Comments: Bishop of Leicester issues statement on behalf of the Lords Spiritual

Is there anyone reading this blog who is able to translate the Bishop of Leicester's statement?

Posted by Charlotte at Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 11:54pm BST

If you're being run out of town....

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:07am BST

Stop digging Tim !

Your role will now be very limited and your role curtailed - you wanted NO further discussion, debate or consideration of these matters - remember ?

How do you imagine this is going down in East Ham / Newham ?

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:19am BST

As a gay couple with an adopted daughter this statement fills me with dread.

What do they mean by rights of the child? Like most adopted children my daughter was abused by her birth parents and removed by a judge. A court of law then transferred all parental rights to us when we adopted her. Is the church going to try to insert some kind of right for her birth parents to be allowed to contact her no matter what we say? Are they going to have the right to stay on the birth certificate?

Doesn't the church realise that interfering with the way parental rights are currently assigned, using a marriage bill, is actually dangerous for all those children who have been in care? Why not leave it to the family courts as it is now?


Then we have teachers. As a gay couple we went to great lengths to find a decent non-faith school near where we live. Faith schools have latitude to say what they like about gay relationships and many gay couples have problems with the way staff at faith schools treat their children. Are we now to discover that it doesn't matter what the school policy on same sex parents is, because every individual teacher can say what they like, without fear of reprimand?

Would it be so difficult to either stay silent on such matters or go and work at a school that shares your ethos?

Posted by CRW at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 5:47am BST

How big of "the C of E" graciously to stop digging. I wonder how much their other Lordships will be bothered to listen to the Lords Spiritual now? They have surely used up a great deal of spiritual capital and credibility in jumping into the sinking ship of opposition.

All the more credit to Lord Harries.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 7:58am BST

Within all this, I am getting the impression that we have an Archbishop of Canterbury who, in spite of earlier gestures, seems quite unwilling to really engage with the matters of same-sex marriage and human sexuality. The announcement by the Lords Spiritual represents a glimmer of common sense, in terms of the progressing legislation, but it carries a whiff of weary unwillingness to work for any real change in the official policy and practice of the Church of England.

Posted by Tim Moore at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 8:15am BST

Both this and the RC statement were probably hard to make, so we should graciously welcome their realism. Apologies will come - to the faithful believers and faith communities whose religious freedom they have tried to violate until these statements - but not soon.

However, both the 'children' (I agree with CRW - and what about CofE adoption agencies?) and the 'fidelity in marriage' signals are concerning. I take it that the latter means that they will go on about adultery and non-consummation. Advice from a candid friend: don't do it. Les Green, Oxford Professor of Legal Philosophy, recently wrote that both are legally defined only "by the penetration of a vagina by a penis to sufficient depth to satisfy the trier of fact." Triers of fact, ruler in hand, usually keep out of other people's bedrooms. Both adultery and non-consummation are now redundant to establish marriage failure. "Unreasonable conduct" covers both, and petitions have almost ceased to cite adultery. Hear the words of wisdom: let it be,

Posted by Iain McLean at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 8:51am BST

It is clear that the Bishops have accepted that they have lost the cause of homophobic opposition to equal marriage. However, now there is a desire to enshrine inequality in the legislation to allow public servants to be homophobes. When slavery was abolished or when apartheid went were such bishops as eager to pursue their sins further?

Posted by Andrew Hawkins-Kennedy at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 9:42am BST

Oh, Ian McLean, you are a spoil sport.

I want to hear the Lords Spiritual, in their full regalia, debating at length what does and does not constitute sufficient sexual activity to constitute same-sex consummation and lesbian adultery. Perhaps they could download some helpful visual aids from the Internet and provide us with a Powerpoint presentation. "Here they are holding hands while listening to a kd lang record, or perhaps it might be Kylie the little Australian poppet: not enough". "Here they are kissing, tongues and everything, while only wearing their underclothes: not enough." "Here they are...well...I don't know...what...but I think that's enough now. My word. Oh."

Perhaps the CofE Ministry of Truth, or whatever it's called, could then summarise this in a document. With pictures and diagrams, so that we can have a fully Christian understanding of what needs to be penetrated with what in order to satisfy the Lords Spiritual that sex is taking place. Oh, perhaps that sentence could be better worded.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 10:25am BST

Can it be true? Is the war really over? I have gone through a number of stages on this - cynical, churlish, relieved and so on. As it is clear the bill will pass the statement in one sense adds little. In another it's a signal to various refuseniks to give up fighting (bishops, Daily Telegraph, Church press office (ahem), wilder reaches of the Tory party, possibly C4M who at the moment are fighting on in hope of a different vote in the Lords). The bishops are saying "look folks, the fors and against have had it out; there's a 2/3 majority in both houses which isn't going to change and no opportunity to reverse in the future. It's over"

