Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Church of England responds to government on Equal Civil Marriage

The Church of England has published its response to the Home Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage.

The full text of its response can be read as a PDF file here. The response starts with this:

A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England

Summary

The Church of England cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

The consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious”. This is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage. The assertion that “religious” marriage will be unaffected by the proposals is therefore untrue, since fundamentally changing the state‘s understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed.

To remove the concept of gender from marriage while leaving it in place for civil partnerships is unlikely to prove legally sustainable. It is unlikely to prove politically sustainable to prevent same sex weddings in places of worship given that civil partnerships can already be registered there where the relevant religious authority consents. And there have to be serious doubts whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. For each of these reasons we believe, therefore, this consultation exercise to be flawed, conceptually and legally.

Our arguments are set out in greater detail below…

The previous background statement is still available here.

The Church of England has also issued a press release, the text of which can be read here, and which is copied below the fold. Note the quotation marks in the headline: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England

Press coverage of this is extensive, with front page stories in many cases:

Independent Gay marriage is one of the worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England

Telegraph Gay marriage raises prospect of disestablishment, says Church of England and
Editorial comment: Church and state collide over same-sex marriage

Guardian Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

The Times is not available online except by subscription but you can see its front page here. As you can see, the headline is Gay Marriage plan could divorce Church from State

BBC Church of England warning on gay marriage

Daily Mail Plans to allow gay marriages ‘could force Church to split from the state’ for first time in 500 years

Church of England press release
A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England

Embargoed until 00.01 am 12/06/12

In its submission to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage, which closes on June 14, the Church of England states it cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

It adds that the consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious” - “this is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage”. Changing the State’s understanding of marriage will, therefore, change the way marriage is defined for everybody and, despite the government’s assurances to the contrary, will change the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship.

The official Church of England submission sent to the Home Secretary under a short covering letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York also points out:

  • Several major elements of the Government’s proposals have not been thought through properly and are not legally sound. Ministerial assurances that the freedom of the Churches and other religious organisations would be safeguarded are, though genuine, of limited value given that once the law was changed the key decisions would be for the domestic and European courts.
  • Such a change would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which includes, for many, the possibility of procreation. The law should not seek to define away the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women.
  • The Church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no obvious additional legal gains to those already now conferred by civil partnerships.

The submission concludes that “imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise”.

ENDS

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Comments

How can a church that is so clearly divided on this issue produce such a one-sided statement. This isn't a consultation with the Church of England, just a handful of people who think they can speak in our name.

Posted by: Gareth Hughes on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:36am BST

I am ashamed that the Episcopal Church has any ties at all to the Church of England. Seriously and truly ashamed for the Episcopal Church. Why have we fought so hard to keep up the ties to the CofE? We have almost nothing in common with those bigots.

Posted by: Dennis in Chicago on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:41am BST

Overly dramatic responses like this just make the institutional church appear to be more and more disconnected from reality and increasingly irrelevant.

Posted by: Lee on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:45am BST

Who wrote and authorised this ?

What does 'the Church of England' mean in this context ?

General Synod and the Diocesan and Deanery synods, most certainly have not.

And how very dishonest, deceitful and authoritarian.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:11am BST

Oh God. While I have some sympathy with 'the Church' over this, I wonder if it's really a fight they want to pick. There's no way they're going to win this one, and it's just going to make the C of E look antiquated (which it is), out-of-touch (which it isn't), and irrationally prejudiced against LGBT people (which, with some notable exceptions, it generally is not). It's not 1170 anymore, and the Church is in no position to throw its constitutional weight around. This kind of posturing is corrosive of the church's credibility, damaging to its mission, and threatening to the bonds that link parishes to local communities. Moreover, this threat runs the real risk that the secular authorities - with the support of the public - will decide they're in a position to call the bishops' bluff. Frankly, I don't see any possible good coming out of this. Am I missing something?

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:19am BST

"Gay marriage is one of worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England."

Really? I would have thought that Mary's abolishing the Church of England and burning its supporters at the stake would rank a tiny bit higher. Ditto, with Cromwell's purge of its bishops and the beheading of King Charles I, its Supreme Governor.

Did anyone associated with this think about how utterly ridiculous and laughable this kind of thing makes the church look?

Posted by: dr.primrose on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:26am BST

The bishop of Leicester's claim that the CoE was "supportive of civil partnerships when the legislation was introduced eight years ago" is flat out untrue, as was pointed out by Ian McLean in a May 18th post at this site - http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/005503.html. This March, in his capacity as leader of the Anglican bishops in the Lords, he spoke strongly against the suggested amendment to the Act of Settlement - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9136295/Catholic-monarch-could-put-Church-of-England-in-peril-bishop-warns.html What is the matter with these people?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:37am BST

"The Church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships."

Maybe this is correct - even though the Church of England will still not allow a Same-Sex Civil Partnership the Blessing of the Church?

Oddly, if Same-Sex Blessings had been supported earlier, there may not have been the same pressure for Same-Sex Marriage!

In the light of the Danish Lutheran Church's determination to allow Same-Sex Marriage, this puts the Church of England at odds with its PORVOO Partner on this and other important issues.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 2:18am BST

" . . any attempt to alter the definition of marriage could fatally undermine the Church’s privileged position."

That really kinda says everything that needs to be said, doesn't it? St. Francis pulls down a house so that the friars won't have possessions, the Son of Man has no place to lay his head, but we have to protect the CofE's privileged position. God save us from your followers!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 4:31am BST

Dear me... when did Henny Penny become the spokes chicken for the CofE... Equal Marriage = the sky is falling... When equal marriage was first legalized in Canada all those years ago there was similar fear mongering, which simply never came to pass. Its a bit tinny by now to claim that disaster is sure to follow. Sadly, it does seem like a loud and clear invitation to many in England to stay far away from their local CofE. I realize, as the established church, that there are some slight differences to other countries, but in some ways, it would seem that the responsibility of establishment should put the CofE in an even more answerable position to all the people of England. I think this particular position is the best argument lately for disestablishment.

Posted by: Scott on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 5:04am BST

I can't continue to read through these statements by the homophobic wing among the bishops, no doubt headlined by those trustworthy misleaders, +J. Sentamu and +R. Williams. This is literally sickening for me. What a travesty of the exercise of so-called moral authority. They have displayed over the years in office almost no sensitivity to or genuine care for youth subject to beatings and bullying on account of their sexuality. The bishops have not created institutions to help these young people, nor have they created any effective institutional response on the part of the Church for the awful numbers of gay youth suicides. The CofE continues to make very little room for gay and lesbian clergy and gay bishops have so little support in the House of Bishops that they are afraid to "come out."

Now the CofE wants to be the official definer of marriage, confusing civil marriage with the sacrament or pastoral office of Matrimony. The bishops have created the conditions whereby gay couples must have only a marriage ceremony devoid of any religious content, and then the bishops complain that the Church is being marginalized.

Rather than listen to the Holy Spirit and the signs of the times, the bishops want to beat a dead horse about their right to define marriage for all and sundry in perpetuity.I can hardly wait for +George Carey to climb the ramparts and thunderously demand the right to discriminate against God's people for "religious" reasons. It is time to throw the bishops out of the Lords. That simple reform would go a long way towards quieting the demands for disestablishment, if that can even be done, in view of these offensive positions taken by the bishops.

