Saturday, 24 June 2017

Next Steps on Human Sexuality - 1

On Saturday morning at York, the General Synod will have a “Presentation from the House of Bishops on the Proposals for the Pastoral Advisory Group on Human Sexuality and the development of the Teaching Document.”

Note that this is not a debate, but a Presentation followed by a Question and Answer session. The relevant background document is GS Misc 1158 Next Steps on Human Sexuality. One hour has been allocated for this item.

The Proposals for the Pastoral Advisory Group (note the title change from Pastoral Oversight group) are quite brief, and are copied in full below the fold. About this aspect, para 3 of GS Misc 1158 says:

..in our letter of 16th February we committed ourselves, and the whole House of Bishops, to two actions. The first of these was the creation of a group, chaired by the Bishop of Newcastle, to advise dioceses on pastoral issues concerning human sexuality so that we can make explicit our commitment to show the love of Christ to all people, regardless of sexual or gender identity. Good progress has been made in establishing the new Pastoral Advisory Group, as reported below, which is now embarking on its work.

All the rest of the document is concerned with the development of the Teaching Document, and that will be covered here in a separate article, to follow shortly. This will enable discussion in the Comments below to focus specifically on the Pastoral Advisory group proposal.

Pastoral Advisory Group

1. As Archbishops we will be establishing a Pastoral Oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, with the task of supporting and advising Dioceses on pastoral actions with regard to our current pastoral approach to human sexuality. The group will be inclusive, and will seek to discern the development of pastoral practices, within current arrangements.

Archbishops’ letter, February 16th 2017

Aim
2. Supporting and advising Dioceses on pastoral actions, i.e. engagement, inclusion, and pastoral care, with regard to the current pastoral approach of the Church to human sexuality, with a particular (but not exclusive) focus on same-sex couples.

Responsibilities
3. Reviewing, and as needed revising, advice provided by the House of Bishops on pastoral ministry to same-sex couples in Church of England congregations, such ministry being understood to include prayer offered by clergy and licensed lay minsters.

4. Offering advice when requested to bishops regarding specific cases they are dealing with in the areas of both pastoral care and discipline involving clergy in same-sex relationships, and clergy responding to lay people in same-sex relationships, to assist the sharing of knowledge and an appropriate level of national consistency in approach.

5. Supporting the Church of England’s communication of its approach to this area in the media and in other public fora.

6. Exploring together, and hearing from others, what radical Christian Inclusion, ‘founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it.’ [From the Archbishops’ Letter, 16th February 2017] means in the life and mission of the Church: sharing and disseminating examples of good practice in terms of pastoral care of and engagement with those who identify as LGBTI.

Key tasks
7. To bring draft advice on pastoral ministry to same-sex couples in Church of England congregations for initial consideration by the House of Bishops, having reflected on how pastoral practices might develop within current teaching.

8. To review the advice provided in due course in the light of the emerging teaching document.

Way of working
9. Requests from other bishops for advice on named cases with regard to area of responsibility (2) above will need to be dealt with as reserved business by the bishops within the group. The bishops will however report to other group members that such reserved business has been discussed and will review with them any general issues arising from the review of particular cases.

Time scale
10.The advice on pastoral ministry to same-sex couples will need to be undertaken in careful liaison with work on the teaching document (as set out below). It is therefore difficult to give a precise timescale for the groups work.

11.Members will be appointed initially to serve on the group until the end of 2019.

Membership

Chair: The Bishop of Newcastle, The Rt Revd Christine Hardman

Other Episcopal Members: The Bishop of Willesden, The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent
The Bishop of Grantham, The Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain
The Bishop of Exeter, The Rt Revd Robert Atwell
The Bishop of Repton, The Rt Revd Jan McFarlane

Members: The Revd Sam Allberry
Dr Jamie Harrison
The Ven Cherry Vann
The Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett

Staff support: The Revd Dr Malcolm Brown
The Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen
The Legal Office.

