Saturday, 15 February 2014

Reports and reactions to House of Bishops statement

Media reports:

Telegraph John Bingham Church offers prayers after same-sex weddings – but bans gay priests from marrying

Church Times Paul Handley No blessings, no same-sex marriages for clergy: Bishops keep the door shut as Act comes into force

Independent Lizzie Dearden Church of England offers prayers after gay weddings but no same-sex marriage for vicars

BBC Gay couple blessings ruled out by Church of England bishops

Diocesan statements:

Bishop of Manchester Bishop’s pastoral statement


Archbishop Cranmer House of Bishop’s same-sex dog’s breakfast

Bishop Alan Wilson We come in Peace — Shoot to Kill?

Changing Attitude Colin Coward House of Bishops prioritise discipline not love

Rachel Mann Personal Response to the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 3:00pm GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England

Never mind who is going to be the first female bishop, a more pressing question will surely be, who will be the first vicar to legally marry in a Register Office ceremony and what will his or her bishop do about it?

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 4:27pm GMT

Another hurtful statement from CoE bishops. Though I appreciate +David trying to walk a fine line to respond to real people and the needs expressed by his diocese.

So sad, really. It won't be long before no one cares. The Letter is not the Good News. So the bishops credibility on the Good News is shot.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 6:22pm GMT

How is this asinine "decision" different from Rome demanding celibacy? Deeply, deeply cruel and providing the breeding ground for endless misery.

If one may quote Churchill, and a different context: "The Government [Church] simply cannot make up their minds, or they cannot get the Prime Minister [Synod, Bishops] to make up his mind. So they go on in a strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more months and years - precious, perhaps vital, to the greatness of Britain - for the locusts to eat.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 7:49pm GMT

Thank you, Bishop Alan, for 'telling it like it is'. The duplicity of the House of Bishops is so evident here in their response to the Pilling Report. The statement that there will be no change in Anglican Doctrine of Marriage (or, presumably, on the question of Gay relationships), while yet trumpeting the ongoing 'Facilitated Conversations' seems, to many of us, hypocritical. What is the point on ongoing conversations about a situation that will never be changed. Homophobia Lives!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 8:27pm GMT

If the bishops' letter is a "generous witness to Jesus Christ", l'm a banana.

Posted by: Helen on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 10:45pm GMT

I think that what we need is a number of vicars prepared to defy the church and to go public big-time. The church would be the ones made to look daft and I think would have such a backlash that they would be forced to review what Welby already knows to be an unsustainable position

Posted by: Mike Homfray on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 11:41pm GMT

I'm not sure that the Church of England has legal authority to stop clergy from entering into a lawful marriage.

Let's not forget that Long v Bishop of Cape Town (1863) 15 English Reports 756 establishes that:

"canonical obedience does not mean that the clergyman will obey all the commands of the Bishop against which there is no law, but that he will obey all such commands as the Bishop by law is authorised to impose" (p.776)

By what law is a Bishop authorised to impose a command that his clergy should not marry?

Tobias Haller has pointed out, on the contrary, that Article 32 of the 39 Articles provides (under the title "Of the Marriage of Priests"):

"Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God's Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness."

Posted by: badman on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:01am GMT

Well, 'Badman', you have certainly (with Fr. Tobias Haller) put the cat among the pigeons on Article 32. However, how does that affect us moderns who do not account the 39 Articles to be part of the current polity of Anglican life?

Conversely, Article 32 could be a 'let-out' for the Con/Evos who don't want Gay Marriage!!!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:33am GMT

"By what law is a Bishop authorised to impose a command that his clergy should not marry?"

I suspect that when there are two definitions of marriage, the state's and the church's, it would require a test case to determine which is applicable. And that when attempting to use a past case as a precedent, there would be arguments about which definition that case related to.

I don't, obviously, say this to defend the nonsensical and hateful argument that the House of Bishops is advancing. But I think it is more likely that the position will change because the facts on the ground change (probably a serving minister entering into a same-sex marriage and daring the church to do something about it) rather than because of a subtle and complex legal argument.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 9:09am GMT

I'm not in favour of the Government legislation that will come into effect next month but I think the Archbishops' pastoral letter will perpetrate an injustice. Clergy promise to obey the Ordinary in all things "lawful and honest". As the month of March dawns it will be perfectly lawful and legal for two people of the same gender to marry. The bishops by seeking to prevent clergy from enacting this legal right are surely depriving clergy from a privilege which all other citizens of this realm can enter into and thus, in effect, making those in holy orders who wish to enter into same sex legal marriage, second class citizens.

