Thursday, 17 February 2011

Civil Partnerships and Marriage Law Reform

Last weekend there was a flurry of speculative news reports about a forthcoming government announcement in this area. These reports prompted several religious organisations to issue statements, even though there was as yet no actual government announcement. For example, the Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, issued this on behalf of the Church of England:

“We have yet to see the proposals, so cannot comment in detail. Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships. The proposal as reported could also lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths. Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured.”

Today, the Government Equalities Office has issued a press release which is headed New push for LGB and T equality will allow civil partnerships in religious buildings.

The full text of this is reproduced below the fold. This has provoked a further series of news stories and of statements.

News reports:

Guardian Alan Travis Gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships may soon be welcomed and Gay marriage v civil partnership: what’s the difference?

Telegraph Tim Ross Gay couples will be allowed to marry under Coalition plan

BBC Gay church ‘marriages’ plan to be announced

The Church of England has not issued any further statement. But two conservative evangelical groups have done so.

Reform and several other organisations have made a joint statement: Homosexual marriage and the registration of civil partnerships in churches:

Anglican Mainstream sent out a “press release” which has been reproduced over here.

Earlier this had been published: Statement from Anglican Mainstream on proposals for civil partnerships to be contracted in churches.

GEO press release 17 February 2011

NEW PUSH FOR LGB AND T EQUALITY WILL ALLOW CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS IN RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS

As part of its commitment to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB and T) people, the government will today announce that religious buildings will be allowed to host civil partnership registrations.

The change, which will be entirely voluntary and will not force any religious group to host civil partnership registrations if they do not wish to do so, is being introduced as part of the Equality Act. It will give same-sex couples, who are currently prevented from registering their civil partnership in a religious setting, the chance to do so.

The government’s LGB and T action plan, which was published last year, included a commitment to look at next steps for civil partnerships, and giving religious organisations the right to host registrations is the first stage in that process.

Ministers have also identified a desire to move towards equal civil marriage and partnerships, and will be consulting further how legislation can develop, working with all those who have an interest in the area.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said:

“This government is committed to both advancing equality for LGB and T people and ensuring freedom of religion for people of all faiths, which is why we will be allowing religious organisations to host civil partnership registrations if they choose to do so.

“No religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership registration, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward.”

Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone said:

“Over the past few months I’ve spoken to a lot of LGB and T people and campaign groups, and it quickly became clear that there is a real desire to address the differences between civil marriage and civil partnerships.

“I’m delighted to announce that we are going to be the first British government to formally look at what steps can be taken to address this.”

Michael Hutchinson, for Quakers in Britain, said:

“Quakers warmly welcome the move to allow the celebration of civil partnerships on religious premises. We are also heartened by proposals to address calls for full equality of civil marriages and civil partnerships, as our religious experience leads us to seek a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be celebrated, witnessed and reported to the state in the same way as heterosexual marriages.”

The changes to the rules governing civil partnerships will come about by enacting section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This removes the ban on civil partnership registrations being held on religious premises.

However, the rule is entirely permissive, meaning no religious organisation could be forced to host civil partnership registrations if it did not want to.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The removal of the ban on civil partnership registrations in religious premises will affect England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it is a matter for the devolved administrations.

2. Section 202 of the Equality Act 2010 lifts the explicit ban on holding civil partnership registrations in religious premises, which is included in the Approved Premises (Marriage and Civil Partnership) Regulations 2005. Although it was passed by both Houses of Parliament on a free vote, making the necessary changes to the Approved Premises Regulations will require further legislation. The Government Equalities Office will launch a formal consultation on this later in the Spring.

3. Section 202 makes clear the voluntary nature of the provision, stating: “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnership registrations if they do not wish to do so.”

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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

The announcement is as long awaited as it is welcome. As others have said progress is painfully slow. Nonetheless this is the first step on a journey that I hope will being Britain's many churches with it.

For now I think the main thing is the C of E making very negative comments. It has been clear for a long time that no church can be coerced or litigated against. To suggest otherwise is both dishonest and insecure.

