Saturday, 14 June 2008

London church service makes news

Updated Saturday evening

The Episcopal Café reports on a Same sex wedding held in London church.

The complete order of service is available as a PDF file from there.

Update
From tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports:

Male priests marry in Anglican church’s first gay ‘wedding’
First gay ‘wedding’: Only the bride was missing
First gay ‘wedding’: All eyes on Archbishop of Canterbury

Some quotes from the Telegraph:

The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, said that the ceremony was “blasphemous.” He called on Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take decisive action if the Anglican Church were not to “disintegrate”. Archbishop Orombi added: “What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.

“The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching.”

The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester – a powerful conservative figure – said that the service represented a wedding “in all but name”. He said: “Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but the language is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion.”

The bishop said that it was up to the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, to act, adding that it would become a high-profile test case of Church authority.

“Can we stand for the clear teaching of the Church of England or are we powerless in the face of these actions, which I regret enormously have taken place,” he said.

From the Mail on Sunday by Jonathan Petre:

Row as rector holds Britain’s first gay ‘wedding’ in an Anglican church and another copy with a slightly different headline here.

Some quotes from the Mail:

Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack, a prominent Anglican, said: ‘This is extraordinary. I am surprised the rector of such an important church should act in apparent defiance of his bishop.’

Alison Ruoff, a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, said: ‘It is incredibly sad that people are prepared to sin against God and the Church.’

… Mr Dudley said he was unrepentant. He said he had written to Bishop Chartres 18 months ago for guidance on blessings for same-sex couples in civil partnerships, but was told the Church’s House of Bishops had not approved them.

‘Bishop Chartres asked me not to offer them and I do not offer them,’ he said.

‘But if close friends ask me to bless them, I do not say no.

‘It would be an act of hypocrisy to do anything else.

I was ordained alongside gay candidates of the priesthood and many of my clergy friends are gay, though I am not.’

He said he regarded the service as a blessing rather than a marriage and added that he was not worried about discipline because he had acted with integrity.

A Church spokesman said: ‘The Church of England is absolutely firm on the point that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

‘The Church has no liturgy for blessing same-sex unions.’

Agence France-Presse reports that:

A Church of England spokesman told AFP they had “no reason” to believe that the ceremony did not take place but added: “What we seem to have here is a fairly serious breach of the rules by an individual or groups of individuals.”

… The Church of England spokesman said he hoped the news would not affect relations between member churches, stressing: “The Church of England has not changed its rules (on the subject) at any stage.”

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in whose diocese the ceremony took place, was unavailable for comment, his spokesman told AFP.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 11:31pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Congratulations !

May the happy couple know health and happiness.

This is all that matters and my comments below are largely irrelevant, from the viewpoint of those in love, in their unique moments of joy --as a new chapter opens.

I always wanted a 'BCP' wedding
with the hymn 'O Perfect Love' (when I sang at the weddings of others as a choir boy in our village church.

(It is good to see the C of E following the lead of free churches.

The parish website looks interesting too.)

Posted by: L Roberts on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 5:56pm BST

If the people (let the Holy Spirit) lead, the leaders will follow.

Long life, happiness, and continued fruitful ministries to the happy couple. Mazel Tov! :-D

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 8:27pm BST

And St Bart's is such a lovely church, too - one of my absolute favourites. It would be such a shame if ++Cantuar has to kick them out of the Communion! Who do you suppose was presiding? They appear to have kept their name off the service sheet, whoever they are.

Posted by: MRG on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 8:47pm BST

Simon (I suspect) knows only too well that the Sunday Mail and Telegraph are probably running this on their front page tomorrow!

I have been to dozens of similar services over the last 30 years - I guess it had to be a bad news day.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 9:40pm BST

Perhaps we will need to send in a flying Bishop from the Episcopal Church to provide emergency pastoral oversight for the newly married couple? I'm thinking a woman bishop would be best. I'm joking, of course, but perhaps this will help end the hypocracy that the C of E is becoming in the name of unity.

Posted by: deaconmark on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 11:55pm BST

A happy life together to the couple involved. I'm interested in liturgies like these, so made a copy of the essential part:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/06/symbolism-of-rings-and-hands.html

I think, in the end, it is better to write something new, even if the language is a little ancient for effect, but even though the work was largely done for the priest, the slight changes made are rather clever and effective.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 11:58pm BST

It is worth pointing out that all the great advancements in church history have come from individuals acting in opposition to authority. I would almost say it starts with Jesus himself, healing on the Sabbath, and proceeds through Luther, the first US women ordained before Gen Con permitted it, and now, to this.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 12:12am BST

Didn't the Blessing take place on the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is May 31 (according to the printed service booklet)? Why the breaking news a fortnight later?

