But another barrier was broken this week, when the Diocese of Toronto green lit the election of openly gay bishop Kevin Robertson.
Robertson, one of three new suffragan bishops in the Diocese, has two children with his partner Mohan.
The 45-year-old said: “I’m very overwhelmed… I didn’t really expect to be here, but I’m deeply, deeply honoured. I realise this is an historic day in the life of our church.
“It’s no secret that I’m the first openly gay, partnered bishop-elect in the diocese and perhaps in the Canadian church as well, and I know that for some people that’s a real challenge and for others it’s the fulfilment of what they’ve been hoping and praying for for a very long time.
Source: =· PinkNews
Venantius Fortunatus was a poet, born c. 530 in Treviso, near Ravenna in Italy. He spent his time as court poet to the Merovingians. After visiting the tomb of St. Martin of Tours at St. Hilary at Poitiers, he decided to enter a monastery. He continued to write poetry, some of which have a permanent place in Catholic hymnody, for instance the Easter season hymns “Vexilla Regis” and the “Pange Lingua” (Sing, O my tongue, of the battle). Three or four years before he died he was made bishop of Poitiers. Although never canonized, he was venerated as a saint in the medieval church, and his feast day is still recognized on 14th December each year.
Opponents of women or gay men as bishops in the Anglican communion, argue that while these might be acceptable to Western “liberals”, they would never be accepted by Christians in the growth regions of the church, in Africa and Asia. This claim totally overlooks the historical fact that in both Africa and Asia, same – sex relationships were part of traditional culture in many parts of both continents before the arrival of Western missionaries – and that before the widely publicized election of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay man elected to the episcopacy in North America, at least two openly gay bishops had been selected in both Africa (Mervyn Castle, in False Bay, Cape Town), and in the Soloman Isles, in the Pacific region.
Similarly, there have been four women recently named as bishops, but only one, from Ireland, has been widely reported. Yet Rt Revd Ellinah Wamukoya was consecrated Bishop of Swaziland in November 2012 and the Rt Revd Margaret Vertue, for False Bay (adjoining Cape Town in South Africa) in January 2013, and more recently, Rev. Eggoni Pushpalalitha in South India
In addition, the Wikipedia entry on women bishops in the Anglican communion reports that women bishops have been approved, but not yet appointed, in Bangladesh, Brazil, Central America, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, North India, Philippines, Scotland, Sudan, Uganda. and Ugnada. With so many countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America accepting of women bishops, the claim that the “rest of the world” is not ready, simply does not hold water.
A report from Anglican News noted that the recent provincial synod for Southern Africa, attended by the two new women bishops, devoted considerable attention to remaining problems of gender imbalance.
Anglicans Welcome Women Bishops and Wrestle with Gender Justice within the Church
While the Anglican Church of Southern Africa had two women Bishops at its Provincial Synod for the first time, it also passed a motion pressing for better gender balance in its meetings and structures.
The Rt Revd Ellinah Wamukoya was consecrated Bishop of Swaziland in November 2012 and the Rt Revd Margaret Vertue in January 2013, and were among eight new bishops at the Synod, which has been meeting this week in Benoni, South Africa.
In his address to the opening session of the Synod, Archbishop Makgoba recalled his words at the previous meeting of Synod, ‘Those of you who were here three years ago will remember me admitting I dreamed of consecrating a woman bishop for our Province – by the grace of God, we now have two!’
Nonetheless, participants in the meeting noted that among Synod members, men outnumbered women by more than three to one, and so a motion was passed calling on steps to be taken to work towards a more equal balance particularly in key bodies of the Church.
- Anglican Church of Southern Africa considers Pastoral Response to Civil Unions(thinkinganglicans.org.uk)
- Church of South India elects first woman bishop (thinkinganglicans.org.uk)
- Church in Wales votes in favour of women bishops (thinkinganglicans.org.uk)
- One Reason S.A. Anglicans could never be part of GAFCON(kiwianglo.wordpress.com)
- Has Pope Francis a major blind spot regarding the role of women in the Church?(tabamantia.wordpress.com)
- Patricia Storey to be Bishop of Meath and Kildare (thinkinganglicans.org.uk)
- First females elected to attend House of Bishops (thinkinganglicans.org.uk)
The Church of England is considering allowing gay couples to have their civil partnerships blessed in church.
