Thinking Anglicans

Church of England responds to PM’s same sex marriage statement

The Church of England has issued this response to the statement made David Cameron reported here.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on same sex marriage today, the Church of England issued the following statement.

It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage is not knee-jerk resistance to change but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole. Our concern is for the way the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight, if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.

The proposition that same-sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. To that extent, the Prime Minister’s claim that he supports same-sex marriage from conservative principles is readily understandable. However, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.

To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.

We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.

Given the absence of any manifesto commitment for these proposals – and the absence of any commitment in the most recent Queen’s speech – there will need to be an overwhelming mandate from the consultation to move forward with these proposals and make them a legislative priority.

We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has signalled he is abandoning the Government’s earlier intention to distinguish between civil and religious marriage. We look forward to studying the Government’s detailed response to the consultation next week and to examining the safeguards it is proposing to give to Churches.

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Jeremy
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Jeremy

If I understand the CofE’s response correctly–and it’s a bit hard to follow–the response assumes what it is trying to prove.

Grandmère Mimi
Guest

Who writes this stuff? Why can’t the “Church of England” speak in plain English? The response is rubbish.

June Butler

Phil Groom
Guest

I find it bizarre that the powers-that-be in the C of E seem to consider it appropriate to issue statements such as this without any consultation with members or Synod debate. As per their previous statement on the subject, this is neither representative of the membership at large nor in my name.

Jenny Petersn
Guest
Jenny Petersn

Excuse me – have I missed something? Who is this omniscient, anonymous, quasi-pontifical being from the Church of England who can make such immediate pronouncements on behalf of us all?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

As an American and Episcopalian who has visited England (and France) almost every year for forty years, I feel our Mother Church this season is on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of generous Christianity.
First women bishops are voted down, and now the Church of England issues another statement against gay marriage. Is the C of E trying to remove itself from the lives of the people of England, leaving it as a tourist attraction for those interested in great English architecture?

Colin Coward
Guest

“It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage is not knee-jerk resistance to change but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole.” I’m waiting for Church House to tell us how the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole. Please Church House (and you are not, of course speaking on behalf of the whole Church), tell us how your particular Christian conviction will be defended against the experience of tens of thousands that covenanted gay relationships (marriage… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“However, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.” Good Lord! Deliver us! This “distinctiveness” is why the CoE can’t have WB’s without caveats? Right? This thought process is all related. I think that what the PM was actually saying is that because the CoE isn’t making any sense, it’s better for him to just move forward. I really, really, do not want the new ABC… Read more »

John
Guest
John

This response from ‘the Church of England’ (but of course it isn’t, really) is quite incredibly stupid and irresponsible. The C of E, as everybody knows, suffers from a situation of ‘too many chiefs and too few Indians’. It is dreadful that the chiefs, by and large, are so stupid and by their stupid and irresponsible antics make things so much worse for the rest of us.

A very ‘liberal’ posting. Inconsistent with advocacy of ‘space’ for ‘anti-WO’ Anglicans? I don’t think so: such people are generally relaxed about gay issues.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

What a crock. But it certainly did not come from ‘the Church of England.’

Its anonymous author had not the integrity to sign his statement.

And yes, I am sure it would be a ‘he’ in all ‘his’ wondrous distinctiveness and complementarity.

We need to hear from the synods, dioceses, and General Synod asap.

My advice would be to ‘stop digging’ !

Dennis in Chicago
Guest
Dennis in Chicago

American Episcopalians used to brag about their connections to the Church of England. Now we try to hide those. I’m sorry, but I would be embarrassed to be a member of the Church of England after something like this. Seriously, putting out a press release saying that the reason to continue a homophobic and bigoted approach to marriage is because it continues to affirm the differences between the genders. At least they are being honest: the reason that they don’t want the gays to get married is because it might put ideas of equality into the heads of the ladies.… Read more »

Jonathan Edwards II
Guest
Jonathan Edwards II

Reminds me of Tertullian’s Apology, his early 3rd Century defense of the faith. It is not in the empire’s interest (the common good) to persecute the Christian Church. We shall see.

