Friday, 6 May 2016
House of Commons: Question on Same-Sex Marriage for Clergy
A Question on Same Sex Marriage: Clergy was put to the Second Church Estates Commissioner on Thursday. Here is a transcript (scroll down for the other topics covered):
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Friday, 6 May 2016 at 1:37pm BST
Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
1. What discussions the Church Commissioners have had with the Church of England on supporting clergy who have entered into same sex marriages or civil partnerships.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I should first declare my personal position, which is that I voted in favour of same sex marriage when the decision was before Parliament, but I do recognise that it is difficult for the Anglican Church. The Anglican Communion extends over many different cultures and many continents, and not all cultures and societies move at the same pace. It is therefore all the more remarkable that the Archbishop of Canterbury managed to get a unanimous agreement among all the bishops of the Anglican Communion, in Canterbury, in January, that there should be a new doctrine condemning homophobic prejudice and violence, and resolving
“to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation.”
Cat Smith: I thank the right hon. Lady for her answer. She will be aware that many people feel called to ministry, including, naturally, many people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Although Church of England policies protect heterosexual couples if they are in a marriage by not taking their status into account when it comes to jobs within the Church, the same is not true for those who have entered same sex marriages. Is she aware of cases of written permission from Bishops placed on file, and of refusals to issue licences when new positions are sought, including even secular positions? Will she do her best to ensure that LGBT clergy are not discriminated against here in the Church of England?
Mrs Spelman: As I mentioned, the Anglican Communion is extremely diverse. What we must remember, living here in the liberal west, is that a typical Anglican communicant is in Africa and black, female and under 35; in many African nations there are also very strong views on this subject, and keeping the Communion together is a big challenge. It is open to Church of England clergy to enter into civil partnerships, and many do so. The Church of England in England is moving forward in its understanding with a shared conversation, three parts of which have already occurred. In July this year, the Synod will move forward with the shared conversation about sexuality—the nature of human sexuality. I reiterate the point that the whole Communion agreed unanimously that the Church should never, by its actions, give any impression other than that every human being is the same in God’s sight regardless of sexuality.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): The Dean of Lichfield cathedral, Adrian Dorber, is always telling me how short of money the cathedral is. May I just say that I live for the day when gay clergymen can be openly gay and there will be gay marriages, which will be paid for in Lichfield cathedral and all the other cathedrals in England and the rest of the United Kingdom, in a liberal nation.
Mrs Spelman: I look forward to visiting the Lichfield diocese. Indeed, the Government have been very generous in their funding for repairs to that beautiful cathedral. On the specific subject of human sexuality, I do not think that the Archbishop of Canterbury could have been clearer about his leadership in bringing the whole Anglican Communion together for the first time, united behind the doctrine that we should condemn homophobic prejudice and violence at home and abroad.
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Church of England
| equality legislation
Cat Smith: "Will she do her best to ensure that LGBT clergy are not discriminated against here in the Church of England?"
Caroline Spelman: "in many African nations there are also very strong views on this subject, and keeping the Communion together is a big challenge."
And that answers the question about discrimination, how?
And that refers to LGBT people in England, how?
Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.
Ask Jeffrey John, or Jeremy Pemberton, or any number of gay and lesbian ordinands in stealth or out in the open.
Bottom line is: Justin and the Primates (and, sadly, the English bishops collectively) are trying to dominate the conscience issue, and impose uniformity on a church deeply divided in good conscience.
Placating the cultural prejudices of some countries comes at a cost: and it is LGBT people who are expected to pay that cost... in erasure, in marginalisation, in the proposed uniform idea that their sacred and devoted relationships are somehow divinely illegal, and sinful.
Far from the Primates' Meeting 'moving forward' towards inclusion, it embedded discrimination yet deeper, by threatening to sanction any province that affirms gay sex and marriage. Just as the earlier Episcopal Letter in England threatened similar sanctions against priests here (and carried them out). And just as the Anglican Covenant proposed sanctions against those who would not submit to uniformity. The fact that that approach was thrown out here in England, just accentuates how little mandate Justin Welby has for trying to enforce its principles anyway.
The ACC refused to welcome these proposals. Half the church, and most of the public, here in England, affirm gay and lesbian sexuality these days.
The Archbishop's position is ultimately untenable, because in the end people will just ignore his attempts to dominate people's lives and consciences... and the integrity of local churches and their communities... simply to appease Provinces where gay and lesbian people get imprisoned for love.
The only sane option is to let individual priests and people and PCCs and church communities make their own minds up about what is decent and what is just.
No the Primates have not gone forward: rather, the attempt to dominate other people's consciences can only lead to schism. Unity in diversity... unity in Christ... is entirely possible. And yes, issues of discrimination are quite rightly raised in England and in Parliament.
Kudos to Caroline for voting in favour of equal marriage for all, but that 'all' must include clergy, and that 'all' includes Christians who want to be married... before God, and their own communities... because their relationships are as precious as anyone else's.
I'm afraid the answers she gave to Cat were a fudge, and the anti-homophobia bit was obfuscation, like saying "We're going to send the convicts to penal colonies, but we are not going to throw them overboard and feed them to the sharks."
The responses recorded here are symptomatic of the slippage from "Church of England" to "Anglican Communion" -- and even more seriously, of the Primates' gathering to a "unanimous" decision taken by the whole "Communion."
