Wednesday 9 December 2009

Why does God call lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into ministry?

'For some mysterious reason, the Anglican Church attracts a disproportionate number of homosexuals into its leadership ranks. Once they arrive, understandably, they can’t see why their presence is resisted; even though I disagree with the promoting of practising homosexual leadership in the church, I have some sympathy with them because Anglican liberals have “included”, “tolerated” and befriended homosexuals into an illusory sense of leadership entitlement'

So Anglican Samizdat writes on his blog:

In the same vein of thought, David writes on Ruth’s blog:

“I still can't work out why … "liberal" bishops and senior clergy continued to encourage gay people to offer for ordained ministry, without asking them to consider whether they would be able to cope should they have to continue to live an abstinent, single life."

David Cohen says:

Colin Coward has always known the church's teaching about homosexuality, but has nevertheless infiltrated himself into its ordained ministry - and now complains because of the compassion he has been shown along the way!
“Whatever his sexuality, his duplicity and disloyalty to his friends ought to disqualify him from serving as an ordained minister in the Church of England.”

I used to puzzle about this when I was young and in Southwark – why so many gay priests in the church? There could only be one answer – because God called them.

David Cohen, you are wrong. I did not know in 1957, the year I was confirmed, became an altar server and realized I was gay, the church’s teaching on homosexuality. The church did not have a publicly articulated teaching on homosexuality then. It came later, driven by conservatives in response to the development of gay visibility in society and campaigns for gay rights and equality.

I did not ‘infiltrate’ myself into the church’s ministry. What a foul phrase, David, and one that confirms all my prejudices about conservative evangelicals being nasty, prejudiced people struggling with the Bible and the teaching of Jesus.

I very tentatively offered myself for ordination at the age of 29 to Canon Nigel Harley, Rector of St Michael’s Basingstoke. In truth, it was Nigel who pushed me, and he is now proud of having done so, retired and still happily married (before other nasty thoughts arise in David’s mind.

I went through a rigorous selection process in Winchester Diocese, ACCM, and at Westcott House. At each stage my sense of the rightness of my vocation increased and I became convinced that I was being called by God. This is a truth so difficult for many to accept – God calls, unconditionally, LGBT people into lay an ordained ministry. God does not impose the conditions now being imposed by the church. Their formulation is more recent than my ordination.

The other David wonders why liberal bishops and senior clergy continue to encourage gay people to offer for ordained ministry. It is because they recognize that gay people offering themselves for ordained ministry have an authentic vocation. They also represent that tradition in the church in which I grew up, that God welcomes and blesses the loving relationships of lesbian and gay people. They disapprove of the prejudice based on a false reading of scripture which has intimidated the Church of England hierarchy.

Finally, Anglican Samizdat thinks Anglican liberals have “included”, “tolerated” and befriended homosexuals into an illusory sense of leadership entitlement There is nothing illusory here. God presents lesbian and gay people with our vocations and some of us are called by God to become not only priests, but bishops and archbishops in the church (and even, dare it be said, Primates). Most of them believe that a healthy human being is one who is integrated, loving, honest and compassionate. They may be celibate themselves, but would not believe it wrong for a partnered gay person to become a bishop.

I am not tolerated grudgingly by the bishops I know well. I am genuinely befriended and welcomed. And we live in this semi-private world of awareness of the hundreds of lesbian and gay priests in the same position, me frustrated, they compromised by church rules.

Ex-pisky writes:

“It is obvious that Rowan would like full "inclusion" of the GLTBQ crowd. He would like to do it, however, without destroying the Anglican Communion, minimizing the schism. But for the likes of Colin Coward, they simply don't care. They will destroy the CoE and AC to carry out their radical agenda...NOW.”

The LGBTQ crowd cares deeply, very deeply, about the pain and distress we experience, the terrors experienced by LGBT people in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, we care deeply about the way in which reactionary conservative forces have grabbed this issue and are using it to drive us out of the church and the church itself to schism, and we care deeply about the destructive path they pursue.

