Friday, 9 September 2016

Australian Primate writes about same-sex marriage

Australian Associated Press reports Anglicans ‘can accept gay marriage vote’

Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier has written to the country’s Anglican bishops insisting the church can preserve its view on “holy matrimony” while accepting the will of the people.

“Should the vote be in favour of same-sex marriage, as suggested by opinion polls, the church must accept that this is now part of the landscape,” the Australian primate states.

Dr Freier’s letter notes that the doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer - that marriage is between a man and a woman “under God” - would remain unchanged.

“I do not believe the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage,” he writes.

“But … the church also understands the desire of two people to express their commitment of love and self-sacrifice and Christians have not always shown the respect or perspective they should.”

Guardian Anglican church says it will accept results of marriage equality plebiscite

The head of the Anglican church in Australia has said it “must accept” a change in the civil definition of marriage if the plebiscite approves marriage equality, but it is unlikely the church’s doctrine will change.

In a letter to the nation’s Anglican bishops, the Melbourne archbishop Philip Freier also threw his weight behind a plebiscite, saying the government had a mandate for the policy and it would make the social reform easier to accept.

On Friday, Freier wrote that he personally “welcomes the plebiscite, though with strong reservations that we must guard the tenor of the debate, and keep it positive”.

The full text of the letter written by Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne to his fellow Australian bishops is published here: Conscience rules on marriage.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 9:43am BST | TrackBack
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Comments

Australian Archbishop Philip Freier is at least curtailing the possibility of dioceses like Sydney doing its own thing - by campaigning against the Equal Marriage possibility for Australia.

The only fears the LGBTI community might have about the possibility of a Plebiscite is that this might open up further avenues for hate campaigns against them by noisy homophobes in the community.

It's a pity the Australian government does not, instead, have an open debate in Parliament, where the majority public opinion on Equal Marriage - generally favourable - might allow for necessary legislation. But there's politics for you!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 11:35am BST

Philip Freier is Archbishop of Melbourne, not Brisbane.

Posted by: Victoriana on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 12:18pm BST

"The full text of the letter written by Archbishop Philip Freier of Brisbane to his fellow Australian bishops is published here:"

I think you mean Melbourne rather than Brisbane. Brisbane is +Philip's birthplace

Posted by: RPNewark on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 12:49pm BST

Looks as though Archbishop Freier is on the defensive.

First, he's worried that Christian conservatives are fighting equal marriage in ways that will damage the conservative position, over the long term. He doesn't want the Anglican Church in Australia to be a shrinking group of extremists.

Second, he knows that either a free vote or a plebiscite will result in a change in law. So he is trying to prepare his church to maintain an increasingly minority position--one that will soon prove untenable.

None of what the Archbishop is saying will work, over the long term. But his current task is to get the Anglican Church through a plebiscite without his church doing irrevocable damage to itself, in the court of public opinion.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 1:18pm BST

An interesting thing happened on the way to the Basilica. The ethical preaching of a first century rabbi, which as far as I can see was developed largely in opposition to the Herod family compact, evolved into a religion preoccupied with sex and power; so much so that some of its modern day adherents have an almost sectarian preoccupation with policing other people's sexual behavior.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 1:57pm BST

I look forward to the day when churches who would not change their doctrine on same sex marriage are as numerous as those who would not change their doctrine on interracial marriage. Tick tick tick...

Posted by: john (not mccain) on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 3:19pm BST

Sorry error now fixed.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 3:25pm BST

"An interesting thing happened on the way to the Basilica. The ethical preaching of a first century rabbi, which as far as I can see was developed largely in opposition to the Herod family compact, evolved into a religion preoccupied with sex and power; so much so that some of its modern day adherents have an almost sectarian preoccupation with policing other people's sexual behavior."

Actually I think very few members of the Church of England wish to police sexual conduct. A substantial number, however, wish the teaching and doctrine of the Church to reflect Scripture (as they understand it) and expect ministers and especially bishops to conduct their lives in accordance with the teaching of the Church. The two approaches might at first glance seem to be the same but on closer inspection are very different.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 5:15pm BST

One of the world's most gay-friendly cities is positioned in a diocese run by unbelievably bigoted Calvinsts whose influence extends beyond Australian shores. Sydney Diocese will undo any good Archbishop Freier hopes will come from a secular vote, and will ensure the Anglican Church remains a refuge for homophobes.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 5:40pm BST

@Kate, "Actually I think very few members of the Church of England wish to police sexual conduct."

