Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 18 June 2016

David Ison ViaMedia ‘Do You See This Woman?’

Kelvin Holdsworth Scottish Episcopalians Do It Together

Beth Routledge Into The Light Of Morning

Mike Eastwood, Director of Renewal and Reform at the Church of England A hopeful future

Simon Watkinson The Guardian It’s not every young person’s dream, but I plan to be a vicar

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Kate
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Kate

Once again I find myself in disagreement with Kelvin. He supports the idea that no priest will be required to perform a same sex marriage. He puts his view eloquently and with grace. At first glance, allowing conscientious objection seems reasoned and reasonable. But how will a young couple feel if a priest says he won’t marry them because he doesn’t believe same sex marriage is Biblical? What of a man whose husband is killed. What if the priest approached to conduct the funeral says, “If I conduct the service I cannot refer to him as your husband”? On closer… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

Kate is mistaken. In Scotland the legal system ensures that any priest can already refuse any marriage by any couple on any grounds. (Registrars can’t). The Canon that has received first reading simply mirrors what is already the legal case, something that opponents of same-sex marriage wanted to see in the canon. There’s no mention of refusing to marry a couple because they happen to be gay. The text of the proposed change to the Canon begins: “In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Kelvin,thank you for the reply. But that wording in the canon allows discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender reassignment and we all know that is how it will be used. The canon is also silent on whether ministers will be required to recognise marriages against their consciences. That is such an enormous grey area that it is bound to cause problems. So sorry, but I continue to disagree and think the wording of the canon serves priests but not couples and is therefore deeply unsatisfactory. Indeed, although I support same sex marriages I would personally vote against the… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

TEC adoppted such a clause quite a while ago, to provide a way for clergy to decline to solemnize a marriage in which one or both of the parties was divorced. So TEC did not need to add such a clause when marriage equality became a reality.

There can be any number of reasons for a cleric to decline to officiate at a given marriage, and stating so with such open-ended language is commendable, and doesn’t put any onus on one group or another.

Beth Routledge
Guest

I confess to still not understanding why anyone would want to be married by anyone who didn’t want to marry them.

The conscience clause alters nothing at all — it expresses in words that which already exists in reality — and without it I really don’t think we would have got as far as even first reading of the amended canon. The situation is of course a little different in England where opposite sex couples have the right to be married by their CoE parish priest; in Scotland no couple has any such right.

Pam
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Pam

Well said, David Ison. Yes, I see this woman. Because I am a woman, in all my brokenness, who loves Jesus. There are a number of stories in the Bible about Jesus’ encounter with ‘fallen’ women. And the men who demean them. Both groups are diminished if we don’t see each other. And, of course, that goes for any privileged group and any marginalised group.

John Sandeman
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John Sandeman

So is it acceptable in TEC or SEC for a priest to decline to marry on the grounds that the couple is same sex and to state that as the reason? (Or is this the un-love whose name can not be spoken?)

Kate
Guest
Kate

“I confess to still not understanding why anyone would want to be married by anyone who didn’t want to marry them.”

Because the minister is only acting on behalf of God and their personal views should be irrelevant. They sign up to an office and should perform it utterly impartially regardless of any personal inclinations. That is their responsibility to God.

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

Once again, the legal situation in Scotland is that any priest may decline to marry any person for any reason. If you are a priest in Scotland, you can decline to marry a couple because they are mixed race. You can decline to marry a couple because one of them is divorced. You can decline to marry a couple because you don’t like them. You can decline to marry a couple because you don’t think the marriage will succeed. You can decline a marriage because you think the couple too fat. You can decline a marriage because you think the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

My view is that respect for people’s conscientious belief is really important. FACT: opinion is divided down the middle, as to whether gay and lesbian sex are alright or not. If we insist on one side ‘dominating’ their ‘truth’ over the other side, what we end up with is schism. Indeed, the efforts of the archbishops to impose uniformity of belief (or threaten sanctions) is just such an example of that domination of ‘my truth’ over ‘your truth’. If we want priests, ministers, PCCs, local churches to be able good conscience and affirm gay sexuality in their local communities… then… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

@John Sandeman: I would certainly think less of any priest who chose to do that, just as I would think less of one who refused to marry a couple because one of them was a Muslim. I do accept, however, that the nature of having diversity within the church means that some parts of that diversity may stray into areas that I find objectionable. I think to have pushed for a strong anti-discrimination clause in the SEC canon would be to let perfect be the enemy of good, because the vote would not have passed. As it is, it looks… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Kate,
can I ask what you mean by “The canon is also silent on whether ministers will be required to recognise marriages against their consciences.”?

