Comments: House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

"From then there will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer."

They do talk nonsense, don't they? Marriage was profoundly changed by the legalisation, initially under restricted circumstances, now under rather more loose circumstances, of divorce. The CofE fought that tooth and nail, but in the end is intensely relaxed about divorce, including remarriage. Indeed, within ten or so years, the supreme governor of the CofE will be a divorced and remarried adulterer who is married to a divorced and remarried adultress, and I don't hear any voices within the CofE threatening schism over that.

No, the objection to same-sex marriage is not that it changes the definition of marriage, but that it's same-sex. And I hope that the document you have so helpfully quoted is widely circulated, so that the public at large can see precisely what the established church thinks, and how it behaves. Then it can go back to the task of getting ready for the leadership of Charles Windsor, whose marriage has provided such an example to us all of how to conduct our affairs.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:29am GMT

It starts as well as one could expect, given the current situation. Unfortunately, it ends rather negatively from the point of view of clergy. It is disjointed in not really recognising that laity provide the pool from which people are called into the three orders of ministry. I suppose that is the current situation.

What will happen if all clergy in civil partnerships convert them into marriages?

Posted by Susan Cooper at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:45am GMT

What a pile of contradictory hogwash.

Posted by Victoriana at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:49am GMT

"However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged."

Does that mean that Nicholas Holtam has recanted of his support for equal marriage? If not, can we expect a prompt dissenting statement from the Bishop of Salisbury? If one doesn't appear, can we expect his defenders to cease their defense?

With friends like these ...

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:59am GMT

Nobody in a marriage that happens to be with someone of the same sex will be accepted for ordination. So if you're married, come to faith, and you and the parish you come to faith in discover a vocation to the priesthood, you're stuffed. Or, more to the point, a Church desperately and increasingly short of stipendiary clergy loses the benefit of what you could offer.

If you're a priest and you tie the knot - well, nobody knows what will happen and the bishops seem more clueless than most. They're urging priests not to get married, but what happens when - not if - some priests ignore the urgings of the bishops?

CDM cases will have to be pursued if complaints are made - enthusiastically by some diocesans and less so by others. What does this mean in practice? Welby's Presidential Address made it clear that he saw the future as holding variance of practice from part of the C of E to another.

And what happens to people who already have CPs and quietly convert them to marriages once that becomes an option? Will the witch-finders general be stalking the Church to find out who is married and who isn't?

But here's the real rub - the C of E claims to welcome the contribution of LGB people, lay and ordained. But who in their right mind would accept this partial, grudging, welcome if they haven't somehow already been suckered? And this isn't just about the gays. Do the bishops think young heterosexual couples want their children being brought up with these appallingly skewed values?

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:22am GMT

There is nothing in the least 'pastoral' in this disgracefully dishonest and self-serving document. Their attitudes to lgbt are appalling and the use of flowery, wordy, language of grace', and 'brothers and sisters' cannot hide that.

I would love to say to them, "It's not all about YOU, you know." I doubt that women bishops, will be unable to make little in-road into these attitudes; and perhaps they will ensure that the women they appoint are also 'of one mind' with their men.

Posted by Revd Laurie Roberts at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 2:16am GMT

It all sounds like pure discrimination against LGBTs by an institution pretending to be a moral authority. Clergy should be allowed to enter into civil marriage like anybody else. Relegating clergy to the second-class institution of civil partnership is unacceptable, especially if one has to pretend to be celibate to one's bishop. What a cruel joke!

Disetablishment becomes more thinkable as a result of these silly policies.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 3:47am GMT

What in heaven is generous about this "Pastoral Guidance"? A clergy person in the Church of England will have to choose between marrying his/her spouse and continuing to serve as a clergy person in the Church. Somehow, the bishops want us to believe this view has something to do with Jesus rather than with Church politics and their obvious desire to keep good relationships with Primates and bishops in the Communion who want to imprison us, deprive us of the most basic human rights, and quietly acquiesce in our murders. Not surprising since the bishops evidently do not recognize the human right to marry the person you love. The House of Bishops continues to hold the gay bishops and clergy in the grip of fear. We are supposed to suspend our reasonable faculties and believe that these persons are committed to "human flourishing." Something I can't do.

Posted by Karen MacQueen+ at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 5:46am GMT

Well this is certainly far better than I had expected. But it is still a positive step in the direction of blessing same sex relationships in the Church, even if a small step. This is undoubtedly a huge disappointment to those hoping to change the teaching of the Anglican Church on homosexual marriage.

Posted by Rob at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 5:49am GMT

This document again hides the fact that in the Church of England, divorce and re-marriage are accepted and are reduced to the whim and opinion of a cleric.