I must say it's been a bruising and upsetting war and the credibility of the CofE is very badly damaged and it's now time to start the job of rebuilding. As well as confidential meetings with CA (long overdue) there need to be some tokens of reconciliation between the CofE and LGBT people. The sort of thing I am thinking of is some kind of blessing for couples who have had a civil union (whether civil marriage or civil partnership).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:22am BST

I agree with Iain: we should welcome this statement. +Tim, who did not vote for the Dear amendment, has got the agreement of his colleagues that they should not continue to oppose the measure but work constructively for its adoption in a pragmatic form. This is very good.

Let's not provide fodder to the canard of liberal illiberality.

Posted by Stuart, Devon at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:41am BST

Interestingly some bishops at least kept their slaves after the slave trade was abolished right until slavery itself was abolished in the 1830's. The bishop of Exeter was famously compensated for the loss of his slaves with a huge amount of money. So yes, Andrew the bishops did pursue their sins further! Despite the archbishop's regret at the way the church has treated LGBT people, I doubt we will actually see any thing like eg blessing of civil partnerships any time soon. I hope I am wrong.

Posted by sjh at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 12:17pm BST

An interesting & encouraging (?) reading of the bishops latest.

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 1:26pm BST

The chairperson of the LGBTory groups is not so sanguine; and feels that it could be voted down yet. As, some / many who did not vote for the amendment on constitutional grounds, nonetheless oppose the Bill, and will vote against it, in due course - unless convinced by letters, emails or messages via Contact-a-lord.

I'll seek out the url.

As for illiberal liberals it doesn't wash with me.

Yes, bishops hung on to 'their' slaves and Exeter most famously. But they tended to be worked to death in a matter of six years - talk about godliness and personal religion. I can hardly bear to think of it.

And please remember that the bishops were responsible for the continuation of the death penalty for non-capital charges for many decades.
Can Christ have really been in their hearts ? Were they in truth 'born from above'? Sorry to sound so embarrassingly unanglican.

So no, I shall not trust the bishops one inch, until the Bill is through, finally. I see now that Tim Stevens abstained strategically, so that he might have some leverage in committee and revision. He hopes.

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 1:40pm BST

they're not changing tack because they've had a change of heart but because their combined attempt at wrecking the Bill failed.
There will no change within the CoE and lgbt people will not easily forgive Bishops and in particular Canterbury voting for the Dear amendment.

The relief is that there will now be civil marriage. Within the CoE itself I don't foresee any progress - not after the debacle we saw on Tuesday.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 2:19pm BST

"I doubt we will actually see any thing like eg blessing of civil partnerships any time soon. I hope I am wrong."

85% of those who took part in the Government consultation process on marriage equality said they would convert their CPs to marriages if they could.
I would say that all Christians would, at least, I cannot really imagine anyone who wouldn't.

Once marriage equality has become law there will be nothing left for the church to bless.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 2:45pm BST

I wonder, after his speech in the Lords but then his vote FOR the Dear wrecking amendment, whether the new archbishop of Canterbury has yet realised that he has just cooked his goose? Who in the reasonable world will listen to him now? (And so soon after the promise signalled by his meeting with Peter Tatchell, too.)

Posted by Tom at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:12pm BST

Interesting a positive piece from Jenkin an uncommonly decent man :

The ending of provocation a bit odd - timewarp circa 1953 ?

I'll so try not to provoke any dear beknighted heterosexual who can't quite get his head - around it.

But no, that is, yes, a good piece for our days.

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:40pm BST

"[W]hether the new archbishop of Canterbury has yet realised that he has just cooked his goose?"

It looks as though we must resign ourselves to yet another Archbishop of Canterbury who has neither moral backbone nor strategic sense.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:40pm BST

According to Hansard only 32% of eligible Bishop's exercised their right to vote - +Leicester was not one of them. Those that did were 100% against. What happened to the other 68%???

Posted by Fr Paul at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 4:53pm BST

"It looks as though we must resign ourselves to yet another Archbishop of Canterbury who has neither moral backbone nor strategic sense."

Or one who is a genuine homophobe.

Does theological training in the UK involve a study of justice issues? Justin is not a God Hates Fags homophobe, although that nuance may not travel well across the pond. But the idea that we LGBT people have our "place," i.e. civil partnerships but not marriage, doesn't wash. We've learned that separate is unequal, it is an insult to our dignity, keeps us and our families exposed to the oppression of difference, and does not acknowledge us as created by God in the image of God.