My comment pertained to Christianity in general. The church, The Communion leadership, is possessed by this issue. As for the C of E, I suspect that institution might win the prize for hypocrisy and political gymnastics on the matter.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 9:19pm BST

Sydney's not had Jensen's mob imposed on it: Australia has a democratic church structure. Sydney's chosen to keep electing them and funding them.

Metropolitan Sydney undoubtedly has a strong LGBT subculture, but like many states, there's also a strong conservative current in NSW. If there wasn't, the diocese wouldn't be ground zero for much Anglican homophobia.

Sydney will be genuinely gay-friendly when it shows the ultra-Calvinists the door.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 11:44pm BST

As a priest of Sydney Diocese, I am sad that it is becoming almost monochrome in some respects but wild generalisations about it are not true. A small number of moderate and anglo-catholic parishes remain though it is increasingly difficult for them to find rectors. (Single clergy or clergy without substantial knowledge of Greek will not get in.) So too, in this vast diocese,it is very hard for many people to find an Anglican church where they can attend. Many churches now have fewer Eucharists and celebration by deacons and lay-people is not uncommon. (The nearest church I feel I can attend is 30 miles away, by public transport.) Some conservative evangelical parishes are hardly recognisable as Anglican but there are others, including now the cathedral parish, where traditional services and music are readily found.

With regard to the never-ending discussion of "same sex marriage", despite telephone polls, the results of any plebiscite are quite uncertain which I think is the reason why it is being opposed. As with the referendum on a republic (or with Scottish independence or the EU),I think change will rightly not be supported by many ordinary working class people of the kind among whom I live and among whom I was many years a Rector. (Even the result of a parliamentary vote is uncertain.)

At present, what one encounters in the community and in the media is overwhelmingly not "homophobia" but tolerance. But as these comments illustrate, anyone who supports marriage as between a man and woman is being again and again condemned as "homophobic" (using the word with its new concocted meaning). As a theologically very liberal Anglican priest of Sydney Diocese (certainly culturally conservative), I agree with legal civil unions (and the blessing of them if desired) and I do not think I am homophobic, but whatever the result of the non-binding plebiscite or parliamentary vote, I don't expect that my view of marriage itself will change although I have changed my mind on many other matters and could do so again. It would be nice if the discussion could be carried on more courteously on both sides, and indeed if far more attention could be given to the far more serious matters that confront us, such as the plight of the poor, homeless, sick and dying in our own communities (and at least, at 80, I have been an honorary C.of E. hospital chaplain now for 18 years to do the little I can in that regard), and in the many areas suffering from terrible war and conflict. And more attention, not least by our Commonwealth and State governments, to the disasters threatening us because of climate change and the underlying problem of unsustainable population growth.

Nonetheless, I agree that some of those in power in Sydney Diocese need to be far less negative, far more tolerant and compassionate, far more intelligent, and far more willing to enter into genuine discussion of these and various other controversial matters. Some English evangelicals have set an example, and some leading Roman Catholic clergy here have recently done the same.

Posted by: John Bunyan on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 11:48pm BST

"it “must accept” a change in the civil definition of marriage if the plebiscite approves marriage equality, but it is unlikely the church’s doctrine will change"

What does "acceptance" mean, in this context, if there is no concommittant revision to permit/bless these marriages? Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of "cheap grace"---this sounds, to me, like cheap "acceptance".

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 4:08am BST

Grammatically (bear with me please) it is quite an odd letter. It starts in the first person singular - "I". Then it moves to the plural "we" involving the recipients with the Archbishop in a collective "we" , but then we get this paragraph:

"We understand that this is not a theoretical issue for many people, but one that directly impinges on their lives. We understand that sometimes gays, lesbians and others have felt judged and rejected, even ostracised, inside the Church and that we have to be much more pastorally sensitive in future."

It is totally unclear who "we" are in that paragraph. If people are uncomfortable about saying something then instinctively they can shift from writing "I" to writing "we" without being aware of it at the time - although later on authors then tend to rationalise the "we" after the event.

