Comments: more on that church service

Could someone help this poor yank? The timing of this "marriage" was clearly designed to force RW's hand at a time where he doesn't want to stir the pot. (Whether he ever wants to stir the pot is another matter.) If he does nothing, he is implicitly blessing the blessing.

Now, one of the readers at Titus stated,

"Let me say again there can be no disciplinary action unless there is a formal written complaint...Of course the Archbishop has absolutely no jurisdiction in such matters and is completely reliant on the Bishops enforcing their own agreed Guidelines."

I assume that same sex weddings are specifically proscribed. Does RW really have no jurisdiction in the matter?

Posted by robroy at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 8:41am BST

No, of course ++R has no jusidiction - he is the Bishop of Canterbury, not of London. There is a complaints procedure under the Clergy Discipline Measure, which can be set in motion by a formal written complaint to the diocesan bishop. It has fairly well-structured processes which are designed to make the whole thing fair, and to protect all parties. The whole Measure has only been in force for two years or so, so it is very new still, and has certainly not yet been tested in a case of this nature. It certainly is not like a trial by tabloid press that some people would like to see. So anyone who thought this was a 'forcing of the hand' of RW simply does not understand the Church of England. And of course he is not implicitly blessing the blessing - his mere existence does not approve or disapprove everything that goes on in the Province of Canterbury - he simply isn't that important. This aint Rome.

I would expect that anything this elaborate was booked and planned for over a year - and given that people's most intimate and personal feelings were involved I somehow think that the overwhelming concern of the couple might have been to celebrate their love and their partnership - not make silly political points. At worst you might accuse them of naivety for thinking they could do this 'quietly' in such a high profile church, and bad taste for having a ten tier high cake! But every blessing and good luck to them both!

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 9:21am BST

No Robroy, I am certain this wasn't done as a political move to force anybody's hand. The people involved are hardly campaigners but, all of them, kind and gentle souls. I think they probably thought if they were to have a blessing in church they would not be stingy and grudging about it - because God's nature isn't mean but generous. It was a lovely occasion, even if very odd. Despite hundreds of guests this happened two weeks ago and I cannot see anybody would have expected all this ridiculous fuss over what is after all, merely an unofficial act of minor rebellion. Good on them. Everybody at the ceremony must have known this does not represent the official position of the church. The couple concerned had the freedom to do what they have because in the future they will build a life together elsewhere, apart from the CofE, and are thus free agents. Martin Dudley however, is in a different and exposed position and deserves support for his courage.

Posted by Neil at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 10:13am BST

Rowan is an idiot hiding behind,...broken down farm buildings, ...that once fed his flock!!

Yes Rowan,...I'm an American Episcopalian Judging you ! ! !

No Covenant!!

Christ's Light is OUR true COVENANT!!

Your ineptness is our folly!!

Posted by David G at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 10:27am BST

In England, the law allows civil partnerships and people have recognised this achievement.
The church, which is in need of a complete overhaul as it's size and structure is best suited to 17th century England, only shoots itself in the foot as the bad publicity and outrage in some quarters make it seem more bigoted than it is.

I don't go to church anymore and I feel much better as a result. I felt a shadow cross over people when they find out I went to church.

Gay weddings aside, the real arguments here are about hypocrisy. Why deny the openly gay Bishop Gene a place at Lambeth (he is elected, unlike the English Bishops) when there are so many secretly gay bishops and Archbishops in England and elsewhere.
Also, whilst here, why does the church get an exemption from the sex equality legislation?
In most other professions discrimination against women is illegal.
Tell that to the Bishops.

Posted by Tom Roberts at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 11:04am BST


Your assumption that same sex weddings are not allowed is correct. They are not permitted by UK law. The couple concerned contracted, before the church service took place, a civil partnership before a civil registrar, in a civil building.

Following this they attended a church service where their partnership was blessed. The form of service was adapted from (but closely followed) the marriage service in the CofE's 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The CofE's House of Bishops has issued *guidelines* to its clergy which state that such services *should* not be offered. Please note the use of the conditional word "should". The guidelines do NOT say "must not be offered". The cleric concerned has broken no rules, although he has not followed the guidelines.

In answer to your last point, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no jurisdiction in this case. The service took place in the diocese of London wherein the Ordinary is Rt. Revd. & Rt Hon. Richard Chartres, Lord Bishop of London. Unlike some other prelates, our bishops in England do not cross diocesan boundaries and intervene or interfere in the jurisdictions of others.

