Comments: opinion

I found Canon Giles Fraser' article interesting.

It would seem that, quite legally, an Anglican priest could offer in his parish church a service of 'Thanksgiving and Dedication' for any couple who have entered into a legal Civil Partnership - and presumably this could include a legally-conducted Same-Sex Civil Partnership - as long as no 'Blessing' is offered!

This sounds an extremely odd arrangement - where an acknowledgement of a legal relationship between two human being can be undertaken in a church - but there is an embargo on offering a 'Blessing'!

Presumably then, now that the C. of E. has put up its Marriage Fees, this means that the best and most economical arrangement for a Same-Sex couple would be for them to opt for the Service of quote: 'Dedication and Thanksgiving'. This might be a better alternative than a 'Blessing' - that might be construed by the Church as a 'Marriage'.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio....."

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 12 February 2012 at 9:37am GMT

Giles Fraser needs to recognise the HoB reason for not authorising services of blessing:
'‘The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites’.

However we may contest its fairness, the stated purpose is avoidance of a public liturgy that affirms that which does not reflect the theological consensus of the House of Bishops.

The outcome of the commissioned review may reflect a consensus that completely affirms a more liberal view of marriage. The current position on re-marriage of divorcees proves that a vastly different consensus is possible. Perhaps, this will be as far from the current conservative position as is the current church position on divorce and re-marriage from the findings of the 1971 Root report.

Until, it is, pre-empting the process of achieving consensus cannot be justified by comparisons with the church re-marriage of divorcees. Neither can we justify attempts to maintain the superficial distinction between services of prayer and thanksgiving and those of blessing.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 12 February 2012 at 1:27pm GMT

Giles Fraser's piece reminded me of two quotes:
"Unfortunately, the fool of an Act says ‘compassing the death of the Heir Apparent.’ There’s not a word about a mistake – Or not knowing – Or having no notion – Or not being there – There should be, of course – But there isn’t. That’s the slovenly way in which these Acts are always drawn. However, cheer up, it’ll be all right. I’ll have it altered next session." (W. S. Gilbert)
"[N]o man is fit to be an officer who has not the sense and courage to know when to disobey an order." (John Singleton Mosby)

Posted by Steve Lusk at Sunday, 12 February 2012 at 5:53pm GMT

So where does that leave us, David Shepherd, on the subject of Same-Sex services of Thanksgiving?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 12 February 2012 at 10:01pm GMT

'The material pro­vided by the House of Bishops in 1985 for those who have undertaken a civil marriage is called “An order for prayer and dedication after a civil marriage”.'

Yes back then they offered order for prayer and dedication after a civil marriage, IN ORDER to avoid blessing them. As if there was a difference !

SO, prayer and dedication today, and blessing tomorrow.

But prayer and dedication makes a lot more immediate sense any way.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 12 February 2012 at 10:06pm GMT

What does the word "bless" mean, anyway? Isn't it something like "God prosper, defend, inspire, protect, enliven, sustain"?

When we unpack the word "bless", can we imagine NOT asking God to do these things for two people pledging their lives to each other? (and if in church, IN Christ?)

Not that high-level theological discussions aren't important, but I just can't see what these have to do w/ a couple asking the church for a blessing of their marri-, um, civil partnership [Speed the day when no Freudian slips are necessary!]

Posted by JCF at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 12:08am GMT

Oh! What's this ?

Quite a different style and flavour in the Giles Fraser New Statesman piece. Flows differently, a lighter touch too ....

Is Giles working up some new personas to help sustain his new career as a hack, or has some cheeky sub redacted him wholesale?

As regards the other piece. Yes, interesting. The silent - just sign on the dotted line - civil partnership that the Church insisted upon back in the days when the Bill was drafted, now fits so neatly into the sacred process - even separated as the law expects from the religious ceremony - its context and religious celebrant makes the point more clearly than a thousand words!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 8:28am GMT

"What does the word "bless" mean, anyway? Isn't it something like "God prosper, defend, inspire, protect, enliven, sustain"?"

And the blessing is done by God, the priest merely asks God to bless something. It's then up to God whether he does or not.
Or does anyone think that purely because priests bless war equipment God automatically obeys?

