Manchester Cathedral bars LGCM


Press Release from Manchester Cathedral

Issued September 3rd 2003
For Immediate Release

With reference to the conference of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) at Manchester University October 24-26th 2003, and the conference service on Sunday October 26th, Manchester Cathedral issued this statement:

The Manchester Cathedral Chapter, with the support of the Bishop's Senior Staff, has reluctantly withdrawn its permission for LGCM to use Manchester Cathedral for a conference service on October 26th 2003.

It has done so in the light of sensitivities and timing in relation to the current debates in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The Cathedral Chapter and the Bishop's Senior Staff regard LGCM as a legitimate Christian organisation, and its commitment to greater inclusivity as a proper moral claim on church and society - and wish it well in its forthcoming conference.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Manchester Cathedral agreed to LGCM's request to host the service in March 2003. The Cathedral Chapter made its decision in the light of events since then and notified LGCM today, Wednesday September 3rd.

Issued on behalf of Manchester Cathedral by the press office of the Church of England Diocese of Manchester. Gillian Oliver 0161 828 1421/07836 224444
www.manchester.anglican.org

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Statement from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

The Chapter of Manchester Cathedral (United Kingdom) informed the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement on 3rd September that permission to use the Cathedral for an act of Sunday worship for those attending their Conference - Halfway to Lambeth - has been withdrawn. The Conference is to be held at Manchester University from 24th-26th October 2003. The Chapter have issued their own press release.

Rev. Richard Kirker, General Secretary of LGCM said

"The decision of the Chapter to exclude lesbian and gay Christians from worship will cause serious hurt to all people of good will.

Halfway to Lambeth "Prayer and praise are the joyful duty of all God's people and along with all Christian organisations forms the bedrock of our gathering. It is horrifying to think that any person, no matter what their views on human sexuality, might welcome this ban on what is a sacred obligation for all Christians.

"The Anglican Communion is committed to listen to lesbian and gay people - yet it seems even when we try to lift our voices in adoration of God - we are to be silenced.

"In the name of sensitivity the Chapter are blowing up a storm of controversy, when all we had planned together was a church service. Are lesbian and gay Christians the only people whose sensitivities they feel able to trample on?

We urge the Chapter to reconsider this breach of trust and allow us into God's house so we may worship. We will worship elsewhere. The Cathedral and diocese cannot prevent that happening."

Ends

For further information on the Halfway to Lambeth Conference please go to: http://www.lgcm.org.uk/halfwaytolambeth

For more information please contact:

Richard Kirker (Rev)
General Secretary, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement [LGCM]
07798 805428 (mobile)
020 7739 1249 (work)
Address: Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, London, E2 6HG, UK
Office Tel & Fax 020 7739 1249
Counselling HELPLINE 020 7739 8134 (Wed 7.00 - 9.30 pm)
Christian Homophobia HOTLINE 020 7613 1095
www.lgcm.org.uk email lgcm@lgcm.org.uk

A membership based international ecumenical organisation open to all irrespective of sexual orientation challenging homophobia in the Churches and other Christian communities. We offer support, counselling, publications, groups, conferences and networking opportunities focussed on creating an inclusive Church and welcoming congregations.

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A Letter to the Dean of Manchester

The Revd Kenneth Leech,
St Botolph's Church,
Aldgate. London EC3 N 1AB 020

7th September 2003

The Dean,
The Cathedral,
Manchester

I am concerned at the decision that has been made not to allow the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement to hold the service which had been arranged at the Cathedral. The reasons seem to be unclear. Some of us were on the receiving end of an earlier action against this organisation in 1988 when they were ordered to leave this building. It was not pleasant and brought no credit to the church, in that case the Diocese of London. It was denounced rather fiercely at that time by the present Archbishop of Canterbury.

I would be very grateful for a proper explanation as to why this decision was made. Having had long experience of secrecy and equivocation on this issue, I am making copies of this letter of this letter available widely. I would hope to receive a reply, allowing for the possibility of a postal strike, within two weeks. (Inability to reply was also a feature of the 1988 experience - indeed I still have had no reply, after fifteen years, from [former Archdeacon, now, I believe Bishop] George Cassidy.)

I hope, as a Mancunian, that Manchester will be more polite! But far more important than politeness, which I have never believed to be a particularly Christian virtue, is openness and truthfulness, and so I look forward very much to a reply which can help forward the debate on this important question.

Kenneth Leech

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More Letters:

From: Ted Mellor
To: Dean@manchestercathedral.com
Copies: Bishops, Members of the Cathedral Chapter
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2003 12:35:14 -0700

Subject: Ramifications

Dear Dean Riley,

I wonder if the Manchester Cathedral Chapter realizes just how widespread are the ramifications of your recent decision to reverse your previous commitment to the LGCM and refuse them permission to hold their worship service in your cathedral? You have made international news and it is not Good News.

Here in my neighborhood of Los Angeles, where churchgoers are few, one of the most common arguments we hear is that "Christians cannot be trusted. They'll mouth niceties about inclusion and being welcoming, but when the going gets rough, their words mean nothing."