The key problem for the C of E to arrive at an internal policy and at the same time explain it to the public when they have CP'd clerics and lay people. At best will look silly. At worst a little spiteful.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 8:48am GMT

Mainstream in 'Panic Button' mode again,here protesting that the government is
'legislating on morality', when in fact all it is doing is clearing the way for committed same-sex relationships to be given the privilege of the blessing of the Church - of any religious institution that wants to be able to sanctify the relationship of two same-sex people who love one another, and are prepared to make a life-long commitment before God and in the presence of their local congregation.

There is no mandatory requirement of any 'Church' to provide such arrangements - therefore no legal penalty will accrue to any Mainstream Minister for whom such a procedure would be breaking their own moral code.

I do wish Mainstream would get their facts right -before getting their knickers in a twist.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 9:39am GMT

You would think the national church would like to see more people in church, more pray n praise, more Bible reading -- more happy couples in love and their delighted families and friends ....

No wonder church attendance is declining -- we are told.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 10:02am GMT

What? Nothing from Mr Stephen Green and 'Christian' Voice. Or perhaps the revelations of the joys of his family life, in the Daily Mail of all places, have rendered him silent on matters of such importance.

The following was posted on my Facebook by a friend. It is a fine refutation of the allegations of the damage done to children by same-sex parents.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSQQK2Vuf9Q

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 10:08am GMT

Just when you thought Sugden and Co. could sink no lower, they do! They now refer to Christians that don't agree with Anglican Mainstream as "quasi-Christians":

"the gay religious lobby is using the government and sympathetic quasi-Christian groups to do its bidding" [Anglican Mainstream press release]

I'm guessing that AM is more than a little miffed that the government involved representatives of groups such as, I believe, Changing Attitude in its discussions but AM weren't asked.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 11:27am GMT

There is a Chinese proverb: "What you cannot avoid, welcome."

This has been the guiding principle under which church leaders have moved in my lifetime away from condemning "living in sin", ostracising divorcees and stigmatising single mothers... odd (and damaging for their credibility) that they aren't at least able to apply the same logic here, whatever they would like in their own perfect world.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 1:15pm GMT

And what is so sad and shortsighted is that they cannot bring themselves to see the damage they are doing to themselves in the eyes of all the young people who could care less about this issue.

As we say in the States, "they just don't get it".

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 4:31pm GMT

Well if that is Mainstreamianity + I am Very happy to be a quasi-christian, and still committed to the message of the sage of Galilee. Especially on ahimsa + seeds growing secretly ... Bet he's glad he and his family were never Christian

even lill old gay seeds do that ...

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 5:13pm GMT

Laurence

Changing Attitude, LGCM, OutRage!, Stonewall and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation were all involved in the government consultation as were conservative Christian groups on another occasion, so Anglican Mainstream may well have been asked.

Mainstream in 'Panic Button' mode indeed, Father Ron. I take it as a good sign. They believe that despite what the Church House spokesperson said, the Church of England may well allow civil partnerships to take place in church.

Mainstream's reaction is indeed a panic, setting up fantasy nightmare scenarios about what might happen, indicating that they lack confidence in their position and their arguments.

I've blogged about Changing Attitude's welcome and our campaign to persuade the C of E to allow civil partnerships in church.
http://changingattitude-england.blogspot.com/2011/02/changing-attitude-englands-campaign-for.html

Posted by: Colin Coward on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 5:18pm GMT

"Nothing from Mr Stephen Green and 'Christian' Voice" Richard Ashby.

Further to my moan at Anglican Mainstream for using the term 'quasi-Christian' to describe their opponents, for all his vile homophobic outpourings and alleged behaviour towards his family, Green surely has the right to refer to himself and his organisation as Christian (no quotation marks) if he considers himself to be one?

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 5:23pm GMT

I would think that those who have to read documents such as the Anglican Mainstream press release, must be getting rather fed up with the constant repetition of the myths of damage to children, the obsession with sexual health and the 'thin end of the wedge' argument that legalised polygamy and zoophilia will follow.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 6:10pm GMT

"...so Anglican Mainstream may well have been asked." Colin Coward

Thank you for the correction, Colin.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 6:22pm GMT

'(4) For the purposes of paragraphs (1) and (3), the fact that one of the persons (whether or not B) is a civil partner while the other is married shall not be treated as a material difference in the relevant circumstances.'

