So, come March 29th, 2014, what will the C of E be able to offer committed Christian same-sex couples who wish to be married? Er...
Meanwhile, the church in denial as always, will have its head in the sands, hoping that the reality of the world will go away. This undignified position leaves its posterior just right for a good kicking. Amply deserved.
29 March will be a day of great rejoicing. The picture given by the CofE will one of absence, prejudices, churches shut up to prevent happy people going in to them to ask God's blessings on their lives as if people asking God's blessing and celebrating in the presence of God is a terrible thing that must at costs be prevented. How this squares with the gospel as a meaningful message is best left to others to answer.
29th March: same-sex marriages being celebrated by the state, including by registrars who are women.
29th March: Church of England refuses to bless, never mind celebrate same-sex marriages having erected a massive legislative set of barriers, and is grudgingly considering allowing women in senior roles, having voted against it last year.
Of course, the CofE prides itself on being counter-cultural, so is presumably proud of this difference.
Craig Nelson: It doesn't, of course. The CofE's refusal to marry same-sex couples is grounded in realpolitik, not theology. A substantial and powerful subset of its membership wouldn't accept it. And that's not getting started on the wider communion.
Thankfully, realpolitik will also force change. Gender-neutral marriage will swiftly become the norm, and the church's position will become untenable. Once change is advocated by some heavy-hitters in open evangelicalism, things will really get moving.
Change won't, of course, happen by itself. Those who affirm gay relationships will need to offer practical suggestions to manage schism and make up the funding shortfall.
Could I be forgiven for thinking that a male-dominated Church has hijacked God to dole him (not her) out according to its own foibles and prejudices?
On a collateral, non-substantive note, I'm intrigued by the British idiom used in the headline "First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014." I don't think I've ever seen that phraseology used in U.S. English.
The standard way of saying that in U.S. English, I think, would be "First Same Sex weddings to happen starting on 29 March 2014" or more simply "First Same Sex weddings to happen on 29 March 2014" or perhaps "First Same Sex weddings start on 29 March 2014." I don't think the preposition "from" would be used in this context in the usual U.S. English idiom.
I'm familiar with a lot of idiomatic differences between U.S. English and British English but this is one I don't think I've seen before.
Regardless of phrasing, however, hurrah for the British Government!
*Those who affirm gay relationships will need to offer practical suggestions to manage schism*
Why? It's the Church of England's problem, not wider society's. Society at large now affirms gay relationships: they've been legal for approaching fifty years, and the state has recognised relationships with rights and responsibilities for a decade. LGBT people are our MPs and our doctors and our TV personalities and our Olympic champions. Civil partnerships are referred to by most people as marriages, and the figleaf of nomenclature which Labour introduced to avoid a confrontation with the CofE fools almost no-one who is not actively asking to be fooled.
In that light, on the 29th of March, there will be happiness and joy. Outside a few grumbling curmudgeons showing God's Grace by lengthy blog posts about the end times, and a few semi-literate bigots ranting about buggery, the media's main narrative will be happy couples celebrating their relationships in public, forming families, making commitments, showing their love and respect for each other. It's going to be wonderful.
The Churches have locked themselves out of this. They're going to look dreadful. Young (where young means "not claiming a state pension, and probably older") people will have yet another reason to stay away from churches, all churches, on the grounds of not wanting to associating with exclusion. These marriages will all happen in register offices and designated places, none of them in churches. That's a shame, isn't it? But it's the church's shame, and no-one else's. Schism. Stick to being official excluding. Whatever. The only people who can fix this are the churches, the only people it is harming are the churches, and the only people who are sticking their heads in the sand and waiting for the great homophobic revival are the churches. Fix your own problems, stop expected the rest of us to do it for you.
It now seems almost inevitable that the Church of England, having rather clumsily avoided the chance of affirming the Civil Partnership of Same-Sex Couples, may simply be left behind by couples who might see more social benefits in contracting into a state-legislated Same Sex Marriage - rather than wait for the possibility of a 'behind the scenes' Same-sex Blessing.
Sadly, the Church may have missed out on a wonderful opportunity to reject its inherent homophobia, by being generous to Same-Sex Couples.
I await with interest how the CofE will word their exclusion of gay people on their website page which currently reads:
"You can marry in a church! You’re welcome to marry in the Church of England whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are christened and regardless of whether you go to church or not. It’s your church, and we welcome you!"
Interested Observer: Christian same-sex couples in England & Wales will have the option to marry in Unitarian chapels, and (if they are in unity with Quaker testimonies) in Friends' Meeting Houses. The Friends' process of discernment with the couple will take some time, though, so couples should be aware of that.
Interested Observer: As shown by the role the churches played in opposing LGBT rights for all, Christian homophobia is everyone's problem. The CofE doesn't exist in a hermetically sealed bubble, and if it did, its members deserve justice as much as anyone.
Affirming people need to offer solutions because no one else will. They shouldn't have to, but it's necessary to move forward.
