Friday, 24 February 2012

Attacks on government plans to change the definition of marriage

The Church Times reports today on the campaign organised under the title Coalition for Marriage: Petition against gay marriage attracts thousands of names.

THE Government came under sus­tained attack this week from a coalition of Christian groups and in­dividuals over its plans to legalise same-sex marriage.

The coalition’s petition attracted about 23,000 signatures within 48 hours of its launch, including those of the Bishops of Carlisle, Chester, Exeter, and Hereford.

The Coalition for Marriage, estab­lished by the Christian Institute, with signatories from senior officials of Care, the Evangelical Alliance, Chris­tian Concern, and other organ­isations, accuses the Government of rewriting the legal definition of marriage without widespread public support for the change…

John Bingham at the Telegraph reported earlier in the week: Gay marriage: David Cameron faces church backlash over ‘cultural vandalism’.

Last month the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, publicly voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

But the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Rev Nicholas Holtam, signalled a split within the Church of England on the subject by signalling his support for gay marriage.

Among those who have signed the Coalition For Marriage petition are the Rt Revd Peter Foster, the Bishop of Chester; the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter and the Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has yet to set out his position on the issue publicly but a spokesman for the Church of England said yesterday: “The Church will respond in full to the government consultation when it is launched next month, and remains committed to the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

“Meanwhile, we hope people will think deeply about this question, which is more complicated than it is painted.

“While not standing in the way of same-sex couples in civil partnerships gaining equal rights and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples, the Church of England will continue to argue for the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long, not to be changed.”

And today, the Bishop of Salisbury published this statement on his diocesan website: Marriage and same-sex relationships

Statement re: meeting with Dorset clergy on 14 February concerning the Bishop of Salisbury’s comments on same-sex relationships in The Times and on BBC Radio 4

The Bishop of Sherborne, the Archdeacon of Dorset and I met with 10 clergy from Dorset who had contacted me following my remarks on same-sex relationships in an interview published in The Times on 3 February, and on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme on 5 February.

Bishop Graham and I disagree about the appropriateness of using the word ‘marriage’ for same-sex relationships. He expressed his concerns to me privately and in the meeting. We are, however, committed to working together creatively…

Earlier, Bishop Holtam had delivered this presidential address to his diocesan synod. The topics covered include this one, as well as numerous others. But on this point he said:

I am sorry my comments about same sex relationships got such elevated treatment by The Times, when reporting a small part of a wider interview. I hope I got the tone and content clearer in the subsequent interview for BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme. When Civil Partnerships were introduced in 2005, I thought their distinction from heterosexual marriage was helpful. They are an important support to faithful love, and faithful love is a distinctive mark of Christianity because it reflects God’s love of us.

Because the quality and nature of some Civil Partnerships is similar, possibly the same as for married couples, I have come to see that the rapidly adopted name “gay marriage” may be appropriate. As we know, the Government begins its consultation about this next month and that they have already explicitly exempted religious communities from being forced to accept the conduct of homosexual marriage in addition to heterosexual marriage.

In saying what I did, I am trying to create the space for an honest conversation. We have no option but to recognise our context is changing and that we are talking about people, some of whom are within the life of the Church; that we are talking about ‘us’, not ‘them’.

For the avoidance of doubt, the position of the Church of England, House of Bishops and Diocese of Salisbury has not changed. There are no authorised services of blessing for same sex partnerships and it is not possible for Civil Partnerships to take place in Church of England churches. I will, of course, keep to the Church’s discipline whilst hoping that we find opportunity to explore the issues which divide us.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 6:27pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I see they have already started to brow-beat and bully Nick Holtam.

~The idea of course is to silence and subvert him.

This was done to Rowan Williams with famous effectiveness and Jeffrey John in due course.

I just hope Nick can hold out, and that he will receive much support in private, and crucially in public.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 9:32pm GMT

Woo-hoo, 23,000 signatures! {sarcasm/Off}

As the CofE races towards irrelevancy, this Anglican (Episcopalian) from across the Pond can only look at how Mother Church has fallen, with great sadness... :-(

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 10:08pm GMT

In what sense is the Church of England really the Church of the people of England when it stands against the large majority of the people on an issue that most people in England regard as a matter of equality and justice? In what sense is the Church of England keeping faith with its charism and vocation of comprehensiveness when it excludes LGBTI persons from Sacraments of the Church based on their identity as persons? How far out of step from the sensus fidelium can the bishops be before they are no longer foci of unity? How long will the Church of England put itself in the position of being rejected as immoral by a majority of the British people? How much damage are the bishops of the Church of England willing to do to the role of the Church in extending the divine gift of community and communion to all of the people of England?