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Comments

Yes, well as half the Church affirms lesbian and gay sex, in contrast to "current arrangements" and "the current pastoral approach of the Church to human sexuality" - and the current approach was what was basically "not taken note of" at the last Synod - pastoral advice (or is that enforcement?) based on these current principles is arguably problematic.

There still seems to be a Justinian instinct for enforcing uniformity with a "national consistency of approach". The Anglican Covenant, the Pastoral Letter, the Primates' Statement. Uniformity and control.

The key issue is deferred in this announcement: how you resolve the impasse between diverse consciences on sexuality, in such a way that diverse views can be held, and LGBT relationships be recognised as equally valid and precious, at least in those churches where the views of one half of the Church believe - in all good conscience - the full goodness of LGBT lives and sex and relationships should be celebrated and affirmed.

Whatever is meant by the Teaching Document, as it evolves, if it cannot resolve this impasse and respect the conscientious support for gay sex and relationships, it will just be more of the same.

Toleration at best... purportedly 'radical inclusion' but not radical affirmation... and that simply won't do.

When does the domination of conscience, the insistence of uniformity in a church of diverse consciences, finally end? When do we move on? What pastoral advice do you offer, when your own group are the ones holding back the freedom to love your partner, to have tender sex with your partner, to marry your partner, and to flourish?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 24 June 2017 at 11:48pm BST

Y'know, this group's work could be done in under a week.

Step 1: read the Osborne Report

Step 2: discuss the Osborne Report

Step 3: Propose the Osborne Report for endorsement as the new Teaching Document

Posted by: Victoriana on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 5:15am BST

As "pastoral ministry to same-sex couples" is not what is desired -- this is marriage in the CofE -- and since the archbishops likely know this, and the Group itself, one wonders what this trajectory amounts to?

Another way to put it, what percentage of LGBTQI people look forward to what the Group appears to be contemplating? There are probably couples in this grouping that do not want marriage in the CofE, but one does not hear much from them at a site like this; or in general.

Posted by: crs on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 7:45am BST

"...one wonders what this trajectory amounts to?"

Christopher: if you have been following this matter for some time (as I'm sure you have) I'm not quite sure why this question is needed. The trajectory is about finding a way for opposing views within the Church of England to both find a home. The bishops thought they had found a solution at the February synod, but synod refused to take note of their document. For many of us there was no surprise about that and some of us urged some of the bishops to withdraw the document before it ever got to the debate.

The trajectory of these 'next steps' is just another shot at the same goal. Some churches, like Jesmond, will continue to make up their own rules about what it means to 'belong'. Other churches will continue welcoming LGBTQi members and blessing and honouring their relationships. Some will continue to believe this considerable tension can be resolved. Others will walk away. 99% and more of the population of the country will simply get on with their varied and colourful lives while the church ignores them and they ignore the church. That's the trajectory isn't it?

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 9:45am BST

The aim of this document is far too narrow. The bishops do need to understand that they need to take a broader approach and would do well to read the document of questions from LGBTI Mission and take more of those issues on board.

In this document, the Bishops seem to be repeating some of the mistakes from February's GS2055. What might be helpful is if they invited Tina Beardsley and Jayne Ozanne to join the group.

Posted by: Ann Reddecliffe on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 10:45am BST

The composition of the Pastoral Advisory Group is interesting. From Who's Who and the internet, I have come up with this:

Chair: Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman. Age 65, married 46 years.

Suffragan Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent. Age 64, married 43 years.

Suffragan Bishop of Grantham, Dr Nicholas Chamberlain. Age 53, in celibate same sex relationship.

Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell. Age 62, unmarried, former monk.

Bishop of Repton, Jan McFarlane. Age 52, married 13 years. Graduate in Medical Science.

Rev Sam Allberry. Age not known to me. Celibate, reported in 2017 as saying “I now feel I'm being bullied at Synod for being same-sex attracted and faithful to the teaching of Jesus on marriage."

Dr Jamie Harrison. Age not known to me, married 40 years. Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Research Fellow in Healthcare and Religion at St John's College, Durham University, Chair of the House of Laity, General Synod.

Ven Cherry Vann. Age 58, unmarried.