Posted by RPNewark at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 11:51am BST

Two Christian people openly profess their faith and life commitment to each other before their pastor and three hundred friends.
Such commonplace good news took two weeks to find the headlines, being converted en route into 'bad' news.
No matter what efforts the media make to raise controversy and fuel conflict, it's those reacting so negatively to the event whose faith is in now the spotlight.
Condemnation and vilification for whatever reason, reveals the foundation of the detractors' religion and values for what they are.
It was the same too when Jesus was tried.

Posted by Keith Kimber at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 1:18pm BST

How sad that the Church of England has become so ‘socially and politically correct’ This ‘blessing' is one of the many times when the ‘church’ fails to acknowledge the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. This ‘blessing’ also ignores the truth of scripture. The bible teaches clearly that sexual relationships should only be between a man and woman after marriage. Anything else is perversion of God’s teaching and is sin. Please love the sinner and hate the sin. Does the ‘Church of England’ not realise that judgement will begin at the house of God when it does I believe these men will be the first to complain that ”it is not fair”. Too late unless you genuinely repent and ask Jesus Christ to forgive you for your sins

Posted by Ian Pomeroy at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 2:40pm BST

Why should people who disregard the will of God and the consensual view of Christians everywhere respect ecclesiastical guidelines?

Posted by Steve Edwards at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:16pm BST

I am favourable towards having this service, and indeed would have such as part of the range of services available to couples.

But it is not a simple blessing. It used particular words that make it - let's say - a binding. When a voluntary and privately understood Pagan wedding takes place, it is not simply a blessing but a wedding that is such understood, and deliberate wording of joining is used - one word being binding, and indeed a symbolism is tying a finger of one partner to the finger of another partner with cord. These words were used in this Christian binding:

"With this ring, I thee bind, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:21pm BST

Jeremy Pemberton points to the procedures under the Clergy Discipline Measure. This measure, however, excluded liturgical and doctrinal complaints, which are still subject to investigation by the old procedure and, I believe, decided in the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved. It is very unlikely that a complaint on this issue could be dealt with by the tribunal under the CDM.

Posted by Wilf at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:45pm BST

Not quite June brides - no Banns or Signing of the Register - but surely a day when ten thousand Magnificats should resound across the land.

It won't be too long before such occasions feature merely as announcements tucked away on the back pages of the Telegraph rather than as a front page splash. But we have a bit of a struggle in the meantime to get us to that point.

There really is no argument anymore about "homosexuality", or, as Anglicans euphemistically prefer, "human sexuality"; what matters for the C of E is the liturgical response to civil partnerships and the ending of discrimination. This is a good start, for it brings to the fore discussions about the type of ceremony which can be conducted with integrity, and which provides a fitting celebration for family and friends on the couple's happiest day of their life together.

Not sure that it would upset all traditionalists as claimed by the media. The most modern part of the order of service - if "All my hope on God is founded" was sung to Howells's "Michael" - dates from 1930!

Ruth Gledhill makes an interesting point:

"If the liberal movement had from the start couched its reforms in the language of tradition rather than modernity, the ecclesiological landscape facing us now might indeed be very different."

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 3:55pm BST

Such blessings go on privately all the time, I imagine. Christians have to move forward with courage.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 4:02pm BST

"... ecclesiastical guidelines?"

But the Bishops haven't actually issued any, have they?

+London was, according to one of the articles, expressly asked to do so 18 monts ago and didn't.

See what he got! 1662 BCP, consensus, promises, Mass, (pagan) rings...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 4:45pm BST

Thanks Wilf for that correction. I'm sure you are right.

What astonishes me in the comments posted here is some of the very intemperate language used (David G) - I guess that comes from a transatlantic context? But I don't really get what he is going on about? The C of E doesn't feel like broken down farm buildings - there is much that is really good happening in parishes and cathedrals all over the land (unless we are to enter looking glass land and start to call good bad, because it doesn't come with the right ethical/doctrinal knobs on).

Secondly, I am surprised by the assumptions of a settled argument (Ian Pomeroy). This is clearly not the case - the Bible is far from univocal on sexual ethical matters, and notoriously either sketchy or silent on the kind of homosexual relationship that was celebrated the other week. So there are real arguments to say that doing what was done might well be precisely obeying God's will and the Holy Spirit's leading.

Lastly, can we remember that while there are clearly political issues at play here most of British society has moved on - Col Hufton Bufton of Tonbridge may harrumph in the Telegraph, but most people now know someone who is entirely normal stable member of society who, as the language has it, just happens to be gay. The church, while continuing to twist itself in knots over this one simply looks ridiculous - especially when it may have (or so we are led to believe) a higher than average proportion of its employees who are themselves gay, just as in other caring professions.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 5:06pm BST

"Please love the sinner and hate the sin."

