Dear Bishop James
You issued a statement in December confirming 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,” (or the office of bishop).
In your statement explaining the decision, you said that the House of Bishops had decided that “All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal life and discipline. 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.”
It is a typically pompous and obscure statement that requires translation for us poor sinners and/or working class Joes. It means that gay clergymen in civil partnerships could become bishops as long as they vowed to remain celibate.
This decision is wrong on many levels.
Firstly, a decision of such importance should have been approved or rejected by the Church Synod. It is astonishingly arrogant for a bunch of bishops to decide their own rules for bishops without going to the wider and higher authority of the Synod. Rather than a tier of quality and teaching within the Church of England, you and your fellow Bishops come across as a bunch of gangsters setting their own warped code of behaviour.
Secondly, it continues to treat women as second-class citizens. Be women gay, straight, married, celibate or whatever, they don’t have a seat at God’s upper table. That stinks. And it comes at a time when the CofE should be healing itself, not ripping itself into smaller and smaller factions. The Episcopal Church in the United States already allows gay clergy members, as well as women, to serve as bishops. Why is it that you, Bishop James, cannot have such an enlightened attitude?
Finally, the notion that a member of the clergy in a gay civil partnership relationship can only become a bishop if he promises a) not to have gay physical sex again, and b) apologises for any instances of having physical gay sex in the past, is ludicrous.
God is love, is he/she not? Then why should not that love flourish in a physical expression between two consenting men in a gay relationship, without preventing one or both of them ascending to the rank of Bishop? Are they allowed to hold hands? Kiss? Write each other love poems? Smile at each other? Whisper words of sex without putting them into practice? And how on earth do you police the civil relationship to make sure that they keep their hands off each other?
Bishop James, you, and those who think like you, have succeeded in making the Church seem even more anachronistic, out of touch with modern life, and ridiculous, than I would have thought possible. Congregations will continue to decline while some other faiths garner more to their banners. I have had enough. You have lost one more.