Thinking Anglicans

More about the bishops in the House of Lords debate

First, a statement from one of the bishops who was not present in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Gloucester has issued this The Marriage (same Sex Couples) Bill.

… I accept that the bill has now received overwhelming support in both Houses of Parliament and that the task of the Church, through the bishops, is now to respect the view that has been so clearly endorsed and to argue for any amendments that might make the legislation more acceptable to those whose consciences are troubled.

I share the view expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the debate that the Church has not often served the LGBT communities in the way it should. I hope we shall be more affirming and supportive for the future and in particular that the House of Bishops Working Party on Human Sexuality, of which I am a member, will be able to help the Church towards a more positive valuing of committed and faithful homosexual partnerships.

In the light of the suggestion in the Telegraph that bishops had been put under pressure by Church of England officials to abstain from voting on the Bill, I need to say very firmly that no such pressure was put on me (nor, I think, on any bishop). The pressure that we have experienced has been an unprecedented campaign of letters, emails and phone calls from those urging us to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill…

And before the vote the Bishop of Lichfield had published this: Bishops in the House of Lords & the Marriage Bill.

Today, the Church Times carries a report of the debate by Madeleine Davies Bishops gather in Lords to vote against gay-marriage Bill which also notes that several Christian peers spoke in favour of the bill.

And there is a leader article, signed by Paul Handley, under the title More than one voice. This should be read in full, but it concludes this way:

…No legislation framed at such a juncture is going to be perfect. But, whatever the flaws of this Bill, it is important that the present debate is seen for what it is: a test of the Church’s ability to address people who are, by and large, more compassionate and accepting than the Church is currently perceived to be. The general population sees marriages that do not look like marriages, cohabitations that do, and same-sex relationships that can look like either. For their part, many in the Church see only an ideal – which is odd, given the pastoral encounters that churchpeople have, and the range of relationships that exist in most congregations.

Once the legislation is passed, as we assume it will be, there will not be an opportunity for a clearer, more nuanced debate. This is it. Hereafter, the Church’s pronouncements on marriage will be coloured by the reputation it gains now. At present, this appears to be censorious, and out of touch with reality. Its criticisms of poor legislation are interpreted as simple prejudice. In reality, the Church is divided on this issue, and it is vital that those who have a more confident view of marriage, and a more open view of sexuality, make their voices heard.

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Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Thank you to Paul Handley for expressing so clearly the risks that the present HoB polity runs. I hope those like the Bishop of Gloucester, who is IMNSHO on the wrong side of the question as regards the present legislation, but who has a concern to see a much more positive context for valuing and honouring faithful committed same-sex relationships, will take note of who their allies in the HoB are, and will raise their voices loud and clear when they come to look at what Pilling produces. If they don’t, then the negative public opinion which Paul Handley so… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Once the legislation is passed, as we assume it will be, there will not be an opportunity for a clearer, more nuanced debate. This is it. Hereafter, the Church’s pronouncements on marriage will be coloured by the reputation it gains now. “ Which is true, and the article from the Church Times is incredibly sensible. However, given the choice between pandering to a small and noisy claque of hardliners, many of them linked to conservative African churches, and following the modernising thinking of more than fifty percent of the CofE (no matter how tightly you draw the definition), Welby has… Read more »

Laurence
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Laurence

I believe his has (already) made his choice.

Jean Mayland
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Jean Mayland

The bishops who voted against have made fools of themselves, shown how out of touch they are with society and greatly harmed the mission of our church.

David
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David

Interested Observer – I am left wondering what your ‘interest’ actually is here. With all respect I just don’t think we are going to have the serious theological debate that is still needed if we can’t stop labelling … bigots, homophobics, sexists … Waiting for the deaths of those who disagree with us is not that Christian either.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

David, I appreciate your call to civilized dialogue. However, people need to hear the hurt. It hurts to be on the receiving end of discrimination. It can even be fatal. It is very difficult for those who were born in the power position, such as male, white, and straight, to truly empathize. There’s isn’t a polite substitute for the agony that the church has caused. There’s no cure for it without hearing it, acknowledging it, respecting it, and trying to carry on more sensitively. For an analogy . In the US there is a phenomenon known as “driving while black,”… Read more »

Laurence
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Laurence

What ‘serious theological debate’ ? What’s to discuss ? I find anti-gay knaves love to pretend to discussion, but I for one, refuse to help you with your problem. Just most Black people will have no stomach for assisting racists to improve.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

It was great to read in Church Times about church leaders who’ve written in support of equal marriage. Hope!

The Handley article makes important points. I for one am not going to forget that Justin Welby’s position was essentially “Sorry the church has treated LGBTs so badly. I’m here today to ask you to vote with me so that we can keep treating LGBTs badly.”

And of course, I’m not going to forget that Welby made that speech when the church already had the quadruple lock.

MarkBrunson
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It’s funny to me that it’s “labelling” when it’s the poor, oppressed straights who feel gays are icky, but just good ol’ robus “opinion” when it’s directed at gays and liberals. Theological debate ended long ago. There is and can be none, because hypocrisy killed it. It’s a little late, after all the abuse (years, decades, centuries) and finding yourself on the losing end to start making appeals to goodwill, a little late to make appeals for a theology that has been presented and rejected out-of-hand. The goodwill is spent by conservative profligacy and the theology has been done to… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Mark, I hear your anger. And I share it. But I think there is room for theology and room for the Holy Spirit to move. They need to hear our hurt, they really do. But I encourage you to keep some faith, some hope. There’s been a lot of change in the last decade or so. That change has come because many have had a change of heart – they have turned around, they have repented. They saw the light. In God, all things are made new. All hurts can be healed. More people will see the light and know… Read more »

MarkBrunson
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My faith and hope is in God. Men have failed. The Church has failed. Without a radical, even revolutionary overhaul, it is worthless, and I have no problem saying that I have no place for these obstructionists who cringe at being called out for the sexist homophobes they are, in my life or worship. God may love and nurture them. I’m not God, nor is any man-made structure, whether it arrogates the name “church” to itself or not. There can be no coexistence in the same structure.