Rev Dr Rosemarie Mallett. Age about 57, self describes as “Single Mum” on Twitter.

Posted by: badman on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 11:15am BST

"That's the trajectory isn't it?"

It warms my heart to know that someone understands what this is about.

In your own case, it doesn't sound like theology but polity; maybe that is a good idea, but I wouldn't have thought it the remit for a Group with this title.

If I understand you, what is being sought is a polity solution that enables everyone to have what they want, by means of varieagation: "The trajectory is about finding a way for opposing views within the Church of England to both find a home."

I wonder, if this is indeed the remit, the Group needs canon lawyers en toto and not any other category of help.

Posted by: crs on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 4:20pm BST

"it doesn't sound like theology but polity".....
Christopher: it's both, surely. There are different theologies within the same church. That's been true of the Church of England since its foundation. Why would this subject be any different?

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at 10:27pm BST

Mr G. You seem very confident about what this Group will do, viz., work-arounds via geography. It does not sound like that is their remit, but rather "pastoral ministry to same sex couples."

My point was not complicated. I believe you can follow it. This does not sound like something being requested: same sex marriage.

Posted by: crs on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 6:02am BST

Christopher: I have no idea what 'work-arounds via geography' means so perhaps you could kindly explain that.

I think the remit of the group is very clear from the aims, responsibility and key tasks of the group. You asked about trajectory. That's a different matter and I offered an opinion.

Pastoral practice for the Church of England has always involved theology and polity. I see no reason why it would be different in this case.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 7:37am BST

I am deeply disappointed by this group's remit and membership.

It shows that yet again the House of Bishops have failed to hear what they've supposedly been listening to.

The greatest pastoral need in our church at the moment is to stop abuse - and in this case it is the abuse of LGBTI Christians in churches who take abusive action against them.

A prime example is set out in the 'EA Affirmations', which many evangelical churches have adopted. This leads to many LGBTI Christians who find the courage to come out in their home church find themselves being asked to stand down from any form of leadership position (including even doing the prayers or reading) or being asked to leave. Others have found that letters have been written to neighbouring church leaders 'warning them' of said individual.

This is abuse.

Not one member of the Pastoral Oversight Group has any direct experience of this - although there are several members on Synod who do (and I am not thinking of myself).

This is deeply concerning, as it shows bishops might well be 'listening' but they are not 'hearing'' or taking onboard the testimonies of survivors of abuse.

Sound familiar?

Posted by: Jayne Ozanne on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 8:18am BST

Here's the link to the EA Affirmations mentioned above.
The last two are the most relevant.

http://www.eauk.org/church/resources/theological-articles/resources-for-church-leaders-biblical-and-pastoral-responses-to-homosexuality.cfm

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 9:20am BST

In response to Dr Seitz.

The issue of marriage is by no means the only concern. Might I suggest you review the LGBTI Mission Statement which lists out a whole range of other issues which it would, in my opinion, be appropriate for the Pastoral Advisory Group to consider and, in due course, take action upon.

https://lgbtimissiondotorgdotuk.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/lgbti-mission-final1.pdf

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 9:23am BST

Thank you Mr Sarmiento, my point was simply that the LGBTQI concern is for marriage. Marriage.

I was pointing out that the materials we are reading speak of "pastoral ministry to same-sex couples," not marriage. My further point was that I have never seen any significant portion of said grouping focus on "pastoral ministry" as a desideratum.

Have a good day.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 11:24am BST

To have any credibility this group needs a much lower average age. It also needs more than token representation of gay people who are not "celibate". And of those who have contracted same sex marriages.

it needs to be said loud and clear that unless it has that kind of membership, its work is pretty much a waste of time from the getgo. Or would be in any other walk of life. But, I forgot, this is the church.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Monday, 26 June 2017 at 6:56pm BST

There is one glaring absence on this panel. There is NO INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL THEOLOGIAN from a recognised academic institution. Bernard Silverman is quite right about average age and range of life experience. But, for heaven's sake, when is the message going to finally sink in at Lambeth and Bishopthorpe? You cannot produce a credible report, outlining a Christian/Anglican response to the issues under discussion, and treat the necessary theological rooting as some kind of second-level bolt-on.

