THINKING ANGLICANS

CofE publishes “Men and Women in Marriage”

Updated to include Notes

Church of England press release

“Men and Women in Marriage” – new document from Faith and Order Commission

The Church of England’s view of the long-established meaning of marriage has been outlined in a new report – “Men and Women in Marriage” – published this week by the Church’s Faith and Order Commission.

The publication (attached) includes a foreword from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York which commends the document for study. The report sets out the continued importance and rationale for the Church’s understanding of marriage as reflected in the 1,000 marriage services conducted by the Church of England every week.

The document also seeks to provide “a more positive background on how Christians have understood and valued marriage” arguing that marriage “continues to provide the best context for the raising of children”.

The report takes as its starting point the Church’s basic premise that “marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and means of His grace”. The document also seeks to enlarge the understanding of marriage defined as “a faithful, com mitted, permanent and legally sanctioned relations hip between a man and a woman, central to the stability and health of human society.”

Recognising the ongoing debate around marriage in society the report acknowledges that marriage “like most important undertakings in life, can be lived more successfully or less successfully. Mistakes are made, by couples, by their friends and relatives, and sometime by pastors and institutions of the church… Lack of clear understanding of marriage can only multiply disappointments and frustrations. Public discussion at this juncture needs a clear view of why Christians believe and act in relation to marriage as they do and this document is offered as a resource for that.”

The Bishop of Coventry Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Commission said: “The Church has a long track record in conducting and supporting marriage, drawing from the deep wells of wisdom which inform centuries of shared religious and cultural understandings of marriage. There is a danger in the current debate of picking apart the institution of marriage which is part of the social fabric of human society.

“This report seeks to celebrate all that is good about marriage in its ability to bring together biological difference and the generative power of marriage to bring forth life. It also recognises that there are forms of human relationships which fall short of marriage in the form the God has given us.

“This report also underlines the role of the Church in seeking to provide care, prayer and compassion for those who for whatever reason are unable to receive the gift of marriage in the form that the Church has understood it and continues to uphold. Whilst it is right that priests and church communities continue to seek to provide and devise pastoral care accommodation for those in such situations, the document is clear that public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone.”

A PDF copy of the report which is numbered as GS Misc 1046 is available here.

Notes

The Faith and Order Commission (FOAC) advises the House of Bishops, the General Synod and the Council for Christian Unity on ecclesiological and ecumenical matters and acts as a theological resource for the Church of England as a whole. More information can be found at http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/work-other-churches/ccu/faith-and-order-commission.aspx

Members of the Commission

Bishops
The Right Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry (Chairman)
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet
The Right Revd Dr Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge
The Right Revd Dr Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester
The Right Revd Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester.

Clergy
The Revd Canon Professor Loveday Alexander
The Revd Dr Cally (Carolyn) Hammond
The Revd Dr David Hilborn
The Revd Canon Dr Charlotte Methuen
The Revd Dr Jeremy Morris
The Revd Dr John Muddiman
The Revd Professor Oliver O’Donovan
The Revd Thomas Seville CR

Laity
Dr Mike Higton
Dr Cathy Ross

Secretary of the Commission
Dr Martin Davie

A draft report from the Commission was considered by the House of Bishops of the Church of England in December 2012 who authorised the Standing committee of the House to approve the final text and authorise publication. The Standing Committee approved the report in March 2013.

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Doug Spurlin
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Doug Spurlin

So discouraging! I have been so uifted by the rapidity of the changes in overall opinion here in the US, where I am used to much o the church being onboard with marriage equality. To see the mother church so out of touch with what seems to me to be such backwards thinking is sad.

JCF
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JCF

If the CofE wants to sign its death warrant, the Episcopal Church will carry on, following the Holy Spirit. (Just so y’all know)

Kyrie eleison!

[I commend this blunt-speaking blog post: http://dannikanash.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/an-open-letter-to-the-church-from-my-generation/ ]

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Another total loser from the CoE. What an offensive document! One example. It says that heterosexual couples remain the best context for raising children. The American Society of Pediatricians just looked at about 40 studies that conclude that children in same sex relationships do as well as those in heterosexual settings. The one or two studies that had different conclusions were sponsored by, you guess it, conservative organizations. When they invent claptrap like this in the face of science and anecdotal evidence to the contrary, they completely undermine their arguments. This document is their uninformed opinion. It is amateurish, indulgent,… Read more »

clairejxx
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clairejxx

‘We believe that marriage is grace so grace is marriage’, seems to me to reflect the reasoning in this document. I also thought that Christianity concerns the following of Jesus and his teaching that we should love one another as God loves us. There seems to be little of this in the document.

