Elders of the Tribe

by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool


“The weak bishops.” “The lying bishops.” “The bastard bishops.” “I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can spit.” “The only way they’ll give a straight-line response is if you ask them to design a corkscrew.”

A few months ago on this site I wrote a piece which spoke of the need for people to express their anger if they were angry. I have seen all the phrases above on social media in the past few days, and I am glad of them, though I am not a masochist and I do not enjoy them. I am particularly grateful to the people who have contacted me directly to express their emotion and to make their points about the recent bishops’ statement.

For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the Church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document?

Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, the same year that “Issues in Human Sexuality” was published, my friend and mentor Bishop Peter Selby wrote a book called “BeLonging” [1]. Its subtitle was “Challenge to a Tribal Church”. In this book Peter spoke of the kind of community the Church is called to be, and contrasted it with the Church as it is. It is a prophetic and an angry book. It locates its anger in three areas; race and racism, gender and sexism, and the treatment of LGBT people. Peter in writing about this last subject drew on his experience of the 1987 Synod debate on the motion proposed by Tony Higton.

And then in the book there comes a chapter called “The Elders of the Tribe”[2]. It speaks about bishops. It reflects that, when the ordination of women was discussed, “the report of the House of Bishops on the issue shows strong signs of having been diverted into accepting the agenda of those opposed to the change.” Peter went on to ask, “Do these responses reflect something of the demands and pressures on leadership when tribal responses are rife?”

This is a very good question. It speaks crisply and clearly over the intervening years.

Peter went on to speak of the risks and dangers inherent in the idea that the bishop is called to be a focus of unity in the Church. He said, “At the heart of that perception lies one of the most profoundly Christian of instincts, that we are called to bring together and not to divide, to seek and not to lose”. But beautiful and profoundly Christian as it is, Peter said, it is only a half-truth.

His point was that collegiality, the act of standing together and speaking as one, can endanger and indeed exclude the possibility of prophetic dissent. I believe that it is this point that lies behind the anger of the angry today. People believe that the bishops, the bastard bishops, have preferred unity to truth: “We asked for bread and they have given a stone”.

It is not my intention in this post to defend anyone or anything, least of all myself. In clear awareness of Peter Selby’s analysis, I nonetheless stand by the bishops’ report. I have chosen to act in this matter wholeheartedly as a member of the episcopal College. I have done so in good faith, because I believe that the suggestions in the report, insufficient as they are, are nonetheless necessary; that they will help LGBT people in the church, will make a church less toxic than the one we have now. But all that is, of course, debatable.

My own experience, since I began speaking out for the beginnings of change in the Church, is that I am profoundly suspected by many who disagree with me and that indeed some of them cannot in conscience remain in the same room as me, or work with me. This has not made me change my mind, but it does help me to understand still further what it is to be a bishop, a bastard bishop, in the Church today.

In October 1986, almost thirty years ago, Peter Selby wrote this in a newspaper:

Bishops do focus the Church, but what they focus is the Church as it is. Being a focus of disunity is not therefore in itself a sign of pastoral failure.[3]

I believe that this is so; but since I first read this a quarter of a century ago, long before I became a bishop, I have been most profoundly challenged by the response to Peter’s words from another Peter, Peter Walker, then Bishop of Ely, who said this:

It surely is not a sign of failure, but on one condition; that the disunity which is focused in the bishop is held in a Godward reference. We here touch the mystery, but the central and to a degree the public mystery, of a bishop’s prayers…[4]

The recent statement of the House of Bishops is offered to the Synod in the hope of prayer – not as a finished work but as a resource for dialogue, for further conversation in a context of sharing before God. And in a couple of weeks we shall see what the other Houses of the Synod make of it, what “the clergy” and “the laity” make of “the bishops”. And then the road will go on, and no one’s voice will be silenced, as I do not believe mine has been silenced, or will be. And we will continue to learn together what it is to listen, and to dissent, and to pray.