Posted by: Bishop Cuthbert Heaver on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 9:12am GMT

If there was a disciplinary case, what legal standing would Article 32 have?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 11:01am GMT

Generous is one of those words no-one should ever say about themselves. Like loving, caring, kind etc. it is only ever something the recipients of the "generosity" can judge.
Calling yourself generous is a bit like someone calling themselves a Dear Leader.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 11:48am GMT

This is a hurtful, even cruel statement that on close examination doesn't make sense and is the antithesis of anything pastoral.

Once again the Church of England is saying 'no' to its people and enquirers. iI is also becoming dialectical i.e. defined by being against things, which is a long way from the liberating Gospel of the Jesus Christ who was always challenging the conventions of his time.

Sadly, I suppose that what is happening here is expedient, a caving into conservative, largely evangelical, opinion in the Church.

However, let's be optimistic and look for a light at the end of a long dark tunnel. It might be that come March when 'gay' marriage becomes available and the end of the world does not arrive then we will begin see a gradual shift in opinion.

Just as with the question of the role of women in the Church, which seems finally to be coming to an end at least vis a vis the Episcopate after years and years of struggle - so the same might become true of a recognition of gay people as being fully God's creation rather than as some kind of pariah status group.

... but how long O Lord, how long?

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 12:24pm GMT

To add to the point made by badman - the 'Oath of Canonical Obedience' made by Clergy to the Diocesan Bishop contains within it an important sub-clause "in all thing lawful and honest"... As entering into a Civil Marriage with someone of the same sex from the 29th March will be "lawful" one wonders how much mileage there will be in moving forward on these grounds...

Posted by: Mark on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 1:16pm GMT

Is there any point in doing anything about this? I have signed the petition. But should I write to my Bishop, he already knows my views. Should I write to Lambeth Palace in order to get a meanigless answer from a bored apparatchick? Perhaps I should stand for diocesan or general synod on an agressively out, liberal and fully inclusve ticket and get heavily voted down by the unholy alliance of Anglo Catholics and Conservative women haters in the Chichester diocese. I was hoping to start winding down in a year or two, perhaps not just yet.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:18pm GMT

"[I]t is more likely that the position will change because the facts on the ground change (probably a serving minister entering into a same-sex marriage and daring the church to do something about it)."


There is power in the Church to force this issue and bring it to a right resolution.

That power lies with vicars who choose to marry, as the law will soon allow.

If the hierarchy tries to make a case of it, then the CofE will be in the very odd position of discouraging its clergy from marrying.

At that point, the Church becomes a laughingstock, questions get asked in Parliament, the bishops take refuge in official inaction, and the rest of the Communion reacts as it would have in the first place, if the House of Bishops had been braver and more forthright.

Rather than lead, the feckless bishops will have to follow.

Prediction: These events will unfold this year.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:40pm GMT

Fear not Mike Homfray. I can almost guarantee (and that without having spoken to anybody else) that many many clergy, and in busy parishes as far as the occasional offices are concerned, will simply ignore this advice from bishops and get on with it. The moment of reality has arrived - same sex marriages will soon be celebrated - and leadership has been found wanting from the bishops. Meanwhile, many clergy will get on with blessings, and probably even the majority within 5 years.

Posted by: Neil on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:45pm GMT

Nice sentiments, Concerned Anglican, but I've borne patiently for long enough and I've no intentions of doing it for any longer.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 3:38pm GMT

I hesitate in adding to the comments contrasting TEC with CofE.

But in states where same-sex marriage is now legal in the U.S., many bishops are now requiring same-sex partners living together to get married (as well as some opposite-sex partners living together who refused to get married until marriage equality occurred). Their rationale is there is no longer a reason for them not to get married and Christian morality requires priests living in a romantic relationship with another to get married.

This weekend I attended the marriage of a priest (a well-respected rector in this diocese) and his partner of over 35 years. The marriage and blessing were held in a church, led by a priest, in the presence of family and friends.

God was powerfully present in the service. I wish I could say the same for the bishops' statement.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 4:00pm GMT

"I suspect that when there are two definitions of marriage, the state's and the church's, it would require a test case to determine which is applicable. And that when attempting to use a past case as a precedent, there would be arguments about which definition that case related to."

The obvious precedent is Thompson v Dibdin in the House of Lords, in which Lord Loreburn says:

"It is inconceivable that any Court of law should allow as a lawful cause the cohabitation of two persons whose union is directly sanctioned by Act of Parliament and is as valid as any other marriage within the realm."

Posted by: badman on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 4:11pm GMT

Just can't get John 11:50 out of my head all day: "it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people".

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 5:13pm GMT

Septuagesima and the countdown has already begun. Come Refreshment Sunday the first gay marriages in England and Wales will have already taken place, with hearts and hands and voices.

It stands to reason that partnered gay clergy will also be fixing a date . Isn't it a moral obligation for them to do so, not for the sake of ecclesiastical reform, necessarily, but for the mutual society, help and comfort? Strength in numbers will see off any episcopal threat to a lifetime of marital bliss. Nobody wants the bad publicity of multiple Herefords, now do they?