This would be funny if it were not tragic and such clear evidence of the inability of too may CofE bishops to exercise genuine moral leadership. When a bishop is hostile to loving couples, it is time for that bishop to go on a long retreat. There are profound moral and ethical issues having to do with human health, the dignity of women, the very physical safety of sexual minorities, hunger and starvation, vast numbers of homeless refugees from wars. I know that some bishops, many clergy, and large numbers of lay members do admirable work to meet these needs. But when a senior bishop describes civil marriage equality in England as the greatest threat to the Church in 500 years, one has to stand back in awe of such offensive moral incompetence. As a group, the bishops are wasting their opportunity to lead and making themselves deaf to the call of God's Spirit. They pass the tea and promote the gradual suicide of the CofE. They can have the tea. After reading this, I need a drink.

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 6:47am BST

Has the Church of England's response to the Government's Consultation document been discussed and voted upon by the General Synod let alone the 44 Diocesan Synods? I think not! On whose authority has this response, which raises the prospect of disestablishment, been sent to the Government?

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 6:52am BST

The 'Church of England' or its spokesmen here, say they are afraid that by removing the requirement that a marriage be consummated will 'hollow out' its meaning ... the same church that tries to insist that its clergy do NOT consummate their CUs. Well, make your mind up!

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:45am BST

Oh, if I were them, I don't think I would have picked this time to remind the English population that the Church has general sway over the law of the land. I don't think I would have drawn any attention to this at all. Me thinks this roll of the dice is going to go very badly for them in the end, but I suppose they couldn't help themselves.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:52am BST

Note that the deadline for submissions to the government consultation is June 14th - this Thursday.

I suggest everyone who is appalled by the church's response here should submit their own consultation response distancing themselves from what's being said in their name.

GET WRITING!

Posted by: Leon Clarke on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:30am BST

All guys, some gay, or so one hears, though they have to keep up a straight appearance if they want to keep the office, so sad. And these are the fellows who amended the (already compromised)act that would allow (or would have?) women bishops. Why do we need women in the HofB? Part of the answer's right here.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:46am BST


The document says that "We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples."

Erm, no, my lords. Many of the bishops - Graham Dow, George Carey, Michael Nazir-Ali, Michael Scott-Joynt, Tom Wright et al - were amongst the foremost opponents of equalising the age of consent, gay people in the military, civil partnerships, etc; and the C of E still offers no public support for its members in civil partnerships. Please don't attempt to rewrite (recent) history, C of E: the institution has been a major force for backwardness on the gay issue for the whole of the last 15 years or so.

The one diocesan bishop who did attempt in recent years to act in a way that supported the removal of unjustified discrimination, Richard Harries, was, in consequence, betrayed by his archbishop and forced to backtrack, though he continued (and continues) to vote in the Lords consistent with what this document says has been the C of E's policy all the way along... and has often been the only bishop doing so!

Posted by: Mark on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:16am BST

"We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed".

The church tries to rewrite history : under George Carey the church opposed every improvement in the civil rights of gay and lesbian people, they voted 5 to 3 against civil partnerships and 6 to 1 in favour of a wrecking amendment. They refuse to bless civil partnerships in church and to allow their registration; they have negotiated opt outs in employment legislation so that they can sack or refuse to employ any gay person in a relationship and require their gay clergy even in those in civil partnerships to be celibate.

The bishops say they want "a society in which gay people are fully included and their needs are fully provided for." (though ironically clearly not their spiritual needs). Yet society already fully includes gay people, it is only in the church that discrimination exists and is allowed.

Am I the only one who finds the church's stance hypocritical?

Posted by: sjh on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:16am BST

My response to the Home Office consultation came to very different conclusions. It seems obvious to me that the greatest hindrance / threat to us witnessing faithfully to the Good News of Jesus is our link with the Establishment, not gay marriage. We need to be freed from the shackles of being a State Church as soon as possible.

Posted by: Canon Barry Naylor on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 10:11am BST

Does anyone know who drafts and subsequently approves this sort of thing? As many other posters have said, this statement surely hasn't been approved by deanery, diocesan or general synod. Has it even been approved by the house of bishops?

As a member of the church of england I find this official position highly discriminatory and frankly embarrassing. That it is effectively being made in my name on behalf of the church of england just makes it worse.

No. Not in my name!

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 10:19am BST

The State may well end up divorcing itself from the Church; the established Church already having divorced itself from the people whose State it is.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:18am BST

"Has the Church of England's response to the Government's Consultation document been discussed and voted upon by the General Synod let alone the 44 Diocesan Synods?"

Presumably the response would be, "We are stating what is present policy."

Or is the claim being made that the Church of England has in fact no teaching about marriage?

It's amazing how people who claim this goes back to the horse and buggy, or amounts to questioning electricity or internal combustion, believe the present teaching is eo ipso not a reality. Surely the idea that something must now change implies that something exists as a present reality. This is in fact what the Church of England holds to be the case. The same is true in TEC; read the BCP.

Find it all loathesome and be outraged, but there is nothing particularly illogical in what has been stated.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:47am BST

I am deeply disturbed about the statement from the Church of England . As a Nigerian born gay Anglican, I have experienced homophobia in all levels of the church and society. I came to England to be free from such hate and homophobia and can gladly say I have got lots of support from my local church, St Thomas Finsbury Park, which has helped me to integrate and to try to live a more settled life.

However events has revealed to me that homophobia is a universal sickness and if the church that I am looking up to is going to take the lead in spreading this disease called homophobia then it's time to seek the face of God again about been a Christian.

I hope my vicar a good Christian and member of the General Synod, can let the church authorities know that they are hurting some of us and making us have a rethink why we should remain in this sinking ship called the Anglican Communion in general or the Church of England to bring it more close to home. I know the use of the word homophobia is beginning to loose its power in the western world and people might not read meaning to it in relating to this document, but there is a clear fact here that we are not consulted and that those bishops don’t speak in our names. I am angry and upset.

Posted by: Davis Mac-Iyalla on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:08pm BST

I am seldom stirred to 'blog, but here it is, if anyone is interested:

http://danbarnesdavies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/this-is-outrage.html

Posted by: Dan BD on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:16pm BST

Thoughtful, rational - and wrong.

To take just one point, the document asserts: "The only kind of marriage which English law recognises is one which is essentially the voluntary union for life of one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others. That is the definition of what marriage is."

But this statement - which derives from a legal judgment of 1866, when even divorce was regarded as abnormal - has more recently been considered by the Court of Appeal which went on to say (in Bellinger v Bellinger [2002] Fam 150):-

"...the world that engendered those classic definitions has long since gone. We live in a multi-racial, multi-faith society. The intervening 130 years have seen huge social and scientific changes. Adults live longer, infant mortality has been largely conquered, effective contraception is available to men and women as is sterilisation for men and women within marriage. Illegitimacy with its stigma has been legislated away: gone is any social condemnation of cohabitation in advance of or in place of marriage. Then marriage was terminated by death: for the vast majority of the population divorce was not an option. For those within whose reach it lay, it carried a considerable social stigma that did not evaporate until relatively recent times. Now more marriages are terminated by divorce than death. Divorce could be said without undue cynicism to be available on demand. These last changes are all reflected in the statistics establishing the relative decline in marriage and consequentially in the number of children born within marriage. Marriage has become a state into which and from which people choose to enter and exit. Thus I would now redefine marriage as a contract for which the parties elect but which is regulated by the state, both in its formation and in its termination by divorce, because it affects status upon which depend a variety of entitlements, benefits and obligations."