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 10:40pm GMT

Separate but equal is inherently unequal.

Four years ago, the California Supreme Court found that "equal" rights but separate names for opposite sex couples ("marriages") and same-sex couples ("domestic partnership," "civil partnership," or "civil union") creates inherent inequality:

"[A]ffording same-sex couples access only to the separate institution of domestic partnership, and denying such couples access to the established institution of marriage, properly must be viewed as impinging upon the right of those couples to have their family relationship accorded respect and dignity equal to that accorded the family relationship of opposite-sex couples.

"First, because of the long and celebrated history of the term 'marriage' and the widespread understanding that this term describes a union unreservedly approved and favored by the community, there clearly is a considerable and undeniable symbolic importance to this designation. Thus, it is apparent that affording access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples, while providing same-sex couples access to only a novel alternative designation, realistically must be viewed as constituting significantly unequal treatment to same-sex couples.... [E]ven when the state grants ostensibly equal benefits to a previously excluded class through the creation of a new institution, the intangible symbolic differences that remain often are constitutionally significant.

"Second, particularly in light of the historic disparagement of and discrimination against gay persons, there is a very significant risk that retaining a distinction in nomenclature with regard to this most fundamental of relationships whereby the term 'marriage' is denied only to same-sex couples inevitably will cause the new parallel institution that has been made available to those couples to be viewed as of a lesser stature than marriage and, in effect, as a mark of second-class citizenship….

"Third, it also is significant that although the meaning of the term 'marriage' is well understood by the public generally, the status of domestic partnership is not. While it is true that this circumstance may change over time, it is difficult to deny that the unfamiliarity of the term 'domestic partnership' is likely, for a considerable period of time, to pose significant difficulties and complications for same-sex couples, and perhaps most poignantly for their children, that would not be presented if, like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples were permitted access to the established and well-understood family relationship of marriage."

I hope the U.K. keeps this in mind.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 11:11pm GMT

'Woo-hoo, 23,000 signatures'

'...and in other news, the Changing Attitude petition has attracted a whopping 1,429 signatures to date signalling a seismic shift in support for gay marriage!'

The tide has turned! 'O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" He chortled in his joy.'

Considering such an impoverished Changing Attitudes petition response, it's no wonder that some liberal commenters here resort to the notion that numerical support for their position is irrelevant. In which case, why launch a petition at all?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 11:33pm GMT

> As the CofE races towards irrelevancy

Remind me, how many members has the "relevant" ECUSA gained in the last decade?

Posted by: PMD on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 11:58pm GMT

Sarum - Anti Covenant
Sherborne - Pro Covenant

Sarum - Pro Same Sex "marriage"
Sherborne - Anti Same Sex "marriage"

It doesn't seem to be a very harmonious episcopal "honeymoon" down in the diocese of Salisbury!

As Isaac Newton once so wisely proclaimed:- "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction"

He could have been describing the Church of England.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 7:17am GMT

Bishop Nick Holtam's is the courageous voice that the church has missed for far too long.
Email your support to him - it is the positive news that lifts the spirits.
And pray that there are other people willing to step up to the line, who are neither too lethargic, or fearful.
But in the end it must be vox populi which supports the honest common sense of +Nick. Let those voices be heard, too!

Posted by: Bene on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 9:12am GMT

Bishop Nicholas Holtam certainly shows intestinal fortitude in standing against the current ethos of gender/sexuality hypocrisy in the Church of England. Perhap those bishops and others whop want to keep these things 'in the dark' might take courage from + Salisbury's desire for the Church to become open and accountable in matters requiring justice and truth in the Church.

For General Synod having agreed to provide Church pensions for surviving same-sex partners of a deceased glergy-person - without really accepting the status of living same-sex relationships of both clergy and lay persons in the Church, must surely be accounted hypocritical. It is time the Church came out of the Closet and proclaimed the the Love of God is at work in monogamous straight and gay relationships that we call 'marriage.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 9:48am GMT

Very pleased that the Government has hit back robustly against the mean spirited and nasty.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 12:14pm GMT

My post from last night didn't appear. Could you check if it went to spam? Thanks.

I did, and it did, and I have now published it.


Posted by: dr.primrose on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 4:55pm GMT

I think four things:

(1) It is thoroughly laudable that two bishops have said what they have said.