Posted by: Simon R on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 8:06am BST

I totally agree. And given the highly contentious nature of this issue, maybe more than one.

Posted by: Bernard on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 8:20am BST

Bernard Silverman is quite right. And Jayne Ozanne should be included.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 12:18pm BST

Simon R, If Oliver O'Donovan FBA (Edinburgh; former Regius Oxford) or Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford NT Chair) were on this committee, they would be your category: INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL THEOLOGIAN. But they would not professionally, theologically, independently hold the views you are looking for. So maybe it would be more accurate to speak of an advocate for your views who in addition holds an academic post.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 1:05pm BST

Simon R and Dr Seitz

I assume that both these comments relate to the Pastoral Advisory Group and not to the Episcopal Teaching Document Group. If that is not the case, then really they should have appeared on the thread attached to the next TA article, not here.

The whole point here is that the two groups are complementary, and there is little point in duplicating membership between them. I am sure that ETDG will be chock full of professionals of various kinds, including theologians.

This PAG is specifically intended to deal with practical considerations.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 1:28pm BST

"[Oliver O'Donovan and Markus Bockmeuhl] would not professionally, theologically, independently hold the views [I am] looking for" claims @crs. How does s/he know? Where have I stated either my view or a preferred outcome?

This is why we need professional theologians in the room, precisely because too many conclusions on this question are being reached on the basis of guesswork, hearsay and second-level evidence.

I may believe that Welby's phobia of theologians is eroding the Church's capacity to contribute positively and distinctively to public discourse. But that is quite different from prejudging the outcome of this process.

Posted by: Simon R on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 3:03pm BST

Simon R, then by all means call on professional theologians as mentioned by name. Objectivity is much to be desired.

Sadly, however, this requires agreement about the character of authority and the way one reaches wise decisions. This is lacking in our late modern period.

Those of us who write books, direct PhDs, have inhabited academic environments for the course of our professional lives have had to accept for some time the character of the politicisation of ideas and scholarship.

kind regards.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 5:38pm BST

At the risk of appearing curmudgeonly, I repeat my comment that if you are discussing the Teaching document, as I think you must be, then this thread is the wrong place.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 6:08pm BST

Can someone explain to me how a professional theologian can be 'objective'? Since all theology is a matter of opinion, as opposed to verifiable fact, one man's theological 'fact' is another man's subjective opinion.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 6:52pm BST

Re: Father David, "objectivity" you might take a look at, Lonergan and Historiography by Thomas J McPartland (University of Missouri Press, 2010).

See especially pages 21 and following and McPartland's discussion there of objectivity, not as a "correct look" at what is "out there" but as fidelity to the pure desire to know. The discussion also includes what McPartland describes as a consideration of "...objectivity as the fruit of authentic subjectivity, the quality of one's attention, insight, discrimination, judgement with moral objectivity as fidelity of intention to the good...."

One could also harken back to Lonergan's work in Inisght, Chapter XIII, The Notion of Objectivity, which ends, "Only on the supposition that inquiry and reflection, intelligence, and reasonableness have nothing to do with objectivity is our notion invalidated. But in that case, there does not arise the question,What is objectivity? "

Objectivity is as important as it is difficult in considering pastoral strategies, and best pastoral practice, because one is striving, hopefully,to borrow from McPartland's turn of phrase , fidelity to the intention of the good. And where would authentic subjectivity be more difficult as an existential issue than in the inter-personal specialized field of pastoral care?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 27 June 2017 at 11:14pm BST

"Those of us who write books, direct PhDs, have inhabited academic environments for the course of our professional lives have had to accept for some time the character of the politicisation of ideas and scholarship."

How amusing! Christopher are you somehow suggesting that organisations like the Anglican Communion Institute, and those who 'staff' and write for it have not contributed to the politicisation that you seem to deride?

