Sunday, 9 March 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 9

Episode 8 was here. Earlier episodes from here.

Anglican Mainstream has published an email sent by the EGGS Committee to the members of EGGS. EGGS is the Evangelical Group of the General Synod, and the names of the committee members are shown here. The full text of the email is copied below the fold.

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday broadcast this morning carried a segment which discussed the legal implications for clergy who enter a same-sex marriage. The Bishop of Oxford was among those interviewed, along with the expert legal journalist, Joshua Rozenberg. The 10 minute segment begins about 35 minutes into the broadcast.

Dear EGGS member

I am writing on behalf of the EGGS committee to offer a brief response to the Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter and Appendix released on February 15th.

We welcome the Archbishops’ pastoral letter of 15th February and note the divergence to which the Statement refers between the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England. In view of this significant change we believe that the House of Bishops is increasingly called to inhabit a prophetic role in articulating Scriptural patterns for human flourishing to our society and culture, and we assure them of our prayers and support as they do so.

We applaud their call and commitment for the church to be a welcoming community. We are grateful for the clear indication of agreement in the House that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged. We are encouraged that the Statement recognises the consistent teaching of Canon B30, the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship in this regard. We welcome the indication that clergy should not enter same-sex marriages and that those in same sex marriages cannot be ordained. We also welcome the advice that pastoral discussion with those entering same-sex marriage needs to include an exploration of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it.

At the same time as expressing our thanks, we wish to note the following concerns:

We are concerned that the Appendix says nothing about the position of lay people holding a bishop’s licence or commission.

We believe that such lay ministers, who along with ordained ministers should offer an exemplary lifestyle, should be expected not to enter into same-sex marriages, and those who have contracted same-sex marriages should not be licenced or commissioned.

We believe that the guidance in respect of acts of worship after a civil same sex wedding (Appendix paragraphs 19-21) is unclear. The distinction between a service of blessing and informal prayers is a distinction without reasoned theological difference and likely to lead to confusion at parochial level. The implication that it is acceptable for clergy informally to pray for God’s blessing on a relationship which departs from the church’s teaching (Appendix paragraph 21) seems at best counterintuitive, and we would have wished for clearer indication that those departing from the church’s teaching on this (or any other matter) should be encouraged to reconsider their ways. Many evangelical churches will of course continue to pray for people’s spiritual and physical needs in the context of all kinds of relationships : this is not to be confused with an endorsement of these relationships.

While affirming that everyone should be welcomed in our churches, we continue to believe that appropriate sacramental discipline should apply to those who choose to enter into any sexual relationship other than within marriage between a man and a woman.

The ‘sharp’ end of the challenge to respond to requests for recognition of same sex marriages is going to be at parochial level – and we are concerned that the guidance offered is insufficient in this regard.

We look forward to the conversations of the coming months as an opportunity to explore how a biblically orthodox perspective on human sexuality is good for all society and for each child, woman and man. We pray that in exploring this together we may be re-energised by the clarity of Scripture and the vision it offers for human flourishing.

Please pray for our Archbishops and Bishops in their leadership: that God will give them the ‘knowledge of His will …. that we may live lives that please Him in every way’ (Colossians 1).

Rev John Dunnett
On behalf of the EGGS Committee.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 4:22pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

What a nasty homophobic letter. I do hope that there are some evangelicals will not hesitate to tell this person, and the whole of the EGGS committee, what they think of their profoundly double-tongued approach.

They may say that they affirm "that everyone is welcome in our churches", they make clear that all LGBT people are very much second-class citizens, whose private lives need policing, who cannot be permitted to share Holy Communion, or to exercise ministry, unless they answer intrusive questioning to the satisfaction of the puritan morality police. And if they have contracted a same-sex marriage - well! Heaven help them. They will not be welcome at all as far as I can see.

This letter is nauseating in its smarmy tone of discriminatory heterosexism.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 5:12pm GMT

Found the BBC material very encouraging: becoming increasingly clear that there are gay priests who are going to 'go ahead', that there are some bishops who do not intend to do anything about it, and that in any case the combined bishopric can't do anything about it.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 6:03pm GMT

Re the 'Sunday' programme - the bishop of Oxford trying to pretend that the HoB statement really doesn't mean what it says, Fr Andrew Cain, quite rightly sticking to his guns, Joshua Rozenburg saying that there is nothing the Bishops can do anyway. And on the other hand 'Anglican Mainstream' looking for a witch- hunt and EGGS thinking that all that is needed is a return to 'Biblical Orthodoxy' and also looking for a witch hunt. How on earth are the facilitated conversations going to get the CofE anywhere at all?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 7:04pm GMT

Ah well, you can't make an omelette without first breaking eggs.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 7:31pm GMT

"While affirming that everyone should be welcomed in our churches, we continue to believe that appropriate sacramental discipline should apply to those who choose to enter into any sexual relationship other than within marriage between a man and a woman."