Indeed. Therefore, for the love of Christ, I love *you* IanP---while I hated your uncharitable, error-filled post.


While I understand the distinctions involved---this was not a "wedding", but the blessing of a civil partnership---may our Merciful Lord SPEED the day when such distinctions fall away, and ALL God's children are truly, equally, one in Christ! :-D

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 5:15pm BST

"Why should people who disregard the will of God and the consensual view of Christians everywhere respect ecclesiastical guidelines?"

Are you so certain YOU know the will of God in these matters? And not very long ago it was the consensual view of Christians everywhere that marriage of two people of differing colors was a crime against nature and an affront to the Almighty.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 5:28pm BST

I'm a gay American Episcopalian, but I think the rector's engaged in hair-splitting if he thinks this was not a wedding, but a simple blessing. It appeared to be the marriage service with a few words substituted here and there. I don't think this sort of disingenuousness does the cause of gay rights any service.

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 5:42pm BST

When is a wedding not a wedding?

This isn't about Genesis, that's true Billy, but about 1 Samuel 18, arguably more erotic than the story of Adam and Eve. 1 Corinthians 13 holds for both.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 6:01pm BST

The BCP (1979) as used in the USA includes a service for The Blessing of a Civil Marriage. The language is "sexist" in that it contemplates a bride and a groom, and refers to a "marriage" not a "civil partnership," however putting that aside for a moment, is there a similar rite in the CofE?

As was pointed out by Simon earlier, a civil marriage and a church wedding is the standard issue on the Continent.

Posted by andrewdb at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 6:23pm BST

In the interviews this morning on the BBC 'Sunday' programme both Martin Dudley and Colin Slee mentioned Jesus' prohibition of divorce. David Banting chose to ignore that point, prefering to call for discipline and adherence to Biblical standards. Why don't those who are so outraged by this event express their rage everytime a divorcee is re-married or had their civil marriage blessed in church. After all this IS expressly condemed in the Gospels.

So what's all this about authority, or is it permitted to pick and choose what you want but I can't? No one ever seems to answer this point, but then the Church and the clergy are full of those who have committed adultery and that's just fine. Hypocrisy and double standards are the words which keep coming to mind.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 6:38pm BST

"Why don't those who are so outraged by this event express their rage everytime a divorcee is re-married or had their civil marriage blessed in church."

I think you'll find Fred Phelps does ;)

But I also think Dudley and Slee are guilty of using a false comparison. Divorce was often allowed in the Bible; same-sex sex, never.

Posted by Dan Baynes at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 6:57pm BST

For the best comment I've seen on this whole issue recommend

Posted by Brian Lewis at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 7:03pm BST

andrewdb yes there is and it is titled
An Order for Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage
Notice that the word "Blessing" is avoided in this title.
The full text of the authorized rite is here:

This is quite widely used in the CofE. Indeed at the last one I attended the officiant was none other than the Bp of London.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 7:07pm BST

I can't help having the sense that this has been blown out of all proportion.

I am sure that this is the kind of service for prayer and dedication to God that you are minded to undertake if you are a believer, steeped in the traditions of the Church and have entered into a Civil Partnership.

But still it's interesting what makes people angry. Not sexual orientation, not Civil Partnerships (which are permitted), not even sexual acts, but a service of *prayer* using adapted words from the BCP.

Oh well.....

The reason people are fumbling around and trying to invent adhoc services which run the risk of offending is that the CofE hasn't devised a liturgy for this important occasion.

If there is so much anger in using words from the BCP we should put some thought into creating an order of service that is appropriate and acceptable.

And so it is important the Church does not neglect its pastoral role in meeting the spiritual needs of its gay and lesbian worshippers.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 8:48pm BST

Repudium (which is not our Western divorce which is mutual) for "no cause" was permitted by some early Rabbis doing creative readings.

That is what the Pharisees refer to in Matt 19:3 when they ask: Is it allowed for men to loosen their wife katà pâsan aitían for any cause?

So we know Repudium was allowed by some contemporary Rabbis but rejected by Jesus.

As to same-sex we know that some Jewish Hellenists (Filon, Flavius Josephus) in intra-Testamental literature rejected it, but this was probably because they were Hellenists, not because they were Jews.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 8:48pm BST

"This step has been carefully considered and is not enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God."