I have to say that, on the basis of the vague and uninformative statement you released to the press about your decision to go back on your word, I have no evidence to conclude that they are not right. Perhaps if you were to be more forthcoming about the process and reasoning which led you to take this step, others might be more understanding. One rumor, for instance, is that pressure was brought to bear by the bishop and that the chapter's decision was not entirely a free one, another that some members voted against their own convictions in the interests of loyalty to the "corporate image". Even merely confirming or denying these rumors would do much to clear the atmosphere and establish the climate of honesty and openness appropriate to Christian relationships.

I would be happy to include any genuinely informative statement you might care to make along with this letter and others on the Anglo-Catholic Socialism website.

Let me close with a personal note of protest and pain. I am an Episcopalian whose Oldham ancestors left the Church of England for the Primitive Methodists several generations back -- largely because as poor, working class people, they were made to feel distinctly unwelcome in the parish churches of Manchester. Is history repeating itself at the cathedral with another group of "second class Christians"? Say it isn't so.

Faithfully in Christ,

Ted Mellor
Los Angeles, California (USA)

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Update, September 16, 2003

Circulated by the Jubilee Group

Subj: Queers banned from Cathedral - Update
Date: 16/09/03 13:12:59 GMT Daylight Time
From: manchester624@yahoo.com
To: bishop@bishopscourt.manchester.anglican.org
Sent from the Internet

The BBC announces the ban by the Cathedral.

Manchester Evening News reports 'groundswell of protest grows'

Cathedral Clergy and Bishops don't reply to e-mails or letters. Don't even acknowledge them. It is claimed there is 'A Conspiracy of silence'. It is said the Bishop of Manchester instructed silence. A source close to the Cathedral says 'The Bishop of Manchester is a smooth operator. He has lots of little puppets.'

Clergy resign as area deans, other clergy plan personal 'constructive protest actions' - to stay away from cathedral, conferences, diocesan events, resignation from committees, delay administration, especially when cathedral clergy are involved. The protest is reported in the national press - for example see today's Times
and see also the Telegraph

Diocesan press statement stresses one of resigning clergy is critical of LGCM. A journalist remarks 'They are trying to divide the opposition at a weak point. They've made him into a fumbler.'

Cathedral web site taken down, to prevent contact and protest.

Webmaster of Cathedral website collects views sent to him

Great discontent and lack of confidence in bishops - especially Steven Lowe, Bishop of Hulme and Mike Lewis, Bishop of Middleton. They were once thought to support an inclusive church. One priest says 'We'll never trust them again. You simply can't trust them when the chips are down.'

Claim that the Bishop of Manchester ordered the Cathedral to ban the LGCM conference is widely reported, and never denied. Lambeth Palace say it had nothing whatsoever to do with this action.

Online petition grows with over a thousand names and rising, with worldwide support, and many clergy from Manchester sign it.

Internet discussion groups including people and priests from Manchester condemn the action and suggest ways to protest

The total silence from those who made the decision suggests guilt or fear. Decisions are made 'behind closed doors, open government is light years away from here' says a member of the Church House, 'We've known that for a long time.' A woman priest remarks 'No one admits they voted for the ban! I bet they try to back off now. They'll play it all down. More pathetic press statements. They are men of straw. Will anyone tell the whole truth and say what is going on? Who dare tell us the full story? Where is open-ness in Manchester Cathedral and the Bishops staff? Where is honesty? Who can trust Bishop McCulloch and people like that? Someone must resign in the face of all this. We want an independent enquiry into this. It needs blowing open for all to see. Let us be the judges!

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Contact Information for Manchester Cathedral
(Obtained from the Cathedral website before it was taken down)

Postal address:

The Cathedral
Manchester
M3 1SX
Telephone: 0161 833 2220
Fax: 0161 839 6226
email: Office@manchestercathedral.com

Bishops:

PA@bishopscourt.manchester.anglican.org
David.Gillett@ukgateway.net
maolewis_2000@yahoo.com
Lowehulme@btinternet.com

Chapter:

Dean@manchestercathedral.com
canon.denby@manchestercathedral.com
archdeaconalan@wolstencrofta.fsnet.co.uk

Note: Mail is being returned from the following addresses:

Theology@manchestercathedral.com
robin.gamble@manchestercathedral.com

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Communication from Manchester Cathedral, September 22

Subject: RE: Ramifications
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 10:54:35 +0100
From: Dean Ken Riley
To: Ted Mellor

Thank you for sending your email expressing concern about the cancellation of the LGCM service planned for October. Though it is impossible to answer all emails personally, I hope that the following will help you to appreciate the rationale of this decision. Months ago the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement approached the cathedral to ask if it could hold its conference service here. After consulting the Bishop's Senior Staff, the Cathedral agreed. At the time, no one had any inkling of what would then happen in the Anglican Church during the summer months as far as the debate on homosexuality was concerned.

Circumstances, both nationally and internationally, have moved significantly since initial permission for the service was granted. Events in the Church of Canada in the diocese of New Westminster and the diocese of New Hampshire, in the USA, as well as the difficulties surrounding the appointment of the new bishop of Reading, have significantly changed the debate on homosexuality in the church.