What sheer hypocrisy... particularly as they have ignored the injunction of St Paul that a bishop/ presbyter should only be once married.

Mark my words, they will be trapped by their own self-deceit.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 6:10am GMT

Well, the Holy Spirit gets a look in in Paragraph 22 of the appendix. But the pastoral letter snubs Her/Him completely. To my mind, that's a sin, and this teaching is a dead letter.

Posted by ExRevd at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 7:25am GMT

It is clear to me that this religion and these overseers of this religion is stuck with these statements and cannot dismiss them. Those then who disagree with these 'authoritative' statements then ought to consider whether they fit within the religion as a system. Sentiments of inclusivity and diversity do not dismiss these statements but only seek to go around them in a kind of ever-stacking up duplicity. Fortunately I don't believe it, so easily dismiss these statements in favour of a superior ethic.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 7:40am GMT

So, for the bishops (as for the Pharisees in Matthew 12:11), obeying "the rules" is more important than the common good or any concept of mission. Perhaps this is the day we can no longer call ourselves an established church.

Posted by Peter Dyke at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 7:54am GMT

For God's sake. They learn nothing and forget nothing. This was written the day after the honeyed words of the Bishop of Sheffield. They mean nothing at all.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 8:00am GMT

Funny - 1, 3 & 4 make reference to lifelong union, and yet somewhere along the line the church has agreed to divorce and remarriage (not that I'm complaining about that).

Posted by Alan at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 8:18am GMT

Discussion of the church's teaching and reasons for departing from it? Such as: to live a human life.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 8:18am GMT

Very disappointed with this. A terrible missed opportunity for the church's mission and cruel, oppressive and insulting to its LGBT members and clergy. I had hoped our bishops could come up with something better than this, especially after the ABs'l reminder following church support of oppressive laws in some African countries. Where do we go from here?

Posted by Rev Drew Tweedy at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:01am GMT

The Archbishops and the House of Bishops pastoral guidance about same sex marriage ignores the most important thing they stand for as Christian leaders and teachers – the primacy of love in creation and in the life and teaching of Jesus – unadulterated, unconditional, infinite, self-giving, costly, gracious love.

They have prioritized other considerations – the need to avoid upsetting those with a deep prejudice against same sex love and intimacy which verges on and sometimes is homophobic, people in this country and in other parts of the Anglican Communion.

There is nothing pastoral about the statement. It was produced, of course, with no direct input from openly gay (or lesbian) people. None of the bishops who are gay have contributed openly to previous HoB discussions and I have no reason to believe any of them found the courage to speak out on Thursday. I know other bishops argue against the increasingly vociferous conservative block in the House but they do not have sufficient leverage to persuade the House to act according to Christian witness and truth – pragmatism and real-politics triumph – and the integrity of the Church and the lives of LGB&T people suffer as a result.

What’s the difference between a civil partnership and equal marriage? For the bishops, it’s that sex isn’t presumed in a civil partnership. But those bishops who licence clergy in civil partnerships don’t intrude into the personal lives of their clergy and know that a healthy sex life can be of fundamental importance in a healthy, loving relationship.

I know so many friends in the Church who will be deeply affected by this statement. For some it will be a further nail in the coffin, proof that the Church has taken one more step away from Gospel truth and is becoming a more unfriendly, toxic place for LGBTI people.

I hope Changing Attitude can continue to dig and dig and dig away at the shockingly un-Christian policy which has developed and that we can both give courage to those bishops who are supportive against the odds and undermine the hostility of prejudice who claim to be upholding Biblical values. Their values may be Biblical but they are absolutely not Christian or Christ-like.

Gay clergy are going to get married. One bishop is going to become the first to take out a CDM against a priest. The process is going to make terrible headlines for the Church in this country and great headlines for those wishing to convince Anglican Primates and bishops in Nigeria and Uganda.

Is this the message Archbishops Justin and Sentamu want to convey to those seeking Christ here? I know it isn’t. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but that’s where Christians are called to stand – and make a radical, loving difference.

As the final paragraph of the statement shows, at the moment it’s much more important for them and the Church to impose discipline on LGBTI laity and clergy than to nurture deeply loving, faithful relationships.

Posted by Colin Coward at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:07am GMT

"[T]he power of initiative on legislation affecting the Church of England rests with the General Synod, which has the power to pass Measures and Canons."

So promulgating this teaching three days after said Synod meets is breathtakingly underhand and - I hope - politically disastrous. I will be writing to my Member of Parliament.