Ministers, indeed everyone, already has to accept the reality and legal implications of gay marriage, regardless of what they think of it.

What kind of recognition against people’s conscience are you thinking of?

James Byron
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James Byron

I agree there should be a conscience clause for priests: but not, however, for bishops, since, as seen in TEC, the exercise of their “conscience” involves trampling over that of every rector in their diocese. This has to work both ways.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Beth, “I confess to still not understanding why anyone would want to be married by anyone who didn’t want to marry them.” I think I do. Priests come and go, congregations exist for decades. It’s quite possible that someone has been a member of a congregation since childhood and that they feel fully part of that parish. They should not have to get married somewhere else just because a newish priest happens not to believe in same sex marriage. People often come back to the church of their childhood when they get married. Again, the personal views of the priest… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

John Sandeman, I can’t speak for SEC, but in TEC a priest may decline to officiate at any marriage without stating her reasons, though nothing prevents her from stating the reasons. Those reasons could include the cleric’s belief that the marriage could not, or ought not, be solemnized at all — as I note, the clause was added after the church came to permit the marriage of divorced parties, and many in the church still felt such marriages were null. Those who believe a SS couple ought not marry (or in their mind, do not marry) are free to state… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“So is it acceptable in TEC or SEC for a priest to decline to marry on the grounds that the couple is same sex and to state that as the reason? (Or is this the un-love whose name can not be spoken?)” Yes, John. TEC clergy don’t have to marry anyone they they don’t want to marry, and not wishing to do inclusive marriage can be one of those reasons. I know that there was some scare mongering going on about how clergy who won’t marry gay couples could get defrocked, but that was baseless propaganda. TEC basically approved SSM… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Erika, to answer your question first. What concerns me is if a priest might refuse a funeral for a gay partner, or refuse to refer to them as husband and husband. And whether they will recognise them both as a father of any children and so on. Kelvin (and others) you are essentially arguing that in SEC a minister could refuse to marry all mixed race couples and that would be acceptable. I cannot agree. However, on further reading I think you might have correctly stated the law. However, the law doesn’t preclude saying that anybody who openly declines to… Read more »

John Sandeman
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John Sandeman

Thank you, Tobias, that is quite clear.

Cseitz
Guest
Cseitz

So in any foreseeable conflict between TEC non discrimination canons and an individual clerics right to refuse the latter rules?

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

> Kelvin (and others) you are essentially arguing that in SEC a minister could refuse to marry all mixed race couples and that would be acceptable.

No I’m not.

>However, on further reading I think you might have correctly stated the law.

Yes I am.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“You can decline to marry a couple because you don’t think the marriage will succeed.”

A reason for declining that probably all priests/ministers should use, more often! ;-/ [Yes, yes, yes: the CofE, being established, is different.]

Susannah Clark
Guest

The Scottish approach which Kelvin outlines is almost exactly the one that I favour and have (along with others) been proposing here. I think it should be a model for England, and the English House of Bishops. We do *not* all have to agree about human sexuality, and we won’t. But we can agree to keep walking together, to love one another, to recognise the precious worth of God in one another’s ministries, the greater part of which involves the sick, the lonely, the poor, the bereaved, and learning to live in relationship, valuing each unique individual. It is not… Read more »

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

Australia may have a plebiscite to ascertain the views of electors with regard to “same sex marriage” and the Commonwealth Parliament, though not obliged to do so, I think would then establish “same sex marriage” by law. (It is not legally obliged to do so ; that is only the case with referendums.) But even if it does, no law can force a cleric or other person to recognise a same sex union as marriage. And a considerable number of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others here will NEVER do so though some would accept and indeed welcome legal civil… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

