Saturday, February 9, 2013

GILES FRASER - FAREWELL TO CHURCH TIMES

I HAVE written this column for nine years. It is time for me to hang up my hat. It has been a huge privilege to write in these pages, and I want publicly to thank the work of the editorial team, who have been so supportive of my column.

Partly, this decision has to do with the arrival of a new Archbishop. Justin Welby is a good man, and will, I expect, make a fine leader of the Church. But his moral opposition to homosexuality remains a massive problem for me - as was that of his predecessor. I do not want to spend my time getting angry with him, or continually being ashamed at the Church of which I am, and will always try to remain, a part.

But the C of E is travelling in a different direction now. And there is something spiritually deadening about being in a state of permanent opposition to all of this. In my sermon on Sunday, I preached about the loyalty of Simeon and Anna, arguing that it is more important to say what you are for than what you are against. I need to take my own advice, and find a different space where I feel more comfortable saying what I am for.
I expect we'll continue to hear from Giles in other forums, and for that I'm grateful.  The words in the column that struck me are:
"In my sermon on Sunday, I preached about the loyalty of Simeon and Anna, arguing that it is more important to say what you are for than what you are against.  I need to take my own advice, and find a different space where I feel more comfortable saying what I am for."  
As I think about what I write here on my blog, it seems to me that I write or link to more stories about what I am against than what I'm for, and, like Giles, I don't see  it's a particularly good thing.  What would I write about that I am for, that is positive?  I'm thinking...

In the meantime, I could not resist publishing once again the wonderful cartoon by Susan Russell, which is surely worthy of more than one use.

 

Click on the cartoon for the larger view.

25 comments:

  1. I wish Giles some great fresh fields and unlimited pastures new. I hope he will continue writing his column for the Guardian and maybe even a book or two?

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    1. I read Giles more in the Guardian than in the CT, because they limit the first week(?) after publication to subscribers. I wish him many blessings; he's a voice of sanity in the church.

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  2. I have to say, when I saw the article title at Thinking Anglicans, I first thought Giles was quitting the CofE! :-0

    Personally, I would have great moral difficulty serving in holy orders in the CofE as it is presently constituted.

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    1. If all the good clergy leave... People decide for themselve and do what they think best.

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  3. Surely what you are against is in large part really about what you are for? ... The two things can't be divided.

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    1. Cathy, there's truth in what you say. What I am for are the central truths in the Gospel to love God and love others and pratice the Golden Rule...to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.

      What I am against is when the powerful oppress those who are less powerful. Despite evidence to the contrary, I expect better of the leadership in the church. Where is love? Where is grace in the stand against same-sex marriage?

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  4. But those are good things to be against and it's good to keep saying you are against them. I get where Giles Fraser is coming from but the church needs him, it seems to me.

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    1. The church does indeed need the likes of Giles at this very low point.

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  5. My perspective of the Church of England, from a safe distance outside it, suggests that Rev Giles Fraser's problem is not that the Church is moving away from him but that he is moving away from it, impelled by a current of modish social liberalism generated elsewhere. Whatever, I share and welcome his conclusion that it's time for him to leave the Church Times, and not just for the sake of his sanity. There is great value in loyalty, especially in difficult times for the church, and he clearly struggles with this concept.

    I've long felt that Rev Fraser is in danger of overstating his value and importance, and he confirmed this in his valedictory column. It's time someone told him he really isn't obliged to have, as he thinks, more opinions publicly than his friends and other mere mortals have privately, and he certainly isn't obliged to tell us all about them at every opportunity. Really - we won't mind.

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    1. Nor is anyone obliged to read Giles Fraser's opinions, if they find them tedious, which, by the way, has nothing whatever to do with whether Giles stays in the church. To stay or go is his decision to make, unless he is excommunicated.

      As for loyalty, as with all of us, the first loyalty is to our own conscience.

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, jebuk2.

