Comments: Civil Partnerships & Marriage: yet more comment

Composer to the Queen speaks out

Very, very true !

This is how the Church's 'witness' goes down.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 21 February 2011 at 11:06pm GMT

Telling that the "America" article is headlined "Bishops to challenge UK laws allowing gay marriage in *churches*"...

...because if it said "Bishops to challenge [. . .] marriage in *synogogues*", the naked bigotry would be exposed.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 1:24am GMT

Here's a link to the full text of the statement by the RC Archbishop of Southwark which is what the America article is based upon.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 8:50am GMT

"The government recognises the place of individual conscience and says the provision will be permissive and religious organisations that do not wish to host civil partnerships will not be required to do so." - Changing Attitude -

Perhaps the Church of England ought to recognise the desirability of needing to accommodate 'the individual conscience' as against the R.C. Church legislation which denies this right to their flock on issues like contraception. The State Church can never legislate for a corporate conscience - it can only recommend a particular ethical stance - on any matter. Otherwise one's private conscience is allowed no moral choice to be made on issues where their persoanl human freedom is involved. The Church is not - or ought not to be - a dictatorship.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 8:58am GMT

The RC Archbishop of Southwark (a canon lawyer, we are told) is, according to Austen Ivereigh, doing exactly the same as the Anglican bishop of Winchester did last year. In the name of spiritual freedom, he would deny the Quakers (etc)the spiritual freedom to follow the Light that our Yearly Meeting found in 2009.

Posted by Iain McLean at Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 9:07am GMT

The first comment on Austen's latest article is interesting in showing how the RC Church is already starting to tie itself in knots on this issue - and probably the CofE too. It says, by definition, marriage is between two people of the opposite genders so marriage between two people of the same gender is impossible, but anyway it must be stopped. Of course the state, here and elsewhere, has been conducting civil marriage ceremonies for many decades without church interference and so has effectively been defining what marriage is anyway.
The churches want to stop people in stable same sex partnerships from registering their relationships in a Christian setting, yet they remain happy to bless heterosexual partnerships that are far from stable or lasting and they claim rights to discriminate against gay people in terms that they would no longer dream of using against other sections of society. And all in the name of their pre-eminent right to equality!
It also ill-behoves Austen to climb on his moral high-horse about sexual relationships outside marriage, in articles dripping with condescension and superiority, given what has occurred in his own life. The word hypocrisy comes to mind.

Posted by Stephen Bates at Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 12:05pm GMT

"marriage between two people of the same gender is impossible, but anyway it must be stopped".

This has implications not just for gay/lesbian couples but also for other smaller groups. Watching this legislation closely are those couples where one partner is transgendered - after transitioning this person cannot receive a GRC ( new birth cert) unless their marriage is annulled. A growing number of couples wish to stay married, not necessarily identifying as gay/lesbian but wanting to continue committed to the relationship.

Another group presumably affected (though I do not have any direct knowledge) are those who are intersex and may wish to have a relationship with someone who legally appears to be the same gender, even though the intersexed person has found that they cannot identify with the gender superficially given at birth.

Christianity just hasnt caught up with the fact that not everyone is simply male or female.

Posted by Amanda Goody at Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 8:48pm GMT

Please, Mr. Bates, let's not be unkind.

After all, it's been several years since Ivereigh's extramarital affairs caused a public scandal.

Posted by JPM at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 12:11am GMT

"Christianity just hasnt caught up with the fact that not everyone is simply male or female."

- Amnda Goody, Tuesday -

And herein, Amanda, lies the great myth of the either/or argument as to sexual identity. Until the Churches come to terms with the biological reality of multi-sexual identities, there will still be earnest attempt to retain the status quo: of attitudes towards personal relatinships and to the posiblities of marriage between more than just the male/female extremes of the sexual continuum.

One day, the Church may be able to engage with the scientific realities of human life. Then the world will be a better place. Understanding will replace ignorance; and love, prejudice. And the Gospel of OLJC can be proclaimed without the cloud of hypocrisy that currently obtains.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 2:32am GMT

The excellent video's interview of Canon Giles Fraser by reporter Ruth Gledhill gives a very convincing argument for the need of the Churches of England and Wales to take advantage of the opportunity being offered by the UK Government to allow religious organisations to celebrate, on their premises and in their liturgies, the union of Same-Sex, faithful monogamous relationships.

As Giles says, he will be obedient to the rule of the Church on this, but is hopeful that pressure from those who understand the integrity of faithful committed same-sex relationships will encourage the Churches to open up the way to the degree of inclusivity that the world is hoping for in the near future.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 9:49am GMT

Sorry to come in again on the same thread, but Austen Ivereigh has it backwards when he says "The fact that Quakers and Unitarians are happy to host this government's totalitarian fantasy is neither here nor there; they have no more right to redefine marriage than has the state."