So if the Anglican Church finally allows civil partnership ceremonies to be conducted in church, they'll have to allow the full marriage format to be applied. Anything less would fall foul of the recent case law on equality legislation.

Holding a blessing service would be like offering a paltry single room when you've booked the much-coveted double bed. Could religious services really escape the long arm of the law?

Of course, this will never happen. I just flicked the panic button by mistake.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 8:53pm GMT

From the Reform Joint Statement:
"The thousands of churches that our organizations represent hold firmly to the clear teaching of the Bible that marriage is the lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman. This is the definition that has long been recognized in English law and, indeed, by almost all cultures for all of human history."

Why do conservative religous leaders continue to publish blatantly false statements as their "contribution" to a civil and religious debate? The idea that there is a "clear teaching" in the Bible about marriage is obviously false. That this "teaching" is "that marriage is the lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman" is spectaclularly false. Bilical heroes and religious icons such as David and Solomon had huge numbers of wives as well as "concubines". This is no small lie on Reform's part. If Jesus takes one of his Messianic titles from David, "Son of David", then it matters that David, along with most of the other religious leaders of the Bible did not participate in a marriage with one woman only. And to leave out the reality that David had a covenant relationship of love with Jonathan, whatever the sexual content of that relationship may have been or not been is to leave out a biblical truth that has significant bearing on the issue that Reform wants to address.

Paul found men with multiple wives enough of a problem in his communities that he prescribed that a bishop could be the husband of only one wife. Evidenly the distractions of multiple wives and legions of children did not leave enough time for evangelizing. Paul simply does not assert any moral reason for this qualification. Indeed, he seems to have preferred celibacy.

And these particular religonists wonder why the general population ignores the Bible. Perhaps it has something to do with these leaders using the Bible in a false and misleading manner to continue traditional discrimination against LGBT persons in a climate where such persons are subject to hazing, beatings, verbal abuse and death at the hands of many of their like minded religionists. Atheists have few better friends than Reform.

What is the world is wrong with people who claim to be moral advisers or arbiters of morality and who are wilfuly blind to the clear moral issue at stake here, i.e. "to respect the dignity of every human being" (from TEC BCP 1979, Baptismal Promises), to refrain from harming other persons, and to refrain from giving "moral" warrant to their murders?

The first law of ethics is to do no harm.

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 9:58pm GMT

I'd like to propose a one-day moratorium on the use of quotation marks in comments where they don't quote anything, but only highlight the author's doubts regarding their opponent's right to describe themselves by a particular title.

Instead of the above practice, 'so-called' is an acceptable prefix.

This should apply to everyone. Not just 'christians'!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 10:52pm GMT

David
"Holding a blessing service would be like offering a paltry single room when you've booked the much-coveted double bed. Could religious services really escape the long arm of the law?"

The law will also say that religious institutions are not required to perform same sex ceremonies.

Of course, one would hope that when they finally see sense they will have the decency to offer full marriages to same sex couples.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 7:35am GMT

How very, very, very odd that Reform/AngMain care most about strictly defining straight marriage, just when GL neighbors are doing it and often succeeding at it?

How clever of Trad Folks to consistently omit the widespread facts about, and tested knowledge of, all those pledged gay/lesbian partners as parents, raising healthy children in so many democratic nations nowadays? - sometimes without any assist from their respective local laws, public policies, and institutional regulations?

The cure for all this Trad Theology-Ethics mean-spiritedness? Hard to say, being mean is obviously so much fun for both Reform and for AngMain, too. They do love deeply cruel truths, claimed to be spoken by them in ever so much love – No gays need apply?

We might start by information.

Both Reform and AngMain theologians and believers might visit http://www.colage.org It is a site for/run by children of lesbian/gay parents. They have been around for quite a while now. I recommend, and COLAGE recommends? Watching the testimony of university student Zach Wahls as he describes the allegedly horrid, disgusting outcomes of being raised by two moms?

