Sunday, 13 April 2014
Heartfelt congratulations Jeremy and Laurence!
Important detail that he's a chaplain, since his employers are the NHS trust – surely for the Bishop to remove the Trust's deputy head chaplain's PTO would be catastrophic for relations?
Congratulations to Canon Pemberton and Mr Cunnington! May this be but the first of many equal marriages (*) celebrated by Anglican couples in the birthplace of Anglicanism!
As Canon Pemberton faces possible "discipline" from the C of E Sanhedrin, I hope he will remember the words of St Peter: "We must obey God rather than any human authority" (Acts 5:29).
(*) I wish the Guardian would stop using "gay marriage"! It's just "marriage" ... or, if one must, "equal marriage."
Our congratulations too Jeremy and Laurence.
I remember Jeremy when he was a keen conservative evangelical curate. I was taken aback by the article and photograph.
There is neither 'crisis' nor 'defiance'.
Just adults going about grown-up things, like making one's own decisions, and living out one's life.
Many of us will be joining them, when we are ready. The bishops are a complete irrelevance after years of neglect and refusal to help lgbt.
He has shown a blatant disregard for both church teaching and the authority of the Bishops. He is simply trying to make himself a martyr for the cause. The Church's Disciplinary Measure will hopefully be enacted in this case.
This may well be not a good test case for the Bishop of Lincoln to engage with. It is far from clear that the making of an equal marriage by a clergy person is "conduct unbecoming or inappropriate" under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. In addition, as has been noted, the clergyman (who I met at a dinner party with his then wife more years ago than I can remember - both most charming) is now in the employ of the NHS, although this may not be relevant for CDM purposes. The House of Bishops has got itself in a fix. If it does nothing, it will be seen significantly to have moved the goal posts and forced the Church on well in advance of any semblance of it having a settled mind on the issue. If it takes action, to dissuade others during the period of facilitated conversations, it will be further accused of homophobia. However, it cannot be ruled out that someone else with locus in the matter may try to go for a CDM ruling, in which case the bishop's hand may be tied.
alea jacta est
Congratulations to the happy couple!
"I was taken aback by the article and photograph."
We are everywhere.
Wonderful news about these two. Love and congrats to you!
Can anyone tell me what Damian Thompson was doing at a party entirely populated by gay men? Let alone priests with their boyfriends and one bishop with his much younger Italian lover!
How come, I never got invited to such gatherings?!
And where do these Italian lads hang out ......?
Drat, is that one of the perks of episcopacy?
@ Benedict, you may wish to review the "Bridge-keeper" scene from Python's "Holy Grail".
FELICIDADES! LeonardoRIcardo/LeonardClarkBeardsley, Guatemala
"He is simply trying to make himself a martyr for the cause. "
Sounds to me like he is trying to live his life. No one decides to get married in order to be a martyr. He and his partner want what everyone else wants.
Now there's a problem, if ever I saw one, for Bishop Edward King's successor! I very much doubt if the Clergy Discipline Measure, now written more than a decade ago, foresaw having to cover or assist in making a decision about what took place at an undisclosed location on 12th April 2014 A. D. Thanks to Cameron's Law things have moved on apace since 2003 A. D.
What is Bishop Lowson to do? Remove Canon Pemberon's PTO and thus make him a martyr for the cause or do nothing and make himself out to be a paper tiger? That's what I call a dilemma if ever I saw one.
Who would be daft enough to take up one of the eight currently vacant diocesan bishoprics when something like this lands on the desk? The Bishop of Lincoln will need the Wisdom of Solomon to deal with this one; although cutting the happy couple in half doesn't appear to offer much of an option in this particular case!
Removing his licence or PTO by whatever process will create huge problems in relations between the Church of England and the NHS.
"He is simply trying to make himself a martyr for the cause. "
As for Benedict's extremely unkind remarks I would just like to point out that you cannot organise a formal wedding in April in under 8 weeks. Venues get booked up months in advance.
So rather than this wedding plunging the church into crisis this was a case of the church plunging wedding plans into crisis.
No-one could have imagined that the bishops would be so unbelievably stupid as to issue this "Pastoral" Statement.
What is a couple to do - cancel their plans, tell people to bin their invites?
After they've waited for years to be able to marry? After they've rejoiced since June last year that it would finally become possible this spring?
Maybe we can get a bit real here.
Yes, this is a crisis for the church but it is one entirely of its own making, not that of the couple.
"The Church's Disciplinary Measure will hopefully be enacted in this case."
One of the more boring grammatical pieces of pedantry, that these days seems to have died down, was the insistence that "hopefully" is only an adverb and never a sentence adverb.
Never has that trivial dispute been more significant than in the quoted sentence. The writer presumably means he hopes that the CDM will be enacted. An older reader might take him to mean that it will be enacted, but with hope in the hearts of the people doing so. Indeed, perhaps more hope than expectation. They would need it, because if the church does indeed attempt to discipline someone for the lawful act of getting married, and moreover to discipline someone who is an employee of an organisation which is both subject to the Equality Act and also has a strong and well-enforced equalities policy in house, it would be a complete car-crash.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the CofE did manage to strip the "offender" of his power to officiate as "punishment" for his "crime". What then? The NHS sacks him as he can no longer perform the job he is employed for? The employment tribunal would be a three-ring circus, as the NHS would be indirectly sacking someone for getting married. Perhaps the NHS might like to let him to continue to officiate, and invite the CofE to suggest what it fancies doing about it? Whatever, that he isn't an employee of the church in any way makes it a spectacularly difficult case to deal with. With regard to the bishops' dilemma, it would take a man with a heart of stone not to laugh.
