Monday, 17 March 2014

More about church reactions to same sex marriage

Continuing the soap opera, but broadening out a little from the bishops statement.

Savi Hensman Church of England faction urges punishment of partnered parishioners

David Pocklington Clergy, same-sex marriage and (quasi-) law

This is a good summary of recent discussion on the legal issues affecting CofE clergy who choose to enter a same-sex marriage.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Sex and Marriage

The controversial thing about same sex marriage - as distinct from same sex relationships, same sex civil partnerships, or even plain old same sex sex - is that if sex takes place within marriage, it isn’t sinful. Not all marriages (or other relationships) involve sex, of course. But it is the sex that is controversial.

Those who take an unhealthy interest in other people’s sexual sin have had a mantra - all sex outside of marriage is wrong. Marriage good, all other sex bad, is meant to be the rule. (Its a rule few people observe, but the point of this sort of rule is idealism rather than realism).

And that, of course, is why the idea of a couple of the same sex marrying each other, if you think gay relationships are always wrong, is a problem. Thats why the Church authorities - who argued vigorously against Civil Partnerships when they were first mooted - are now desperate for clergy in those partnerships to stay there, rather than get married.

Tom Brazier A promise is a promise

This is not a post about same sex marriage and the church. But I want it to be read by those who are talking about same sex marriage and the church. I especially want it to be read by @notsuchgoodnews, @MirandaTHolmes, @kateboardman, @StLCowley, @churchnw6, @StPancrasChurch, @changingatt and others who possibly disagree with me. Because this is something we should be discussing…

Church Times Gavin Drake Westminster rules on gay marriage in shared churches and chapels

Sam Norton Where is the redeeming grace?

There is one aspect of the conversation about gay marriage and so on which is really starting to become clear to me, which is, put simply, that to get from a conservative premise to a conservative conclusion you need to resort to some distinctly ungracious arguments…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 8:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

You seem to be short of a snappy title for this drama series. How about Bishops' Bad, The Pilling, Narrowchurch...?

Posted by: Mark Hart on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 8:57am GMT

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes is, of course, absolutely right that this is all about sex, and who can have it and in what circumstances. So in that respect it is about control. But the issues is wider than that because it all goes back to issues of the control of women's sexuality, necessary for the survival of the tribe or family, property rights and inheritance; a control which puts men in charge of women and their bodies and which thus makes men superior to women (which is, of course, where male 'headship' comes from as well and why the whole lgbt issue is inextricably mixed up in the ordination of women issue too). Unfortunately one has to use rather explicit language here for the real issue is about penetration. For a man to be penetrated by another man is for the first to debase himself, to act 'against nature', or to be humiliated. It's why the Turks sodomised their captives, why male rape in prison is so common and why torture of men often involves particularly brutal acts. Thus the penetrated man is acting, or being made to act, like a woman, an inferior creature. It’s why certain evangelicals got rather hung up on ‘consummation’ in the debates on same sex marriage; it's why many of those opposed are seemingly obsessed by varieties of sexual activity while those who support it are generally more focussed on love.

Of course, it also explains why almost nothing is said about women except for the fear of the influence a lesbian household might be supposed to have on the sexual orientation of any male children.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 9:22am GMT

Tom Brazier link is broken, and should be


Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 12:20pm GMT

Thanks for Tom Brazier's helpful thoughts. I do think the crucial issue here is the meaning of "lawful." A great deal revolves around this word, and given the English desire for a rather complex (to this American) legal system, in church as well as state, a few things require some exploration.

I see the episcopal office as largely executive, and the enforcing of law is one aspect. That is an aspect that requires great care.

We have a situation in which the civil law is clear -- same-sex marriage is (or soon will be) "lawful." The state of church law is less clear: there is no explicit canonical prohibition, only reference to a "teaching" that is itself less than perfectly precise. If it can be summarized as "the church only recognizes the marriage of a man and a woman" then the creation of a civil marriage by a same-sex couple is not in contradiction, but is literally beside the point: it is not a marriage recognized by the church; but does that render it "unlawful" if church recognition is not sought?

The legal standing of the Pastoral Guidance also feeds into the dilemma, as is the legal standing of Article XXXII, or the principle it established that certain things are left to the conscience of the individual as to how they best serve to Godliness.

