The Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Church in Wales to all the faithful concerning gay and lesbian Christians.
“…. What this means is that we, as Bishops of the Anglican Communion (1) …….do not feel that we can support, at this time (2) a move to change the discipline of the Church in Wales with respect to the teaching on marriage…….(3)
In a section of the letter addressed specifically to gays and lesbians it goes on to apologise, not just for prejudice but ‘for persecution’ of gay people. (4)
What a lot of weasel words and hyperbole.
(1) Do they have delusions of grandeur? One Archbishop and five Bishops represent a minute fraction of Anglicans. (of the 85 million Anglicans in the world only an average of 30,468 attended Welsh Sunday services in 2014.)
(2) “at this time” — but watch this space. ++Barry uses the word YET a lot.
(3) One of the bishops is positively itching to support gay marriage, even if he’ll have to re-write chunks of the Bible in order to re-write the Marriage Service.
(4) Bullying, ostracizing, mistreating—all this should be abhorrent to any Christian, and I can vouch for the fact that bullying happens. But persecution?
I think most people who know me assume I left the Church in Wales over the issue of Same Sex Marriage and that I am, therefore, homophobic. In fact, I was bullied by my lesbian vicar, found my bishop to be duplicitous, was disgusted by some to the things the church was spending my money on and finally and with genuine grief, came to the conclusion the Church had left me.
This time last year I wrote a long and, I think, thoughtful letter to my bishop after I had read the Consultative Document on Same Sex Marriage and many other words on the subject. Here are some extracts from that letter.
“I must begin by declaring an interest. I have been married 55 years. One thing that struck me immediately was that married heterosexual couples who take seriously the sacrament of marriage and who form the majority in the churches which I have attended don’t really figure in the Consultation at all apart from a token acknowledgement that such traditionalists still exist. From the first few lines of the documentation we seem to have been marginalised and I feel that much of what is written is heavily loaded.”
The second sentence of the document reads: “For many decades there has been a debate between those who espouse the traditional line on same-sex partnerships, and those who are more affirming.”
I queried what that really meant. I went on to worry about the timing and, indeed, the rush to push this through and questioned the wisdom in requiring the attendance of mainly OAP parishioners at meetings in isolated villages in February. I suggested, tentatively, that the C in W were being somewhat gung ho in their support for SSM, given the relatively small numbers involved in the C in W compared to the world wide Anglican Communion as a whole. I was also worried that the three big meetings allocated for discussion were not entirely appropriate for large numbers of parishioners from outlying areas.
Then I asked a specific question. “I’m also concerned about priests who find they can’t accept same sex marriage. Will provision be made for them so that they are not pilloried for following their conscience?”
And I ended thus:-
“You probably think you know that I am totally opposed to same sex unions. Not true. I look at same sex couples and remember how I feel about my husband. Who am I to deny them the same joy that I have had in my married life. But, we married as a basis for a secure, stable family life, and with the best will in the world and with all the benefits of modern medicine, same sex couples can’t do that naturally.”
What happened next? An e mail from the Bishop’s Chaplain.
“I passed on your letter to the bishop and he has read it and says that the points you have made will be added to the consultation responses already received. The bishop feels he cannot respond personally as his job is to listen to the views of the diocese and not side with one side or the other.”
The letters in bold are the ones that upset me; not at the time, then they seemed reasonable. But since then his unequivocal support for the civil partnership of one of his lesbian vicars and his continuing references to the subject of SSM have made me realize that despite what he told his chaplain to tell me, he had long ago come down firmly on one side. Nothing that has happened or been said since has convinced me to return to the Church in Wales.