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:46pm BST

The first reply by Gareth Hughes says it all and is worth re-iterating:

"How can a church that is so clearly divided on this issue produce such a one-sided statement. This isn't a consultation with the Church of England, just a handful of people who think they can speak in our name."

There is no consensus within the Church of England that could possibly justify taking this polarised and one-sided stance.

Quite simply, this is authoritarianism, assuming the right to 'speak for us' when society and people in the pews (and in the clergy) are increasingly accepting gay relationships and love.

Who exactly drafted this statement 'in our name'? Who claims to speak for all of us - as a group - when in fact he/she expresses one viewpoint only, at a time when the rejection of the covenant has demonstrated the mind of the Church is against top-down control of moral agenda like this one. The mind of the Church has shifted in favour of unity in diversity, rather than imposed uniformity that this statement reflects.

This statement might have been released by the Anglican Church in Nigeria, but in no way does it present a balanced picture of opinion in the Church of England.

In the end, people within the church will regard this authoritarianism as risible, and people outside the church - in society at large - will feel increasingly dislocated from the moral posturings of a church establishment that can't keep up with society's generosity of love toward gay and lesbian couples in faithful, caring relationships, that are every bit as legitimate as heterosexual partnerships.

But this spokesperson claims to speak in all of our names, as if there is any kind of consensus whatsoever, when there is none.

There is no consensus at all and therefore the statement is conveying a false position and a false impression. It should start "Some of us in the Church of England..." It should not make the classic mistake of patriarchy and privilege, of taking the mic, holding the platform, and then claiming the right to say what 'we' think and believe.

The statement is not representative at all. As such, it is an act of authoritarianism. Naturally, many Anglicans would also regard it as discriminatory, in affording sacramental blessing to heterosexual couples, but denying the same to others on grounds of an orientation that more and more people accept, and legislation seeks to protect.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:53pm BST

The CofE objections to redefining Civil Partnerships as Marriage were distributed to local churches in the form of a petition. I cannot be sure if this was done at diocesan level or at a local one, but what I do know is that my local Anglican Church had a petition with the objections on at the back of the building and that several Sundays in a row people were encouraged to sign the petition. What I also know is that some people signed it without thoroughly reading through what they were signing.

People who hung around after the service to chat to others or drink coffee were personally approached to sign the petition. I got out of it by claiming I'd signed online.

I lied.

This is the way that support for these proposals was obtained.

Posted by: Steven Pape on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:55pm BST

Craig - disestablishment of the church is highly likely in an increasingly secular state. General levels of attendance at church is lower in a society that seems to have moved on in terms of what it wants to worship - it no longer likes the sexual morality, or what or who is really given priority in their lives - we have "moved on " as a culture. Such a situation also brings stress to a broad church that goes from accepting Jesus simply as a man and a tradition we are free to re-interprete for our times or the Son of God, Saviour of the world who demonstrated the ways of God His Father.

Posted by: David Wilson on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:59pm BST

It would seem to an outsider that the Danish decision to make the Lutheran State church justify its position as the church for all the Danes has really put the wind up our own 'State Shinto" aka the Church of England, that enjoys such immense privileges of its power-position with the state. If it now wants to eschew the full responsibilities and realities that a church for the whole nation might be expected to observe for a few thousand gay couples then it should have thought about its duty as a primary registrar for marriage (which we are told is no different from the marriage conducted in town halls), as well as the right of the thousands of suitably qualified non-Christian, ahteist and quite irreligious people to enjoy a church wedding which it has been legally obliged to marry, those who do not share its doctrine of marriage and it seems to have done this without a scruple down the centuries. It seems like the game is up already, morally speaking.

Posted by: Tom on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 12:59pm BST

rjb on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:19am BST -- You nailed it.

Posted by: Charlotte on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:21pm BST

It was the bishops, in their recent pre-synod meeting in York, with a covering letter to the PM from the two Archbishops.

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:23pm BST


I think a particularly telling passage from the "consultation response" is the part that says

'The Church of England's understanding of marriage as a lifelong union between one man
and one woman is derived from the Scriptures and enshrined within its authorised liturgy.
According to the Common Worship marriage service (derived from the Book of Common
Prayer of 1662):',

then goes on to quote four paragraphs from Common Worship which repeatedly mention the phrases "one man and one woman", "a man and a woman", and "husband and wife".

One might reasonably ask: if the authors are so keen to stress that the authority for the service, and for their 'ages-old', 'traditional' understanding of marriage, is derived from the Book of Common Prayer, why don't they quote directly from the BCP, rather than from Common Worship?

The answer is that only one of the four paragraphs that they quote has any equivalent in the BCP, and in that one, the BCP says "two persons", without specifying the gender of those two persons.

As far as I can see, the authors quote no other specific liturgy or scripture in support of their view - so their source for the 'ages-old', 'traditional' understanding of marriage is in fact just approaching its twelfth birthday.

Posted by: Feria on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:32pm BST

Let's make a clear statement that this so-called Church of England Statement is 'Not in our name'!

https://www.change.org/petitions/the-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york-and-the-house-of-bishops-know-that-the-church-of-england-s-submission-is-not-in-our-name

Posted by: Father Ian Stubbs on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:49pm BST

cseitz: "is the claim being made that the Church of England has in fact no teaching about marriage?"

From what I remember of wading through those boring documents on Issues, More Issues and Yet More Issues of Human Sexuality, they stated that opinion within the Church of England was divided on the gay question. Some faithful Anglicans in England think one thing, some think another.

However, this report does not acknowledge that range of opinion at all. It therefore gives a highly mendacious picture of what it claims to be the opinion of the Church of England; especially as the opinion of Anglicans in the pews in England is moving more and more towards the liberal side on this issue with the passage of time (as is the whole society).

I know the bishops are ostriches who think that difficult issues will go away if they keep their heads in the sand long enough: but they do not represent the breadth of opinion in the Church of England at all on this, and are becoming more and more of an embarrassment to the rest of us.

What is even more ridiculous and hypocritical is that this organisation is one which remarries divorcees in church. What part of traditional Christian teaching on marriage does that come from...?

Posted by: Mark on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 2:26pm BST

Surely it is rather heartening to discover the dear old Church of England believes in something after all? Incidentally, I don't know anyone that feels their Civil Partnership is inferior to Marriage.

Posted by: Jonty on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 2:28pm BST

Well, I think "imposing for essentially ideological reasons am OLD meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise."

This is all about ideology. Frankly, the basic premises underlying this paper do not stand up well to close examination, and the authors are simply in danger of the old situation of being widowers to the spirit of a past era. Old ideas that are wrong are not to be privileged simply on the basis of age.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 2:52pm BST

"Incidentally, I don't know anyone that feels their Civil Partnership is inferior to Marriage."