Who would you propose as an 'objective' scholar in the area of pastoral theology who might address the aims and purposes of this distinct group?

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 7:50am BST

@Simon Sarmiento, I'm not thinking about the Teaching Document, I am clearly thinking of the Pastoral Advisory Group. I thought we had fully critiqued the 1960s dysfunction, where it was believed that pastoral care could be 'value free.' Elaine Graham here in Britain (and people like William Willimon in the States) have made the compelling case for making the theological dimension central. The C of E's central bureaucracy - and the Archbishops, perhaps - need to come up to speed.

Posted by: Simon R on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 7:53am BST

Thank you Mr Gillis for pointing me in that direction. I fear that if such an attempt were made to establish an authentic subjectivity, it would still fail to convince those who believe God's Word Written to be 'objective' and who will condemn anyone who claims otherwise.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 9:23am BST

Re Fr. David, "...it would still fail to convince those who believe God's Word Written to be 'objective' and who will condemn anyone who claims otherwise." I would concur with that observation as a description the parameters of our situation. Yet one still has to look for ways to move beyond the impasse. Lonergan and contemporary scholars contend that our various traditions are inherited but conflict with one another, a situation which gives rise to the need for a methodical approach to resolution. It is a very long game.

With regard to the pastoral advisory group and pastoral strategy, it has other failings from a Lonerganian point of view. It is not inter-disciplinary enough nor is it sufficiently collaborative given the observations made above by badman, Jayne Ozanne, and Simon R.

The ABC is a practitioner of corporate politics where the goal is to stay in control of the agenda and in charge of the conversation. These goals, which are odds with theological investigation, determine one's recruitment strategy. Ossified dogmatism, which is at odds with authentic subjectivity, is lurking--and not just in the shadows.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 1:39pm BST

Mr Godsall

You struggle with reading comprehension! You could try again.

1 We have someone asking for objectivity and academic credentials
2 Another saying theologians are by definition opinion mongers
3 Another promoting Lonergan's species of objectivity
4 A response from #2 saying there are however competing objectivities, so #3 can't shake his concerns

And into this brew you wade in with a footnote off the subject!

I am a professional academic who has had tenure at major international universities and was speaking of the character of those places for the past 35 years. Compare Julius Wellhausen's scientism (and the generation that followed him with high seriousness with a typical reader-response late modern) and it is a sea-change -- all within a century.

Have a good day.

Posted by: crs on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 1:47pm BST

Simon R
I apologise for failing to grasp that you were really talking about the Pastoral Advisory Group. Do please therefore continue to make your argument on this thread.

But I remain unconvinced of your argument, in this particular case. The two groups that the archbishops have now established are clearly intended to work in close connection, and there are scarcely enough theologians in the CofE as it is to contemplate competing teams thereof.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 4:51pm BST

Christopher: I'd prefer that you didn't make comments about other people's ability to read and understand when you seem to struggle with answering quite simple questions. So let me put them again.

1. I have no idea what 'work-arounds via geography' means so perhaps you could kindly explain that?

2. are you somehow suggesting that organisations like the Anglican Communion Institute, and those who 'staff' and write for it have not contributed to the politicisation that you seem to deride?

Thank you so much.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 7:35pm BST

To continue with the metaphor of "the brew", one also has to contend with more than a hint of conservative trolling of a GLBTQ freindly website like TA. Strange brew indeed, eh. (My apologies to comedians Bob and Doug McKenzie).

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 9:03pm BST

This post seems to have descended to a series of ad hominem remarks which are scarcely helpful. They also seem to involve conservative academics who are understandably concerned about the possibility (probability in my view) of the church changing its doctrine on marriage. The fact is we have done theology to death on this. There is no new 'teaching' to be developed. Call it polity or ecclesiology, that is where the focus needs to be, not binary theological viewpoints. The smarter conservative theologians cloak some of this in the language of pastoral accommodation, which although not going far enough for many, at least demonstrates the need for change and a direction of travel.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 12:26am BST

1 soi disant 'local option'
2 Yes; and irrelevant re: academia and objectivity -- or as they say 'get over it'

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 6:35am BST

Thanks Christopher. But

1. This is no explanation of what you had in mind at all. Please show your workings out.
2. Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 9:02am BST

Since it appears to be accepted, more or less, that some churches are relaxed about remarriage after divorce, and others are not, I find it hard to understand why the same situation can't exist for equal marriage. I know the notion of 'complementarity' will be brought out, but really you can't take that concept seriously.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 9:38am BST

Re Anthony Archer, "The fact is we have done theology to death on this." Oui et non. It depends on what one means by theology, where it has been "done", and who has been "doing" it.

