Source: International Update
The following first appeared in the AAC’s January 8, 2013 International Update. Sign up for this free email here.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
There are several topics I have in mind this week.
1. Transition in Leadership of the Church of Uganda
The installation of Bishop Stanley Ntagali as the eighth archbishop of the Church of Uganda in Namirembe Cathedral, Kampala was quite unfamiliar to Church of England eyes. It was in reality a service of transition. Henry Orombi, archbishop since 2004 when Sandy Millar of Holy Trinity Brompton had preached, came at the back of the opening procession greeting members of the congregation.
During the service, Archbishop Orombi signed a certificate of abdication and formally handed over the primatial cross, “which had become too heavy to bear,” to Archbishop-elect Ntagali. Bishop Orombi, as he wants to be known, then spoke words of thanks and encouragement to his successor. Observers noted that a point might be being made to President Museveni who attended part of the service, and, at age 72, had the constitutional provision for a limit to his term changed.President Museveni urged the new archbishop to focus on young people, 70 per cent of Uganda’s population is under 30. He noted that, though incidence of AIDS had initially declined since 1986 due to the Abstain, Be Faithful and use a Condom campaign, it was now on the rise. He urged the church to “use the pulpit to save our children.” He urged that sexual behaviour should be private and confidential, and that while they were not going to persecute or marginalise those who engaged in homosexual practice, they were not going to promote them.
Primates were present or represented from 9 Anglican provinces, including Scotland. Archbishop John Sentamu brought a message of greeting from Canterbury and added one of his own in Luganda.
The Anglican Church is a dominant religious community in Uganda with 45% of the population. Its close relations with the state were symbolised by the presence of the Prime Minister and the President who presented Archbishop Ntagali with “new shoes”, the keys to a Toyota Landcruiser.
Archbishop Bob Duncan, of what was styled as The Anglican Province of North America, preached and gave a moving testimony of his own spiritual journey through confirmation at the age of 11, to a clearly audible call ” You will be my priest” at 13, and submission to Christ “as the brother I never had” and the authority of his word “till it lets me down” at 18 – “and it has never let me down.”
Reminding the new archbishop that a new leader has no idea what leadership would cost or where one would have to go, he noted that since becoming Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1996, a thousand bishops and clergy had been supposedly defrocked in North America, including himself. He recalled that 53 congregations in North America had come under 16 Ugandan bishops and at the founding of the Anglican Church of North America, the Church of Uganda gave them all away.
With his wife Beatrice seated beside him, newly installed Archbishop Ntagali gave his charge. “I call upon all people to join hands to change our attitudes and help our people repent and make our country a better place by practicing justice for all and being responsible, accountable and peace loving people.”
He stressed the Province’s commitment to partnership with other Churches, to dialogue with the Government on issues of concern such as domestic violence and corruption and commitment to full participation in the Anglican Communion, particularly through the GAFCON movement. Hs said: The Church of Uganda will fully participate in GAFCON 2 in 2013.”
A welcome song verified the new Archbishop’s CV. It included references to Oxford where he had studied for his Masters Degree at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and had worshipped at Cumnor Parish Church where the vicar, the Rev Douglas Durand had been a colonial official in Uganda. Vinay Samuel and I represented OCMS, Philip Mountstephen represented CMS UK and Rev and Mrs Douglas Durand and their family also attended. The bishops of the partner dioceses of Winchester and Bristol were also present.
The four hour service was followed by a sumptuous buffet meal served in Mengo school grounds at the foot of Namirembe Hill. Troops of dancers and choirs entertained the guests. The afternoon ended with the ceremonial handing over of the Landcruiser, a rite that is unlikely to feature in Canterbury on March 21.
In my first report (December 18th) I noted that the Ugandan House of Bishops has to double the quota from each diocese in order to meet the costs of the work of the newly installed Archbishop’s office.
I have received the following clarification:
“Some Dioceses in the US which were once under the pastoral oversight of some Bishops from the Church of Uganda had signed to give support for a period of three years which expired in June 2012. This was the original arrangement. They have not just withdrawn their support to the Church of Uganda but gave a helping hand and stopped when it was exactly at the agreed time. ”
My report did not intend to assign a cause for the difficulties but to identify a need. However, the reference to a “shortfall” should not have referred to the contributions but to the income needed for the work of the Archbishop’s office. That shortfall still exists and must be met .