It's legally inferior because, as Gary Paul Gilbert commented here on another thread yesterday:
“The United Kingdom recognizes legal marriages of same-sex couples only as civil partnerships. But civil partnerships of same-sex couples are not necessarily recognized even in countries which have full marriage equality. Spain, for example, does not recognize civil partnerships. Marriage is a more general term and easier to get recognized. New York State, where I live, recognizes marriage but not civil partnerships.
Civil marriages have portability, at least in theory, while civil partnerships generally do not. Civil partnerships are generally only recognized in jurisdictions which have some kind of equivalent, such as domestic partnership in California, and civil unions in Illinois. Marriage, on the other hand, exists in every jurisdiction.”

Apart from that – my Civil Partnership is definitely inferior in the church where there is a great pretence that it’s a kind of friendship, where priests are expected not to consummate their relationship and where I have to find a pretty field to be blessed in secret by priests who have to remain nameless.

In the civil sphere, people on the whole don’t think of Civil Partnerships as inferior, but that’s because they’re actually rarely thinking about them at all. Every single person I know refers to me being married and asks me about my wife, not my civil partner. Most people know a marriage when they see one and they are pretty good at calling a spade a spade. When the Government finally does permit same sex marriages it will do nothing more than catch up with the way most of society and most civil partnered couples already understand it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 3:11pm BST

Then let the hard work of drawing up new liturgies that redefine marriage be crafted and passed through the normal channels for that. Ditto in TEC. Until then, it is not like the CofE has done anything except state what has been the traditional teaching of the church forever and everywhere, as is reflected in its own liturgies, re: 'one man and one woman' with the customary biblical texts (Genesis 1 and Wedding at Cana). To say that Issues somehow trumps that is convenient but also un-synodical/un-conciliar.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 3:50pm BST

"Incidentally, I don't know anyone that feels their Civil Partnership is inferior to Marriage."

Well, you do now !

It's MEANT to be. It was designed to be. And it was done in the hope of placating the churches sufficiently to perhaps, be allowed to have them.

And the C of E and the RCC and tory right fought against even Civil Partnerships tooth and nail. George Carey led a disgraceful bunch of bishops.

Now they are lying again.

The leadership of the C of E and the rcc is contemptible in its lies and lack of principle.

What oh what has become of Synodical government ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 3:52pm BST

I wonder if the resentment of the bishops, already stoked, among other factors, by the Covenant and Women Bishops issues, may not manifest itself by steeling a sufficient number of members of Synod unhappy with the bishops' revision of the measure to rejecting the entire Women Bishops' measure as it now stands at next month's session.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 4:32pm BST

Have these comments been written by one person using many pseudonyms? They say the same thing over and over again with little variation suggesting that only tortured homosexuals read this website. Are they nostalgic for the past?

The Church of England is only maintaining its own teaching, in the same way that the Catholic Church does. These days that represents a rare alliance. What your commentators fail to realise is that a significant proportion of homosexuals do not want marriage. There is a groundswell in the country in favour of heterosexual marriage. The Conservative Party is working against its core membership by supporting a re-definition of marriage and, if this continues, might well become unellectable. There is a significant number of Labour members of Parliament who are opposed to it which makes me welcome a free vote when it comes before Parliament.

Marriage between members of the same sex is an absurd caricature of reality that occupies the fantasies of a largely metropolitan minority locked in an anachronistic mentality. But let me remind you of the attitude to homosexual marriage in the radical years of the 1970s where many of your commentators seem to belong. In those days when heterosexuals suggested that this would be a way of stabilizing unstable relationships enormous resistance was made against the imposition of a heterosexual steriotype which would minimise and devalue a homosexual identity.

I cannot help smiling at the thought of lesbian alliances being blessed secretly in fields.What if it rains, it would get a bit muddy? In England that could lead to a fine for trespass. But if homosexuals want to bring a religious dimension into their lives why can't they privately dedicate themselves to each other in prayer? True, there would not be wedding bells but the money saved could be spent on a honeymoon,so long as a Pedro or Miguel does not appear to upset the applecart. La vie de la reign is a constant source of entertaiment.

Posted by: John Bowles on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 4:35pm BST

The CofE changed the order of priority of reasons for marrying so that now marriage is understood as being primarily for a couple to support each other. The other 2 reasons are that marriage is the proper context for sex, and the final reason is that children might be born. Previously the Catholics and CofE had the same 3 reasons but in a different order: Children-Sex-Each other. But the CofE changed, and the latest teaching is that marriage is first and foremost for the mutual love and support a couple have for each other. Human love and desire for commitment is non-gender specific and should be encouraged.

Posted by: Neil on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 5:14pm BST

John Bowles,
no need to smile. Well, not unless you can smile with joy.

We hired a marquee in a well known and well respected location that does have a large green area - and yes, true to British style it did rain. But that did not dampen the joy of our 170 guests, our parents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, and of the priests who had so kindly offered to celebrate for and with us.

But I agree with you that until the church becomes a civilised organisation God can only be invited to these celebrations in private.

You will be pleased to know that after this CoE publication I have finally understood this and that I am leaving the church today.
You may now crack open the champagne.

It won't, unfortunately, change the fact that my wife and I are married in our eyes, in the eyes of our friends and families and in the eyes of God.
That is something no church can change. Thank God it is not actually in control of God.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 5:25pm BST

John, I can assure you that there is more than one of us posting on here. I for one don't operate under a pseudonym. I am also not a "tortured homosexual" - I'm straight. I also wouldn't know anything about the "radical years of the 1970s" as I wasn't even born then.

And yet despite not operating under a pseudonym, despite not being a tortured homosexual and despite not belonging to the radical years of the 1970s I still support same-sex marriage. I also completely oppose today's response from the Church of England (of which I am a member). Funny that...

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 5:26pm BST

Sent to Lambeth Palace today -

I must protest loudly about the paper which has been issued today in the name of the Church of England.

It is a tendentious, niggardly, dishonest and mean document which should never have seen the light of day.

It is not true that the Church of England has supported civil partnerships. A majority of bishops opposed them from the start and an even great majority voted for the wrecking amendment.

The church has systematically opposed all developments towards the full equality of Gay and Lesbian people, any semblance of tolerance has been reluctant and grudging, Many in the church continue to demonise Gay and Lesbian people and the Church is institutionally and hopelessly homophobic.

Furthermore this document does not represent the mind of the Church. It cannot. It has not been subject to any of the usual open discussions in Synods, it has been cobbled together in secret and sprung on an unsuspecting Church as a fait accompli. Does it even have the support of the Bishops? In the light of the Bishop of Salisbury's recent statements and those of other senior clerics that must be gravely doubted.

Once more the Church is seen to be mean spirited, legalistic, out of touch with the country and its members, reactive and frightened. This document does not represent my views or those of thousands of others.

Where is the love, tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness that Jesus preached? Nowhere!

NOT IN MY NAME
.
Richard Ashby

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 5:38pm BST

When we read comments such as this from members of the hierarchy we are truly able to see the depth of ignorance that seems to be present in their statements. This is why so many people are against organized religion. It is the damage they (the hierarchy) do to others without having to pay for their words. Words hurt. The disenfranchisement of the glbt community from the life of the Church has been an ongoing conflict but the statements coming out of the hierarchy be it Anglican or Roman, tell us we need a radical and democratic shift in the power holders to the people in the pews. This makes the Church of England bishops look like thugs who have little critical thinking skills or a lack of human compassion.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 6:01pm BST

I am angry that the media keep saying 'The Church says...' It would be more accurate to say ' A group of people given the task of responding for one church say' !

Many of us in that Church thoroughly disagree with the statement.