I suspect many in the Church will have mixed feelings about this, as I do. In principle I fear such actions are premature and are probably ill-advised at the present time. I'm also wary about acts that might be seen as intended to provoke a reaction from traditionalists. I await the outcome of this drama without much anticipation and without enthusiasm.
On a personal level, however, I find it difficult to offer anything except my sincerest congratulations to Jeremy and Laurence. I wish them every happiness.
I cannot see what rationale would be used to discipline this priest. Christian Marriage at present is understood as it has been in the past, and there is agreement across the main denominations. Civil Marriage is now clearly a different thing, and it is this that will undermine (possibly) the traditional teaching. These two priests are not responsible for the new legislation and are simply exercising their civil rights. They may or may not wish for Christian Marriage to be open to same sex couples, but surely nobody would claim what they have done so far is Christian Marriage?
My hearty congratulations to Jeremy and Laurence. Is there to be (or has there already been) a pastoral conversation and the offering of prayers? Of course we can not call it a Blessing!
Congratulations to you both. I hope you are not having too tough a time with the bishops and the press....."in all things lawful and honest"
Once again the diocese of Lincoln hits the headlines. I am thinking that it is not so very long ago since the relationship between Dean Brandon Jackson and Sub Dean Rex Davis was in the news and that definitely wasn't a match made in heaven.
One response to a bad law - not the only response but a perfectly honourable one - is to break it. We shall see what we shall see, but I don't believe there will be any disciplinary consequences here, the bad law will be weakened, and others will be still more encouraged to break it.
Fr David - 'not so very long ago' - er that's the story that began in 1989? Your point is?
" surely nobody would claim what they have done so far is Christian Marriage?"
I've never thought of my own marriage of 40+ years, contracted in Hampstead Town Hall, as being other than a christian marriage.
I have read Dryden -- "ere one to one was cursedly confined" and Shelley -- "With one chained friend --perhaps a jealous foe, The dreariest and the longest journey go", but I have never heard of someone marrying in order to be a martyr! As to Damian, Martin, in distant Tokyo I seem to be more abreast of things; it is sweet so see him being so frank.
Neil makes an excellent point.
Scenario 1: the traditionalists claim that same-sex marriages are invalid and meaningless. In which case, the defence would be "we are not married in your eyes, so you cannot discipline us for marrying, as we didn't."
Scenario 2: the traditionalists claim that same-sex marriages are valid and meaningful (which would itself be quite the admission), but are denied to priests in the CofE. In which case, the defence would be "Article 32, now let's go to the pub".
Constructing an argument by which same-sex marriage is valid enough to constitute an offence (it's very, very difficult to discipline someone for something you don't believe is possible) but not valid enough to engage Article 32 will keep the Canon Lawyers up well past their bedtimes.
I am not entering into this discussion but would like to list the following facts:
1. The wedding was booked with the Registration Service (on a conditional basis, as the law had not come into effect) some months prior to the issue of the Bishops' Pastoral Guidance
2. The wedding took place in a Register Office and not an hotel
3. The wedding took place in Nottinghamshhire and not Lincolnshire
4. A very brief interview and one photograph were given to a Mail on Sunday reporter the day before the wedding. We had not wanted any publicity but, given that unknown to us, the press had been 'tipped off', we offered this in exchange for no press being present at the ceremony itself. We did not want our families to be photographed. The Mail on Sunday honoured this commitment.
5. We have received no money from the Mail on Sunday nor any other newspaper/media.
6. We have refused all subsequent offers to be interviewed by press, television and radio.
7. We have not had nor will we have any church service or blessing of any kind in connection with our marriage. I am not a Christian and would not have wanted such a service or blessing even if they had been available.
The only people these two are in "defiance" of are the anti-Christian goons who can no longer keep them from getting married. Congratulations!
As I have written before, there is power in the CofE to bring this issue to the right conclusion. Thank God that brave people are beginning to use that power.
To Jeremy P and Laurence: Heartiest congratulations!
It is amazing that Rod Thomas can, with no apparent sense of irony, call for stricter discipline. Jeremy Pemberton has, on one matter of deep personal significance, gone against the bishops' advice. Rod Thomas has been closely involved with the Anglican Mission in England, which flouts the authority of Church of England bishops completely, indeed encourages priests to 'excommunicate' their bishop if he does not conform to their expectations! It is like someone driving in the wrong direction up a motorway calling for heavy penalties for another driver who has, in what he regards as exceptional circumstances, parked on a double yellow line.
“He has shown a blatant disregard for both church teaching and the authority of the Bishops. He is simply trying to make himself a martyr for the cause. The Church's Disciplinary Measure will hopefully be enacted in this case.”
Oh dear, Benedict: this is hardly “blatant disregard for church teaching,” when half the body of the church and most of the public no loner believe those teachings – and when bishops are wrong, surely it is the duty of Christians to disregard them? The bishops, after all, are the servants of all – or ought to be. Your second sentence is even more astonishing: how can you possibly know what “He is simply trying to do”? And can something as complex as marriage and the bravery this shows be “simple”? I suggest that the simplicity may be yours. But we can agree on your last sentence: let the sheer idiocy of the Disciplinary Measure show the public how flawed the church leadership now is, how irrelevant it has become, and how more-than-ready it is for disestablishment.
