Monday, 6 November 2017

Same-sex marriage: Parliamentary Questions and Answers

On 26 October, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden):

What recent discussions Church of England bishops have had on allowing parishes to hold ceremonies to celebrate same-sex marriages?

You can read the ensuing answers here. Perhaps the most intriguing answer was the last one:

An important step forward was made by the worldwide Anglican Church in accepting a new doctrine against homophobia, which is part of trying to stamp out such persecution across the wider Anglican communion.

A full transcript of all the questions and answers from that session with the Second Church Estates Commissioner can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 November 2017 at 5:33pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
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"An important step forward was made by the worldwide Anglican Church in accepting a new doctrine against homophobia"

Two howlers here.

First, there is no such thing as a "worldwide Anglican Church." And frankly it is extremely surprising that the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, hasn't figured this out by now.

She should know better. Or perhaps she has simply signed up to the Church of England's propaganda campaign on this subject.

So, once again: The Anglican Communion is a family of independent churches. Nothing more!

With Dame Spelman's incorrect premise out of the way, we can then turn to her notion that the Anglican Communion has a "new doctrine" of any kind.

That is a flat-out lie.

A family of churches does not have one doctrine. Each church has its own.

And obviously the doctrine of the Church of England is still that same-sex marriages do not deserve celebration in Church of England churches.

Which--as the questioners artfully set up--are being maintained at public expense!

So, despite what Dame Spelman says, the doctrine of the Church of England is still homophobic.

And this is the position of Government in the Commons?

What a skein of inaccuracy, falsehood, and hypocrisy.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 6 November 2017 at 7:20pm GMT

There is no such thing as "The Worldwide Anglican Church"

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 6 November 2017 at 7:47pm GMT

And there is no such person as Dame Spelman. Her name is Dame Caroline. No doubt we can all make errors. Sometimes without some nit picker nitpicking.

Posted by: Picky on Monday, 6 November 2017 at 9:20pm GMT

Is there anything more than incompetence here? Though that is no excuse. It reminds me of an inexperienced diocesan comms officer releasing some church news but using theological and ecclesiastical words they do not have any understanding of. But to find it at this level of public discourse is very worrying.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 7:01am GMT

But, our current problems derive, in part, from either the thinking that there is, or desire among some to be, a world wide Anglican church. If we can redeem 'our' thinking, then maybe we might make progress.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 8:58am GMT

David, the thought crossed my mind that these answers might be work of the new director of communications. Who we were told would start in "early November."

But it doesn't seem that Tashi Lassalle has formally started yet. See:
https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/communications-office.aspx

Besides, this "worldwide Anglican Church" is the same line that the CofE, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been trying to feed us for more than a decade. It's as though the CofE thinks that "Communion" is too complex a concept for the public to understand. So they will just say "worldwide Anglican Church" instead. Even though there is no such thing.

Perhaps Ms. Lassalle should begin by correcting this consistent misstatement.

Picky, welcome to the debate--I don't think I've seen you around here before. Though you are deploying a classic TA red herring. Around here, titles and forms of address are usually good for at least 5 off-topic comments. Almost as good as clerical garb, if you want to distract from the real issue.

For at least 15 years the pernicious notion of a "worldwide Anglican Church" has done untold harm. It's time to stop using that falsehood--before it boomerangs against the CofE itself.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 10:24am GMT

Perhaps it is time to change the name of the Anglican Communion to something on the order of "Anglican Federation" or "Anglican Council of Churches." The fact of the matter is that there is precious little shared doctrine anymore (and from the beginning, there has always been wide variance). Choose your topic- gay marriage, lay presidency, true presence, the very definition of baptism, communion, ordination- there is seldom actual "communion" within provinces, much less among them. At this point, priests cannot translate between some dioceses within provinces because the doctrinal differences among the bishops and dioceses are so great. And instances where a priest can be disciplined in one diocese for the same behavior that would gain acclaim in another.