How many (couples or priests) can honestly say that?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 8:57pm BST

Thanks Brian the YouTube clip was priceless.

The two lingering common sense questions a whole lotta folks might be asking - though naturally from a proper and respectful distance outside CoE climates of (parody on) utterly sensitive and utterly solemn pastoral guidance?

(1) gee the guys love each other seriously and evidently were supported by enough people that a few hundred showed up to be community witnesses - no wonder they should be trash talked as much as possible since secular English law prohibits us from the utterly traditional and biblical stoning nowadays?

(Just imagine how many straight CoE folks will have to immediately go out and get divorced or sleep around willy-nilly, just because these two filthy parkers and a few hundred friends and family were not properly subservient to our oldest negative beliefs about them? Feel the danger yet?)


(2) how long will these incredibly delicate and difficult hair-splitting quibbles about exactly who/when/how queer folks are allowed some carefully diced and sliced measure of conscientious freedom as citizen believers bear such weight and heat as our terrible traditionalistic grudges require?

(How awful, how truly, truly, truly awful that such people should remain free in conscience, blessed in love, and maybe even attractively sensuous for a decade or two or three?)

(Feel the dirt yet?)

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 9:34pm BST

Good for them. As for the church, well , I expect nothing more than the usual homophobic bilge, reflecting the bigoted nature of traditional Christianity. The sooner it disappears from this country for good, the better. It is nothing but a cancer. At least some within are willing to challenge the prejudice - not enough of them though. We need more open defiance to ensure that a split happens sooner rather than later.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 9:42pm BST

First to Jeremy: I believe that strong comments re: the "broken down" state of affairs in CofE are NOT due to some "transatlantic misunderstanding." People all over the world, including in the UK are pretty sick of the wordplay and deception.

Second, to Billy: no, the blessing of a civil marriage is what is allowed in certain parts of ECUSA and the Anglican church of Canada. The civil law recognizes it as marriage but the church does not.


Posted by Melissa at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 10:02pm BST

Having again watched Alison Rouff enjoying her media role as tabloid CofE judge and jury and thus validating her use of oxygen whilst peddling her views which seem, in my opinion, based solely on ignorance, fear, insecurity and lack of tolerance - I am now moved to vent my disappointment in her, as a member of Synod, and in those who also support these views.

Thankfully Brian Lewis's posting (and those similar) makes the point quite well. Rev Martin Dudley along with like minded clergy and lay people also have my support for their common sense. I further extend this support to Rowan Williams for his recent views to support a debate on tolerance and valuing different religious/spiritual beliefs.

I remain optimistic that there remain people in the CofE (and indeed in other faiths) who are prepared to risk media lead condemnation to stand up and challenge the misguided views of insecure people who use the Bible (or other reveered or holy books/documents/scriptures) and "man's" interpretation of "the word of God" with the purpose of promoting hatred and intolerance. While I believe in freedom of speech and the right to express different views, these values should not steer us from the difficult path of truely loving one another and treating people as you would like to be treated yourself. Finally, regarding Ms Rouff's comments about "defrocking" ... may I suggest to her she takes a large pill of "tolerance and charity" before she and others like her do more damage to the good work undertaken by the Church of England in and with many communities across the world.

Let's face it, the CofE was founded on the fact that Henry VIII wanted a divorce - so Ms Rouff might also want to review her position, given her moral tones, on the Synod. I appreciate this is simplistic but given the word count ..... I think my point is made.

Posted by Charles Perry at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 10:57pm BST

These wise words from Aotearoa / New Zealand Quakers may be somewhat timely :--

aotearoa/new zealand yearly meeting, questions & counsel, d7:

'Each individual's journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone. Some will share it in loving relationships. Some will make the commitment of marriage. Some will form loving relationships of other kinds. Ponder your own choices, and try to understand the choices of others. Are you inclined to make hasty judgements about other people's relationships? Support others as they reach and test their decisions.'

Posted by L Roberts at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 11:04pm BST

Is there any difference between the Cowell-Lord ceremony and what Charles - the future Supreme Governor of the Church of England - and Camilla did at Windsor Registry Office and at St George's Chapel Windsor?

Posted by MrsBarlow at Sunday, 15 June 2008 at 11:10pm BST

Just realized that I shook Fr Dudley's hand after a service in his church last year. It is a medieval enclave in the middle of a great 21st century city. He has helped bridge the gap between the two.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 3:13am BST

"Divorce was often allowed in the Bible; same-sex sex, never." - Posted by Dan Baynes

The latter is wholy an INVENTION of your narrow mind, Dan.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by JCF at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 3:18am BST

Of course both “no cause” Repudium and intra-Testamental Apocrypha are o u t s i d e the Bible… They have never been kosher in Judaism, nor canonical in Christianity…

And they only became regarded as the standard, the tradition (of “2000 years”) under Dynamic Equivalence “translators” in late modernity, who adore Filon of Alexandria and pretend he is an extra Father of the Church, forgetful that Judaism doesn’t “do” heretics.

