A storm was brewing over York Minster this weekend as a local vicar took to the airwaves to criticize his colleague, Canon Michael Smith, for blessing the York Pride march and festival on Saturday.
A day before the event, the Guardian reported that the Rev Melvin Tinker, of Hull, compared Smith’s actions to blessing serial adultery and pedophilia, and hearkened back to the days when homosexual expression was illegal in Britain.
Tinker accused Smith of “flaunting the scriptures under the banner of equality”. He said: “What we are talking about is whether certain actions are right or wrong in God’s eyes, as he has revealed it in scripture, and also according to natural law as well.”
The article included a response from a Christian LGBT group based in Hull:
A local group, LGBT Christian Fellowship for Hull and East Riding, issued a statement saying that Tinker did not represent all Christians.
It said: “Although we have a long way to go, that’s not actually the view of people in the pews.”
The statement noted that a Pride parade and festival will be held in Hull in July.
Yesterday, without directly acknowledging Tinker’s remarks, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, issued a statement of his own.
Clergy of the Diocese are entitled to express varying views on the question of human sexuality. That is the nature of the Church of England. How those views are expressed is central to how we are heard as Church. Our first call is to love God and one another.
The principles established in recent Church of England and Anglican Communion statements on these matters are clear: alongside a reaffirmation of traditional Christian understanding of human sexuality, orientation, and behaviour, whatever one’s personal views, there is a Christian duty to offer pastoral care and friendship to all people. …
I give the same assurance to homosexual people in York and across the Diocese that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.
While he did not name Tinker, Sentamu did quote from the prayer that Smith had offered at the start of the Pride parade, continuing:
On Saturday 20th June, Canon Michael Smith, addressed marchers who had gathered on the steps of the Minster:
“My name is Michael Smith and I am the Canon Pastor here at York Minster. Once again I am delighted, on behalf of the Dean and the Minster community, to be able to say a few words and to wish you well for your parade to the Knavesmire and for the rest of your day’s activities and fun.
Our Mission statement here states that ‘York Minster invites everyone to discover God’s love through our welcome, worship, learning and work’. I would like to thank those who have organised this event for this invitation to speak which gives me the opportunity to tell you that our welcome at York Minster is completely and unreservedly inclusive.
Here at York Minster we are always open to having conversations with anyone who wants to come and talk with us and we are always ready to pray with and to pray for people at important times in their lives. Please do not hesitate to come and talk to us.”
He also offered the following prayer:
“Loving God, we give thank that the rainbow is a sign of your promise to love, care for and protect your creation and all your people. We pray for all who will share in this parade today and all who will watch it pass by. May all involved be reminded of your promise of love, care and protection, and of your big and generous heart where there is space for everyone. We offer our prayers and our thanksgivings in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen
Go on your way in peace. Grow in friendship with God, grow in friendship with your neighbours and follow the way of Jesus who reveals God’s love for all people and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you, those you love and those you pray for today and always. Amen”
The Church of England is currently engaged in a series of national conversations around different views of human sexuality. From time to time strident views will be expressed. Stridency is no substitute for love.
The story has echoes of testimony offered at last week’s employment tribunal brought by the Rev Jeremy Pemberton, a priest denied employment after he married his partner last year. On Tuesday, the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, was quoted by the Guardian giving testimony about the Church of England’s definition of marriage:
Asked about the church’s teaching on “holy matrimony”, he said: “It’s not that I don’t think it’s true, or the canons of England should not be followed, all I say is it’s a lousy definition, if it cannot tell you who is and who is not married.”
Wilson, who is also an historian, said the reason that part of canon teaching was first included back in 1938 had little to do with the partnership being between a man and a woman.
He said the inclusion of marriage being between “one man and one woman” was “entirely coincidental because of the time it was framed”.
The bishop went on: “They weren’t making a doctrinal point but a statement about the position of marriage as it existed in that time, in 1938.”
The next day, Bishop Richard Inwood, named as the responsdent in the case, took a very different view, and was quoted saying that same-gender marriage was “sinful” and “unwholesome.”
A brief and somewhat opaque statement was issued on the Church of England website:
“The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. Jeremy Pemberton is one of many who currently serve and receive that support. The Church has no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships.
The Church of England’s doctrine on marriage is clear. The Church quite reasonably expects its clergy to honour their commitment to model and live up to the teachings of the Church. Clergy do not have the option of treating the teachings of the church as an a la carte menu and only modelling those with which they personally agree.
The Church is currently involved in a process of shared conversations about a range of issues on sexuality in regions across the country. It is regrettable that this case risks undermining that process by invoking legislation which does not even apply to this situation.”
The result of that tribunal is expected in about a month.
Photo: Archbishop John Sentamu via www.archbishopofyork.org
Posted by Rosalind Hughes