It just seems like the ABC is bumbling through, totally ignorant of the issues, nuances, and language of justice. Crushing peoples spirits along the way.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 6:05pm BST

This sort of statement comes all the time from all sorts and kinds of bishops--Episcopal/Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Moravian, Lutheran. I find it offensive. It is demeaning to have intimated that the love I have for my partner--soon-to-be husband [Thank you, State of Minnesota.]--is some how defective, some how less than the opposite-sex marriage, some how 'intrinsically disordered' (as Roman Catholic bishops sometimes say) or 'inconsistent with what the Scriptures tell us' (as my Episcopal bishop has put it).

What the debate in the House of Lords has made clear, if nothing else, is where the Lords Spiritual and their supporters really stand, what they really think. This will be a blessing in the long run. It's always preferable to have an honest bishop. In this case, such honesty reveals a somewhat pinched notion of marriage as a whole.

N.B., It is an instructive exercise for those who speak of 'marriage' and 'same sex marriage' or 'homosexual marriage' or 'gay marriage' to adopt the usage 'opposite sex marriage' or 'heterosexual marriage' or 'straight marriage'. Said enough times the speaker/author will soon have some experience of the effect their pigeon-holing has on others.

James Mackay
Fargo, North Dakota

Posted by James Mackay at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 7:11pm BST

"He signalled that bishops would seek to introduce a notion of adultery into the bill [...]. Under the current bill people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce for adultery after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between gay or lesbian couples.

Under existing law, people in opposite-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them with someone of the same sex are not able to divorce for adultery - they divorce on the basis of it being 'unreasonable behaviour'. This ground for divorce would exist in a same-sex marriage. Why the need to 'introduce a notion of adultery'?

Some readers of TA may be surprised to learn that the existing declaratory and contracting words in an opposite-sex civil marriage ceremony make no reference to faithfulness.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 7:25pm BST

"According to Hansard only 32% of eligible Bishop's exercised their right to vote - +Leicester was not one of them. Those that did were 100% against. What happened to the other 68%??? " - Fr. Paul.

I can tell of two - +Sentamu Ebor: is on sick leave (see a thread a little lower down) and +Paul Southwell & Nottingham is out of the country at a long-arranged conference on ministry to children that is taking place in Finland.

Posted by RPNewark at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 9:52pm BST

"Perhaps they could download some helpful visual aids from the Internet and provide us with a Powerpoint presentation. "Here they are holding hands while listening to a kd lang record..."

Interested Observer, I may require a new keyboard, from the cranberry juice you've just made me spray all over my old one! ROFL!!!

[@CRW: God bless and protect you and your family.]

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:00pm BST

"+Sentamu Ebor: is on sick leave"

Clearly, one wishes him a speedy and complete recovery.

However, it's unlikely that his presence in the House of Lords would have added nuance, insight or charity to the debate. His pronouncements on same-sex marriage have been clearly tailored to appeal to audiences more conservative than the CofE in England.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:00pm BST

Paul Southwell and Nottingham is not a member of the House of Lords yet.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:26pm BST

When the archbishop says that the "redefinition of marriage" will undermine a "cornerstone" of society, what evidence does he adduce to support such a position?

The answer is that he can't because none exists. Like so many clerics and others, he's just pulling stuff out of his

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:43pm BST

Father Paul, it sounds as though your 32 percent statistic does not include the bishops who were present, but who abstained.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 1:51am BST

CRW, I don't know if adoption records are permanently sealed there, but at least in the U.S., more states are allowing adopted children to see their original birth certificates AND sometimes allowing the biological parents to maintain contact in "open adoptions". The push to allow this was made by support organizations for adopted people wanting:
a.)health/genetic information and/or
b.) a desire to meet their biological family and "know where they come from."
When an adopted child has to sue to gain access to the records, these reasons are often called the "child's rights". Open adoptions are also pushed by women(often students or surrogates) who get pregnant and aren't ready for a family but don't want to cut all contact from their child.

Some people are calling for an end to changing the original birth certificate at all and just using the adoption/legal guardianship papers instead. They say it's wrong to lie on legal documents especially when the lie is biologically obvious or impossible. Don't be surprised if remaking marriage remakes adoption.

Posted by Chris H. at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 2:42am BST

The advice of Polonius - 'this above all, to thine own self be true' is surely essentially Christian. Our episcopate, supposed to be leading the rest of us, have set two appalling examples: failure by some to vote according to their consciences in the first place and now this ungracious bowing to the inevitable for fear of losing their collective seats in the House of Lords and risking disestablishment.

Posted by Laura Sykes at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 6:31am BST

Can't possibly say it better than Interested Observer. Like JCF, I *nearly* had an iPad incident...