Second bit? Well, I must tell the multiple Drs. Sugden, Giddings, and others what research has truly shown, across the boards: Few differences in adjustment/achievement have so far been found to exist between children raised by straight parents and children raised by gay/lesbian parents. Some qualitative distinctions do seem likely to exist, as follows:

1. children of GL parents often internalize more open-mindedness, seeing strength and richness in human diversity instead of knee-jerk reflexes involving a rush to judgment about different people and new ideas.

2. children of GL parents may be a bit more likely to check out if they are gay or straight by testing themselves in both sorts of adolescent relationships, though indeed the data is a bit equivocal - after Kinsey, we know that quite a few adolescent males are having same sex flings but are traditionally savvy enough not to talk about it, while GL parented children may already have a fit language for mentioning their adolescent sex-romantic transitions.

Just imagine. Solemn Doctors who refuse/decline to do their science homework; then urge falsehoods upon the rest of us? Alas.

One enduring thing in this fast changing world would seem to be the persistent false/mean claims of Reform plus AngMain as they tell us how they preach truth about queer folks. Alas.
Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 8:21pm GMT

I appreciate that contributors to this thread don't consult each other before posting. However, one poster has rightly criticized Anglican Mainstream for scaremongering: a ''thin end of the wedge' argument that legalised polygamy...will follow'.

It must be gratifying to Anglican Mainstream that, in a later post, Karen McQueen cited instances of Old and New Testament polygamy suggesting that the Christian ethos (as gleaned from scripture) is equivocal about monogamous marriage. Her post didn't attract criticism, in spite of this approach lending support to the 'slippery slope' argument. 

So can we all, at least, challenge this as supporters of permanent monogamy? It's the only type of union worthy of the sacrament of marriage. This is much more preferable to lending any credence to the 'thin end of the wedge' argument by uncritically highlighting biblical instances of polygamy in the name of unhelpful moral exploration.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 19 February 2011 at 12:08pm GMT

"Her post didn't attract criticism, in spite of this approach lending support to the 'slippery slope' argument. "

Because she really pointed out that what we claim to be the clear meaning of scripture as regards Christian marriage is no such thing.
And we actually agree with that. It has nothing to do with slippery slopes but everything to do with the belief that our idea of a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is scriptural.

But if we don't base our idea of marriage in Scripture, why should we insist that the few anti same sex verses should be defining for ever more? Especially when they never referred to our modern day phenomenon of loving, stable, faithful and exclusive relationships?

I agree with you, marriage is the best form of living together. Which is why it should be open to gay couples too.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 20 February 2011 at 1:06pm GMT

At last, a clear view of your position. One that unhinges the church from its scriptural roots on the basis that certain anti same-sex verses were only addressed to a more primitive society, rather than our own. The mention of polygamy as a historical practice of those times isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? Of course, when it suits, we can trot out the story of David and Jonathan to tenuously shore up a particular position as biblical. How selective!

Strangely, Paul even looked on the primitive experiences of the Exodus as relevant to his relatively enlightened era:  'These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.' (1 Cor. 10:11). So, rather than pick'n'mix, we should listen to 'the whole counsel of God' (Acts 20:27)

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 20 February 2011 at 10:57pm GMT

David,
We all pick and mix. There isn't a single person on this planet who lives an absolute biblical Christianity.
We just decide what it is we're "scriptural" about.
All the non Catholic churches are managing quite well to be unscriptural about divorce and all churches including the Catholic churches are successfully unscriptural about usury.

It just happens that all feel passionately moved to be scriptural about same sex relationships – maybe because it’s easy to be supposedly moral and upright about something that doesn’t affect them?

But what I said is something else.
There IS no one scriptural ideal.
David and Jonathan may well be THE scriptural example of same sex love. But they didn’t set up home together and live faithfully joined in holy matrimony for the rest of their lives. The very idea was completely and utterly unthinkable. There are, in fact, preciously few examples of holy men in the bible who had one single exclusive loving marriage. Exclusivity was required of women, not of men. Which is why Paul had to say that Bishops should only be the husbands of one woman.
That’s what I mean.
We are now talking about something that was absolutely unthinkable then – so why should my life be oriented on someone who had a wife, mistresses and a male lover (however true the love may have been)?

