Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Give Him a Crook and a Vocation

Saturday’s Telegraph article about the selection of the next Bishop of Manchester (Church of England diocese asks for gay-friendly bishop) hardly needs comment by us. 

It is just possible, as David Keen reminds us, that the Diocese of Manchester has a broader agenda. But when the world wishes to talk only about sex, the Church must surely address herself to its concerns. In theological language this is called “meeting people where they are”. So let us meet the Daily Telegraph where it is and ask: just how gay should the Bishop of Manchester be?

The answer is surely a little bit gay, but not too much gay. (And stop calling me Shirley.) Gay enough to be inclusive, but not so gay as to cause embarrassment when photographed with a queen, or when appointed to be Clerk of the Closet (this just writes itself, doesn’t it?).

What is needed is a moderate (how very Anglican): someone who will go to Gay Pride but not dance. Someone who enjoyed Will & Grace, but pretends to have preferred Debra Messing in the (offensively heterosexualist) the Wedding Date. Someone who will look, but definitely not touch (Issues).

The Daily Telegraph suggests that the Dean of St Albans (pictured) and the Bishop of Buckingham may benefit from preferment according to this new approach. It is a pity (and not a little non-inclusive) that both these gentlemen come from the butch lesbian end of the scale. But more significantly they express different sorts of compromise: Dr John is more gay in person, and Dr Wilson more gay in principle.

The Manchester representatives on the CNC will have to be more decided about what they are asking for. Would the Manchester branch of Inclusive Church feel sufficiently affirmed if, for example, their new bishop was pro-gay marriage, but didn’t like the films of Barbara Streisand? Or conversely, if he had voted against civil partnerships but knew all the lyrics to Rent? Or (coming from the other end) would the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans work with an openly gay bishop who only put the tip in? What is the bottom line?

At Plumstead Rectory we consider these questions quite detachedly, having no opinions on such modern controversies. However, it is certain that the Manchester Vacancy-in-See Committee’s longing for high camp will increase the chance of an Anglo-Catholic appointment, and so we are in favour of it.

Anglo-Catholics are well used to ecstatic young men in tight trousers prancing down the aisles, and among our clergy the unofficial policy has long been Don’t Need to Ask, Don’t Have to Tell. Even those of us who are married are often assumed to be preaching the gospel of of Q, presumably because our beauty and sensitivity contrasts with the rugged masculinity of our evangelical sisters.

We could easily suggest to the Crown Nominations Commission the names of clergymen who would produce a good impression in Canal St. Discretion, however (always our strong suit at Plumstead Rectory) forbids us to be specific. But the Commission should be assured that there are plenty of candidates more than willing to be all things to all men.

As for Accepting Evangelicals, Manchester should certainly not. It is important that evangelicals feel affirmed, loved and welcomed, but the Church of England must continue to insist that they fall short of the ideal.

Manchester must, at its own desire, be given a bishop from that part of the church that loves each sparkle and each bangle. But we strongly urge the Commission not to consider anyone who already owns a rainbow-coloured stole. Despite appearances, that would not be our idea of zhooshy drag.

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