Friday, 27 January 2017

Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations - A Report from the House of Bishops

The House of Bishops has released Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations (GS 2055). It was the main item at this morning’s pre-General Synod press conference and there is this press release, copied below.

[There is a very brief mention of other topics to be discussed at General Synod in the press release. I have updated my list of online papers to include the remaining papers, published today.]

General Synod Press Conference
27 January 2017

The Church of England’s law and guidance on marriage should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without changing the Church’s doctrine of marriage itself, bishops are recommending.

A report from the House of Bishops to be discussed by the Church’s General Synod next month upholds the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

But it also concludes that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples - which allows clergy to provide informal prayers for those marrying or forming a civil partnership - is not clear enough and should be revisited.

It also calls for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbian and gay people and those attracted to people of the same sex throughout the Church of England.

The paper recommends that bishops prepare a substantial new teaching document on marriage and relationships to replace or expand upon documents drawn up in the 1990s.

And it calls for new guidance to be prepared about the kind of questions put to candidates for ordination - irrespective of their sexual orientation - about their lifestyle.

It also speaks of the need for the Church to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirm the need to stand against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.

The report from the House of Bishops attempts to sum up the Church’s position after a two-year process of shared conversations on the subject of human sexuality, involving clergy and laity.

It acknowledges that it represents the consensus of opinion among the bishops rather than a unanimous view and sets out a process rather than attempting a final resolution.

The General Synod will discuss the paper in a “Take Note” debate on the afternoon of Wednesday February 15.

Members will have an opportunity to consider it in small groups immediately before the debate.

In a foreword to the document, the bishops explain: “We recognise our deficiencies and offer this paper with humility.

“We know that this report may prove challenging or difficult reading.

“We are confident, however, that the commitment that has been shown to listening to one another, not least through the Shared Conversations, in dioceses and in the General Synod, will have helped prepare us all as members of Synod to address together the challenges we face as a part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“We would ask for it to be read as a whole.”

Presenting the paper at a press conference this morning the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James said:

“This isn’t the end of a process but we are somewhere in the middle of it.

“We are sharing where we have reached in order to be as transparent as possible, and open to other voices.

“We hope that the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some.

“This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same sex relationships within the Church, and within the House of Bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture.”

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, said: “The report will be the subject of a ‘take note’ debate. Such a debate is a neutral motion.

“It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report, but a vote in favour of the motion does not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report.

“The House of Bishops will listen carefully to the debate, and to any subsequent matters raised by members in correspondence, to inform their further work.”

The report is contained among papers circulated to members of the Church of England’s General Synod which meets in Westminster next month.

Other newly released papers include background papers ahead of debates on the reading of banns of marriage and fixed odds betting terminals.

Papers sent out in an earlier circulation last week included further updates on the process of simplification of Church regulations as well as material on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and a background document on clergy risk assessment regulations which will be debated on Thursday February 16.

The General Synod will meet at the Assembly Hall, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London from 3pm on Monday February 13 to 5.15pm on Thursday 16 February.

Notes to editors:

The full agenda and papers can be found here:

The comments from the Bishop of Norwich and Bishop of Willesden are below.

A Statement from the Bishop of Norwich:

When reports to the General Synod are launched at a press briefing they are often published at the end of a process and contain recommendations. This report on marriage and same sex relationships from the House of Bishops isn’t that sort of report. It describes where the bishops have reached in their reflections. It goes on to provide a framework identifying areas where we believe present advice, policies or practice need further consideration, and invites members of General Synod and the wider Church, to contribute. So this isn’t the end of a process but we are somewhere in the middle of it. We are sharing where we have reached in order to be as transparent as possible, and open to other voices.

We hope that the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some. This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same sex relationships within the Church, and within the House of Bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture. The House is agreed, however, that our present teaching documents do not address some elements of the contemporary situation regarding marriage and relationships in our culture. I refer to the current teaching document on marriage, issued by the House of Bishops in 1999, and an earlier document on same sex relationships, Issues in Human Sexuality. Neither discusses nor even anticipates same sex marriage, a reminder of just how quickly things have changed. Issues, published in 1991, was written when Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was in force. It prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools and prevented local councils from spending money on lesbian and gay projects including anything which suggested support of what it called “pretended family relationships”. The temper of the time in which Issues was written was a very different one from ours. The later teaching document from 1999 simply assumes marriage is the union of one man with one woman. Hence, the House of Bishops believes it needs to commission a new teaching document which articulates such an understanding of marriage within a theology of relationships for our changed times. This report isn’t that document but it indicates why it is needed.