And in this season my prayers will include in particular my LGBT sisters and brothers, inside and outside the Church, whose real-life love has been marginal to our conversation as bishops and whose explicit voice so far has been absent there. And I will pray too for all the Church, and all the bishops, the other bastard bishops like me. And I will continue to seek the right way to be a bishop, in this season on this matter when those who disagree with me outnumber me. I will struggle for a church where the love of the loving will be honoured, whomever they love. I will reach for and advocate for and enable the maximum freedom now, and I’ll pray and work and hope for still greater freedom later.

But I would ask one thing of my sisters and brothers in the Church. I am one of “the bishops”, and on many matters I know before God how much I am a bastard bishop. But I also have a name; my name is Paul. Every bishop has a name. If across the Church we are to break the spirit of fear and conformity of which Peter Selby spoke, we must say our names to one another, in the room, in English, looking on the ones to whom we speak. In the Diocese of Liverpool I expect this of the people who share their being in Christ with me; that they will call me by my name and speak the truth to me, and will listen to me as I call their names and speak to them. And each one reading this has a bishop or bishops, each one with a name. I encourage you to learn that name and to use it in a conversation shared. It is in this way that the anger of which I wrote some months ago, the anger I welcome even though it is excoriating to me, will be tempered and used by God to change the world.

Paul Bayes is Bishop of Liverpool

January 2017


[1] Peter Selby, “BeLonging: Challenge to a Tribal Church”, SPCK 1991

[2] BeLonging, pp 54-63

[3]Quoted in “BeLonging”, p.63

[4] Peter Walker, “Rediscovering the Middle Way”, Mowbray 1988, p.110

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43 Responses to Elders of the Tribe

  1. Steve McMahon says:

    The report does not, as far as I could see, make any explicit reference to transgender individuals. The inference of this is that transgender is a form of sexuality – otherwise it would warrant a separate report. However, gender is a very different thing to sexuality. The report has done nothing to address the needs of many who are transgender but who are “straight” – all it has done is to continue the misunderstanding of transgender issues at the very highest level in the Church..

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Many thanks for this, Steve. I hope that because of your advocacy, and that of others, we will pay closer attention to this. I’m sure that you will have made this point to your own bishop(s) and Synod members too.

  2. stubbs16 says:

    Dear Paul, picking up your Selby observations could there not have been at least some acknowledgement in the Report that there are differences in the way the Bible is interpreted on matters of sexuality? Did you argue for this or for anything more progressive? So far as I can see after over two years of ‘conversations’ (at what cost btw?) and many previous years of publication and debate there are no recommendations other than that all candidates for ordination shall now be asked if they are aware of the CofE”s position on sexuality (presumably still via Issues which was always a discussion document not an unchallengable statement) and the promise of yet another Report. Doing nothing and appealing for prayer is inadequate as a strategy for meeting the challenges we face in a society which is increasingly outraged by the Church”s treatment of its LGTBI members and it’s outmoded ways of determining it’s ethical perspectives. Since the Gloucester Report the Church of England has gone backwards. Whilst I recognise, respect and value your own efforts in the Diocese of Liverpool I nevertheless believe that as a house and college you have seriously let down LGBTI people and their families and friends and therefore the Church and it’s mission and social responsibilities in the twenty-first century. Ian Stubbs, former priest

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks, Ian. The road goes on, rocky as it seems, and I hope I understand the frustration and the anger; at any rate I try to. If we have a substantial teaching document as the report recommends, we won’t have to cast our conversations in language of a quarter of a century ago. The next step is the Synod debate in a couple of weeks; I hope you’re writing to your own bishop(s) and Synod members so that they know your voice.

      • stubbs16 says:

        I am! Thank you for your reply. Just to say I went to a Eucharist at St Brides in November for Transgender Memorial Day. It was all a Eucharist should be, in my view inclusive, participative, connected, prayerful, beautiful, poignant, celebratory, humourous, authentic, heart wrenching, hopeful, visionary – I could go on. They are to be congratulated for all they are doing and you too for your encouragement.