I received an email this morning in response to yesterday’s blog:

“For this gay man I find the increasing misfit between the wonderfully inclusive congregation where I worship and what is coming out of Lambeth and elsewhere, including our own Bishops, deeply confusing, distressing and dis-heartening.”

My anonymous writer expresses the feelings of tens of thousands of English Anglicans. We can worship in wonderfully inclusive congregations and are distressed by the misfit. God has called us into the church in faith, and we are NOT LETTING GO of our ministry, faith, or vocations!


  1. Are you serious? It's not the upscale appeal of doing choreography (sorry-"liturgy"), getting to wear expensive satin outfits and hang around others who share their orientation and be paid for it?
    You might as well ask why gays are disproportionately represented in the ranks of those buying houses in Key West, Provincetown, Aspen or Vermont: it's an upscale way to escape.

  2. How about this question: Why so few clergy of color in a church that claims to "celebrate its diversity"? Why do you preach a rainbow and then pray in a church 96% white (and middle/upper middle class/North European white)and live in expensive ghettos?

  3. Brad, you seem to have no conception at all of the way in which people experience God at work in their lives - even in the lives of gay liberals and radicals. My vocation experience was and is deeply rich and holy and it's sad that all you can do is sneer at those of us called by God into faith or ministry.

    The question about people of colour and the lack of diversity in UK congregations is challenging. The Church of England was tragically unwelcoming to post-war immigrants and this explains in part why they left and formed their own congregations and churches. But there are many integrated congregations with majority of people of colour.

    Living in expensive ghettos is another snide comment, untrue and unworthy of a Christian. Gay priests are renowned for having sacrificed personal ambition and an easy life to minister in inner city parishes.

  4. Is it possible that the truth might be somewhere in the middle in some cases?

    I am not for one moment questioning your own vocation Colin but surely you'd admit that there are elements of church life that are screamingly camp? And whilst some of the vicarages I've seen are ghastly 1970s boxes no self-respecting poof would ever wish to live in, others are absolutely to die for!!

    As a gay man myself(whose career was in a sterotypically gay job in HR) I feel I'm allowed to make these observations!

    Just trying to lighten the mood here a little :-)

    Laurence C.

    PS I also understand that at St. Stephen's House, Oxford the ordinands' "names in religion" are always girls' names such as Ethel or Shirley! Not like St. John's Nottingham which is MUCH more butch (where Chris Sugden went).

  5. I am still shocked at the use of the word "inflitrate". We are talking across such a huge divide here, it is hard to know how to begin!

    What do you do with a mindest that sees Christianity as a clean, straight faith which unclean people may wish to join and which they illegally and immorally infiltrate, because no decent Christian would give them houseroom?

    What do you do with a mindest that doesn't even understand that we believe we are genuintly called by God, not that we simply try to find devious ways to undermine what's right?

    And what do you do with a mindset that doesn't even comprehend the possibility that God may be calling lgbt people just as they are, without wanting them to change first?

    The certainty of it, the self-righteousness of it, and the lack of humility of it leave me genuinely speechless.

    I'm only glad that in decent society, people like this are becoming fewer and fewer.
    I am sad that all those misfits seem to find refuge from science, theology and compassion in our churches.

  6. Lack of diversity? It's 96% white (middle/upper middle class white/north European white at that) here in the US and Canada. "Challenging"? I guess that's churchspeak for "we preach one thing at headquarters but nothing changes at the grassroots level".
    If it's god calling why aren't they there? You don't think that there are any elements of self-selection at work? "Like calling to like"?

  7. Colin, Brad Evans is an atheist, racist, Statesonian who makes the round of progressive Anglican/Episcopalian blogs making dumb ass comments. At worst ignore him, at best remove his comments. If he gets no attention he moves on.

  8. I guess that means that you don't believe anything I said is accurate? You'd rather say "Hater" than address what was said.
    Another sign of Mainline protestantism's irrelevance; you respond to anything not an encomium with shrieks.