Thinking Anglicans

Another response to CofE report: Marriage and Diversity

Jonathan Clatworthy at Modern Church has written a response to the CofE report, which is titled Marriage and Diversity.

This is a response to the document Men and Women in Marriage by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, published on 10 April 2013. The accompanying press release makes clear its purpose, that ‘public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone’, so there should not be public blessings of gay partnerships.

Much of the document is a general account of the purpose of marriage, and is to be commended. As such it is timely. Over the past 60 years the Church’s earlier restrictive teaching about marriage, partnerships and sexual relationships has been rejected and then forgotten by British society at large, which now openly tolerates a wider range of relationships and often expresses moral indignation at those who disapprove of gay partnerships or single parents. However a complete free-for-all is also unsatisfactory. Most people need some guidance, and the experience of the ages does reveal that some types of relationship are more satisfactory than others. For the Church to revisit its teaching on marriage with the positive aim of offering pastoral guidance on relationships is much needed.

Sadly, Men and Women in Marriage does not perform this role. Instead it aims to rescue as much as it can from earlier restrictive teaching, offering minimal concessions to alternatives. It does this by appealing to natural law to affirm the role of marriage but then departing from natural law to define it very tightly and to treat marriage so defined as the ‘norm’ (§§48, 49)…

And Jonathan has also written in a lighter vein: We don’t want the riff-raff having marriages.

…The document tells us that ‘public discussion at this juncture needs a clear view of why Christians believe and act in relation to marriage as they do, and this statement is offered as a resource for that’ (§4). Yet the authors know perfectly well that Christians believe and act in a wide variety of different ways, many quite contrary to what the document recommends. In other words, while claiming to tell us how Christians believe and act, it is really telling us how they think Christians ought to believe and act. It is an example of that technique we used to associate with conservative evangelicals, of claiming that anyone who disagrees with their opinions cannot be a Christian.

Perhaps the saddest thing about it is that it’s yet another example of the batten-down-the-hatches mood in the Church’s higher echelons. After a disastrous year last year – Anglican Covenant, women bishops, gay marriages – they still haven’t, apparently, learned that they can’t stop the world. If they think gay partnerships, divorce et al are all to be condemned, they should explain their reasons and allow truth to emerge from open debate – not pontificate from on high, and so erroneously, about ‘how Christians believe and act’.

One cannot help suspecting that this document is all about power relations in the hierarchy. The proposal for an Anglican Covenant began as an attempt to ‘discipline’ churches with openly gay bishops. That and the chaos over women bishops revolved around threats of schism. At times of intense disagreement, some are quick to put on their boxing gloves while others are determined to keep the peace, whatever the cost to those whose needs don’t fit the theory. We should be able to do better than this.

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Concerned Anglican
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Concerned Anglican

Good for Jonathan Clatworthy, pity he can’t be a bishop. This latest report deserves all he gives it.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Looks like the Bastille is about to fall, can the Church of England be far behind?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/04/12/france-gay-marriage.html

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“One cannot help suspecting that this document is all about power relations in the hierarchy. The proposal for an Anglican Covenant began as an attempt to ‘discipline’ churches with openly gay bishops.” Indeed it did. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office shot for the moon, and they fell flat on their faces. And as a result, Communion relationships have changed. Any attempt now by the Church of England, to arrogate to itself anything more than invitatory power, will be met with defiance and scorn. Why should TEC, Canada, New Zealand, even Australia, pay any attention anymore to… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Yes, Jonathan got it. Ultimately, discrimination is always about power. Inherently someone is deciding that someone else is less worthy of equality and dignity – i.e. they are not equally created in the image of God in the eyes of the power mongers. It really is that simple. Driving it is ignorance and irrational fear. It is virtually impossible for such people to see reason, especially if their power interests are aligned with status quo discrimination. Jeremy is quite correct. If you look on TEC blogs, people who used to care about the Anglican Communion now don’t. Rowan’s insistence that… Read more »

John Ross Martyn
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John Ross Martyn

I suggest Juliet said wise words, on her balcony. “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This implies two things. First, what matters is what a person is in himself or herself, not the groups to which he or she belongs. Secondly, the facts of biology (whether horticultural, animal or human) are not changed by calling something by a different name. If we have “marriage equality” we shall have three kinds of marriage, rather than one. Now, we have man/woman marriage. Then, we will have man/woman marriage; man/man marriage; and woman/woman marriage. They… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“Then, we will have man/woman marriage; man/man marriage; and woman/woman marriage.” I suppose we will, if we insist on divvying up human/human marriage into discrete subcategories. [Of course, depending on how we define man and woman, it could be argued that we already have (quite legal) man/man marriage, since chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype do not always match. Somehow we all manage to muddle through in spite of this.] “They will be different because sexual relations and procreation will be different for each.” Don’t look now, but “sexual relations and procreation” already differ among male/female couples. The idea that either… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“If we have “marriage equality” we shall have three kinds of marriage, rather than one.”
– John Ross Martyn –

And maybe even another one! What about the mention of “The Marriage Feast of The Lamb” in Scripture?