James, I'm afraid time moves on.
In the past, the CofE could raise itself up to its full height, mitre and all, stamp its crozier and shout "¡ No pasarán!". Politicians listened. Blair and/or Brown didn't take on the CofE over civil partnership, because they thought the time wasn't right and wanted to keep their political powder dry. What the CofE thought about moral matters mattered, or at least was thought to matter. Some people listened, and it could swing votes by its influence. It might have been a fleet in being rather than a fleet at sea, in that it didn't really have the votes to have a serious influence if it came to actual divisions, but no-one was willing to test that theory.
That isn't true any more. The CofE initially claimed not only that it wouldn't do same-sex weddings in church, but that anyone else doing same-sex weddings would be equally unacceptable. It tried to tell politicians that if they voted for same-sex marriage, they would experience political and practical problems beyond imagining. That had no impact on anyone who mattered: Cameron simply nodded, listened dutifully, and ignored every word that Justin Welby said and every word that the CofE published. He took his party along with him, too. In the UK now, Christian homophobia is a quaint pastime of a small number of benighted bigots who have no influence. Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative: no one is listening any more. The CofE may as well talk to the wind on moral matters.
By its actions over women bishops last year and same-sex marriage this year, the CofE has sided with fringe nutters whom no decent politician wants to be seen around. It has made itself irrelevant. It is not anyone else's problem, or responsibility, to make the CofE look respectable again. It has to do that for itself. If, as seems likely, it spends two years tearing itself to pieces over same-sex marriage then by the end it will be so toxic that Nigel Farage will think twice before answering Justin Welby's phone calls.
You say "The CofE doesn't exist in a hermetically sealed bubble". It acts as though it is. And politicians are going to put it in one.
Christian homophobia is now a problem for Christians, no-one else. They need to fix it.
"Christian homophobia is now a problem for Christians, no-one else. They need to fix it."
Yes, but on this forum most of us are a part of this "they" and we do try what we can to help fix it.
For us, this isn't a "them and us" problem we can ignore, this is an internal problem. And we can either stand back and watch, like you seem to want to do, or can try to do something about it.
I suspect many on Thinking Anglicans are desperately trying to do something about.
Interested Observer: As Erika says, some people are trying to do something about it. It's those people I was referring to.
I agree that the CofE has marginalized itself. The question now is how to go about changing its policy, and begin to repair the damage. It won't help anyone to have an established church turn into a fundamentalist ghetto.
I share your interest, LaurenceC, about that "You Can Marry!" site. [I supposed they'll just add another asterisk, ala divorced people "...just like Jesus would have done." :-/]
*It won't help anyone to have an established church turn into a fundamentalist ghetto.*
That's right. Britain needs the established church (or something very like established) as, apart from anything else, a moral counterweight to the increasing dominance of the market as the sole interest of the major political parties. Having Bishops in the House of Lords is, in general terms, a good thing, certainly for as long as the upper chamber is not elected.
But that's going to involve Justin Welby telling GAFCON and their like to either accept difference or leave. They are irreconcilable: they are never going to get what they want, which is a CofE prepared to fight a last-ditch, last-man, last-bullet battle against same sex relationships. If Welby is not willing to distance himself from GAFCON, then we will have an "established" church that is both a fundamentalist ghetto and, de facto, disestablished, because no-one will speak to it, listen to it or pay it attention.
The CofE faces what amounts to an existential crisis. If it does not resolve same-sex marriage within less than a generation, it will face extinction. My children's generation will say "I won't get married in a church, because it excludes my friends". No amount of logic-chopping will get away from the fact that a wedding ceremony in the CofE has an implicit "Gay People Are Second-Class" sign over the door.
The demand for church weddings is less than impressive. I have read that only one fourth of different-sex couples marry in the Church of England. And some of those choose the church more for aesthetic reasons. Who knows? The numbers increased by four percent this year probably because of a relaxation of rules allowing couples to choose from more parishes, but I wouldn't take too much comfort in people choosing pretty settings rather than congregations with which they want to affiliate.
Same-sex couples are excluded by definition, especially with the quadruple lock. Not even old-fashioned civil partnerships are blessed by the C of E.
Yes, all members of the club should receive equal treatment, but demand for weddings in the C of E doesn't seem that big, if one can go by recent statistics. Generating a little income for the church doesn't answer the bigger question of how couples are welcomed into congregations. If it is like here in New York, I would imagine some couples only show up in church on the day of the weddings never to be seen again, perhaps family funerals, but even those are being held elsewhere these days. In New York, many same-sex couples marry at city hall and of those that marry in the Episcopal Church the jury is still out on whether they will stay around any longer than their straight peers.
The increase this year in the fees by forty percent for church weddings is likely to decrease demand further.
Church weddings for all couples, same-sex or different-sex, is the right thing to do, but why people would want to marry in church needs to be addressed.
The institution itself needs to be revitalized, which is easier said than done.
Gary Paul Gilbert
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