A Gay Vicar's View

A friend brought my attention to this article by an Anglican priest, Andrew Foreshew-Cain, over the weekend.  Foreshew-Cain is distressed by Archbishop Welby’s stand on gay marriage, especially as it relates to the Anglican priesthood.

The article is instructive for a number of reasons.  It is an excellent, concise example of the range of rhetoric now being deployed in the ‘debate’ (and I use the word very, very loosely) over the issue of practising homosexuals and ordained office.  All the usual clichéd suspects are there: hurt, conversations, freedom, justice, homophobia (institutional and otherwise), punishment, choice, terror, despair, rights, flourishing, and, of course, pain.  Thrown in for good measure we also have the standard bogeymen of sectarianism, irrelevance, and being on the losing side of history.  And we are predictably treated once again to the kind of racism favoured by the bien-pensant Left, in the form of a quick and implicitly derogatory reference to the African church.  All in all, the article is a remarkable piece of rhetoric -- predictable in its emotive clichés, though immensely impressive for the sheer number of them that the writer has crammed into such a short space.

It also begs all the usual questions.  What does ‘sectarian’ mean when what we are talking about is the repudiation and, indeed, demonization of a point of sexual ethics which has always been universally upheld by the official teaching of all orthodox Christian churches everywhere?  Are we ‘sectarian’ now when we simply refuse to mimic the standards of the non-church world around us?  Is belief in the resurrection, for example, sectarian too, or does it only become so when (as in Colossians) it collides with the sexual practices of the age? Indeed, the one point in the article where Foreshew-Cain is absolutely correct is when he declares "I certainly do not recognise my faith in the current actions of the Bishops and the official stance of the Church."  There is a lesson there, though not one Foreshew-Cain cares to draw.

One also wonders what kind of conversation Foreshew-Cain envisages on the issue when he appears to believe that anyone who agrees with the traditional church position is at best intellectually defective, at worst a moral monster.  

Finally, there is the supreme irony of a man being upset because he might be disciplined for refusing the discipline of his church which he has presumably taken voluntary vows to uphold and obey.   

There is in fact an easy answer to the problematic situation in which this priest finds himself: resign and stop taking the position and the money which the Anglican church provides for you.  That, of course, requires sacrifice, though one would imagine that in the UK it will hardly lead to actual martyrdom.  Far from it. Given the times in which we live, it is more likely to make one a hero, a staple of daytime television, and a poster-boy for those on the -- ahem -- winning side of history.   The fig-leaf excuse of not wanting to abandon the church to the bigots simply will not do.  Those bigots happen to represent that universal confessional teaching mentioned above. Indeed, if you think an organization has sanctified bigotry, oppression, and prejudice so universally for so many generations, you should probably regard it as a lost cause and one to which you never really belonged in the first place.  After all, millions of us are not Anglicans and yet still manage to live reasonably fulfilled lives. Do not gloss with the language of outraged righteousness your own unwillingness to take a sacrificial stand.

By way of conclusion, however, it is clear that Foreshew-Cain definitely represents more of the spirit of this age than the orthodox churches do. Read this article and worry, for it shows how far the debate about substantial matters has degenerated into simplistic name-calling and emotive soundbites.  It also reveals how the world increasingly has no categories for understanding traditional morality beyond those which imply evil, malice and bigotry on the part of those who wish to maintain it. Indeed, for the orthodox Christian, the days of wine and roses have come to an end.  The days of whining poseurs are only just beginning.