  3. Sonia Falaschi-Ray says:

    Thanks Paul. Though as The Rev’d Richard Coles said on the BBC lunchtime news (I paraphrase from memory) , “….they do seem to have found another patch of the long grass”.

  4. Lucy Davis says:

    Paul, when I was a curate and you were my Bishop, you once asked me whether the vote against women in the episcopate had made me fall out of love with the Church. At that point I said no, not quite. This weekend I am not so sure I could give the same answer. I cannot even bring myself to talk about the report with my beautiful, faith filled, gay son, who at 18 dreams of marriage and love, now knowing that we will never be able to celebrate those dreams of love come true in Church.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks, Lucy. I too have LGBTI+ family members, and I hope I can understand a little of your anguish. I remain committed to this church that we only sometimes love. I don’t know how to be a Christian outside it. I hope we can walk together and make all voices heard, and I hope your own bishops have heard yours directly.

  5. rev pat holmes says:

    Thank you for your thoughts bishop Paul but the most telling part of this article for me was that paragraph where you talk about the real life love of LGBT people that was marginal to the conversation and whose voice was not explicitly heard. This is the real failing of this report and it is one the bishops need to own. I speak as a straight, ordained ally.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks so much. The report is a step on the road, and is not offered as a block to further conversation. Please contact your own bishop(s) so that they too can hear your voice, which is a necessary voice.

  6. frpip says:

    Dear Bishop – I respect this attempt to reach out, but I feel it is largely a swing and a miss. The criticism the Bishops have got for this report is not because none of them have been prophetic, it is, as you have rightly said here that for LGBT people, their “real-life love has been marginal to our conversation as bishops and whose explicit voice so far has been absent there” THAT is the criticism above all – that the report read as though LGBT people were a group unknown to the Bishops, some fringe group outside the church – and this after three years of conversations!

    To back that up with what is a plea to have your name, your face, your personhood valued by those who are criticising you is deeply ironic. The College of Bishops produced a report where LGBT people felt faceless, nameless, unknown and unvalued. And they are the people in a position of power. Now you turn to those you have hurt and crushed and ask them to do what you have not done to them?

    I am sorry you are hurt by this. But try and see the hurt which caused it.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      I’m very grateful for your comment. Hearing the voiceless is far more important to me than speaking for them, and I do my best in my own life here to connect with all and with the voiceless most of all. You will know from my post that I hope that your own bishops will also hear from you directly; then they will know your name. Thanks again for your honesty.

      • frpip says:

        Dear Paul, my Bishops do know my name! I’m blessed with a Bishop and Primus who talks to their clergy, and I have never sought to make them feel as though they were in a “them and us”.
        I hear your call to be acknowledged as a fellow human being – we destroy our leaders when we do not do that. I do however wish you could acknowledge the part of my reply and that of others which felt that the Bishops’ report failed to acknowledge LGBT people as anything other than a theological and diplomatic problem to be solved.
        If you were to read a report which decided the church was going to make all future Bishops be celibate, I think you would probably hope for a differently worded report from the one which was published. The talk was of changing the “tone” – but the tone was the first of its problems.

  7. Bishop Paul. I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day and he referenced the Diocese of Liverpool and how desperate situation was resolved due to brave perhaps even controversial decisions were made. As a gay Christian in the Diocese of Essex I have no intention of leaving as I believe that I am a part of this body and the hand cannot say to the foot “we do not need you.” Neither will I sit in the corner sucking my thumb – but will speak out and demand inclusion for LGBTQI Anglicans. The shared conversations were the voice of the LGBTQI people that you said was missing – basically it means that the LGBTQI Christian may as well have been talking to the walls because the Bishops have not been listening. It was a big expensive pointless public relations farce and the Spirit of God was not in it because it was dishonest. Are we furious? YES. We understand that numerically LGBTQI people represent a minority. I was not aware that Jesus was concerned for the majority over that of the few. On the contrary Jesus spoke of a shepherd who counts his sheep and recognises that 1 of the hundred is missing and goes out looking. He looks until he finds and then he returns rejoicing. You concluded your letter, Paul, by asking us to remember and use your name. Jesus knows all of our names. We LGBTQI Christians have names too. Stephen, Jane, Erica, Jide John to name a few that come to mind and as you rightly point out in our name is our humanity and our uniqueness and we would ask the Bishops to learn and use our names.

