Sunday, January 22, 2012

In fairness

Diarmaid MacCulloch is a brilliant church historian whose writings on the Reformation and on the whole era of Christianity I have appreciated immensely. At Comment is Free (@ the Guardian), MacCulloch argues that compulsory celibacy for gay clergy in the C of E is wrong. In fairness to the issue I am happy to draw attention to the argument which, it almost goes without saying, is presented by MacCulloch with great intelligence and insight.

What do you think?


Father Ron Smith said...

I must agree with you here, Peter. Diarmain McCulloch is a renowned historical scholar.

His abbrev. c.v. is as follows:

'Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford, and author of 'A History of Christianity; the first three thousand years'.

Diarmaid was made a Knight in the 2012 Honours List for his services to scholarship.'

Ordained deacon in the Bristol Diocese of the C.of E. in 1987, he served at All Saints, Clifton. However, in response to a motion put before General Synod in 1987, by the Rev.Tony Higton, re the sexuality of clergy, Diarmaid decline ordination to the priesthood in protest at the G.S. Motion.

It is from this background, being unwilling to compromise his innate homosexuality, that Diarmaid has brought forward this serious reflection on the problems of the current situation of enforced celibacy of both straight and gay clergy in the Church.

Perhaps even the Church of England will now consider hearing the testimony of an internationally acclaimed scholar, whose own faith journey was side-tracked because of the cult of hypocrisy about matters of sexuality in the Church.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for posting this link to the article by Dr. (Sir) Diarmaid McCulloch. Notable is the fact that, as a deacon in the Church of England, Diarmid's decision not to proceed towards ordination as a priest came about as a direct result of the Revd. Tony Higton's Motion to the C.of E. General Synod, in 1987, concerning the sexuality of the clergy.

As a self-acknowledged homosexual, Diarmaid was not about to compromise his innate integrity by pretending not to be gay - in order to claim ordination - as has been the case with some others of the clerical order before him.

The enforced culture of repression of gays who hid their orientation in order to become priests - or were forced to promise celibacy in order to go forward for priestly ordination - has been a sad feature of enforced hypocrisy, in the life of both the Church and the clergy for longer than ought to have been necessary.

I hope that the Church of England hierarchy will take note of this formidable Church History scholar's article on enforced celibacy among the clergy, seriously, and do something about it - before further damage is done to the already shaky credibility of the Church.

Father Ron Smith said...

Oops!! Double entry here.

Sorry Peter, the first comment appeared not to make it, so tried again. Apologies!

Anonymous said...

McCulloch's "decision not to proceed to ordination" as a priest actually came after he refused the request by Barry Rogers, the Bishop of Bristol, that McCulloch end his homosexual relationship.

What Ron omits to mention in his enconium is that "Sir" McCulloch is not only an ex-clergyman but an ex-Christian. He has renounced the Christian faith as untrue.
Boy, you sure pick 'em, Ron!


Peter Carrell said...

Can you give a citation for your first sentence, Martin?

And the second? Though that is not news to me!

Anonymous said...

I am sure I recall reading this in McCulloch's own words, though it was no doubt in consequence of the Higton resolution. McCulloch at the time was a deacon at an Anglo-Catholic church in that city and a lecturer in church history at a Methodist college. Barry Rogerson (not Rogers) was his bishop - not an evangelical, I understand, but a middle of the road liberal.
I don't recall where I first heard that MacCulloch had become a skeptic about Christianity but I think he made this clear on his TV series, as well as other writings.


Father Ron Smith said...

'Not recalling' true facts, I'm afraid is a problem for many of us - especially when we really want to dismiss a person. My job as a priest is always to try not to consign a person to hell, but rather, enacourage them to discover the love of Christ in the Gospel.

Whatever the disposition of Sir/Dr Diarmaid is now towards the official Church, is no doubt due, in part, to his treatment at the hands of it's homophobia - still the problem of some in the churhc today, i'm afraid. "They'll know you're my disciples by your Love - not your hatred!

Anonymous said...

Neither you nor I will be "consigning any person to hell", Ron, so drop the OTT ad hominems of which you are too fond.

OTOH, the Lord's Apostle has indicated we will be judging angels, a task for which I feel quite unsuited. But since you can read people's thoughts and secret motives cybernetically, no doubt you will do that job splendidly!

You can read Sir/Dr/Prof/ex-Rev/ex-Christian etc Diarmaid's own disavowal of Christian doctrine on the BBC website in his own words.
Lots of people turn their backs on Christianity and I doubt it has much to do with the synthetic "sin" of "homophobia". Often it is because they were never realy convinced in the first place. After all, you don't need to be a communist to study Soviet history.

Andrew Reid said...

Concentrating on McCulloch's argument, he takes behaviour which God ordained for a man and a woman - lifelong committed marriage with sexual expression - and says "it's good for heterosexuals, so it must be good for homosexuals too". The Bible is clear that God created marriage and sexuality for a man and a woman. He's right that repressing or concealing homosexual orientation will lead to further problems, but blessing and encouraging homosexual relationships is not the answer. People are disposed to all sorts of behaviour outside of God's will for us - greed, gluttony, theft, gossip, lying. McDiarmind is correct that we put an unhealthy focus on sexuality above these other areas. But God calls us to repent of all of these and by the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of his people to live a holy life.

Another problem is he frames the argument as only being about clergy, by equating it to the debate about celibate priests at the Reformation. This debate is about all God's people and indeed all of society. We want Godly ministers because we want Godly Christians.