Monday, May 29, 2006

Across the Pond: Bishop of Oxford Supports Full Inclusion

Bible supports gay partnerships, says leading Anglican bishop
-28/05/06 -- Ekklesia News

The Rt Rev Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, has declared that anti-gay proponents in the churches need to be "converted" to see that homosexual unions are supported by a faithful, modern reading of the Bible.

He also reaffirmed his conviction that an openly gay man should be allowed to be appointed a bishop – as has already happened in the USA, with Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Bishop Harries, who is one of the Church of England’s most senior bishops, and who retires this week, expressed his regret that Canon Jeffrey John, now Dean of St Albans, had been forced to withdraw as Bishop of Reading
after it emerged that he had a long-term partner.

In 2003 Archbishop Rowan Williams bowed to pressure not to appoint Dr John, even though his relationship was celibate."I'd still like him to become a bishop," Bishop Harries told Jonathan
Wynee-Jones. "He has all the gifts … but there is still a process of discernment going on. For there to be change, evangelicals have to be convinced that a permanent, faithful same-sex partnership is congruous with biblical truth."

Dr Harries continued: "It's difficult to have gay partnerships fully accepted by the Church, a Church in which evangelicals are a valued part, if they are so strongly opposed to it. There has to be a conversion to a new way to see that gay partnerships are not contrary to biblical truth. They are congruous with the deepest biblical truths, about faithfulness and stability."

The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the chair of Inclusive Church and an Ekklesia associate, responded: "His comments will be received with joy by the majority of ordinary churchgoers. It is absolutely clear that the Church needs to have a more welcoming and loving attitude to

Bishop Harries, who was made a life peer last week, said that the Jeffrey John affair had made people think about the issue in way that they never had before, reports the Sunday Telegraph.
The Anglican Communion is currently embroiled in a spat over the Bishop of Guildford, John Gladwin, who was forced to cut short a pastoral and aid visit to Kenya when the media accused him of belonging to "a gay club", actually the respected group Changing Attitude.

The Rev David Peak, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for International Development, who has been in Sudan, is going to Kenya to try to calm the escalating row. And in a recently published book 'Other Worlds, Other Voices', Esther Mombo, Academic Dean at St Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, in Kenya expresses an understanding approach to homosexuality. She is a member of the Inter-Anglican Doctrinal Commission and served on the Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report.

Oxford New Testament professor Christopher Rowland is among the many other Christian academics who say the Bible can support an affirmative approach to homosexuality. The conservative Anglican pressure group Reform was today among the first to condemn Bishop Harries remarks.


Kay said...

Rt. Rev. Harries says that he reaffirms his conviction that an openly gay man should be allowed to be appointed as bishop, which I of course agree with, but there is no mention of lesbian priests who should also be allowed to be appointed as bishop. I find it disconcerting when gay issues in the church are often discussed only in terms of men.

SteveH said...

The following comments are respectfully submitted by a middle-of-the-road, middle-aged, middle-class, lifelong Episcopalian.

The problems with the Bishop of Oxford's arguments are many. In particular, I see two issues with what he says.

First, "anti-gay proponents in the churches need to be "converted"" -- which assumes that those who disagree with his position are anti-gay. The problem is that he assumes the bad faith of those who disagree with him. Must we all be homophobes? Can't at least some of us sincerely hold our views based on our acceptance of the mind of the Church towards Scripture -- a point of view held by the vast majority of Christians for around two millenia?

Second, "There has to be a conversion {of evangelicals) to a new way to see that gay partnerships are not contrary to biblical truth." Here, the Bishop wants to make Scripture's clear words conform to his desired social outcome. Unfortunately, what Scripture says is -- frequently -- inconvenient for the purposes and alien to the sensibilities of 21st century liberal people. But our integrity as followers of a Scripture-based religion requires that we respect its integrity rather than turning its plain meaning inside-out to suit ourselves.

All-in-all, the Bishop fails to convince this reader -- and I'm not even an evangelical.