Open letter to my bishop

Dear Bishop,

I write to express my profound discomfort with various aspects of the Church of England’s conduct over the past few days, as the news story regarding the ‘Just Pray’ advertisement has unfolded.

Firstly, I note that the DCM agency was entirely within its rights to run or not to run any advertisement it chose. I think that its blanket policy to avoid religious or political material is sensible, and, one assumes, designed to avoid exactly this kind of mess. It is no great effort to imagine the reaction in the tabloid press had another faith group or a secular body attempted to run a similar advertisement. I consider that the Church’s attempt to present this decision as a ‘ban’ and an ‘attack on free speech’ is dishonest and I am ashamed to be associated with this disingenuous act.

Since the agency’s policy is to avoid religious or political content, the question of whether the advert is, in fact, offensive, is not particularly relevant, and I have been equally disappointed by the Church’s emphasis on this aspect. However, I would take this opportunity to make it clear, from my perspective as a practising Anglican, that I would have been extremely uncomfortable had I been in a cinema where this advert had been played. I find the idea of involving non-consenting strangers in my religious practice distasteful in the extreme.

I find the attempt to attack the agency’s decision by using the Equality Act 2010 hypocritical, to say the least, given that the Church has obtained several exemptions from it (much to the distress of myself and numerous other Anglicans). I am equally disappointed that the Bishop of Chelmsford has mooted the possibility of taking advantage of his position in the House of Lords to place political weight on the question – an abuse of privilege, so far as I am concerned, which contradicts any assertion of ‘persecution’.

Lastly, I have been deeply concerned today by the sight of some emails between DCM agency and Rev Arun Arora which give the impression that the Church of England was aware of the likelihood that the advertisement would not run as early as 3 August this year. If these are genuine, this gives the lie to its claim to have been ‘bewildered’ on 22 November, and the hypocrisy and cynicism is revolting.

I would urge the Church to make the true position clear as swiftly as possible.

Yours sincerely

Kathleen Jowitt

All-Purpose Build Your Own Socially Liberal Christian Rant

I had this in another place, and today seems as good a day as any to wheel it out again, with a couple of updates and additions. If anyone was in any doubt as to my feelings on the subject, I think that:

a. a cinema is not an appropriate outlet for an advertisement exhorting people to pray, because:

b. I would feel deeply uncomfortable involving non-consenting strangers in my own religious practice, which would in effect be the result of showing the ‘Just Pray’ advertisement;

b. the Church of England has not been discriminated against in any way, shape or form (see Miss S. B.’s excellent post for more on this).

 

There is a limited pool of news stories on Christian issues, and the talking heads are tiresomely predictable. Now my outraged response can be tiresomely predictable, too!

Link to offending article (unless it belongs to a known click-baiter, in which case, summarise). Select response(s) as appropriate from the below list:

George Carey says something – OH GEORGE CAREY NO

George Carey says something else – no really you are not Archbishop any more NO ONE CARES and also YOU ARE WRONG

Michael Nazir-Ali says something – see above

Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern says something – well I am a Christian and damn straight I’m concerned about this woman SPEWING HATE AND BIGOTRY

Christians are persecuted in this country! – no, Christians are treated the same as most and better than many. Try Egypt.

David Cameron claims to endorse Christian values – see Isaiah 58:3-7

Pope does something – aha I approve of this Pope

Pope says something about poverty – at least SOMEONE remembers the point of the Church (see Isaiah 58:3-7)

Pope says something about sex or gender – yes, well, that’s why I’m an Anglican… oh, wait.

House of Bishops says something about poverty – at least SOMEONE remembers the point of the Church (see Isaiah 58:3-7)

House of Bishops says something anything else – FFS hurry up and disestablish so I can get out of this with a clear conscience

Daily Mail is concerned about erosion of traditional Christian values – someone must be doing something right

Archbishop of Canterbury goes too far – Archbishop of Canterbury does not go too far enough!

Women bishops – and about time

LGBT clergy – can we stop treating them as second-class citizens?

Fundamentally changing the nature of marriage – like Marriage With Deceased Wife’s Sister; see also shellfish, mixed fibre clothing, what Jesus said about marriage ahem ahem

Destroying the institution of marriage – possibly this would be a good thing?