James
Guest
James

I am a Church of England priest, and am appalled at this statement. I abhor the supposed “logic” of this all-too-rapid response to the Prime Minister’s statement, find the theology of it, where there is any, flimsy, cheap, and embarrassing, and the consequences and conclusions of it, shameful. Why should the nation continue to enshrine privilege and position of a Church in the House of Lords so set on discrimination, and so weak in its capacity to speak with any intelligence to issues such as this one. Good Lord, Deliver us!

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Dennis in Chicago. I’m neither going to brag nor hide my relationship to CoE. I will be worshipping there this summer and I love the people I encounter. We in TEC have been there (albeit 40 years ago w/ women, and that was before my adult lifetime…). And our conscience has led to schism, which isn’t great, though I think going with conscience was the only way we could go… I would like to hear a much more robust, theologically sound exegesis from my CoE sisters and brothers. All of the Oxbridge folks and academics that I know are quite… Read more »

Jonathan Edwards II
Guest
Jonathan Edwards II

‘the Church of England issued the following statement’

The Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, email: cofe.comms@churchofengland.org

Why not drop them an email and ask by what authority they have issued this statement.

Surely ++Rowan is not behind this?

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

Really this is just rehashed and warmed up nonsense that one cannot take seriously. It really is garbage of the first order. Some one is actually paid to write this stuff. A ‘dilution in the meaning of marriage’ wah? ‘Change the nature of marriage for everyone’ ?????? The pontificating on the manifesto is bizarre. Presumably the Bible (whose injunctions to be subject to the higher powers, also called God’s ministers even when they were neither democratic nor Christian) has a theory about mandate that has now become a core doctrine of the Church. The House of Commons is a democratically… Read more »

Dennis in Chicago
Guest
Dennis in Chicago

After all of the pretentious lecturing that the Episcopal Church has received from C of E types (especially after the ordination of +Gene and over marriage and gender equality) it might be time for the Episcopal Church to question our ties to the CofE. Most of those ties are nothing more than old pretensions to add a little English respectability to one’s church. The country club at prayer with ties to England and all that. We have finally begin to bury the country club at prayer part of our identity. Perhaps now it is time to question the “ties to… Read more »

JC
Guest
JC

1. This statement is not the view of the CoE. Whoever wrote it should reveal their identity.

2. The statement is intellectual gobbledygook.

3. The statement, to the extent that it expresses anything, expresses heteronormativity. In other words, it’s logic is circular: it assumes what it seeks to assert.

4. It’s embarrassing, I find myself increasingly embarrassed by our established church — from sexism one week to homophobia the next. Why don’t we be done with it and ask Ian Paisley to become Archbishop of Canturbury?

Political Realist
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Political Realist

“To change the nature of marriage for everyone” I’m married. I fail to see how my marriage is changed one iota by other people being allowed to marry. Dressed up in fake-intellectual clothes, this statement is simple bigotry. It manages to drag sexism into a debate on sexuality, and shows that the CofE is absolutely committed to pandering to evangelical bigots rather than behaving with Christian charity. Disestablishment cannot come too soon, so that it can be made quite clear that the CofE only speaks for its own narrow-minded bigots, and not for the vast, decent majority of the population.

Peter of Westminster
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Peter of Westminster

“Maybe we’re not seeing conservative theological positions that make sense because discrimination isn’t actually a rational process?”

Exactly! Bravo, Cynthia!

William
Guest
William

Why is maintaining the “distinctiveness of the genders” indulgent bigotry Cynthia?

Scot Peterson
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Scot Peterson

Cynthia: Maybe we’re not seeing conservative theological positions that make sense because discrimination isn’t actually a rational process.

Yup.

Charity
Guest
Charity

Anyone else see this as further tipping the scales toward disestablishment? As representatives of the established church, CofE priests are required to marry any resident of their parish unless they have a living partner after divorce, the relationship is forbidden by law, or one or both of the individuals are too young. Once gay marriage is legal, how can the CoE justify remaining established (available to everyone without distinction) while refusing to marry a significant proportion of their parishioners? Yes, the refusing remarriage after divorce clause provides a precedent for saying “society accepts this but we cannot,” but surely this… Read more »

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

When it is absolutely clear that the Church of England is completely divided on the issue of gay sex etc, how can it be right to publish such a polarised statement, thereby completely failing to represent one half of the actual Church of England? It’s dishonest and a misrepresentation of the views of the Church of England as a whole. At the very least, the statement should say “While there are widely divergent views within our Church, and serious theological arguments for and against gay sex and gay marriage, which can be held with sincerity, one section of the Church… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.”