So . . . "everyone should be welcomed," but some should be "sacramental[ly] discipline[d]."

I guess the welcome is at the door, but not at the communion altar?

Do ESGS realize how Orwellian, unChristian, and self-defeating this is?

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 7:32pm GMT

All this from members of the CofE - and yet, the Queen, the Head of the Church of England, has signed the Same Sex marriage act into law - so clearly she approves. So where does that leave these disapprovers?(including the Bishops, of course). ( Off with their heads????)

Posted by: Stephen on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 10:12pm GMT

Shorter EGGS: "the beatings should continue until morale improves"

Rotten EGGS.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 10:30pm GMT

The Queen's personal views on the matter (like almost all matters) are wholly unclear and irrelevant - Royal Assent to legislation is a constitutional tool and does not signify personal approval of the law's contents. I think I recall that Assent has not been refused to a duly passed Act since the early eighteenth century.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 11:03pm GMT

"the Queen, the Head of the Church of England, has signed the Same Sex marriage act into law"

What happened to all that nonsense that Nazir-Ali was banging on about last year about giving Royal Assent being a breach of her coronation vow and therefore she should refuse to sign it?

"so clearly she approves"

No, it just means that she understands that constitutionally a refusal by a reigning monarch to give Royal Assent to legislation passed by both houses (without even needing the Parliament Act) would spark a major constitutional crisis which would probably result in the end of the monarchy for anything other than ceremonial purposes. The last time Royal Assent was withheld was 1708, and Elizabeth Windsor is hardly going to break 300 years of convention over something as trivial (for anything other than obsessives) as same-sex marriage. It was considered by George IV (Catholic Relief Act, interestingly on the grounds of conflict with his oath) and George V (Home Rule, pushed though with the Parliament Act) in the 19th and early 20th centuries respectively, but they didn't follow through and eventually signed.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 11:11pm GMT

"Sacramental discipline" of lay people in sexually expressed, faithful same-sex relationships with a lifelong intention was specifically ruled out in Issues of Human Sexuality 24 years ago. It is ruled out very specifically with respect to lay people in same-sex marriages by the House of Bishop's Pastoral Guidance.

One wonders if those imposing "sacramental discipline" will themselves be subject to discpline for being in breach of the Pastoral Guidance? Or is discipline only for the gays?

The attempt to catch Readers and Licensed Pastoral Assistants, and those who might be commissioned to those roles, in the net - clearly not the intent of the statement - is a sign of an obsessive monomania with those who happen to love someone of the same gender. Apparently, we aren't allowed to use the word 'homophobia' in the C of E any more. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, presumably we're supposed to call it an eagle?

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 11:19pm GMT

I am grateful for the clarity of letters such as this.
These are the allies of Andrea Williams, the friends of ACNA.

People of good will have to make a choice and I believe this type of communication is a gift to us, making the pathway crystal clear.

On a general matter, it was good to see a large number of academics attacking the poor thinking underlying the bishops' statement. They have not lifted their voice together enough, let's hope this is the begining of something exciting!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 11:42pm GMT

We're told that evangelicals are split on this "issue."

OK. What are those evangelicals in Synod who disagree with EGGS doing to make their voice heard?


Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 5:37am GMT

Do these evangelicals exercise the same "sacramental discipline" in relation to the divorced, fornicators, gossips, backbiters and so on? Are bankers in the city disciplined for their usury? Oh no, of course not - remember, they give lots of money. Is everyone quizzed about what they have done with whom before every service of Holy Communion? No, I thought not.

The Bishop of Oxford is asking us to respect the integrity of the biblical interpretation that results in this kind of pastoral practice. Why should we? "By their fruits shall you know them".

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 6:12am GMT

Irrespective of our sovereign's personal opinion, she is now in the position of supporting same sex marriage as the head of state while simultaneously, as head of the Church of England, the established church, supporting its banning.