    Finally Paul, as a Christian brother I love you because that is what we are called to do. I cannot claim to respect the report, but will as Jesus demanded – turn the other cheek. May I carry your cloak as we walk the extra mile.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks, John. Please keep on speaking out where you are. Bishops are only one part of the voice of the Church, and the clergy and laity in the Synod will have their moment in a couple of weeks. I hope you’ll contact your Synod representatives and ensure that they know your views. Thanks too for the gracious words at the end of your post.

  8. Erika Baker says:

    Dear Bishop Paul,
    I’m one of those who is deeply frustrated, not just by the report but also by your response here.
    I don’t know when “the focus of unity” began to mean “going along with what I don’t approve of for the sake of a united front”. But I can’t help but feel that, unlike in previous debates such as women priests and bishops, we are in the unique position where what the bishops think and do is completely impenetrable.

    How bishops vote in these anonymous HoB reports matters. They are what set the tone and the future direction. Yet, there is no accountability; no-one ever has to take responsibility for how they vote. And please let’s be clear that, in terms of outcome, abstentions are also votes in favour.

    So after nearly 3 years of shared conversations we have another report that brings absolutely no change, absolutely no accountability, absolutely no discernible way forward. If anything, it takes us firmly back to before Pilling. Pilling, after all, recommended serious pastoral accommodation and affirmation of our relationships.

    It may well be hard for individual bishops to be in a room with colleagues who disapprove of them. But no bishop’s job is at risk, no bishop’s financial future. And you will forgive me if, having spent a very tiring weekend supporting extremely distressed lgbt people through a major report-induced crisis, that appeals to just how hard this is for secure bishops isn’t really working for me.

    There was once a time for bishops working quietly behind the scenes. That time is over. What I would want to say to all bishops is:

    If you stand by the bishops’ report you’re not our friend.
    If you support us, support us openly and where it matters.
    If you oppose us, oppose us openly and stand by your conviction.
    This ambiguous approach that does nothing to change the very real and harmful consequences for very real people deserves no more respect.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks, Erica. I regret that I’m not your friend. But I stand by this report nonetheless. For as long as I’m in the same church as those (very many) who disagree with me, for so long I’ll have to live with much regret. But as I said in my piece, I seek always to keep at the front of my mind those whose voice is not heard and who are badly hurting; not only the advocates for change, but all LGBTI+ Christians. If I didn’t believe that our report – imperfect, halting, partial, patchwork – offers help which is better than what we have now, I would not support it. But I do. Thank you for your honesty. I’m sure you have written directly to your own bishop(s) in the same vein.

  9. Pete Jermey says:

    I think he is right that bishops should be treated as people and their names be used. I confess I do not always use bishops names because I cannot remember them! I do refer to the two bishops who know my name by their

    I think if the bishops had likewise considered lgbt Anglicans as people their report would have been very different. I welcome Bishop Paul’s views and input into the report and I think it is not hard to pick out the two or three paragraphs in the report that he personally genuinely agrees with.

    I would ask the bishops as a whole if they know the names of the people who have been turned down as prospective priests because of who they love or perceptions about their domestic lives? Do they know the names of those of us denounced as being akin to ‘paedophiles’ by Chris Sugden, Melvin Tinker and Peter Sanlon? Do they know the names of those people whose churches have pressured them into attending reparative therapy? Do they know the names of those people abused or made to feel unwelcome in their local church because of their orientation? Do they know the name of the lady banned from playing in the worship group because she was honest about her attraction or the name of the lady struck from the flower rota because she had admitted to being a lesbian?