" surely nobody would claim what they have done so far is Christian Marriage?"
Surely a legal marriage where the participants dedicate themselves to each other before God, is a Christian Marriage?
Excellent point, Savi. Evangelicals in the church benefit no end from lax discipline: all those services conducted sans robes and liturgy, all those "statements of belief" used as a precondition for "membership."
If there's to be "discipline," will those happy-clappy "pastors" please step forward to don cassock, surplice and tippet? Sauce for the goose ...
A Reform which is planting Churches in dioceses without the permission of the bishop, and also ordaining without local approval. Jesmond Parish Church has a plant in the diocese of Durham and has clergy serving not licensed to the Bishop of Newcastle.
Now there's disobedience.
Andrew Brown's article is risible--it detects a "delicate, creaking compromise" where no such thing exists.
Rather, we are at a tipping point. The momentum for equal marriage, even for CofE clergy, is unstoppable.
Brown is correct, however, when he writes that "Open change will be immensely difficult to get through the synod."
This only highlights how unrepresentative Synod is, and how it has been captured by the conservatives.
Liberals need to be much more energetic and strategic around the next Synod elections. At the very least, all Synod members who vote against the WO measure should be vigorously opposed.
@Turbulent priest and Interested Observer,
Why wouldn't they be able to remove him from NHS? In the States many/most prisons and hospitals require chaplains to be in good standing with their denominations. If the priest is censured for some reason they can be fired. That's one of the reasons why priests/pastors who are actually atheists continue the charade; they don't want to lose their jobs even at secular locations. Others with training in psychology or social work become counselors/therapists if their ties to the church are broken. What makes this different from the local hospital firing the (straight) Catholic priest who decided to get married? He knew it would happen, has changed churches, and is working to become a chaplain again through his current church.
Chris: I think it's because the NHS is a public sector organisation in the UK and has well-developed equality policies. As a public body it's also under a legal duty to promote equality. Sacking someone for entering an entirely legal marriage would seem to contravene both this legal duty and the equality culture which the organisation as a whole promotes. I can't imagine that senior management at the NHS Trusts involved would countenance such a sacking, no matter what the church said, though I'm not a lawyer. It could precipitate a horrible stand-off between the NHS as a Government organisation and the church, something the church would be keen to avoid as it would raise the spectre of dissestablishment.
Nathaniel - yes civil marriage can be a Christian marriage and personally I agree that same sex marriages can equally be a Christian marriage. However, remove the indefinite article, and Christian marriage at the moment remains as it has been traditionally understood across the vast majority of denominations.
In the particular case of this priest and his husband it looks as if Laurence Cunnington would not wish his marriage to be understood as a Christian one, and I doubt Fr Jeremy Pemberton would regard what has taken place as 'Christian marriage'.
An interesting point by Chris H. As a catholic in hospital, I would not accepot the ministratiions of a Catholic priest ( except in a matter of life and death) who was not so authorised by the local bishop.Such a person would not be a catholic priest but an ex Catholic priest of a denomination of his own making.
"Liberals need to be much more energetic and strategic around the next Synod elections. At the very least, all Synod members who vote against the WO measure should be vigorously opposed".
Not all opponents of WO are against equal marriage; and some supporters of WO are opposed to equal marriage and enthusiastic about clergy discipline!
Chris: I don't know the details of any individual contract, but if the NHS cooperates with the C of E in any appointment, and if it expects Anglican chaplains to be in good standing with the C of E, then a likely consequence of church discipline against Jeremy is that no NHS trust in the land will continue the arrangement for a future appointment. This is not because of narrow equalities legislation but because the NHS actually takes its equalities policy seriously. The C of E will have taken another step towards becoming an inward looking sect.
An interesting twist in this case is that Jeremy is in good standing in another province of the Anglican Communion. A bit of casuistry around that might help in his case but of course that isn't the point.
Thank you, Laurence for your bravery in making your statements which are very helpful, especially in putting into context the various reports in the Press. I wish you and Jeremy much happiness.
I learned very many years ago not to believe what is written in the papers when a war was reported in a town in West Africa where my father was living at the time. It took four days to get a phone call to him (does anyone else remember dialling O for the Operator and asking for trunks and then booking a call?) When we got through he was worried something was wrong at home. There was no war there, just two bored journalists..... A useful lesson to have learned.
Laurence's statement will I hope serve to remind us all what a powerful tool journalists wield, but that sometimes we need to exercise judgement - as well as charity.
Do bear in mind, that same sex couples have been married in church too, under the new legislation.
Or do TA commentators over-look weddings in Free Churches ?
The new arrangements include 'civil marriage',
but include Churches which wish to avail themselves of the new legal freedoms, and join-in the celebration - in every sense !
'Not all opponents of WO are against equal marriage, and some supporters of WO are opposed to equal marriage and enthusiastic about clergy discipline'
But surely both opponents of WO who support equal marriage and supporters of WO who oppose equal marriage are worryingly hermeneutically inconsistent in their approach to Scripture and Tradition? A good reason, surely, for being wary of their presence on Synod?