Posted by: Andrew on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 9:49pm GMT

Quite. If I have this right, a person in a same sex marriage wishing to be ordained would first of all have to divorce (even if they were bringing up children) first in order to be considered - maybe the fact they were once married, even if they divorce in order to please the powers that be, would be enough to bar someone for ever from being ordained.

This is, at once, both silly and oppressive. A kind of incompetent Christian version of the Soviet Union.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 11:05pm GMT

If the Dean of St. Albans decides not to marry then surely he must be given one of the many currently vacant bishoprics; after all he's considerably brighter than the vast majority of the current Diocesans and would enlighten the Bench enormously. However, if on receiving his mitre he then decides to marry then that really would put the cat among the pigeons. How long ago was it that a bishop was suspended for "conduct unbecoming"?

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 8:08am GMT

You are quite right, Father David. But how would the marriage of a gay bishop be any worse than, say the re-marriage of a divorced bishop - which has already happened? Or is that an entirely different moral proposition?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 9:54am GMT

As Erika says above:

"Generous is one of those words no-one should ever say about themselves. Like loving, caring, kind etc. it is only ever something the recipients of the "generosity" can judge.

Calling yourself generous is a bit like someone calling themselves a Dear Leader."

I've been thinking something similar about sacrifice. In the last few years, the HoB over the issues of women bishops and equal marriage, seem to have developed a bad habit of calling for the ministry of others to be limited for the 'greater good'.

I am completely unclear what this 'greater good' is meant to be. I haven't noticed unity breaking out in the church as a result of any of it, and the external critics of the C of E seem if anything to draw strength from it to express their disdain for us more clearly.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 12:02pm GMT

How very much Bishop Simon Phipps was ahead of his time when in 1980 he printed his thoughts on homosexuality in the Lincoln Diocesan Magazine. At the time this caused much distress within the diocese and beyond but this great pastoral bishop proved to be quite prophetic in what he wrote thirty four years ago.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 1:37pm GMT

So the question seems to revolve to some extent on the meaning of "lawful" in the phrase "all things lawful." Is a pastoral direction, or even a direct admonition not to do something which is legal under the law of the state and not expressly forbidden under the law of the church, a "law." Being an American I am not familiar with the intricacies of English law beyond knowing how intricate it is! So the questions are:

Does this Pastoral Guidance have the force of law?

Is there a canon or other actionable statement in place already forbidding a cleric entering a same-sex marriage?

And if neither of these be true, does the disciplinary language of "in all things lawful" fail to meet the standard of justice and equity. From the cases cited above, it would seem not.

Please note I did not cite Article XXXXII as a "legal" point as I do not know the standing of the Articles in English church jurisprudence. (Though I'd be interested to know if they still have any application. After all, the P.G. cites the 1662 marriage liturgy.) I was instead highlighting the principle that from the time of the Article marriage was held to be a matter of conscience for the individual to frame (at the time) his life in a godly fashion.

As to marriage being a matter of doctrine, in the absence of reference in the creeds and the catechism, one might then bring in the Article on the Sacraments, which holds marriage to be "an estate allowed." One could argue that same-sex marriage is not "allowed" by Scripture, but the argument that it is expressly forbidden is not definitive, and to cite another article, only that which can be "proven" can be mandatory. In short, one can allow what cannot be proven, but only require what can be.

Sorry to bash away on the Articles, but it does seem to me we need a sort of Traditional Anglican Settlement to all of this, by allowing diversity and letting God sort out all the rest...

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 3:19pm GMT

I was particularly struck by yesterday's Gospel --

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him
give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that
anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of
unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever
marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

The CoE never changes its position on marriage?

Posted by: John Roch on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 4:04pm GMT

Mike: "I think that what we need is a number of vicars prepared to defy the church and to go public big-time."

Mike, you are right, but individually priests would be picked off.

What is needed is the creation of an alliance of churches with a conscience on this issue. Collective action will be far more effective, and PCC's of these churches should declare a form of UDI, where *they* will decide whether they wish to exercise conscience, and where they will resist any sacking or replacement, with all other PCCs in the alliance backing each other.

Top down 'imperium' can pick off individual priests, even if they are willing to sacrifice themselves, but it can't really sustain outright local rebellion on a wide scale, if collective action is taken.

Individual churches are expressions of a community, and grow and flourish because of local people's lives and values, including the work ***and authority*** of PCC's.

Would the bishops sack 100 PCC's if they signed up to a coalition, and authorised their priests to commence communal blessing of gay and lesbian weddings or partnerships?

They would be mad to. The outright pretence that "The Church" is against these blessings - and it IS a pretence - would be de facto shown to be a nonsense.