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    2. Does loyalty to your church and its Archbishop mean nothing to you people? My comment referred not to his leaving the C of E, an issue of no interest to me as I'm not a member of it, but to his leaving The Church Times. Rev Fraser's most conspicuous fault is his ubiquity. I emailed him some years ago to tell him he was in danger of having an opinion about everything, though self-evidently he ignored that advice and has now persuaded himself, as he admitted in his valedictory, that he is obliged to have more opinions publicly than his friends have privately. (I note you left that disagreeably self-obsessed sentence out of your summary above. Very wise.) Apart from living down a coal-mine it's hard to escape Rev Fraser, as thanks to his self-appointment as the voice of a certain kind of churchman he pops in and out of the media with tedious regularity. And please note, the smug accusation of general homophobia implicit in the unfunny cartoon above you like so much simply won't do. Johnson was supposed to have said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. So too is the accusation of homophobia that is the knee-jerk insult hurled against anyone who, for example, opposes homosexual bishops (in the case of the C of E) or homosexual 'marriage', whatever their grounds. After all this time Rev Fraser et al should come up with something better. It is possible to oppose both these without a trace of homophobia, and it's simply glib, idle and insulting to assume otherwise.

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    3. jebuk2, loyalty to my church means a lot to me, but that does not place my church above criticism when I think it's warranted.

      I assume Giles Fraser's words would not be all over the place if few were interested in what he said. You can stop reading or turn off the program. That's what I do when I repeatedly dislike what someone says or find their commentary tedious.

      So the cartoon won't do, either. Well, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the ironic humor, but I do understand that what's funny to one may offend another or just leave them cold.

      I'm honestly trying to work out in my mind how a person can be opposed to gay bishops and same-sex marriage and be "without a trace of homophobia", and I confess I haven't got there yet, but I won't stop trying. I was once opposed to gay bishops, and I would have thought the idea of gay marriage preposterous, but I did a complete about-face and came to be an advocate for equality for LGTB persons. If you care to read of the process of my change of mind, the four-part story is linked on my sidebar under the title of "Confessions of a Recovering Homophobe." I was not a gay-basher; I thought I treated gay folks nicely, but I came to the conclusion that there was more than "a trace of homophobia" in my previous attitudes.

      Peace to you.

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    4. Read again Rev Fraser's observations about the new Archbishop and you'll fins a complete absence of the loyalty I'd expect to find and the church and Archbishop deserve and need. Rev Fraser's loyalty appears to be to Rev Fraser and his perceived duty to have more opinions publicly than his friends have privately.

      There isn't a trace of irony in that feeble cartoon. It's formulaic, smug and trite.

      And you don't have the right to assume that your admitted homophobia is shared by others, though I imagine you have a personal reason for doing this. Count me out, though. To me the issue is absolutely clear. I am divorced, and have a sexual relationship outside marriage. I am therefore barred from the Sacraments under rules of the Church. I accept that readily, though in sorrow, and get on with life. I miss the Sacraments, but accept that is the price I pay for my decision. Instead I try to make the best of the situation, and to make up for my failings by works of charity and kindness. I don't whinge about it though - I don't try to get the rules changed, I don't employ endless shallow sophistry to try to rationalise it, I don't try to monopolise the media to bang on about how terrible it is to be me, and I certainly don't set about breaking up my church on account of it. It's called loyalty. Now, what's wrong with that?

      Do by all means respond to this if you want, but I won't prolong this. I only contributed to say my piece about Rev Fraser.

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    5. And you don't have the right to assume that your admitted homophobia is shared by others, though I imagine you have a personal reason for doing this.

      Fair enough, and we all have our reasons.

      Definition of HOMOPHOBIA

      : irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
      (Merriam-Webster)

      I assume a rational "fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals" is not homophobia.

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    6. Please read this carefully. There's nothing irrational in a heterosexual's aversion to homosexuality. On the contrary. And while I freely acknowledge my fierce aversion to homosexuality I deny that this makes me homophobic, ie irrationally discriminatory towards homosexuals. End of discussion.

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    7. I can well understand why a heterosexual would not want to have a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex, but why would someone who is straight care if others of a different sexual orientation do? That is the point. Why do you care if persons of the same sex love each other and wish to share their lives and get married? Whether they are laity, priests, or bishops, if they love one another and wish to commit their lives to each other, how is that wrong?

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    8. I find homosexuality so baffling and so repugnant that I can't understand it, and even more why anyone should want to engage in it. I can't understand what it's like to be a Kalahari bushman, or a Tuareg, or an Inuit, either. As for marriage, that is an unique institution for two people of opposite gender. It had historical resonance, and geographic recognition and acceptance. The claim that people should be able to marry just because they love one another raises more questions than answers - for example, what about three people, or four? What about incestuous relationships? If a man loves three of his brothers do you expect any State to allow him to marry them, and form a set of polygamous homosexual incestuous partnerships with legal recognition? In the UK the state has made a provision for homosexual relationships to acquire legal status. It's called Civil Partnership. That seems to me a perfect solution, as it allows relationships such as you describe while not attempting to meddle with marriage. But no, within ten years that isn't good enough, so we embark on an absurd and immensely complex and damaging process of allowing same sex 'marriage' that annoys and offends more people than it accommodates. Meanwhile the economy, something that daily affects 95% of the population, steadily crumbles...