2. The House of Bishops, Civil Partnerships and the Episcopate
In 2005, the Church of England Bishops issued a pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships in which they said “lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion”
They also said regarding those wishing to be in ordained ministry and to register a civil partnership:
. . .19. The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality. The wording of the Act means that civil partnerships will be likely to include some whose relationships are faithful to the declared position of the Church on sexual relationships (see paragraphs 2-7).
20.The Church should not collude with the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity. The House of Bishops considers it would be a matter of social injustice to exclude from ministry those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church, and who decide to register a civil partnership. There can be no grounds for terminating the ministry of those who are loyal to the discipline of the Church. ENDS
The House of Bishops’ statement on December 20, 2012 said:
The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.
The Bishop of Norwich expanded on this on January 4, 2013:
“The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships issued in 2005 did not address specifically whether clergy who entered such partnerships should be considered for the episcopate. What the House has now done, following the work undertaken by the group chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man set up last year, is to look at the matter again last month.
“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.
“The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.” ENDS
There was an eighteen month moratorium on appointing people in civil partnerships to be bishops following the establishment of a commission to review the Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships in July 2011.
The following points can be noted
1. There has never been any bar to the episcopate to those with same-sex attraction who are single and remain celibate. Attraction is not the same as behaviour.
2. The bishops’ pastoral statement in 2005 allowed clergy to enter civil partnerships provided they gave assurances to their bishop that these did not involve sexual behaviour.
The difficulties with this remain that
1. Civil Partnerships are ambiguous. They were designed to mimic marriage and are assumed by many to include a sexual relationship. Those with familial relationships are not allowed to enter them.
2. The assurances are very difficult to discipline. Further, many clergy have refused to give such assurances to their bishops and even some bishops operate a “do not ask, do not tell” policy.
Bishops of the Church of England promise both to fashion their own life and that of their household according to the way of Christ and to be guardians of the Church’s doctrine. They are also focuses of unity and bishops to the whole church as pastors of the pastors.
It is very difficult to see how they could credibly enter such an ambiguous relationship, with such ambiguous assurances and also fulfil their promises. They would become a focus of disunity.
In a television interview on Sky News on Sunday January 6th, Canon Giles Fraser, who was awarded the Stonewall “Hero of the Year” award in November, 2012 said that this ruling was unenforceable. He writes in the Guardian:
“We’ll have gay bishops as long as they are not really gay) raises the question: how on earth will the authorities ever find out? A CCTV in every bedroom? Chastity belts in fetching liturgical colours? No, the only way the bedroom police could ever really know is if they ask and play a moral guilt trip about honesty on those being interrogated. So do sexually active gay priests or bishops have a moral responsibility to tell the truth? Actually, I think not. I’d go further: in this situation, they have a moral responsibility to lie.
Bishop Richard Harries said on the BBC that the current announcement was only “an interim stage”. “I would regard this as an interim stage and I very much hope the church will warmly welcome civil partnerships, and by that I mean say that there will be every possibility of a proper liturgy of blessing in the church for them. That is what the church ought to be doing.”
Prebendary Rod Thomas, the chairman of Reform and a member of the General Synod, warned the plan would cause more upset than the issue of female bishops. “If you thought that was a furore wait to see what will happen the first time a bishop in a civil partnership is appointed,” he added.
The biography of Richard Harries records that when Jeffrey John was appointed Bishop of Reading, “The question of ‘alternative Episcopal oversight’ had been discussed for the Reading Episcopal area for those unable and unwilling to accept John’s ministrations should he become bishop. In sum, Harries remained the chief pastor thoughout the diocese at all times. He may delegate to the other two area bishops (Dorchester and Buckingham) specific authority in the Reading Episcopal area. He may invite other bishops from without or outside the diocese to assist in limited ways in relation to disaffected parishes. He may inhibit unauthorised Episcopal intervention. Fortunately it became unnecessary to implement this divisive ‘oversight’. ” A Heart in my Head, by John S. Peart-Binns, Continuum 2007, p 212-213.