I do not want the Church to be dis established as I think that on the one hand it gives the church wonderful pastoral opportunities and on the other it enables society to challenge the church and prevent it from retreating into being a backward looking sect. I think this report is full of scaremongering and also constantly repeats the line 'because it has always been it cannot be changed'. Actually it has not always been and Civil marriage in all societies came before religious marriage. Would it not have been wonderful to see the Church of England in the van for change instead of dragging behind as usual kicking and screaming and eventually accepting the change suggested long before by truly progressive people.

Posted by: Jean Mary Mayland on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 6:07pm BST

Just a further thought. What interests me in this C of E statement is the deep anxiety it evinces about men's and women's gender roles. The authors of this statement, whoever they are and whomever they purport to represent, fear that if same-sex couples are permitted to marry, the assertion of irreducible differences between men and women will become impossible to maintain.

As I can't imagine that creating legal same-sex marriage will suddenly unsex all men and women, it can't be the facts of biology they are concerned about. Those will remain what they are.

So, is it the thought that some women may wish to become mathematicians or economists, instead of sticking to the helping professions and keeping house as the assertion of "complementarianism" obliges them to do? Are they afraid of the woman who knows how to use a hammer? (Let alone a drill, heh heh.)

Do they think, as a conservative vicar of my acquaintance thought, that gay men are men who want to be women? Do they believe it is society's duty to force men and women into their "proper" gender roles with sanctions and bullying?

In fact, as all psychologists know, gender differences exist on a continuum. The authors of this "Church of England" statement appear to find this threatening. Why? What are they so afraid of?

Could this be the real terror for them?

Posted by: Charlotte on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 6:11pm BST

"...the insistence on the procreation of children as one of the principal ends, if not the principal end, of marriage requires examination. It is indisputable that the institution of  marriage generally is not necessary for the procreation of children; nor does it appear to be a principal end of  marriage as understood in Christendom... It seems to me that the true view of the matter is expressed in Lord Stair's Institutions, 1681 ed., book I., tit. 4, para. 6. That learned and distinguished author put the matter thus: “So then, it is not the consent of marriage as it relateth to the procreation of children that is requisite; for it may consist, though the woman be far beyond that date; but it is the consent, whereby ariseth that conjugal society, which may have the conjunction of bodies as well as of minds, as the general end of the institution of  marriage, is the solace and satisfaction of man.” I am content to adopt these words as my own."

The bishops would say this is dangerous radicalism and modernism. But they come from a unanimous judgment of the House of Lords in Baxter v Baxter [1948] AC 274: Viscount Jowitt L.C., Lord Wright, Lord Merriman, Lord Simonds and Lord Normand all agreeing upon them. And they agree and accept, as my quote shows, principles expressed as long ago as 1681.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 6:51pm BST

Erika Baker on 12 June at 5:25pm BST, Mazel Tov, and God bless you for what you wrote!
**********
From the CofE summary:
"Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity..."
This is a “Wile E Coyote” argument. I first heard it at the Colorado state legislature. One of the houses was debating a bill to ban recognition of same-sex civil marriages from other states. A rural representative said that marriage promotes fidelity, strengthens the bonds between the partners, makes for a stable relationship, provides means for people to take care of each other, decreases welfare (“the dole”) dependency, therefore ... homosexuals and lesbians should NOT have civil marriage.
I call it the "Wile E Coyote" argument, because as I was following the representative's argument, I felt I was being led nicely along, then dropped off a cliff.
**********
From the CofE summary:
“The […] paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious”. [… F]undamentally changing the state‘s understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed.”

Baloney. Houses of worship do not have a monopoly on weddings and marriage. Civil marriage, removed from religion, has existed for quite a long time. Before that, people who did not want a religious marriage held themselves out to their community as being married.
Atheists and free-thinkers have gotten married for quite some time, without any need of a house of worship’s or a deity’s approval.
There is no reason on Earth that civil marriage should in any way affect a house of worship’s policies on marriage -- and vice versa.
If the leadership of the CofE feels harmed by civil marriage that disagrees with its canons, that says more about the leadership of the CofE than it does about civil marriage.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:04pm BST

cseitz: 'Then let the hard work of drawing up new liturgies that redefine marriage be crafted and passed through the normal channels for that.'

As I hinted above, the drawing-up will only be "hard work" if we start from the Common Worship liturgy. If we start from the BCP liturgy, it will be a very easy job indeed.

I also note that there are three different "normal channels" available. A new liturgy can be introduced by Canon; by a Church Measure; or by Act of Parliament. The first two options are slow, and subject to a veto by the House of Bishops, which I think has made its position plain this morning. Since a Bill for marriage equality is going to be passing through Parliament anyway, I would imagine many Anglican MPs who support marriage equality might be starting to find the third option tempting.

Posted by: Feria on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:14pm BST

I understand your principled decision Erika. Go with God.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:17pm BST

'tortured homosexuals'

Then, STOP torturing us.

Written in mine own name as usual.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:19pm BST

The Bishops have issued a disgraceful and shameful statement. Not in our name!

Rev Guy Elsmore and the people of St Bride's Liverpool.

Posted by: Guy Elsmore on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:34pm BST

Ooops. Bad timing on the part of those few in the C of E who took it upon themselves to release this statement without consultation. Guess they didn't consult a calendar, either. Today's the 45th anniversary of the ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down the ban on interracial marriage. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM5A8kiNA6o

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:51pm BST

On 15th March this year, the following was released to the press from the Church of England:

'The Church of England/Archbishops' Council will study the Government's consultation on whether to redefine marriage to accommodate those of the same sex and respond in detail in due course.'

One stated aspect of the council's work is 'the expression of a Church of England view on social and ethical issues of importance to the nation, such as marriage and family life, penal policy or the needs of urban and rural priority areas;'

General Synod gave it executive authority to do so through the National Institutions Measure 1998.

Perhaps, not in the name of many here, but as a National Church Institution, the council acts in the name of General Synod from which its powers were derived.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:07pm BST

@Erika Baker

That's what really saddens and angers me so much about all this. That, in the end, someone as loyal and committed as you feels that there is no space any more, and so you tell us here that you are leaving. It makes me weep.

I shall try and stick around and be a bloody nuisance - just so that the wrong guys (and yes, I mean guys) don't win.

I hope you will come back one day.

Posted by: JeremyP on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:17pm BST

Erika Baker, I understand, but I am deeply sorry.

Posted by: Charlotte on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:52pm BST

I think the legal reasoning is fair when it says that those religious organisations that want to celebrate same sex marriages are likely to achieve their goal in the not too distant future, as they have with civil partnerships. Though I am not at all sure that they will achieve this other than by government will, I see no legal challenges likely to succeed.

However I can see no justification for their next step. There is no reason to suppose that when Quakers and Liberal Jews achieve their goal then the rest will be forced to follow suit.

By defining marriage in this two tier way I think the government will legitimise an entirely permissive approach to "religious marriage" that the Human Rights Court will not be able to overturn.

The situation in Spain is similar to that here in that religious marriages are recognised by the State but have to be registered in a civil register. I believe the only difference is that this does not take place at the same time as the religious wedding.

If there were to be a successful challenge along the lines outlined in the above documents then it is reasonable to assume that we would have seen some sign of this emanating from Spain in the last six years.

