Saturday, January 05, 2008

Yet Another Gay Anglican Bishop

In a better world, it wouldn't even be news. I mean, "gay" and "Anglican" go together like tea and clotted cream. The problem is that the bishop in question, Lindsay Unwin, is a prominent leader in the CofE's -- ahem -- rising homophobe wing.

Bear in mind, the allegations (posted on a blog by "Dennis," no last name given) are allegations, as in yet-to-be-proven. Still, they are pretty scorching: "we hooked up twice during Holy Week." Dennis knew that his new crush was a priest, and a candidate for bishop, and deeply closeted, and was warned by a mutual acquaintance that Unwin had an unsavory reputation; so he broke it off, left for the US, and never said a word on the subject. After all, whose business was it, really?

Except that, some fifteen years later, Unwin is My Lord Bishop of Horsham, and recently signed a letter of support for the Diocese of San Joaquin following its decision to leave the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, specifically in protest against PECUSA's whole gay-bishops thing.

Smelling a little hypocrisy -- okay, a lot of hypocrisy -- "Dennis" spoke up. Generally speaking, we at the Egg don't think highly of outing. In this case, it seems warranted.

That said, here are some considerations: (1) The story might be false. Frankly, we would be surprised if it were, for the reason given in our first graf. Still, Christian charity requires that we at least acknowledge the possibility. (2) Unwin, as a commentator points out, is an Anglo-Catholic; in theory, this means that he could just commit the acts, confess them, and move on with a clean slate. In his own mind, therefore, he isn't a "gay bishop;" he is a bishop who has occasionally "done gay things." The point being that "gay" isn't a description of his nature, but of his actions. Fair enough; but if those actions are habitual, one wonders whether he quite got the part about "firmly intending amendment of life." (3) Ultimately, as many conservatives will argue, the issue isn't about the behavior of individual clerics, but abut the public teaching of the Church. And that's at least half-right. Theology is important. But theology isn't just -- or even primarily -- a series of doctrinal assertions. It is also and perhaps above all the experience of authentic Christian living, which includes both the frank acknowledgment of the truth about oneself, and the capacity to treat others with love and dignity. Hiding behavior of which you are ashamed while seeking to punish those who behave likewise is bad theology.


Dennis said...

Having done it I still feel very conflicted about the whole matter. I am not a fan of outing. And I didn't save any souvenirs from something that happened almost 15 years ago. I never intended to go public with it for the same reason that I never intended to go public with any other sexual encounters that I had when I was younger.

I think that I was most motivated by the comments by the American Presiding Bishop to the BBC last week. Honesty is needed, she said.

And then Lindsay signed that letter this week in support of former bishop Schofield, in the midst of a debate about the place of gays and lesbians in the church. And that led me to do a little google searching where I saw that he had supported bigots in the US in other ways, such as attending some conference with them in Fort Worth last year.

I decided to make it public because of the hypocrisy. Lindsay's allies savagely attacked and defamed Jeffrey Johns when he was proposed as a bishop. That was a sad day for the church. We need honesty and openness. It is time for honesty all around.

I have no photographs or letters saved. There were none. It was a couple of brief encounters made after meeting through a friend. I am simply giving my experience. Take it for what it is worth to you.

I remember Lindsay as a friendly and charming man. Unfortunately that doesn't make up for signing a letter of support for bigots in the US church and supporting efforts to close the door to the role of open gays and lesbians in the church.

You make some good points. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

Well I worshipped at St Mary's church in Bourne street London on a few occasions. Young men at the aforementioned church claimed to have had sexual relations with bishop Lindsay at Walsingham.