First, the initiative for this reform came from Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Judaism. It did not come from this government or the last one. It was resisted by both front benches when it came to the House of Lords in March 2010. It is very explicitly NOT totalitarian: it is only for those faith communities who ask for it. These are very basic facts for an experienced religious journalist to have got wrong.

Second, Quakers have as much moral right to define their spiritual understanding of marriage as any other denomination. Our Yearly Meeting spent two whole days of prayerful reflection on the subject, something we would commend to other faith communities.

Third, neither Ivereigh nor the RC Archbishop of Southwark, the canon lawyer who started this thread, seems aware of some basic facts about civil marriage in the UK. Notably, the Clandestine Marriages Act 1753 specifically exempts Quakers and Jews in England from the requirement to follow the state church's deinition of marriage.

A bit of quakerly restraint might help Austen get his facts wrong more humbly.

Posted by Iain McLean at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 10:09am GMT

God made me who I am. But God's Church doesn't want me.

Se you all on the Last Day

Posted by Peter Copping at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 10:11am GMT

"The fact that Quakers and Unitarians are happy to host this government’s totalitarian fantasy is neither here nor there; they have no more right to redefine marriage than has the state…"

- Austen Ivereigh -

'They have no more right to re-define marriage than has the state'? No, but surely if the state allows, then their can be no legal objection. Is this really what Mr Ivereigh, and the RC Abp. of Southwark are really worried about.

They need to really understand what the word 'marriage' really means. We speak, for instance, of a 'marriage of minds' - nothing at all to do with sex!

And anyway, even the Roman Church will celebrate a marriage with no possibility of children nowadays - except perhaps in conservative parts of Italy. What do they find so distasteful about giving God's blessing upon same-sex monogamous, faithful, life-long relationships? They're there anyway though mostly invisible. It's better to be open about them than hypocritical.

It may take a year or two for the Church of England to come to the party. But Rome, like its original attitude towards Galileo's revelation of a spherical earth, may take a much longer time.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 10:17am GMT

Austen Ivereigh displays a Lewis Carrollean ability to believe a number of impossible things.

He says: "marriage is a natural institution, beyond the state or churches to redefine. Now a Conservative government... wishes to use the power of the state to refashion the primary cell of civil society."

So the state and churches cannot redefine marriage in one sentence; but in the next sentence the government is accused of redefining marriage. In fact, marriage as a civil institution has always been defined by the state. Marriage as a religious institution has always been defined by the religion in question - and different religions have different definitions.

He says: "Allowing churches to solemnise gay marriages is one of the most statist acts ever attempted by a government, and an assault on religious freedom." So allowing (but not forcing) churches to do something is "statist". Likewise, allowing (not forcing) churches to do something is "an assault on religious freedom".

What is totalitarian is arguing that the universal national provision for marriage must be entirely subject to the beliefs of a minority - because they are in charge of the minority Roman Catholic Church.

As for the natural law argument - how many hares can one person start running in the fewest possible number of sentences? On this evidence, quite a lot.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 11:26am GMT

A cursory glance through history reveals that marriage has been redefined over and over again. The idea that it is a given in nature is pure fantasy as far as I can see. Even in the pages of Scripture the idea that marriage is the "exclusive union of a man and a woman" as Reform maintains doesn't stand up to the briefest of examinations, as in the Old Testament polygamy was the norm. I am often amazed at how "Biblical Christians" never seem to read it. And is the dislike of gay people so visceral in some quarters that they willfully ignore the facts?

Posted by sjh at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 11:29am GMT

"As Giles [Fraser] says, he will be obedient to the rule of the Church on this" Ron Smith

Why be obedient when, quite clearly, following such a rule is in direct contradiction to what he believes to be the right thing to do? Perhaps it's because the Church pays his salary, provides his housing and gives him those grand-sounding titles - I can't say that my integrity wouldn't wobble with those inducements - or maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick entirely.

I'm neither a Christian nor a theologian so can't end with an apposite nugget from scripture - can someone help me out here and come up with a verse from the bible that says doing what you think is right is far more important than following the rules?

Posted by Laurence C. at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 12:08pm GMT

The British Bishops' statement and the incredible crassness and inanity of its defenders' comments in the America combox convince me that it is time to move on. The Catholic Church, as much as any other, faces the reality of gay marriage and needs to come up with an intelligent response, based on dialogue and consultation. Their present posturing just makes them look ridiculous. For my own effort to address the issue in this spirit, see

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 2:23pm GMT

Stephen Bates is not being unkind but rather providing a fuller context for understanding Ivereigh's remarks. For reasons unknown, AI seems to have a bit of an obsession about LGBT people 'out to get the Church'. When he was Public Affairs Advisor to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, he tried to squash the now exceptionally strong Soho Masses, by suggesting to various quarters that "they (LGBT Catholics)were out to get him (Cardinal Cormac)". Nothing was further from the truth, of course, but then for AI truth, like beauty, might be more in the eye of the beholder, not least when it challenges your own prejudice!