This latter implies nothing about sexual congress, but much about non-generative filial relationship.

Interesting Observer
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Interesting Observer

“Rowan’s insistence that TEC throw our gays and WB’s under a bus (and our PB too, apparently) to be in unity with human rights abusers was not well received.” I’ve made that point repeatedly on various Guardian CiF blogs, and been shouted down by defenders of the CofE status quo. I’m not religious, but I care deeply about the credibility of this country in the human rights arena. The post-war CofE has been an advocate for justice, and has a proud record on Apartheid, debt relief and other development issues. Part of the power of the CofE is its link… Read more »

David Shepherd
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Bill: ‘[Of course, depending on how we define man and woman, it could be argued that we already have (quite legal) man/man marriage, since chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype do not always match. Somehow we all manage to muddle through in spite of this.]’ The validity of marriage is detemined by the prima facie representation of the couple at the time it is solemnised. There is no onus upon a couple to provide further proof beyond consistency with the gender on their birth certificates.. In respect of procreation, all marriages entail a uniform permanent contingency for shared rights and responsibilities… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

“There is no onus upon a couple to provide further proof beyond consistency with the gender on their birth certificates..” David Shepherd

An interesting point.

Prior to the introduction of gender recognition certificates, a friend of mine transitioned fully from being a woman to a man and then lived in a relationship with another man. Given that his gender was still shown as female on his birth certificate and, at that time, was held to be immutably so in law, could he not have married his partner in the Church of England (or a register office) had they wished?

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“The validity of marriage is detemined by the prima facie representation of the couple at the time it is solemnised. There is no onus upon a couple to provide further proof beyond consistency with the gender on their birth certificates.” I am a little surprised to find you thus affirming the validity and licitness of the marriages of post-operative transsexuals; not all conservatives would go so far. Kudos for taking such a courageous stand, and for clearing up a question about impossibilist’s attitudes regarding sex and gender: outward appearance is everything. As long as it *looks like* the couple has… Read more »

interested observer
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interested observer

“In the case of same sex couples, the possibility of issue, a fundamental precept of marriage law, is meaningless.” I hate to break this to you, but not all couples are faithful. And not all couples are unfaithful within the same gender parameters as their marriage. So if a woman in a civil partnership or (God forbid) a marriage were to fall pregnant, the parental responsibility would be shared with her civil partner/wife. It is not (and again, I hate to break this to you) for women to give birth to children who cannot, by reason of blood group or… Read more »

David Shepherd
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Bill:

That depends on what I meant by consistency, eh? The results of surgery can’t guarantee that.

You trying way too hard.

David Shepherd
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Interested observer: ‘So if a woman in a civil partnership or (God forbid) a marriage were to fall pregnant, the parental responsibility would be shared with her civil partner/wife.’ The issue of a presumption is whether parental responsibility is automatically shared by her partner. A woman in a civil partnership or (God forbid) same-sex marriage must make a parental responsibility agreement for her partner to become the step-parent. Alternatively, the court can make a parental responsibility order. It is only under HFEA 2008, that a civil partner who consents to the procedure of a licensed clinic is presumed to be… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“That depends on what I meant by consistency, eh? The results of surgery can’t guarantee that.” I didn’t realize that you were working with a different definition of “consistency” than the one in the dictionary. What exactly did you mean, then, eh? Actually, as I understand it, surgery isn’t an absolute necessity for a transsexual person to acquire a gender recognition certificate and, with it, a UK birth certificate listing their gender as the one they present as having. Which might very well mean that there have been brides who walked down the aisle in possession of male genitalia. Since… Read more »

David Shepherd
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‘Which might very well mean that there have been brides who walked down the aisle in possession of male genitalia’. Indeed, although, in terms of your own consistency, you referred previously and I responded to ‘the validity and licitness of the marriages of post-operative transsexuals’. You now change tack to counter with a pre-operative scenario. In respect of the definition of consistency, I meant that a registrar merely ensures that a couple intending to solemnise marriage are ostensibly recognisable as exhibiting opposite *gender* characteristics in agreement with their birth certificates. The person solemnising the marriage has no further obligation for… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