No, what I see in the bible is that true, honest, loving and committed relationships are prized and held up as examples. And my relationship with my wife fits that example perfectly. What it doesn’t fit is the Scriptural example of men turning up at Lot’s house asking to be allowed to rape other men and then being satisfied when given his daughters to rape instead. I really do not see myself reflected in the Sodom story, however much the term may have become synonymous with same sex love.

We really do need to read Scripture intelligently.

Posted by: on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 9:57am GMT

David,
As for "primitive" - absolutely not!
These societies were different, not primitive.
And in a society in which single women would be destitute it is precisely the right and moral thing to do for a brother to marry the widow of his brother. It would be shocking if no mechanism for protecting women had existed.

That's not to say it still applies to 21st century England. A woman living in modern day London would not be protected by a forced marriage to her husband’s brother but she would be exploited by it. So of course it is no longer the right and moral thing to do.

It's the underlying reasons and motivations that determine whether something is moral or not. It's no good looking at a particular behaviour and approving or disapproving it forever just because it had a purpose at one time in one society.

We ARE no longer living in the Israel of 2000 years ago. And our task is to work out what it is the bible supported and what it is it rejected and to apply that to our modern day lives and not to get stuck on the ancient expressions of that understanding.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 10:08am GMT

Nowhere in either the Gospels or Paul's letters is marriage referred to as being between only one man and one woman. In Jesus' time, polygamy was still an accepted practice in Judaism (although little practiced outside the wealthy, because supporting one wife and family was difficult enough). Paul has much to say about marriage, but never once does he say anything about having more than one wife.

So, yes, the scriptural basis for restricting marriage to one man and one wife is weak. There is no scriptural model for marriage per se, other than Jesus' proscription against divorce.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 11:29am GMT

The fact that churches are scripturally selective in other areas should also be challenged, rather than simply identified as doing it too.

Let me be clear, I naturally wrestle with the 'hard sayings' of the Bible. I naturally find it difficult to respond to a God who expects recognition of His full creative rights over my entire existence. Look what He put Abraham and His own Son through. I'd faint if He said, 'Go sell all of your possessions...' (which He probably is). If the Holy Spirit is supernatural, then Christianity is unnatural. I can say of Christianity and its uncompromising 'strait gate' principles: 'I wasn't born that way.' Non-biblical writings are significantly more supportive, rather than just aware of the history of sexual diversity.

Two scriptures contradict the idea that there is no scriptural model for marriage.

Married elders (bishops) were to be the 'husband of one wife' (1 Tim. 3:2). It was a qualification for office.

Additionally, Peter also called upon the elders of the church to be 'examples (tupoi) to the flock' (1 Peter 5:3). Strong's concordance renders the word 'tupoi' thus: 'properly, a model forged by repetition; (figuratively) the correct paradigm, based on reliable precedent for others to then follow.'

The early Christians could have easily tried to strike a balance by encouraging a chaste version of the same-sex relationships that they saw within Greek culture, but they didn't. Paul had done the similar things with Jewish rituals, dispensing with them as an out-of-date hindrance to accepting Gentile faith. Why not here?

From this, it's clear that the model of marriage held forth by the New Testament church was heterosexual monogamy. I'm not sure how a polygamist can be enjoined to love all of his wives 'as Christ loved the church'. Especially as Paul refers to the church as 'one body' over and over (Romans 12:5; Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Cor. 10:13)

In spite of this, Pat claims that 'the scriptural basis for restricting marriage to one woman and one man is weak'. Well, if the aforementioned is weak, then as a rationale for homosexuality, the scripture is even weaker. I'm not sure why you bother with it, if it's equivocal on these matters.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 7:08pm GMT

Actually, polygamy is still practiced by some Jews:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/04-Observance/section-55.html

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 10:04pm GMT

"So can we all, at least, challenge this as supporters of permanent monogamy?"

It depends on what you mean by that.

The Anglican Communion tackled polygamy at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, when the bishops advised that African churches be allowed to discontinue the practice of requiring polygamists to divorce all but one wife upon baptism.

I note as an aside that the Twelve Tribes of Israel were, according to the Bible, descended from the children one man had with two wives and two servants taken on as concubines. There's no hint in the story itself or in subsequent development that this was a problem, or immoral.