The House of Bishops believes that the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, which it holds in common with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and the majority of the churches of the Reformation, should continue to be expressed in the terms found in Canon B30, namely that “the Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is a union permanent and life-long, of one man with one woman…” But there is a great deal more than marriage alone to be considered in relation to same sex relationships. The report affirms the place of lesbian and gay people within the Church. Even in 1991 Issues in Human Sexuality said that those in same sex partnerships should be included within the life and fellowship of the Church. We reaffirm that gladly and decisively, recognising that for Christians our identity in Christ is primary, and of greater significance than gender, sexuality, age, nationality or any other characteristic. So no change in doctrine is proposed but it is often pastoral practice - how we treat people - which matters most. This means - as the report suggests - establishing across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people, for those who experience same sex attraction, and for their families, and continuing to work toward mutual love and understanding on these issues across the Church. And so we speak in the report about re-examining the existing framework of our pastoral practice to permit maximum freedom within it. We recognise two areas in particular where advice in relation to the pastoral care and support of lesbian and gay people needs fresh thought.

At present clergy are advised that they may offer “informal prayer” to those registering civil partnerships or entering same sex marriage. The parameters of such pastoral support are unclear. The House proposes that there should be more guidance for clergy about appropriate pastoral provision for same sex couples.

The House of Bishops also believes present arrangements for asking ordinands and clergy about their relationships and lifestyle are not working well. It’s felt that there’s too much concentration on whether ordinands or clergy are in sexually active same sex relationships rather than framing questions about sexual morality within a much wider examination of the way in which all ordinands and clergy order their lives. The Church of England has always been suspicious of intrusive interrogation of its members, preferring to trust clergy and lay people in their Christian discipleship. However, all clergy are asked at their ordination whether they will fashion their lives “after the way of Christ”. We believe we should revisit how this is explored beforehand so that the same questions are addressed to all.

At the General Synod next month I will give an address exploring why we believe some of our formulations on pastoral practice do not now seem adequate. The Bishop of Willesden, as Vice Chair of the Bishops’ Reflection Group, will introduce some case studies which members of Synod will examine in groups so that we consider the lived experience of people within our Church. Later there will be a take note debate on the report. We hope that in the groups and in the debate much will be offered to the House of Bishops for its further work in this area. I will now pass over to the Bishop of Willesden who will speak about the process in the House of Bishops over the past few months, and the Synodical process which lies before us.

A statement on process from the Bishop of Willesden:

This report evolved though discussion, study and reflection at meetings of both the House of Bishops (the Bishops who are members of General Synod) and the College of Bishops (all the currently serving Bishops of the Church of England). The Reflections Group took the raw material from those discussions to produce the document that is going to Synod. Some of the most useful and fruitful reflection came from our own group work as we discussed real life case studies, and, as the Bishop of Norwich has indicated, we shall be offering group work based on similar case studies to members of General Synod in February. We anticipate that the groups will enable further good listening and thoughtful reflection across the Synod between people of a diversity of viewpoints.

The report will then be the subject of a “take note” debate. Such a debate is a neutral motion. It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report, but a vote in favour of the motion does not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report. The House of Bishops will listen carefully to the debate, and to any subsequent matters raised by members in correspondence, to inform their further work.

This may well include matters such as the teaching document and the guidance to clergy on pastoral provision.

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Comments

There seems to be a conflict here between paragraph one and three of the Bishop of Norwich's statement.

In paragraph one he states that the bishop's report is a working document describing the current situation. It is not a normal synod paper which would be published at the end of a discernment process and which would "contain recommendations". Instead the church is in the middle of a long process of reflection, the bishops want to be "open to other voices", and the process and outcomes are undecided and flexible.

Yet in para three it is said that "The House of Bishops believes that the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, which it holds in common with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and the majority of the churches of the Reformation, should continue to be expressed in the terms found in Canon B30, namely that “the Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is a union permanent and life-long, of one man with one woman…”.

