From the Revd Alan Chidwick
Sir, — Are we beginning to see a pattern developing in the Church of England?
First, a licence was denied for a well-respected priest, thus preventing his taking up a post for which he was very well qualified and to which he was appointed by the NHS in full awareness of his marital status.
Second, a new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion is appointed who comes from a province that openly persecutes its own gay population. The new Secretary General declines to condemn the imprisonment of active gays in Nigeria (Letters, 14 August).
Now (News, same issue) the Archbishop of York has extended to the laity the denial of citizens’ rights to marry which Lambeth has imposed on the clergy, and still there is barely a whimper. A Reader is denied a licence this week, and no doubt it will be lay eucharistic ministers next, then churchwardens, parish secretaries, and treasurers ousted soon. Vergers afterwards, and bell-ringers, readers, coffee-makers, and silver cleaners . . . — all valuable ministries.
It was like this in Germany after the elections of 1933. At first, a little mild use of racist language, then small limitations for Jewish people of normal freedoms of the German State. Nothing was said by the Church, and gradually the limitations grew, the language worsened, and Christians stood by and accepted the beginning of genocide.
It should be embarrassment enough for the Church of England that it refuses to approve love between two human beings without developing its persecuting strategy further. The two Archbishops seem blissfully unaware that they are responsible before God for the souls of the English, and increasingly the good news of Jesus Christ is drowned out by a fascination with sex. Most English men and women happily approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, and simply do not understand how a gospel of love can be so blatantly unloving.
Are there no open minds and hearts among the bishops in England? Will they all stand by and say nothing? Look the other way for too long, and it may become irreversible.
85 Claremont House
London NW9 5NW
From the Ven. John Barton
Sir, — It is a little naïve of the Revd Clive Gardner to suggest that the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion should utilise that office as a platform to publicise his personal opinions (Letters, 14 August). He is spokesperson for a worldwide body, in which the Lambeth Conference of bishops is instrumental. That is why, when pressed by the BBC Sunday programme to admonish both the Episcopal Church for authorising same-sex weddings, and the Church of Nigeria for criminalising gays, his answer was the same: look at the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10.
Before taking up his office as Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon had said: “I have never supported the law in Nigeria that criminalises the gay community and I will never support it.” Consequently, the Nigerian Church censured him on the grounds that it “clearly indicates that he is not in accord with the theological and doctrinal posture of the Church of Nigeria”. I trust that Mr Gardner is now satisfied.
Communications Consultant to the Anglican Communion
16 Tavistock Road
London W11 1AP
From Canon Colin Craston
Sir, — The Revd Clive Gardner, like many others, seems to regard the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as resolving the problem of homophobia for all time. I was an observer of the plenary debate that agreed the resolution. It was hardly a proper debate: rather, a rehearsal of conflicting attitudes.
Beforehand, a section of the Conference, with a wide representation of views, had spent ten days in unhurried debate, arriving at an agreed statement. It was mainly ignored by the bishops in the plenary session. And the final clause of Resolution 1.10 clearly recognised that the debate on homophobia was not finalised, and urged that the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council should go on monitoring the debate. This, sadly, has not happened.
The Church has not thoroughly weighed the totality of scripture in relation to the issue we face today. Clearly, biblical writers knew about promiscuous homosexual activities, much evident in pagan religions. Did they know of God-fearing homosexual persons living together in love and lasting commitment? Jesus does mention men “unable to marry, some because they were born that way” (Matthew 19.11). But is that sufficient for the Church to condemn two Christian homosexual men living together in a loving relationship?
I am heterosexual by nature, and have a deep emotional aversion to homosexual practices, ever since I joined the Navy at the age of 18 in 1941; but emotionally biased judgements are not enough. And what activities are we assuming in this debate? Married couples can express their love in different physical ways. We are all psychosomatic creatures. May not two Christian homosexuals decide before God how they can behave?
12 Lever Park Avenue
Horwich, Bolton BL6 7LE
From Mr John Middleditch
Sir, — The report that a Reader would lose his permission to officiate as a result of converting his civil partnership to marriage is one of the most depressing stories that I have read in many years.
A civil partnership confers the same legal rights as marriage. Since Mr Timm is, therefore, not seeking to change his essential legal status, the position of the Church is not only prejudicial, but illogical. He appears to have the full support of the churchwardens and parishioners, who clearly value his ministry. To deny him the opportunity to continue that ministry damages those he has served, but also damages the Church in the eyes of many people.
It, furthermore, reinforces the perception of the Church as uncaring and homophobic, whatever pious utterances may be made to try to persuade gay Christians that they have a place in the Church of England. This decision suggests that they do not, certainly not in ordained ministry and now, apparently, not in lay ministry either. And, if not in ministry, then why should LGBTI Christians in the congregation feel that they are welcome either? Vague, wishy-washy tolerance is not acceptance, and it is not equality.
Peterborough PE4 7EW
From Canon John Goodchild
Sir, — My wife and I have just celebrated our ruby wedding, and give thanks for 40 wonderful years of receiving and giving love — a shared experience of God. We feel our heterosexual marriage honoured and affirmed by Jeremy Timm and Mike Brown converting their civil partnership to marriage.
When the Church is confused and divided, bishops should exercise discipline by patient teaching and persuasion rather than punitive power. The revocation of Jeremy Timm’s PTO appears as graceless gay-bashing, which further reduces the Church’s reputation among ordinary, decent people like those at Howden.
39 St Michaels Rd
Liverpool L17 7AN