Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Times obituary: The Right Rev John Yates, Bishop who served Gloucester for 16 years and challenged the Church's view of homosexuality

[...] He criticised churches that had no access for the disabled, gave warning against excessive rigidity in doctrine and commended the saying “we should believe more and more about less and less”. He aimed at an ecumenical and less authoritarian Church. He urged the Church “to travel light, unencumbered as far as possible by dogmatic or liturgical baggage acquired centuries ago”. He sought a more human Church that proclaimed a gospel of costly self-giving on behalf of the poor and powerless.

In 1974 Yates chaired a working party of scholars who wrote Homosexual Relationships, the first significant Anglican study of homosexuality after the Wolfenden Report (1957) and the consequent legislation in 1967. Traditional teaching, emphasising Old Testament attitudes and Pauline prohibitions, was thoroughly re-examined and legal perspectives, social implications and pastoral care were re-evaluated. Critics urged that the report should not even be distributed and its republication was prevented by conservatives.

Fortunately, the British Council of Churches sponsored another report, God’s Yes to Sexuality, and Quakers, Methodists and some Roman Catholic scholars supported the Gloucester report’s view that the tradition hostile to homosexuality needed to be reassessed.

It was unfortunate that the Gloucester report was not made available to members of the 1998 Lambeth Conference during which homosexual relationships were a main topic. Yates was premature to say that the churches had emerged from “a long period of darkness in which the whole subject was regarded as shameful and unmentionable”. Read more
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