The only question I am left with is "Why not allow those religions who want to sanctify same sex marriage to do it now?"

I am convinced the answer is: "Purely political!"

Not the CofE's best day. Sad that this comes in the dying months of Rowan Williams' time at Canterbury - not at all what we had expected of him.
But perhaps the unequivocal nature of this opposition, combined with its lightness of touch when dealing with truth will be a turning point. Many good people will find this not good enough and we may see quite a reaction.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:55pm BST

"The Church of England is only maintaining its own teaching, in the same way that the Catholic Church does."

The ignored difference, in this statement, is that--of course--the CoE is not governed by a magisterium of Pope, cardinals and bishops, but by a General Synod made up of bishops, clergy and laity. Its "teaching" should come from this body, not a rump group of bishops.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:23pm BST

Erika:

"But I agree with you that until the church becomes a civilised organisation God can only be invited to these celebrations in private."

In the words of Neil Paul Stookey, in "The Wedding Song":

He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts
Rest assured this troubadour is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here, has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love,
there is Love.


Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:28pm BST

Lambeth Conference resolution 24 of 1968:

"The Conference recommends that no major issue in the life of the Church should be decided without the full participation of the laity in discussion and in decision."

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:33pm BST

Recovering Agnostic puts it so well on their blog :


'It isn’t that I disagree (although I do), and it isn’t that the church is presuming to speak for me (although it pretty much is), it’s that the arguments are so distorted, disingenuous and outright false that it’s hard to believe they’re made in good faith. Worse, this statement on behalf of the church has been made anonymously, with no open consultation or discussion. I can’t even tell who I should be complaining to.'

I think this expresses very well what many of us think and feel.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:39pm BST

What JeremyP said of Erika.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:40pm BST

Same bishops who degraded heterosexual marriage, to no fault divorce, with re-marriage at the whim of the officiating clergy person!

What a double standard.

Plus remember the Archbishop of York approved the pre-marriage fornication of William and kate.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:42pm BST

You will be pleased to know that after this CoE publication I have finally understood this and that I am leaving the church today.
You may now crack open the champagne.

No champagne here, Erika. I am very saddened, but totally unsurprised by your decision. Much love and blessings from an Anglican priest from New Zealand to you and your wife.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 10:08pm BST

This statement puts me (painfully) in mind of a recent half-page advertisement in the Baltimore Sun announcing a forthcoming "Public Symposium and Teaching Series" on the topic "The Collapse of Evangelical Christianity: Gay Marriage and the War on 'Objective Truth'". The sponsor is the Cross Roads Bible Institute, apparently a Baptist organization, and the course is to be held in Maryland. Here is the opening paragraph describing the crisis the programme is intended to address:

"Evangelical Christianity is today engaged in the greatest struggle in the history of the church: the legitimization, legal and social, of gay marriage as an accepted institution. The stakes are high, for gay marriage represents the formal, state-sanctioned, political movement that invalidates the doctrinal basis of the Word of God as a standard for ‘objective truth.’ Governmental approval of gay marriage is a de facto repudiation of the character of God Himself, His created order, and His unchanging attributes, as set forth in the Holy Scriptures."

The rest (if you have the stomach for it) can be found at http://www.crossroadsbi.org/#!__special-event .

It never would have occurred to me that the Bishops of the Church of England could resort to the same kind of hysterical manipulation and intellectual dishonesty (or self-delusion) as the Cross Roads Baptists.

Same-sex marriage has already been approved by the Maryland State Legislature and the bill duly signed by the Governor, but the law will not take effect unless approved by the voters in the November election. The sponsors of this teaching programme have set the stakes very high: Evangelical Christianity will COLLAPSE if the measure passes. “Gay marriage, in the end, necessarily seeks to destroy all that western civilization has defended over the centuries and the Christian’s greatest treasure: the Word of God,” their narrative concludes. The CofE Bishops’ statement is less extreme, but equally ill-advised. “Collapse” is imminent if such rigidity and delusion persist, but it will not be the collapse of the Gospel or the destruction of the Word of God!

Erika, your decision is fully justified but brings me to tears. I trust you know that there are so many on both sides of the Atlantic who are grateful for your companionship on this journey and who wish to remain "in communion" with you.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 10:28pm BST

It is disingenuous of senior Church leaders to warn of disestablishment, as we read in today's Times. The Church of England exists not only for the worship of God but also to serve the nation. Furthermore, it is highly doubtful that it could declare UDI and separate its clergy from their role as marriage registrars. Such an act, when it is devoting much good energy to encouraging marriage in church, would be to cut off its nose to spite its face.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 10:33pm BST

A great pity.

The 'official response' does raise some significant questions about the inadequacy of the consultation, the fundamental redefinition of marriage that such a change in the law would bring, the implications for civil partnerships etc.

The response could have been a thoughtful and constructive attempt to rectify some of the obvious deficiencies which it identifies, and so to find a way of honouring and blessing same-sex partnerships (whether by redefining marriage to include them, or in some other way).

But instead, it just points out the flaws and opposes the whole thing. A real wasted opportunity.

Posted by: Mark Nash-Williams on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:17pm BST

Erika, you KNOW you are fully welcome in the Episcopal Church. If you were to begin "The Episcopal Church in England", I'm sure I didn't see it. ;-/ Seriously, I hope you stay with (if not in) the CofE long enough to REVOLT!

***

I wish the Lord Bishops of the CofE understood just HOW MUCH MORE DIFFICULT this makes evangelism. Do they even CARE how their thoughtless prejudice makes sharing the Good News of God's Saving Love, nigh unto impossible (with more and MORE people, NOT just LGBTs)?

To me, it looks like they don't care. Kyrie eleison.

God bless TEC!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:21pm BST

Meanwhile in other news - the Salvation Army appear to have repented of their past great homophobia driven failure :


http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/7085256/Salvation-Army-apologises-for-anti-gay-stance

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:22pm BST

@Erika Baker, I meant Mazel Tov on your marriage, on your ceremony, and on those who in joy and grace celebrated with you.
I appreciate what you wrote, and am saddened that the official church, the public church -- minus the priest who celebrated with you -- wants to turn its back.
I look forward to the day when GLBT people are seen as the individuals that they are, with all their joys and sorrows, talents and shortcomings, when they are seen as people, and not just labeled as "homosexual", and catalogued and rejected accordingly.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:49pm BST

Brava Erika!

If you don't mind commuting across the Atlantic every Sunday, then there are several Episcopal parishes over here that would be delighted to have you and your wife.

Why waste your great courage and spirit on an institution which is not worth it, and which betrays its best over and over again?

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11:50pm BST

I do agree absolutely with one point in this response: it's a nonsense to distinguish between a civil and a religious marriage. To allow civil gay marriages but not religious ones *would*, in my view, damage the institution of marriage. It would also damage the CofE's privilege of serving the whole community, by introducing a whole category of people entitled to be married, but not by the church. Either it is right to extend the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, or it isn't - and if it is, then the church shouldn't be excluded.

Posted by: Mark Nash-Williams on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 12:24am BST

Erika, come on over. This is what our parish says on its website:

Statement of Welcome
Adopted by the vestry, February 9, 2003

St. Mark's is a Eucharistically centered community that seeks to be the outward and visible sign of the Risen Christ's reconciling love...

We understand and believe that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it need not always be taken literally...