Posted by ExRevd at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:13am GMT

This makes me so sad. God wants more love in the world, he wants us to unite, not divide. How can the people in charge of the Church of England, actively go about NOT listening to Him. Please, this is so simple, a Christian message is one of love and acceptance of everyone. Let's start by really spreading His message and stop this silly nonsense. Let's show the world that EVERYONE is welcome to be married in a Christian church. It is the only way to truly spread His message.

Posted by Christian at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:20am GMT

Your Graces and my Lords,
Thank you for your pastoral letter in which you encourage me to offer informal prayers, in church, with same sex couples who have either entered into a civil partnership or a marriage under the new “equal marriage” legislation effective from March 2014.
In the absence of an authorised order of service, I will be more than happy to arrange individually tailored opportunities for informal prayers that are authorised or allowed by canon. I will ensure that this is well known within the parish so that any couples wishing to mark their union in prayer and thanksgiving to God know that they will be received with joyous welcome.

Posted by paul richardson at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:21am GMT

A rough summary runs as follows:

"The Church of England, in principle, believes in justice, fairness and civil rights. But as a mature and pragmatic church with large financial holdings and an interest in global politics, we realise that sometimes justice comes second to realpolitik. Justice, therefore, is conditional upon acceptance by the wider Anglican Communion.

"Same Sex Marriage presents us with a problem: a number of Anglican churches outside England are opposed, and some of our own members are threatening schism. We have thought hard about this, and decided that overall we are less concerned with justice, fairness and civil rights than we are about maintaining the Anglican communion at its present size. We have therefore decided that our gay brothers are in fact our gay step half cousins whom we only see at Christmas, and frankly we have not got much in common with them so we only stay for a quick sherry and leave to get back to our own celebrations which are, to be honest, much classier. We are therefore giving you gays a list of the ways in which you are second-class and, to be honest, you can either like it or lump it. You can either take what you get, or you can take your pretend marriages and your abusive relationships and go to the URC. See if we care.

In Christ,

The Bishes."

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:25am GMT

Double-entendre? The French have a word for it. This fork-tongued pastoral advice would even puzzle the acrobatic mind of a latter-day Machiavelli.

Love the Gays - but don't let them be recognised as capable of monogamous, lifelong partnerships like us heteros. How one longs for a coherent explicable statement from the hierarchy of the Church that loving,faithful and committed human sexual activity for two monogamously-related consenting adults can be a holy and life-affirming activity, well within the capacity of the created order and pleasing to Almighty God?

How long, O Lord, how long?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:25am GMT

If they have decided that this is how it's going to be, it looks as if taking part in the conversations suggested by Pilling will be a complete waste of time. This is utterly depressing, and intellectually very shaky.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:46am GMT

'Conversations will involve ecumenical and interfaith partners and particularly the wider Anglican Communion to whom we rejoice to be bound by our inheritance of faith and mutual affection' - for which read, we're kicking this into the long grass where we hope it may stay for a long time.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 10:05am GMT

Ahem. Would this be a good place to remind LGBT CofE'ers that there are MANY Anglican/Episcopal churches in North America where you can get {full stop} MARRIED? Assuming Her Majesty's Government will accept a USA or Canadian marriage license, just cross The Pond for your nuptial celebration & blessings! Weddings R Us! :-)

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 10:19am GMT

Mervyn Noote has it spot on. There will be priests who will marry in the coming months. Yes, the church can jump up and down on them, but that won't stop other priests from getting married in the coming years. This toothpaste cannot be squeezed back in the tube.

What are they thinking they're doing, setting themselves up for public ridicule like that!
The CoE is fast making a laughing stock of itself, at a time when even the majority of its own members no longer takes a blind bit of notice of this kind of rubbish.

Whatever were they on when they wrote this?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 10:59am GMT

The Bishops write a lot of waffle about love but they show little love towards gay and lesbian people. They refuse to allow clergy who are homosexual to commit their love for one another through marriage. God sits weeping , the world turns away and some bishops must be tearing their hair but unable to speak.

Posted by Jean Mayland at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 11:03am GMT

What a confused, contorted and contradictory document so full of statements that can be challenged! Why should there be a difference between the way clergy are expected to behave and the laity? I am puzzled. Does it mean now that all clergy, including bishops, who are in gay partnerships will have to resign too?? It would be helpful to know so we can have a bit more honesty and transparency.

Posted by Sally Barnes at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 11:15am GMT

Jean Mayland,
there are no bishops unable to speak, there are only bishops unwilling to speak.
There can be no practical consequences for any Diocesan who speaks out.
One presumes that all that happened to Alan Wilson is that he is now likely to remain an area bishop for the rest of his working life. David Walker and Nick Holtam don't seem to have been thrown in the Tower of London either.