Spare me. Homophobia, is homophobia, is homophobia, is homophobia.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“Interestingly, in Bristol there’s an Anglo-Catholic parish that welcomes gay men but not ordained women!” Cynthia

Gay men may be gay, but they are still men.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

If I were CofE I would be very interested in knowing exactly how these instant statements were whipped up on such short notice, without (as noted above) consultation. Why are anonymous statements purporting to present official Church positions and the reasons behind them allowed in the first place? If some nameless bureaucrat at 815 purported to do the same for ECUSA, there would be blood.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Doesn’t the much trumpeted argument with regard to “justice” and “equality” when employed in the women bisjops debate equally apply here? If not, why not?

clairejxx
Guest
clairejxx

Questions from a simple parishioner.

So if there is as this article suggests a fundamental biological difference between men and women as far as marriage is concerned there how is there no apparent difference as far as bishops are concerned?

Furthermore, if men and women are so different biologically is it to do with genitalia or what else might it be?

Is procreation as natural as this article makes out, I thought most births were technologically supported in one way or another these days?

James Lodwick
Guest
James Lodwick

Who is this “Church of England” who can issue instant unsigned statements supposedly in the name of the whole Church without consultation or any taking of responsibility for what is said? The lameness of the statement which is so devoid of any real theology that it can only fall back on repetitive insistence on the old saw of “gender complementarity,” ought to be evident to every thoughtful Christian and to PM David Cameron, who I hope will ignore officious ecclesiastical obfuscation and stupidity and move ahead with his plan. Some day the Church will be ashamed of contributions to bigotry… Read more »

william
Guest
william

It is saddening to read so many of the comments above to what seemed an excellent response from CoE, speaking for the organism in society which is the Church of Jesus Christ.
It seemed to me that the statement was helpfully explicating what God Himself declared when He made us ‘male and female’. And it was to precisely such a statement that Jesus Himself referred when questioned about marriage.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

The argument that opposite sex marriage is complementary is an evil thing to be fought everywhere. It leads almost instantly to the argument that there are fundamentally different roles for men and women, and that takes you straight to Bristol Uni CU not allowing women to speak without a male chaperone. It is, I repeat, an evil argument. Marriage is about a union of support, not a differentiation of sex roles.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

In another post somewhere I wrote I was against disestablishment and thought it would not happen for a long time.

I wasn’t factoring in the Church launching its own kamikaze mission – might need to review my prediction if this is sustained.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Well of course we are male and female – as any fule do no. And God intended that and intended that many would marry and have babies. That does not mean that he did not also intend that some would marry their own sex, and some would marry and not have babies, and some would not marry. Goodness – God can have more than one idea at a time!

Mike Benwell
Guest
Mike Benwell

Whoever produced this statement must know that C of E opinion on this is deeply divided, and so be writing disingenously.
In October our diocesan synod in Ripon & Leeds declined to support a private member’s motion endorsing the view that marriage is between one man and one woman etc.

Hilary Cotton
Guest
Hilary Cotton

Suddenly the complementarity and essential differences between men and women makes an appearance. I remember meeting Professor Ann Loades years and years ago who said how desperately the Church of England needed a new Christian anthropology. In the absence of this, the argument against gay marriage is built on sand.

Giles Goddard
Guest
Giles Goddard

The line about complementarity sounds very like the line that Malcolm Brown, Director of Ministry and Public Affairs, used when he was trying to defend the C of E’s position last time they made a statement. I imagine that Malcolm wrote the statement and had it signed off by William Fittall, as Secretary General. I can’t imagine that there was wider consultation although it would be helpful to know if there was. Seems to me that this is a classic example of clutching at straws. There are no strong arguments from the Bible or tradition to maintain the gender basis… Read more »

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

I would like to know by what authority the Church of England issues this statement. Which bits of the church were consulted? They are certainly not speaking for me when they write like this.

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

This statement, sad as it is, reminds me of TS Eliot’s lines from Section I of The Waste Land:

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Dennis and Hannah have identified the CofE’s current problem.

