THE BRAVERY OF COLIN COWARD

From THE TELEGRAPH:

The Rev Colin Coward, a priest at St John the Baptist church in Devizes, Wilts, is to enter into a civil partnership with Bobby Egbele. The union has caused a stir among Christians because the couple plan a carefully-worded "blessing" service in church after the ceremony. Colin has also declined to confirm that he will remain celibate following the union, which is a requirement the Church of England asks of its ordained homosexual clergy. Colin said, he hoped his union would set a “visible example” to other homosexuals within the church.

He said: “My goal is for everyone within the church to feel comfortable with the situation because at the moment the majority of gay Christians marry secretly. It is a taboo subject but the church is now under huge pressure to change its stance and that pressure will only increase in the future.

“Clearly the blessing is going to be quite a sensitive issue. I know that many people will see it and view it with horror. But we are both deeply committed Christians so it would be unthinkable for me not to do it in church and not to do it with the congregation and with all of our friends. I hope my wedding will inspire others and set a visible example to the church that we are not afraid.”

Rev. Coward declared his homosexuality in 1991 before setting up the international gay and lesbian campaign group Changing Attitudes in 1995.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Salisbury confirmed it has permitted allowed the service but described it as ''separate'' from the civil ceremony.

He said: ''A Eucharistic service celebrating friendship is what has been sanctioned in this case. This is entirely separate from any civil partnership ceremony.”

COMMENT: It really would be brilliant if Colin and Bobby's "out in broad daylight" nuptials did inspire all the other married gay priests in the Church of England to go public in an act of solidarity with each other. But, I doubt it will happen. I have learnt through experience that the priests of the Church of England (gay, straight and undecided) are a bunch of complete wusses who are so scared of screwing up their promotion prospects that they will never ever stick up for a colleague in distress and will, in fact, stab a colleague in the back in order to look good in front of their bishop.

By the way, I had to alter the original words of the Telegraph article because it was full of childish remarks about "boyfriends" and the like. I don't know if the author, Richard Savill is gay or not. But he certainly bitches like an Anglo-Catholic luvvie who has just had his faculty request for another statue of Our Lady turned down by the diocese.

Now, if Colin and Bobby would make
their way to the dance floor......

Comments

THE BRAVERY OF COLIN COWARD — 40 Comments

  1. Some of us remain in the closet, not because we are “scared of screwing up their promotion prospects”, but because we run the risk of losing not only job but also home if we come out – the burden of which, for different reasons, you are at the moment only too well aware.

  2. Sorry MP, but some of us stay in the closet not because we are scared of screwing up our promotion prospects, but because to come out in the present atmosphere is to risk losing not only one’s job and income, but also one’s home, and as you well know, albeit for different reasons, that is not a prospect that fills one with unbridled delight.

  3. Ah, yes, anonymous. But my situation is not anything to do with being in any closet. And, even my closest friends in the church were scared to support me openly. And, although I understand your argument and accept fully your right to choose your actions, I personally shout for justice from the rooftops and damn the consequences. Of course, if we all did that we would all keep our jobs, including me.

    And you could be loudly supportive of gay priests without coming out of the closet yourself. But you are scared of that course of action, as well. Basically, you have constructed your own prison. At the end of the day you have chosen security over integrity and your own freedom. It’s your own choice. So don’t play the martyr with me.

  4. Yeah, the closet oppresses, and then becomes self justifying. But everyone has to figure out how to come out, and the sacrifices they are willing to make, so I think you are too harsh on Anon, MP. He’s hurting. And I hope he listens to this brilliant piece because nothing is worth that.

    Meanwhile my toes are tapping and if BP were in the vicinity I’d sweep her up into a little West Coast swing. Or East Coast triple time. Or something. 😉

    yeah.

  5. But, IT, I have made it clear that I do not condemn anon’s choices in life, just his insistence on blaming other people for them. Which, if he has spent any time around here, is exactly what he should expect from me.

    It’s a bloody good job, Mimi isn’t around. She’s been ticking about exactly this situation for a long time. I think she would have been a lot crueller than me.

  6. I was listening to Nina Simone just this morning. A perfect song.

    And anon – as an out gay man who had to fight his own personal battles to come out I can say this: Come out. Be honest. You will be surprised how accepting some people are. And you will be surprised at how much different life can feel when you aren’t living under such a horrible weight. Seriously, life is dramatically, wonderfully better when it is based on honesty and self acceptance and doesn’t require you to always be looking over your shoulder. I don’t know if you can come out and stay a priest. But staying a priest can’t be worth the suffering and pain.

    Coming out doesn’t make everything perfect. But the odd thing is how many other personal barriers inside of your head drop away. This doesn’t happen after just admitting to yourself – you’ve got to be honest with the world. You have to have come out far enough to not worry about others knowing. You get to the point where you stop looking over your shoulder and listening to your every word to see if you’ve slipped and let the secret out. And then you find all sorts of other walls and barriers in your head come down.