Insiders have told The Mail on Sunday that a top-level panel of bishops set up to review the Church’s policy on homosexuality is actively discussing the issue.
If the reform is approved, vicars would be permitted to conduct a formal blessing service in church for a same-sex couple who have earlier ‘tied the knot’ at a register office.
Union: Television presenter Clare Balding (right) and Alice Arnold at their civil ceremony in 2006
But any move to relax the ban on such blessings would provoke the biggest split yet in the Church, which is already reeling from rows over women and gay bishops.
One option the panel is expected to consider is a compromise under which gay couples seeking a blessing could be asked to declare they intend to remain celibate, in line with official Church teaching.
But this could create a backlash among gay couples, who would regard it as demeaning to be quizzed about their private lives.
A source close to the working party said that a ‘wide-ranging discussion’ was under way covering a ‘whole range of options’ and recommendations will be made to the House of Bishops later this year.
– more at Mail Online.
- The Church of England criticised over ‘unenforceable’ gay bishop stance (metro.co.uk)
- Church of England lifts ban on gay bishops (aljazeera.com)
- Gay bishops move sparks fresh row (bbc.co.uk)
- Church of England decides to allow gay bishops (scotsman.com)
- Church Of England Says Gay Men Can Be Bishops (news.sky.com)
- Don’t Require Gay Bishops to Be Celibate (forcechange.com)
Gay Bishops in Church History
One story is particularly striking. At the close of the 11th Century, Archbishop Ralph of Tours persuaded the King of France to install as Bishop of Orleans a certain John – who was widely known as Ralph’s gay lover, as he had previously been of Ralph’s brother and predecessor as Bishop of Orleans, of the king himself, and of several other prominent men. This was strongly opposed by prominent churchmen, on the grounds that John was too young and would be too easily influenced by Ralph. (Note, please, that the opposition was not based on the grounds of sexuality, or even of promiscuity). Ivo of Chartres tried to get Pope Urban II to intervene. Now, Urban had strong personal reasons, based in ecclesiastical and national politics, to oppose Ralph. Yet he declined to do so. In spite of well-founded opposition, John was consecrated Bishop of Orleans on March 1, 1098, when he joined two of his own lovers, and numerous others, in the ranks of openly homosexual Catholic Bishops. Continue reading Openly Gay Bishop Consecrated in 1098
Although some would dispute the description of Paulinus as ‘gay’, the description seems to me entirely appropriate to his sensibility. Although history records no evidence of physical expression of his same sex attraction, nor is there any evidence against it. Given the historical context he was living in (4th/5th century Roman empire) , when sex with either gender was commonplace for men at at all levels of society, inside and outside the Christian church, the absence of written records of private activities after 15 centuries is completely unremarkable. Nor is the fact that he was married particularly significant – for Romans, marriage and sex with men were entirely compatible.
What is known is that he was passionately in love with a man, Ausonius, to whom he addressed exquisitely tender love poetry. This is of sufficient quality and gay sensibility to be included in the Penguin book of homosexual verse:
I, through all chances that are given to mortals,
And through all fates that be,
So long as this close prison shall contain me,
Yea, though a world shall sunder me and thee,
Thee shall I hold, in every fibre woven,
Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
Instant and present, thou, in every place.
Yea, when the prison of this flesh is broken,
And from the earth I shall have gone my way,
Wheresoe’er in the wide universe I stay me,
There shall I bear thee, as I do today.
Think not the end, that from my body frees me,
Breaks and unshackles from my love to thee;
Triumphs the soul above its house in ruin,
Deathless, begot of immortality.
Still must she keep her senses and affections,
Hold them as dear as life itself to be,
Could she choose death, then might she choose forgetting:
Living, remembering, to eternity.