Posted by Scot Peterson at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 7:51am BST

Chris H
as far as I'm aware adoption has become much more open in Britain over the last few years. Children are encouraged to have contact with their birth parents where that is safe and possible, and they certainly have access to relevant information when they are 18.
I am not aware of any moves to change that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 9:42am BST

The idea that the Government has "failed" to define what constitutes sex between gay people is wrong. The Government doesn't define it for straight people either. There is only sexual activity that can be cited as adulterous. All the others, which happen to be the same ones gay people engage in, do not count in law. If anyone wants to divorce on the grounds of those activities they will have to cite unreasonable behaviour. That does emphatically NOT mean that it is considered to be ok for straight to have non penetrative extra marital sex. Or that we don't actually know that it is sex.

But I do applaud the initiative to ensure that both parents are the legal parents of any children arising out of same sex marriage. That is definitely worth supporting. That children should have a different legal status on the basis of their parents' sexuality is untenable.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 9:58am BST

Well I am with Iain and Stuart. I welcome the bishop's statement and trust their honourable intent (even though I wish they have spoken and behaved in other ways) though it takes a stiff drink to say so in present company here. The tone of contributions illustrates the difficulty of trying to explore genuine questions or hold different convictions within the same faith.

The attitude to bishops is at best exasperated - and I share this - but contemptuously dismissive at worst. Is this is really Christian or helpful?

The real positive in recent months for me is the way the equal marriage legislation has provoked deep debate about the whole nature of marriage and human relating. This can only be to the good in a society that has been conducting a freewheeling social experiment in its relationships for decades now - and the damage is everywhere. I think that is one reason why an underlying concern about 'traditional' marriage is being expressed here. Something very core to social stability and human flourishing has been under threat for some time. It would be more than reassuring to hear a mutuality of concern for those seeking to honour their public commitment to each other and provide a secure and nurturing environment for family life.

So please can we keep the debate going? And if for some it has only just started then please can we ask for the patience of others? We need each other in this. Labelling is lazy. For myself I have questions I want to ask all sides. To have genuine questions about extending 'marriage' to same-sex relationships (while wholly supporting what civil partnership is seeking to express and provide) is simply not to be homophobic. To acknowledge and honour difference is not to practice discrimination actually. 'separate is unequal' ? - and where is there anything in the Biblical theology of creation of, say, Paul's theology of the body of Christ to support this?

Posted by David at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 10:04am BST

My first contribution on this thread about children was written before the "Telegraph" story appeared. If the bishops' intention is an amendment to create a presumption that both SS parents are the parents of the child, then like Erika I applaud it. If it is to create new rights for biological parents, then like CRW I am scared of it.

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 11:05am BST

of course newcomers to the debate must be given time to explore the various views and come to their own conclusion.
But not at the expense of denying me civic legal equality in the meantime.
That time is definitely over. Thankfully - because, you know, some of us having been having this conversation for decades and we're not getting younger and if we had to wait until the last Christian in the CoE had come to the conclusion that we might just possibly be allowed to get married we'd never get there.

Think, discuss, engage - by all means. But not with the assumption that my life has to be on hold until you have made your mind up about it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 1:31pm BST

@chris H

Adoption in the US and UK are pretty different. Adoptions here are indeed already open. My own daughter sees several half siblings, adopted by other people, and we are supposed to have letter based contact with the birth parents, but they never write.

Adoption files in this country are never truly sealed, children have a book detailing their early lives and the reasons they were taken into care, along with photos of the birth family etc. You are given all the medical records they have and any information social services have. Children have a right to all this information at 18 in case the adoptive parents keep it from them.

In the UK almost no children are given up for adoption by parents who are not ready for children. Almost all adoptions are for children who have been abused or neglected, or at serious risk of this because of the experiences of siblings.

At the moment contact arrangements with the families are discussed with social services but ultimately up to the adoptive parents. This is entirely right. Recommendations vary from family to family based on the individual circumstances.

As for birth certificates, you keep the originals, but you don't use it. Birth certificates are used as proof for all sorts of things, it is hardly useful to have someone else's name on your proof of parenthood. I work for a charity supporting adopted people and families and I don't know any adult adoptees who would like to use their original certificate.

I think adoption in the USA is in a real mess. Money changes hands in return for babies in the USA, which is never going to lead to a good place. In addition the fact a child is adopted, or details of their adoption are often hidden from children. This makes for adults with a lot of issues to work through.

In the UK adopted children generally always know they are adopted, and have the option to write to their birth families as soon as appropriate. There is no mystery and so less of a big deal.

None of this is related to marriage law at all, and should stay totally separate. I hope the church keeps its fingers out of this issue entirely.