So is the archbishop uncomfortable with the idea of being pastorally more sensitive, or did he consciously write "we"? Evidence for the former view is that in the first sentence "we" cannot mean the Archbishop and the recipients collectively as it does elsewhere in the letter because manifestly not all of those people do recognise that it is more than a theoretical issue for LGBTI people.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 7:02am BST

I note 'John Bunyan' wishes us to accept that he he is not homophobic , simply against MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

In any case, he clearly states that the the well-being and thriving of gay people is a low priority for him, as

'far more serious matters that confront us'.

He also calls for greater courtesy to be shown to those who oppose civil rights of lgbt., such as himself. As I have said before lbgt people have shown great restraint towards those who oppose us. The use of terms like 'homophobic' and 'anti-gay' strike me as moderate, as well as imho., honest.

The lives of lbgt people whether young or old, single or coupled will never be a priority for such people.

As if social justice involved mutually exclusive options lgbt OR poverty, or war-zones or reproductive justice ....

Posted by: Fr.Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 6:00pm BST

"it “must accept” a change in the civil definition of marriage if the plebiscite approves marriage equality, but it is unlikely the church’s doctrine will change"

Anglicanism seems unclear about the doctrine of Christianity, and the sacramental life of the Church -- except when it comes to marriage equality, when it becomes amazingly conservative, inflexible, and incapable of being of assistance to millions of lesbian and gay people generally, and to untold couples.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 6:05pm BST

John Bunyan, drop your opposition to *civil* marriage equality (in which theology has no place) and the debate can and will move on to other matters.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 10:48pm BST

"A substantial number, however, wish the teaching and doctrine of the Church to reflect Scripture (as they understand it) and expect ministers and especially bishops to conduct their lives in accordance..."

Let's get real: you mean "impose their [proof-texted] opinion", don't you, Kate?

This isn't about fidelity to Scripture. It's about Power-Over.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 7:55am BST

"Let's get real: you mean "impose their [proof-texted] opinion", don't you, Kate?"

Yes, let get real. Both sides want to impose their opinion on church teaching. That is the argument and why "good disagreement" cannot work because it is impossible for the church to teach that marriage is between one man and one woman and that same sex sex is sinful while simultaneously blessing same sex couples (or marry them) and teaching that they can consummate their relationship. In terms of teaching it IS an either/or situation.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 10:10pm BST

Kate, how about this: church doesn't take a position; a gender-neutral marriage service is available for use in parishes, depending on the consent of their rector and congregation?

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 11:34pm BST

Same-sex couples don't want a "teaching", Kate. They want to get married. As long as you don't ***exert the Power-Over of standing in their way*** those couples don't care what you believe (or if you, being ordained, won't personally lead the marriage liturgy---there are plenty of priests who will).

Please STOP w/ the false equivalency, Kate: only ONE side here is imposing itself!

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 5:43am BST

It is no surprise to read today that the current Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies has not taken much notice of the Primate of Australia and is complaining at suggestions that the Government may not provide $10 million each to both the YES and NO advocates. This is one idea put forward by the Labor Party to reduce the ridiculous cost if they are to agree to the holding of the Plebiscite. The government does not seem to have the numbers otherwise, but the fear is that if it is not allowed to hold the plebiscite it can still block any bill in Parliament (2 were put forward today by the Greens and Labor) and Same-sex marriage will have to wait a possible 3 years until after another election.
I think it is downright insulting that the public should be voting on my right to marry (I understand it was necessary in Ireland due to the Constitution but it is not a constitutional matter in Australia). You can imagine the impression it will have on the Gay community as the Anglican church in Sydney particularly is seen to be leading the NO campaign. Whatever John Bunyan and others think is their own business but why should they deny me a basic human right. As seen through history the Church, although not all its members, is seen to be in opposition to human rights development.
Yet another reason to be happy I became a Kiwi citizen last March and would be glad to forget I was born in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition in Australia has drawn attention to the possibility that young people may attempt suicide due to the hate that is likely to spew forth from those like the clergy in the Sydney Diocese. I have personal experience of such in the past. As he said today in Parliament "One suicide will be one too many".

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 6:27am BST

Dear John Bunyan. Good to hear that you are liberal enough to accept the prospect of Same-Sex Blessings and Civil Unions. However, I suspect that both of these would be totally unacceptable for the Sydney conservative A.C. hierarchy. It is not just S/S Marriage they disagree with - it is the fact that LGBTI people have no other way of being.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 11:25am BST

To Mr John Bunyan: would you like me to show more "courtesy" to the African bishops who have amply demonstrated their willingness to see civil and criminal law put in place that severely penalizes gay people for being gay--and even calls for their execution--for being gay?