Discriminating against women, discriminating against gay people . . .

The Church of England is beginning to look like an institution that is not merely out of touch, but actively evil.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

William asked “Why is maintaining the “distinctiveness of the genders” indulgent bigotry Cynthia?” Because, William, this is a classic excuse for oppressing people, both women and LGBT persons. Women are “different,” therefore they can’t fulfill their callings to ordained ministry (or WB’s w/o humiliating caveats), or conduct orchestras, or make the big bucks with Fortune 500 companies or fill half the seats in Parliament or the US Congress, or make equal pay for equal work… And on and on. Because, William, precisely who is doing the “maintaining” of these distinctions? Answer: the more powerful against the less powerful. And they… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

William wrote: It seemed to me that the statement was helpfully explicating what God Himself declared when He made us ‘male and female’. And it was to precisely such a statement that Jesus Himself referred when questioned about marriage. First of all, God is not male. God made male and female in the likeness of God. That is the second creation story. Could you pull up that statement you’re referring to about Jesus talking about marriage? It isn’t in my Bible. Jesus definitely has harsh words for the Establishment for excluding and demeaning people. Those words are worthy of a… Read more »

William
Guest
William

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

While I would agree with those who call to have identified those who authorised the unsigned statement from “the Church of England” in response to the Prime Minister’s comments on (so-called) “same-sex marriage” [who, in particular, are the “we” in the statements, “we believe” and “we welcome”?], I wholeheartedly endorse the post of William at 8.52 am. Marriage, by definition, is a relationship between a man and a woman. William is right to point to what Jesus said in Matthew 19 vv 4-6. To redefine it, as the Government propose (without any electoral mandate) is rather like saying that you… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

William, are you calling discrimination good?

Samuel Denyer
Guest
Samuel Denyer

Puts me in mind of Mark Chapman’s analysis that the failure of WB legislation was due to the unwarranted meddling of the archbishops, thereby undermining and discrediting the process (and themselves at the same time), and setting a course for disaster. Given the lack of transparency about authorship of this latest statement, the only thing we can presumably say for sure is that the archbishops signed off on it. Again, it seems that their actions are only succeeding in undermining and discrediting any possibility of the Church of England being a serious contender in the public square, and diminishing their… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 Indeed. Thankfully, the overwhelming message of Isaiah is justice. And we have the word and example of Jesus Christ, making even clearer the notion not to judge, to love one’s neighbor (gay or straight, male of female) as oneself, all those examples of him breaking taboos to talk with and heal women, and his harsh words for the Establishment. Discrimination doesn’t hold up very well in the light of Christ,… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

” based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole.”

so just a prudential political assessment? In the RCC the resistance seems to be based on nonnegotiables of Natural Law.

JCF
Guest
JCF

When one chooses to use Isaiah 5:20 as a point of argumentation, William, I would think one ought to know it’s much like pointing a finger (in that “three fingers point back at you”). To add to what Cynthia said (re “distinctiveness of the genders”): in many if not MOST people, “gender” (which has to do more w/ sex-ROLE than sex chromosomes) is NOT “distinctive”. To assert “distinctive genders” then becomes method of rigid enforcement (which XX person is “too masculine”, which XY person is “too feminine”)—and grabbing the reins of Power-Over to play Judge/Jury/Executioner of such distinctions. “In Christ,… Read more »

Rosie Bates
Guest
Rosie Bates

If I were to rule the world for a few minutes (I know – perish the thought) I would wave my magic wand and decree that whoever wrote the Bishop’s statement and all these exclusive Christians be required to work in a well known Prison. It is a Therapeutic Prison. They would be required to work three sessions a week for one year in close proximity to murderers, rapists, and paedophiles. They would listen in on the small group sessions led by a first class tough love psychotherapist. The sessions are designed to ‘let the crazy out’. They would be… Read more »

Peter of Westminster
Guest
Peter of Westminster

You quote Isaiah, William: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” I second that quote as being apt here. Of course, we each place evil and the good in very different locations. So, how are we to decide between us? I’d offer: Look to love, and the requirements of love. All societies dig deep channels for love, to control it, to tame it. But finally love overflows all such constructions, and at the flood-tide is the deep driver of… Read more »