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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hypocrisy? Cherchez la femme

It has taken me a few days to really take in the latest episode of "Men (in Purple Shirts) Behaving Badly". I keep getting indigestion, interspersed with occasional bouts of nausea and vomiting.

In case you haven't heard, a memo written by the Very Rev'd Colin Slee, former Dean of the Cathedral in Southwark, England, before his death from pancreatic cancer last November, has been released by his family.

The memo, first reported by The Guardian UK and described as "devastating," states:
The document reveals shouting matches and arm-twisting by the archbishops to keep out the diocese's preferred choices as bishop: Jeffrey John, the gay dean of St Albans, and Nicholas Holtam, rector of St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, whose wife was divorced many years ago. Eventually Christopher Chessun, then an assistant bishop, was chosen.

John, an able theologian and gifted preacher and pastor, highly regarded in the diocese and a friend of Williams, is celibate but in a longstanding civil partnership with another clergyman. He was forced by the archbishop to stand down after being appointed suffragan bishop of Reading eight years ago, following an orchestrated protest campaign by evangelicals. Holtam's promotion had been blocked because of his wife's divorce but he has since become bishop of Salisbury.

Slee described Williams shouting and losing his temper in last year's Southwark meeting, which left several members of the crown nomination committee, responsible for the selection of bishops, in tears.

Slee also in effect charges the church with hypocrisy, stating that there are several gay bishops "who have been less than candid about their domestic arrangements and who, in a conspiracy of silence, have been appointed to senior positions". The memo warns: "This situation cannot endure. Exposure of the reality would be nuclear."
See what I mean? It's pretty awful, isn't it?

Except, of course, that their hypocrisy has been, at long last, exposed. That's a huge relief for many, many people - especially those of us in the North American provinces of The Anglican Communion who have been used as a British whipping post for all that is wrong with the world and the reason we 'need' the Anglican Covenant Contract.

We are "more than candid" about our bishops. Indeed, there's a word for it:


Here's another: Truthful.

That's sooOOoo annoying.

Of course there have been bishops in the Church of England who are gay! There have to have been. It has been ever thus in the church throughout Christendom. Bishop Gene Robinson is hardly the first gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. He's merely the first to be honest and truthful about his God-given sexual orientation.

Many gay men who come from affluent families and/or are well connected to deep pockets of money or political power have often been appointed bishops. It's an old, sad, pathetic game the church thinks no one can detect from behind the billows of incense and lace cottas and perfectly chanted psalms.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori 
It is, however, hard to imagine fuzzy, cuddly old Rowan behaving like a bully. Well, some of us have gotten glimmers in the past that this was part of his character.

Remember when he wouldn't allow our Presiding Bishop wear her mitre when she visited Southwark Cathedral in June of 2010?

Some of us remember it clearly. ENS reported:
In the week before her visit, the presiding bishop said, Lambeth pressured her office to provide evidence of her ordination to each order of ministry.

"This is apparently a requirement of one of their canons about the ministry of clergy from overseas," she said.

The presiding bishop said both the ordination and mitre issues put the Very Rev. Colin Slee, Southwark's dean, "in a very awkward position."

She called the requirements "nonsense" and said, "It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre."
Bizarre behavior, bullying and bad behavior seem the order of the day when Men in Purple Shirts feel their power and authority threatened.

Apparently, according to the Slee memo, "We had two very horrible days in which I would say both archbishops behaved very badly." And,
"The archbishop of Canterbury was bad tempered throughout. When it came to voting, certainly two – possibly three – members were in tears and [Williams] made no acknowledgement but carried on regardless. At a critical point Archbishop Sentamu and three other members simultaneously went to the lavatory, after which the voting patterns changed."
One wonders what it was they washed their hands of.

Oh, but wait! There's more!
Slee's evidence to the leak enquiry claimed that it was the archbishop of Canterbury himself who was responsible for the leak by asking church lawyers outside the committee for legal advice on whether John could be stopped. Lambeth Palace denies that it was the source of the leak and says there are errors in Slee's account. The archbishop of York's office refused to comment, saying the whole process was entirely confidential.

The House of Bishops sought legal advice to discover whether it would be illegal to deny John a job. A briefing in December from the Church House legal department appears to state that though it would be illegal to discriminate against him because he is a celibate gay person, it was perfectly in order to discriminate against him because there are Christians who cannot accept gay people.
Besides the hypocrisy, is anyone else catching the deep irony here? The governance of the secular world is more concerned with justice than that of the governance of the church. Indeed, the law of the land in England would seem to have a higher regard for the justice and liberty and full inclusion of all individuals into every aspect of community life than does the Church of England.