What is this if not a recommendation, one that sets constraints on debate about doctrine. In fact it is stronger than a recommendation. It appears to be a firm statement that doctrinal changes are not possible, and the discussion must be limited to how same sex relationships can be accommodated ONLY within a context of pastoral provision.

If we are to have an open debate, the let us have an open debate in which all things are on the table.

But if the debate will not be allowed to stray into areas of doctrine, and Canon B30 is untouchable, then let us be honest and say that from the start, so we know exactly where we are. And those of us who are gay, and active in the church, and in same sex marriages, can reflect on whether it is worth taking part in the ongoing debate, or whether the cards have been already stacked against us.


Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 12:13pm GMT

There's a surprise. The bishops are recommending another report

Posted by: sjh on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 12:40pm GMT

Par 44 "while lay people might choose in conscience to enter a faithful, stable, sexual relationship with someone of the same gender, the same choice should not be open to ordained ministers who wished to continue exercising their ministry."

Translation: 'while lay people can do something we think is wrong and get away with it, clergy cannot, because Canon law allows us to punish them'. How on earth does that square with the avowed intent of para of "establishing across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people"? How can you do that when by your treatment of clergy you are saying 'you are wrong'?


Can anybody explain to me how this works? How it's ok for laity but not clergy? I can understand the 'exemplar' role of clergy: but if exemplary behaviour is not to be in a SS relationship- presumably because that is wrong or against church teaching- why does it cease to be wrong or contrary to teaching when laity do it? Who would have though puritans could so wholeheartedly embrace clericalism. If it's wrong, it's wrong for lay and ordained: if it's right for laity, it's right for clergy.


Some of the tone of this report - and more of course the press release- is clearly trying to be emollient, but it dissimulating. The content, which proposes almost nothing concrete to improve the experience of LGBT people in the C of E, belies the veneer of a conciliatory tone. The obsessive use of the appallingly insulting term 'those who experience same sex attraction' (and variants) says it all.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 1:39pm GMT

What a wordy waste of time and space and a totally unworthy response to the whole 'Conversations' process. Perhaps that was inevitable given that the group of bishops appointed was never likely to agree on anything! Really we're no further forward, and weasel words are not going to help lesbian and gay people feel the church welcomes them. The only good thing I can see is that the Church of England is still talking about same gender relations. I hope and pray we get somewhere soon.

Posted by: Fr Keith on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 1:50pm GMT

TA had become unusually quiet. This’ll liven things up a bit. So all would-be clergy are to be asked what they do, and have done, with their genitalia. Given that every action begins as a thought, what about asking them what they think as well as what they do? Our Lord was fairly clear about this: Matthew 5:28. How far back will these questions delve? Adolescence? Childhood? One at least, of my infant sons was forever enjoying himself in the bath. And what about computer history pages—are they to be inspected too? The inquisitors will have an interesting time, to be sure. This is all great fun. Mind-bogglingly pathetic and irrelevant, but fun. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must dissolve into gales of laughter.

Posted by: Fr William on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 2:01pm GMT

The problem with a "take note" resolution is that it will still be presented, in some quarters, as approval or acceptance of the report and its conclusions.

Were I a member of Synod, I would vote no. Because this report continues to deny marriage to LGBTI+ people. This report continues to enshrine, in the official teaching of the Church of England, open and blatant discrimination.

Such a report does not deserve to be taken any note of. Synod should reject discrimination--even, or especially, when it emanates from the House of Bishops.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 3:39pm GMT

In future, wouldn't it be best if, instead of instigating Shared Conversations etc. the Bishops just asked Reform to write a report? It would save us all a lot of time and the result would be exactly the same.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 3:48pm GMT

It feels to me like a statement that is driven by anxiety, what Daniel Kahnemann calls System 1 thinking - defining hard boundaries, needing clarity and simple solutions. What are we actually so frightened of?

Posted by: Jeremy Fagan on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 4:14pm GMT

It appears to be regressive in that doctrine will be interpreted and imposed more strictly and clergy might now be disciplined if they bless a same sex marriage.


Posted by: Kate on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 4:38pm GMT

Such a pity we did not have ecumenism back in 1600. Then the Anglicans could have expressed solidarity with the Vatican about Galileo.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 4:52pm GMT

Are there synodical experts here who can explain to me what status this document has?
What happens if Synod now votes for or against it?