Jeremy has demonstrated quite clearly what (who) his priority is. I sincerely hope the couple are very happy. And I hope the bishop has the spine to discipline and remove him right away. I am sure Jeremy can continue serving as a chaplain for a religious organization that blesses and affirms his lifestyle. My guess, however, is that the bishop will send him a sad, dithering and confused letter with no real discipline. Such actions, which will be repeated across the church, will send the church into a chaotic season of lawlessness. "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
As a nurse, my first and immediate question is:
Why is Jeremy's work, caring for people who are sick in hospital, in any way effected by arrangements in his private life?
I am a transsexual woman, and my 'diversity' does not trouble my patients, providing I am caring, practical and helping people with their needs when they are ill.
Jeremy will be equally accepted in his caring work with the sick.
Surely, in Christian ministry, it's about the people we are trying to help, isn't it? It's not about the church or the bishops or the attempt to impose a system. As a hospital chaplain, Jeremy will be doing good and decent work, day in and day out. Much needed work.
The church officials need to back off.
Otherwise maybe they'll tell me I can't be a nurse next.
It's not all about them.
People, many of them frightened, in pain, in distress. It's about them. This case simply highlights the insanity of putting dogma and theory before actual lived lives and simple love.
Jeremy is there, working to help people in need. That's the absolute priority of his authenticity, his Christian service, and his sexual orientation has nothing to do with how he delivers that care.
The church officials really need to get real.
May God bless the tender care, love, sacrifice and intimacy of his marriage as well.
"Such actions, which will be repeated across the church, will send the church into a chaotic season of lawlessness."
I believe that I can honestly say that this is the first time I've ever heard marriage described as a lawless behavior.
Congratulations to Laurence and Jeremy. I hope that the bishop is wise enough to exercise discretion here, and let the matter rest.
as far as I understand it trying to "remove" Jeremy right away would be lawless. There has at least to be a formal disciplinary process, and as far as I'm aware, people cannot as yet even agree on what that process might be.
If a case was heard under the CDM and if Jeremy was found guilty, the maximum punishment would be a strongly worded letter telling him sternly not to do it again.
I had the good fortune of having The Revd Canon Jeremy Pemberton as one of my supervisors during training for ordination, and it has been my privilege to know him since as a fellow priest and friend. I am one of many, dozens of whom I know personally, who esteem Jeremy's life and relationships to exemplify the best of the Gospel, a man who, as priest, chaplain, partner, father, and friend, makes the notion of God as love incarnate something tangible, convincing, ennobling, and edifying for all. Every blessing upon him, and upon his marriage!
Erika that would only be true if a case is handled under the 1963 Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure. Under the CDM 2003 there is a full range of possible outcomes and penalties.
thank you for that correction! I got my CDM and my EJM muddled up.
Which measure would this likely to be heard under?
@Turbulent priest or Susannah,
Are there no Catholic chaplains in your hospitals? Or any other denominations or religious leaders(rabbi, imam, etc.) who don't do gay marriage? Does the NHS only allow chaplains who are part of pro-GLBT churches? I'm still not seeing why they would kick out all CoE priests if it doesn't allow gay marriage.
Most matters where there may be an infraction of Church discipline are dealt with by the bishop as ordinary and judge without recourse to any tribunals.
For the Church to use its tribunals there would need to be an overwhelming benefit to the Church.
I think that the pastoral care of the married couple will far outweigh any potential benefit to the Church, indeed, it is likely that using the courts may itself be a cause for scandal and give almost universal offence.
I suspect all those marrying will meet with their bishop, there will be an agreement as to the way forward, and the outcome will be confidential. The fact that the disciplinary meeting has been held might be made public.
Pace Martin Reynolds, if any tribunal hearing is to occur, the CJM will be used. That applies also to actions against bishops initiated by conservatives for their perceived leniency.
Chris H, I don't think the NHS sees a chaplain's employability as related to sexual orientation one way or another. They would view the role of a chaplain as all about meeting the personal, emotional and spiritual needs of people who are sick (and their friends and families).
Sexual orientation isn't the issue from the NHS's point of view.
It is true that, as a public employer, the NHS must not take any actions that would conflict with their Equality obligations. They wouldn't seek to anyway.
They are concerned with the needs of patients.
From their legal position, they would need to take counsel on whether removing a priest from a chaplaincy role because his/her accreditation has been suspended by a third party (eg C of E) would amount to discrimination of that person's employment rights, or whether suspension/limitation of accreditation would render the individual no longer in fulfilment of the terms of their employment.
The only practical issue I could foresee there is if a priest was suspended from celebrating communion, on the orders of the C of E, but even then they could almost certainly get other people in to carry out that function. I can't really see any circumstances where the chaplain would be rendered incapable of caring for people.
The whole thing is ridiculous!
I've thought long and hard about wading into this, and I do so with some trepidation.
On the one hand, as some people here know, I am myself the father of a daughter in a same-sex marriage, and I know that her marriage brings a lot of happiness to her and her wife. Also, given that for Mr. Pemberton and Mr. Cunnington, their wedding was undoubtedly a very happy event, it seems rather uncharitable to pour cold water on it.