Martin Reynolds is spot on when he surmises that "it must have been a bad news day."

Posted by: John Henry on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 2:08am BST

These people don't give a d@mn if the church explodes or implodes. Really quite reprehensible. The homosexual agenda trumps the gospel.

Posted by: robroy on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 2:34am BST

May they have a long and loving relationship. May they be role models of affection and respect to their friends, family and associates.

May the bible sustain and give them guidance as they go through both the good and the bad times, and may they genuinely love each other for better or for worse.

May their relationship be mutual where both sides needs are acknowledged and respected so that it is not one getting the "for worse" whilst the other basks in the "for best".

That is something that we all need to learn. Just because Jesus was annointed Lord of the earth, does not mean that the sensibilities and desires of John the Baptist or other supporters became null and void. The feminine of God has a genuine desire for the everlasting covenant of peace to apply throughout ALL Creation.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 4:26am BST

It will be very interesting to study the comments and reaction of the Bishop of London. He likes to run with the hare and the hounds. His attitude seems to be, as long as you don't publicly acknowledge homosexuality, he will turn a blind eye. Apparently that is the exact same attitude of the TALIBAN to homosexuality.

The Church of England bishops realise that if they start to expell such clergy, it will jeopardise their whole privileged status with the State.

Is any one taking bets as to whether Mr Dudley will be deprived?

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 6:32am BST

It was a very grand occasion with an orchestral Mozart Mass and great ceremony and I thought very brave on the part of the clergy concerned whom I admired. However, it was clearly also an act without official sanction and appeared deliberately to take on as much Prayer Book marriage wording as possible - all of which I thought was odd. Even though it was a courageous act of rebellion it was not done amidst the glare of publicity - and despite perhaps over 300 guests attending (many senior clergy as well) the fact that the story has emerged so late shows that this was intended as a celebration amongst friends and not a 'protest wedding'. I wish the couple every joy.

Posted by: Neil on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 7:51am BST

Perhaps it's worth pointing out the following comment from the Telegraph:

" 19. Posted by The Revd Dr Martin Dudley on June 15, 2008 08:54 AM

As the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, who officiated at this service, I would like to add a little clarity to the story.

First, it was not a wedding or a marriage but the blessing of a civil partnership. Mr Wynne-Jones was well aware of this from his conversation with me today. If others construe it as a wedding, than they do so deliberately in order to ferment division.

Second, it was not and was intended to be a provocative act. It was not undertaken in defiance of the Bishop of London and there was no plea from him that I should not officiate at the service.

Third, we should remember that this service celebrated the love that the two persons involved have for each other. I officiated at it because Fr Peter Cowell has been my friend and colleague for many years. 300 people joined in the service; nearly 200 received communion, and there were dozens of other clergy present. It was not a rally or a demonstration. If other people want to turn into a loveless battlefield for the future of the Church of England, then it is they who will carry responsibility for the consequences."

Posted by: kieran crichton on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 1:04pm BST

Thanks Kieran for that. I will add it to the later article above.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 1:15pm BST

I find it interesting that it's apparently so shocking that two clergy - people whom one presumes live deeply with the liturgy - should use a form of blessing based on the BCP. If the Church won't sanction a form of blessing, then this is what will continue to happen. I wish them all happiness, and gee do I envy their style having a not-quite nuptial High Mass. I'd kill to meet breeders with a similar dash of elan.

The African Contingent should know by now that Rowan Williams can do very little to control events like this. They would have been naive to expect George Carey to have anything like similar control. The comment from Orombi, along with the line about Cantuar flying out to assure the Africans that the CofE had fought the civil unions bill, demonstrates a very telling lack of basic insight into reality as most people experience it. If this is going to be a test case, then there's a whole lot more to be said about hardness of hearts, the love of God, and the appropriateness of the Church having a form for blessing just about anything other than two people in love before we get to the proof texts and the overweening pride that informs so many conservatives.