I take the call to obedience very seriously, but it is in part due to that seriousness that I think better clarity is needed than that offered by the Pastoral Guidance.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 2:17pm GMT

Re: The Tom Brazier article. He correctly states that "In these we promise to “bear true allegiance” to the monarch of England". That, presumably, would be the same monarch of England who signed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 into law?

Posted by: Fr Paul on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 4:47pm GMT

"The Evangelical Group of the General Synod (EGGS) committee wants laypeople in same-sex relationships to be disciplined too."

An Inquisition, perhaps? Autos-da-fe? Excommunications? Or maybe just flogging, Islamic style?

What planet have these people been on for the last fifty years?

And what are the legal ramifications of "disciplining" people who are doing nothing against the law.


Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 5:44pm GMT

Tom Brazier is actually South African. He's also talking about 'obedience' to a range of things, of which obedience to the monarch is least important. I don't agree with him. But I know him and his family. He is an extremely nice and good person. I sincerely hope that TA commentators will not trash him just because he believes promises should be kept (as I do not when they can reasonably be argued to be overridden by other factors). He is not remotely 'judgemental' or 'homophobic'. When he was trained up in our church he could not have adapted more completely to an ethos which in some ways was foreign to him. The C of E is lucky to have him. He actually likes the North and the North East (as many aspirant priests do not). He is currently curate to a priest who is certainly 'liberal' on the gay issue. He is also a far better person than some of the liberal torch-bearers in this part of the world (I include myself).

Posted by: John on Monday, 17 March 2014 at 6:51pm GMT

Nathan, there are all kinds of things which a church might discipline for that are not illegal. My previous bishop had an affair for several years, not illegal. Those who knew it didn't want him to lose his pension, so they did nothing. Should he have been disciplined? Should they for hiding it? Should the priest who's actually an atheist or an Anglican/Hindu priest be removed or the guy who is deacon and a drunk, etc.? I know this is slightly messier in a country that considers the head of the secular gov't to be the head of the church, but should that be maintained in a pluralist society? Should the church just be an outreach of the secular government?

Why should anyone else take what the church says it believes seriously when the church doesn't?

Posted by: Chris H on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 12:33am GMT

With reference to Miranda Threlfall-Holmes' article and Richard Ashby's comments - thank you both. In the same tribal-property values frame I think we can identify 'miscegeny' laws in the USA not so long ago. In half the states of the United States those identified as 'colored' were not allowed by law to marry those identified as 'white' when President Obama's parents married. These laws were overturned in block by the Supreme Court decision Loving vs Virginia. Then of course there was the prohibition under the Nazi regime in Germany prohibiting Jews from marrying anyone else. Quite sad I think that this is the company our bishops wish to keep.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 10:11am GMT

Sam Norton's piece was most refreshing. He speaks of his deafness, for instance, as a natural disability - not necessarily an aspect of the Fall of humanity.

Likewise, there is the situation of left-handedness, which once, influenced by linguistic accident, as being considered 'sinister'. I was fortunate, in that my teachers did not feel the need to 'correct' this 'disability'. In fact, science has now linked left-handedness with 'right-brain' function, peculiar to a minority of people, but with its own compensations.

Does that sound a wee bit like the phenomenon of sexual-orientation differences occurring in a minority of people (even Christian believers), who might just have been created that way - for a specific purpose?

Could not that purpose be to enable the majority to exercise a charitable outlook, and accept that the possibility that the supposed 'normative' binary sexuality is not all that God was disposed to create?

If, on the other hand, homosexuality is still considered to be a social disability, surely the qualities of acceptance, care, tolerance and patience should be the truly Christian response -allowing LGBTI people to function in society?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 10:14am GMT

Fr Ron,
as James Byron pointed out in the comments on Sam Norton's post - seeing homosexuality as a disability can only be a first position en route to full acceptance and equality.
Because otherwise we still end up with the thought that "the poor dears can't help themselves, we cannot blame them for not being able to be properly moral".
It would be a nice practical way forward towards equality.
But as a theology in itself it is still condescending and it will not do.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 10:54am GMT

Homosexuality a social disability? You have to be joking! Without gays there would be no arts, not much literature, no theatre or opera, no musicals, no interior design, no cool bars, no fashion, no gossip - in fact none of all the things that make society social.

And think how dull church would be without all the gayness that has been there since the beloved disciple.

LGBT people are a positive social boon - we don't have any kind of a disability!