Posted by: Laura Sykes on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 7:34am GMT

The astonishing thing is that they genuinely believe themselves to be welcoming.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 9:25am GMT

I find it enormously helpful when holding the Bishops Pastoral Letter in my right hand to have a copy of George Orwell's 1984 in my left hand. NEWSPEAK LIVES.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 10:21am GMT

I remember a story about the mainstream screaming for crucifixion. Seems they haven't changed.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 10:29am GMT

I wondered whether the aim was to suggest something so implausibly extreme that anything less might seem reasonable, but realise there may be some who sincerely believe that a regime of mass excommunications would be helpful for the spiritual health of the church. Presumably the handful of the elect who remained, convinced of their own perfect understanding of the Bible, would then discover that they did not agree on everything and might start excommunicating one another!

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 10:59am GMT

"She is now in the position of supporting same sex marriage as the head of state while simultaneously, as head of the Church of England, the established church, supporting its banning."

Which is where the historical illiteracy of the house of bishops comes back to haunt them, again. Victoria gave royal assent to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, which recognised divorce and remarriage, while the church of which she was governor did not. The constitution appears to have survived. Her son Edward VII gave royal assent to the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act 1907, and again the world did not end. Indeed, of the five crowned monarchs we have had in the past 175 years, only a minority (George V and George VI) had _not_ given royal assent to acts which make valid for the state certain marriages that the church did not accept. Attempting to claim this is some new and shocking development is not helping anyone.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 1:22pm GMT

The supreme governor of the church of england spoke in appreciation of the Lesbian & Gay Switchboard's 40th anniversary last week.

So I think her attitude of appreciation is very clear.

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 3:01pm GMT

The Church is alienating an entire generation over gay marriage.

Telegraph today:

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 3:48pm GMT

One wonders at what point this will go before the High Court, or when the rather dodgy corner that the C of E has got itself into will become and issue before the European Court?

At that point, we will see what the bishops really believe: will they have the courage to defy the courts, or will at least some of them find the spine to profess the support for LGBT's that one suspects they have long secretly believed in. Either way, it would be instructive to see what real courage the house of bishops can dredge up. Hitherto the courage has been almost all among LGBT's.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 6:32pm GMT

It is remarkable that the EGGS letter comes from the Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, amongst others.

It is much worse than the House of Bishops letter because it says there should be "sacramental discipline" against laity as well as clergy. That presumably means the LGBT members of New College, Oxford, of which the Bishop is visitor, which will come as a nasty shock to that very liberal institution.

The threat of withholding communion - which is what I take "sacramental discipline" refers to - would be flat out illegal and could lead to discipline against whoever chose to do it.

I'm amazed that the Bishop of Winchester signed up to this - did he?

Posted by: badman on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 6:53pm GMT

Googled Fr Andrew Cain. It's immediately and completely obvious that he presides over two excellent churches, which combine so many of the things that are so good about the 'rainbow' C of E. Bet he has his congregations completely supportive. Like so many gay men, he has the bxxxs which his hetero male opponents, including genetically prolific bishops and archbishops, so conspicuously lack.

Posted by: John on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 8:07pm GMT

Maybe I can clarify the question about "sacramental discipline".

Canon B16 makes clear that any priest who intends to (or does) refuse the sacrament of Holy Communion to an individual must report this to the bishop and obey the bishop's ruling.

The Pastoral Letter sets out guidance as to what a bishop might be expected to rule if such a case were brought in respect of a same sex marriage.

A failure to follow the bishop's ruling may suggest a breach of the CDM (it would be the priest's action not any doctrine that might motivate it that was at issue) in that it would be failing to do something required by the laws ecclesiastical.

A principle of the CDM is that repeat breaches may be seen as exacerbating the gravity of offence.

Posted by: David Walker on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 8:37pm GMT

badman: 'It is remarkable that the EGGS letter comes from the Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, amongst others'.

+Tim attended Gafcon 2 in Nairobi (1), so maybe it is not so remarkable. The Pilling conversations in the Diocese may be 'interesting', if the Bp believes his conversation partners ought to be ex-communicated.

We now await his application of sacramental discipline as he travels the Diocese examining and confirming.


Posted by: ezlxq on Monday, 10 March 2014 at 11:02pm GMT

It would be informative for every thinking Anglican to read the link provided (above) by ezlxq. The article from the 'Anglican Mainstream' web-site on the goings-on at Gafcon 2 reveals just how subversive is this 'slipstream' influence on world-wide Anglicanism.

If the ABC is looking for any kind of Unity with this crowd - it seems they will resist it to the last rampart, and all on the grounds of homophobia.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 8:26pm GMT
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