SO DO GAYS HAVE A GODGIVEN RIGHT TO THE PULPIT?; as an Anglican Church Gay Rights Group Prepares to Stage a Conference in Liverpool, the ECHO Looks at the Debate on Gay Clergy

Article excerpt

FOR GAYPRIESTS Mike Homfray,Lay Convenor,Liverpool Diocesan Group of Changing Attitude.

SOMETIMES we can forget that, when we discuss whether there should be gay priests, the reality of the contemporary Church of England is that it is well served by its many ordained gay and lesbian people.

The questionis:Should those gay priests be allowed to live honest and fulfilled lives, within the context of loving and faithful gay partnerships? Or should the current uneasy compromise, which allows the laity to have relationships but not the clergy,be allowed to continue?

At the moment,many gay priests live lonely, repressedlives,in fear of being `foundout',particularly if their Bishop is unsympathetic.

Sadly, the experience of celibate gay priest Jeffrey John -who was opposed as Bishop of Reading -displayed that the bullying and intolerance of some parts of the Church is all too real,and their claim that gay priests not in relationships are able to serve as clergy somewhat bogus.

The Church has to recognise that gay relationships can be good. Christian relationships are based on love,commitment,faithfulness and mutuality and there is ample evidence that these qualities can be found in gay relationships.

Opposition to same-sex activity are found in a small number of Bible references,but the Bible also tells us not to eat shellfish or turkey,for women to be silent in church,and for all governments to be obeyed.

We need to recognise that the Bible was written by men of a particular outlook and culture in an age where the idea that people could be gay by orientation or have faithful and loving gay relationships wasn't even recognised.

I think there is no evidence that the Bible prohibits gay relationships which reflect the Christian ethical framework. I would also question the justice of treating clergy differently from laity when we are all children of God.

Same-sex civil partnerships are on their way and the Church will be faced with the choice between holding on to discriminatory and outdated ideas which will make less and less sense in a society where gay and lesbian people are regarded as equal citizens or openly welcoming gay people and their relationships.

The current situation encourages a climate of repression which undermines Christian wholeness, sexual or otherwise, and promotes, rather thenprevents, homophobia in the Church.

The way forward for the Church of England is to allow all Christians,ordained and lay,enough personal integrity to work out faithful patterns of sexual and personal loving relationships, irrespective of whether we are heterosexual,gay, or lesbian.

THE former Bishop of Durham David Jenkins will be the main speaker at the Changing Attitudes conference on homosexual issues.

The aim of the Anglican gay rights campaigners is to make their the church more inclusive and accepting of people with different sexual orientations.

Topics under discussion at the Liverpool conference are likely to include the appointment of an openly gay bishop of New Hampshire,USA,Gene Robinson,plus celibate gay priest Jeffrey John who was recently forced to withdraw his claim to the post of Bishop of Reading. …