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 6:17pm GMT

Archbishop Runcie postulated the equivalence of homosexuality with 'disability'. It didn't wash then and it doesn't wash now. It's patronising, untrue and a get out for those who can't admit the truth to themselves.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 8:50pm GMT

Tom Brazier's article smells to me like a whiff of brimstone - rather than the ethos of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He says his post is not about Same-Sex or Heterosexual Marriage, and yet it seem to focus on mistakes made in the solemnisation of such marital ceremonies.

A lie is a lie, is a lie! In the act of making promises to life-long fidelity in a marriage, I'm pretty sure that most people are sincere in their commitment, but, because of circumstances - sometimes beyond our control - we make mistakes.

A lie is evidence of one's proclivity for sin. However, sin does have a remedy in the Gospel. Repentance followed by salvation is the Good News of Jesus. Let's hear about that - in a world needy of redemption.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 8:31am GMT

"It would be a nice practical way forward towards equality. But as a theology in itself it is still condescending and it will not do." - Erika -

But, Erika, do you not agree that it is a useful start - for people who have no other way of coming to what we know to be the right understanding?

There are more ways of approaching a subject than by 'full frontal' attack.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 8:35am GMT

Fr Ron,
yes, it is a useful start and it is probably the level of debate that needs to happen among evangelicals.
But I wouldn't go as far as calling it 'most refreshing'

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 12:29pm GMT

Fr Ron,

I strongly suggest you re-read Brazier's piece. There is no 'whiff of brimstone' about it. He is not remotely homophobic. He even makes it pretty clear that he wants official church policy to change. He's just bothered about people breaking promises - several different kinds of promises. He wants the church to move as one. There he's wrong, because it won't, but that 'wrongness' is not moral wrongness in the sense you impute.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 4:15pm GMT

I love the way liberals attack sexual righteousness by misrepresenting the truth! Thus MT: "Those who take an unhealthy interest in other people’s sexual sin have had a mantra - all sex outside of marriage is wrong." and SN "to get from a conservative premise to a conservative conclusion you need to resort to some distinctly ungracious arguments".

They might like to wonder at how "ungracious" Jesus' "unhealthy interest" in sexual sins was: "whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery", "... adultery, fornication ... These are what defile a person" and, for good measure, "... everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matt 19, 15 and 5)

*Who* are these people following?!

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 7:06pm GMT

where did this Jesus teach you to be obsessed with other people's sex life?

Look at what you quoted. "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away".
He did not say: "If someone else's right eye causes him to sin, tear it out for them and throw it away."

Let other people lead their own lives based on their understanding of our faith. And let God sort it out in the end.
You are not called to do this for him.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 9:43am GMT

"They might like to wonder at how "ungracious" Jesus' "unhealthy interest" in sexual sins was"

The New Testament has a great deal more in it about divorce than it does about homosexuality. If the Church of England placed a commensurately proportioned emphasis on divorce, and made it quite clear that divorced people (and those that are married to divorced people, as surely their relationship is either adulterous or bigamous?) were to be denied sacraments, made ineligible for ordination, etc, there would be a strong consistency to the position. It would mean that their sexual morality was fixed, biblical and not just knee-jerk homophobia dressed up as morality.

But oddly enough, the Church of England seems very reluctant to engage in that. It has bishops married to divorcees, a future supreme governor who is an adulterer married to an adulteress and, so far as one can tell, no appetite at all for marginalising congregants who are in similar positions.

And there's evangelicals for you: "we demand strict adherence to biblical precepts, except when we don't".

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 2:26pm GMT

"Let other people lead their own lives based on their understanding of our faith. And let God sort it out in the end.
You are not called to do this for him."

Now that is wisdom! Thank you, again, Erika.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 3:55pm GMT

Go, Miranda! Part of the value you give to your overt support for both Women and LGBT people, is the fact that you, personally, are a respectable married woman priest. Your status makes you a most valuable ally in the current controversy. Power to your elbow!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 11:34pm GMT

Sadly, Ron, you are completely right.
Only yesterday someone said to me that he wasn't exactly going to listen to gay people's views of their own lives, they were bound to be self serving and prejudiced. The only people who could possibly get him to reconsider his views were pro gay straights.
And he wasn't even ashamed of himself.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 21 March 2014 at 8:55am GMT
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