Saturday, 7 June 2008

The Times: Without gay priests Church would be lost claims Bishop Gene

Ed: There is one thing about this interview which strikes me as completely implausible (and raises some questions about the rest of Gene Robinson's assertions) which is this: "I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, etc". The troubling thing is not the news that there are large numbers of gay clergy, but that there are bishops regularly dining out with them. In all my thirty years in ministry, I have not once had the diocesan bishop to dinner (nor have I invited him, on the grounds that I've presumed he would be far too busy), nor do I know of any other member of the clergy who has entertained the bishop in this way. Yet if Gene Robinson is to be believed, there are substantial numbers of clergy who having done precisely this (it surely cannot be that only the gay clergy invite the bishop to dinner), and in the case of the gay ones, having had the bishop accept, have been told over the postprandrial coffee that if a word of their relationship's real nature gets out they're sunk. The impression Robinson gives is this happens all the time. The feeling I've got is that it actually happens very rarely. Indeed, my personal guess would be once, but that it was a good anecdote. I would venture further to suggest that Robinson's own situation, and the circles he moves in, the groups and meetings he gets invited to, and so on, give him an entirely misleading view of the Church. It would be like me concluding that without it's disgruntled Evangelicals the Church of England would collapse, just because I go to Reform meetings.


The openly gay bishop whose ordination sparked the crisis in the Anglican Communion has claimed the Church of England would be close to shutting down if it was forced to manage without its gay clergy.

The Bishop of New Hampshire in the US, the Right Rev Gene Robinson, who is divorced and lives openly in partnership with a gay man, said he found it "mystifying" that the mother church of the Anglican Communion was unable to be honest about the number of gay clergy in its ranks.

He said many of the English church's clergy lived openly in their rectories with gay partners, with the full knowledge of their bishops. But he criticised the stance of bishops who threaten the clergy with emnity should their relationships become public.

Speaking in an interview in London, Bishop Gene said: "I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy.

"It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church? So I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support The Episcopal Church in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge. If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its just seems less than humble not to admit that." Read more
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Fern Winter, London said...

Gene Robinson strikes me as quite a damaged individual who's not benefitted from the constant exposure he's sought and found. That said, I think he might be more correct than you're allowing on this particular issue. Wouldn't you say that gay clergy are much more likely to seek their bishops private approval of their domestic circumstances than their hetereosexual colleagues?

Revd John P Richardson said...

Short answer, Fern, yes, but it is the elaborate scenario ("comes [not came] to their house for dinner" etc) which speaks to me of a tendency to perceive reality through a set of lenses which give a distorted view.

It is a small point, but, I think, a telling one.

Peter Kirk said...

(just down the road from where you saw me this morning)

This interview is nearly a year old! I thought I remembered it from then. Is there any particular reason for bringing it up again now, except perhaps as a "wedding" present ;-) ?