Could anyone in GS introduce a different debate or is this a Yes or No question?

What happens next?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 7:37pm GMT

Seriously, what did you expect?

Instead of being patronised and 'tolerated', you take, you insist on your conscience.

That is the nature of resistance, when your conscience is being trampled on.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: people are being played. The can is once again kicked down the path. Non-Christians in England will continue to be repelled.

BUT...

If local priests, local PCCs, local church communities are not willing to network and take a stand, and ACT on their consciences... then the conservative enforcers across the Anglican Communion will continue to devalue gay and lesbian sexual relationships.

I am a lifelong Anglican, a baptised and confirmed member of the Church of England. I want to be married to my girl in Church. Publicly. Unashamedly. With celebration. Before God, and before the people of God.

Where are all the advocates and supporters of gay and lesbian marriage who will act on conscience, and marry us? Publicly. Openly.

The bishops continue to trample on other people's consciences. But they don't own those consciences. What can they do if 100 local churches just agree from a given date to start celebrating *everyone's* marriages? Send in the police? Lock out the congregations? Really?

And would the media and the public - the reasonable, more magnanimous public, and Parliament - just let that happen. I don't believe it. And the bishops would seem like tyrants if they didn't give ground.

Frankly this is about courage, or else a whole precious part of our people are diminished, stigmatised, reduced. And the Church's reputation is so harmed. Acquiescence and 'niceness'? Or is that a collaboration with the people who oppress you?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." (Anais Nin)

I feel more let down by pro-LGBT priests than by those who are simply living up to their own consciences and opposing my girl's sweet love, and outlawing our marriage in the Church.

I wish that dissenting priests - all the signatories of the various well-publicised letters - would live up to THEIR consciences. Yes, there could be a cost. But what a counter-message it would send out, if 100 churches networked, resisted, defied oppression, defied even 'the law', and said: "THIS is what half the Church actually believes. And we agree with the British public. Lock us up if you dare."

This is not Uganda.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 7:54pm GMT

"Can anybody explain to me how this works? How it's ok for laity but not clergy? I can understand the 'exemplar' role of clergy: but if exemplary behaviour is not to be in a SS relationship- presumably because that is wrong or against church teaching- why does it cease to be wrong or contrary to teaching when laity do it? Who would have though puritans could so wholeheartedly embrace clericalism. If it's wrong, it's wrong for lay and ordained: if it's right for laity, it's right for clergy."

The bishops believe same sex relationships are wrong for everyone. The only difference between lay and ordained is that the bishops have no way of disciplining lay people in the modern church, short of excommunication and the Church of England cannot afford to excommunicate anyone while it is so preoccupied with falling numbers.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 27 January 2017 at 8:08pm GMT

There is no mention whatsoever of the possibility of 'Unity in Diversity', allowing different church communities to exercise conscience at a local level on issues of human sexuality.

What we have instead is from the same 'song book' as the voted-down Anglican Covenant and the Primates' threats of consequences for those who breach uniformity: namely, top-down authoritarianism, demanding uniformity where - in reality - there is NO uniformity of belief. It is the project to IMPOSE one group's conscience on the consciences of another group. As the report says: they seek to "maintain an unambiguous position on doctrine in this matter".

But that is unrealistic, and fails to reflect the reality on the ground: that at least half the Church membership have no objection to lesbian and gay sexual relationships, from which it follows that many don't object to gay or lesbian marriage either.

Trying to impose, top-down, an "unambiguous" uniformity is dishonest, because it denies the consciences of half the Church of England, and ignores the reality of faithful differences of opinion in the lives and ministries of Church members.

Why hasn't the issue of "Unity in Diversity" - affirming our unity in Jesus, while holding diverse views - not been mentioned or discussed in this report.

It is entirely conceivable that God is prompting the Church of England to see past the "Who is right?" question, to the challenge to "Love One Another" even in our diversities of conscience.

This whole top-down authoritarianism comes across as terribly clerical, and frankly rather masculine, in its approach. "One side has to be right" seems to be the obsession. Whereas, arguably, both sides can be right in their intent to love and serve God, and above all in their commitment to love, and follow the greatest command.