Scot Peterson
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Scot Peterson

Susan Russell, All Saints’ Pasadena, writes on Facebook: ‘Proving once again that the tea in Boston Harbor was the best move we ever made …’ Can’t say I disagree.

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

The most objectionable paragraphs are 2 and 44. Para 2, as Cynthia notes, claims without evidence that opposite-sex marriage “continues to provide the best context for the raising of children”, The source for the claim is an earlier church document. That is not evidence. The findings of (social) scientists are evidence. See American Society of Pediatricians; also the findings of fact in the US Federal District Court in Perry v. Schwarzenegger August 2010 at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/files/09cv2292-ORDER.pdf Para 44 is worse. “Not all who marry are Christians. The Church guards a common traditional understanding of marriage as a human, not only a… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Perhaps someone who understands the way things work in the CofE, can explain how this fits into the Pilling group’s present task.
It is a document one might expect following on such a report. This document for discussion would seem to be directing the outcome of the report.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“This report also underlines the role of the Church in seeking to provide care, prayer and compassion for those who for whatever reason are unable to receive the gift of marriage in the form that the Church has understood it and continues to uphold.” As in: “We feel so compassionate for you that you cannot be treated as equal because we will not allow you to be treated as equal.” This seems to be the new face of kindness – we no longer demonise you but we still firmly love you in such a way that you end up having… Read more »

Ian Whitley
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Ian Whitley

What a complete and utter cop out. The CofE had a great opportunity to do the right thing and be a shinning example of how to live out the 2nd great example of loving your neighbour. Instead it has proved that it lives in the past which such comments as ” drawing from the deep wells of wisdom which inform centuries of shared religious and cultural understandings of marriage. There is a danger in the current debate of picking apart the institution of marriage which is part of the social fabric of human society” the danger is NOT picking apart… Read more »

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

Susan and Scott: Here once the embattled farmer stood and fired the shot heard round the world. Or Loving vs Virginia; Or Brown vs Topeka Kansas, etc. etc. I’m with you.

Halford Dace
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Halford Dace

I do not live in England. If I did, I doubt whether I ever would have returned to faith as an adult (after my know-it-all atheist phase ages 15 to 25). The CoE, at least in those pronouncements that seem to claim to speak for the Church as a whole, appears to have lost any shred of reason or theological coherence. (Hint to the Faith and Order commission: Casual reasoning based on made-up premises is not good theology.)

It is terribly disappointing to see this kind of thing present itself as the Mind of the Church.

Judith Maltby
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Judith Maltby

As a cradle Episcopalian who has lived and served in the Church of England for over 30 years (twenty of those in orders), would my fellow Americans tone down the triumphalism a teeny bit? – and perhaps recall that the Church of England had laywomen fully incorporated in its synodical processes decades before the Episcopal Church. It doesn’t help and is hurtful to the many, many Anglicans here who actually agree with you! A little expressed solidarity wouldn’t go amiss, sisters and brothers. One of the most intellectually dishonest things about the report is the lack of engagement with the… Read more »

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

Not smugness, Judith, you’re right there of course and I too am in C-of-E orders, BUT it’s the NEW SPEAK which comes out so often in official pronouncements, and not just this one. It’s as though by fudging over the Queen’s English (as Herself never does, I might add), the church can ‘do and not do’ ‘be in favor of and also against’ or ‘maybe no one will notice’ etc etc.