    I would have liked to have seen a recommendation that the cofe bans its clergy from endorsing reparative therapy. I would have liked to have seen concrete proposals on dealing with homophobic abuse. I would have liked to have seen proposals on what is and is not acceptable behaviour towards lgbt people. I would have liked to have seen any evidence that the bishops had incorporated anything from the shared conversations into their report.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Pete, your points are good and strong; the proposals in your final paragraph are really helpful and I hope you’ll be in touch with your Synod representatives to share this with them too. The recent report is not meant to be the final word on any of these things. Your examples of homophobia in the church are dreadful and I know that they’re ongoing. I still hope that as a result of this process the commitment of the Church to oppose homophobia will strengthen. All I can say for my own part is that I will continue to do all I can in my own Diocese and more widely to make that happen.

  10. James Byron says:

    Bishop Paul,

    You could end discrimination against LGBT people in Liverpool Diocese tomorrow by announcing the suspension of all “discipline,” and having job security that’d be the envy of a Pope, could do so at no personal risk to position or pension. Yet you allow it to continue in the name of unity; you value the institution over your lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers in Christ.

    How would you respond to a white moderate who did the same with anti-miscegenation laws? Because that’s how your choice is seen, and it is your choice.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks, James. I know that we can fragment the church at any time. I know that people have left, or not joined, this church because of our stances, on LGBTI+ issues among so many other issues, and because of our unwelcome. I know other churches that are more welcoming. I could leave this church at any time and join one of them. I would prefer for my own comfort a smaller and more harmonious church than the one we have, full of people who agree with me. But I stay in the Church of England as it is and as it is becoming, because I believe in its diversity and its call from God to be together in a place of ongoing dialogue and good disagreement, a call that reaches far beyond any one Diocese. I regret that you view this position as you do. I’m grateful to you for your honesty.

  11. Prefer not to say says:

    Bishop PauI.

    Sitting on the fence must be most uncomfortable. For many in the Church, the HoB has just delivered a blow, that they might never recover from. Assurances about how Gay or Lesbian or even Transgender or Intersex people are to be treated, belie that fact that they are to be considered as something to tolerate, not someone to loved and welcomed as equals in the Church of God.

    You belong to the College of Bishops, and unity and solidarity seem to be more important than the risk taking, adventurous and spirit led HoB that the people need and deserve. There is no transparency what so ever in the report, and the fence sitting that this blog represents only compounds the pain and hurt of those who were already hurting.

    How Long LORD. How Long?

  12. Lorenzo says:

    It would help, Bp Paul, if you could actually elaborate on why you “believe that the suggestions in the report, insufficient as they are, are nonetheless necessary; that they will help LGBT people in the church.” I cannot begin to see how or why.

    • James Byron says:

      At a guess, to keep onside the evangelicals bankrolling the CoE, and the conservative provinces threatening schism. Both are rooted in realpolitik, as the response must be: work to abolish the CNC process guaranteed to appoint company men, and replace it with episcopal elections (with the addition of a right of recall to remove and replace bishops who aren’t serving their flock).

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks, Lorenzo. At the moment we’re working with teaching documents up to 25 years old, which need radically to be updated and refreshed. LGBTI+ people in the Church deserve better than what we have – a great deal better you would say, and I would agree with you; but even a little better is better than nothing. This report is absolutely not a final word, but I do believe that it will help. I may be wrong, and I fully recognise that others disagree with this view; but that’s what I believe.

  13. Em Coley says:

    Paul your words are eloquent and moving. And I believe you speak and act prophetically. May you know God’s strength and protection.