In short, why do the bishops repeatedly try to impose uniformity? What is wrong with a Church that holds diverse views and pursues diverse expressions of faith?

One other point: if canon law prohibits priests from holding affirming services for gay and lesbian couples who've got married... try stopping lay people presiding over such services... try locking them out of their own churches... or better still, build a network of dissenting priests (so that individuals can't be picked off alone) to just go ahead and do the right thing and use their own liturgies anyway.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 12:41am GMT

Although the Church is exempt from FOIA I hope that someone in Synod asks the authorities how much has been spent (dissipated?) on Shared Conversations.

A lot of time and resource has presumably been expended on an 'exchange' that has yielded practically nothing, absent a few of the customary bromides which we have heard many times before.

It it hard to resist the conclusion that the whole exercise was a species of window dressing. Yet it seems obvious from the communiques that have been released that the bishops were always going to come to this conclusion. So the exercise will only have ended up satisfying one party (conservative evangelicals) by humiliating another (liberals). By such means the bench seems determined to undermine its own authority by engendering the contempt of a large body of opinion in the Church and encouraging the belief that the bench are not merely cynical but incompetently cynical.

Why did they even bother issuing any statement?

Oh, I know. It is because financially desperate dioceses know they cannot afford to alienate the relatively few successful parishes - usually evangelical - that prevent diocesan finances from floundering. This is yet another reason why the Commissioners need to increase their subventions, so as to liberate the dioceses from this sort of moral blackmail.

I am not merely irritated by the outcome of this sort of exercise, but the waste associated with it. If they want to waste money they could at least do so to some more useful purpose.

Posted by: Froghole on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 1:23am GMT

Matthew 23:1-7.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 1:30am GMT

More English fudge from the bishops. Since this is a political process first and foremost, it was always gonna be served up.

Susannah points the way forward: push through change via direct action on the ground, as TEC did, first in ordaining women, then in combating homophobia. Cowed by the demands of the majority of provinces, and by the implacable force of the majority of CoE evangelicals, England's bishops are never gonna move until they're forced.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 6:38am GMT

Fr Andrew,
I can assure you Reform will not be happy with this statement. It goes way too far for conservatives, nowhere near far enough for liberals. From a conservative view, the Bishop of Norwich's statement that this is "somewhere in the middle" of a process is deeply worrying. As others have said it's typical Anglican fudge, appeasing conservatives by holding the line on marriage, and appeasing liberals on everything else. I guess they hope that if everyone is equally unhappy then the creaking ship holds together for a bit longer.

Posted by: NJ on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 9:33am GMT

The timing of this report with the announcement of the Kenneth Leach conference is very instructive. Here's something Leech said that has a bit of a prescient flavour.

"Only...on the matter of homosexuality is a sharp moral division made between being and doing. What we seem to be saying is that God has created a community of people whose psychosexual identities are such that they can have no physical outward manifestation, a community for whom orientation and practice last for ever remain divided. The tragic feature of this approach is that, while promiscuous and irresponsible relationships can always be forgiven, and so ‘pastoral care of the homosexual’ can be sustained as a Christian norm, the real victims are those people in stable, loving, and responsible lesbian and gay relationships, people who feel no need of repentance. These are the people for whom the church has nothing of positive value to say: they remain ‘intrinsically disordered’, the condition one of ‘symbolic confusion’. Surely Christian spirituality can offer more hopeful path to perfection."

Posted by: Kieran Crichton on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 10:42am GMT

"push through change via direct action on the ground" -- what exactly does this look like, given the major polity differences between TEC and the CoE?

1. One conducts a marriage, using a rite that has been drawn up by the officiant? What status would it have as a CofE marriage?
2. I find it impossible to believe the Bishops haven't considered this already and know how they will respond.
3. If the answer to question one is, "who cares if it isn't a CofE marriage, We will go ahead regardless" is the downside that one would be disciplined and/or the 'marriage' would simply display the difference between the CofE and independent 'marriages'? Is this desired?

Obviously ss couples can already be married civilly in the UK. They can be married in a religious ceremony throughout the UK, but not in England in the CofE. So if a 'marriage' is conducted in the context of CofE clergy and parishes, and it isn't a CofE Christian Marriage, what has been accomplished?