However, I assume that, like me, Mr. Pemberton took a vow of canonical obedience to his bishop. Personally, I think vows of canonical obedience need to be much more carefully defined and much more sparingly applied. However, at the moment, they are not. My vow of canonical obedience means, for instance, that I may not invite a non-ordained lay-reader to preside at Holy Communion in my parish, even though (like many evangelical Anglicans) I personally see nothing wrong with it. The church has a position on that subject, and I am required to act in accordance with that position until it changes, no matter what my own theological opinions may be.
Personally, I do not find this easy. I'm a maverick by temperament, and I'm sure I'm an annoying priest for a bishop to have in their diocese. But when push comes to shove and my bishop says, "You will", then I must. That's what I promised.
So I'm not sure how this action is compatible with Mr. Pemberton's vow of canonical obedience. And I do hope that all of the people who are cheering for him on this thread would also cheer for me if I decided to follow my own personal beliefs and invite a lay person to preside at Holy Communion in my parish! (not that I'm going to!)
'The whole thing is ridiculous!'
Indeed. And nothing undermines authoritarianism so much as perceived ridiculousness.
Inviting a lay person to preside at an Anglican eucharist would presumably mean that the eucharist is no longer an Anglican one, since Anglican church Order requires a priest to act as Presider. But not following the House of Bishops "pastoral" guidance about marriage is surely a matter of a different order...
Is a vow of canonical obedience potentially a suspension of God-given conscience and capacity to do what's right?
And in maintaining a vow of canonical obedience, even when asked to support unjust measures and authoritarianism, is a theoretical priest doing it to satisfy their own moral position, or to uphold the authoritarian (imposed) 'unity' of the Church on the matter (which is a fantasy, because the Church is divided down the middle on this issue), or in the best interests of the people whose lives are actually effected by the episcopal commands?
In other words, 'does my moral purity re. obedience trump the actual justice of any given policy and its effects on real people and real lives?'
Is obedience to authoritarianism good for the obedient priest, for the church, or for the people who are victimised by unjust policies?
Arguably it is good for none of these.
When Canon Pemberton can perfectly well look after his patients and their families, why should any of that be tied up with 'obedience' (setting aside the obedience we owe to God in good conscience to uphold justice, and act in good conscience)?
Is canonical obedience a tool of enforcement of uniformity where no uniformity actually exists in reality on this issue in the Church of England? And does obedience to the hierarchy come before the pastoral needs of hospital patients, or gay couples, or even the partner who loves you and to whom you owe loyalty, decency, and an equally valid obedience of love?
The problem here is not 'disobedient priests' but the Covenant-style attempt of a hierarchy to enforce uniformity, and one partisan set of values, on a Church which believes in roughly equal numbers in two opposing views on gay sex and marriage. The people in the pews, and the country, increasingly challenge what is frankly now a myth, that the Church has just one position. It doesn't, and attempts to impose just one view, tramples on people's God-given consciences.
The leaders of the Church need to recognise the ridiculousness, and the unworkability, of the uniform fantasy... and move to a conscience-respecting principle of unity in diversity.
Because that diversity of view is the reality, and the bishops are in denial about this.
I thought it might be helpful to say that I am grateful for people's contributions to this thread, but I have decided not to make any comment at the moment.
I don't know whether the two are comparable.
"Inviting a lay person to preside at Holy Communion" is something you might really want to do but it does not affect your or their lives terribly if it cannot happen.
The marriage question has to be seen in context, and part of that context is that the British Government decided last June that gay people could marry in the spring this year. There was no response at all from the church.
So someone who has been in love with their partner for years decides to get married that spring, starts making plans, books venues, invites friends and family, chooses rings...
and suddenly, 8 weeks before the wedding, the church spits out a hugely negative statement and asks its gay priests not to marry.
What should that priest do? How reasonable is this late request?
How reasonable is it to say "you can live together, you can be civil partnered but you cannot be married"?
Isn't that like saying "you can invite a lay person to celebrate Holy Communion as long as you don't do it openly"?
There's a huge lack of integrity in a position that accepts a de facto situation as long as it isn't formalised.
And for a Christian, the idea that shacking up together is ok but being married is not.. is really a sign that something has gone terribly wrong in our moral assessment of things.
Which is not the same with the Eucharist issue.
There is a real case for saying that this may not be one of the “all things lawful and honest” that come under canonical obedience.
I would very much like to hear from bishops reading this thread how they interpret an oath of canonical obedience. I'm fairly sure that my bishop would not share Susannah's rather liberal interpretation of it. And in the order of the Anglican churches, who gets to decide when I need to keep my oath of canonical obedience, and when I don't?
Jonathan, I'm not sure that in the mind of God there is such a thing as an 'Anglican Eucharist'. But if there is, and if you're right that Anglican order requires that it be presided over by an ordained priest, then it is equally true that Anglican order around marriage from the beginning until today requires it to be solemnized between a man and a woman. If I can change the one and still be Anglican, why can't I change the other?
Can I take it that No Response from the Church of England Bishops - on this new development against institutional homophobic opposition to Same-Sex partnerships amongst its clergy - is indicative of some sort of turn-around of hearts and minds in the H.o.B. ? Or is this the silence before the storm?
As I see it, lay-presidency at the Eucharist would affect *everyone* attending (esp communing) at that Eucharist.
Marriage---apart from the blessing and/or nuptial mass that may accompany it---really only affects the marrying couple.