  14. Kevin Scott says:

    Dear Bishop Paul
    As a Parish Priest, my problem is how I speak to my people and the wider Parish community about this. I take my oaths of obedience seriously, and at the same time I encourage my people to take Scripture, Tradition and Reason/Experience seriously. I am left now telling them that the official teaching of the CofE is X, but my conclusion under God is that it is wrong. Most of them agree, but sadly that leaves them with ambivalent feelings about the CofE.
    Whatever pressures the House of Bishops has to face from parts of the Anglican Communion, whatever threats have been made by affluent parishes in the CofE, we are also committed Anglicans in this Parish, and we feel sidelined by this Report. Of much more importance. members of our congregation and community feel consigned (whatever smooth words might be spoken about creating a tone of welcome) to a shadowy second-class existence within the Cof
    E, if not within this Parish.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Dear Paul

    thank you for engaging. i appreciate your frankness and the support you have given to lgbti christians in your diocese. i am not as negative as others are about the report and i do see some chinks of light in it. i still think it is deeply flawed and the anger it has produced is inevitable.

    unfortunately i cannot tell you my name. in my first draft of this post i explained why and then i deleted it before i posted. the fact that i cannot tell you my name should demonstrate how profoundly unhealthy and abusive the culture in the c of e is. we have serious problems and this report refuses to name them.

    that refusal to name real problems is a serious flaw but it isnt even close to being the biggest one. that great flaw is the way that this report silences the voiceless.

    my biggest concern is not what happens to clergy and ordinands who are gay or trans. although that is often bad. it isnt even what happens to clergy partners and spouses who happen to be of the same gender although that is absolutely disgusting and never even mentioned. it is what happens to children growing up in some of our parishes.

    one young woman who should have been listened to in this report is lizzie lowe. she cant speak for herself because she is dead. she killed herself aged fourteen because she was gay and growing up in a run of the mill evangelical parish barely thirty miles from where you live. we all lived through the hysteria that overtook large parts of british christianity during the debate about marriage equality. sadly it isnt difficult to work out how a girl growing up in that culture at that time might not only have decided that she was wicked but beyond redemption.

    as i said the church in which lizzie was raised was just run of the mill evangelical c of e. to its credit it has responded by trying to make sure her death was not in vain. in some of our parishes the homophobic atmosphere is considerably more intense. the repeated statement that it is impossible to accept same-sex relationships because that would be a so-called salvation issue is a polite way of saying that those in them are bound for HELL and accepting them will only lead others to damnation. those who hold such views will not state them clearly and that is revealing. i cannot imagine what it is like to be a young person coming to terms with a minority sexuality or gender identity in that context. it is horrifying. it is still happening as we deliberate. bishops allow this to happen. we all allow this to happen. my anonymity allows this to happen. yet fear keeps me anonymous.

    we are not in a good place. the bishops have prioritized their own needs as a club ahead of those of christ let alone those of lgbti christians. the synod debate will be bumpy but i think worse than that the lgbti christian leadership has been told that there is no point in engaging positively. especially because of the failure of the shared conversations. when trust is rewarded with bad faith people will not trust again.

    some will walk away from the c of e but others will not because it is CHRIST who calls people into the church not the bishops. this was the bishops last chance to ensure this debate was positive and they blew it. dont kid yourself that this is like remarriage of divorcees or women priests because those did not involve teen suicides or people being made so sick by the culture of bigotry that their bodies literally started to consume themselves. that is what happened to vicky beeching. just for starters.

    as i said i think the report has more room for progress than is being given credit for but when i have tried to say that i have been laughed at and i can see why.

    so i finish where i started. i cannot tell you my name. i cannot tell you any of my own story. i cannot tell you the things i have seen. i have given my life to this church and i fear it will destroy itself to appease a hateful minority who do not even regard most people in the c of e as being what they call real christians.