I ask because I wonder what this would look like on the ground, given that the CofE is not TEC.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 11:32am GMT

Pete Broadbent: "The report will then be the subject of a 'take note' debate. Such a debate is a neutral motion."

However, I do have to question the 'neutrality' of the Bishops' Working Group that has resulted in this report.

There were no LGBT members of the Working Group. This was a group of heterosexual bishops deciding that only heterosexual sex was legitimate. That's not neutral.

Furthermore, the bishops involved are on record as repudiating gay sex. Pete himself, for example: "I have reservations about it (gay marriage) because I don't think that's what we find revealed in scripture." [5th Feb 2012]

Pete was also a signatory in the letter protesting the appointment of Jeffrey John because he "teaches a revisionist position on homosexuality in the Church". So it would seem that free speech and dissent within the Church is not to be accommodated. Again, not 'neutral'.

With opinions like those, it comes as little surprise that the concept of 'unity in diversity' (and accommodation of divergent consciences that clearly exist within the Church) was not mentioned at all in the report.

He seemed to confirm his opposition to accommodating diverse views and consciences in the Church, when he wrote in September 2015: "I'm not convinced that 'good disagreement' is a place to end up in."

Pete may indeed be right to suggest that the Synod can treat the Bishops' Report with neutrality, but I find it hard to agree that 'neutrality' has been part of the process of producing and delivering this report. The tone of the report is not neutral.

And as the Bishops assure us, tone is very important.

A working group from which LGBT people themselves were excluded... 'talked about' but locked out... is by very nature patronising in tone and liable to be slanted and biased in its findings.

Yet half the members of the Church of England accept and affirm gay and lesbian sexuality, just as the people of England generally do, and the law, and the health service, and the wide community that the Established Church is supposed to serve and include.

There is nothing neutral when the views of half the Church and most of the country get repudiated, and it is advocated that conservative conscience should be imposed upon everyone else's consciences.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 12:38pm GMT

"The same choices should not be open to ordained ministers"

In this quincentennial year of celebration, we might wonder what Luther would have said. The Church of England's doctrine is clearly expressed in article 32 of the 39.

"it is lawful for them (bishops, priests and deacons), as for all other Christian men to marry at their own discretion".

Doesn't an Article trumps a canon as a source of doctrine?


Posted by: T Pott on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 12:53pm GMT

Once again the English Bishops produce an exercise in "alternative facts" : "The House of Bishops believes that the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, which it holds in common with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and the majority of the churches of the Reformation, should continue to be expressed in the terms found in Canon B30, namely that “the Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is a union permanent and life-long, of one man with one woman…”

This fails to recognize that this is a shared understanding of all of the listed church bodies only in the "laws of Animal Farm" sense of utter minimalism. The Roman and Eastern churches require a good bit more; and some -- including the C of E -- hardly hold to this themselves, in recognizing second marriages after widowhood or in divorce. As the legendary bishop said when asked if he believed in infant baptism, "Believe it? Why, man, I've SEEN it!" Does the Church of England's H of B not believe the many other couples whose second or third marriages have been blessed or recognized actually to be married? Or not?

Stop pretending to share a common doctrine when you don't. It reveals confusion if not dishonesty.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 3:44pm GMT

If events in the wider world have shown nothing in the past eight days, it's that, while there are many conservatives who will defend their point of view with humility and in peace, there is another kind of conservative who will stop at nothing to impose their will, misusing instruments of polity as means of duress.

And:

Making an idol of one's orthodoxy is as much a heresy as any, and more deadly than most.

Posted by: ExRevd on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 4:38pm GMT

"Same-sex attraction" would appear to indicate attraction to "a sex" and, speaking for myself, I am attracted to a specific person. In fact I've been so attracted for over 36 years. I do not think I am the only person to find this phrase terribly reductionist and inhumane. Are couples currently married under the Church of England rules to be considered "mixed-sex attracted" as a definition of their relationship?

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 7:19pm GMT

"In this quincentennial year of celebration, we might wonder what Luther would have said. The Church of England's doctrine is clearly expressed in article 32 of the 39."

Giles Fraser wrote about that a couple of years ago if you are interested:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/mar/11/gay-clergy-marriage-anglican-communion

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 9:38pm GMT

When I was at university the first time, I knew a guy (Chemistry PhD student) whose hobby was the collecting of bus timetables. He knew a thing or two about buses, and a lot about timetables. Sweet man, with a charming wife. We lost touch, but I remember him with a great deal of affection.