Posted by martin at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 2:27pm GMT

The archbishop added: "Marriage does not belong to the state any more than it belongs to the church. It is a fundamental human institution rooted in human nature itself. It is a lifelong commitment of a man and a woman to each other, publicly entered into, for their mutual wellbeing and for the procreation and upbringing of children."

Except when a heterosexual couple has no desire to have and/or physically cannot have children. Life-long except when the Church declares that a heterosexual marriage is annulled, rather than the couple is divorced, in which case the marriage magically never happened, which is an insult to the two people who were in the marriage. Marriage cannot be defined, except when the Church defines it.
For my money, many religious annulments are pious fictions, meant to allow the couple to divorce, while keeping a straight face that all marriages are life-long.
But in the Church's eyes, for same-sex couples, marriage IS exclusively a life-long commitment solely for the purpose of the couple themselves biologically procreating (no adoptions please, we're Roman Catholic) children.
The Roman Catholic Church would resent any intrusion, secular or religious, into its ability to marry or to not marry whom it pleases. And rightly so. But it feels perfectly free to tell Quakers, Liberal Jews, Unitarians and others what they can and cannot do.
And this, in my most humble opinion, they cannot do.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 7:49pm GMT

Ron ..are you and Diana ok? .. I've just seen the pictures of your devestation.

Posted by Robert ian williams at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 8:34pm GMT

'As Giles says, he will be obedient to the rule of the Church on this,'

Why ?

'Obedient' and 'will of the Church' sound very very odd on his lips. Is this liberal ?

The only time anglicans use such language is around lesbian and gay equality. I smell a rat...

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 10:25pm GMT

I'm fairly outspoken on the idea of cowardice amongst clergy - especially once they start getting titles like Dean, Canon and Bishop - but, in all fairness, it is possible to follow the rule while opposing the rule; to snatch a line from the disloyal opposition, it's about behavior, not orientation. In this case, you follow the church's rules - behavior - while you vocally opposing the rule - orientation.

It *can* be cowardice if one tries to rationalize the rule - and, admittedly, I have not seen this video, but Giles Fraser doesn't seem to justify the church's rule, nor does he hide his opposition to it.

Now, I have criticized Canon Fraser in the past, and will again in a moment if I see cowardice, but simply being obedient may be an act of integrity and self-denial. We don't like it when the "orthodox" crowd buck the church rules for their conscience's sake, so, let's cut Giles a little slack, here. Keep in mind, too, that, yes, the CofE *does* pay his salary, etc. and that is a lot to lose. I can't fault a man for not wanting to lose his livelihood, and not everyone has the makeup to be a St. Francis-on-the-dole. The courage to do that is very. rare. and one of our liberal, mad, friends on the blogosphere *has* paid dearly for his courage.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 5:19am GMT

"God made me who I am. But God's Church doesn't want me. See you all on the Last Day" - Posted by Peter Copping

Peter, you are COMPLETELY WELCOME---as God made you, with your beloved---at the Episcopal Church. See you this Sunday?

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 6:41am GMT

re: the obedience stance of Canon Giles Fraser on the subject of Gay Marriage; may I point out that the Church of England has long been the cockpit of a situation we might call 'equivocation' (not to say 'levitation') which, because of the conservative tenor of Church polity, occasions the double-mindedness of 'believing one thing and practising another'.

This has obtained within the Church of England on the matter of Gay Clergy for centuries now - and one suspects the R.C. Church - not only on the subject of gay relationships but also in the area of the overt practice of artificial contraception (although Robert might not agree to that). Most RC married couples that I know have obeyed their individual consciences on this matter while still appearing at Mass on Sundays - thereby disobeying the rules.

Equivocation is at the heart of much hypocrisy in the Church, where we are warned in Scriopture that "Nothing shall be done in the dark which will not be revealed in the daylight". How the Church can possibily continue to live with this ingrained tradition of institutional dishonesty, one wonders. This is precisely why the reality of gay relationships needs to be accepted and helped to be accepted by everyone within the Church, so that ALL whom Jesus came to save might be aware of their acceptability to God and the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 9:00am GMT

No ! 'obedient' is a weasle word.Liberals in the Church excell at them I have found.

'We obey... God rather than men' (Acts)

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 12:39pm GMT


The longer I listen to these loud protests - all with the surface theme of protecting/defending marriage - the tag words include, natural, one man plus one woman, traditional, and similar? - the more I think I hear and sense a deeper subtext.

