The i newspaper has published an article about the outcome of the CDM pursued against Geoffrey Riba-Thompson, as a result of which he has, as the i puts it, been ‘defrocked’. It’s a shocking story from the point of view of the treatment of LGBTQIA+ people and a disgusting outcome. Geoffrey has been a friend since the early days of the Southwark Diocese Lesbian and Gay Support Network (SLAGS for short), so from 1991 onwards.
There are many things about what has happened that really upset me. One is that Christopher Chessun, who has issued this five year ban on Geoffrey is of course one of the dozen or so closeted gay and lesbian bishops in the Church of England. He hides his own sexuality as something to be ashamed of, but persecutes, or fails to protect, his clergy.
A second element of my reaction is the memory of Tom Butler, the immediately previous Bishop of Southwark, who came to a SLAGS meeting soon after he arrived in 1998. Two of the clergy present, myself being one, told Bishop Tom we were in a same-sex relationship. No action was taken. A year later at an interview with him at Bishop’s House in the presence of his chaplain, who was living with his partner, I told +Tom that I was sexually active, as a result of which he refused to renew my licence. On learning this, David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, gave me a licence in the Diocese where my parents lived. David’s successor, Nicholas Holtam, a friend from Westcott days in the late 70s, refused to renew the licence because I had made public information about his time at St Martin’s in the Fields, conducting blessings of same sex relationships, that he was unable to acknowledge publicly.
My sense of the injustice of the treatment of Geoffrey is huge. I hate, hate the dishonesty, lack of integrity, secrecy of bishops, and failure of pro-LGBTQIA+ and lesbian, gay and bisexual bishops to come out and refuse to persecute us.
The culture of the Church of England is so unhealthy and abusive and yet, because it’s still possible to engage at parish level without being over-worried about the un-Christian culture of today’s Church. I understand why people stay. I want to confront the Church.