If it had, pro Philosophy, anti Jewish poor dear Filon would probably be an Arch Heretic.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 8:34am BST

At least locally, all the spluttering conservatives are doing our job extremely well. Every time another instance of supporting lgbts and treating them like every other human being hits the headlines and conservatives are publicly apoplexic, hearts and minds are being changed.

I personally know of 3 clergy who have observed the "debate", have discovered where love, patience and kindess are to be found and have changed their minds about homosexuality.

By their fruits... always ever by their fruits.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 8:51am BST

“People all over the world, including in the UK are pretty sick of the wordplay and deception.”

Melissa has a point. It would have been much better to allow lgbts to marry instead of calling the arrangement a civil partnership, as though it meant something completely different.

Pluralist is right when he comments on his blog

“Why won't people stop using weasle words and dodging around? If this form of service is right (which it was and is) then say so. Don't make it into prayers and a sort of casual (?) blessing when the wording, as read out by the interviewer, was clearly strong and clearly out to make it a sacred act of binding two loving men together.

This is why the liberal cause is so weakened; why it gets accused of duplicity.”

My partner and I will “enter into a civil partnership” later this year. But to us, our families including our parents and children, and our friends, we’re clearly “getting married”.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 9:00am BST

It does seem that there need to be prophetic voices - and actions - to stir the Church to a proper understanding of the Gospel imperative - "Love one another, as I have loved you!"

This present storm in a teacup needs to be put into perspective against actions of hatred and injustice - in Zimbabwe, for instance.

Why is the Church wasting time on hypcritical action against the New Commandment?

I'm only too sorry that the Head of the Church in New Zealand has demanded the sacrifice of a priestly ministry - in order to appease the lust for righteousness among the modern-day Pharisees

"What I desire is mercy - not sacrifice!"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 9:52am BST

"Divorce was often allowed in the Bible; same-sex sex, never." - Posted by Dan Baynes


I think your categorical "NEVER" to same-sex sex is too strong. This is open to debate, like all things, depending on how you interpret and contextualise certain passages.

There has been a lot of Bible scholarship in this area recently, and whilst I think it unlikely I will change your mind, it might be worth sharing some of that scholarship.

There is the centurion and his BOY, not servant, from Matthew (see for a good readable summary, Google will produce links to more detailed scholarship).

This is probably the only direct reference to sex, but there are many hints that Jesus was very comfortable with the sort of gender boundary crossing which was anathema to orthodox Judaism but might make him (in modern context) gay friendly.

Christ chooses the upper room by looking for a MAN drawing water from a well, so what sort of family unit used in that upper room? In John’s foot washing story the Greek text says Jesus took off his clothes (NOT outer garments) and wrapped a linen cloth round his waist. It is the shocking male-male physical intimacy of Christ drying Peter’s feet with a linen cloth wrapped around his own naked body that puts Peter’s shock and distress into context.

There are many similar examples of dodgy translation from Hebrew or Greek into English. There is one classic example from the OT where the Hebrew root KDSM (Holy or Sacred) is translated “Sodomite” or “Male Temple Prostitute”.

One bit or writing that amused me recently goes back to when the earliest vestiges Judaism was developing from shamanism. Many Bible stories contain traces of that time.

In many “primitive” cultures shamen were those young men who developed a homosexual orientation (the link between homosexuality and priesthood is nothing new). These young people would often leave the normal family unit and be apprenticed to a priestly life, dressing in female clothing (see , it is worth reading to the end of the chapter).

The marks of a shaman are homosexuality, family rejection, dressing in bright feminine colours, and divination of dreams. What does that tell us about the story of Joseph?

I don’t claim to be an expert in this scholarship, or that it is yet fully developed, but it does raise interesting questions.


Posted by Simon Dawson at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 10:43am BST

What is 'allowed' in the Bible merely reflects 1st century and before premodern mores.