We believe God's love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual orientation...

We believe diversity, acceptance, and inclusivity are strengths to be taught...

We believe it is important to find ways to treat all people with integrity and respect...

We believe the Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that the social expression of love is justice, and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from commitment to the natural world...

We strive to create a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture the spirit of all who are a part of this community: women and men, children and youth...

We invite you to make St. Mark's Episcopal Church your new church home.

Posted by: jnwall on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 12:51am BST

The stupidity and vacuity of many Anglican bishops should never be underestimated - these are people who will cut off their noses to spite their faces, and then be surprised when they bleed.

By questioning the validity of existing marriage arrangements they have prompted numerous secularists and disestablishmentarians to question the validity of the right of the Church to perform marriages as it does, and to raise the spectre of disestablishment (which would marginalise the Church still further).

Rather, they ought to be asking themselves why so few marriages of any kind now occur in churches. After all, do they not want the fees?

Posted by: Froghole on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 12:52am BST

My anger at the CofE is almost to the point of wondering about disgracing myself singing in the cathedrals this summer.

Erika-My heart goes out to you. If there is one thing I would like to say is to stay and fight, as you're more or less in the same place my late priest friend and his lover were twenty-five years ago here in the USA and the Episcopal Church were then. He outlasted a recalcitrant bishop and was eventually brought into the diocese with full acceptance along with Robert, his lover. It wasn't easy, but he prevailed, and I think you and Susan could also.

This I think is the last gasp of a bunch of fools that are in denial about the world that they live. As I said on an earlier Face Book posting, seeing an institution fight like hell to exclude women from the episcopate when the institution has one for the their supreme governor and to also question the government that is responding to the needs of the people by expanding rights and responsibilities of marriage, when that same institution was founded by a divorce is just beyond ludicrous, it begs the idea that perhaps the British don't get irony as much this Yank does.

I hope and pray that you'll eventually change your mind Erika, but understand with a heavy heart your necessary decision to protect you, your love and your life from what is truly a maddening and very sick institution that is at present very far from God.

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 1:16am BST

"The bishops say they want "a society in which gay people are fully included and their needs are fully provided for." (though ironically clearly not their spiritual needs). Yet society already fully includes gay people, it is only in the church that discrimination exists and is allowed.

Am I the only one who finds the church's stance hypocritical?"
________________________________________________

No, rjb, you are opbviously not the only one who finds the official Church's stance on this matter to be hypocritical - in only for the following:

The Bishops' Statement infers that is supports the idea of Civil Partnerships (and, in fact, did pass a statute allowing surviving Same-Sex Civil Partners of deceased clergy to receive a Pension.

However, there has been entrenched opposition from the majority of the Church of England house of Bishops to any movement towards the Blessing of such Same-Sex Partnerships in Church!

Does this not signify that the Archbishops and many Bishops of the Church of England do not want to acknowledge the spiritual benefits of loving, monogamous, Same Sex relationships - despite their protests that they support such?

This is hypocrisy writ large - and members of the Church and of society in the U.K., which hosts the state-sponsored Church of England, are not fooled into thinking any other way.

Hypocrisy is not foreign to religious authorities. Nor is the State Church of England immune to it.

Posted by: sjh on Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 1:32am BST

In agreement the Church of England response:

1. There is no more than one species of marriage, just as there is no more than one species of British citizenship. As with marriage, the means of entering citizenship may differ, e.g. by birth, descent, or application. Nevertheless, changes to the rights affecting British citizens don't only affect citizens by birth. They affect all citizens.

2. Changes to the laws affecting marriage will not only affect those entering marriage by civil ceremony, but also those who enter marriage by religious ceremony. The proposals are patently false when they claim that the Anglican church could abdicate its legal duty and refrain from providing 'religious' marriages for same-sex couples, once 'civil' same-sex marriages became legal. The Civil Partnership Act did not re-define matrimonial consent and capacity for everyone. This proposal does.

3. The CofE response is carefully reasoned and exposes the attempt in the proposal to create a separate species of marriage. Marriage involves the mutual exchange of genetic kinship rights. The capacity to share these rights in marriage (becoming next of kin by marriage) is demonstrated through consummation, an act between partners of opposite sex. It is upon this premise that the sharing of all else is presumed (including the intestate inheritance rights of spouses). Consummation does not have to result in offspring.

4. The response reiterates the reality of biological complementarity in sexual union and marriage. I have argued that case on TA successfully before. In a similar vein, Paul's argument for the complementary roles within the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12 - 23) does not connote deficiency in individual terms, but it does endorse the diversity required of the church for its combined mission in the world.

5. The proposals will undermine the primacy of the genetic kinship rights that are mutually surrendered through sexual union and thenceforth shared by spouses in marriage. Non-genetic demands for parental recognition will displace genetic parental rights.

With a massive petition against dismantling marriage as the exemplar of sharing genetic kinship rights through organic sexual union, there are more important issues than any crude political gesture of self-imposed exile from the CofE.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 1:52am BST

One suspects that this statement says what it does in part to "correct" any "misimpression" that the Global South might have been given by the defeat of the Covenant.

Would that the Church of England would pay more attention to its parishioners, and less attention to pressuring prelates from the far side of the globe.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 1:52am BST

The government of England needs to disentangle civil marriage from religious marriage. One way would be to have couples marry in register offices and then get religious weddings if they desire them. But it appears David Cameron has gone all wobbly.

Thank you, Erika, for citing me on how civil partnerships are legally inferior. For example, the federal government of Canada recognizes civil marriages of same-sex couples but does not recognize civil partnerships from the mother country.

Thank you for pointing out that people in the UK are increasingly treating civil partnerships as the same as marriages.

I am sorry to see you leave the Church of England because you are an eloquent spokesperson for equality and justice.

It seems that it is too late to save the C of E from itself.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 4:37am BST

Erika,

If you are leaving a church, it is because that church has left God and has no purpose for Humanity's good, any longer.

Surely, TEC needs to divorce itself from the Old Adam of Canterbury!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 4:42am BST

It occurs to me that the reported response from the government to the CofE submission is essentially an admission that this entire consultation is a sham and they're going ahead anyway.

On balance, I still don't like sham consultations, even when I agree with the measure being steamrollered through and strongly disagree with well publicised submissions that could be interpreted as representing my view

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18412222

Posted by: Leon Clarke on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 2:28pm BST

The leadership of the C of E and the rcc is contemptible in its lies and lack of principle.¨

Exacto. Let´s hope that these ¨contemptibles¨ aren´t just trying to firm up their dishonorable ¨position¨ so ++York can slip into Lambeth Palace with the appearance of ¨traditional¨ Christian values as his ace in the hole! The plot thickens.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 2:34pm BST


David,

As far as I can make out, the National Institutions Measure 1998 only allows General Synod functions to be delegated to the Archbishops' Council if those functions were already delegated to the Standing Committee. I can't find anything in law that allows the General Synod function 'To consider and express their opinion on any other matters of religious or public interest' to be delegated to the Archbishops' Council, the Standing Committee, or anyone else.

Posted by: Feria on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 4:08pm BST

As a very occasional commenter, and on the "traditionalist" side when it comes to women's ordination, I really can't say I understand the Bishops position on this, unless they are worried that because the church is established, the CofE will be legislated by Parliament into performing same sex weddings before the issue has been debated inside the church and resolved.

