Friday, January 04, 2013

Church of England revises rules on Gay Bishops

The Daily Telegraph is amongst many news organs reporting on the Church of England's revision of its attitude to whether or not gay men in civil partnerships may be selected for episcopal office.

In fact, this momentous change came within the summary of decisions from December 20th's House of Bishops meeting. The Bishops, whilst waiting for Sir Joseph Pilling's upcoming report, are not it seems changing anything. Unless you read Fulcrum, in which case you understand that all created order is about to disintegrate. (I pick one link; last time I looked I think it had grown to 13 articles.)

Of course, the Bishops are telling the truth. It has always been the position that celibate men are able to be bishops. (Well, are able to hold the office; we've all met a few in that august office whom we had our doubts over as to whether or not there was anyone home, no matter how brightly the lights were shining.)

The prurient question that is being asked by well-coiffed churchmen now (and Rod - love the picture on the BBC site -  reminds me of someone - oh yes; would that I could still do that!) has been well put by a friend of mine on Twitter:
Celibacy: what's in and what's out?

Utlimately, we can only hope that Joe Pilling will get his act together and publish soon so that the whole debate can be finally sorted.


It so happens that I have been spending a little time over the last few weeks catching up with one or two people, and as this site is hardly Controversy Central, I don't suppose it will matter terribly if I flag up some of the early Pilling proposals which have gotten the House of Bishops very excited. You won't tell, will you?

1. The thing about celibate gay men in civil partnerships being allowed to to be considered is a smoke screen. For the first time ever, celibate straight married men will be allowed to be considered too. This is a radical advance for sexual equality, and removes in a single stroke the spectre of those awfully embarrassing episcopal children in Bishopsthorpe and the Palace.

2. After much deliberation, the moratorium will be lifted. Some church weddings may include music by Cher.

3. In one of the hardest fought discussions in the House of Bishops' history, actively gay men may be considered for the episcopate as long as they fulfil all the following terms:
i) Their surnames should begin with the letters 'H' through 'L'. Some felt that this will cause problems with those who enjoy double-barrelled surnames, but was finally voted through after it was argued that perhaps the relevant candidate could chose his favourite name. And place setting colours.
ii) They must be in a civil partnership of social repute. So, anyone partnered to a dustman or a journalist would not normally be considered.
iii) Their civil partnership should normally have been conducted within the fourth week of March - unless this was a Holy Week, in which case the Church of England would not recognise it. Also, any proto-'honeymoon' arrangements should not have coincided with Easter, which would demonstrate a lack of judgement.
iv) A potential bishop's partner should not be more than thirteen years younger than him. Unless he is very good looking indeed.
v) It is foreseen there may be parishes unhappy with such appointments. These parishes may wish to erect a thick pink line around them, and if so the newly elected Diocesan is to appoint a married female suffragon at the earliest possibility. She is to visit these parishes regularly, taking her whole extended family as often as is convenient. For her.
vi) The placing of pink crosses on the arms of bishops elected under this measure was quickly kicked into the long grass as simply insensitive. There were seen to be too many obvious difficulties with colour-clashes for episcopal robes generally, as well as all the complexities which seasonal variations bring. However, the placing of a small pink cross centrally on the license plates of episcopal limousines remains in the final discussion draft.

4. One very senior Anglican Bishop told me (and this is a direct quote): "In this compromise everyone fails to get what they want. As such, it is the perfect Anglican solution." Another Episcopal Source has said that, whilst not everything here was to his taste, and he understood others felt that some of the terms seemed unnecessarily arbitrary, he would place his reputation "on these proposals being in force by the end of 2013, with the whole thing forgotten by Christmas".

5. I'm off to the bookies...

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