To compare the two is apples and, well, bicycles. So also the *stakes* of the canonical obedience re these two sacraments (noting that Mr Cunnington doesn't see it as a sacrament anyway). Which is to say that I think your bishop is justified in expecting you to obey the rules re lay-presidency, whereas Jeremy Pemberton's bishop isn't: Pemberton has more at stake, in his marriage, than you do in inviting unauthorized Eucharist-presiders (outside of an emergency, of course. Emergencies have their own, more-flexible, rules!)
I'm sorry, Tim, if my response sounds predictable to you, but that's JMO. (Blessings to your daughter and her wife!)
[@Rob, re "Such actions, which will be repeated across the church, will send the church into a chaotic season of lawlessness." When, per Dickens, "the law is an ass", I believe lawlessness is preferable!]
Tim, I (liberal, vaguely high C of E) am all in favour of lay presidency. There are no theological arguments against it (that is, if one works from a first century paradigm, as one should).
Perhaps we don't have an exact parallel here to give good guidance on obedience but the words "all things lawful and honest" might help a little.
The diocese of Sydney too sees no reason why designated lay people should not preside at a Eucharist.
To prepare for that they have spent a good deal of time and bother repealing ancient canons that prevent this and that punish offenders.
As I understand it, those lay people with the authority to celebrate the communion service will still be set apart by the bishop for this function and, as yet, that has not happened.
It is interesting that this is not going to be a free for all, just relying on me asking someone I like to come over and do the business.
But still, in Sydney there are no laws, civil or ecclesiastical preventing this solemn occasion.
One knows however that while, in the main, lay celebration is not the norm in the parish churches of Sydney what happens around the kitchen table is another thing and Sydney has no canons to prevent or punish it.
In England all the prohibitions remain on celebrating the Eucharist. Unlike Sydney, there is no common agreement, laws that have both secular and ecclesiastical force remain in place, you can't do it around your kitchen table without risk of penalty! The bishops' law holds sway everywhere.
But I would say that what the new legislation on marriage has done is equivalent to removing the penalty for having a lay celebration at home. The bishops law now stops at the front door.
We remain excluded by the quadruple lock from accessing the services of the Church but what we do around the kitchen table is our own business. What's more there seems to be common agreement that this is a good thing, so Tim, I would say that at this transitional time my oath - I take it seriously - no longer covers this domestic arrangement.
The salient words are ;
'in all things lawful and honest'.
There you have your answer.
But how could anyone thing there is the remotest equivalence between the deep, personal reality of two people's love and marriage - and the details of who take this or that Service in church ?
Also, two people got wed. There's a good deal isolating language here- as if one person married. This is the standard way - conscious or unconscious, that same sex relationships are nullified, in the minds of our nay-sayers and wishful thinkers.
Being in the right here, gives me little pleasure.
Btw before the end of the year married cofe ministers will be in three figures.
I echo John's support of lay presidency.
Liberals should call the evangelical bluff on this without hesitation. If we can cast aside tradition on marriage, we can certainly cast it aside on the eucharist, especially when the lay/ordained split is rooted in the kind of magical thinking that liberalism ought to find alien. It's the very thinking that kept women from being ordained.
Priestcraft is authoritarian, the polar opposite of liberalism. The less of it there is, the better. Priests do great work, both pastorally and symbolically, but that work can be done by anyone. Ultimately, liberalism ought to be aiming to do away with the lay/ordained split entirely.
Hey, I'm a protestant kind of liberal.
"Ultimately, liberalism ought to be aiming to do away with the lay/ordained split entirely."
At that point I think we will discover that people are not "liberal" about everything and that this split into liberal and conservative camps we currently have is based entirely on people's views on women in ministry and on homosexuality.
Once the debate shifts to another topic, such as lay presidency, the current "camps" will break up and new ones will form.
Don't forget that a large proportion of gay men are Anglo Catholics. I'd be very surprised if, once the lgbt debate is over, they would still identify as "liberal" in a political sense.
I'm a liberal of a catholic (and Carmelite) disposition. So for me, the host is profound, and for me the calling and exercise of priesthood is profound. So I come at things from a somewhat different angle to James (with whom I usually agree).
But, my liberal instincts, and my belief in the operation of grace in the historic evolution of the Church of England, leads me once again to the concept of 'unity in diversity', allowing for variant consciences on the matter, and what I'd call 'space for grace'. As well as the dynamic such variety introduces, to lead people to love one another and find community with one another, in an impulse that is driven by love rather than dogma.
In the same way, the variant views on lesbian and gay sex and marriage; or women bishops; should be viewed as conscience issues and accommodated.
The other way is to keep breaking off and breaking off into smaller sects. But that doesn't reflect the actual and eternal unity we only ever have in Jesus Christ.
Indeed, I don't recognise the 'division' and 'breach of communion' that exists between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. To me, we can all co-exist, and I would share communion in any of those traditions. Because eternally, like it or not, we are one and share communion in Jesus Christ. We should reflect that in our lives on earth.
So I see no conflict whatsoever between the case for allowing priests to marry, and allowing lay people to celebrate eucharist.
In both cases (and others) I simply say: love matters more. And the principle of 'unity in diversity' can apply to all.
Respect for sincere conscience, and live and let live. And in all things, dependent on the grace of Jesus Christ.
To me, this instinct and impulse is profoundly Anglican, and part of the charism and challenge to love that God has presented Anglicans to live with and grow into.
