Friday, 14 December 2012

Church Times leader comment: The Church that says 'No'

The Church Times leader today: The Church that says ‘No’

…The chief problem for the C of E is not so much the Government’s new understanding of marriage as its understanding of establishment. Writing in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, said: “I will never bring in a law that would impinge, in any way, on the Church’s power to decide who it marries and who it does not.” But the Church does not have the power to decide. It is the right of any couple, provided neither has a living spouse, to marry in their parish church. If the new legislation passes, therefore, it will introduce a new discrimination, and cede power to the Church that it did not have before. Perhaps some might approve of this new autonomy, but it has a significant implication for establishment, and at a personal, not an abstruse constitutional, level.

Marriage is defined neither by the state nor the Church. Couples commit themselves to each other in ways that seem best to them, and, if it conforms to the general understanding of marriage, that is what they call it. The state recognises this aggregate definition and legalises accordingly. Hence the latest move to recognise the desire of many same-sex couples to call their union “marriage”.

In a charged atmosphere of reform, the simple restating of the present blanket ban could not be a neutral act, especially when wrapped in the Government’s protectionist language, designed, we presume, with its own back-benchers in mind. However mollifying various sections of the Church have been in the past, Tuesday thus established the C of E as a gay-unfriendly institution: the Church that says “No.” Religion has been a key part of marriage for many, but this is not a given. The Church has the privilege of blessing the unions that people bring to it. Since the blessing it offers or withholds is God’s, it needs to be sure that its interpretation is sound and explicable. Many believe that it is not. The way of testing this in the C of E is through the amending of canons - a long and, on such a divisive issue, tortuous process. The Government proposes to leave Churches to make up their own minds. In the mean time, there are the twin concerns of public perception and mission. A greater enthusiasm for the blessing of same-sex partnerships in church would be one effective way of countering the negative impression given this week.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 14 December 2012 at 3:13pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

"A greater enthusiasm for the blessing of same-sex partnerships in church would be one effective way of countering the negative impression given this week."

I don't think so.
Once there is marriage equality there can be precious few, if any, gay people who will still get civil partnered.
There will be nothing for the church to bless.

This "if we're now nicer about civil partnerships we can get away with still not actually accepting gay relationships" is not going to work.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 December 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

Except that the Church already has an exemption that allows it to refuse to marry divorced people.

Posted by: Christopher on Friday, 14 December 2012 at 5:49pm GMT

The bigger worry, as the 2011 Census figures shew, is that Traditional marriage between a man and a woman is being increasingly marginalised by so many within our society. Many couples are simply not bothering to tie the knot and simply live together as "partners". This is a relatively recent socialogical trend which has occured within the last half-century and has accelerated within the last twenty years. One major factor in this development is economic - in these recessionary times couples simply cannot afford the expense which accompanies a wedding. In response to this - what does the General Synod do? Why, it greatly increases the wedding fees! If, as many believe, Holy Matrimony - like Holy Baptism - is a sacrament - then surely it should be free from any charge. If that were so, I am sure we would find a vast increase in the number of brides and grooms wishing to pledge their troth in church.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 6:36am GMT

On another blog there has been an attempt to correlate the decline of heterosexual marriage with the introduction of same sex marriage. Here Fr David is suggesting that it is the cost of getting married which is the obstacle. These are surely false causes and effects. No one can 'prove' that same sex marriage will or has caused the decline of the numbers of heterosexual people getting married any more than the 'cost' of getting married is itself a cause (the 'cost' of marriage is about all the inessentials, from the bridal dress to the honeymoon.) There is something else going on in society which is causing more people not only to live in un-legalised partnerships but also to live alone, and it is the latter which happens to be a significant cause of the current housing crisis.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 9:01am GMT

Fr David
I wish you were right and that people simply do not marry because they cannot afford the expense of a wedding.
In reality, as a current case in my own family shows up only too clearly, the help a low income family receives is less than the help a single mother with children receives. The couple I am talking about was literally not able to afford to continue to stay together.
A couple of hundred pounds in wedding fees is not what stops people from getting married.
The inability, month after month, to pay the bills and the knowledge that all these problems would be so much easier if the couple split is what destroys partnerships that, married or not married, would otherwise stand a much greater chance of surviving.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 9:23am GMT

Christopher, that is a very important and often overlooked fact. Why else did Rowan Williams refuse to marry the Heir Apparent? But the real anomaly is that the Church still recognises state marriages of divorcees - hence the ritualised meanness of the "blessing" Charles and Camilla received.

Posted by: Tom on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 10:18am GMT

oh yes the Church oppresses gays for centuries and the recent paltry and snails pace improvments to our lot, have caused and resulted in,in David's words above, 'marriage between a man and a woman is being increasingly marginalised by so many within our society'.

Why oh why is our heteronormative socieety so narrow-minded and selfish ? It's not all about you, you know !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 1:03pm GMT

I'm not so sure that Rowan was happy even officiating at a service of "Prayer and Dedication after Civil Marriage" - he certainly didn't look happy as he stood before the royal couple in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. Also he was attired in simple rochet and chimere rather than the much grander and more stately cope and mitre.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 2:01pm GMT

"Also he was attired in simple rochet and chimere rather than the much grander and more stately cope and mitre"

Shocking, when we know how much stately mitres matter to God!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 5:19pm GMT

"Also he was attired in simple rochet and chimere rather than the much grander and more stately cope and mitre." Father David

A good call. He might've out-camped Camilla's Philip Treacy fascinator otherwise.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 5:52pm GMT

Folks, Fr David is heading down a much more CONSTRUCTIVE approach (IMO) about the "assault on [heterosexual] marriage": its costs. I, for one, would like to encourage him in this regard.