Theology is not the exclsuive domain of theoretical academics nor of church staffers for that matter. One may ask how good a job we have done evaluating the "theology" of the church where it has caused so much pastoral and social damage.

With regard to theological reflection, we have a lot remaining to mine from a theoria and praxis model. Such is especially the case given church's self-imposed exile to an inter-disciplinary wasteland.

Let's face it, the hierarchy of the C of E would appear to see the dilemma in terms of an attempt to be a kinder and gentler established church befitting its current social context while not shaking more than necessary the timbers of the social conservatives in the wider Communion. Hardly a position that allows any meaningful theology to declare victory.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 1:45pm BST

Mr Archer

"They also seem to involve conservative academics who are understandably concerned about the possibility (probability in my view) of the church changing its doctrine on marriage."

What I am often probing about for is how this is intended to be worked out on the ground in the CofE, given what we can observe in TEC, ACoC and SEC, contexts in whuch I have lived and worked.

I do not believe the account of marriage that obtains at present should be altered. Surely no one here would view my position otherwise!

I am not 'concerned' about something happening. The die has been cast in TEC already; it has already happened.

I am trying to understand how the CofE thinks it can muddle its way forward as it appears to wanrt to plot a course different to what has obtained in the provinces mentioned above. Ironically, given disagreements I have with R Gillis on other matters, I believe he has stated the matter very well in his final sentence. I think this is incoherent as a theological project, and so wonder geneuinely who will be fooled or how it can actually work.

D'ailleurs, I am unaware of "conservative academics" inhabiting this site or this debate...I believe I am on my own!

grace and peace

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 3:00pm BST

"that some churches are relaxed about remarriage after divorce, and others are not"

I believe where the analogy comes to grief is that the CofE has an actual teaching/canons governing this matter. There is not 'local option' in the strict sense of dioceses having different canonical views or even parishes. They latter may have predilections and will choose M over Z but still within the bounds of a common set of working assumptions.

The same-sex marriage issue will create more difficult 'single teaching' comparable to the agreement within the CofE at large on marriage and divorce.

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 3:53pm BST

Information about how "local option" in the case of marriage after divorce works in the C of E can be obtained here:

https://www.churchofengland.org/media/1162432/leafletforenquirers.pdf

The decision to officiate is left to the local Vicar. if anything, The Episcopal Church has a less "local" position in that all such cases must be reviewed by the bishop.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 6:37pm BST

CRS shouldn't worry. Some clergy will marry same-sex couples, while others won't. It's the same with divorce and re-marriage. Some will. Some won't. Easy.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 6:43pm BST

I'm grateful to crs for his point about church teaching/canons. But - and I genuinely don't know, having a slightly irregular church background - I have a question. What does it take for a church to change its teaching and its canons, when they are found to be less than adequate?

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 7:20pm BST

Dear FrDavidH, sleep well then, as your happy ending will surely win the day!

No one needs to worry about CofE canons on divorce at all. With same sex marriage all will be what anyone wants to do.

What a great idea and why hasn't anyone come up with this before? So simple.

I have no worries at all. This fight has moved well beyond me. My interest is in following the logic, canons, theology that will have to be deployed.

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 7:25pm BST

Fr Haller, of course once a canon acceptable to all and duly passed is in place, local options are possible.

At issue is not that, but the achievement of the canon as such, finding the necessary plenary consent. This will not be remotely easy in the CofE as it appeared to be in TEC. Surely you do not doubt that? TEC is resolutely progressive and has no conservative wing on this issue to bring under a common canon, as does the CofE.