For this reason, Covenant-style attempts to impose uniformity seem profoundly unAnglican to me, substituting dogma for bonds of mutual love and generous forbearance.
This is how homophobia works a thread on a happy married couple is transmogrified into churchy chat about 'canon law' and 'church services' stuff.
Gay relationships and sensibilities are trivialised by churchy chat.
Why not start a thread for that other stuff.
I do love reading you. A wonderful Easter to everyone here.
I agree with the Rev Laurie Roberts that the concern often seems to be about protecting the institution. If that is all a same-sex couple hears about and from the church, I doubt they would be interested in having anything to do with it, whereas Parliament and the rest of the nation have moved on to treating them like any other couple.
The institution seems to be stuck on the notion of gay marriage, whereas secular society has simply opened civil marriage to all couples regardless of the gender or legal sex of the spouses.
Jesus preached the kingdom but, alas, we got the institution!
Gary Paul Gilbert
I was not aware that the form of the oath of canonical obedience in the C of E is 'in all things lawful and honest'. At my ordination it was 'Will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work'.
Anyway, I'd like to thank the folks here for the graciousness of their responses to my original post. Personally, I'm not convinced, but I have no window into other people's consciences.
“I think we will discover that people are not "liberal" about everything and that this split into liberal and conservative camps we currently have is based entirely on people's views on women in ministry and on homosexuality.
“Once the debate shifts to another topic, such as lay presidency, the current ‘camps’ will break up and new ones will form.”—Erika Baker
I very much agree. I support women clergy and gay marriage, but I could never consider valid a Eucharist celebrated by a layperson. Ever. Period. Full stop.
I suspect the bishops don't know either. Ultimately, it may well take a test case fought through the whole legal process before we know whether this request from the HoB is lawful or not.
Well if I refer to The Book of Common Prayer which my mother gave me at my confirmation, it sounds pretty clear, in 'The Ordering of Priests':
"Will you reverently obey your Ordinary, and other chief Ministers, unto whom is committed the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?"
But times change.
At the time this was written, England was a deeply hierarchical society, and most people had no vote. Obedience trumped individual conscience. These days, quite rightly, we afford individuals rights of dissent and protest, and far greater exercise of individual conscience in their lives. People are not expected to blindly submit to someone just because they are 'superior'.
In spiritual terms, this could be said to reflect the fact that we receive God-given conscience, in order to exercise it.
It may be 'convenient' for bishops to 'call' on obedience, but when they themselves are trying to impose a view that is contradicted by the State, the general public, and half the church members, is it not legitimate for priests to represent the 50% of the Church that hold a different view, and more importantly, their community and parishioners?
Spokesmen like Sir Tony Baldry, who say 'The Church believes this...' and 'The Church believes that...' reflect an idea of ecclesial authority that is frankly in the past. The truth and reality of the Church of England is that half hold one view on gay sex and marriage, and half hold a different view.
The Bishops in turn are badly advised if they seek to impose just one view as if it had a uniformity of acceptance which it simply doesn't. And in the same way, the concept of the Covenant was roundly defeated, because such an attempt to impose authority and enforce uniformity is frankly a concept of the past. Individual conscience and freedom matter far more these days, and a good priest will represent not just their bishops views but also the views of their parishioners, their PCCs, and the impact of church practice on the wider community.
Priests have loyalties not only to bishops but to actual living communities. They represent Christ, not the Church, and they have to attend in good conscience to what Jesus would do or say, faced with marginalised people and matters of justice.
The Church is a living organism, not a medieval absolute monarchy, and human conscience may sometimes mean people have to compromise their own relationships with the ecclesial 'nobility' in order to do good, love justice, and be true to God in their hearts.
It is not as simple as "You must obey". We are being far too deferential here. Bishops should not be in a parental role, with priests infantilised, but they should be facilitators. In this instance they should be facilitating different churches and PCCs to address issues of gay relationships in diverse ways in diverse communities.
This diversity, rather than Sir Tony Baldry's fake uniformity, or the notorious 'Covenant', is the actual reality. Until the bishops stop being in denial about this reality, and accept the diversity that exists, and people's consciences on this matter... somebody has to take responsibility, and that can as well be a priest or a PCC.
Somebody has to take responsibility, and be courageous rather than deferential, because actually it isn't theory or church dogma, but the real lives of LGBT individuals and couples, and the effect that outdated authoritarianism can have on their view of the Church.
It is absolutely clear and obvious that a wind of change has swept through this nation, with regard to the normalisation of gay and lesbian sexuality, including the ordinary decency of gay and lesbian marriage. That is actually awesome and quite reasonably argued to be the work of the Holy Spirit, as people's hearts have softened and opened.
Many (and growing numbers) in the Church have also opened their hearts in realisation that you can be gay and a Christian, you can be gay and married, and in the end, your sexual orientation has no relevance to your capacity to be a priest, a nurse, a doctor, a teacher, or anything else.
In the pews, probably most people these days have a family member or a close friend who is in a gay or lesbian relationship. And the majority of ordinary people have compassion and respect for that, and seem to be ahead of the bishops. To suggest that "The Church believes only in marriage of man and woman" is a blatant misrepresentation of the actual truth.
