Giles Fraser has invited Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire to preach this summer during the Lambeth Conference (to which +Gene is not invited.) Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear that while he does not have the power to ban Bishop Robinson from English pulpits, he would much prefer that Gene not preach in his country.
Giles has written a column challenging the Archbishop's actions by reminding us all that this is not the first time that such bans have been issued. Maude Royden, a popular woman speaker was banned from speaking from the pulpits of England in the early 20th century because of her gender. An English priest defied the ban.
From Giles' column:
"The Rector was defiant. He closed the church — putting up the notice of prohibition — and invited the worshippers to gather in the parish hall instead. Nine hundred people tried to get in. A petition was organised and sent to the Bishop: ‘When an evangelist so plainly called by God is harassed and impeded by those who should be her chiefest upholders and strengtheners, we feel the time for silent acquiescence is past.’
Conservative voices complained at the presence of ‘ecclesiastical Bolshevists’, and that a woman giving a sermon to men was radical feminism gone mad.
Giles points out the connections between then and now:
The contemporary parallels are depressing. I have invited the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, to preach at St Mary’s, Putney. There are no legal impedi-ments to this. But the powers that be want this to happen ‘after the service’ or ‘in the church hall’. Apparently, a few bars on the organ, or the gap between the church and the church hall are sufficient prophylactics to protect the sanctuary from the profanity of being a woman or being gay. What sort of crazy theology is that?"
Read his full essay here.