Giles Fraser outdoes himself

in his latest column in the English Church Times, “Protect me from prying bishops“, Giles Fraser outdoes himself. Just check out the laden rhetoric drizzled over total misrepresentation in this one:

In most places, gay clergy are safe from the purple-shirted grand inquisitor. The practice of what the CIA now calls “extraordinary rendition” (exporting suspects for “stress-and-duress” interrogation) to dioceses less squeamish about applying ecclesiastical pressure has yet to be approved by the Lambeth Conference. Even so, the lawyers are having a field day debating how far a bishop’s questioning can go.

Whoever has spoken about “extraordinary rendition”? This is quite typical of the sort of piece that Fraser writes, opening up with nothing more than a blatant appeal to emotion that has nothing to do with the facts on the ground. All this does is seek to associate those with whom he disagrees with a currently unpopular policy of a government that his readers most probably have no sympathy for.

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Interesting, as well, that Fraser wants to point out that such imaginary pressure has not yet been approved by the Lambeth Conference. Since when did Fraser ever hold the Conference as authoritative? Not since 1998 1.10, that’s for sure.

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“It is my opinion that bishops may lawfully inquire whether or not their clergy are engaging in homosexual activity; and clergy who are asked such a question must give a direct and honest answer. A refusal to answer the bishop’s question could itself be grounds for alleging misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure,” argues Anglican Mainstream’s lawyer.

For the interested, the full statement is here.

“It is impossible to obtain proof of homosexual genital activity without an invasion of privacy,” replies the lawyer for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. In other words, gay clergy are at liberty to “take the fifth” (as American movies put it, referring to the fifth amendment of the US constitution, which protects witnesses from being forced to incriminate themselves). The legal debate continues.

This is a fascinating approach that the LGCM takes and that Fraser endorses. Contrary to the scriptures, apparently ministers in the church do not need to come under scrutiny.

1 Timothy 3:1-10 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.

Now, aside from the debate as to quite what role the episkopos (the word translated “bishop”) should have (and I’m not convinced that episcopalianism has the best understanding, albeit a possible once), do note that the deacon (the “lowest” of the three orders of episkopos, presbyter and deacon) is to be dignified as the bishop is. That’s why Paul says “likewise” in v8. The deacon is to be proved blameless just as the bishop is. Of course, that should first be in a period of initial testing (v10) and much of the malaise in the CofE is because entirely inappropriate people are being recommended for ordination and this assessment continues throughout the ministry.

Fraser, of course, now has a problem. He wants to promote freedom from “invasion of privacy” but the life of the gospel minister is the most public life that there is. That much is abundantly clear from the above text, all these issues are matters of enquiry and invasion of privacy. How else are people to know if I am sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable and so on. In particular, can you imagine the idea of someone coming in to check up if you are able to “manage your own household well, with all dignity keeping your children submissive”? We rail against it but it is exactly what the early church required, more than that it is the standard of scripture.

The Apostle himself lived that sort of public life.

Acts 20:18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

and Peter urges us to be public in our lives.

1 Peter 5:3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

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But it’s not just about law. “There is a sacred realm of privacy . . . into which the law, generally speaking, must not intrude. This is a principle of the utmost importance for the preservation of human freedom, self-respect, and responsibility.” So claimed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Fisher, in supporting the 1957 Wolfenden report, which called for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. It’s a deeply Anglican instinct, which harks back to Elizabeth I’s famous pronouncement: “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.”

This is simple outrageous. When Elizabeth uttered the words “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls” it was a completely different context. Elizabeth was commenting on the imposition of the Act of Uniformity. Having seen the horrors of Mary’s bloody reign she was reluctant to act in the same way, not least because it would simply generate martyrs for the Papist cause. Elizabeth’s policy was simple; public uniformity, but her officers would not press matters.

Fraser wants something completely different, he wants public disunity. He wants practising homosexual ministers to publically repudiate the position of scripture and of the Church of England.