Mention of Anglican Mainstream – No, it’s not mainstream

Mention of Church of England Newspaper – No, it’s not representative of the Church of England. Try the Church Times.

Find someone who is talking sense. Alan Wilson is usually a good bet; so is Vicky Beeching.

Consider, rhetorically, whether they are clinging to their crosses where the Breton boat-fleet tosses.

Include appropriate Dave Walker cartoon.

Post.

Ascension Day, 2015

Dog-eared in my handbag, polling card
and service sheet lie face to face.
God is gone up. And what a mess
He’s left behind Him. Did He take
all of the world’s compassion, all its love
to shine with ineffectual gleam up there
and leave these few, these twelve-take-one, alone
tiny before this tide of hate and fear
surging around them? Come love, come Lord.
Show us your kingdom come
on earth, as you are
in heaven. Come, Holy Spirit. Come.

“Ignore him and he’ll just go away…”

I feel that I need hardly repeat to my followers and friends list that no, Lord Carey does not speak for me and that in a country where I am free both to practise my religious faith and to make flippant remarks about it on Twitter (with obscure TV references for good measure) I do not feel marginalised.

I really cannot be bothered to go through all this again, but Bishop Alan has done a pretty good job of summing up what are, I suspect, the feelings of a lot of us. Vicky Beeching is also good.

The Church of England and Same-Sex Marriage: What Happened, and How Very Furious I Am About It

1. Govt starts talking about same-sex marriage.

2. Much to the fury of much of its membership, Church of England expresses opposition to this idea, on the grounds that (despite this having been explicitly vetoed) religions might be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their beliefs.

3. Govt obligingly provides ‘quadruple legal lock’ to prevent Church of England performing same-sex marriage.

4a. Members of Church of England who wanted same-sex marriage very upset, as (this is feeling familiar, isn’t it?) this puts us about five years backwards from where we could be, at a conservative estimate. (I do feel that this is being glossed over in the coverage, but possibly I am not reading the right coverage.)

4b. Other members of Church of England fairly upset as they have been hoist with own petard and been made to look kinda homophobic. (I don’t have much sympathy there, no.)

Synodfail: where I go from here

A friend retweeted this earlier:

Yet another thing I genuinely don’t get: why women want to part of a club that resolutely keeps telling them to fuck off.

It is a very good question. Here is my answer. A lot of it is similar to this post, which I wrote back in 2010. Some of it, however, is considerably more hopeful than I was in 2010.

I should first make it absolutely clear that I am deeply disappointed and saddened by yesterday’s Synod decision. It hurts like hell. I think it is bad for the Church’s mission, in terms of both ministry within and credibility without. I had almost begun to believe that we would see the first female bishop in the Church of England before I turned thirty – and could then move on to eradicating inequality elsewhere.

With this decision the Church of England has, of course, rendered itself unworthy to speak on the topic of inequality, hurt and betrayed hundreds of its own best ministers, and, it seems, hung out a huge sign saying WE DON’T WANT YOU.

I, however, am staying. Here are some reasons why:

The overall vote was 72% in favour. 72% of Synod do want us.

The measure got through the bishops. It got through the clergy. It only failed in the laity. Of course this is disappointing and infuriating, and highlights how bloody stupid the voting system is, but I am, in an odd way, encouraged. The bishops and clergy are there because that’s their job – and the vast majority of the bishops and clergy want women to be bishops. The laity are there because they’re fanatics with an axe to grind, on one side of the debate or the other, who have gone through all the hassle of being elected to Synod in order to grind that axe. (I, of course, am a fanatic with an axe to grind. I’m not on Synod, so just think how fanatic they’ll be who actually are.)

I wasn’t able to listen to the actual debate, being at work and all and therefore restricted to the Church of England’s Twitter feed, but I understand from people who were listening that several people who spoke (and, presumably, voted) against the measure did so because they felt that it did not protect women bishops enough. A clearer case of shooting oneself in the foot I never saw, but it does suggest that the House of Laity is not entirely a herd of misogynist dinosaurs. Of course, misguided idealists can do just as much damage…

Outside of London, where all things can be found, I very much doubt that I’ll find another congregation that’s simultaneously sound on women and LGBT, and has a decent choir. I’ll be interested to hear the Rector’s sermon on Sunday; I suspect it will be along the lines of ‘keep working for this, because we will get there’.