It would appear that the bishops of the Church of England have taken up the same hobby. My friend simply had an interest in service patterns and the typography and formatting of routes. But Pete Broadbent and his merry crew have an interest for quite another reason: by locating buses which run frequently, they can find the best places to throw gay people under them without having to wait too long at the stop.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 28 January 2017 at 11:37pm GMT

You're right, Susannah, this isn't neutral.

I'd hope that, at the least, Pete Broadbent has offered a personal apology to Jeffrey John for his conduct in 2003, which, given that Broadbent fought for gay rights in the '80s, I remain baffled by.

This is absolutely about imposing conservative conscience on everyone else. If traditionalists expect tolerance for themselves, they must start showing it to others.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 1:27am GMT

"Stop pretending to share a common doctrine when you don't."

The difference in the marriage rites of the churches mentioned is virtually non-existent.

Most liberals get that.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 7:54am GMT

"Are couples currently married under the Church of England rules to be considered "mixed-sex attracted" as a definition of their relationship?"

You're missing the vital point that heterosexual relationships are monogomous, faithful and long lived (as witnessed by the rarity of divorce in our society) while same-sex relationships are transient, promiscuous and sordid. Or at least, that's what the bishops appear to believe.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 1:36pm GMT

Thank you, Tobias, for picking up on the offensive language "same sex attracted." It is dehumanizing. It smacks of sophistry. It doesn't recognize actual relationships.

Typically, it is best to use the language that people use for themselves, LGBTQI.

The Crown Nominations Committee seems quite virtuosic at selecting leaders who are heartless and/or spineless, and lack a moral compass that points to the vulnerable. Losers. Worse bishops, ever. Build that wall between God and gays...

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 5:45pm GMT

The Roman Catholic Church in particular has some very specific doctrines (and disciplines) about marriage, quite different to those in the Anglican Communion. The same is true of the Eastern Orthodox. That these doctrines may not be stated as part of the rites is neither here nor there, as the rite will not be celebrated if the couple do not meet the standards set forth in the doctrines.

I should have thought that most conservatives would know that.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 8:22pm GMT

Cynthia's right about the caliber of English bishops, yet another reminder of the urgent need for England to abolish the CNC and elect her bishops, as other provinces do. Not one of the English bishops has a mandate, and it shows.

Due to the Communion-wide consequences of the mother church's position, this isn't simply an English concern.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 12:24am GMT

The Bishop of Norwich seems to have a strong and keen interest to remain in solidarity with the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and the majority of the Churches of the Reformation when it comes to marriage discipline. I don't recall a similar interest to remain in solidarity with the two great Churches of East and West when it came to the question of gender and who is eligible to be ordained into the historic three fold Orders of Ministry. Why this difference in approach to these two highly significant issues?

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 5:47am GMT

Sophistry. When Anglicans Mr. And Mrs. Smith become Roman Catholics or Orthodox they don’t get remarried any more than they would be re-baptized. That is what is being said here. A ‘marriage’ of Mr. and Mr. Smith has no standing in these churches. And it has no standing as Holy Matrimony in the Church of England. The Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and Church of England have the same understanding of marriage as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. They may have different ways of thinking about the character of the union and its dissolubility etc., but in the context under discussion—‘marriage’ between two men or two women—that is irrelevant. The Church of England, Orthodox and Roman Catholics do not have an understanding of marriage that includes members of the same sex.

I think liberals and conservatives concerned about the actual issue under discussion get that.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 6:37am GMT

Dr. Seitz, my comments are not addressed to the obvious fact that many of the churches listed do not allow marriage between persons of the same sex; although perhaps most of the "churches of the Reformation" with which member churches of the Anglican Communion have communion relationships do so.

I was careful to note in my original comment that the issue of the purported uniformity of doctrine on marriage doesn't go beyond the minimalism of "a man and a woman, for life." (With the allowance of marriage after divorce most Anglican churches no longer actually hold to the latter part of the formula in the same way as do the Romans.) You seem to see this as a trivial difference. The Roman Church regards it as an "essential" element of marriage, as they do "openness to fertility." (CCC 1664)

The "issue under discussion" is not simply "same-sex marriage" but an argument based on some sort of uniformity of doctrine. My challenge is to the depth of that uniformity.