The dominant emotion sounds like profound fear, wrapped in sacred righteous indignation.

Not too far beneath these cognitive and emotional surfaces, however, I do hear more.

I think the good church leaders making such negative pronouncements are indeed telling us something, as in: 1) folks are more afraid than they actually wish to spell out, plus 2) the really dire phenom which a great many church leaders would strongly desire to sidestep or put off at nearly all apparent costs is? Well, that queer folks should make lifelong ethical pairbonded commitments (including in many instances, parenting), and over time prove to be no worse at it than straight folks happen to be. Even worse, would prove to be no worse at it than most straight folks who claim an exclusive, particular church life righteousness will be shown to be.

In light of such evidence experienced widely and open for all among us to see, know, and test, all the clamor amounts to teapot tempestuousness. Alas.

Anything but that ... Lord have mercy.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 12:26am GMT

Peter Smith is the Roman archbishop of Southwark. The 'Catholic Church' is on a collision course with no-one- neither the UK government nor anyone else. The RC denomination may well be -- for all I know. But that denomination is not the Catholic Church. Check it out with your Creed, if in any doubt on this important matter.

Very lax reporting - + some kind of failure of the religious imagination ?

For those who pray the Creed, ponder it + meditate on it, line by line, how can the Catholic Church be thus mentally abandoned ? - its apostolicity + catholicity + holiness lost sight of - it would seem... the Mystici Corporis ...

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 2:17am GMT

"'We obey... God rather than men' (Acts)"

The problem is, look what happened to the people who said that; do you have the courage to follow that path without being forced to? If not, it's rather disingenuous to expect someone else to do so *for* you.

We all excel at weaselling out of the hard road.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 5:51am GMT

I agree that words like "obedient" can be misused, and that sometimes disobedience is required by the Gospel.

That said, most struggles are engaged on a number of fronts, and both obedience (or in the language of an earlier Anglican culture, passive obedience") and disobedience (or, in the secular context, civil disobedience) are tactics which may be appropriate in the course of the struggle.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 9:15pm GMT

The problem is, look what happened to the people who said that; do you have the courage to follow that path without being forced to? If not, it's rather disingenuous to expect someone else to do so *for* you.

We all excel at weaselling out of the hard road.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 25 February 2011

Since you ask, Mark Brunson,I did do it years ago and paid for it. No kudos- I am not (+ was not brave) but did what 'I' had to. I am sure what you are - apparently - getting so cross about. I have listened to the fair words of C of E liberals for over 40 years I guess, and seen them fail lesbian and gay people again and again. Perhaps I might get hot under the collar ?

'Obedience' is a weasel word in a C of E context-- that was what I said.

Btw I am attending an official Quaker Wedding soon, being held under the new arrangements made by the Society of Friends at Yearly Meeting, recently.

Pop goes the weasel !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:41am GMT

You seem to be projecting your "hot under the collar" as my "crossness" - I assure you, I am not cross, but arguing for a position of accepting that Canon Fraser may be both obedient to a rule, while not simply weaselling out of duty. He still publicly decries the church's position - I do not use Church, but church, to indicate one ecclesial structure among many, in this case CofE - and does so regularly.

As I noted, I have and will continue to criticize Giles Fraser at those times he tries to pacify and conciliate with the status quo. I do NOT hear him saying to simply accept and it will change *eventually,* however, merely that, in good faith and by his own choice he made vows to do or refrain from actions in his vows to the church. While I consider Williams to hide behind his "obedience" to the "larger communion" as an errant and obvious fiction in that he clearly supports their position by refusing anything but the most tepid personal comment, I cannot say the same of Canon Fraser, of whom the whole discussion of obedience as screen began here. I believe obedience can be an act of protest, depending on how it's done - one of the things I've heard about Jesuits, for instance, is that they are not permitted to criticize Papal declarations or actions, so, if disapproving, they will praise anything about the situation *around* the Papal action, but the disapproved action itself.

As I noted, as well, doing what one is forced to is not the same as becoming angry because someone else doesn't voluntarily take the risks we would like them to.

Finally, I believe you can understand my failing to understand your referring solely to CofE as your literal statement was:

"No ! 'obedient' is a weasle word.Liberals in the Church excell at them I have found."

As I explained, Church - in my understanding - refers to the entirety of Christendom, while church or "*this* Church" or "*that* Church" (e.g. - the Roman Catholic Church) refer to individual structures. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 10:51am GMT

ok MarkB not to worry - these can get tangled !

Given your understanding of 'Church':

We can rejoice the The Church has spoken clearly through the authority of the Religious Society of Friends.

As I say attending a Quaker Wedding in a few weeks.

best wishes

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 9:12pm GMT
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