Monday, 15 April 2013

CofE marriage report: yet another critique

The Reverend Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente who is Vicar of St James, New Malden, has written a detailed critical article about the marriage report. You can read about it on the Inclusive Church website, here.

‘Men and Women in Marriage’ does not emanate from the church as a whole, not even from its synod. It was devised because the Faith and Order Commission suggested under their own steam to the bishops that it would be ‘timely to produce a short summary of the Church of England’s understanding of marriage.’ The bishops agreed. The document that ensued is unfortunately neither distinctly Anglican, nor a summary of anything, nor is it short. Any attempt to make sense of it needs to be a bit lengthy. I am as sorry about this as I am about the introduction’s rather disingenuous claim that the whole thing is merely offered to you for study. Issues in Human Sexuality was similarly ‘commended for study’ but seems to have acquired more authority than canon law and is still sadly used to bludgeon gay faithful and liberal clergy some 25 years later. Never lose heart however, the document is shockingly careless in its scholarship, sometimes poorly argued, but very conveniently divided into small paragraphs easy to confute…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 April 2013 at 8:38pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Lorenzo, Thank you - Short, sharp and true.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Monday, 15 April 2013 at 9:17pm BST

Thank you to Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente for an excellent argument.

I wonder if I can use his article as a peg for some thoughts of my own that are relevant to all the recent threads prompted by the Men and Women in Marriage report. This controversy is not only relevant to England, of course. The New Zealand parliament is expected tomorrow to pass the third reading of a bill to legalise “equal marriage”, so the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia is scrabbling, like the Church of England, to come up with appropriate responses.
Much of the controversy, in both its secular and religious dimensions, centres on debate as to whether we are or are not changing the definition of marriage, and if so, whether this is a good thing. My own opinion is that yes, we are changing, or at least broadening, our definition, and yes, this is a good thing.

Let me offer an analogy from a totally unrelated field. On Friday, I will attend a graduation ceremony, and will be capped with a PhD in Management. From that point, I will be allowed to call myself Doctor Prebble. (pause for polite applause, and bashful acknowledgement – shucks, thanks). To earn this title, I had to do some original research, read an enormous amount of literature, produce a 100,000 word thesis, and have it examined by an international panel.

Several clergy colleagues have a different sort of Doctorate, a DMin. To earn this, they had to develop a specific piece of ministry, analyse it, comment on it in relation to other literature, and demonstrate how it adds to the understanding of ministry internationally. Are the two doctorates qualitatively different? Yes. Is one better than the other? That is entirely a matter of opinion.

My daughter’s father-in-law is a medical doctor. He had to spend 6 years or so at a Medical School doing a combination of theoretical and practical training, and emerged with an MBChB (NZ follows the British pattern of not using the MD title), so without a university Doctorate at all. But he is allowed to call himself Doctor, and in fact is someone asks to see a “real doctor”, they will turn to him, rather than to me!

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 15 April 2013 at 9:50pm BST

(cont)
How does this analogy help? Well a marriage between a man and a woman with the intention of producing children, one where the couple have decided not to have children, one where the couple are in their seventies, one solemnised in Westminster Abbey, and one conducted by a secular celebrant in a hot-air balloon, are all qualitatively different, but they are all recognised as marriages. A marriage between two men or two women will be different again, but the move to recognise such a union as a marriage rests on the conviction that the similarities outweigh, or are more important than, the differences.

Is it in the interests of society, of the church, and of the couples themselves, for us to give legal, emotional, and spiritual recognition to same-sex unions, and to follow that with ongoing support by relating to them as married couples? Yes of course it is.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 15 April 2013 at 9:51pm BST

On reading this sentence, I burst out laughing:

"The Faith and Order Commission does not spare single people much attention however, which is probably a blessing."

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 2:33am BST

To the extent that "Faith and Order" is, in itself, a movement (the dialogical aspect of ecumenism---created by the Anglican Communion, no less!), a shallow, polemical position paper like ‘Men and Women in Marriage’ is extremely damaging to it. Kyrie eleison!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 3:14am BST

Bishop Alan Wilson's warning that in the CofE "discussion" papers somehow acquire a teaching authority greater than anything else is chilling.

The thought that this paper might acquire the same canonical status as "Issues" should be a matter of deep concern to every reasonable person in the Church. The Church Times and Inclusive Church have given a good lead, but we need this paper and the thinking behind it so thoroughly contradicted in learned papers etc that it becomes an embarrassment to the bench who promulgated it.

