‘REV’, THE GAY ARCHDEACON AND THE ANGLICAN CHURCH

This week saw the last episode in the present series of the BBC’s ‘Rev’, the half-hour comedy/drama about an inner city vicar – liberal, loving, and a very long way from being successful in any way the world would recognise – which has been our Tuesday night treat for the past seven weeks. Totally unmissable. Ian, an atheist, loves it as much as I do and we’ve both been moved nearly to tears by it a few times, none more so than in the penultimate episode shown last week.
The archdeacon, played to painful perfection by Simon McBurney, turns out – to no-one’s great surprise – to be gay. As he seeks to become a bishop, we witness his increasing desperation to silence those who might betray his secret. In the end, though, it’s he himself who gives the game away. When confronted in the interview with a direct question about his sexuality this vain, precious poseur, with his dinky little quiff, emerges as a man of total integrity, unable to deny his true self no matter what the consequences.
The 30-second scene in which he tells Adam (Rev of the title) what he has done, and his realisation of what it will cost him, says more about the Anglican Church’s attitude to gays than any one of the endless reports and commissions it has produced and presided over:  The Lambeth Commission, The Windsor Report, The Windsor Continuation Group, The Listening Process, The Panel of Reference – if words were money they’d have paid off the global debt, never mind the national one, many times over.
And it’s all been in the name of maintaining this precious thing, the Anglican Communion. Which isn’t a Communion any more, anyway, because there are within the church those who not only won’t take communion from a woman priest, but from a male priest who was ordained by a bishop who’d been ‘tainted’ by ordaining women. There are also those who accept openly gay priests, ordain gays to the priesthood, and have no problem at all with offering blessings in church to gay couples. So the split is not only already there, but has become a yawning chasm. (I have actually attended a bizarre ritual called – and only the Church of England could dream this one up – ‘a Mass of the second integrity’). So the church for the past 10 or more years has tied itself in knots trying to hold this non-existent thing together, in a bid to appease those who oppose gays in general and gay priests in particular: they’ve even managed to come up with a formula that says it’s ok for a priest to be gay as long as he doesn’t actually have sex. It’s bonkers, and it’s shameful.
I like the Archbishop of Canterbury. I’ve heard him preach, I’m in awe of his massive intellect, his ability to speak (I think) at least 10 languages: his gentleness, his genuine concern for the poor and the dispossessed. I cannot imagine what agonies he suffers daily for the sake of the church he leads, and the God he loves. But I think on this issue, as on any other, he should have put truth and integrity above everything, and spoken up for gay couples everywhere, instead of presiding over this agonising, damaging, and ultimately futile exercise of trying to hold together a non-existent communion, thereby denying a whole group of people their basic human rights.
Rev has been a gentle, sympathetic portrayal of the Church of England at its best. It hasn’t ridiculed it, or portrayed its people as the usual ludicrous stereotypes. It’s the best bit of propaganda the church could have had. I just hope somebody in the hierarchy appreciates that.

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2 thoughts on “‘REV’, THE GAY ARCHDEACON AND THE ANGLICAN CHURCH

  1. It was a most thought provoking and moving episode, the characters are developing and growing wonderfully through the series.

    I also thought the insight into clergy marriage relationships and the strains on family life were most poignant. The message and mission of the church, as expressed through Adam (Rev) can sadly be lost in the theological and political wranglings surrounding sexuality and gender.

    However, we do need to recognise the integrity of those who hold to views different from our own and that includes those who, for very genuine reasons, find the ordination of women or gay relationships to be theologically problematic.It would be wrong to say that one integrity is right, because we agree with it, and another is wrong because we disagree.

    By thew way what on earth is a “Mass of the Second Integfrity” I’m not aware that this is anythiong sanctioned by the Church of England and a couple of web searches have found nothing

    1. Well, yes, we do need to respect others’ views. But I still maintain, particularly in relation to women’s ordination, that the safeguards were put in place to protect those who were against it, but maintained (rightly) that it changed the nature of the church into which they were ordained. Those who now seek ordination, or have sought it since the ordination of women measure, warrant no such protection. The Mass of the second integrity was at St Stephen’s House in Oxford: the first Mass was presided over by a woman, the second – an hour later – by a man. Truly. . .

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