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I wouldn’t take too kindly to my bishop’s asking me where I caress my beloved. It’s none of his business. But there are growing signs that some of the more extreme bishops think it their business to trespass into the intimate places of the bedroom, if one happens to be gay. Next year, new arrangements for clergy discipline come in, which will make it easier to secure a conviction of clerical misconduct. Homophobic bishops are waiting for these new arrangements before they set to.

It is completely the bishop’s business. The bishop is the pastor of the pastors. He is responsible for their spiritual welfare. If someone in my charge sins openly and unrepentantly then it is my business to call them to account. Likewise for the bishops.

And, while we’re passing, do note the usual scandalous use of the term “homophobic”. I think I shall start calling Fraser “a hater of orthodoxy”.

Clergy freehold was designed to protect conscience: that is, to protect those who in conscience take a different line from that of their bishop. Clearly this is an issue of conscience. Now that the very Anglican modus vivendi of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been shattered, there is much trouble in store. Nothing good will ever come of it.

The last thing that Fraser, the rampant hater of orthodoxy, wants us to know is that freehold is there simply “to protect conscience”. No such thing. Freehold is there to prevent malicious and petty removal of clergy. That’s why we have laws and canons, so that if there really is a problem then the clergy can be dealt with fairly.

“Now that the very Anglican modus vivendi of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been shattered, there is much trouble in store. Nothing good will ever come of it.”

The great problem with “don’t ask, don’t tell”, of course, is that it’s simply the opposite of what scripture calls for. Paul, in his ministry, asked and told. He demanded the highest possible public standards of leaders of the church. The rampant hater of orthodoxy (no, it’s not a nice way to talk, is it?) Fraser wants the opposite. He wants clergy to do whatever they want to do in private.

What about adultery, Giles? Don’t ask, don’t tell?
Private drunkeness? Don’t ask, don’t tell?
Lack of hospitality? Don’t ask, don’t tell?
Private covetousness? Don’t ask, don’t tell?

I don’t have enough fingers on my hands.

Here in Sydney, as an ordinand, I am regularly reminded of these things. The Dean and head of ministry training speaks about character, knowing that it is without a doubt an area in which gospel work can be severely compromised. When I compare the concern for godliness here with Fraser’s passionate pursuit of individual freedom I know why I came. Kyrie Eleison

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  1. rachelute

    Sorry to be commenting here – but being fairly new to the community, I don’t know how active the mods are… I tried to contact but her journal is inactive and her e-mail didn’t work [domain name not found]. I’m posting this a bit back in your journal to not draw attention to it in recent posts…just in case.

    The last week or so, there have been 2 (possibly more that I’ve not noticed?) posts made by someone who calls themself: . I’m not sure if you’ve received e-mail about this or how active you’ve been in the community…but I really don’t believe that this person has the community’s interest at mind, NOR do I believe that this person is actually a REAL person and not just some “troll” for lack of better word that wants to mock Christianity AND Christians.

    This user has merely been putting a remark noting that (s)he has written a new entry in his/her journal…and those entries (in case you haven’t yourself checked them out) have been written from the point of view of an extremely condemnatory Christian. This person has been warned by others not to post these messages about having a new personal entry – but is continuing to do so. I have not personally warned this person, nor have I [yet] made mention to the user about acting the way (s)he is – though I am planning on doing so this evening. I think that chastizing this person would only feed their hurt spirit…I believe that the posts are being made the way that they are so that the person can attempt not to be dropped from the community [since they are not saying these things w/in the community itself]…but I don’t really believe they should be allowed to continue posting if this continues.

    Anyway, thought I would make an effort to bring your attention to this – just in case you weren’t aware.

    1. David Ould


      as yet they’ve not crossed any exact line so I’m reluctant to step in. If there’s inappropriate behaviour in the community or directly linked then we’ll do something about it. As it stands, being a bit annoyed with Christians is not grounds for banning someone but being rude when you’re being annoyed is. We’ll keep an eye on it.

      FYI, you can email Beth and I directly, our emails are in our info.

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