Father Ron Smith
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I guess the dear old Church of England has existed so long with the duplicity that is represented in this document, that it may seem to its promoters that the wool can still be pulled over the eyes of the traditional ‘faithful’ of the Church – no matter what the more inquisitive ‘worldly’ may make of it. It seems that justice in the Church always has to be enforced from outside influences. Until the prospect of Same-Sex Marriage entered the arena, Church of England Bishops were concentrating on the ‘moral problems’ of Civil Partnerships – electing not to encourage them.… Read more »

cseitz
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cseitz

What an impressive set of academic credentials on the Commission. Before everyone piles on, I am simply noting how there is still an effort to bring in strong academic figures with excellent biblical and theological training. I fear that is now a lost horizon in NA. The TEC committee charged with a similar task produced a good report, admitting that sides did not agree, even within their own ranks, and so said no recommendation was possible. It was a useless exercise since whetever it said would just be ignored anyway.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Judith, it isn’t triumphalism to point out the awfulness of that report. I spend time in the UK also, and I love my sisters and brothers there. The problem is that Rowan treated us, TEC, our PB, and our Bishop +Gene very shabbily. So naturally, when CoE leadership put out a document this boneheaded, we are going to call them on it. If Justin goes down the same path as Rowan as regards TEC, now we can all see the stupidity, ignorance, and hate, as the basis of his actions, and we can have a liturgical tea party. Rowan fired… Read more »

James
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James

A reprehensible document: confused, lacking in any engagement with scientific evidence, pastoral experience, or willingness to understand how things really are; a garbled, weak, theology and warped anthropology, and a veritable apologia for prejudice. As a person and as a priest, I am deeply ashamed to be associated with the Church of England in this matter.

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

No Judith. I find the American contributions to be a breath of fresh air and far from smug.

(Forgive me if I don’t go into my own antecedents etc).

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

“What an impressive set of academic credentials on the Commission” cseitz

Well, congratulations to them all on their lovely doctorates. A bit of commonsense and kindness to those outside their self-righteous bubble wouldn’t have gone amiss though.

I also notice some crossover between the membership of the Commission and the membership of the Pilling Review Group. I think we can see where that’s heading.

Judith Maltby
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Judith Maltby

Would it be good to turn to the substance of the report (and so far the best thing I’ve seen is by the Bishop of Buckingham) for those us who will have to challenge it over here in church structures and elsewhere? One observation is that this report is in fact as much about gender as it is about sexuality with its use as its primary argument of ‘sexual difference’. Men and women are even described as in some sort of ‘polarity’ (fn 2) which I am still trying to figure out what the heck that could possibly mean …… Read more »

cseitz
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cseitz

The report itself is extremely well done. It reflects the ethical and cultural insights of Professor O’Donovan et al as refracted through scripture and tradition. That people reject it out of hand and in hysterical terms only shows how even basic theological discourse is now impossible. There is one position: alter the word marriage so that it conforms to the end desired. Anything else is imbecilic rambling and not worth the effort. End of story.

Flora Alexander
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Flora Alexander

The commission is working with an uncritical assumption that gender and sexual preference map directly on to biological sex. They seem not to be concerned for people for whom that is not the case. The assertion in paragraph 26 about partners receiving ‘what only the opposite sex can bring to their own’ shows a lack of understanding and of sensitivity. I find no convincing intellectual basis for the notion of ‘complementarity’ on which they rely in paragraph 35. They ought to do better than this.

Alan T Perry
Guest

I’m afraid I don’t have time to digest the report just now, but with respect to the press release’s description of marriage as “a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship…” I have just one question: what is the theological import of “legally sanctioned”?

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

Cseitz: if you think I am wrong about paras 2 and 44 I would be glad to get into a discussion.

Quakers don’t use titles but if you want to you are welcome to use mine.

Despondent of Surrey
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Despondent of Surrey

“As a person and as a priest, I am deeply ashamed to be associated with the Church of England in this matter.”

I am in the same position as James and agree 100% with his comment. This is an awful report that just increases the sense of isolation separating the House of Bishops from the real world.

I am ashamed and appalled. I am not – however – surprised. And that’s probably the most saddening thing about the whole nonsense – its utter predictability.

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

If “marriage is a gift of God in creation”, the report would do better to consider what it means to receive that gift rather than to define it. As a gift “in creation” it is not something which needs to be redeemed in the same way as fallen humanity – this is an assertion that the gift was given “before the fall” and therefore contrasts with the gifts we are given in baptism and redemption. But it is a gift imperfectly received by fallen humanity – it is our reception of the gift which demands attention. “In creation” also means… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

The story, cseitz, is when the learned members of the commission invent facts to suit their bigotry. Do you know anything about research? It doesn’t mean invent your own facts. Honest research demands that the writer acknowledge the range of views on a subject, as well as be clear about opinion vs. hypothesis vs. fact. This document is horrifically wrong – see the notes about the findings of the American Society of Pediatricians. It does not acknowledge a range of theological views, nor the differing views within their own church. It is not humble in presenting their personal bigotries. The… Read more »

cseitz
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cseitz

“Have you been to an academic conference?”