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    9. I'll not respond to your comment about your repugnance to homosexuality.

      You're surely right that marriage has taken many different forms throughout history. The rules that apply to marriage as it exists now would still apply, except if two persons of the same sex wish to marry, they could.

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  6. Somewhat against my better judgement I just read the first part of your Confessions, and found your conversion after observing Gene Robinson's antics incomprehensible, and perverse. His personal life and the manipulation of the Anglican church by him and his followers to accommodate it had precisely to opposite effect on me; I gave up all hope of the Anglican church standing for anything consistent or recognisable in centuries of teaching. See my earlier comments on divorce and admission to the Sacraments.

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    1. Well then, we disagree. I told my story, and that's how it was.

      You miss your connection to the church, and I'd wish for you to find a way back. Apparently, you are in a faithful, committed relationship, and, whether married or not, I can't believe God frowns on your love for one another.

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    2. More assumptions... I once worked for a very successful and highly ethical company whose founder and Chairman would become enraged by the word 'assume', and tell its user 'The verb 'to assume' does not belong in this company's vocabulary.' I was brought up an Anglican in a strongly Anglican family, at a time when the Church of England was clear as to is meaning and direction. Not any more, thanks to a clique (among them Robinson and Fraser and their like) that have highjacked and totally confused it. It has now become a shambles, a laughing-stock, and ultimately doomed to schism. I deeply regret this even from outside it - in the UK the C of E of course stands for Christianity at large, and its fiercest enemies are having a field-day at its expense. My recent experiences of the C of E are dreadful. I went with a close friend who is C of E to an Easter communion a few years ago. The woman Lay Reader gave a superb sermon on St John's eye-witness account of the discovery of the empty tomb and on the vivid and convincing story it told, and then said 'But of course, you don't have to believe this - the vicar doesn't.' And when I questioned this paradox afterwards she snarled 'You're just a fundamentalist!' and swept off to have coffee with her acolytes. The same C of E friend is a member of her church Parochial Church Council, the lay people running the parish, who complained bitterly about having a Communion service on Christmas Day, and only shut up when the woman vicar told them it is a statutory requirement in England and Wales. Their PCC meetings are obsessed with a project to build at huge expense, money they haven't got, a public lavatory to be attached to their lovely and unique Georgian church ina tiny villages, despite the opposition of the Georgian Society, English Heritage and even the Diocese. That lavatory is their first concern, at a time like this. You couldn't make it up...shades of 'Clochemerle'. The safe distance between me and the C of E to which I referred in an earlier comment comes from my 30 years as a Catholic. For all its evident faults I've found everything I need there, including ritual and ceremony, music, community, direction, certainty, consistency, friendships, two first-class god-sons and loads of other things unique to Catholicism. So don't worry about me - I'm fine, thanks.

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    3. I was brought up an Anglican in a strongly Anglican family, at a time when the Church of England was clear as to is meaning and direction.

      That made me smile because I'm now reading a biography of Thomas Cranmer, and I've read a good bit of history of the Church of England, and I doubt there was ever a time when the church was as clear about meaning and direction as you suggest.

      I'm pleased you've found what you need in the Roman Catholic Church. I spent 60 years in the RCC, but the child abuse and cover-up was so very repugnant to me that I could not stay.

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    4. Two points for you.

      First, I do not minimise or excuse child abuse, and I have the deepest contempt for those who engage in it or hide it. But if 6% of priests (someone's estimate) engaged in child abuse, 94% did not. That's sixteen times as many good ones as bad ones. I also have contempt for those who have allowed this issue to take over the agenda and obsess about the 6%, while overlooking the immense contribution to the church, its people and its communities of the 94%.

      Second, I take it that for 60 years you accepted the doctrines specific to the Church. What was true during that 60 years has not ceased to be true; it remains so. And if you still accept these truths there is only one possible church for you, whatsoever your problems with child abuse and cover-up.

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    5. jebuk2, I doubt I need to tell you that I won't be following your advice.

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    6. It isn't advice,. It's a statement of fact.

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