Saturday, 28 November 2009

London Gay Men's Chorus Mayor's choice for Carols at Southwark Cathedral

Ed: The photo says it all

"The London Gay Men's Chorus is delighted to have been invited to perform once again at The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall. Come and join in the merriment as they sing both Christmas favourites and extracts from their show Singderella. The gentlemen of the Chorus have been extraordinarily busy this year with a concert in Helsinki, being a host choir for the Various Voices festival, their sold out Edinburgh Fringe show Oklahomo, a summer concert at the Shaw Theatre, their Christmas Show at Cadogan Hall, and performing as the chosen choir for the Mayor of London's Christmas Carol Concert at Southwark Cathedral." See here

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Jim, Derby said...

I fear I'm missing the point of this post. Free advertising for the assorted concerts? Or is it trying to suggest gay people shouldn't be allowed into church buildings? Or do they sing out of key?

Revd John P Richardson said...

Jim, I would ask in return, "What is the raison d'etre of this choir? Is it that they can sing best with other gay people? Or is it to make a point about being gay - which seems to be suggested by their dress in the photo?"

Jim, Derby said...

I should perhaps be more direct. Given that - certainly from my experience - our opportunity to take out the Gospel is suffering amongst both straight and gay people from the misapprehension that the church is homophobic, does it really help to publish a post like this which has nothing to do with the central issue of whether or not sexually active gay people can be ministers in the church? From a distance, it gives off just the sort of impression which can impede evangelism.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Jim, I must then repeat my question. What is basis for the 'gay men's chorus'? It is in relation to this rationale that we have to consider its presence at Southwark Cathedral.

Jim, Derby said...

John, I can't speak for the London Gay Men's Chorus. I'm straight, can't sing and live in the Midlands. Nor can I speak for the Mothers' Union, and why they forbid membership to fathers, nor Caledonian Societies for Scots, nor - changing tack and thinking of a recent cathedral attendee - Tony Blair and the Iraq war. But I would never wish to imply, or do anything that could be interpreted as implying, that they're not all of them welcome to come into a church. Even welcome to come and sing too.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Jim, I think your list of comparisons are not so much missing the point as avoiding the issue.

Jim, Derby said...

I'm still struggling to understand what the issue is.

You seem to imply the issue is that they are a group that limits itself to one category of people - in this case gay men. But there are plenty of groups that appear at events in churches that are limited to one category of people or another. I'm assuming, and trusting, that you're not objecting simply because they're gay.

My views on the separate issue of gay people and ministry are those that get labelled "liberal" - but I find myself wishing that the "conservative" viewpoint, whilst I disagree with it, could be presented better. I understand the conservative argument - but both it and the mission of the whole church are weakened if there is a dogwhistle reaction against any news story just because it contains the words "gay" and "church" on the same page.

Some of my best friends are conservatives, to coin a phrase, one is a bishop who is as kosher on this subject as you could wish. But that does not stop him from sharing a platform with Will Young at a concert, going for a drink with gay people in his diocese or speaking out stridently against homophobia. Indeed, I suspect he realises that with presenting publicly the conservative case on gay people in the ministry it becomes imperative for him to do these other things to avoid both that argument - and the church more broadly - appearing homophobic.

Donald said...

Hi Jim,
I agree entirely with your viewpoint. There is a long history of homophobic insinuation on this, and the Ugley Vicar site. Nothing will change, the snide 'Daily Mail' attitude to homosexuals will be prevalent long after you've moved on.

Best Regards,


Jim, Derby said...

I strongly hope that those behind this site are not homophobic and am happy to engage based on that assumption - but posts like this one create the impression that they are. This is where I feel the conservatives let down both themselves and, more importantly, the mission of the church.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Jim (and Donald), as you'll be aware, the Church of England, and Christian groups generally who hold to traditional teaching, believe that the practice of sex between two people of the same gender is a reflection of a damaged sexuality and is, therefore, inherently a sin.

At the same time, as I know you'll be equally aware, this is a controverted viewpoint, even within the Church of England, as well as within the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, the Church still, officially, holds the traditional view.

The London Gay Men's Chorus is, I presume, constituted on a different understanding of sexuality from the traditional Christian understanding. In effect, it is (presumably) constituted on the basis that what the Church of England calls 'sin', its members do not call 'sin'.

In the light of that, however, and the controversies within the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion, it does seem extraordinary - not to say extraordinarily insensitive - both that the Mayor of London should (apparently) invite the London Gay Men's Chorus to feature in his carol service at a Cathedral and for the Cathedral to host them.

To take the traditional position is, inevitably, to be at odds with the majority of our society, which chooses to label such a position 'homophobic'. Given this situation, the charge of homophobia cannot entirely be avoided. That is the situation we are in, but it is society's own change which has brought this about, not something in the Church that was not there before.

Jim, Derby said...

John, you've finally prompted me to look this choir up on the web. There's nothing I can find which indicates they are constituted making any reference to sexual activities. They are clearly a group of gay people - but the church is absolutely crystal clear that there is nothing wrong with being gay. That is not debated. As to what the members of the choir may or may not do privately, we cannot know and it would surely be prurient - and sinful - for us to speculate. I don't, personally, find myself speculating on the sexual activities of carol singers.

I have, however, discovered that this group has previously performed for the Queen and on Comic Relief and that they raise significant sums for charity - including the Royal Marsden Hospital, the RNIB and the National Autistic Society.

So would it really be right for a cathedral to turn them away saying "whilst we know nothing about your private lives we've been imagining the sex you might be having and so, never mind you were only going to come and sing Christmas carols and you spend your free time raising money for good causes, we're going to ban you from our church".

I notice you didn't react to the original story by considering it inappropriate for the cathedral to host Boris Johnson - though we *know* he's committed adultery.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Jim, as it happens I didn't know about Boris Johnson's adultery. However, in the old days an adulterous mayor would have been considered at best dishonourable by society as a whole, and also might have expected a less than warm welcome at the Cathedral unless he were penitent.

Courageous preachers of the past have denounced kings and queens. Sadly, I think we've moved beyond that.

Obviously we differ on this one. I've given my reasons, and you've given yours. I am sorry that a choir with such an appellation has been invited. Others will be pleased. I think they are wrong.

Hedgie said...

I attended the Carol service and it was a wonderful event - the chorus sounded magnificent in the space and were hugely appreciated by the congregation. I know members of the choir itself appreciated the opportunity to sing in the Cathedral.

I took some photos of the event - you can access them on my flickr stream here (and are welcome to use them for your blog if you like) -

Rev Ian D said...

John -

You speak of sin, and nothing you say is incorrect in terms of the Church's teachings about sin and sexual-related sins. But let me just be very clear about another of the Church's teachings: Let he who without sin cast the first stone!! On the basis of your argument, no one should be in any church.

If sinners would like to come to my congregation, please feel free to do so...whether you can sing or not. And furthermore...I won't ask you what your sin is...that's between you and God.