Now there’s a question!

David Shepherd
Guest

Cynthia, I think you may be referring to the American Academy (rather than Society) of Pediatricians. I took a look at the technical study that undergirded the AAP policy statement in support of gay marriage: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/e1374.full.pdf . In particular, I note that, in respect of the Regnerus-led research, the AAP study reports as a key criticism: ‘The great variability in the form and characteristics of both samegender and heterosexual relationships, combined with the small number of those relationships, even in a large data set like this one, makes it impossible to sort out true evidence of causality.’ Well, this is… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“Have you been to an academic conference?” cseitz: Now there’s a question! I recall you saying that you teach at a seminary somewhere. I wanted to draw you out to actually engage with the material here. Surely you can tell that the logic is awful, that none of the arguments would hold up to any scrutiny whatsoever, and that it is offensive to single parents, and childless couples, in addition to LGBT persons. The quasi “natural law” stuff was of the Middle Ages!!! You just like the report because it supports your conservative beliefs, right? Honest answer? And you referred… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

I seem to remember that a number of folk (including at least one person who has commented unfavourably above to the report) were pressing for +Cocksworth to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Of course it remains to be seen if ++Welby turns out any better, but I do give thanks that the Anglican Communion has been spared having as an “Instrument of Union” someone who is capable of producing this sort of old tosh.

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

I note that there are 12 men and 3 women on the FAOC. Does it make a difference? Maybe it shouldn’t, but maybe it does. Are any of the members in civil partnerships? Does it make a difference?

Helen
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Helen

The report is of course insulting to gay people. But it even fails to say anything inspiring or valuable about heterosexual marriage. As for the string of non sequiturs in its conclusion words fail me. You wonder about the state of the committee’s marriages.

Helen
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Helen

I see that the draft of this report was studied by the House of Bishops and the final published version authorised by the HoB’s Standing Committee. I hope this gives us all renewed faith in the spiritual leadership of the .Church of England.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

It is not only pastorally and theologically inept but scientific nonsense.
Take the sentence that “people are no asexual, they are either male or female”.
Asexuality has nothing to do with gender,it has to do with sexuality and is on the spectrum that includes gay, straight, bisexual and asexual and all shades in between.

When they say that people are either male or female,they mean that there is no such thing as an intersex person – which is also patent biological nonsense.

And we are expected to take their conclusions on sexuality seriously? Really?

cseitz
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cseitz

Here is a report which is about men and women in marriage. It does not discuss gay relationships/civil partnership at all. And it will be responsible for an increase in gay suicide rates? Perhaps I’m not a ‘thinking Anglican’ but this seems far-fetched. And yes, to state the obvious, I have attended academic conferences – maybe too many. That is how one gets tenure at Yale, St Andrews and the University of Toronto, along with publishing fifty refereed journal articles, 20 books, and so forth. Just as is true of the academics on this commission. Oliver O’Donovan—to name but one… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

Cynthia to cseitz: “I recall you saying that you teach at a seminary somewhere … “ A seminary of a kind, but I wouldn’t look to it for any scholastic leadership on The Issue. The m.o. of cseitz and his colleagues is to mine the tradition for every tidbit which ostensibly supports their pre-determined belief in the superiority of heterosexuality, while ignoring the less comfortable ramifications of those arguments for their ordained female colleagues, infertile couples, and others who escape the condemnation they would logically have to share with same-sex couples because they do not evoke the same measure of… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

cseitz – you still aren’t engaging in the material. Though I appreciate that you toned your criticism down to “silly,” that’s not as bad. I have very fancy degrees in my field. It looks to me like Geoff has it right. Even with fancy degrees and fancy tenure (and I’m all for those!!!), we are human. It is hard to see beyond our personal filters. The connection between bullying and teen suicide is well established. In the case of the LGBT teens, in particular districts, local “Christians” forced the school boards to remove LGBT as a protected class from bullying.… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Geoff, Wikipedia: ‘Ad hominem circumstantial points out that someone is in circumstances such that they are disposed to take a particular position. Ad hominem circumstantial constitutes an attack on the bias of a source. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false’. Casting aspersions on ‘the m.o. of cseitz and his colleagues’ and decrying his academic credentials does not make his argument false. ‘while ignoring the less comfortable ramifications of those arguments for their ordained female colleagues, infertile couples, and others who escape the condemnation’. The law of marriage assigns to… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