Bizarre, badly behaving, bullying Bishops? How can this possibly be? Why would otherwise mild-mannered, God-fearing, well educated men who have dedicated their lives to following the teachings of Christ behave like this?

It's something of a mystery to many.

The French would say, "Cherchez la femme" - ( \sher-shā-lä-fȧm\ ) - a French phrase which literally means "look for the woman." The implication is that a man behaves out of character or in an otherwise inexplicable manner because he is trying to cover up an affair with a woman, or trying to impress or gain favor with a woman.

I don't think there is "another woman" involved here - well, not in that way - but I do think this sordid 'affair' is all part of the Church of England's conflicted ideas about gender and the authority and power.

I have long maintained that wherever there is the smoke of homophobia and heterosexism burn the fires of misogyny and sexism. This is what some are calling the Lambeth "Quadrilateral of Bigotry".

Look at the way an institution treats homosexual men and you will soon discover what it really thinks and feels about women (of any sexual orientation) - beyond how they treat women publicly.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung talked a great deal about 'midlife crisis'. Jungian theory holds that midlife is key to individuation, a process of self-actualization and self-awareness that contains many potential paradoxes.

Jung talked about how our culture forces men to keep their feminine aspects - the anima - under control. By the time a man reaches midlife, the anima rises again and many men try to control their interior life by conquering the feminine in their exterior life. So, they have affairs with their secretaries or other women and divorce their wives.

It has been argued that the church is in the midlife of her development into the realities of modernity and post-modernity. The feminine aspects in the interior life of the church - the anima - are rising again and the 'animus' - the male aspects in the interior life of the church - has become like a lion roaring over his pride.

And that's the real 'nuclear reactor' of Dean Slee's memo. All of it - the hypocrisy and prejudice and bigotry - is being exposed for all the world to see.

Cherchez la femme - look for the woman - the anima - behind the mystery of this bigoted, bullying, bizarre behavior from the Princes of the Church and you'll understand it better. It may even give us a strategy in terms of how to confront it and heal ourselves of this terribly painful rift.

When Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached last June - without her mitre - at Southwark Cathedral, the text of the gospel appointed for the day was Luke 7:36-50, in which a woman washed Jesus' feet with her tears and then let down her hair to dry them.

In her sermon, Jefferts Schori asked,
"What makes us so afraid of the other?"

"There's something in our ancient genetic memory that ratchets up our state of arousal when we meet a stranger -- it's a survival mechanism that has kept our species alive for millennia by being wary about strangers," she said. "But there's also a piece of our makeup that we talk about in more theological terms -- the part that leaps to judgment about that person's sins. It's connected to knowing our own sinfulness, and our tendency toward competition -- well, she must be a worse sinner than I am -- thank God!"
There's a word for that: hypocrisy.

Here's another - the key to the not-so mysterious bad behavior of the Princes of the Church:

Cherchez la femme.


whiteycat said...

Elizabeth, as is your customary style, you've hit a home run with this post.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, as to the bullying ways of the ABC, why are we surprised? He bullied Jeffrey John to stand down from his appointment as bishop of Reading. Right from there we should have seen which way he was headed.

The ABC barred Bishop Gene from Lambeth to appease bully bishops. (Most bullies are cowards when people stand up to them.)

There was his appearance in California prior to GC09 to attempt to bully the Houses into continuing the moratorium against ordaining gay bishops.

Then there was his appearance at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans where he proceeded to lecture our bishops on how to run a church.

My list is not all-inclusive. In light of Rowan's past behavior, what Colin Slee describes should come as no surprise to any of us, but, alas, it does.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I agree, Mimi, but I must say that we haven't see - or heard reported - his losing his temper, yelling, or bringing a committee to the brink of tears. I think the man is losing it. I have a keen suspicion that he may well "retire" early.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, you're right. The yelling is new to us, and it apparently surprised Colin Slee, too.

The story doesn't appear to be causing much of a stir in England. I can just see the media coverage here if Bp. Katharine was reported to have carried on in such a manner.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're right, Mimi. The Times (UK) didn't pick up on it, far as I can tell. You can be sure there will be nothing in the Church Times, either. We'll have to wait for Slee's daughter to publish his book - perhaps next year, in time for GC and Synod. THAT will cause a stir. She seems genuinely angry and, in fact, blames the incident as one of the factors that sped up her father's illness. Hell hath no fury, and all that.

