The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, has warned that the Anglican church is on the brink of “implosion” over the divisive issues of the ordination of homosexual clergy and women bishops.
In an interview with The Telegraph on the eve of his retirement as the second most important clergyman in the Church of England, Dr Hope, 64, said that the Church’s “fundamental Christian message” was in danger of being lost in the midst of disagreement over differences that were “neither here nor there”.
Dr Hope: ‘a grey area’
“What I do worry about is whether or not by so concentrating all our hopes and energies on these two particular issues, we are imploding on ourselves,” he said. "If you take people back to the Christological controversies of the first five centuries of the church, there were huge fallings out. Have we not learned the lessons from that? At the end of the day, what is the business of the church? It’s about bringing people to Jesus Christ and about living the life of Jesus Christ. Whatever the divisions, those are the key issues.
"The infighting puts off both young and old people. If it [the Church of England] doesn’t see this in a much larger context of the whole Christian doctrine of creation, redemption and sanctification, it will allow itself to implode on these two issues. We need to turn ourselves outwards.
“If you go to a hospice where they’re working with the dying, they’re not asking you whether you’re in favour of women bishops or whether you’re gay or any of this, that or the other. The important thing is that the work of the persons there actually engages.”
When asked about his own sexuality, Dr Hope reiterated the explanation that he gave as Bishop of London in 1995 to the gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, that it was “a grey area”. “I made the point very clearly then,” he said. “I continue to live by that. I’m not going to say anything further.”
Although he insisted that an active homosexual relationship was unacceptable within the Christian tradition, he said that he and many other clergy found it a daily struggle to live in accordance with the gospels.
“We all struggle to live in our various ways, according to the terms of the gospel,” he said. "I count it a considerable challenge. There are quite hard sayings [in the gospels] about renouncing yourselves, taking up your cross to follow Jesus. So the call to discipleship is not an easy call to life.
“We’re not going to go making all sorts of inquiries [about a person’s sexuality], we’re going to trust the individual to live according to what we’ve set out…”