Marriage---both in terms of weddings AND the financial burdens of staying together---DOES cost too much. Even as we LGBT/allies see marriage's benefits for same-sex couples, the problems of its costs is a real issue. Let's not shut the door on this, OK?

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 9:15pm GMT

I'm not sure what the total cost is for weddings in England. Currently, you can get married at St. Margaret's, Edmonton for $165 plus whatever fee you negotiate with a musician (if you want one). I know of some churches in Edmonton where the total fees are in the neighbourhood of $800, but even in those cases, if the rector were to say to the couple 'Our fees are $800, or 10% of your total costs for the wedding, whichever is less', the vast majority of couples would opt for the $800!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 2:46am GMT

Well, Erika, I'm not so sure how much "stately mitres" matter to God but they seem to matter a great deal to those now itching for a single clause Measure - as they can't wait to don them!
The mitre, of course, is a symbol of the flames of the Holy Spirit which descended upon the male apostles at the first Pentecost. So - being symbolic of the Third Person of the Trinity perhaps this ridiculous headgear does indeed matter to the Almighty? How fascinating is that?

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 5:25am GMT

Looking at a couple of websites it looks as if a civil marriage can cost around £100. A basic church marriage costs around £400. As a proportion of the average total cost of a marriage this is peanuts. So it's not the cost of marrying that's the problem. It may be the cost of everything else which people expect/demand, but that is about the show not marriage.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 7:20pm GMT

The financial difficulties of getting married extend far beyond the wedding banquet.

In the USA, marriages break apart most frequently, not over adultery or incompatibility, but over money. The combination of stagnant wage growth with ever rising housing prices creates more potential for marital strife than all the gay weddings on earth. Add to that many young married couples who remain at home with one set of parents because they can't afford to live independently. If people are really serious about preserving the institution of marriage, then they would demand that people be given a pay raise and a measure of financial security by their corporate overlords.

Most people of the usual marrying age just don't care if 2 men or 2 women want to marry. The whole argument has no relevance or meaning for them. They have more immediate things to think about like how to pay off huge student loan debts or finding work that pays decently before even thinking about the cost of setting up house.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 10:39pm GMT

Here is another wrinkle in the whole argument over the institution of marriage. The introduction of no fault divorce laws in this country produced a steep drop in rates of domestic violence.

See here:

http://womenslawreports.blogspot.com/2010/06/no-fault-divorce-and-domestic-violence.html

and here:

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/econ_divorce.shtml

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 17 December 2012 at 2:01pm GMT

Father David wrote: "The mitre, of course, is a symbol of the flames of the Holy Spirit which descended upon the male apostles at the first Pentecost."

So, according to Father David, Our Lady wasn't present in the Upper Room, or at least, if she was, she didn't get one of those cloven tongues of fire ... this despite Tradition, as reflected in nearly every icon (Eastern and Western) I have seen of Pentecost, where the Blessed Virgin in right there in the middle of the group, with the Holy Spirit coming right down above her!? I never cease to be amazed at what "traditionalists" will assert in order to keep women out of the episcopate! Now we have one willing to delete the Theotokos from Pentecost!

Posted by: WKG on Monday, 17 December 2012 at 2:34pm GMT

But, of course, the BVM was present in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentescost - I never implied otherwise but as far as I know Our Lady has never been regarded as one of the apostles. Nor did Her Blessed Son ever make her one. I'm quite sure that, in all Her virginal humiliity, Mary is quite content at simply being Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. That's quite enough to be going on with without getting Herself involved in the current tiffs which the Church of England finds herself presently embroiled in.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 17 December 2012 at 4:12pm GMT

"So, according to Father David, Our Lady wasn't present in the Upper Room, or at least, if she was, she didn't get one of those cloven tongues of fire ... this despite Tradition, as reflected in nearly every icon (Eastern and Western) I have seen of Pentecost, where the Blessed Virgin in right there in the middle of the group, with the Holy Spirit coming right down above her!?"

WKG is right.

And here is a painting by El Greco showing Our Lady in the center of the Pentecost events:

.bp.blogspot.com/_bx7F9UqvNFk/S_j6NRZrkJI/AAAAAAAACiE/Bvph1VAPNDs/s1600/11706-the-pentecost-el-greco.jpg

El Greco was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos in Crete where he trained as an icon painter. He studied more Latin techniques of painting in Venice, bridging Latin and Greek painting traditions. He had a flourishing career in Toledo, Spain where he acquired his nickname.

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 17 December 2012 at 6:09pm GMT

'Nor did Her Blessed Son ever make her one.' David
17.12.12 -4.12 pm

Surely he did 'make her one.' He made her the apostle John !

Mary Magdalen according to the gospel record was literally the Very First apostle. And I do mean literally. She was the first witness of the resurrection AND the first witness to be sent to well, bare Witness.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 7:38pm GMT

I've searched and searched the New Testament and I simply cannot find the name Mary Magdalene in any of the lists of the Twelve Apostles.
With regard to the BVM - "He made her the apostle John" - what on earth does that mean?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 4:27am GMT
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