They should be treated as nothing more significant

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 12:05pm BST

"Divorce was often allowed in the Bible; same-sex sex, never." - Posted by Dan Baynes"

Do you really think this blessing was about sex? Isn't it time you all got over this unhealthy obsession with sex, especially other people's sex lives. Even my small childen don't have such a one track mind, and with small children at least it would be understandable.
Grow up?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 1:09pm BST

There are constant references to the 1662 Prayer Book in this context but I suggest the form of service seems more inspired by 1928 / Series 1 than the 1662

No brute beasts of the field with no understanding - they were left to comment later

Posted by Michael Thompson at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 1:35pm BST

"Two Christian people openly profess their faith and life commitment to each other before their pastor and three hundred friends."

Is this what sacramental marriage is? I don't understand either the outward and physical sign, nor the inward and spiritual grace conferred by a public display of affection approved by a room full of people. It might go a long way to making gay people something other than semihumans of whom it is not murder to kill us outright, it might strengthen their relationship, since uniform public condemnation is not exactly helpful in strengthening the commitment of the couple, it might even be a symbol of the sacrificial love of Christ for His Church, but none of these makes it a sacrament. It doesn't make it a sacrament for straight people either, hence my problem. But then, I don't think baptism is merely a public declaration of faith either, nor that the Eucharist is merely a memorial meal of symbols, nor that the other sacraments are somehow "unnecessary".

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 3:40pm BST

I love today's Times frontpage: Church in meltdown over gays and women.
That's 55-60% of the population!

If the church cannot get to grips with the reality of the lives of the majority of the people maybe it deserves to meltdown.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 4:15pm BST

"Do you really think this blessing was about sex?"

But, Erika, sex is an important part of a relationship. To bless a relationship, then, regardless of all the other things we are blessing, is to bless the sex that is an integral part of it. It is this sexual act that is at issue. I am still pondering Tobias's point that it is not the procreative nature of the sexual act that is important, but you can't deny the important role sex has in your relationship, or mine, or anyone else's. I think the obsession isn't with sex itself, but with procreation, as though procreation is somehow necessary for sex to be holy. Tobias claims it isn't, and gives some very good reasons that I think the Right has now to address. It all boils down to the heterosexual imperative. You were married. How often at your wedding were you asked when you were going to have kids? Those who do not have kids can testify to how hurtful and judgemental that question becomes with the passage of time. I'm not sure if reproduction is seen by straight people as evidence of valid humanity, or if they are just going by the dictum that misery loves company:-) Try saying you don't want to have children in front of a room full of people and watch the response. It goes from cajoling, to statements that you'll like kids if they're your own, to finally exasperated claims that one is being selfish. To affirm that knowledge of this in one'sself is a good thing, since then one won't bring children into the world and be too selfabsorbed to raise them simply flummoxes people. I have had absolute strangers tell me I'd make a good father in response to this! Seriously, it's the reproduction, not the faithfulness, nor the love, nor the support, that actually matters. If you don't reproduce, you are simply of decreased valdity as a human being.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 7:38pm BST

Thanks for your gays and shamanism piece Simon Dawson --so informative and good humoured ! (It seems to tick my boxes!).

And Erika --Congratulations to you both ! How wonderful. Llongyfarchiadau !

Glad to have heard of 3 ministers who have seen the light !

Posted by L Roberts at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 8:24pm BST

I'm not saying that sex doesn't have any part to play, but I know too many marriages that no longer include it and haven't for many years. They're still valid marriages, and I doubt that anyone would look at these couples wondering secretly about their sex lives. It just doesn't happen to straight people. When they marry you assume they will have sex, when they have children you have some kind of evidence. Beyond that, most minds don't get exercised about it at all.

As for the pressure to have children - I know it exists and I've had an old aunty who also used to ask when I was going to have children. But I never had a problem saying that I wasn't sure whether I'd ever want them, in the end everyone was quite surprised that we did.
Like sex, it just isn't an issue for most people, not beyond a little bit of excited gossip.

And many of my close friends don't have children. We don't really talk about it, it's not an issue. So maybe you're right and they feel devalued as human beings. But they're sparkling, alive, fascinating people with lots of friends and a strong faith, and I find it very hard to imagine that they feel in any way devalued.
Sad, as they get older, maybe. One in particular feels strongly that there is no-one she truly belongs to. But she's single too, so maybe the issues are different.

So I repeat that although sex can be part of a relationship, it is not what the relationship is primarily about. When we bless a relationship we bless its entirety, and sex is only a miniscule aspect of that. Important if it's wrong and a source of pain for the participant, completely unimportant if it's right and just one of the many joys of being partnered.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 June 2008 at 10:46pm BST

A sad misconception amongst some is that the core purposes of marriage are sex and procreation.

