. No, the sexual side of the relationship does not need to be
asked about before baptisms or communion - which is a relief. So
far, so sane.
But then we reach rules for gay clergy, which is when we enter a
time that sanity forgot; because what is acceptable for laity turns
out to be unacceptable in clergy, who are asked to live their life
"according to the way of Christ" - a phrase so non-specific as to
be meaningless. And now I am reading back, wondering whether I
missed something; but I don't think I did.
The thrust of the piece seems to be this: what is OK for laity
is not so for clergy. God appears to look on clergy differently, as
if appalling personal lives are fine for hoi-polloi laity,
but when it comes to the ordained, the gospel's storm-troopers,
then we really see what God cares about: stopping gay sex, which,
as we have been told, is not "the way of Christ".
It would be hard to parody all this double-speak: "The Church
abhors the demonisation of gays; for God loves them, and so does
the Church - if only they'd stop being who they are. Especially gay
"God delights always to give good gifts to his children," the
Archbishops say in their accompanying letter. Well said. But then,
I suspect, God is not the problem here.