Posted by CRW at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 3:13pm BST

"The attitude to bishops is at best exasperated - and I share this - but contemptuously dismissive at worst. Is this is really Christian or helpful?"

David, sad to say, I'm one of the "contemptuously dismissive" ones. Here's the deal.

We LGBT persons have all been hurt for who we are and who we love. We've been hurt terribly. We've been hurt by the church when it tells us we aren't loved by God, or not equally loved by God, and aren't eligible for the Grace of God via the Sacraments, such as marriage. That pain alone is bound to kick up anger, in addition to a whole host of unhealthful problems, depression and what not. We have been hurt in our workplaces, affecting our economic and personal well being. We are vulnerable to hateful violence. The teen age suicide rate is awful, and directly related to bullying - bullying fed by the church and others who don't recognize the dignity of all of God's Creation.

When you think about the power balance, what the Lord Bishops are saying hurts us with their awful words, but worse, their efforts are in support of hurting us by withholding our human rights. I have unkind words for them, but that has no power over them. Their oppression crushes me and my brothers and sisters.

Me and some of my American sisters and brothers in TEC are holding our breaths to see if Justin is going to go the way of Rowan and DEMAND that TEC throw me under a bus. I think most of us aren't interested in the Anglican Communion if it means being in league with human rights violators and hurting our own.

From here in Colorado, I live in a country that isn't quite as enlightened as yours on LGBT issues. But I live in a church that is much more accepting and loving, and is richly bearing fruit, finally. From my perspective in TEC, I look at your Lord Bishops and wonder what tree they fell out of. As an American citizen, I'm envious that it's your Conservatives who are making the move towards justice.

The language that the Lord Bishops used was awful. We have learned in South Africa and in the US South that separate is unequal. And unequal leaves the minority exposed to manifold injustices.

We are all God's children. All. We don't get to the New Jerusalem by kicking down vulnerable minorities. Jesus love is Radical Love. And God's Dream is for all of us to participate in healing.

I know from my work in Haiti that people know exactly what oppresses them. They have a saying, "the illiterate are not ignorant." And here in the 1st World, likewise, we know exactly what oppresses us. And it's the arrogance, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance of those in power, such as your Lord Bishops.

It is unfortunate that I can't find a more kind way to describe them. But in the rhetoric, there was virtually no meaningful acknowledgement of the pain the church has caused. Justin essentially said, "we haven't treated LGBT people properly and I'm here to day to ask you to continue treating them improperly."

I'm angry and I yearn for justice for me and my sisters and brothers.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 3:49pm BST

David, you said:
"To acknowledge and honour difference is not to practice discrimination actually. 'separate is unequal' ? - and where is there anything in the Biblical theology of creation of, say, Paul's theology of the body of Christ to support this?"

Think about the power relationships and who is being defined by whom? If LGBT persons in very large majority were happy with this "difference," you would have strong point. However, if LGBT persons aren't happy with this "difference," then it means the majority is thrusting, enforcing, and oppressing it's ideas on an unwanting population.

In most cases, if you substituted "black" for "gay," you are most likely to get at least an inkling of how it might sound to an LGBT person. You may also get there by substituting gender issues too. If a woman says "no, that's not OK," but you do it anyway, how does that sound or feel?

Those analogies can take you a long way. Further, think about one of the nastiest of places, the playground. If you treat some kids different (children of SS parents, for example), what do you think happens on the playground?

Child bullying and teen age suicide alone ought to be enough to give straight people pause, especially those in power. The Lord Bishops have just affirmed every bigot in your country. Their children will hear about it, with the f-word of course, and they will act out on the playgrounds.

The above just has to do with society. What about the Sacrament of Marriage within the church? My partner is a gift to me, a gift from God, a gift that has grown exponentially each of our 21 years together. We are active in our church, doing outreach to the poor, etc. We are true believing, faithful, practicing Christians. We love our God and are loved by our Creator. We yearn for the Sacrament of Marriage, same as our straight brothers and sister, with whom we are in community.

If we want equality, we want equality. There's no English indirectness or polite alternative that can feed our souls, nurture our spirits, or provide for the well being of ourselves and our children.

Having spent a fair amount of time in your country, I'm well aware that my very direct and raw American writing is more harsh than most are used to. I feel so strongly like the CoE is slumbering when compassionate listening and observation is needed.

What are the fruits of homophobia? Of defining us a different and forcing a different solution on us? What are the fruits of justice, and compassion, and mercy.

Who is hurt by equality??? Who is hurt by inequality?