What is needed is an alliance and the commencement of an orchestrated and active defiance. Or rather, an alignment with justice decency and conscience, and a resistance of stark and blatant discrimination and authoritarianism.

Frankly, this is how this 'top down' dictat needs to be confronted. Local churches and their PCCs should declare who *they* will pray blessings for.

I am ashamed if acquiescence leads to disgusting further marginalisation and devaluing of equally valid relationships and gay and lesbian people who are entirely decent.

If this is not confronted then we collaborate in the diminution and shaming of gay and lesbian people in *our* communities.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 5:00pm GMT

Nothing will change in the CofE until the individual diocese are allowed to elect their own bishops. Bishops should never be appointed. It is ridiculous to assume that CofE bishops will do the right thing once "appointed" but it would change the landscape entirely if CofE bishops were locally elected by each diocese of lay and clergy members. The is a truly shameful moment in the life of the CofE.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 6:01pm GMT

A reply to two "Smiths" - presumably not related.
Chris, while I agree that appointing bishops in the arcane way that the C of E does makes less and less sense, I don't think that such a welcome change would make any difference to the matter under debate. New Zealand bishops have been elected since the 1850s, but the policy outlined by the Cof E Bishops is essentially the same as the one operated by our bishops here.
True, we are all waiting for the publication of our version of Pilling, entitled the Ma Whea? Commission, which must report before General Synod meets in May. It is likely, but not assured that the commission will make some liberalising recommendations akin to Pilling, and it is in the bounds of possibility that GS will act on them. But in either case, I am not holding my breath, and in the mean time, clergy have been exhorted not to conduct same-sex weddings, which have been legal here for a couple of years.
So, Ron, I think we have to be careful not to fulminate too fiercely about the situation in the C of E, without acknowledging that the same thing (at the moment) applies in our world of elected bishops.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 9:31pm GMT

Edward, Same-sex marriage has only been available in New Zealand for just on 6 months. We are all waiting to see what happens in May after the Me Whea? commission reports. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find out anything here. I am much more aware of what happens in Synod in England than in New Zealand. Hopefully the response in both anger and jest to the ridiculous statement by the Bishops in England might show our own synod/bishops what would be the result of a similar decision here. My own vicar will be at general synod in May. I am making it clear to both him and our bishop what will be my response to an unfavourable outcome. I will withdraw all support for my parish and visit my solicitors regarding my will. As a gay man, I grew up when both church and state frowned on my sexuality. Today it is only the church that discriminates but as a result I have no dependents and only one much older sibling, also without children. I would rather see my modest assets go to a secular charity such as Medecins Sans Frontieres than be used in the name of a homophobic organisation. The evangelicals make all sorts of threats of schism. I can only fight back in one way.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 6:07am GMT

Thanks for the correction, Ralph. you are of course correct that the change was less than one year ago.
My prediction, for what it is worth, is that General Synod will invent yet another innovative way to sit on the fence and do nothing. The response you suggest you plan to take is perfectly understandable.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 10:06pm GMT

Edward, though now a member of ACANZP, I was formed as a Christian by my Baptism and Confirmation in the Church of England. That is my basis of interest in the affairs of that Church. I realise that the Anglican Church in New Zealand at the moment is in a similar situation to that in England and Wales on this matter of Same-Sex Blessings/Marriage.

However, ACANZP has had the benefit of recently appointing some younger bishops (including another female) who may better understand the real need of the Church to cherish its LGBTI membership. This, I hope, will lead to a rather more pastoral result in our next General Synod.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 10:40am GMT

I will be hoping alongside you, and praying with you that you are right. I know that pressure for change will come from some in my diocese, and from Waiapu and Dunedin, with support from some Tikanga Maori and Tikanga pasifika members. But I also know that your diocesan synod has asked that no change be made. While a Conservative/Evangelical motion is most unlikely to be successful, some formula that makes the fence a little more comfortable to sit on is a real possibility, and I will really feel for the Brian Ralphs of our Church (of whom there are so many) if that happens.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:28pm GMT

My apologies, Brian, for referring to you as "Ralph". Ralph was my father's middle name, so it has a place of honour in my subconscious as a Christian name.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:30pm GMT

Quite OK, :-) Edward, am use to it.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 11:29pm GMT

On the NZ point, please don't imagine this is just a matter of getting younger people into senior posts. If he were still alive, I wonder where your former Archbishop and Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves would stand on this issue?

Posted by: Turbulent priest on Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 7:35am GMT

" I wonder where your former Archbishop and Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves would stand on this issue?" - Turbulent priest -

Certainly to my knowledge, he and I were on the same side in reference to voting down the Covenant. I believe Sir Paul Reeves was more pastorally understanding than most bishops in the Church on the issue of LGBT people. He probably would have understood the need, at least, for S/S/ blessings.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 10:27am GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.