    even for those who are contemptuous of lgbti christians and think we are satanic and bound for hell there is a real danger. the next lizzie lowe might not be from a devout christian family. he or she might be an unchurched kid who walked into a church looking for hope and instead found despair that led them to suicide. their family might have disapproved of them having anything to do with the church and most people regard us as a bunch of hypocritical weridos. and then they will quite understandably go out to destroy us and there are few in this country who will oppose them in those circumstances. we are very weak as it is and in white working class districts we barely exist at all.

    and god might be behind it all. read the bible. read the prophets. isaiah and ezekiel and amos warned that god was angry when the hypocritical self-righteous bigots of their day abused him for their own agendas. they ignored them and they ended up in babylon. we pray in the lords prayer that gods will be done. be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

    there is much else i could say to you and but you could not bear it!!!!!

    only joking. i cannot say more because then you would know my name. then i could no longer serve the church i love and the people we help. despite everything the c of e is a beautiful church full of lovely caring people who are faithful to god and at the coal face most of them think gay people should find someone to love and live a good and faithful life.

    may GODs grace and peace remain with you always and may he complete the good work he began in you and in me carry it to completion for both of our sakes,


  16. Anonymous says:

    Hope there are more bishops who think the same as you.

  17. Martin Sewell says:

    Three thoughts Paul

    1) the report opens acknowledging that there are ” deficiencies” in the College. That, of course is not a fault but a lack, an absence. What deficiencies do you have in mind? It cannot mean an absence of Gay Bishops because to regret that is to concede the very matter under discussion. What does this phrase actually mean and is that anywhere near a majority position?

    2) when elected to Synod as a lay member, I adopted the practice of visiting other Churches to worship with those I am supposed to represent and I always ask what ” being Church” feels like in their situation and what would they want me to tell Synod.

    Nobody prioritises keeping an exclusive marriage doctrine. Some, in Churches that suggest they think like that, tell me sotto voce ” well that’s what the vicar says but it doesn’t bother me” they go on to say it’s always been their Church or their parents were married here etc. In short even the doctrinal Churches are not monolithicaly uniform in opinion. Their main worry is that the Church isn’t missional enough.

    3 One young man unexpectedly offered me a sophisticated constitutional point. “Don’t forget you are the Establishrd Church. People who rarely come are still stakeholders in what you do.” He’s right of course, and that major constituency in our Church are in a very different and probably a happier place than the House of Bishops.

    • Paul Bayes says:

      Thanks for these helpful and positive points, Martin. I assume from your post that you’re a member of Synod; you will know that this report is offered to Synod for consideration and it’ll be good to see these points raised there.

  18. Kate says:

    Paul, you have chosen to make some very vulnerable people suffer. Some may kill themselves as a result of your choice. Others will turn from God as a result of your choice. You get the unity you crave: innocents will pay the price for you. Never forget.

  19. Interested Observer says:

    (Cross-posted at the request of Erica Baker from Thinking Anglicans)

    (Another TA poster) has cited MLK’s words, which I have quoted in similar contexts before. They bear repeating (they’re from his Letter from Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963):

    “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

    The key words for the likes of the Bishop of Liverpool are “feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom” and “prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension”. What is being said, in every case, is that the speaker cares deeply about injustice, and cares deeply about its victims, but has broader concerns which the likes of the victim are nor able to discern but would understand if they could and those broader concerns mean, regretfully, that the injustice must continue. The victims are thrown under the bus, but with love in the hearts of their attackers.

    “And then the road will go on, and no one’s voice will be silenced, as I do not believe mine has been silenced, or will be. And we will continue to learn together what it is to listen, and to dissent, and to pray.”