My apologies all. It has been pointed out to me that the text of the oath of canonical obedience in form in the ecclesiastical province of Rupert's Land (my province) also uses the words 'in all things lawful and honest'.
In my defence, it's 14 years since I last took it, and I attend ordination services much more often than that!
To suggest there is only one uniform view that must be imposed, is authoritarian in a way that would have been recognised by the lord bishops of the 16th and 17th Century (though actually, in the Prayer Book, great efforts are taken over ambiguous wording, to try to accommodate - for example - differing views of the eucharist).
The Anglican way, surely, is to seek grace in a diversity of churchmanships, and not to expel, but to turn to Christ for our unity, and then to learn to live together in generosity and kindness.
The Covenant, the episcopal letter, the statements that The Church only believes 'this'... these are unAnglican in their impulse, and in resorting to hierarchical authority to try to impose a uniformity where no uniformity of conscience actually exists, what actually happens is you deepen divides, because you trample on consciences...
...not just an individual priest's conscience, but the consciences of PCCs, the consciences of communities, and the consciences of half the Church of England (not least its younger generation).
The only mature course of action for the bishops to take, is to rescind the episcopal letter, really open up the facilitated conversations, and say, look, we recognise that different church communities practise different kinds of welcome to LGBT individuals, but we are all one in Christ and we have good news!
Instead of medieval control, this mature facilitation of diverse church communities would be enlivening and would start to show the world how we can find unity in diversity, so that maybe, just maybe, more people may say: "See how these Christians love one another."
What is needed is grace. Anglicanism involves people living in tension with one another, but still trying to love one another. This is the Anglican way, and what distinguishes it (at its best) from the uniform dogma of some other traditions. It calls upon grace, but it generates combinations, colour, diversity of expression.
In my view, this is our church tradition, not imposed doctrinal rectitude.
I miss the declaration against simony.......
Jesus would have had a fit if he had known that the religion he was founding would give rise to a new priestly class.
Lay presidency is fine by me. Increase the supply of celebrants!
The bishops will not take this to the courts.
There is nothing to test, legally.
But (even) they will not test themselves and their Church destruction.
I am sorry Tim, I had forgotten you were Canadian!
My in laws arrived from Lemington Ontario this morning for a long stay.
I think it's worth your reviewing the situation in England where Church law is also the law of the land. State Churches and so called Erastianism create a particular mindset that many find painful ...... read above!
But it was a fitting day to review the way we celebrate the Eucharist - None finer!
...... Love to the loveless sown, That they might lovely be ......
Leamington, Ontario - a lovely spot, Martin! Back in about 1979 I did a summer children's Bible club there, in my student days!
While the Church exists in its present state - precarious though that might be - I agree with Kurt that I prefer to exist under the current discipline of the Anglican Churches, that the Eucharist is presided over by a 'canonically ordained ' clergy-person, male or female.
If my Church were to move to Lay-Presidency, I would have to move. I believe in the efficacy of the ordained ministry as God's gift to the Church. That's where I stand. If I were something other than Anglican - in a Church that believed in Lay Presidency, it could be different.
Sacerdotal priesthood is a vocation not given to everyone. The priesthood of all believers, as I understand it, has nothing to do with sacerdotal priesthood, per se.
"I believe in the efficacy of the ordained ministry as God's gift to the Church."
Whatever "the efficacy of the ordained ministry" may be, it is the gift of the ordained to themselves.
do you question whether it is ever right to disobey your bishop under any circumstances or are we talking about when it might be right?
Erika, I feel a little uncomfortable answering that question on a thread like this (I have no idea whether or not my bishop is reading it, but I know for a fact that my executive archdeacon both reads and comments here!). I think a discussion about whether or not it is ever right to disobey my bishop is a discussion I should have first of all in private with my bishop. So I'm going to duck your question for now. Sorry!
thank you. I appreciate your integrity here.
Just out of interest, it would be fascinating to hear what conclusion you and your bishop come to if/when you have that theoretical conversation!
I'd like to make it clear that I wasn't intending to start any sort of campaign for lay presidency. I was merely expressing a personal opinion which happened to chime with Tim's challenge. Each to her own. Kurt and Father Ron can rest at ease. On the other hand, while there may be many objections to the 'Sydney Anglicans', lay presidency isn't, in my opinion, one of them. I am a Pananglican.
I find it fascinating where different people 'draw the line'. For some, it's same-sex marriage. for some, it's lay-presidency at the Eucharist. Apparently we're all conservative at some point!
Jeremy. I must confess my surprise at your statement here. Does this mean that you believe that the sacerdotal priesthood is a fabrication of the Church - rather than a call from God? If so, perhaps you are not the traditional Anglican I thought you to be.
My father was a 'traditional Anglican' vicar, Ron, and he believed that 'priest' in English did duty for both 'presbyteros' and 'hieros' in Greek. I would have no hesitation as a traditional Anglican in saying that the sacerdotal priesthood is a fabrication of the Church - although the presbyterate is not. And I'm sure Thomas Cranmer would agree with me.
Father Ron, I think that the priesthood, as a monopoly on those who can celebrate the Eucharist, is a fabrication of the Church.
In other words, I do not think that celebration by an ordained priest adds anything to the efficacy of Holy Communion.
That said, I also believe that people are called to be priests. I'm not sure that call is very different from the call that a medical student feels.
As I thought, Jeremy - Not a typical Anglican!