Trust and Assurances
On the issue of trust and assurances, we may observe the following: Trust is mutual, the product of a dynamic relationship in which confidence in each other builds. The manner in which that statement has been put together and announced does not suggest that the HoB has much confidence/trust in the GS as an institution or in representative bodies of clergy and laity. Bishops taking a lead in this matter is, indeed, their proper function – but they need to exercise that responsibility in a way which gathers the support and agreement of clergy and laity. As the GS does not meet again until July, there could have been opportunity for a consultative process leading up to a debate at York; instead, the House has gone for an announcement of a decision.
On the issue of assurances given to and by bishops, this is a deeply problematic area. Experience with the assurances to be asked of/given by clergy in Civil Partnerships has been at best uneven and that experience was one of the reasons why the House wanted to look at questions around CPs again. This is not just a matter of sexual behaviour. If assurances could be relied upon, we would not have had to put together such an elaborate clergy discipline measure to replace the former one which clearly did not work.
As made clear in the Ordinal, Bishops of the Church of England promise both to fashion their own life and that of their household according to the way of Christ and to be guardians of the Church’s doctrine. Given the ambiguous nature of civil partnerships, it would not be credible for a person in such a partnership to make such promises. Most people assume that civil partnerships are sexual relationships. It is casuistical to claim that they are not. This is presumably why many clergy in such partnerships refuse to “give assurances” to their bishops that theirs is a “non-sexual” relationship. Since a decision to move from the current position would be a grave departure from the Church’s doctrine and discipline it should be made by Bishops in Synod not by Bishops alone. Otherwise it looks too much like salami-slicing away at the Church’s teaching. A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church. Such an appointment would be a very divisive move both within the Church of England and in the wider Anglican Communion.
Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor)
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Secretary)
HAS THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS REALLY REMOVED THE BAR TO GAY BISHOPS?
At the very least, the House of Bishops’ “Statement Regarding Clergy in a Civil Partnership as Candidates for the Episcopate”, will spread confusion and at worst will be taken as an effort to conform to the spirit of the age. By its timing, the Bishops appear stung by the national reaction of outrage to the rejection by General Synod of legislation to legalise the consecration of women as Bishops. If by this statement they are trying to mend fences with the general populace, showing they are truly in touch with the mind of the nation, they are profoundly out of touch with the reality of civil partnerships, most of which are seen as a focus for sexual activity, not simply an arrangement for tax purposes.
Some bishops are known to be lax about questioning civil-partnership clergy about their sex lives. Yet the Bishop of Norwich has reported that the House of Bishops believes it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. As an argument, it has some merit. But the fact is this is not a justice issue, it is an issue of example setting to the nation. It is no surprise the BBC reported the statement as “Church removes bar to gay bishops”. That’s all most people will hear, even though under the media breath there is reference to the requirement of celibacy and traditional teaching.
The church has a poor record already on that kind of discipline. And while some Bishops are known to duck the question, the watching world may well conclude that same sex relationships are simply OK for followers of Jesus Christ. What will happen if same sex marriage is finally approved? Will the House of Bishops have another meeting to approve the next step: bishops married into same sex partnerships? Will anybody then believe there can be gay marriage without gay sex. Christians are supposed to be different and follow the teaching of Christ. The House of Bishops knows that, but on the face of the present statement they appear more concerned to avoid criticism from the watching world than to be faithful to scripture, and wise in the timing and content of its public pronouncements.
Venerable Michael Lawson
Chairman, the Church of England Evangelical Council
The decision by the House of Bishops within the Church of England on Friday to allow gay men to become bishops, providing they are celibate, has already caused controversy.
In Kenya, retired Anglican Church archbishop David Gitari on Saturday described the decision as “conflicting and impossible”.
“This is very disappointing, very divisive and very unconventional.” He said it would be virtually impossible for the church to ensure that married gay bishops remain faithful to the condition.
“It does not make sense to me as these are people who have been living in the same houses with their partners and have been sleeping together,” the retired archbishop said. “The church cannot ask a married heterosexual person serving in the clergy to remain celibate.”
He accused the mother church of causing confusion in the Anglican Communion.
“The church in Africa is conservative and, though I am now retired, I know their minds and they will find this decision confusing and divisive,” Dr Gitari said.