In a repeat from 2010:

This is my Church. It is my Church by right as an Englishwoman, by baptism, by faith, and by inheritance. I am working to see it become more like the Kingdom of Heaven, and I am not going to stop doing that just because those members who wish to restrict the ministry of other members have ‘won’ this time.

The Church of England is still the Established Church. For as long as it remains so, it behoves me as a member of the Church that belongs to the nation to make sure that the doors remain open to the nation.

In fact, in a bizarre way, this feels a lot more hopeful than 2010. I stopped crying last night when I thought how other members of my church would be feeling the same way as me. This time it’s not just me and a couple of other wingnuts on the internet. This time it feels like the vast majority of the Church of England, the rank and file, the clergy and the congregations, crying out in pain and fury. We are all standing at the foot of each other’s crosses. It’s rather like the end of Life of Brian.

We wanted it. And we will get there. And I want to be there when we do.

Hier Stehe Ich; Ich Kann Nicht Anders

Here I stand. I can do no other. Except, you know, I can. I have always promised myself that, if it came to it, I would. That, if the Church of England did something so egregious that I could no longer countenance belonging to it, I would leave. That if it came to a choice between the Church and the Kingdom, I would choose the Kingdom.

And yet here I stand.

It is not that the Church has failed to do anything egregious enough. On the contrary; it feels as if it has been doing it every day of this year. Today’s news alone (assuming for the moment that there was more to the whole thing than vicious rumour) was more than enough to make me wonder. The worst of it? I wasn’t surprised – just very, very disappointed.

Why do I not go down the steps and cross two streets to the Friends’ Meeting House? I have thought about it, believe me. Have I become one of those people who only goes to church for the music? (No. I’m married to one, so I can tell the difference. He keeps saying he will post about this.) Here I stand. But it’s not as if I can do no other. There are plenty of other options.

Why don’t I?

First things first. My church isn’t going anywhere. And my church has a poster outside that reads:

BEWARE

Here we preach the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ.

This means you may be mixing with tax collectors, sinners, adulterers, hypocrites, Greeks, Jews, women as well as men, female and male priests, homosexuals, lesbians, the disabled, dying, thieves and other sinners; white people, black people, Asians, and people from other races; Muslims, Bishops, bigots, people of other faiths, strangers from Rome and Nigeria, heretics, etc., etc.; and yes even you, dear guest, are most welcome

in fact anyone like those who Jesus mixed with.

So beware, this is not a private club.

WELCOME TO ALL!

It would be cutting off my nose to spite my face to leave such a fabulous, supportive, spiritual community simply because of a real or perceived shortage of vertebrae in Lambeth or real or perceived shit-stirring in Gafconville.

So here we stand. Why don’t we move? Because we don’t see why we should have to. We believe in a Church that asks people in, not one that turns them away. Because we don’t see why the party that wants to turn people away should have the casting vote in a faith that welcomes strangers. Because we are not prepared to move over to accommodate people who will then spread their knees out to occupy the entire bench, and allow only those who are Like Them to sit down.

But it is more than that: we believe that we should not. We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church – and we, who believe that all should be invited in, are going to be neither the ones who leave it nor the ones who hold it to ransom by threatening to leave it. We will not leave, because we believe that we are welcome as we are.

And then there is this: for as long as I remain in the Church of England, I know that there is one person in the Church of England who will welcome LGBTQ people into it. For as long as my church remains in the Church of England, I know that there is one parish in the Anglican Communion that will display the message that ends ‘WELCOME TO ALL!’. And if we leave, who will do that? Or, rather, if we leave, why should others stay?

There are people who do not like the way I think, the way I love, the way my faith is. They are pushing me, and those who think like me, and love like me, and whose faith works the way that mine does; they are pushing us to leave. But, so far as I can discern, no one is calling me to leave, and that makes all the difference.

Here I stand.