    Is it scary? Yeah, hell yeah, but for anyone, straight or gay, the process of individuation and honesty is scary and life changing. Staying in the closet is refusing to grow up and take responsibility as a person. Coming out is like a gay man or lesbian’s bar or bat mitzvah. “Today I am an adult…” It liberates you and you become a different person. Freer, more open to the world, less bound by inner chains.

    Could you lose your house and job? Yes, that evil threat still hangs over the heads of millions. BUT even if you do, if you are forced to find a new identity and life, I would encourage you to find the courage and go for it. Giant numbers of us have. I don’t know your situation but I know many who I can bet were in worse situations. And there is a way out. There is an end to the suffering and it involves truth and letting down the walls inside your own mind.

    Good luck. Be brave and do it.

  7. What does it say at the top of the blog? Oh, yeah, “You don’t have to be like me, and I don’t have to be like you.” Words to live by.

  8. It is true that IF all the gay priests (and bishops) came out, the church would be hard pushed to exert any discipline, but people are afraid of being made scapegoats, or denied promotions, especially those in line to be bishops!

  9. Sorry it posted twice – the first post appeared to fail so I re-posted in a slightly different version ….

    I would dispute that the prison is of my own making. Yes, the choice I have made at the moment is to keep a public façade whilst pushing the limits as far as I think I can in my present situation, but the boundaries are constructed by others, not me.

    Martyr? I don’t see that I’m playing that card, and I don’t really think I’m “hurting”, IT. After over 50 years of keeping my own counsel I’m used to the restrictions. A statement was made and I’ve responded as to why I think it was a bit of a generalisation.

    The time is getting closer when I shall open the wardrobe doors, and I have a few close friends who know the real me, but for now in my church ministry I proclaim inclusivity and acceptance and combat homophobia when I can, and that much is public.

  10. Spot on, Dennis.

    I am an unemployed priest and have a whole load of problems because of this. It’s not comfortable and it’s scary. But I feel happier than I have done for over 15 years. This has been noticed by my wife and Grandmère Mimi, to name just two people. My marriage (and all that goes with it) have never been better.

    The oppressor only has power over you as long as their threats don’t become a reality. Once they do to you what they threatened to do, they no longer have any power over you and the fear disappears almost immediately.

    Colin Coward has lived much of his life refusing to take any account of the threats, real or perceived. And look at the smile on his face!

  11. True, Renz. We should all be free to be who we are and not have to pretend to be the same as someone else, as anon feels compelled to be.

  12. Anon. I would bet my sweet bippy that a heck of a lot more is public than you care to admit. Either that, or people are stupid and, from my experience they are not – especially so those little old Anglo-Catholic ladies.

  13. Anonymous,
    The time is getting closer when I shall open the wardrobe doors,
    and you will find it freeing. Speaking from personal experience.

    Good luck.

    MP, you have been strangely silent on the great driving trip through Scotland….

  14. God bless Anon.

    I would never think to tell another when to come out, but prior t my “cotillion,” I very much valued the stories of others who had come out, and Ironically, while we think we’re in control when closeted by keeping our secret, we have relinquished the freedom of being who we are as we live by the “boundaries” prescribed by others. Of course, when we’re free of those boundaries, our story is no longer our own. Paradox!

    I’ve shared my story here before, and i don’t want to go all soppy upon the Mad One’s return, so suffice it to say that living for 40 years in Evangelical Land meant that I could not be “real.” Of course, one’s sexuality is one’s own business, and we are more than just our sexual orientation, but pretending that things that are true are not comes with a price. Meanwhile, we’re deceived by the lie that the price of coming out with its very real loss of faith home, friends and family, seems to high. What is one’s soul worth?

    Dennis is correct, yet again (We should gang up on him some time, just to keep him humble.). For me, coming out was like leaving the shadows, and heading into what was much more vividly clear. In fact, I felt as if I’d been born again. I had some one from Evangelical Land where I was departing call that “relief.” No, it was peace-filled authenticity that was given when artifice was gone and the Spirit could be fully present.

  15. Many mixed feelings re “Anonymous” here . . . so I’ll keep it to myself.

    …but MAZEL TOV to Colin & Bobby! 😀 [I think the Good Book has a few cherce words for those invitees who don’t come to the Wedding Banquet (or come w/o the proper garment of Joy, Thankfulness & Mutual Support)]

  16. What struck me most forcefully in the post is that the church’s demand for celibacy for same sex couples is nothing less than cruel.

    Anon., I would not say to you that you should come out as gay under threat of losing your job and your home, because according to the Gospel I have no right to suggest that you should be “in a crucified place”, so to speak. We are not permitted to lay crosses on the shoulders of others.

    Having said that, I’d repeat that the one way that the threats against openly gay priests will stop is when the numbers of out clergy become so great that the powers will no longer be able to move against them. The voices of all, or nearly all, the gay priests must be heard before the abuse will stop.

    Great numbers of straight priests must follow thereafter and strongly voice their support for their gay brothers and sisters.