“Casting aspersions on ‘the m.o. of cseitz and his colleagues’ and decrying his academic credentials does not make his argument false.” Quite right, it is the circularity of his argument which undermines his academic credibility. “In the case of infertle couples, you’ve resorted to the converse accident fallacy: using a strictly qualified exception to justify an unqualified revision of the general rule.” … and here we see it in action. The infertile couple is an “exception” but gays are too … exceptional to be an exception, because marriage is about one man and one woman with functioning reproductive organs, except… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

Coming to it from reading Anna Karenina it seems awfully up in the air. It ends very, very oddly.

Helen
Guest
Helen

I am not quite sure what you intend to say David Shepherd, but I find your linking of infertile marriages with forced marriages offensive. There appears to be an implication that infertile marriages (whether “infertile” by intention or otherwise), are somehow not quite the thing. Your sentence “At first sight, a registrar cannot distinguish the fertile from the infertile” adds to this impression. Perhaps you could elucidate in plain English.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Of course I’m engaging the material. I agree with it. I’ve written on the topic. I think O’Donovan’s work in this and other areas (Desire of the Nations) is impeccable. I only know Muddiman from a stint at Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton and his Ephesians commentary, but am glad to see his name on this work. And–though it is surely unnecessary to have to say it–I live in the same liberal world as we all do. You might find time in central Toronto enlightening.

David Shepherd
Guest

‘Quite right, it is the circularity of his argument which undermines his academic credibility.’ So, you should have reasoned in that direction, rather than impugning his credentials first. You identify circularity as the key fallacy in the argument against same-sex marriage, suggesting that same-sex marriage opponents have identified a quality that is contrived to exclude same-sex couples. Instead, we simply look at the fundamental rights that marriage assigns and ask whether they are equally valid when applied to same-sex couples. The exception that allows childless couples to marry is simply because we can never rule out the assignment of shared… Read more »

Amanda Goody
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Amanda Goody

David Shepherd: are you saying that any marriage where the woman is over child-bearing age is “not a marriage”??

Geoff
Guest

Goodness, DavidShepherd, for all this legal talk of “kinship rights” and “state duties,” one would scarcely know we were talking about Christian families! “You identify circularity as the key fallacy in the argument against same-sex marriage, suggesting that same-sex marriage opponents have identified a quality that is contrived to exclude same-sex couples.” Now you’re getting it! It _is_ contrived, because in no other way do we behave like a church that believes what SSM opponents want us to say we do about gender or marriage. We permit the use of contraception. We administer the sacrament of orders (two out of… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Amanda, ‘David Shepherd: are you saying that any marriage where the woman is over child-bearing age is “not a marriage”??’ The shared biological rights that are assigned to spouses in marriage is expressed in two legal principles: the presumption of paternity and the possibility of issue. As William Blackstone, father of the common law, expressed of the marriage state: ‘A possibility of issue is always supposed to exist in law, unless extinguished by the death of the parties’. These two key marriage principles are meaningless presumptions to same-sex couples. Sarah might have been considered ‘past child-bearing age’, but neither the… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

@David Shepherd.

Whatever.

The law will change and I will marry my partner. And all 7 of our surviving children will be there.

It will not affect you one little bit.

David Shepherd
Guest

Laurence,

Presumably, you realise that same-sex marriage as defined in the Bill will not afford your partner the presumption of paternity of your biological children.

It’s hardly confers the same rights as heterosexual marriage, so, it’s more a CP hybrid. Enjoy.

Geoff
Guest

“Yet, these principles are meaningless to same-sex couples. They cannot share biological rights over potential offspring. It is not contrived. It is simply based on the congruence of marriage and family law.” And if such were the sine qua non of marriage, you might be onto something. As it is, it all sounds very much like a non sequitur. What on earth do legal machinations about “biological rights” (whatever those may be – and asserting them is _not_ the same as “demonstrating”) have to do with the Church of England’s response to gay and lesbian families? The report – and… Read more »