I listened to the radio and heard of a dead Bishop.
From the BBC…
“The Right Reverend Derek Rawcliffe was an openly gay Bishop who has died aged 89.
In March 1995 the Right Reverend Derek Rawcliffe discussed his homosexuality on Newsnight and, in doing so, became the first openly gay Church of England bishop. Rawcliffe had spent more than 30 years working on islands in the south Pacific and had been awarded the OBE for his services. In the 1980s he transferred to a very different diocese when he was appointed Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway.
John Wilson spoke to the BBC’s former religious affairs correspondent Ted Harrison.
Derek Rawcliffe was born 8 July 1921 and died 1 February 2011.”
In July the guardian reported that
“Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, was in the running for the senior position at Southwark until his name was leaked, enabling conservative clerics to stop the appointment. An embattled Williams has now launched an inquiry at Lambeth Palace to find out who divulged the name.
The archbishop was appalled that John's name was disclosed in a successful attempt to derail his candidacy, exactly seven years after he was forced to stand down as the prospective bishop of Reading following a previous outcry by conservative evangelicals against John's sexuality. Fingers are being pointed at the same evangelical hardliners who orchestrated the 2003 campaign.”
The matter of appointing Bishops has another significant focus for men like Dr John which is that prospective Bishops are, canonically required to be seen as a ‘focus for unity’.
In August 2010 Thinking Anglican’s were able to report that....
“Mr Brett then asked Mr Fittall a supplementary question:
Within the procedure for appointing bishops, what is the understanding of what it means to be a focus of unity in a diocese.
Mr Fittall replied:
That’s a very good question and it’s a phrase that I think is allowed to speak for itself. It is a canonical requirement that a bishop should be a focus of unity. And it is for the judgment, in the case of a suffragan bishop, of the diocesan bishop, advised by those who support him in that process. And in the case of diocesan appointments it is for the judgment of the Crown Nominations Commission. And those making appointments have to take account of a wide range of considerations, including statements made by the House of Bishops. It is at the end of the day a judgment.”
Doing a little joined up thinking then I wonder if The Right Reverend Derek Rawcliffe or indeed Dr. John would stand any chance of becoming a Bishop today? Has anything changed or would the church hide behind canonical requirement?
Of course the Church of England embraces gay Bishops, even those with partners. It is because these particular people choose not to be open about their sexuality and their relationships that the Church of England finds them acceptable.
As to the phrase ‘focus of unity’, I think that does not help one jot. Many Bishops are appointed who were not a ‘focus for unity’ for various groups within diocese, and clearly they are not barred from preferment.
Mr. Fittalls’ words are ringing in my ears. “It is at the end of the day a judgment.” Yes Mr Fittall, but whose judgement?