    Some years ago, I posted a “Thought for the Day” saying, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if gay clergy across the denominations would organize a grand coming out day?” I still think my “Thought…” is a good idea.

    Mimi

  17. Thanks for all your thoughts and comments. Each of us has our own path and calling and means of travelling. I can see the destination, it’s just a matter of choice over the method used to get there.

  18. Huh!

    Another term for “our own path and calling” is “selfishness.” Especially when our own path and calling entails letting others sacrifice themselves for us and, because it’s not “our path and calling,” not sticking up for them if they get into trouble.

  19. Actually, MP, I have said nothing about not sticking up for others if they get into trouble. Nor does my path require others to “sacrifice” themselves for me. In fact I have in the past made representation to a diocese over a priest “removed”. You are drawing conclusions about my action or lack of it without any evidence apart from the statement that I do not yet feel able to come out openly. As the comments above have made clear, the general opinion is that that harms me more than anyone else.
    As a member of Changing Attitude I shall openly support Colin Coward’s forthcoming partnership, and praise God for it.

  20. MP, I’m sorry but I think you are out of line. You seem to be trying to link your own troubles obtaining a position to the gay situation which I fail to see. Individuals have the right to keep as much of their private lives private as they choose.

    There are many (I have no doubt) honorable gays and lesbians actively serving in our military at all levels who continue to keep their sexuality private. To declare themselves would still result in the loss of their chosen career and pension and benefits. I salute those who make the decision to step forward and challenge the system, but I refuse to debase those who choose not to do so.

    I make an exception, however, to those who are actively persecuting other GLBT folk – like some right wing politicians or church leaders.

    As a heterosexual married man, I don’t believe you can fully speak to what a gay person should or should not do in this circumstance.

    IMHO, of course.

  21. Agreed. But my post was about priests failing to stick up for each other generally. You made it about yourself and gave them the excuse of walking one’s own path. And my comment was about priests failing to stick up for someone sacked because he had a nervous breakdown 14 years ago. You turned the subject back to discrimination against gays. Hence my comment about martyrdom.

  22. As a heterosexual married man, I don’t believe you can fully speak to what a gay person should or should not do in this circumstance.

    Read my comments, Renz, you belligerent martyr!

    And for all you know I’m not a heterosexual. I may be a gay priest following my own path.

  23. Hm. My experience with priests sticking up for other priests here in the Diocese of Southwark (still bishopless and not suffering unduly) is that they will bend over backwards to stick up for priests who are incompetent, lazy, thieving (yes, there are some), and just plain stupid. Gay and lesbian priests (up to now) have not had an unduly difficult time here. Colin was a priest in Wandsworth for a long time. As the token queer on the Bishop’s Equal Opportunities Committee, I was marginalised a bit but I believe that’s because Bishop Tom was a bit unsure about what to do with me. I am not a cleric so I couldn’t be sacked, and I am on so many committees and boards that driving me away would leave holes all over the diocesan structure. He did make a few tart remarks at my expense, but oddly enough, they had nothing to do with my sexuality–he got very snarky several times (once in public at Diocesan Synod) about my being an American. So there it goes. I think that in the Diocese of Southwark being an American is more of a stigma than being gay. Hooray for modern attitudes!

  24. I don’t believe I had much choice about where I was born. I had to be near my mother, you see, and she was in Massachusetts.

  25. I don’t believe I had much choice about where I was born. I had to be near my mother, you see

    {snort!}

    Well, your birth-mother, anyway (who may be distinguished from your genetic mother, much less adoptive mother)

    Further thoughts, if I have any, on MP’s new discussion thread.

    [wv, “earynaie”. That sort of sounds like someplace you may have just visited, Mimi. How’s the whisky in Earynaie? ;-p]

  26. LOL! “belligerent martyr…” well, talk about the pot calling the kettle black, eh?

    (note I don’t deny the charge, MP)

    Individuals will choose to support and rally or sit on their hands and remain quiet for any number of reasons – most of which are do to the overarching politics of the institution.

    Sniping at someone and suggesting their decision is “selfishness” because it doesn’t fit your own agenda is just more belligerence.

  27. I sniped at Anon because he broke my cardinal rule of claiming particular specialness for his unjust predicament. If you read my post you will see I was not referring to gay people in particular. But he assumed I was – just like you, in fact. So, if the crown of thorns fits…

  28. I should add, MP, my own mother accused us, her children, as being selfish because we weren’t providing her with grandchildren…

    During one of these episodes, I gently reminded her of the barrier my own life faced in providing grandchildren (lacking both a uterus and a boyfriend)…her response, she snapped at me that I had once mentioned adoption…

    Mind you whenever I had, it was probably in the purest passing fancy of the moment…she clearly took it to heart…

    Fortunately my youngest brother is breeding nicely now so these comments have stopped.

  29. “She’s hitting the whisky.”

    Single malt is damned good whisky. It’s an acquired taste, but once one acquires the taste…

    Mimi