Posted by: TJ McMahon on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 1:14pm GMT

If the Pope can respect the various regional Bishop's Conferences, allowing them to answer to their own regional needs and culture. It is time the Archbishop of Canterbury did the same for the various Provinces that make up the Anglican Communion.

But then I thought under previous Archbishops of Canterbury this was understood. At present the present Archbishop of Canterbury seems only to be listening to Africa, not his own Province of Canterbury.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John E Harris-White on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 2:58pm GMT

TJ, you are of course correct.

The possibility of ecumenical relations trades on there being an actual set of shared theological, polity and practical realities.

At present, coming most especially out of the context of the CofE itself, is this insistence that the Anglican Communion is a container for diversity and mutually exclusive Christian realities.

When Vatican II 53 years ago spoke of something like a coherent catholic set of realities inside the AC, they would never have anticipated this drumbeat of "we are not a church," "we have no shared doctrine/we don't do doctrine," "the CofE is a national church attending the the English cultural reality and ought to stay out of any role vis-a-vis the Communion," and so forth.

The calls for enhanced authority at the level of ABC and Primates has now devolved into a western consumer idea of "let everyone have the purchase that suits them."

The shrillness of the push back in evidence here will leave the older Catholic ecumenical hopefulness of Vatican II now fully evacuated. That isn't a bug but a feature.

Posted by: CRS on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 3:27pm GMT

Leaving aside the issue of the status, or indeed the mere existence, of the "worldwide Anglican Church", the claim they have "a new doctrine against homophobia" is a fascinating example of setting the bar so low limbo dancers would be needed to get under it. What next? "Broadly, and without wishing to offend anyone, we're opposed to racism?" Surely it goes without saying that a soi-disant Church would be opposed to bigotry in all its forms, and they wouldn't need to make a self-serving proclamation?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 3:47pm GMT

A new *doctrine* against homophobia? Something without which no man may be saved, such as the Virgin Birth? Really?

Posted by: Confounded on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 5:35pm GMT

Comment has focussed rightly on Caroline Spelman's cloth-eared last answer. But the first two are interesting. She didn't have to mention the Hereford motion, nor to volunteer that Exeter might consider adopting it too. I imagine that Ben Breadshaw is on the case, and so, I would expect, are TA readers up and down England. Behind this is the view which I know Ben Bradshaw holds, as do many other parliamentarians including - from his unguarded remarks - Speaker Bercow, that a state church cannot go on having a carve-out from state equality law. Something has to give.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 5:44pm GMT

At the risk of being repetitive, the statement here is something of a revelation to me:

'Dame Caroline Spelman: "An important step forward was made by the worldwide Anglican Church in accepting a new doctrine against homophobia, which is part of trying to stamp out such persecution across the wider Anglican communion."

1. The Church of England has never announced a 'new doctrine against homophobia'. If it had, the rest of us in the Anglican Communion would surely have heard about it.

2. The persecution of Gays in various parts of the world is still receiving the active support of the local Anglican Church, thus rendering her statement invalid.

Altogether, a most unsatisfactory statement for many of us in the wider Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 7 November 2017 at 11:28pm GMT

Questions and answers in Parliament often lack precision as exchanges are usually extempore and the Second Estates Commissioner might not even have had a detailed briefing. However, I agree with Iain McLean on the specific reference to the Hereford motion. The fact is that a number of dioceses are reflecting on whether to follow suit. Regarding the carve out from the equality legislation afforded to the Church by law established (aka CofE) the nuclear option that Parliament can deploy (although it will not do so anytime soon) is to remove the right of clergy to marry opposite gendered couples. That would create a level playing field until the situation is resolved, whereupon the Church can resume acting as registrar for all marriages.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 at 12:12am GMT

'Choose your topic- gay marriage, lay presidency, true presence, the very definition of baptism, communion, ordination- there is seldom actual "communion" within provinces, much less among them.'

All hugely credal issues, there.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 at 4:13am GMT
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