How much courtesy do you require, Mr Bunyan? How much courtesy is one entitled to when he's willing to see me beaten or burned alive?

Posted by: Daniel Berry NYC on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 11:59am BST

No JCF, BOTH sides are seeking to impose themselves. The effect of that imposition disproportionately affects LGBTI+ people and that can and should be pointed out, but that doesn't change the fact that BOTH sides are equally trying to impose their understanding of Christianity on the other in terms of the teaching and doctrine of the Church.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 1:43pm BST

"Kate, how about this: church doesn't take a position; a gender-neutral marriage service is available for use in parishes, depending on the consent of their rector and congregation?"

That is the worst possible outcome. When the church authorises a rite it changes its teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman against the consciences of conservatives yet fails to ensure that in practice LGBTI+ people won't suffer discrimination and prejudice in their parish if their parish won't use the rite anyway.

We need the exact opposite. We require each parish to be required to offer gender-neutral services which suggests that each parish needs a team ministry. If the centre authorises a gender-neutral rite, that will precipitate a split. We either accept that or devise a new structure for authorising rites. We could do that by moving responsibility for authorising rites into a number of orders and say that each ministers within a team ministry should belong to a Christian order (but not all of the ministers to the same order).

Would the Church of England be willing to give up responsibility for authorising rites like that? I doubt it. But if it won't then ultimately it will have to choose and the side it chooses against will walk out. So the question is whether the unity of the community is the priority with us all walking together but on different paths, or whether the integrity of church authority is the most important.

So I don't think your suggestion works, James. I think there are alternatives which can meet everyone's needs but the only ones I can see mean a very carefully designed change in the structure of the Church.


Posted by: Kate on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 2:26pm BST

"If the centre authorises a gender-neutral rite, that will precipitate a split. "

Which has, in fact, happened.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 at 5:28am BST

Kate, various provinces have fudged the remarriage of divorcees, without endorsing divorce. I see nothing that makes marriage between persons of the same sex different. This allows discrimination, yes, and I don't like it, but it's been accepted as the price for a broad church.

Personally, I'd also like to see equal marriage available in all parishes, but not at the price of overriding the consciences of those who sincerely believe that it's against God's will, however wrong I believe them to be. Schism or dominance may well see the traditionalists triumph, or the Anglican tradition torn apart like frayed cloth.

I don't want to see the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 at 11:49pm BST

JCF: "Kate, how about this: church doesn't take a position; a gender-neutral marriage service is available for use in parishes, depending on the consent of their rector and congregation?"

Kate: "That is the worst possible outcome. When the church authorises a rite it changes its teaching..."

Cynthia: Jesus' most harsh words were for the Pharisees for misusing the Law to exclude and demean people. Jesus did not require "a church teaching." Jesus requires compassion, love, justice, including the poor, etc. Jesus calls for us to "love one another as I have loved you." He doesn't call us to have rigid rules that crush the spirits of many, some to the point of suicide.

The exclusion is hateful. I'm tired of the talk about inclusion for the excluders. The excluders have the power to exclude and are fighting tooth and nail to keep that power. As JCF pointed out, co-existence, in love and in difference, is possible. Conservatives can believe what they want, but they need to get out of the way of letting others exercise our call to marriage.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 12:09am BST

Let's face it folks; the main benefit of heterosexual marriage is the ability to procreate.

HOWEVER, there are other goods in marriage that are available to those who cannot procreate. One of them is fellowship - not unlike that which is prefigured in Scripture as "The Marriage of The Lamb" - to which all are invited - not only the majority that is heterosexual.

If ALL are welcomed into that 'perfect' Marriage; surely other relationships - akin to marriage, where faithfulness and mutual respect are evident - ought to be welcomed by the Church? This is different from casual sexual promiscuity - whether gay or straight, and may be part of God's salvific plan - for others as well as biological parents.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 12:35am BST

The wonderful Father Ron: "Let's face it folks; the main benefit of heterosexual marriage is the ability to procreate."

Let's face it folks; one of the main benefits of marriage for many people is (quite rightly) SEX. And sex within a committed and devoted, caring relationship is an amazing, wonderful thing. It's that quality of relationship - it seems to me - that Jesus upheld.