I am happy to have CofE folk--where I am a PTO holder--tell me otherwise, and that what TEC has done they will effortessly follow. I doubt it. In the Diocese in Europe, there was in Shared Conversations no provision for marriage but only for blessings under discussion, and even that was quite divided pro and con.

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 7:34pm BST

Dr Seitz, I have no doubt that change to the C of E canon law may be more difficult than it was in TEC, in part due to the failure of English leadership to involve those best informed on the subject in the theological and pastoral work required.

My earlier comment was intended to note that the concept of "local option" is not unknown in the Church of England, and that in the case of the marriage of a divorced persons the option is as local as possible, every vicar having the right to decline to officiate, or to approve.

The Episcopal Church's current law and practice on this subject, which holds the approval level at the diocesan, has (at present) parity with marriages for same-sex couples, in that the diocesan bishop has effective veto power in both circumstances (as does the local cleric). That may change at some point down the road.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 9:10pm BST

It is interesting that the Episcopal Church in Scotland has managed to move to making same sex marriage possible. I know it's a tiny church, but it is serious and thoughtful. I was once, a long time ago, a member of it, and back then I would not have imagined that this move could ever happen.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Thursday, 29 June 2017 at 9:40pm BST

"and that in the case of the marriage of a divorced persons the option is as local as possible, every vicar having the right to decline to officiate, or to approve."

That is because the canon was written and passed with a single position on divorce all agreed. After that, what you call "local option" would be enabled.

The analogy would be a BCP regulating worship, but with freedom to use Rite I or II etc locally.

All well and good. But what is needed is the single canon that would allow this kind of local optioning. This is not in place in the CofE.

In TEC, there is a kind of temporary freedom in which dioceses are free to hold to their canons on marriage. This is diocesan "local option." I suspect there are CofE Bishops who also would be reluctant to allow same-sex marriage in their Dioceses. In the Diocese in Europe (CofE) it was not even part of the "shared conversations" which referred only to some form of pastoral care/blessing.

So there is much work to do, unlike in TEC.

Furthermore, one has difficulty believing TEC will continue to allow diocesan canons the scope to protect "local option" at the Bishop/Diocese level. I suspect you agree. This will time out. The ordination process will be affected in turn, with conservatives candidates reduced to peripheral status, or voided altogether. So even "local option" will cease to maintain its life in the present "noblesse oblige" climate.

The SEC had yet a different "local option" model, but of course it is small--7 dioceses--and it does not have the conservative proportion one finds in the CofE.

The questions facing the CofE are many. The happy provision of individual "local option" has to find an accepting conservative "OK" on such individual terms. Will it? Would there be an intermediate diocesan "local option" which people understand will time out? -- not likely acceptable. Etc.

And as R Gillis points out, the archbishop/s have a role in the AC that has no analogy in SEC, ACoC or TEC and which is its own significant factor. TEC, SEC and ACoC can ignore this or minimize it in a way that is not possible for the ABC.

Grace and peace.

Posted by: crs on Friday, 30 June 2017 at 8:22am BST

Dr Seitz, it is good to take the opportunity to agree. The Church of England is in a different position to SEC or TEC for a number of reasons, not least the Establishment as national church.

Unlike the US, where there was no pressure against the proliferation of churches with varying theological positions, and all were free to function -- in England, prior to acts of toleration, the C of E was the only "church" in town. Even after toleration, this means that as a body it perforce contains a range of views that in the US have tended to divide into separate institutional bodies. This naturally means that changes in policy are more difficult to undertake, to keep all on board.

At the same time, it makes finding ways to keep people under the same institutional structure all the more desirable, in the interest of institutional unity. From the Elizabethan Settlement on, efforts have succeeded -- with significant exceptions, as in the Puritan era -- in retaining a breadth of tolerated practice, an effective "local option" that can find All Saints Margaret Street a few minutes' walk from All Souls Langham Palace.