    But there is another quote to set against that, from Omar Khayyam:

    “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

    Our brothers and sisters whom the CofE refuses to embrace are only young once. They are only 41 once. They are only 63 once. Every season in their life happens just once, and every year that they are not welcome is a year that they can never live again, a year that they were not welcomed but could have been They do not have time to wait for the Bishop of Liverpool to listen, and to dissent, and to pray, because every year that he continues to congratulate himself on being moderate is a year in which our brothers and sisters are still in pain. He “lives by the myth of time and…constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.””. Why not now? Why not stand in your Cathedral and welcome our brothers and sisters, and pray with them, and bless them, and marry them? Fiat justitia ruat cælum. But no: the timetable for freedom is not to be set by those seeking freedom, but by their oppressors. Even the ones who think they are not oppressors.

  20. Harry says:

    Dear Paul (you are entitled to a given name)

    I am one of I suspect quite a few visitors from a gay news site where your blog was reported on. i have no religious belief (like a plurality of the English population) and I in general am happy to watch the managed decline of the Church of England as it serves no useful public purpose other than (for now) the provision of ritual to the British state. I am a happily married gay man – but not married and actually sinning by daring to have sex with my beloved husband, according to the majority of C of E bishops

    However the tortured outpourings of LGBT+ Anglicans, who are more to be pitied than condemned, make me put “pen” to “paper” as I think it may be useful for you to hear what people outside your bubble are saying. And we are entitled to say it: the C of E is an agency of the English State, to which we pay taxes, and given huge preferential treatment in all sorts of ways.

    I am glad that you appear to have a personal view that same sex marriage is not contrary to C of E doctrine. But it is also very clear from what you say that you value the unity of the C of E and (I assume) the Anglican communion over and above the rights of LGBT+ people. I wonder if you would say the same if the church had a bar on interracial marriages? Would you decline to conduct them for sake of unity? And if you would make a stand and conduct such marriages what is the difference between them and the same sex marriages which you won’t conduct? The truth of the matter is that you are not prepared for your institution to racist but you are prepared for it to be homophobic.

    All this leads me to the view that one of two things needs to happen:-

    1. Parliament takes the control over your worship and doctrine to which it is entitled as your doctrines are at odds with the values of our country (and it is not just equal marriage that you are opposed to – it is just about any progressive cause; and your parliamentary officer is paid for in part out of many taxes to fund your campaigns against my civil rights). This was threatened after you were about thirty years behind the times in placing women in a position of true equality within your organisation. It would have the pleasant side effect that nasty bigots like Andrea Williams and some of the less pleasant bishops, clergy and laity can join Michael Nazir-Ali in the wilderness.

    2. You are completely disestablished. At least that would mean that I didn’t feel excluded from remembrances events any more.

    As I have said,. I assert the right even as an atheist to make comments here. You are whether I like it or not an institution of my country, funded in part by its taxpayers. And I do not think this is a view that is particularly uncommon.

  21. Mark Chilcott says:

    Huge apologies for the long delay in responding to this post – I have been taken up with supporting elderly parents (as well as dealing with the fallout of events across The Pond and in our Supreme Court and Parliament) … Please find below the comment I made on the Changing Attitude Group after your blog was posted there. I’m now writing to all Synod Reps in my Diocese (Manchester) urging them not to take note of the report. I will send you a copy of the letter (from one ordained at Liverpool Cathedral in 1993 & 1994 but now unable in conscience to take up even a PTO):

    “Pleased Paul has put his head above the parapet: thank you, much appreciated.

    The difficulty I have with what you say is this. You encourage us to keep on with debate, suggesting this isn’t the end of the road. However you are also supporting a document which calls for calm discussion only and within parameters that clearly and explicitly exclude any discussion of blessing same-sex partnerships, countenancing sex outside heterosexual marriage or opening marriage to same sex couples.

    You have also given your name to a “take note” approach to the report at Synod next month. This is a clever and, I would say, sly tactic aimed at discouraging serious debate and a vote that would indicate the level of support for the course the report is plotting. How can you not take note of the report.. we all are! What the Synod arrangements do is subtly close debate and allow the Bishops to carry on doing what you want collectively without the rest of us having any proper input.

    This is at odds with the sort of debate you seem to be encouraging Paul so I am left very disorientated and bewildered”

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