David, you are asking great questions. The answer, to enter into God's Dream of healing, is more community, not less. Barring marriage keeps us out.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 4:24pm BST

Following on from the points made by David and others, if the bishops are signalling that they want both spouses to be treated as parents and faithfulness to be as important for gay and lesbian as heterosexual couples (though this may be impractical because of the difficulty of finding a suitable definition), then I think this is positive. I understand that some people are so frustrated that anything the bishops do is attacked, but ultimately this is unhelpful, I daresay there may be some differences within the House of Bishops, with some wanting a more constructive approach and others implacably opposed, and I would rather that those who are more constructively inclined took the lead now.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 6:16pm BST

Savi and David are looking on the bright side and I wish them well.

We all saw the flawed and insulting statement made on marriage. That seems to be the basis of much of the Lord Bishops rhetoric. It's rotten to the core. Is anything salvable?

God can transform this hate into healing love. Who will step up in this work? Who will walk the playgrounds? Talk to bullied children? Talk to gay families? To gay Anglicans? Who will listen to the pain of centuries of hate? Over here, there are a ton of organizations where this dialogue would be easy to arrange. You must have it too.

The work is not going to happen in a vacuum. It isn't going to be men in a room working it out together. It may be informed somewhat by books, but it must also be driven by Witness.

These questions aren't academic. They are about real lives of people who will be uplifted or hurt by both the process and the outcome.

Are any of the bishops ready to do the real work? Or listen to those who have? It's a journey, a pilgrimage really. A spiritual adventure. Go for it.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 8:35pm BST

Some of us have been horrified at the extremes the Church of England has engaged in over the entirely predictable marriage equality bill. Apart from the official pronouncements we have had a truly vicious press operation designed to undermine the Conservative Party (of which I am not a member) when there has historically been a certain affinity between this party and the CofE.

The point I would stress is this. The attitude of the CofE has been caustic. We've seen the Archbishop of Canterbury describing the Prime Minister as a dictator, for instance. Fundamentally there was never question if obliging any church, including the CofE, to marry same sex couples if they did not wish to do so.

This was always about the state and those religions who wanted to do so being allowed to marry couples of the same sex, notably Quakers who came to the view they wanted to marry such couples as well as Unitarians, Liberal Judaism and possibly some other groups.

Having gained from the get go the exemptions they seek they should never have declared war on the measure in the way they did.

We have good reason to believe that the threat of the bishops' positive 'engagement' with the bill will just be a means of furthering their inveterate opposition in more covert ways.

If wrong then I have a pleasant surprise in store for me. If not then the Church of England will just slump lower and lower in my estimation.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 10:05pm BST

I am still seething with anger at Justin Welby's behaviour on Tuesday, making friendly noises towards lgbt people and apologising about the way they have often been treated by the church about 10 minutes before voting for an amendment that, if successful, would have stopped the House of Lord completing the democratic process of this Bill.
It was a very very bad day for the CoE.

But I do share Savi's optimism. There are now more and more positive voices within the CoE even higher up the hierarchy.
Grudgingly but nevertheless, Justin Welby acknowledged, for the first time ever, that there are different views on the issue in the CoE.

The Diocesan and Suffragan bishops in my own Diocese have noted this and also declared that there are 2 views within the CoE ( )
This is a genuine breakthrough.

There are enough genuine and outspoken people waiting in the wings who will take this opportunity to move the debate on. Lord Harris made a very positive speech in the Lords, there is already our very outspoken and pro-gay marriage Bishop Alan Wilson, Nick Holtham from Salisbury was very clear about his support...

Yes, I think there is a long long way to go yet. But I hope that the small, grudging opening Justin Welby has given the church in his speech on Tuesday may have opened up an opportunity that others will gladly grab and develop.

It's not certain they'll succeed. But it is possible that they will make progress.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 10:32pm BST

Sorry I think it was the Archbishop of York who called David Cameron a dictator, not the Archbishop of Canterbury (either current or previous, though if I read Rowan Williams' speech to the World Council of Churches aright he supported the movement towards same sex marriage - provided it was a natural development within the ethical life of the community as opposed to being based on a discourse of rights. His speech will stand rereading in a few years' time).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 11:00pm BST

I applaud Cynthia's comments which speak my mind and hurt. Also of course, Craig Nelson. And Erika.

Some writers here, seem not to have taken on board that Welby and the bishops have acted in bad faith, telling untruths (is that lying ?) and acting with deceit.

So their offer after their defeat to be constructive, offer guidance and so on, can only be interpreted in THIS context as chillingly cynical.

I do not trust them - do you really ?

They go on lying about their support of civil partnerships too. I returned my PTO when I read the so-called 'pastoral letter' they wrote when civil partnerships were introduced. Their letter was that bad.

They do not deserve any benefit of doubt or second chance.

They have not repented.

' perhaps they never will...'