The church can refuse to bless. It still only refuses the ceremony.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 9:19am GMT

Father Ron asks an important pastoral question regarding the interim position regarding thanksgiving services for Christians involved in same-sex relationships. It is one which is taken up by JCF as he challenges us to address the meaning of blessing.

Both might concur with a statement found in the Liturgical Commission's paper entitled The Blessing of Worshippers within the Christian Tradition: 'Human beings are created in the imago dei, and in part, this attribution carries with it the connotation of a priestly function of placing value on God’s creation and in re-claiming it for God’s good purposes. This priestly task is explicitly enjoined upon the baptised people of God, on those designated as being a priestly people. Christians are to bless and not to curse, to recover and reclaim that which is spoilt and lost in human relationships.' http://www.transformingworship.org.uk/TransformingWorship/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/prayer-for-non-communicants.pdf

Nevertheless, the paper also higlights several other motives for blessing, both now and in the early church, including: 'The underlying issue was not so much a question of cultic competence or power (although these factors emerged in systematic reflection from the 12th century onwards) but of the one blessing being in some sense a recognised representative figure.'

So, in this case, we should also ask whether the overarching motive behind the service of blessing is for the representative affirmation of same-sex relationships as approved by God and by the church.

Does the involvement of a recognised, representative minister acting within the terms of authority delegated by the episcopacy publicly promote the idea that a de facto theological consensus has been reached affirming same-sex marriage? What exactly is a theological consensus in a modern episcopal polity?

We should also ask how far this issue would divide even the most uncompromising leaders in the early church (consider Paul's disputes with Barnabus over John Mark compared with those with Pharisee converts to Christianity over Gentile circumcision). Is the blessing disputed as a difference over suitability for the holy estate of matrimony (as with the twice-divorced), or as a subversive distortion of the whole process of grace?

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 4:41pm GMT

What a world, where priests routinely bless bombs that shred people to bits, and yet it's considered an abomination to bless two men or two women who want to make a household and a life together.

The evangelical chaplain blessing the "Daisy Cutter" bomb on board the aircraft carrier -- now there's an abomination.

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 5:11pm GMT

I hope no one sneezes in the middle of the service! Confusions and retractions may later arise.

Posted by Mark at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 6:29pm GMT

David, the only way to have a broad church, which does not slit over every difference, is to take a deep breath and allow others to do things which seem inappropriate and shocking to oneself. Where Anglican students train, one will find really substantial differences over matters of real theology. Is Christ really present in the Eucharist? In what sense if the Bible the words of God? The only way we cope with students who believe God is perfectly happy to burn people alive eternally, and students who do not so believe, is by respecting we can live with difference. This matter of same sex blessings is NOT a huge THEOLOGICAL difference - though it has a great impact on human lives. If we can't rub along with people who consider such relationships blessed/abhorrent then we are in a bad place. One has to allow liberty of conscience over things which do not touch the substance of the faith.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 6:36pm GMT

A very interesting definition of 'Blessing' appears in the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church:

"Blessing is God's imparting of divine favour"

A question might arise here: who are we, as God's ministers, to deny God's willingness to 'bless' a homogenous, faithful Same-Sex relationship?

Secondly, in this definition from NIDCC:

"When a blessing is given by a man (or a woman?) it is a human act invoking divine favour. It can mean also to give thanks to God."

I am mindful also of a scriptural injunction:

"Who are you to pronounce unclean what I have made?" - Did God not create ALL humanity, in the divine Image and Likeness?

Why, therefore, should the Church withhold its Blessing - in God's name - of anyone?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 13 February 2012 at 11:18pm GMT

I don't know why the message isn't loud and clear, yet . . . clearly, so-called christian leaders want gays to NOT BE in their churches. I don't deny the essential good in the idea of the episcopate, but look at what our lack of attention and complacency has placed in the various *cathedra*! Honestly, we expect excellence (for our buck, or euro, or pound)at a restaurant, why do we settle for the lowest-common-denominator in bishops? Mammon truly is our god.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 4:42am GMT

Simon - I rather think the server or whatever is swallowing my comments.