(2) The response to the Changing Attitude petition is indeed disappointing.

(3) It is sad that Father David now seems to feel the need repeatedly to take pot-shots at the C of E. That way, if constantly taken, leads to a door marked 'Exit', which I should be sorry to see him going through (and which I don't actually think he wants to go through).

(4) If the government (which I generally dislike) sticks with its 'gay marriage' policy (and I think they will), it will be massively challenging for the institutional C of E., which will either have to put up (and get beaten) or shut up (and acquiesce). In either case, resistance to the right of individual priests to celebrate such marriages (which personally I do believe to be marriages) will not be tenable. Of course, on the other side, there will be the most infernal rumpus and things will get nasty. But the government will win (if it wants to win), and certain realities will kick in. I must say that I think that our church leaders are playing a very unwise game (and here I think Theo Hobson puts his finger on something important).

Posted by: John on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 4:57pm GMT

Just to clarify, John is I assume referring to this piece by Theo Hobson which is linked in today's opinion roundup.

I agree wholeheartedly with John's comment that
"our church leaders are playing a very unwise game"
and I see no sign whatever that they have the slightest idea of this.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 7:06pm GMT

John, I don't think the issue is that of me repeatedly taking "pot-shots at the CofE" but rather, alas, the CofE constantly and consistently shooting itself in the foot.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 9:35pm GMT

It ought to be pointed out that it is not the definition of marriage that is changing, merely making the institution available to couples of the same sex. Heterosexual marriages (both existing and future) will be unaffected in any way, shape or form and currently married same sex couples including in the EU, US and Commonwealth will continue to be married on their visits to the UK, unlike at present.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 2:06am GMT

I'm sorry my sincere lamentation seems to have struck a nerve.

As far as small numbers for (respectively) Changing Attitude and TEC, that's sort of the point: we are *collateral damage* of homophobes driving the Church ***as a whole*** into irrelevancy.

Do I wish that secularizing society at large could DISTINGUISH between homophobic Christianists and LGBT-affirming Christians, abandoning (w/ contempt!) only the former? Yes.

But they see oppression coming under the banner of "Christ", by those calling themselves "Christians". If they lump all of us together, it's perfectly understandable.

The point isn't 23K signatures on one "Christian" petitition, versus 1,429 on another.

It's all those NON-signatories, who say "A pox on ALL Christian houses! To hell w/ them!": that's a larger majority every day. And for followers of Christ Jesus, I think that's very sad.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 8:44am GMT

Father David,


I might even agree with you about 'the CofE constantly and consistently shooting itself in the foot', though unfortunately our grounds for that judgement would be pretty well opposed. I just think that one can remain loyal to the body, if not exactly the institution, and fight for some sort of harmony between its different parts. You presumably think that this is more difficult for you as a traditionalist. Depends on the area, I think. One can get onself into a cast of mind where everything seems wrong, and I don't think it is - for anybody.

Posted by: john on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 12:26pm GMT

I think the Church of Mammon leaves all the other churches behind in the dust when it comes to both membership and true allegiance. Everyone's jumping on that bandwagon, including Christian hierarchs. In fact, whole churches are signing up. "Nearer to God are the prayers of the affluent."

Let's open our hymnals now to hymn 24, "Pay to Play."

Watch those camels march through the eye of that needle.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 1:27pm GMT

"Do I wish that secularizing society at large could DISTINGUISH between homophobic Christianists and LGBT-affirming Christians, abandoning (w/ contempt!) only the former? Yes."

I've had conversations with many secularists and atheists, always arguing from an orthodox perspective. This is the only debate they are interested in having - you may well convince them that you are a certain type of liberal Christian but I suspect this type of Christianity will be of little interest to them.

Posted by: William on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 10:04pm GMT

Why, I sometimes wonder, does one find an ethos of encouragement and thanksgiving and acceptance of the Joy of Salvation in the worship atmosphere of a 'liberal' Church; while all too often conservative churches seem hell-bent on the consequences of sin?

Some how, the Joy of the Good News of Jesus Christ seems to be muted in the self-righteous. They seemingly have salvation, but don't celebrate it.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 10:42pm GMT

Start The Week this morning on radio 4 with Andrew Marr was marvellous ! Karen Armstrong, David Holloway and two excellent authors.

Repeated this evening ! Enjoy this encouraging exploration of faith.

Even Fr Kelly and SCM feature, a C16th Spanish nun playwright, and the Haggadah feature and more.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 27 February 2012 at 11:55am GMT

Start the Week brilliant - but the Holloway in question was Richard. David Holloway is someone very different!

Posted by: Nigel LLoyd on Monday, 27 February 2012 at 4:18pm GMT

Thanks Nigel what on earth was I thinking of ! It was indeed Richard, him formerly of SSM, Edinburgh and primus of Scotland; and still bringing Jesus (hope I got that name right !) at age 78 whether they like it or not !

I hope everyone has read or will read his Dobts and Loves where he nails the Lambeth of 1:10 infamy-- and manages to present the love of forgiveness...

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 27 February 2012 at 9:31pm GMT

"Four years ago, the California Supreme Court found that "equal" rights but separate names for opposite sex couples ("marriages") and same-sex couples ("domestic partnership," "civil partnership," or "civil union") creates inherent inequality:"

This statement from dr.primrose (above) is seminal in the argument around the title given to a same-sex monogamous faithful partnership. The pity is that the Church, seemingly, would set such a partnership as second-rate - compared to the same relationship between a same-sex couple.

The State of California may be more realistic in its assessment of the two types of monogamous relationships as being morally equal in value in the community. Why not, then, in the Church?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 at 3:01am GMT

Why should Jesus bother to come back to a world filled with such hate.

Every time I go off to be with friends and family, and God on my days off, I feel great and soaring hopes for humanity. I come back, see the remarks about gays and lesbians, about women, about liberals, see comment from such "christian" leaders as York and Williams, from supposed "brothers and sisters" here . . . and some part of me dies. Just dies.

I'm about 90% of the way to being able to say, "I believe in God and Jesus . . . and it's a pity He suffered on the Cross to no effect at all. Let us pray for a swift end to the failed experiment of this 'humanity.'"

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 at 4:47am GMT

"and primus of Scotland"

Or maybe not.

Primus (inter pares) of the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a rather small (though of course perfectly formed) dissenting body in whose dioceses the English Bishops have been known in the past to establish "proper" churches staffed by men holding "correct" political views.

How history doth repeat herself. Standing on her head.

Posted by: american piskie on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 at 5:30pm GMT

Albert Schweitzer felt similarly to you Mark B so you're in very good company. Don't give up.

Your goodness counts too - as did Schweitzer's

Posted by: Mary Marriott on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 at 6:05pm GMT

'Now if I help you, it matters that you see,
These sordid kinda things are coming hard to me.
It's taken me some time to work out what to do.
I weighed the whole thing out before I came to you.
I have no thought at all about my own reward.
I really didn't come here of my own accord.
Just don't say I'm ... damned for all time.

I came because I had to; I'm the one who saw.
Jesus can't control it like he did before.
And furthermore I know that Jesus thinks so too.
Jesus wouldn't mind that I was here with you.
I have no thought at all about my own reward.
I really didn't come here of my own accord.
Just don't say I'm ... damned for all time.'

From Jesus Christ Superstar

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 4:19pm GMT

It is so sad that conservatives are all too prepossessed with the deliverance of damnation - to all who believe differently from them!

"Judge not, that ye be not judged" - Jesus

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 1 March 2012 at 9:59am GMT

If ‘judge not, that ye be not judged’ refers to the mere ability to highlight moral distinctions (as your first paragraph did), it contradicts He who said elsewhere ‘judge righteous judgement’ (John 7:24).

I’d hope you wouldn’t want to make Christ appear self-contradictory, nor to hypocritically polarise and brand as damnably conservative any view that challenges liberal orthodoxy.

God's prerogative of clemency doesn't presume our innocence, but exposes our guilt as judged by scripture. It demands that we 'flee from the wrath to come' in order to escape the power that God declares will reap our eternal destruction.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 2 March 2012 at 3:26am GMT


Thanks. But I'm not a doctor, don't play the organ, and am not a good man *at all*.

I keep hearing that December 21 this year is to be the end of the world. My birthday is December 22, and I can, at this point, honestly say, "Best. Birthday present. Ever!"

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 2 March 2012 at 4:22am GMT

Mea culpa...for another wanton act of grammatical violence: to wit, the split infinitive.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 2 March 2012 at 6:33am GMT

Tut, american piskie, is that any way to talk about your mother? ;)

Posted by: Geoff on Sunday, 4 March 2012 at 3:01am GMT

I am a christian and God ordianed marrage so who is man that should change it

Posted by: vivian on Sunday, 3 June 2012 at 12:35pm BST
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