The thing I find shocking is that this is apparently a serious breach of good form - not playing by the rules. Banning them is simply begging for defiance and challenge - there must be a better reason than good form, a couple of random verses from the Bible and a whole stack of hate to prevent the Church from assembling a formal and sanctioned liturgy for the blessing of two men or two women. Frankly, if the rules are biased against gay unions, then these sorts of services will continue to surface until something official is created. Perhaps the conservatives should brace themselves for a slew of further, possibly more shocking, revelations - so much material for outrage that they all might die of apoplexy. It would seem a fittingly melodramatic end for those drama queens with a suspicious taste for flamboyant vestments.

Posted by: kieran crichton on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 1:33pm BST

"...the appropriateness of the Church having a form for blessing just about anything..."

I'm reminded of the line from the opening number ("Tradition") in Fiddler on the Roof:

"Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Czar?"

"A blessing for the Czar, of course--(chanting) May God bless and keep the Czar...far away from us!"

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:01pm BST

In his Commentary piece Jonathan Wynne-Jones opens:
“The Church of England’s first homosexual wedding could not have come at a worse time for the Archbishop of Canterbury…”

Now, is this a deliberate and wicked lie or just a piece of totally acceptable journalese, where truth is completely unimportant if it makes a good story?

There is nothing of the “first” about this – I have been to many such services over the last 30 years and even had the privilege of asking the blessing myself – I have been to several where one was a priest and just one where both were priests though I know a several others.

I have used (and witnessed) a liturgy almost the same (though not quite as elegant) with the same sort of changes to the language of the Prayer Book.

And what’s this from 2005?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1506074/Church-blessing-for-homosexual-vicar.html
Same stable of newspapers though written by the same Jonathan Petre who tells us in his Mail on Sunday guise in this piece today : “A row has broken out after a rector became the first clergyman to hold a full-scale ‘wedding’ service involving two men at an Anglican church.” Ah! Even “full scale” is wrong – opera singers and orchestras have been done before!

This is not a “wedding”, Jonathan Wynne-Jones (and Jonathan Petre) knows this only too well.

These lies “could not have come at a worse time for Dr Rowan Williams” – that is absolutely true.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:26pm BST

God bless them in their life together.

Posted by: bls on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:42pm BST

Well, I hope this brings the day nearer when we will see similar rituals in the Roman Catholic Church.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 4:09pm BST

There's so much shock-horror and righteous indignation surrounding this whole thing that I believe it behoves us to stand back and look at the rules, such as they are, how they can be held to have been broken, and what sanctions, if any, there are.

First, people need to stop blaming the poor Archbishop. It's nothing to do with him, and it is outwith his jurisdiction. He comes into play only at a very late stage of the clergy discipline procedure, if at all.

Second, though the Bishops' ruling on the blessing of civil unions is that they "should not" take place, they are not banned, and cannot be banned, because there is nothing which can limit the right of a parish priest to say what prayers he wishes with those who come to him with a pastoral issue.

Third, whilst the shortness of peoples' patience is understandable, such an "in your face" action does leave open questions about wisdom.

Fourth, those of us who looked for a pastoral solution to the issue of marriage breakdown 30-40 years ago, and on into the jolly days of Option G generally found that a low-key attempt to provide a service of blessing was the best way, and usually met with approval from the hierarchy - unless the bishop was personally dead-set against such ministry on principle. I think there were not many such.

Fifth, in response to Robert Ian Williams' question - on what grounds do you imagine Dr Dudley could face deprivation? I find it hard to think of any. Holding a service which disturbs the Daily Telegraph and/or Daily Mail seems to me more like grounds for canonisation.

Posted by: cryptogram on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 4:28pm BST

Martin Reynolds is incorrect. The service was very clearly a wedding as I demonstrate by examining the text of the liturgy here and the theology of the liturgy in these two posts:

http://www.peter-ould.net/2008/06/15/gay-wedding/
http://www.peter-ould.net/2008/06/15/gay-wedding-the-theology/

Posted by: Peter O on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 7:40pm BST

This was a deliberately provocative act. Clearly the press has been informed and the officiant and others have delighted in speaking to them.

It was clearly deliberately done a few weeks before the Lambeth Conference.

It is sad to treat Archbishop Rowan so shamefully.

Posted by: Etheldreda on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 8:26pm BST

"The African Contingent should know by now that Rowan Williams can do very little to control events like this."

Come now, kieran, you know better than this.

Those who would like to "control" (i.e., terminate---with extreme prejudice!) liturgies like these, are no more limited to an "African Contingent", than are those who would like to *celebrate* such liturgies limited to white northerners.

The Problem is unbiblical, anti-gay *bigotry* wherever it is to be found: neither the problem, nor the solutions, come from a single continent.