I nominate Mrs. Betty Slocombe as Second Church Estates Commissioner, "and I am unanimous in that!"
I thought Africans were against colonialism. Guess not.
"that there should be a new doctrine condemning homophobic prejudice and violence"
I see a 'Primates-not-a-Meeting-but-a-Gathering-but-then-turned-out-to-be-a-Primates-Meeting-after-all' can create new doctrine! Looks like the stool has four legs now - Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Press Conferences.
The documents that emerged from Primates2016 were unanimous only because those who could not vote for them absented themselves.
I am grateful for these questions and answers, though, because they show what we all know--that the Church of England is moving at a snail's pace for the sake of people in Nigeria.
What more proof do we need that the Archbishop of Canterbury is putting the demands of other Communion provinces ahead of ministering to his own flock in England?
"The Anglican Communion extends over many different cultures and many continents, and not all cultures and societies move at the same pace." This is no excuse for not taking a course of LEADERSHIP. If I want to worship in the Nigerian church, I will go to Nigeria. How many Christians, or those needing the Church, are turned away by these prevarications? How many, like me, feel we are betraying justice when we worship in a C of E church?
Please, Justin - LEAD the communion. The C of E is dying with a whimper.
So matters have progressed to the point at which some MPs start openly talking about discrimination in the context of how the church treats LGBT people. Regardless of the answers given, that is a big deal. That is far from good PR.
And answering that question by saying that many people in Africa are socially conservative is terrible PR. Worse still, it sounded like a politician's evasion.
So the question was batted away but at a cost to the credibility of the church. That is something which should concern all Christians.
Given the vigorous persecution of the three Jeremy's (and more, I'm sure) in the CoE, I find this statement particularly enraging:
"new doctrine condemning homophobic prejudice and violence, and resolving ...
to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation.”
Very disappointing reply by the Second Church Estates Commissioner. Poorly briefed and almost ignorant of the issues. The question was about the Church of England not the Anglican Communion. Condemning homophobic prejudice is not about words but action.
A thought experiment: if the churches of North America represented the majority of Anglicans in the world, would the ABC be sanctioning the Anglicans in the global south and Great Britain for their anti marriage equality position? The cynic in me thinks he would. In this case church teaching is less important than keeping the numbers up. People pleasing politics is more important than truth.
Actually a resolution with the title 'Human Rights for Those of Homosexual Orientation' was passed at the 1988 Lambeth Conference. And various primates' gatherings for over a decade have condemned homophobic prejudice and violence, though with no obvious impact on the senior clergy who actively promote these. But such facts have by and large been airbrushed from history, along with everything else which calls into question C of E leaders' narrative around sexuality and gender identity.
Since when were chaplaincy posts (requiring a Bishop's licence) 'secular'?
Terrible answers. The honest answer would have been: 'The C of E's historic position is that gay marriage is against the teaching of Scripture, but this is currently being reassessed, and there are strong feelings on all sides of the issue. While this reassessment is going on, we think the government should resist the temptation to tell a Christian church what its doctrine should be'.
That would have been an honest answer. Don't blame the Africans. It's English Anglicans who need to decide what they think God is saying to the Church.
A1: "Anglican Communion"
A2: "Anglican Communion"
What's wrong w/ this picture???
Well done Cat Smith for calling the CofE to task over this awful behaviour.
The C of E should be disestablished if it will not serve England. Foreign bishops have no jurisdiction in this realm.
A very timely reminder to the hierarchy of the Church of England, that they should act in concert with the principles of human justice as set out by English Parliament. Simple, really!
Spelman: It is therefore all the more remarkable that the Archbishop of Canterbury managed to get a unanimous agreement among all the bishops of the Anglican Communion, in Canterbury, in January, that there should be a new doctrine condemning homophobic prejudice and violence, and resolving:// “to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation.”
Wrong. First, the agreement wasn't with all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion. Second, it wasn't even with all the Primates as + Uganda had absented himself. Tird, here's what the communique from the Primates' "Meeting" actually said about this:
"The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people. // The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God's love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression."
So homophobic prejudice and violence towards people who actively "practice homosexuality" is not condemned at all. In fact, the language permits it, by carefully referring to "orientation" and "same-sex attracted people," as opposed to people actually having sex with someone of the same gender.
"I nominate Mrs. Betty Slocombe as Second Church Estates Commissioner, "and I am unanimous in that!"
Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 6 May
I Second that Motion (unanimously, too)
It interests me that all the comments on this thread only look at one of the questions Caroline Spelman was asked in Parliament on 5th May, though I do appreciate that it was this question and answer that TA flagged up. She was in fact responding to several questions in her capacity as 2nd church Estates Commissioner: on same-sex marriage, on near neighbours, Irag, apprenticeships and ethical investment. In that final topic, the question from from David T. C. Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth said: "Before they are too critical of the oil companies, may I suggest that the Church of England Commissioners read the Bible—Matthew 25, the parable of the oil lamps and the 10 virgins—and remember that it was the five virgins who lived happily ever after and who had a cheap and ready supply of this much-maligned fossil fuel?" Perhaps somebody needs to remind Mr. Davies that fossil fuel oil had not yet been discovered at the time of Jesus. The oil that these young women would have used in their lamps would have been renewable vegetable oil or animal oil.
Worth remembering that Monmouth is not in England, either - so especially pointless!