Here in Canada we have full and equal civil marriage and the roof has not caved in. Nor has it affected the churches. Some churches have chosen to marry same sex couples, some have not. Nobody has been forced one way or the other. Civil marriage is civil marriage and the so-called "partnership" option never made any sense to me.

Keep the civil law in the realm of the democratic process and let religious groups make their own decisions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg29F3UX81M

Posted by: Clive on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 7:06pm BST

"the reality of biological complementarity in sexual union and marriage. I have argued that case on TA successfully before"

I'm impressed by how successfully you self-persuade, DavidS. O_o

***

As I feared, this statement is earning Anglicans---even those who passionately dispute the statement---widespread condemnation. I'm sure the Lord Bishops, holed up in their palaces, have their people who prevent the vituperation I'm hearing from getting to them. Lucky them.

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 9:46pm BST

'It occurs to me that the reported response from the government to the CofE submission is essentially an admission that this entire consultation is a sham and they're going ahead anyway.'

You may ahve missed the announcement before, and at the start of the consultation, in which the Government let the consultations parameters known.

We were told that the consultation was about how to implement equal marriage provisions.

And not about whether to bring in marriage equality.

Hope that helps.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 10:42pm BST

Feria,

The objects of the Archbishops' Council includes responsibility ‘to co-ordinate, promote, aid and further the work and mission of the Church of England’.

For many years, the Council has regularly participated in government consultations on behalf of the CofE. For eaxmple, in 2009, the council participated in over 50 government consultations without these concerns over its statutory role.

Although there are ex-officio members, a significant proportion of its number are elected from the three houses.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 10:45pm BST

JCF:
If you can successfully argue against the kind of complementarity expounded by St.Paul in respect of members within the body of Christ, you might yet make out a case against complementarity in marriage.

Go ahead! What have you got to lose?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 11:11pm BST

I find myself in partial agreement with Christopher Seitz. Insofar as the statement reflects the Church of England's de facto position, it is perfectly legitimate to issue it as the position of the Church of England.

That said, a drug-addled hampster could have written a more coherent statement - and might even have avoided the Orwellian rewriting of history.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 4:01am BST

Ok, have read it now. Still think it is a bad response, for many of the reasons outlined above. But am struck that actually it doesn't say anywhere that this is one of the worst threats to the Church for 500 years. Nor did the Bishop of Leicester in his Today interview on the subject. This particular lurid headline seems be the product of the Independent's imagination...

Posted by: peter waddell on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 12:08pm BST

Ok, there are issues which have got to be worked through, most notably by the Church of England itself. But this hardly seems sufficient reason to deny those of other faiths and none the opportunity of a change which is legitimate, has precedents and was pledged, I believe, at the last General Election. Seems a rather Dog in the Manger attitude, remote from the spirit of Jesus.

Posted by: John Nightingale on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 12:48pm BST

"If you can successfully argue against the kind of complementarity expounded by St.Paul in respect of members within the body of Christ"

Apples and oranges, DavidS. If we're talking about Paul's model, it is YOU who is saying "partnered gay people, we have no need of you."

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 8:53pm BST

David,

Marriage is about love, not "genetic kinship rights".

Love is what is needed in relationships, in households, in families, in marriages.

It is love that provides children with emotional security and belonging - not "genetic kinship rights".

The fact remains that heterosexual marriage is harmed by heterosexual participants, not by gay and lesbian love.

And the fact remains that gay and lesbian partners, as loving couples, are capable of living before God and society, with the same fidelity, tenderness, sacrifice, commitment, and intimacy as heterosexual partners.

The whole impulse to deprive gay and lesbian couples of sacramental blessing and recognition of marital commitment, is discriminatory and demonstrates the consequences of Christians' continuing vilification of gay sex as abomination: resulting in the bizarre fundamentalist homophobia of the church leadership in places like Uganda... and fear of homosexual love far nearer home.

(continued...)

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 10:19pm BST

(...continued)

The compassionate and legitimate desire of the government to recognise gay and lesbian marriage, along with heterosexual marriage... is a victory for marriage. It is an opening up of marriage to human beings, regardless of sexual orientation. It is refusing any longer to discriminate between the love and commitment of people just because of their gender or orientation.

It is a compassionate desire to see love respected on equal terms.

If gay and lesbian love and sexuality cannot be respected on equal terms, then those Church Leaders who claim to speak for all of us, but do not, are actually undermining the Church's credibility among the growing majority of decent people in our country who have equal respect for gay love or lesbian love as anyone else's love.

People are hurting, David, because of disrespect for their love. The fact remains that too many Christians still vilify gay and lesbian sex, feel homophobic about it, then recruit all kinds of jargon and dogmatic gymnastics, when actually the whole point of marriage is a household (in many diverse forms) built around love and emotional commitment, becoming a sacramental way of life.

Marriage is, primarily and overwhelmingly, about this kind of love.

For this love, people want to commit, want the sacrament, want to be married.

It is beautiful. Homophobia - and vilification of gay sex - is dark and ugly. I am proud of my gay friends. I am ashamed of the people in my church who seek yet again to thwart and delay the simple recognition that some men love men and some men love women, and a marriage and household can be as lovely with one couple as with the other.

There is nothing to be afraid of in this kind of love and commitment. No technicalities that can't be overcome. Let love win.

Susannah

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 10:22pm BST

John:

The manifesto promise: 'We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage’ is not the same as launching a 12-week public consultation on the means to introduce same-sex marriage.

Since when, in a deliberative role, did the word 'consider' mean 'affirm'? That tactic of half-truth is not quite the spirit of Jesus, is it?

UK law is under no binding or persuasive precedent to adopt same-sex marriage. The European Court declared that there is a margin of appreciation that does not oblige member states to legislate for or legally recognize same-sex marriages.

Since there is no right to marry, the fact that the law still considers that some relationships lack the capacity for legitimate kinship through organic sexual union in marriage is not the denial of a right. In denial are those who subvert the primary biological framework of kinship by marriage and descent.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 11:29pm BST

JCF:

So, your last sentence supports the church's complementarity in relation and mission.

The church is a calling that joins believers into an eternal family, the communion of saints. Marriage is a calling that joins a couple into an earthly family. The church is even called the Bride of Christ. A clear parallel.

But wait, that can't be! Accepting the parallel would be an admission that, in marriage, there is complementarity in a couple's relation and mission. Worse still, you'd be letting the side down on TA. Ergo, apples and oranges it is!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 1:42am BST

"In denial are those who subvert the primary biological framework of kinship by marriage and descent." - David shepherd -

Oh, you mean those like the people Jesus speaks of in Matthew 19:10-12: " Eunuchs born that way from their mother's womb". We all know what you believe, David, but 'What would Jesus say'?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 12:28pm BST

Dear Father Ian,

Thank you for initiating the petition to which you linked above, which makes a number of excellent points. Before I go ahead and sign, however, I wonder what your views are on these two questions, please:

- The petition asserts that the original consultation response 'is in thrall to literal-minded understandings of scripture and tradition'. How can we tell that the authors' understanding of scripture and tradition is "literal-minded", when they quote no scripture, and all the liturgy they quote is too new to be described as "tradition"?

- Why did you choose to host the petition on a server outside the EU, with all the potential data protection problems that implies?

Posted by: Feria on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 6:56pm BST
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