Personally, I think that reflects more souls cynicaly marrying simply for the sake of having children and leaving an earthly inheritance.

The questions of companionship, love for love's sake, for better or for worse, and acceptance of the Potter's determinations are often glossed over.

So much so that infertile women are simply shunted aside by some as "no longer worthy" of marriage - simply because they fail to offer up fecund wombs.

Such paradigms also lead to trauma between couples who do desire children but have fertility problems. It overlooks relationships where there are physical limitations but still genuine love between the souls.

The obsession on sex and procreation is what led the UK churches to be on the back foot in recent years in that they failed to acknowledge and provide for the needs of dependants in non-sexual non-marital relationships e.g. lifelong siblings where the dependent is intellectually impaired and incapable of working or managing their own estate and has lived in the care of parents and then a sibling all their life.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 8:50am BST

"completely unimportant if it's right"

But that's the huge 'if', Erika. Regardless of what you, and more and more I as well, think of their position, in and of itself it is something to be debated and hammered out. For me, the issue is not so much their interpretation of Scripture on this issue, wrong though it may be. It is all the other things they do that clearly put the lie to their claims of faithfulness to the Gospel, and reveal their motives as something completely different from what they claim. You have, naturally, some very strong emotions about your partner and your relationship, and I get the feeling that for you, if someone considers your sex life sinful, they are devaluing your whole relationship. Now, I have no doubt that for most conservatives there is an element of "ick" around their opposition to us, a large element for some, and often far more vehement than just 'ick'. I don't think it's right to assume though that in every case their problems with what we do between the sheets means that they don't recognize the nonsexual things as good. It might often be true, but not always. There is also the fact that, for many of them, what they do in bed is also inherently sinful and is only redeemed by its reproductive potential. Maybe this is one of the reasons they are unable to understand how insulting some of their words are, since in some sense they would consider those same things to be aspects of their own inherently sinful sex lives, just barely made acceptable to God by their willingness to reproduce.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 4:55pm BST

You know, I don't particularly care any longer what other people think about any aspect of my life. I believe their opposition to be un-Christian, theologically shallow and fuelled by prejudice. And I do not in the slightest feel bound by it.
It's very easy for you to call for patience, after all, you've made it very clear that you would not get married or have an SSB even if it was allowed.

Tell me, Ford, what would happen if someone told you you could no longer have your orthodox form of worship until the last evangelical in Sydney has agreed to it, because our faith is corporate after all?
It's not quite the same, I accept, because those who support lay presidency are the innovators in this example. But the principle is the same. Do we really all have to agree before some of us can proceed, with integrity and with a biblically grounded faith?

Following the gospel does not mean accepting any injustice for the sake of some spurious unity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 6:32pm BST

On the Erika/Ford thread.

Why is it that what happens in the bedroom (or perhaps kitchen, or somewhere else for the more extroverted) such a big issue?

Especially when the priestly authorities have had no problem turning a blind eye to pedophilia, or sexual predation of parishioners (or visitors to their communities).

Why is sex between to consenting adults such an anethema but a woman being beated and bruised unremarkable?

Why is sex so bad, but ignoring or marginalising the powerless or vulnerable so acceptable?

Why is honest sexuality so bad, but deceit and violence mongering advocated?

Is it because honest sexuality might contain the "L" (love) word, but all the other things are manifestations of contempt for this planet and its occupants (more consistent with the "H" (hate) word.

May every GLBT see the fulfilment of Revelation 3:9 "I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars — I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 9:02am BST

"what would happen if someone told you you could no longer have your orthodox form of worship until the last evangelical in Sydney has agreed to it, because our faith is corporate after all?"

A very good point, and perhaps not as different as you might think. I light a candle and say prayers before an icon of Our Lady of Walsingham, and they'd certainly call that sin. I don't think it's necessarily sin to throw the Blood of Christ down the sink, but it certainly reveals a theology of Eucharist, and by extension theological understandings of things like the Kingdom of God and the nature of the Incarnation that I can't agree with.

"Following the gospel does not mean accepting any injustice for the sake of some spurious unity."

Another good point. The only thing I can say in explanation is that it cuts both ways. If we are required to hold off till they agree, then they are required to show Christian love and tolerance when some of us become so frustrated that we move ahead anyway. They certainly aren't doing that, either. Indeed, I would argue they have deliberately concocted a spurious persecution myth that does quite the opposite.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:21pm BST

"If we are required to hold off till they agree, then they are required to show Christian love and tolerance when some of us become so frustrated that we move ahead anyway. They certainly aren't doing that, either. Indeed, I would argue they have deliberately concocted a spurious persecution myth that does quite the opposite."