By the way, concerning rebaptism, some Orthodox have insisted or still do insist on rebaptism if they think one's original baptism was defective as to form (triple immersion) or intent.

As to doctrine of marriage expressed in liturgy, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes the differing theologies underlying the Eastern and Latin rites concerning the minister of the sacrament. (CCC 1623) Of course, Anglicans don't regard matrimony as a sacrament ordained by Christ -- another significant doctrinal difference.

You feel it right to dismiss all of these doctrinal differences, but when the argument is based on a supposed uniformity of doctrine it rather causes it to lose its force. Better to say, Here we stand. Whether anyone else stands in the same place is irrelevant.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 3:10pm GMT

"The "issue under discussion" is not simply "same-sex marriage""

I think this is where liberals quite rightly disagree with you. And I suspect you know that.

The issue under discussion is indeed "same sex marriage." Patently.

Your interest in explaining putative differences amongst various churches who otherwise agree on this topic, now under discussion, is sophistry. I don't know why you think anyone is interested in rebaptism for converts to Orthodoxy -- a practice that is extremely rare there and unknown amongst RCs -- but you can spar away on this coal face as you wish. How this addresses same sex marriage I haven't a clue!

blessings


Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 5:41pm GMT

I see that the Church of Norway has approved a liturgy for same-sex marriage today.

Oh, and the Church of England is in full communion with the C o N through Porvoo (unlike of courser status as out of communion with the Romans and Orthodox so precious to conservatives when it suit them, 39 articles notwithstanding).

I wonder why our archbishops are not calling for an emergency Porvoo meeting so Norway can reap the 'consequences' of its action? Or why conservatives are not calling for us to leave the Porvoo Communion?

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Monday, 30 January 2017 at 6:59pm GMT

"How this addresses same sex marriage I haven't a clue!"

Christopher, Tobias is showing dramatic inconsistency when Anglicans use RC's and the Orthodox to support homophobic exclusion (not the words Tobias would use) but are inconsistent in other major areas. After all, Baptism is a sacrament of the church.

Anglicanism is not consistent with them in divorce and re-marriage, either. So using the "church universal" only against gays is not really intellectually honest.

I, for one, have had it with CoE bishops. Since a friends gay, teen nephew committed suicide after being raped and trafficked by a neighbor (in a religious conservative area), and the Pulse shooting, I'm done with religious figures who are feeding the beast of exclusion instead of healing the wounds of hate.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 4:14pm GMT

"I, for one, have had it with CoE bishops."

That makes sense to me. Of course you do.

Cof E Bishops and Anglican Bishops and Provinces which declare common cause with other Christian bodies as stated, who have the same ground assumptions about what constitutes a Christian marriage, are on the same page.

"After all, Baptism is a sacrament of the church."

That is of course correct (unless wants to folow the logic of T Haller as stated above re: Orthodoxy).

'Marrying' members of the same sex would move the CofE, Roman Catholics and Orthodox outside of shared assumptions about sacraments tout court, whatever else they may believe divides them.

"Dramatic inconsistency"? Not all, unless one is wanting to be dramatic, as you are!

"I'm done with religious figures who are feeding the beast of exclusion instead of healing the wounds of hate" -- that makes sense to me from how you describe yourself.

Being "done with religious figures who are feeding the beast of exclusion," what will you now do? You may be in a position to help others understand this route.

God bless.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 6:39pm GMT

A good example of anglican evangelical and Roman Catholic convergence re: marriage. Just out.

http://www.eauk.org/church/tag/upload/Evangelical-Alliance-Reformation-Anniversary-Statement.pdf

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 5:11pm GMT

I think Christopher, that since the majority of CoE members support LGBT inclusion, that it's the CoE bishops who need to change.

Given that the REAL Anglican Communion is composed of the folks who showed up in Lusaka, the primates are the ones that need a different tone.

"I've had it" means I've had it with dreadful theology that lifts up the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable. So the right thing for Anglicans to do is to Witness to the Christ of the vulnerable people and ignore the leadership until they get a clue, grow a heart or a spine, or move on.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 3:47am GMT
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