CSeitz, Yes. There is no conflict because the non-discrimination canon (I.17.5) concludes, “except as otherwise specified by Canons.” The clause in the marriage canon (I.18.7) specifies that exception.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“You can decline to marry a couple because you don’t think the marriage will succeed.” Oh my. Where to begin. It won’t succeed because it is mixed race? It won’t work because, well, gay couples are never faithful. Has the church learned nothing from safeguarding scandals that priests can do the wrong thing and the rules need to protect people from that. But that is the tip of the iceberg. The hulking monolith is that marriages are a union made by God and that we should always expect and hope that any church marriage be lifelong and be genuinely surprised… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Instead of saying ‘my truth is right and your truth is wrong’, and trying to force uniformity on people… “ That I think is the disagreement though, isn’t it? Many (but not all) liberals see truth as personal / subjective and seek a compromise; many (but not all) conservatives believe there is an absolute, objective truth and that a faithful church should be obedient to that truth. In suggesting compromise and diversity you are seeking to impose your version of truth (varied, personal) on other against their conscience. And if schism comes, that I think will be the fault line… Read more »

Nathaniel Brown
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Nathaniel Brown

John Bunyan: why is same-sex marriage placed in quotation marks in your post?

Bill Ghrist
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Bill Ghrist

The one weak point in the TEC approach is highlighted by James Byron’s and Cynthia’s comments. Cynthia says “The conservatives don’t have to do it. They just can’t stop others from exercising the inclusive conscience.” But James’ earlier comment points out that if the conservative is a bishop, he or she CAN stop others from exercising the inclusive conscience.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Part of the problem I think (but have thought for a long time) is that in common law countries (but also in Italy, for example)a marriage in church includes a civil contract (except in Italy there is an insidious opt-out too). It seems to me, and has for a long time, that France has got it right. The civil obligations of marriage accrue only to a civil marriage, any religious blessing is only an add-on chosen by the people concerned. For the state, you are married only if you have married in the town hall, after that you can do… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

Kate – I feel that I’m running out of ways to explain that what I’ve described is the law of the land in Scotland. Clergy, by law, can refuse to marry a couple. They don’t need to give any reason – they can simply refuse. I wasn’t giving you a list of examples as to why clergy *should* refuse to marry a couple. Merely stating what the law says. Celebrants have human rights too and in Scotland they simply have the right not to conduct a religious ceremony they don’t want to conduct. Neither the Scottish Episcopal Church nor I… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Kate ‘In all I have read on TA nothing has shocked me so much as that statement and the belief that priests back their own feelings about a union rather than placing absolute and unquestioning faith in God. No wonder the church is in serious decline’. You’ve missed quite a lot on TA then. But sorry, this is baffling. Are you saying there is no place for marriage preparation? Just trust in God for any couples who turn up? No place for helping couples to think it through carefully – and possibly even come to recognise it may not be… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

@Kate

At the risk of ‘mansplaining’ – and I’m quite sure that Kelvin Holdsworth can speak for himself – I think all he has done is describe what the law in Scotland *is*. Not that he necessarily agrees with it.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Kate: I have no doubt that there is such a thing as universal truth; but I very much doubt that it is possible for any one human being (or even a collection of same) to know what it is.

That being the case, I prefer to let each person define truth as he sees it, except for the things which we as a society have decided.

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

A couple practical examples of how conscience works, from personal experience. Last week, I officiated a marriage between a Christian and a Buddhist. The rector of the church where the bride had been baptized refused it. He was under no obligation to take it, and in fact I was required to obtain the bishop’s permission because it was an interfaith marriage. Twice I have refused to officiate at marriages where it was clear that the primary purpose of the marriage was to provide a means to permanent residency for one of the spouses. In one of those cases, the couple… Read more »

Brian Ralph
Guest
Brian Ralph

John Bunyan, I would consider a person who did not want to grant equal rights in all aspects of law to a coloured person to be a racist. So I consider a person who does not want to allow same sex marriage to be a homophobe and you have stated elsewhere that is your opinion. Here in New Zealand, the parliament was able to hold a civil debate where members stated their views then were given a free vote and 64% voted in favour so it is now the law. I cannot see why a similar process cannot be followed… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Pat, I believe Kelvin Holdsworth has dealt with this issue with integrity and refuses to marry any couple at present rather than discriminate against same sex couples. If a church votes to allow same sex marriage then any priest who by conscience doesn’t wish to do that should follow Kelvin’s admirable lead and cease conducting any marriage rather than discriminate. Accommodating personal truth / conscience can usually be achieved without opening the door to discrimination.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Just trust in God for any couples who turn up?”