And let us not ignore the fact that God is probably very sexual as well. Not reproductively sexual, but sex as expression of love and desire. God desires, and God is sensual and sexual, in feelings towards us, and we are formed in God's image. It may be understood, from reports of mystical union, that God does superb sex.

Because the Church has tried to present an anaesthetised, hygienic, some might say sterile, view of sex and the nature of God, the idea of a sexual God is something that Christians tend to shy away from. Wrongly, in my opinion.

Sex, in the context of love and devotion, is the intimate expression of relationship between two people devoted to each other. It's a fundamental impulse and trait of human beings, that we have a capacity for that devoted love, written into the way we are made, and made in the image of God.

Marriage expresses or offers that capacity for intimate, covenanted love... whether that is the marriage between Christ and the Church, the Bride, the overwhelming beautiful bride if we are to spiritually embrace Song of Songs... or the love between two people. It is the context for that intimacy, and I suggest it is as much a 'main benefit' as procreation. Do we require heterosexual priests or others not to use condoms? Why then should gay and lesbian people not also know the blessing of tender, intimate, sensual, and covenanted love?

Far from seeing it as haram, I suggest God sees it as wonderful, joyful, protective, and passionate: like the passionate nature of God as well.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 9:38am BST

I don't often disagree with Susannah, but I do now. Most people, including Christians, have sex outside marriage, sometimes casually, frequently in committed relationships.
They get married for all kinds of reasons, but sex is rarely one of them, far less one of the the main ones!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 1:50pm BST

Erika, your disagreement is very welcome: prompting me to reflect, think further, and maybe gain added nuance.

What a broad and sharing church should be about. If we all agreed on everything, we might ossify in our uniformity.

But I think faith is process, and part of our living faith is opening to grace through one another, interacting with one another, sparking ideas, sharing, discovering the person.

On which point, it is maybe a shame I have never met you, and various others here at Thinking Anglicans (admittedly as a global forum that might be difficult!).

But for your disagreement, thank you.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 3:23pm BST

Cynthia I stand by what I said. The main priority is that nobody is turned away in their own parish church but JCF's suggestion doesn't ensure this. The second priority is to preserve the integrity of the eucharistic community and JCF's proposal doesn't do that because that community would be split.

So these two alternative courses would be better than JCF's solution because each at least meets one objective instead of neither
a) make adoption of a new gender-neutral rite mandatory for all ministers and parishes, or
b) do nothing

You categorise conservatives as excluders while advocating a course of action which you know will exclude conservatives. This is the thing, both sides are using terms like "Walking together" and "good disagreement" to mean the other side should give up their needs. Neither side is honest enough to admit that though.

A church should a group of people who worship together and who are a community as discussed recently on another thread. The reason this issue has become divisive is because the Church of England and its analogues in other countries has lost site of this and has accreted things like marriage rites. The church needs to give that up and allow Christians to decide for themselves how and whom to marry.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 4:23pm BST

"Kate, how about this: church doesn't take a position; a gender-neutral marriage service is available for use in parishes, depending on the consent of their rector and congregation?"

NB: this proposal is by James Byron, not myself. [Am not taking a position on it]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 6:08am BST

I'm confused, Kate, you advocate that the church allow Christians to decide for themselves how and whom to marry. Yes. That's what JCF and I are saying. The excluders need to stop using power to keep us from marrying.

However, JCF and I are both allowing for conservatives to exclude in their local contexts. That is not perfect, and we Americans need a stronger understanding of how problematic that is for an "established church." But CoE has done this with women (went way too far in my opinion). CoE should let SSM go forward in the places that want it.

JCF and I are talking about stopping the coercion, either way. You say that the teaching itself is coercive, I'm saying that the teaching is taking way too high a priority. We can be Christians and partake of the Eucharist without agreeing on everything, especially an issue like marriage that is not first priority, first priority issues include the real presence, the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ.

We aren't being dishonest. We simply have the experience of a church that is doing SSM but giving clergy and congregations freedom of conscience, including a conservative conscience. We have had no schism over SSM. Do I think that's perfect? No! It took awhile for churches to realize that slavery was wrong, and misogyny. This simply gives people space to get there in their own time.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 6:22am BST

Cynthia, there isn't a parallel with the ordination of women - although one is often made. Giving dioceses an opt out causes no individual woman to be disadvantaged, nor does any individual woman suffer rejection. In contrast, there is a problem is any parish or any parish minister is allowed to reject a couple because they are the same sex. The opt out for the ordination of women has no individual impact; an opt out for marriage of blessings would impact individuals.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 11:44am BST

Two points of view: Cynthia "we have had no schism over SSM"
Mark Brunson, up thread, discussing a split "which has, in fact, happened".
Both are discussing the U S experience (I think). Who is right?