ED NOTE: Yes, one found. Anyone else who thinks this may have happened, please say.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 7:53am GMT

Ursula Buchan's is a very nice piece.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 6:21pm GMT

Rosemary,

I entirely agree with your reply to David. But I also think it an ineluctable consequence of that position that those who do not agree with women bishops should not be compelled to recognise them even to the extent that the current proposed 'special arrangements' require. If not, why not?

Posted by john at Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:57am GMT

'Honestly, we expect excellence (for our buck, or euro, or pound)at a restaurant, why do we settle for the lowest-common-denominator in bishops?'

Where vegetables are only served as an accompaniment, vegetarians can and do complain about the paltry number of unappetizing main course choices that are available.

Fast food menus may diversify, but won't change all that much. They cater to mainstream tastes, rather than public opinion on variety. The most that they will offer is a mere accommodation. The Department of Health probably won't intervene to shut non-vegetarian restaurants down, nor will they be censured for false advertising.

Even so, vegetarianism is on the rise. There's probably enough support to start a new chain of specialty restaurants. After all, people want choice.

Of course, your dietary preference, I mean, alimentary imperative, is not a protected characteristic...and the comparison with a commercial enterprise of any kind is a terrible analogy. Not sure where I got it from.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 11:40am GMT

Clearly, you didn't actually read the whole thing, David.

If you are going to try to be "witty" and dismiss me, at least know what it is you're dismissing.

Of course, I'm just one of those homosexuals, so you can always simply make a sneering, condescending, ill-informed broadside and expect to be accepted.

However, since we are to clarify and thus teach the ignorant -

If
we
demand
quality
in
small,
relatively-insignificant
purchases,
why
allow
mediocrity
in
the
episcopacy
if
we
take
it
seriously?

Clear?

Words make good sense now?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 8:24am GMT

Mark:

Predictably piqued, but that's why we love ya! x

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 5:42pm GMT

The hidden sub-text:
If the church merely caters to the majority, as with fast food chains, it's a prescription for mediocrity.

It will probably lead to schism, with smaller churches more capably catering to LGBT expectations.

The Church of England will probably not reap the censure of the State.

I can see how that might be misconstrued as homophobic.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 6:56pm GMT

"If the church merely caters to the majority, as with fast food chains, it's a prescription for mediocrity."

That the minority is, by definition, less mediocre and therefore better is a highly suspect assumption.

Sometimes, the majority has understood something the minority is absolutely refusing to see.

You can find yourself in an advanced minority, in a majority that has not yet understood something, in a majority that has understood something, or in a backward minority.

Numbers really don't count for anything.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 17 February 2012 at 10:30am GMT

"If the church merely caters to the majority, as with fast food chains, it's a prescription for mediocrity."

That the minority is, by definition, less mediocre and therefore better is a highly suspect assumption.

Sometimes, the majority has understood something the minority is absolutely refusing to see.

You can find yourself in an advanced minority, in a majority that has not yet understood something, in a majority that has understood something, or in a backward minority.

Numbers really don't count for anything.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:05am GMT

Erika:

No assumption made. By '*Merely* caters to the majority', I'm not pre-supposing the validity of majority or minority opinion. Merely suggests the complete exclusion of dissent from a smaller segment that might have an insight.

You might agree that prejudicially ignoring a minority view provides no insight at all.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 17 February 2012 at 12:23pm GMT

David,

"You might agree that prejudicially ignoring a minority view provides no insight at all."

Indeed.
Pandering to a minority view after a process of discernment has found it to be wrong doesn't provide any insight either.

Talking about minorities and majorities as though numbers had any value at all is completely misleading. In all possible topics.

Something is either right or it isn't, and the determining factor for whether it is right or not is not the number of people who support it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 17 February 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

Justice is at the heart of the Gospel precepts. If the Church ignores justice, it may not survive.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 20 February 2012 at 10:35am GMT

Erika,

You are being run around a mulberry bush.

Seriously, do NOT waste your time with this one. You'll find your tires spinning in a mudhole of sophistry. The worst kind of conservative is the kind who prostitutes his intelligence to justifying his prejudices and crying "tolerance, compassion" while denying it to others, and this is one of the worst.

You have better things to do.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 5:13am GMT
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