Now, if +KJS had done something like that, it would be a HUGE story because, well, because she's a woman in power.

Dom said...

Loved your comment "Look at the way an institution treats homosexual men and you will soon discover what it really thinks and feels about women (of any sexual orientation) - beyond how they treat women publicly."

I've often noticed that men that are the most homophobic are often the same ones that have difficulty accepting women as equals, particularly women in positions of leadership. It's as if some men try to prove their masculinity by suppressing women and looking down on gay people.

I once had a brief conversation with another man (who had rather conservative views towards gays / lesbians) concerning spiritual leadership. I naively made that remark that I liked women. I meant to say that I really liked to have women in positions of leadership, and that I admired the leadership and spiritual qualities of women. (Although being straight, I admit to being attracted to women as well.) The man I was talking to remarked something to the effect that "I like women too, but when it comes to leadership, you need a man." What he seemed to be saying, was that he thought women were nice to look at, but that he didn't quite feel comfortable with women as human beings or as leaders.

I'm sure I'm being naive, but I really can't understand - even apart from moral arguments - how a man can be attracted to women but not also respect and admire women as human beings, equals, friends, and leaders. And I certainly can't understand how someone who is straight feels the need to look down on gay people.

Perhaps many of my straight male cohorts are desperately trying to prove their masculinity. But I'm really baffled.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, Lord have mercy. don't get me started about how we of the XX chromosome crowd get a public scolding, for, God forbid--yelling. We're "shrill."

Which is why personally, I have trained myself to drop an octave before I yell. I hate to say it, but in a man's world, if I want to be heard like a man, I have to do my yelling in THEIR tone range if I stand any chance at all. Sigh.

Daniel Weir said...

Elizabeth, I am glad you raised the issue that the PB raised - our fear of the other and our tendency to define ourselves as not-that-other. Theologian Anselm Min has challenged the Church to adopt the stance of solidarity of others. He notes that at times solidarity with others can still be solidarity from a position of privilege, and that what we need is solidarity of equals. Recognizing that diversity is God's gift, we celebrate our differences and see in the other a sister or brother. We have a long way to go, in the US and in the Church and we very much need leaders who won't fall back into the old systems of scapegoating. Note how the latest study on clergy sexual abuse in the RC Church sought to scapegoat the 60s and how it seems that even our former ally Rowan Williams thinks that if only the North Americans would get rid of LGBT clergy - or force them back into the closet - everything would be just fine. The RC theologian James Alison once said that his might be the last generation of gay priests. Perhaps Williams hopes that Gene and Mary will be the only openly LGBT bishops ever. Not a chance!

Muthah+ said...

An absolutely stunning analysis. It is easy to see men in purple behaving badly, but to understand how completely predictable it is must signal to the whole church that the kind of leadership for the Anglican Communion cannot be what it has always been.

But there IS personal responsibility. And it is time for the ABC and the ABY to stand down.

SCG said...

Well said, Elizabeth (and Mimi, too). I'm angry, but not entirely surprised, by the revelations, and probably more disappointed in the lack of recoiling by the English. It's as if the ABC and ABY are the mean headmasters of their own prep school called the Church of England, and the faculty duck their heads and the students are just made more bitter about the whole lot.
I'll be doing my own writing on this later. And I may cross-reference to yours.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dom - thanks for your comments and insights. There's an old saying in feminist circles: "Men of quality are not afraid of equality." It was never more true.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - It's not just when the heat is on. Have you noticed that many women clergy lower their voices, especially in the pulpit? It's not entirely conscious. Some of us unconsciously lower our voices not only to 'sound' like men, but we understand that, the way many churches are built, the higher registers of voices get lost in the acoustics that were designed for male voices. Sexism is even built within the walls of in our architecture.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dan - thanks for your comments and insights. My concern about the Anglican Contract is that, we may well elect another "other" - a female or Queer bishop before General Convention next year. And then, what will Rowan do?

Yell? Bully? Send the ABY to the men's room for a "conference"?

It's all too sad. And, nauseating.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Muthah+ - I don't know about the ABY but I think the ABC is moving closer and closer to seriously considering early retirement. Perhaps he and the Queen will discuss this at their next "tea".