So where does that leave us now? Are we, therefore, justified in moving ahead, or do we have to wait knowing that waiting will not change their hearts and minds?

On a personal level I know that my simply living openly with my partner and my children within our church community has done more to change people's minds than the public discussion has done.
The more we're all visible in all walks of life and simply live the boringly normal lives we live, the more people will lose their preconceptions of what we might be like.

More people changed their minds about women priests after women priests became a daily reality. That's just how things work. Some are persuaded by cerebral debates, others by experiencing a new reality on the ground.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 2:39pm BST

I've been thinking about your question earlier, and I know what I would do if we were all required to cease more Catholic worhsip styles because Sydney doesn't agree: I'd finally swim the Bosporus. I wouldn't insist on a defiant High Mass and let the chips fall where they may. Not a great answer, but that's what I would do. I wouldn't try to take the church building with me, nor would I blame "them" for forcing me out. There'd be little point, all the same, to remain in a Church where, Sunday after Sunday, I am unable to worship in a fashion that feeds my soul and stimulates my faith, but instead am forced to worship in a style I find cold, uninspiring, and frustrating. It might be exactly what "they" want, and "they" are welcome to it, but, other than the occasional visit out of Christian solidarity, it would be a spiritual desert for me: a nice place to visit, but my spirit would die of thirst and hunger if I stayed there too long.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 4:43pm BST

"swim the Bosporus" - excuse my poor English in this instance: does it mean you would leave the Anglican church and find an Orthodox one, or would you leave the church altogether?

I'm asking because I find both unbearable options, but leaving the church altogether even more unbearable.

Going to another church would mean leaving my village community, leaving all those people I have come to love, and going somewhere else just for a Service. But Christianity is most of all about being community!

Leaving altogether? I know God isn't tied to a church that claims him for itself, but at some level, our faith is still corporate, or at least most meaningfully expressed in a corporate way.

I'm not ready to divorce yet.... although I'm very very close. I suppose I'm in the pre-divorce stage where arguments are getting more and more accrimonious.
But what a choice!

I suppose I have to just trust that God will lead and guide me to the right place. If only the conservatives had the slightest idea what terrible choice they force on us by insisting that we cannot be part of them because we do not agree with their guardianship of the gates to God's kingdom.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 9:15pm BST

Well, I figure, I'm not all that hot on going to Rome, and the Orthodox liturgy, not to mention their completely different attitude to things like reverence really speaks to my soul. I know they have their problems, serious ones, but all that tat wins me over. There isn't much chance of that, however, the nearest Orthodox Church is over 1000 miles away, across a rather large stretch of water. I'm lucky, though. Our parish is a group of stuck in a rut more or less traditionalists who have been just putting their heads down and going about the business of being what we are forever. We're of all walks, high tat ACs to closet Methodists, and I seriously think that what keeps our parish going is, apart from God, the fact that we have all found a place where, for a couple of hours every week we can come together, break bread, and know there is still something more or less stable in the Church we find ourselves in. There is a huge sense of community. We had a family who have since moved back to their home province but who attended our little cot despite being from a very Evangelical background. Their reason? They had gone to all the local Anglican churches, some far more Evangelical than we are Anglo-catholic, but settled on us because "This is where the Spirit was." So we must be doing something right. Our priest is a self styled old time Tory, and while there is no move for SSBs, there's also a sense that the behaviour of the Right is just not, well, seemly, and we Anglicans all have to be seemly. I love the place. When the time came for me to go back to church after my 18 years wandering in the wilderness, I couldn't imagine going anywhere else. After 18 years people shook my hand and called me by name! Half the reason I haven't formally come out is that I wouldn't want to bring that kind of politics, with its attendant tension and hurt and even splitting apart, to the only place my soul finds nourishment. I can't imagine disturbing the peace I find there. It's not fear, it's that I can't imagine even the possibility of doing that to my spiritual home. Besides, they're not fools, they've probably figured it our, and if they haven't, what odds? I read, I serve, and every Sunday I get the spiritual nourishment I need. Why wreck that?

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 11:43pm BST

I'm delighted that, like me, you have a local church that fulfills all your spiritual needs.
But the question was, what would you do if that was increasingly threatened by people who campaign against that which you value so much. Would you stay in your parish, accepting that what you love is steadily being eroded, or would you hope that your priest defies the forces against him and continues to provide the kind of service that nurtures you?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 20 June 2008 at 9:28am BST
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