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

Janet Street-Porter
Sunday 11 July 2010 00:00 BST

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.

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