Posted by: John Sandeman on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 10:19pm BST

Just my guess, but I think MarkBrunson is more observing the CofE's current status (schism-ing).

Cynthia "we have had no schism over SSM": I agree, re TEC.

To the extent that TEC has experienced a schism (noting that many conservative "Anglicans" in North America were never in TEC to begin with), it was far more to do w/ (chronologically) 1. 1970s BCP revision, 2. Women's ordination, and 3. LGBT ordination. By the time SSM was approved at the 2015 General Convention, basically everyone who was going to leave TEC re LGBT issues already had.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 16 September 2016 at 11:12am BST

Mr. Sandeman,

The refusal to accept that the split has happened is part of the insistence by many overly optimistic TEC members that we can "all get along," and the refusal to accept that the conservative religion is different from our own Christianity.

The fact is, while we have not relinquished our duty to protect our own in even the most inimical places, like South Carolina, those conservatives there are no longer of us in any sense other than the most ridiculously theoretical.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 16 September 2016 at 11:54am BST

John Sandeman, Cynthia is correct on this, if the reference is to the Episcopal Church. There does appear to be the makings of a schism in the Anglican Communion, if that is what Mark is referring to; a de facto if not de jure state of division exists in the Communion.

So, depending on context, both are right.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 16 September 2016 at 4:21pm BST

"We aren't being dishonest. We simply have the experience of a church that is doing SSM but giving clergy and congregations freedom of conscience, including a conservative conscience. We have had no schism over SSM"

Once the central church has decided that same sex marriage is Scripturally sound - as TEC has done - then allowing congregations and parish ministers freedom to discriminate against LGBTI people is detestable and cowardly. Worse, is boasting about the policy as somehow enlightened. It isn't.

The analogy is the USA deciding at a federal level that racial segregation is immoral but then saying to individual towns that they can decide for themselves. It is an approach lacking in moral legitimacy. It fails to stop discrimination and injustice.

The only three valid options are:
- for central church authorities to decide against same sex marriage

- for central church authorities to decide in favour of same sex marriage AND require all parishes and parish ministers to conform to that choice or

- for the central church authority to say that the church will not be involved in any way in marriage and that congregations should make their own arrangements outside of the Church.


Posted by: Kate on Friday, 16 September 2016 at 5:32pm BST

"The refusal to accept that the split has happened is part of the insistence by many overly optimistic TEC members that we can "all get along," and the refusal to accept that the conservative religion is different from our own Christianity.

The fact is, while we have not relinquished our duty to protect our own in even the most inimical places, like South Carolina, those conservatives there are no longer of us in any sense other than the most ridiculously theoretical."

Mark, I agree with you but it's more than that. Many LGBTI people who live in the parishes which have opted out of the new arrangements have probably just quietly given up on going to church or now worship in other denominations. A split is not always visible but I am sure that the abhorrent TEC policy has created an invisible split even if it avoided a visible one.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 16 September 2016 at 7:03pm BST

Kate, three things, briefly:

1) TEC is engaged in a process; we are in the first stage of trial use. At this point the liturgies that can be used for same-sex couples are available, but not mandatory. The requirement is that bishops see to it that the rite is available, but they have discretion to determine the nature of that availability. That will change when (and if) the rites are finally ratified. That may more time than some would like; but it is in process.

2) Marriage is not an absolute right. (I know some disagree with me on this, but I think I am in line with both civil and church thinking on the subject.) There are restrictions in civil and church law; as well as requirements that the clergy be convinced the couple are capable of carrying out their vows.

3) In TEC, clergy have had the right to make that determination, and to decline to solemnize any given marriage, since the middle of the last century, when church marriage after divorce became legal -- to allow clergy to apply their discernment and decline to solemnize a marriage they considered ill-founded. That same faculty is now in play in this new situation. I can think of any number of situations in which I would not choose to solemnize a marriage. (I would not, for example, solemnize a marriage in which the couple had signed a prenuptial agreement; nor one undertaken merely to provide a sham spouse with citizenship; nor for a couple seeking marriage as part of ex-gay therapy for one or both of them.)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 16 September 2016 at 9:07pm BST

Tobias, that of course doesn't translate to the unique situation of the Church of England as an established church.