The service now found itself scheduled between the emergency meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. No one event in itself can be singled out as the reason for our decision, rather it is an accumulation of factors that added a whole new dimension, both actually and politically, to the service.

The Cathedral Chapter came to the conclusion, with sincere sadness and reluctance, that it would not be appropriate to have a conference service in the mother church of the diocese at such a sensitive and crucial time for the church as it prepares to debate and inevitably contentious issue for the community in this country and throughout the world.

The decision to reverse our agreement regarding the service was made at a Chapter Meeting on September 1st, and the Bishop's senior staff gave their full support at its meeting the following day. The decision was communicated to LGCM on September 3rd.

The Chapter made clear in its letter to LGCM that there was, and still is, sadness and significant reluctance about the decision.

The Chapter can only repeat its sadness at withdrawing permission for the service to take place and affirm the latter part of our statement that: 'we regard LGCM as a legitimate Christian organisation, and we support its commitment to greater inclusivity as a proper moral claim on church and society'.

With best wishes.

Note: In my e-mail of September 8th to the Dean I had offered to include on this page any "genuinely informative statement" he might care to make. Although the above form letter is nothing of the sort, I include it here in the spirit of Christian hospitality. I think I get the picture, though. Manchester Cathedral "supports [LGCM's] commitment to greater inclusivity", up to the point, and only up to the point, where "greater inclusivity" begins to take flesh and becomes an "inevitably contentious issue." Then they run for cover. I might suggest also that the cathedral needs a new public relations consultant. The hand of whoever is writing these things for them now is a little too obvious. Most folks who work for a living, at least, have long since figured out that whenever bureaucrats begin hiding behind the passive voice ("the decision was made"), blame their actions on "circumstances, both nationally and internationally," and wring their hands assuring everyone of their "sincere sadness and reluctance", you can count on it that they've just done something they know they ought to be very ashamed of. -- Ted M.

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Clarification from Dean Riley

Subject: RE: Ramifications
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2003 11:57:20 +0100
From: "Dean Ken Riley"
To: Ted Mellor

This email really is from Dean Ken Riley.

Please allow me to clear up a technical hitch here.

I have been away on sabbatical in the West Indies since June 25th and only returned on October 1st.

The decision of which you wrote was made in my absence and without my knowledge.

The technical hitch is that e-mail replies were sent out in my name, in my absence, without making it clear that they were on behalf of the Chapter and not from me personally.

Ken

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Lesbian and Gay Christians Announce New Venue for Conference Service in Manchester

Halfway to Lambeth conference, Manchester 24-26th Oct

Manchester Cathedral, the bishop and his senior staff yesterday (1st Oct 03) invited the conference Halfway to Lambeth organised by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement to attend the normal Cathedral Sunday morning service (October 26th). LGCM were told that the bishop of Manchester (Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch) would preside at the Eucharist. LGCM were also told that the preacher would not be LGCM's choice, namely Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, Canada.

The diocese has experienced a huge critical reaction following their decision on 9th September to renege on their long term agreement to host a separate Sunday morning service for those attending the conference.

Prominent members of the Cathedral congregation have left their posts and two senior priests protested the decision by resigning as Area Deans (an extra middle management job held by some clergy in addition to another post).

In the interim the conference organisers have received several warm and generous offers from local churches to host the Sunday morning act of worship.

The General Secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement: The Revd Richard Kirker commented today:

"We have been overwhelmed by offers of support and encouragement by the people of Manchester and many others since the decision to expel us from the Cathedral was taken.

"This included offers from several central Manchester Anglican churches to hold a Sunday morning service in their buildings. We have been touched by the warmth and openness that has accompanied these generous offers, along with their willingness to co-operate in every way possible to make those attending the Conference feel genuinely welcome.

"We have accepted the invitation from Rev Ian Gomersal, Vicar of St Chrysostoms Church, adjacent to the University of Manchester, and look forward to worshipping God at the conference service with them on that Sunday (October 26th 2003) at 12.30. All are invited.

"We are sad not to worshipping at the Cathedral. We believe the bishop and Chapter have been genuinely taken aback by the shock and reaction their decision to exclude us caused.

"We have now received an invitation to attend the Cathedral's regular morning service but it comes too late in the day, and with new unacceptable conditions, for us to change our plans once again.

"While we are happy that the Cathedral is now in a position to welcome us even though it would be on very different terms, those who are organising the conference at local and national levels felt, after consultation, that the service should now take place at some distance from all the controversy that has blown up around this simple act of worship.

"It would be difficult for all those attending, both from the Cathedral congregation and conference delegates, to be focused in the prayerful and joyful way. We would not like to feel awkward or limited in our praise of God, nor feel we are the cause of any such anxiety to others.

"It was for this reason we and the Cathedral authorities originally decided a separate service was preferable when we first broached the possibility of worshipping there.

"What is now important is to see the future with some hope, particularly as the bishop has decided to constitute an Advisory Group on Gay Issues. We look forward to seeing the terms of reference of that group, and if they are acceptable, to playing an active part in its life."

2 October 2003

For further information on the Halfway to Lambeth Conference please go to: Halfway to Lambeth.

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