We have problems with the morality of polygamy, but those problems do not arise from the Bible.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 10:15pm GMT

David,
yes, you can find examples for anything.
That's exactly what I've been saying.

What I am still missing in your comments is any acknowledgement that our social situations and our understanding has changed from that of Israel of 2000 years ago. That my relationship does not reflect the situation of Sodom and Gomorrah, or temple prostitution etc. That there is absolutely no biblical precedence for the plastic figures of 2 men on top of a wedding cake, for 2 real men promising to love each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts them.

You see, if you could show me that you have actually taken account of life in 21st century Britain and that you can see it reflected in the bible and find valid advice on how to live it, morally, decently, reverently and joyfully, I would have an angle to start a conversation with you.

And I would be pleased if you could take up what I said about the morality of polygamy, then and now. And what you think of my argument that things become moral or immoral depending on when, where and why they happen.

This strange God whom you paint, who has made rigid and obvious moral rules once many thousands of years ago that have to apply now even when they are completely counterproductive, against life and against the scientific discoveries about his created universe – that God I certainly don’t recognise.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 10:32pm GMT

"The early Christians could have easily tried to strike a balance by encouraging a chaste version of the same-sex relationships that they saw within Greek culture, but they didn't."

The "same-sex relationships" in question, however, simply weren't the sort of relationship we're talking about these days. They were all extra-marital (most people engaged in same-sex sex in biblical culture seem to have been married to members of the opposite sex), temporary, and based on an inequality of power (mentors and younger students, slave owners and slaves) or idolatry (temple prostitution). There was - and is - no such thing as a "chaste version" of that. My relationship with my partner is not the same as that between Socrates and Alcibiades, or the temple prostitute and his client, or a slave and his master...it's not even a new and improved chaste version of those things.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 10:34pm GMT

Bill and Erika,

I believed that your thinking was that homosexual fidelity and commitment is as natural as heterosexual monogamy. Or do you think that this has only evolved in more recent centuries?

If it is natural, there must always have been a level of homosexual commitment that was, at least, equivalent to what you declare that you enjoy in your respective relationships today.

Back then, what it may have lacked was any long-term endorsement by society, given their understandable fears over the perpetuity of their civilisation. Despite this, Christianity has always opposed those fears that lead men to worship the means of perpetuity, at the expense of daily reliance upon God. I don't agree with the idea that procreation is the primary object of marriage. I do believe that it finds its Christian explanation in the Divine genesis of sexual differentiation that Jesus describes (Mark 10:7).

As I mentioned before, Paul saw the relevance to his times of the failures of the ancient Israelites described in the Exodus narrative. As an engineer, I am keenly aware of 21st century scientific discoveries, but do they significantly alter our acceptance of the scriptural position on human nature altogether, or only as it relates to homosexality?

In another thread, many dismissed my example of polygamy, citing it as an insensitive juxtaposition when discussing homosexuality. Now, we can't seem to get off the topic as a justification for 'situation ethics'. I suppose I could address it off-line.

Yes, times have changed, but if the philosophy that you espouse preceded actual practice, I would find it easier to accept that it wasn't simply self-justifying.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 7:04am GMT

David
"The fact that churches are scripturally selective in other areas should also be challenged, rather than simply identified as doing it too."

Or one might ask whether being "selective" isn't a recognition of the fact that it is the underlying values of Scripture that matter more than the social set-up of 2000 years ago.

After all, there are very good reasons for not forcing people to stay in unbearable marriages that damage the children. Churches haven't suddenly said "oh, what the heck, we can't be bothered with this any longer, let's allow divorce".

And all societies have discovered that an economic system based on charging interest is actually more successful than one that works under a blanket prohibition. Even the Islamic banks are developing means by which there is a recompense for letting someone use your money for his own benefit for a while.
It would have been completely immoral and silly for people to insist on an economic requirement that may have had its purpose at the time but that has become counterproductive.

It is really really not intelligent to insist that something is done in a certain way without asking what the purpose of it having been done like that had been and whether continuing to do it still fulfils that purpose.
Isn’t that the point of Jesus healing on a Sabbath, which was absolutely forbidden but which, in this case, turned out to be completely counter-productive, against all instincts of compassion and human decency?