Yes.

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

Brian Ralph may designate all who oppose “same sex marriages” as homophobes, members of the “homophobic right wing”, and claim all that they say as “vitriolic”. I think that this is simply nonsense and I am still free to express my views. I don’t hear vitriolic language coming from supporters of the traditional understanding here, and I have not heard it from Church leaders or church people, but of course (tragically) it does exist in some places . Many of those supporters, however, often remain quiet because of the kind of accusations made by Mr Ralph and others. (An attempt… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Brian:

Regarding plebiscites on this or any other matter, I have always regarded this quotation from Edmund Burke to be the epitome of conscientious government.

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Kate
Guest
Kate

John

As soon as one says a gay person may not do something a straight person may do, many people would say that is homophobia. It doesn’t matter what that “something” is – teach, adopt or marry – or the reasons one gives.

Paul Powers
Guest
Paul Powers

All this discussion over a hypothetical situation where a same-sex couple are turned away! If such a problem actually arises, it can be addressed in future synods (e.g. by requiring the priest to allow another priest to come to the church to officiate). I think we can trust the Scots to figure something out.

Susannah Clark
Guest

The root sense of the suffix ‘phobia’ obviously is ‘fear’, but in useful and practical ways, the word ‘homophobia’ has taken on deeper meanings… not just ‘fear’ of homosexual people and sex, but ‘discrimination’, ‘repulsion’, ‘dislike’, ‘disgust’, ‘exclusion’, ‘marginalisation’, ‘erasure’… A whole range of negative feelings and actions towards lesbian and gay people. Indeed, the very act of describing gay sex as against God’s will is an act of homophobia, even though the opinion may be held in good conscience and with good intent. But the accumulative effect of all these degrees of distance from gay and lesbian sex is… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

Although I’m pretty convinced that opposition to equal marriage *is* homophobia, in a situation where it might be debatable whether a position is prejudiced, discriminatory etc (e.g. homophobic, racist, sexist) perhaps we could be humble enough to think that it is the people who are usually at the receiving end of that particular prejudice who we should use to guide us as to whether it actually is or not? Although one can always find exceptions (and please don’t tell me about your gay ‘friends’ who are against gay marriage’), any visit to, say the Pink News web site, will demonstrate… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“I put “same sex marriage” in inverted commas simply because using the term without them, like using the term “marriage equality”, begs the question. Though an old rather agnostic, liberal parson, I do not believe “same sex marriage” is marriage, and no law can make it so.” The problem, John, is that I am sacramentally married to my partner of almost 25 years. And your claim that my marriage isn’t a marriage disparages the most holy thing in my life. You think it’s just a position that you have the right to hold, I see it as an attack on… Read more »

Brian Ralph
Guest
Brian Ralph

John Bunyan “I don’t hear vitriolic language coming from supporters of the traditional understanding here, and I have not heard it from Church leaders or church people, but of course (tragically) it does exist in some places . “ I am well aware of the “love the sinner” attitude of Sydney Clergymen. However whenever I came out as a gay man to my rector, I was not asked to leave but my name was taken off any rosters within the church. Of course women did not read the lessons so why should a gay man. I can imagine the response… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thank you for your Witness, Brian, I’m so sorry about the loss of your youthful friend and a Rector to suicide. Sadly, it is still too common, especially amongst our youth, who are especially susceptible to the abhorrent messages from the church, and who suffer a range of bullying in school and online. Church leaders need to accept responsibility for their role in this misery, and put an end to the hateful and exclusionary rhetoric that feeds that nasty beast. Separate but equal is a lie. The message that we are less valued in the eyes of God and in… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

Those who don’t hear vitriol can usually afford not to, while finding vitriol anywhere that questions that very privilege.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“The problem, John, is that I am sacramentally married to my partner of almost 25 years. And your claim that my marriage isn’t a marriage disparages the most holy thing in my life. You think it’s just a position that you have the right to hold, I see it as an attack on my being and my wonderful marriage to my anam cara, a true gift from God, affirmed by my priest, parish, bishop, and church (TEC).” And that is why I believe the SEC approach is wrong and that the wording of any new canon or measure needs to… Read more »