Nothing less, I believe, will sink it.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 10:53am BST

The temptation to boost study and other non-binding statements to status of law is not confined to the CofE. Here in the States there were plenty who saw/see various Lambeth resolutions and the Windsor Report as virtual ukases. When Anglicans pay attention to something done by the Church we seem to treat it as settled law. Except for canons, of course, which we think of as more like guidelines, actually...

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 2:39pm BST

A line from E. E. Cumming's poem "i sing of Olaf glad and big" best sums up, I think, the views of many in the pews and the vast majority of those who aren't in the pews:
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some sh*t I will not eat"

Posted by: Fr. Bill on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 12:36am BST

"Here in the States there were plenty who saw/see various Lambeth resolutions and the Windsor Report as virtual ukases."

Surely everyone now knows that the suspect Lambeth resolutions, not to mention the soi-disant Windsor Report, are not worth the paper they were written on.

"Windsor Report"--I mean, really. Did people think that a report would actually gain prestige in the former colonies if it were named after a royal castle?

The stupidity of some people....

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 3:29am BST

The New Zealand Parliament tonight voted for the Marriage Amendment Bill (Third Reading) that will allow provision for Same Sex Marriage in N.Z.

The voting was 77 For, and 44 Against.

The Debate was interesting to watch, in that there was: an absence of rancour; a couple of speakers whose views had changed towards the LGBT community during the course of the 3 Readings; and an air of expectancy in the House - especially from the crowded gallery - that the Bill would pass.

There was respectful attention paid to the views of Church authorities, with the arrangement of special provision for dissenting Celebrants and Religious Authorities to decline to celebrate Same Sex Marriages guaranteed by the Bill.

Watching the televised proceedings from the comfort of our home, my wife and I were grateful for the fact that our parliament has overcome a culture of fear and disrespect for people whose only difference is that they were intrinsically gifted with a sexual orientation that was neither shared with, nor appreciated by, the mainstream.

Emphasis was placed on the fact that the marriage state has undergone changes over time, and that a couple who wanted to share their life together in a monogamous relationship ought no longer to be barred from the joy of marriage - simply because they were of the same gender. Marriage was meant for the mutual love and respect of one person for another - regardless of their capacity to produce children - and that the commitment made in the stable environment of monogamous marriage was a boon, rather than a threat to the community.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 11:37am BST

Thank you for that summary, Fr Ron!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 12:49pm BST

I'm seconding Erica's appreciation of Fr Ron.

(our own TA treasure)

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 2:26pm BST

Thanks, Erika and Laurence. Best wishes for some signs of a similar result in the U.K. - Not that one expects that the Church will necessarily 'catch on' to the need to 'set the prisoners free' on this issue.

However, I can confirm that the sun did rise in Aotearoa/New Zealand this morning, and there were no fatalities as a result of last night's vote. There appears to have been no damage done - only a welcome sign of a manifest wrong being righted.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 10:46pm BST

Nice! Thanks, Father Ron. And New Zealand.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 11:21pm BST

My apologies that Ron and I between us have turned this thread into a commentary on the situation in New Zealand, some distance from the issues raised by Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente.

Still, I am rejoicing that my sister, and my daughter, now have the option of turning their respective very long-term unions into marriages.

It should be acknowledged that though this Bill passed our Parliament by a large majority, it was no without some strong opposition, especially at the committee stages. That opposition came from predictable sources, including conservative and evangelical church groups. It seems that one of the arguments used was the suggestion that the serious drought affecting much of NZ in recent months might be caused by our apostasy as a nation in trying to alter God's laws as to marriage.

One of the highlights of last night's debate came from one of the senior National Party (ie conservative) MPs, who said, "Guess what? It's pouring with rain today, and there's a great gay rainbow right across my electorate. Let's take it as a sign, and pass this legislation!

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 6:15am BST

Oh Edward, I don't think any apology is warranted. The wonderful news from New Zealand underscores the fact that there is a diversity of views amongst Anglicans. Apparently the commission that wrote that awful report was supposed to consider the diversity of views, and they most certainly didn't.

Consequently, when the New Zealanders, Canadians, and Americans speak up, along with various Brits featured in TA and commenting on it, we are all showing a significant diversity that had no voice in that report.

I celebrate for NZ! Love the story about the rainbow. They've turned up at interesting times.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 4:21pm BST
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