“A same-sex couple might convincingly present themselves for marriage as an opposite sex couple. The marriage would be solemnised and treated as valid as long as the deception remained hidden. However, if it was later discovered that the couple were not of opposite sex, the marriage would be declared void.” Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, then? As if that wasn’t a disgrace to the U.S. military for the almost 20 years it was law? I’ll be the first to argue that a successful marriage is ALWAYS a bridging of opposites. But to fetishize the chromosomal/ morphological *sex* and/or role-play of *gender* (as… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“However, if it was later discovered that the couple were not of opposite sex, the marriage would be declared void” Well, yes. That’s the current legal situation. It doesn’t invalidate a word of what Bill said. And we are talking about a change in legislation, after which whatever the new legislation describes will be marriage. And that will happen to include same sex couples, so marriages that would currently not be legal will soon be legal. In the heads of some people they will be not real marriage, in the heads of others they will be an inferior hybrid, in… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

I find Jung’s notion, that each of us has a ‘contrasexual other’ within us, a useful one. And he came out with it quite early on and enabled good thinking to happen, and good lving- not only for analysands, but for many others in many fields of thought and endeavour.

Also Marie Maguire has done some good theorising from a more Freudian point of view.

Let alone the wisdom of ‘ab/origianl’ peoples with their riches of ‘contrasexual’ ideas in their mythologies and shamanistic pratices.

It enriched my life to be made more conscious of my rich femininity.

MarkBrunson
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Why do you keep engaging with that snide, arrogant Shepherd person? He’s hopeless. Let the dead bury the dead, already!

David Shepherd
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Erika: I do wish you would read what Bill wrote before you respond. He claimed: ‘Of course, depending on how we define man and woman, it could be argued that we already have (quite legal) man/man marriage, since chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype do not always match.’ His use of ‘already’ points to how he sees current law. Even if there is a disparity over gender definitions, the current law establishes the marriage of same *sex* partners as void. Talk all you want about the future, but I addressed Bill’s assertion. Man/man marriage is not legal, but prove me wrong,… Read more »

Dave Marshall
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Dave Marshall

Interesting Observer: “The CofE will be reduced to an ageing, dying group of hidebound reactionaries whose pronouncements on morality are ignored by everyone else. If, indeed, that hasn’t already happened.” I think for most non-church-goers it already has. “It is to the credit of liberals in the CofE that they have stayed and fought, but as the years go by, it will become progressively less credible to do so, and decent people will steadily leave for other, more just, organisations.” One feature of the C of E is that in some respects it is not a membership organisation. All of… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“Even if there is a disparity over gender definitions, the current law establishes the marriage of same *sex* partners as void. Talk all you want about the future, but I addressed Bill’s assertion. Man/man marriage is not legal, but prove me wrong, if you can.” As I said, it depends on what definition of man you use. As it happens, the marriage of people who receive gender recognition certificates has nothing to do with biological sex, and everything to do with legal gender. According to the faq section of the gender recognition section of the Ministry of Justice http://www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/gender-recognition-panel/faqs :… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“Marriage is restricted to those couples with the prima facie constitutive possibility of issue.” – David Shepherd – If this statement were not so tragic, it would be laughed out of court. However, it is to such ignorance as this that many traditionalists hang their arguments against the understanding of marriage as the union of two persons “who love one another, and wish to share that love with each other for the rest of their lives” – (A.C.A.N.Z.P Marriage Service). How does Mr. Shepherd account for the number of Marriages solemnised in English churches that cater for older or infirm… Read more »

David Shepherd
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Ron:

One might hope that you would recognise the meaning of prima facie, i.e. ‘at first sight’. Neither age, nor infirmity provide prima facie evidence to a registrar that the couple is constituted in a manner that would make the possibility of issue, a fundamental marital contingency, meaningless.

Clearly, the common law principle enunciated by Blackstone is meaningless to you: ‘A possibility of issue is always supposed to exist, in law, unless extinguished by the death of the parties; even though the donees be each of them an hundred years old.’

David Shepherd
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ED: Reply to Ron was posted earlier today. I didn’t assume his question for me to be rhetorical.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

I think it is well worth noting that Jesus’s harshest words were for the Pharisee’s for using the Law to exclude and demean people. The Shepherd arguments essentially boil down to that. And they are all arguments that were dispelled decades ago here. Some people feel absolutely entitled to their prejudices and the sense of superiority and whatnot that that those irrational fears feed. Here’s a story that illustrates precisely what is going on here: An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a… Read more »