Rules for rules sake is precisely not what Scripture is about.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 8:21am GMT

David
Look around you for a minute.
There are countries in which the ideal marriage is based on 2 people loving each other.
There are countries in which arranged marriages are the norm and it is hoped that the partners will at least get to like each other.
There are countries where men can have more than one wife.

All perfectly acceptable and moral within its own respective framework.
And all it tells us is that human beings can thrive in a huge variety of cultures.

Unlike the culture in biblical times, the culture in the country I live in has as its ideal the marriage of 2 people who love each other and who are then faithful to each other.

You may find it "self-justifying" that I want that for myself, I find it astonishing that you should think it acceptable to deny it to a group of people (not to yourself!) based on writings that arose out of a completely different culture.

You may want me to live in a distant past because you're confusing culture with religion.
I won't.

I think we have to leave the conversation there.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 11:25am GMT

"I believed that your thinking was that homosexual fidelity and commitment is as natural as heterosexual monogamy."

Honestly, I'm not sure if I believe that either gay or straight monogamy is natural, or that it matters if they are. Surely if straight monogamy were natural, there wouldn't be the need for societal and legal rules to enforce it, would there? Those rules - and the high divorce rates in spite of them - seem to suggest that "natural" isn't the adjective we're looking for here. Do we normally look to nature for moral guidance?

"If it is natural, there must always have been a level of homosexual commitment that was, at least, equivalent to what you declare that you enjoy in your respective relationships today."

There are a couple of problems with the assumption, not the least is the idea that they past is an open book for us to peruse at leisure. There may well have been long-term, exclusive, voluntary and non-exploitive forms of homosexual relations in ancient times...but if there were they weren't the norm and they didn't make the history books. Most people's lives did not get written down. An absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence.

"Back then, what it may have lacked was any long-term endorsement by society, given their understandable fears over the perpetuity of their civilisation. Despite this, Christianity has always opposed those fears that lead men to worship the means of perpetuity, at the expense of daily reliance upon God."

Some of the statements coming from various Anglican prelates in Africa seem to be positively fixated on the perpetuation argument, claiming that homosexuality is a threat to the survival of the human race. I don't think that the rejection of the mentality undergirding the argument is as complete or decisive as you seem to.

"As an engineer, I am keenly aware of 21st century scientific discoveries, but do they significantly alter our acceptance of the scriptural position on human nature altogether, or only as it relates to homosexality?"

Are you under the impression that Christianity embraces biblical morality unfiltered through the lens of human knowledge in all areas except homosexuality?

"In another thread, many dismissed my example of polygamy, citing it as an insensitive juxtaposition when discussing homosexuality. Now, we can't seem to get off the topic as a justification for 'situation ethics'."

I don't think that people object to the example being raised as being insensitive, David. We (at least, I) object to your characterization of the biblical model of matrimony as being monogamous. It clearly is not.

"Yes, times have changed, but if the philosophy that you espouse preceded actual practice, I would find it easier to accept that it wasn't simply self-justifying."

Philosophy? What philosophy are you referring to?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 11:50am GMT

My phrase 'As natural as' doesn't specify the level of prevalence, only that it is equally prevalent for heterosexual and homosexual orientations.

And yes, we partly look to nature and survival for moral guidance.

In preference to a line-by-line defence of each word that I wrote, as Erika said, I think we have to leave the conversation there.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 1:49pm GMT

"And yes, we partly look to nature and survival for moral guidance."

I'm unaware of this. Every instance of inculcating moral behavior in the young that I can think of revolves around the suppression of natural behavior. Moral behavior is difficult precisely because it is unnatural.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 5:47pm GMT

By nature, I was referring to the goodness revealed through natural universe, rather than human nature. As in Psalm 19: 'the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handiwork'

Paul refers to this in Romans 1:19 - 20: 'Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:'

Let's move on.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 11:07pm GMT

"Let's move on."

I'm sorry you find explaining yourself tiresome. It is the price one pays for speaking (or writing) in public.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 12:29am GMT

"Let's move on."

We are moving on, David. Thankfully, in this country we are indeed moving on.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 8:46am GMT

Exeunt Omnes. Goddnight David.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 10:05am GMT
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