But anyway, there's an enormous difference between differentiating between people based on their past or supposed future conduct and discriminating against them because of their nature - their race, sexual orientation or their gender presentation. And if TEC don't address that in the short term I think public opinion in liberal states is likely to move against TEC. I only follow things vicariously from across the Pond, but I think the attitude of conservative evangelicals in promoting bathroom bills is hardening liberal attitudes to deplore any discrimination against LGBTI people on religious grounds.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 9:25am BST

The abhorrent policy of the TEC has been to allow parishes to do as they wish - if you are not willing to go with GC's decisions, then find another church.

"Take up your pension and walk," would be what we should have told Duncan, Lawrence et. al. some 15 years ago (or more) but were worrying if a series of dreadful ABofC's would be think we weren't playing nice. You're right, Kate, about what they've done - these "conservatives" neither enter the Kingdom nor allow others in, and we should have pointed them to the door some time ago.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 at 5:51am BST

Tobias,

Sorry, but there has been a schism in TEC for a great while - we like to pretend there isn't, because we don't like to accept that there are things we can't do, but it has happened. How can there be parishes or dioceses where some are welcomed and others rejected, both holding the welcoming or the rejecting as essential to the Faith, and we have the temerity to speak of there being no split?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 at 5:54am BST

Mark, there were schisms over WO and +Gene, no one is saying that there weren't. We are noting that there have been no schisms since SSM was affirmed in June, 2015.

Kate, I admire the uniformity of justice that you seek. But Tobias has explained (and he is quite expert) that TEC is in a process. We aren't all arriving at the Promised Land at the same time. Seven dioceses out of 99 are not in sync with SSM. That will likely change with the next bishop, or General Convention. I feel for my LGBT sisters and brothers in those dioceses. I think that it won't be long.

In TEC, priests will always have discretion on who to marry, for whatever reason. It all works out, eventually...

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 7:28am BST

The fact that there is the need to provide for priests who will not welcome the decision by GS means that there is a split, but no one is willing to admit that there are two different religions - one the majority of TEC and the other the pseudo-loyal "traditionalists," particularly those busily undermining that GS, as in South Carolina.

That's the reality, and it is ongoing, *because* we won't acknowledge it. We're not "holding together" because there is no "together" in such a situation.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 10:13am BST

Mark, you and I have a very different understanding of schism. I understand it to mean a complete separation dividing the church, not mere disagreement by some against others. While it is true that a small number of bishops, priests and parishioners have departed TEC, there has been no formal division of the church.

The same may not hold for the Anglican Communion.

The provision for clergy to decline to officiate at a marriage goes back to the middle of the last century. It was not invented for those opposed to SSM.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 1:18pm BST

Kate, there are parallels with WO. The exclusion of women from ministry in some dioceses certainly has an impact on whole congregations, particularly on girls. The absence of women priests is a statement that is un-affirming of all females. It very negatively impacts the self-esteem of girls, as I recall from growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Discriminating against women is still discriminating on the basis of being who God created us to be, very similar to LGBT exclusion.

Because I've spent a fair amount of time living and worshiping in England, I get that CoE is the established church and that makes for differences from the US, Canada, etc. But CoE now has "two integrities" on women and it's hard to imagine why it can't at least get that far for SSM. Ministering to all souls does not have to mean that every priest has to do it all, that's why it's good to have a diverse clergy pool. Ultimately, who wants to be married by a priest who doesn't believe you are getting sacramentally married?

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 8:27pm BST

Interesting thread.

If there has been no 'schism' in TEC it is because the conservative dioceses/bishops left (Albany, Dallas, CFL, Springfield, ND) were allowed to keep their diocesan canons and refuse ss marriage in their dioceses.

So one way to avoid schism is to just wait until people retire and the matter sort of times out.

I read today that 71% of all parishes in TEC have under 100 members. The average size is now 58. 45 dioceses have under 4K ASA. So I suppose one way of describing TEC is: ran some off; others left; timed some out; and what remains is fighting for survival.

So that would make Brunson, Haller, Kate and others here all correct, in their own way.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 23 September 2016 at 3:05pm BST
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