Editor-At-Large: The C of E will die if it shuts out gays and women

Related Topics

Am I a believer? Yes. Educated at a church school, like half the population, I'm a part-time member of the C of E – turning up to weddings, christenings and funerals, the Christmas carol service, and maybe harvest festival. But our church seems to be turning into a reactionary club I'm not sure I want to be part of, a battle ground where senior clergy behave appallingly to each other, all in the name of religion.

Matters came to a head last week, when Jeffrey John, the popular Dean of St Albans, had his career blocked once again because he's gay, even though he's in a civil partnership, but celibate. (In 2010, I can't see why a gay man in a civil partnership should be obliged to forgo sex in the name of God, but that's the ludicrous tithe exacted by our not-so-enlightened spiritual leaders.)

We live in a society where children routinely have one parent, marriage is at an all-time low, and the divorce rate is soaring. Civil partnerships have been a huge success, accepted by the vast majority of the public. For a large number of Anglican leaders, however, the clock must be turned back.

In 2003, John was designated Bishop of Reading – cue outrage from Anglican conservatives – and the church's leader, Rowan Williams, persuaded John to stand down in the name of unity. Now, following the leaking of confidential discussions, John's name has been taken off the shortlist to be appointed the next Bishop of Southwark, a job for which he would have been perfectly suited.

Ironically, a former Bishop of Southark, Mervyn Stockwood, was gay, but not public about his sexuality. John's crime is that he is in a civil partnership, albeit a sexless one.

Up and down the land, local newspapers feature pictures of smiling same-sex couples on their wedding pages. It's no longer a source of comment. In the arcane world of the Anglican church, a group of bishops will be spending this weekend at the General Synod nit-picking over what it means to be nearer to God – and for a minority that means blocking female bishops and banning gay priests. If our spiritual wellbeing is in the hands of this bunch of small-minded reactionaries, then we do need God's help.

Rowan Williams used to support same-sex relationships and once described them as "comparable" to marriage. Now, he's sacrificed all credibility in his desperate attempts to keep the church intact. He thinks it's OK for priests to be gay as long as they are celibate. Words fail me.

Moderate evangelicals, who hold the balance of power in the synod, support female bishops but are against openly gay members of the clergy. The Reform group is opposed to female bishops and priests and gays, full stop. Rowan Williams, in trying to placate a bunch of extremists, fails us all. He holds on to power and tries to stick the Anglican church together when it's constantly on the edge of disintegrating, instead of facing the inevitable and accepting that it will split into liberal and conservative breakaway groups.

Does it really matter? Ironic that we have a coalition government, which has so readily been accepted by the vast majority of the public, while our church leaders, who should be showing moral leadership, behave like a bunch of toddlers chucking rattles out of the playpen when they encounter anyone who doesn't agree.

I want a church that reconnects with our population and offers support to the needy. A church that's open to all. A church that cares for the elderly and blesses all unions, including same-sex civil partnerships. I don't want a church that's run like a private members' club, with special rules and regulations and exclusions.

I suspect that middle England would agree with me. Last week, the Daily Mail printed a letter from a female reader who said, "I would rather have a good woman priest than a mediocre male one. God said we're all equal in His eyes." I'm sure that point of view is echoed throughout the land. Not, however, in the upper echelons of the Anglican church, where women, gays and lesbians are still thought (in some quarters) to be not worthy of inclusion. Feeble Rowan Williams has failed his flock, and victory for the bullies ensures the Anglican church will sink into obscurity.

She'll be lucky: 'Carmen' and Château Lafite beat Kylie any day

A senior judge has ruled that gay refugees have the right to asylum in this country on the basis that they could face ill-treatment in their homeland because of their sexuality. The landmark ruling in the UK's Supreme Court was welcomed by human rights campaigners and gay groups.

Lord Rodger seems to have a pretty narrow view of homosexuality, however. Delivering his judgement he said, "Just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls ... so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys..."

Kylie? Cocktails? What circles does this member of the judiciary move in? My circle of gay pals enjoy opera, heavy metal, tennis and fine wine. Some might even consider Kylie the tiniest bit naff. Gays come in all shapes and sizes, your honour. Perhaps you need to broaden your musical tastes a fraction.

A top formula for offence

The new boss of ITV, Adam Crozier, has run the Football Association and Royal Mail – neither of which seems ideal preparation for the heady world of celebrities, stars and sport he's now charged with turning into profitability. Mr Crozier, whose annual salary could top £2.5m, spent a huge amount of time battling with the postal unions – and was hardly renowned for his people skills. Now he's upset senior staff by asking them to undergo aptitude tests. Psychometric exercises ask workers how sociable they are at parties, and whether they analyse their conversations afterwards. They've also got to attend sessions with a life coach. The results will be used by Mr Crozier to "improve performance". If Mr Crozier thinks this process will produce a hit TV format, he is wrong.

Blackpool is no Taj Mahal

Blackpool is on a list of British contenders to be rated a Unesco World Heritage site, with Offa's Dyke and the cliffs at Dover. The Tourism minister claimed "all the sites nominated have a wow factor and cultural resonance". Has this chap ever tried to get anything decent to eat on the Golden Mile? Has he visited the pleasure beach when it's blowing a gale? The last time I booked a hotel room in Blackpool, I spent four minutes in it. One look at the 1950s candlewick bedspread, polyester sheets, shag pile carpet and three-piece suite brought on claustrophobia. I decamped to nice, middle-class Lytham St Annes. I'm returning to Blackpool on Tuesday for a concert and planning to take a picnic. Last week, I swam every day off the mud flats of the Kent coast, where the food is excellent and historic towns like Whitstable, Hythe and Sandwich are a joy to explore. Nominating Blackpool as a heritage site is plain bonkers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page


Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch