Saturday, 21 April 2012

"God’s grace seen in gay marriage, say bishops."

Today’s Times carries a letter from a group of Church of England bishops, senior clergy and lay members of the General Synod. It argues for “a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships” and “that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples”.

The letter is behind the Times paywall, but we have been given permission to republish it here.

To: The Editor
The Times


A number of recent statements by church leaders past and present may have given the mistaken impression that the Church is universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. We believe that does not adequately reflect the range of opinion which exists within the Church of England.

Marriage is a robust institution which has adapted much over the centuries. It has moved beyond the polygamy of the Old Testament and preoccupation with social status and property in pre-Enlightenment times.

While the Prayer Book states that marriage was ordained first for ‘the procreation of children’ the modern marriage service begins by emphasising the quality of relationship between marriage partners ‘that they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind.’

The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of committed, faithful love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church. Growing in this kind of love means we are growing in the image of God. So the fact that there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church.

We welcome current moves by the House of Bishops to consider again its view of civil partnerships and human sexuality. We hope this will lead to a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships and call on the Church to engage in theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature of marriage.

We also welcome recent reported statements by the Bishop of Salisbury and the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral calling on the Church to affirm same-sex couples who want to take on the commitment of marriage.

It is our belief that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples. It will be for the churches to then decide how they should respond pastorally to such a change in the law.


Canon Giles Goddard, General Synod, Southwark
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
The Rt Rev Michael Doe
The Rt Rev John Gladwin
The Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth
The Rt Rev Peter Selby
The Rt Rev David Stancliffe

The Very Rev David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth
The Very Rev Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich
The Very Rev Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford

Mrs April Alexander, General Synod, Southwark
The Rev Stephen Coles, General Synod, London
The Rev Clair Herbert, General Synod, London
Mr John Ward LLB, General Synod, London

Ruth Gledhill has an article on the front page of The Times. This too is behind the paywall, but SkyNews has published a photograph.

The letter has already been reported elsewhere in the press.

Andrew Hough in The Telegraph Church of England should ‘rejoice’ over gay marriage, Bishops say

Press Association Clergy group backs gay marriage

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 9:54am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Well, yes!

Such a shame that some more serving bishops (and diocesans at that) could not find the spine to sign up. How good it would be if some of the gay ones were able to do so. This is hardly a "frighten the horses" sort of statement, after all.

Posted by: JeremyP on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 10:17am BST

Then perhaps its time for those "senior serving bishops" to stand up and be counted and come out of the theological closet. What many are saying in private does not correspond with their public stance. Its time for some "balls"
People are hurting whilstever this nonsense goes on.
I thank God for those who have had the moral integrity to stand up and be counted. I only wish more church leaders would do the same rather than hiding behind statements or reports and watching their backs.

Posted by: Robert Ellis on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 10:27am BST

Thanks to all the signatories for their moral courage, but in particular thanks to Alan Wilson who is the only serving bishop to sign this letter.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 1:06pm BST

I note that four of the signatories were diocesan bishops at the time when the pastoral statement forbidding blessings of civil partnerships was issued. What, if anything, can we infer from that?

Posted by: Feria on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 2:44pm BST

There's a new teatime t.v. quiz called "Perfection" - only by achieving absolute perfection in a series of True or False questions will the contestant win the prize. Trying to foil the contestant chosen at random is a group known as "The Usual Suspects". The signatories to The Times letter about "Gay Marriage" contain no real surprises.
Presently I am delighting in re-reading E F Benson's classic - Mapp and Lucia. It seems to me that the two main camps within the Established Church bear a pretty strong resemblance to either the constantly thwarted Mapp or the always victorious Lucia. Traditionalists of the Mapp persuasion who have held sway within the Church of England for many a long year now seem to be very much on the back foot while liberals of the Lucia persuasion who favour such innovations as gay marriage and women bishops seem very much to be in the ascendancy.
We have a great deal to thank E F Benson (a former Archbishop of Canterbury's son) for in giving us not only an insight into the quaint goings on in Tilling but shedding light on to a much wider stage.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 2:59pm BST

Is this the beginning of a wind of change in the episcopate, to have such a strong joint statement? I've suggested that there should be a moratorium on church weddings until the church can let love speak its name in this language too, which might give time to reflect on the inherently sacramental quality of intimacy.

Posted by: Chris Fewings on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 5:09pm BST

How can the rest of us sign on?

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 5:52pm BST

I'm glad of this. Perhaps now the C of E will begin to reclaim its reputation for British decency.

Posted by: John on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 6:09pm BST

...thank God for this letter but...there are other issues to address

Posted by: B Wheeler on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 10:07pm BST

a wonderfully prophetic minister :

even bishops may speak truth to power !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 12:55pm BST

Good to see an evangelical serving bishop sign and witness.

And Nick Holtam spoke out yesterday.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 12:58pm BST

B Wheeler
Benny Hazlehurst has a very good blog post about your concern that there are other things to do in which he concludes:

"There are some in the church who say that they are fed up of all this sexuality stuff – “It’s all we ever seem to talk about” is a phrase I’ve heard more than once. “There are much more important issues we should be addressing” is another. But like Paul said (and my broken finger bears witness to) when a part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers – even when it is a comparatively small part of the body as a whole.

The truth is that we will not function properly as the Body of Christ while we continue to inflict this pain on our gay brothers and sisters. Our mission, our presence in society, even our message will continue to be severely impaired by this pain."

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 1:24pm BST

There's much that's good in this letter, but I posted at Peter Ould's blog that "The reference to 'the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples' isn't very heartening as it suggests the authors haven't thought things through much more than the government has...". I think the authors are right to ensure that voices other than opposition to same-sex marriage are heard from the church, and like others here, I'm glad of that - but I don't think they help their argument by seeming not to have thought through the 'how'. Nick Holtam's talk at the CEC makes the point that the govt is proposing "a new definition of 'religious marriage'" and he adds that this "[proposed] separation of civil and religious marriage should be very disturbing". I think he's right to be critical of the way the govt has gone about its consultation and the proposals it's making, and it would have improved this letter if the writers had added something of this.

in friendship, Blair

Posted by: Blair on Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 6:56pm BST

The truth is: those who oppose 'gay marriage' for political reasons are comprehensively busted. Traditionalists who oppose it for principled reasons are not busted. We will accommodate them. And they will accommodate us.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 7:19pm BST

Poor Father David is awfully confused. Heterosexual couples who desire marriage are "traditional," but gays who value the same tradition are "innovators"? Do make up your mind!

Posted by: Geoff on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 3:40pm BST

Now Geoff you can't really seriously be suggesting that Gay marriage is not an innovation? That would be almost as confusing as the thought processes of that "arrogant posh chap" who said - "I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative." How topsy-turvy is that? We really are now in the realms of Humpty Dumpty.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 9:53pm BST

Now Geoff you can't really seriously be suggesting that Gay marriage is not an innovation?'

You will be glad to know that this is NOT being proposed, notwithstanding loose language. NOT 'gay marriage' at all.

What is being sought by many, and proposed by a suddenly attentive coalition government with cross-party support, is MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

Loving couples will come and be married.

That's it !

If you won't want it no-one will press you.

Jesus has been waiting a long time to see this step taken. He hurts in and with his lesbian and gay friends around the world.

The fourth gospel makes all this clear - give it a go ! Let him out !

"I have called you friends."

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 10:44pm BST

Lawrence - you are, of course, correct in castigating those who employ "loose language". I wish you well in your campaign to correct this misapprehension - however, even using upper case letters - "MARRIAGE EQUALITY" to correct the error - I'm afraid that "Gay marriage" has taken root in the common tongue amd in the tabloids and it would take several teams of wild horses to make the correction.
Another example would be my own campaign to educate the ignorant away from calling Easter Eve - "Easter Saturday" instead of HOLY SATURDAY! I'm sure you can think of other examples of misapprehension.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 6:32am BST

David hi - thanks ! Yes, I too have inveighed against the misuse of 'Easter Saturday' on the day the BCP calls 'Easter Eve' and otherwise known as Holy Saturday ! My empathy returned to you.

My greatest bug-bear, losing battle and pain (which I shall never understand) is the way many concede the word Catholic and Catholics and Catholic Church to one denomination which is by no means fully Catholic and is, by no means the whole cheese !

I feel very strongly about this, and yet the most amazing people misuse the term Catholic and people who should know better. I have to laugh- better for my blood pressure --and maybe yours ! :)

Btw you unwittingly commited 'the sin of 'W' ' but I forgive you !*

* don't get me started on life long battle to get people to spell me LaUrence -- and that started with my teachers !

ever yrs,

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 2:23pm BST

Having been a member of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada from 1986 to 2010 I was privy to many discussions about blessing same sex unions. I initially struggled with redefining marriage which the Canadian Parliament did in 2005. I was persuaded by the 2003 judgment of the Constitutional Court of South Africa that can be read at

Posted by: Ronald Stevenson on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 8:30pm BST

I for one am outraged at Fr David's insinuation that Mrs. Emmeline Lucas could be guilty of anything so gauche as "innovation." Of course, to one whose heart does not pulsate to the same passionate rhythms - to one who does not share the same love of beauty wherever it is to be found as Mrs. Lucas - perhaps her fair broad mindedness does look like a penchant for mere novelty, but those who are possessed of truly artistic souls could never make that mistake. In fact, the accusation that she is in favor of innovation - so very like "modernization" - is so upsetting I'm going to try to regain my calm by listening to *un po' di musica* - perhaps some *divino Mozartino* or the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 1:19am BST

that link does not seem to be active?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 7:59am BST

I wonder if Ronald is referring to this case: which is a 2005 judgement, not 2003.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 10:33pm BST

Thanks Simon, but I can't get that one to work either.
Do you know the title of the judgement so I can see if I can google it?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 27 April 2012 at 7:44am BST

I got my link from this page, and it worked yesterday...

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 April 2012 at 8:10am BST

Yes , it is 2005, my error.

Try this site -

Posted by: Ronald Stevenson on Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:19pm BST

The problem with this position - loving couples of any sexuality should be allowed to be married - is that yet again it's all about the rights of adults, not the wellbeing of children. Marriage as an institution within society is not just 2 loving people making a commitment. It's the basis for family life and for the appropriate upbringing of children. By introducing "equal marriage" we are saying officially that no child needs a mother - 2 loving men would be just as good, and no child needs a father - two loving women would be just as good. That is surely contrary to the Christian understanding of family life which is enshrined in Anglican teaching. It is also a bold experiment in social engineering for the sake of keeping the equality bandwagon rolling - which seems to be the consideration that trumps all others.

Posted by: John on Monday, 7 May 2012 at 11:36am BST

As there has been equality in terms of fostering, adoption, IVF since 2010 this change isnt actually anything to do with parenting, John

Posted by: Mike Homfray on Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 1:50pm GMT
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