So while it is true that there is much to do in the Church of England with regard to changing the marriage canon -- I am perhaps more sanguine than you as to the possibility of change. I would be very surprised if we see marriage equality in the CofE within five years, but would be equally surprised if it didn't come about within fifty.

Pax et lux.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 30 June 2017 at 2:38pm BST

"I would be very surprised if we see [same sex]marriage in the CofE within five years, but would be equally surprised if it didn't come about within fifty."

Quoting you, "it is good to take the opportunity to agree." On your statement above, yes indeed.

And within fifty years who knows what will have transpired? Soi disant progressives will not wait 1 year leaving aside 50.

amitiés en Christ

Posted by: crs on Friday, 30 June 2017 at 5:54pm BST

crs and Tobias, it is not 'progressive' to want to be married to your partner, in your church community, before God. Much as you are academic kind of guys, it is not an academic crisis. It is a lived out human reality. This is our lives you are talking about.

In 50 years, Tobias, both my partner and I will be dead.

I anticipate marrying in the Church of England, openly and resiliently, within five years. There will be churches that take the 'local' option out of sheer decent conscience, and those churches will grow and grow in number.

Notwithstanding the huge amount of good that so many churches and church communities do at local level, living and working out in the wide world, there isn't even a debate about it. The Church's position on gay and lesbian relationships makes it a toxic brand.

As I think you already recognise, crs, the argument is already over, and equal marriage is coming, and people who won't stomach that will in the end 'do a Gafcon' and move out, but the vast majority of local Anglicans will reflect society, and carry on their local service and care of their neighbours.

Gafcon and its grandstanding is a bubble of people speaking to each other. It undoubtedly has cultural traction in some countries - it has next to none here in the UK.

The Scottish approach is so 'doable' and so reasonable... the 'local' option, based on respect for conscience... that it will percolate through to the Church of England.

And conservative Anglicans in England can then choose to abide together in love - minding their own consciences in a recognised diversity - and get on with serving the people (who overwhelmingly 'get' gay love)... or drift off into a separate sect, or the 'little empire' and quasi-fundamentalism of Gafcon.

Change is not going to wait 50 years, because people love their partners NOW, and their communities love their togetherness and fidelity and friendship. In England, Gafcon are swimming against a rip-tide. They will just get carried further and further out from the social decency and ordinariness of love.

Unity in diversity, and local exercise of conscience, is not only the Scottish way - it's the unfolding future of the C of E.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 1 July 2017 at 10:42am BST

"...it's the unfolding future of the C of E."

Same sex marriage did not form any part of the shared conversations options in the materials I read in the Diocese in Europe, but rather only blessings of various kinds -- which did, in turn, not receive unanimous approval.

So the real question--as indicated in the comments above--is just how this will be an 'unfolding future.'

Fr Haller is a passionate defender of progressive views on LGBT issues, and no "academic kind of guy" as your dismissal is aimed at suggesting. Pretending there are no serious practical issues to be faced is not the opposite of what you label "academic" concern for facts on the ground.

I do not believe in "marriage" between members of the same sex, as is clear. But my comments here are aimed far more at the realities that will have the be faced and how they cannot be neatly lined up with the SEC, TEC or ACoC contexts, in which I have spent time.

Saturday blessings.

Posted by: crs on Saturday, 1 July 2017 at 2:50pm BST

Susannah, thanks for your reflection.

I entirely agree that this is not an academic issue. In what I said, I was reflecting not my wish for, but my assessment of, the time-line. I would be delighted if the Church of England would knuckle down to the theological and pastoral work in an inclusive way — that is, including the insights of those most touched by the question (which is the topic of this thread!) and come to a solution that meets their needs (while respecting the views of those who demur) sooner than five years.

That might still happen, and I hope it does. But I am aware of the unique problems that face the Church of England in changing its course. It took quite a while to come to terms with related issues such as marriage with a deceased wife's sister, birth control, and marriage with someone divorced. That change came on these matters encourages me that change is possible.

Meanwhile, I will do what I can to hasten the movement in England, as I did in America.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 1 July 2017 at 3:29pm BST
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