MadPriest said...

There is much homophobia in the Church of England and it serves us to accuse the curia of it at times. But, I doubt very much that it is homophobia that is dictating their actions (except from a certain more northerly archbishop who I'm sure would vote with the majority of his homeboys if he lived in California). It's all about power and the retention of as much power as possible.

I wish someone would come forward and tell us what he was like when he was in academia.

England is a secular country. The media is only interested in the clergy if they are posing nude on a dating site nowadays. The proof will be in the pudding and we will have to wait until the next general synod to see how that turns out. And if your presiding bishop was exposed as a bully she would probably be offered a job on Fox.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jonathan - In my experience, the abuse of power by male dominated institutions - especially when their power base is being threatened - is all about misogyny, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia. I've never been a priest in CofE, so I am not the one to comment on the dynamic there, but I think it's pretty universal. OCICBW.

And, you're right about the PB and Fox news. She'd be a STAR.

the cajun said...

If you recall the lyrics to this Dr. Buzzard song, it goes, "they're all the same, all the sluts and the saints, hey, all you can do, uh-oh, is Cherchez la femme."

Great post.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I do recall those lyrics, Cajun. All I can say is, Amen, Brother.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Here's the link to that FABULOUS video

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Here's a link to the "most complete" Slee memo over at Episcopal Cafe:

David and John said...

His temper tantrum has destroyed the last ounce of respect I had for ++Williams, and that saddens me deeply.

Double Ax to Grinde said...

Why should you be so surprised at all of this? We have been dealing with the doctrine of male supremacy now for well on nigh 2000 years. That right, the doctrine of male supremacy, dominance, rape and degredation. Radical lesbian feminists have exposed this sham, Mary Daly has exposed the sham of the rule of the fathers.
Now what I ask is a simple thing: women stop supporting and aiding and abetting the oppressors, just stop it. Maria Shriver, stop covering up for you pathetic husband, women stop going to those churches and supporting those men in power. Put all your energy into creating institutions for the good of women, stop working with the enemy, stop the collaboration. Stop marrying them, stop the child production machine, stop the whole damn charade. Mitres, geez, we are dealing with a male god here, used by men in dresses, making up faery tales to support a male god.
Let's end it all, and as Mary Daly did, walk out of Harvard memorial chapel forever. Walk out!

walter said...

This is a good opportunity, Elizabeth, to share the fruits of the gifts of God. Homophobia is the animus' insecurity about his heterosexual orientation. Heterosexism is the anima' insecurity about her affectionate orientation. The cancellation of hypocrisy as a spot in the Christian transparency will come about with the awareness of our limitation, humanity’ limitation-animus’ insecurity and anima’ insecurity.

Walter Vitale

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

David and John - It IS sad. Very sad. I grieve for all those who held out hope that their loyalty to +++R would be rewarded. It's a very sad day.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Double Ax - I understand your position. I'm trying my best, in my own way, to expose the prejudice and hypocrisy for what it is so we can bring it to an end. I have nothing but deep respect for Mary Daly. She fought her battle from outside the RC church. I'm just not there. I'm choosing to fight from the inside. Both are worthy positions. Both are needed. The struggle continues.

Richard Kirker said...

Here is the link to the first, and I hope not the last, coverage by the Church Times.

It was premature to cast aspersions on the paper, to the extent of implying there would be a cover-up of the story, although it is quite right to bemoan the paper's repeated and lamentable failure to grasp some fundamentals about the lives of lgbt Christians and the full extent of the realities of homophobia within global Anglicanism. If the Church Times detests homophobia is does so with undue reserve and in an excessively sotto voce tone.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for that link, Richard. The more this story is known and discussed, the better, in my not so humble opinion - precisely because of "the paper's repeated and lamentable failure to grasp some fundamentals about the lives of lgbt Christians and the full extent of the realities of homophobia within global Anglicanism".

DjittyDjitty said...

Go, you, Liz. I have seen my own share of purple shirts behaving badly in Oz - down under. When your Presiding Bishop visited our diocese (before she was elevated to that office) she was not allowed to preside or be anywhere near the holy table for the regional assembly she had been invited to address. Yet her grace shone through despite the petty-minded clergy a lilly-livered bishop who invited her.

Like you, I hate the hypocracy of so many who want to live by a purity code and so wish to keep out of the church each and every one who most needs it - at least they are in it and God knows they need to be.