Posted by Laurence at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 1:31am BST

Erika, your message gives me hope. At least the "waiting in the wings" bit.

I still believe that this needs more flesh and blood, i.e. witness and dialogue with real people to hear how homophobia negatively impacts us. And how equality hurts no one.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 3:11am BST

Thank you so much for sharing something of your story, your faith and your partnership, I found it very moving and I too long for this to move on to more honouring and creative acceptance in the church and society. I cannot begin to know what it feels like from your perspective to live through all this in love and faith.
I do not think you have responded to my theological challenge on 'difference' though.
But to speak of 'the arrogance, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance of ... your Lord Bishops' ... honestly do not find this honouring or acceptable language for Christians to use of each other (nor accurate either). Do you actually know any of them? I do.
'We don't get to the New Jerusalem by kicking down vulnerable minorities'. We we don't there by kicking anyone actually. But as I share some of their questions about extending the 'marriage' to same-sex couples do you describe me this way too? You may have seen my Bishop, Michael Perham, (Gloucester) has issued a statement which matches well my own concerns and longings here.
Thank you again.

Posted by David at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 6:40am BST

David – Erica and Cynthia have talked from the perspective of LGBT people, but as a straight, married woman who was herself adopted, I also found the Church of England's "debate" on marriage personally uncomfortable (as well as offensive to my LGBT friends). In their urge to exclude gay couples from marriage, church spokesmen seemed happy to throw overboard large numbers of heterosexual relationships as not "proper" marriages. If, as they claim, a marriage is intended primarily for a husband and wife to raise their biological children, where does that leave couples who can't or don't want to have children? Or those adopting or fostering children or those in second marriages with the kind of blended families where the children are genetically related to only one parent? Those all get reduced to somehow inferior forms of marriage and families, even though that's the type of family that Jesus himself was raised in.

And as for marriage as being about the "difference" between men and women, I'm suspicious of that being used to promote a complementarian form of marriage as against an egalitarian form. Is the problem really for opponents of same-sex marriage that they can only imagine marriage as one involving a dominant man and a subordinate woman? If the "Christian" ideal of marriage is one obsessed with male headship, that's not a kind of marriage I want to identify with.

Posted by magistra at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 8:43am BST

"Paul Southwell and Nottingham is not a member of the House of Lords yet." Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday.

Of course he isn't. Silly me. Must remember to put brain in gear before letting out clutch on keyboard.

He's currently fourth in the queue and awaiting the departure of either +Guildford or +Hereford - that is unless the CNC, following its meeting this week, submitted his name to the PM as its nomination for translation to Durham in succession to Justin Welby.

Posted by RPNewark at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 9:10am BST

I don't understand the theological challenge of difference.
Because we are all different in so many respects. The theological challenge accepts all differences in age, colour, ability, nationality, religion... the only one it does not accept is that of gender.
What you have to show is why that difference is of such overwhelming importance.

And if you read Magistra's post she lists a whole complex web of family structures - childless, childfree, step parents, children being born from assisted conception and only the biological offspring of one of the parents, adoptions, fostering - all of those are already lived by gay couples too. The only thing we cannot have are children who are the biological offspring of both parents.
But if that's not a legal or theological requirement for straight couples then it cannot be cited as a theological requirement for straights.

It always comes down to "they have the wrong kind of sex". And that, really, is of no interest to the state and should be of no interest to the church.

As for calling bishops arrogant etc.... Dave, Jesus does not want me for a doormat. The word arrogance has a precisely defined meaning and if someone embodies that in their dealings with gay people and in the way they conduct this debate then I am entitled to name it.

Believe me, when you have had decades of powerful people making dismissive and defining statements about you that actually impact on your life while your view of them has not a shred of impact on theirs, "arrogant" is a pretty harmless description of the overwhelming sense of powerlessness and anger they can induce in you.
Some bishops are arrogant. Frightfully so. Others aren't. The House of Bishops as an entity and the official "Church of England" whoever that body might be, have been shockingly arrogant about gay people's lives, especially in the last 10-15 years when the debate had moved on considerably and it no longer went without saying that gay relationships are inferior, yet they still have been dismissed as if the whole thing wasn't even a question.

Only this week, the new Archbishop has tried to use his political powers not given to him by an electorate to cut short the due democratic process in the House of Lords, so sure was he that his view of my civil status must prevail.

I will moderate my language when they moderate their behaviour.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 10:47am BST

Actually, David, I think she has. Cynthia has argued that there are clearly biological differences, but that the socially dominant faction has no right to seize upon those differences to define the identity of the less powerful and force that identity on them as a matter of law, enforced by real juridical and social consequences. I agree with her. I'd also say that complementarianism assumes as a postulate that the aggregate differences matter more than individual differences. But that assumption would force Serena Williams to conform to social rules that might suit Melody Wilkes, ignoring the real flesh and blood woman's uniqueness in favor of the social, fictional construct. In sum, it's unchristian to once other people to twist their souls to meet our social expectations.