[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]
The CDF’s famous (or infamous) letter “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” makes the claim “Thus, the Church’s teaching today is in organic continuity with the Scriptural perspective and with her own constant Tradition” , and later states “Scripture bids us speak the truth in love”. This is the image that the established church so likes to proote – of an authoritative, unchanging tradition “speaking the truth” for all time. The image favoured by the church, howeer, is a false one.
In the context of current arguments about the papacy and its authority, it is worth recalling just how false is this proposition: for the tradition has not been “unchanging”, nor has it always spoken “truth”. Indeed, the only constant over 2000 years of church history has been that of constant change.
Josephus at “Salus Animarum” has been posting on reflections prompted by reading of Alan Bray‘s “The Friend”, and sharing thoughts on church history. This is a useful point then to remind readers of just how much church practice concerning same sex relationships has changed over two millenia. The present intransigent attitude of the church against “gay marriage”, or even against civil partnerships, obscures the fact that in other times and places the church has sanctioned some form of same sex relationships, and even provided them with liturgical recognition.
John Boswell was the first scholar to establish in his research that the early church included a liturgical rite of “adelphopoeisis”, or “making of brothers”. This he identified as having some of the characteristics pertaining to the marriage forms of his day. In his two books, he also drew attention to the number of prominent churchmen and women in earlier times who are known to have had intimate same sex relationships in their own lives. Bernadette Brooten has extended this research into same sex relationships in early Christianity with a particular focus on women, while Alan Bray approached the topic from a different angle: in “The Friend”, he examined a number of instances of English and other churches where tombstones and church records tell of same sex couples buried in single graves, in exactly the same way that married couples sometimes were. Like Boswell, he too finds evidence in the early church of a rite of “adelphopoeisis”. Like Bray, in tun, Valerie Abrahamsen has examined evidence of same sex burials – from Macedonia in the 6th Century.
Scholars, of course, differ amongst themselves about the precise significance of these findings – in particular, whether these relationships can be thought of as resembling marriage rites, or even if there is likely to have been any erotic implications to them at all. I do not wish to go into these nuances – it is enough for my purpose simply to show that liturgical practice concerning same sex relationships has changed. Today they are vigourously opposed in any form, but in earlier times, from the early church in Rome and Byzantium, to much more recent periods in Western Europe, the Church has provided liturgical recognition for some form of same sex relationships at their formation, and at their dissolution at death.
Many other examples of changes in church teaching and practice could easily be produced – priestly celibacy was not required for the first millenium of history, marriage was not recognised as a sacrament, the church before modern times endorsed slavery and the inferior position of women (in its practice, it still does – but I am not going to venture down that path at present).
But most important, is to recognise that the papacy and the institution of papal power have themselves been subject to constant change. It is worth remembering that the origins of the current fuss lie exactly in the repudiation by the SSPX of the Second Vatican Council – a council notable, among other things, for its attempt to recast the balance of power within the Church, with a much enhanced role for the laity. Even the doctrine of papal infallibility, so widely known but so widely misunderstood, is of relatively recent origin.
Even the institution itself does not extend back to the earliest days of the church. Before there was a pope, the Bishop of Rome was just one among many, then one of 5 patriarchs of equal stature. After the rise of Islam placed the patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandra under Muslim domination, just two patriarchs, of Rome and Constantinople, remained. In time, the Bishop of Rome acquired special status and power in the Western church, while that of Constantinople did so in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I have come across a fascinating series of articles by Tom Lee in the Australian internet forum “Catolica”, which has been tracing in weekly instalments, the story of the first 500 years of the Christian church and “the invention” of the papacy. I have found the early chapters riveting reading, for the insightful picture they paint of the historical setting for the Gospels, and the beginnings of the spread of the Christianity. I look forward to reading the rest.
As we continue to watch, fascinated, the extraordinary machinations in Vatican City over SSPX, or despair at ongoing stupidities on sexuality, we can perhaps take comfort from the changing past. The one thing we know for sure is that the papacy and its teachings, as we now know them will certainly change. What we don’t yet know, is how – or when.