The Church of England keeps asking its gay members to go against their convictions and consciences.
Her most recent victim is the new Archbishops’ Appointments Adviser Stephen Knott. He is a gay man who has married his partner in another member church of the Anglican Communion, the Scottish Episcopal Church. He clearly disagrees with the Church of England’s apostolic teaching that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman: he has signaled that in what is surely the most public and permanent way possible. And yet the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have asked him to take charge of the process of appointing the Church of England’s most senior leaders (deans, bishops, and archbishops) who are all duty bound to teach that he cannot be married in the sight of God. How can they have asked him to do something that must be so troubling to his convictions and conscience?
Perhaps he feels, or they have indicated, that this situation won’t be for that long. That soon, post Living in Love and Faith, he will be able to help appoint people who will be able to “bless” his same-sex marriage (indicate the Church of England’s half-hearted acceptance of it), or even allow people like him to get married as Anglicans south of the border too. If so, it is my convictions and conscience that the Church of England is going to trample on next – I am a gay Anglican who lives in the light of historic teaching that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As a result, I am single and celibate, in the reassuring knowledge that this is what my church has consistently asked of people like me. Am I soon to be told that, somehow, we’ve got it wrong for centuries? At what cost to me and my many spiritual forebears? I’m increasingly uncertain as to whether that matters to the archbishops when they appoint someone like Stephen Knott to such a senior and influential position.
Some will say that neither Stephen Knott nor myself need to worry too much because neither of us are clergy and it is only the ordained, and not lay officeholders, in the Church of England, who need to live in the light of the Church’s official teaching on marriage. This is an idea that has gained traction in recent years as part of an uneasy unofficial settlement that has kept liberals and traditionalists together. The Church of England’s victims this time have been gay clergy who have been disciplined when they have, like Stephen Knott, entered into a same-sex marriage (celibate civil partnerships are permitted). He will now, in theory, be partly responsible for making sure that no ordained man or woman in his position gains preferment in the Church of England – unless his appointment signals a change in the rules. How he can be asked to do this beggars belief, how gay clergy can put up with one rule for him and another for them also strains too many people’s convictions and consciences once again. He, I, may not be ordained but we are both in positions of authority in the Church of England and so surely need to be living in the light of her teaching in all areas of faith and conduct?
What is the solution to this personal struggle for so many of us?
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