As to Paul's theology of the body, I think this stands for the same principle, properly understood. We all serve different roles based on our inherent gifts, and are to be equally cherished. But those roles are individual, not stereotyped--in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, right? God creates us each to serve our part, and the head (Christ) not a different human, calls us to our various duties. We are cast by God, not by stereotype.

Posted by John Wirenius at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 11:17am BST

David, as alluded to above, there are many problems with the notion that the "difference" between the sexes somehow limits the estate of marriage only to mixed-sex couples. I am not entirely sure what makes this assertion "theological" as it is also made in the civil realm. I'm all for further discussion, but that entails some response from the side that claims the sex-difference is essential to marriage other than simply reasserting that premise. As it stands, there does not seem to be any self-evident necessity to the proposition. Can you support the thesis with evidence or an underlying premise (theological or merely rational) that all can both accept as a starting point? If not, we appear to be dealing with a form of circular reasoning, and "difference is essential to marriage" is just another way of saying "only a man and a woman can marry."

Speaking theologically, Genesis 2 provides an account in which not difference, but "likeness" is the crucial factor in overcoming the pang of isolation. Yes, the eventual solution is a woman (not "female" as in Gen 1) but the text stresses her similarity to the man (not "male") even at the verbal level. The animals God made first were "too different" to provide a suitable mate -- and I will note that the word "mate" can mean both something "different from" (as in a pair of shoes) or "identical to" (as a pair of scissors.)

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 2:46pm BST

"it's unchristian to once other people to twist their souls to meet our social expectations."

John nailed it. And John "gets" that I did indeed address David's challenge on "difference." It is oppressive for the powerful to define me and my brothers and sisters. Those definitions never describe who I am, they describe the person the powerful WISHES that I would be. That is in conflict with who I was created to be.

"Difference" is a dead end, David. It's a dead end on both WB and equal marriage.

I will try to moderate my language, David. I could moderate it better if I knew that the suffering of LGBT persons was being heard. Without that acknowledgement, it's hard to respect the drivel. It is easier to live with "I hear your pain, I just don't understand it yet," than to have the pain ignored. I don't see how we get to compassion and reconciliation without that bit of truth. I think about South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how necessary that was to even begin to move forward together. One can not claim that South Africa has reached Nirvana in terms of racial harmony, but the strides they've made are amazing. Desmond Tutu certainly believes the progress is evidence of God's love.

You can't skip the hard part and get anywhere worthwhile. And John hit another nail on the head with this passage, a favorite of mine: "in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor free." Thank you, John, for bring it up.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 2:09am BST

David asked me about the Lord Bishops "Do you actually know any of them?"

Yes, I know one of them. He was very friendly until he found out about my partner. He asked what I was doing in his city and I can't explain why I spend months in England without mentioning my partner. Once he found out I was gay, he turned instantly frosty. The only such reception I've ever received there. I've heard 2 of his sermons, not much there to inspire...

I won't name him. It seems excessively rude even for me ;-) to "out" the guilty. And besides, the 9 Lord Bishops (who voted for the wrecking amendment) have spoken for themselves and it's stronger than anything I can add.

But the answer is, yes, I do know one, and he was the least gentlemanly Englishman I've met in my life. He acted like I was a leper, because I'm gay. Before that, we were bonding over his favorite American city.

Given that experience, I'm not that eager to meet the other 8!!!

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 2:30am BST

"Do you actually know any of them?"

Wow, David! Now, since I didn't personally know Pol Pot or Joseph Stalin, I can say they were great guys. I didn't know Field Marshall Haig, or the Earl of Cardigan, or General Hull, so I can be certain they weren't simply incompetent!

By your fruits you shall know them.

Paul's theology of the Body doesn't seem to have kept him from lopping diseased bits off, by the way. I think this calling for a "christian charity" is a bit specious. Charity and empathy aren't the same as indulgence, and no one is called by Biblical instruction to condone evil, however wishy-washy and self-justifying the form.

You want conversation? Talk to the other side. We were willing. Still are. They aren't. What you are pleading for is to tell them that they're really spiffing chaps, and we're so grateful to them for their efforts and all, and we're happy to give them anything they ask for. No. Enough. THAT is not Christian. To sit in darkness, when the Light is there. To condone falsehood in the face of truth. No. That is mere social politeness, and nothing to do with Christian charity.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 5:47am BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.