Long life and abundant blessings to my hero, +Desmond Tutu! :-)

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 8:44pm BST

'The service was very clearly a wedding as I demonstrate by examining the text of the liturgy here and the theology of the liturgy in these two posts:

http://www.peter-ould.net/2008/06/15/gay-wedding/
http://www.peter-ould.net/2008/06/15/gay-wedding-the-theology/

Posted by: Peter O on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 7:40pm BST '

How lovely that Peter O recognises that is is a wedding and therefore a marriage.

Joy to them and all lovers of all times and places !

Good old God !

Posted by: L Roberts on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 10:53pm BST

Well, I see. Thank you Peter.

I am afraid you will have to allow me to continue to demur.

Though I have to say that in the case of our carefully named
Solemnisation of our Civil Partnership
The children who came all called it a marriage and were firmly of the view that it was a Wedding. Theologically I think that marginally more convincing of it actually being a marriage than your argument.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 11:32pm BST

JCF - point taken. That said, there are a lot of *Africans* in TEC these days, are there not?

Posted by: kieran crichton on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 1:57am BST

I always thought a wedding simply is a contract between two people and recognized by the state.

If this is the case than allowing some to be able to make this contract while other's can't seems to affair/bias IMHO.

Whatever happened, it wasn't the first and won't be the last. Either the church welcome the their gay clergy or boot them all out. My guess is they're in a pickle.

Posted by: Bob In PA on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 3:21am BST

"The homosexual agenda trumps the gospel."

robroy, I'm as put off by this as you are, and if, as has been noted elsewhere, the people involved are at all surprised by the reaction, they have apparently been on another planet for the past five years, but come on, "the homosexual agenda trumps the Gospel"? Would you care to point out exactly what in this "trumps the Gospel"? For the love of God, the barbarians are NOT at the gate, and no-one is building altars to the Emperor on which you must burn a pinch of incense or be tortured in the arena, much as you might long for the crown of martyrdom. You know, in the Early Church, bishops warned their flocks against actively seeking martyrdom, it is a form of vainglory. THAT'S "orthodoxy". You live in the most priveleged society the world has ever known, yet far from seeing that as a blessing from God (and believe me, those who suffered and continue to do so in less free societies would have no difficulty seeing your frreedom as just such a gift) you are pining so much for the good old days of oppression that you have to invent some persecution of the righteous. The fear that causes this anger and what appears to be hatred isn't necessary. If you truly believe in the omnipotence of God, if HE truly holds you in His hand, and I believe He does, what could you possibly be afraid of?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 1:21pm BST

What's really interesting to me is that the priests involved are asked and expected to use the marriage rite whenever a couple marries in the church - but God forbid they use the words, or anything like them, for their own partnership. THAT is beyond the pale.

Anglican hysteria over this has become so very tiresome at this point. It's really amazing to me that personal loathing of homosexuality so blinds people to actual love between actual people of the sort that Christ actually taught - but I guess we shouldn't be surprised. The Church hasn't really been in the "love" business much during its history anyway. Sad.

Perhaps what's happening today will begin to change that. One can hope so, anyway....

Posted by: bls on Monday, 16 June 2008 at 4:07pm BST

C0nsidering the comments of the Bishop of Winchester on this issue; why is he so adamant that Gays should have no place in the Church? One wonders whether he will be at the upcoming GAFCON debacle as part of the Global South contingent, thus aligning himself with the Archbishops of Uganda, Nigeria, Southern Cone and Sydney.

Will he absent himself from Lambeth, perhaps, in common with those who, like the Bishop of Rochester, seem more at home with GAFCON than the loyal Bishops of the Anglican Communion who still reckon the Archbishop of Canterbury to be their Primus Inter Pares?

Despite his seeming uncertainty on these issues, the ABC, together with Archbishop John Sentamu, is setting a pretty good example of keeping a cool head, and not opting out of what Lambeth might bring - in the way of enlightenement or further opacity into the current argument.

At least they stand together with the majority of the Bishops of the Communion who just want to get on with the business of offering the salvation of Christ to the world for which he died.

The accent on sexuality - rather than the degree of human love and companionship - involved in all human relationships, is a sure sign of emotional immaturity. Sex is here to stay. Nothing we can do will ever deny that fact. And the sooner we all get down to the serious business of accepting and acknowledging its commonality to all humanity (even those of us, male, female, or trans-gender, who are called by Christ into the ministry of his Church); the better.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 4:35am BST
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