No, what we have here are not tragic figures who are prevented from speaking the truth, but people who may wish things were different but don't lift a finger to make it so.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:10pm GMT

Sally Barnes, of course there's a difference in the way clergy are expected to behave, otherwise they'd bring recrimination on the church, if they could just do as they wished. It is too simplistic to argue, as many do, that just because we're all human, the public representatives of the church should not have different expectations placed upon them. Priesthood demands sacrifice on occasions, and actually many laity, though they don't always expect it of themselves, do somehow expect different of their clergy, as unrealistic as this may seem.

Posted by Benedict at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:24pm GMT

Very well said, Colin Coward. This has become realpolitik at its worst.

The way forward? One way is to get as many pro-LGBT candidates as possible elected to the houses of Clergy and Laity, and put sustained pressure on the (unelected -- for now) bishops.

Ultimately, you're right, there'll be test cases from courageous gay and lesbian clergy. As the bishops' statement has no force of law, there's every possibility that a properly constituted ecclesiastical court will throw the case out. If they don't, they can get judicial review, and get this abuse stopped, once and for all.

History is against this. It will end.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:30pm GMT

Incidentally, I love Interested Observer's comment on this!

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 12:43pm GMT

The role of the Church is to call people to Christ - to preach the "Good News." Yet, the Church continues to drive the LGBT community away. Looking at Christ's same gender relationships, we can safely assume they were loving. According to the Holy Gospel, we know that Jesus had one unique loving same gender relationship - his relationship with the "Beloved Disciple" - "the ONE whom Jesus loved." In fact, The Holy Gospel tells us that unique relationship was physically affectionate (John13:23-25). Therefore we know Jesus had loving, affectionate, and physically affectionate same gender relationships. Isn't that "Good News" for the LGBT community. Why won't the Church call the LGBT community to Christ by preaching that "Good News"?

Posted by Mick Ellis at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:08pm GMT

Christ's two great commandments was to love God and love our neighbour. The long standing 'religious' tradition of sexism, homophobia, inequality and all other kinds of managerial bigotry practiced by our 'moral betters' in the church, pitches itself to be above the instructions Christ left us. I am not a theologian, I'm just a normal person who will never be able to part of this church (despite wanting to be) because of this out of date, inflexible attitude against equality. I am sorry for all those in your church that are hurting at this personal rejection, I don't think you realise the personal hurt this position causes. No wonder the church is dying. I pray you put love before conservative dogma making soon.

Posted by Helen Morley at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:15pm GMT

May I please just endorse what Paul Richardson, Interested Observer and JCF have said above? AND Quaere, what happens when a chaplain (of an Oxbridge college, HM armed forces, a prison or a hospital or ...) goes to the US and is married to a same-sex partner by an episcopal priest? Those clergy are not under episcopal jurisdiction, are they? Would the prelacy have the guts to discipline *them*?

Posted by Scot Peterson at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:25pm GMT

They will change their mind within a year, and just like the women Bishops issue next year this time we will see gay marriage in the CofE

Posted by Malcolm Gray at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:34pm GMT

Veiled, indirect criticism of the Nigerian law and its awful results, let alone of the Church of Nigeria's advocacy for bad eager support of that law, and ...this.

I'm in the Episcopal Church, and heaven knows we've got our problems and flaws, but this combination is putting the C of E on the wrong side of history.

Posted by John Wirenius at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:34pm GMT

Someone said during GS last week that the pool of male clergy eligible to be bishops has been seriously overfished. This long and disappointing statement suggests that view may be correct.
Perhaps we need a moratorium on further fishing to allow restocking, and until the pool has been immeasurably enrichened by the addition of the ladies?
But what were the ladies already elected to assist the House in their deliberations saying? It would be good to know if they went along with this statement.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:38pm GMT

What an astonishing week. On Tuesday the archbishops and most bishops (rightly, in my view) chose to ignore a take-it-at-face-value reading of 1 Timothy and the tradition of the Church as still held by the RCs and Orthodox and move to make women bishops. And about time too.
Tomorrow's Gospel reading, taken at face value, excludes the possibility of remarriage of divorcees, as does Church tradition (lifelong union...). Yet in the past week, with the sanction and support of the Church, I have prepared divorced people for marriage in church.
The bishops appear to be working to a hermeneutic, therefore, in which the Spirit, and study of Scripture in its cultural context, might be leading us into truths which appear not to be sanctioned by a face-value reading of biblical texts, or by a bulk of Church tradition. How then can they be so single-minded, not to say authoritarian - it's not often I hear my oath of canonical obedience being invoked - on this one subject?
Rome - and Reform! - seem to have a greater exegetical consistency at least. The lack of consistency of our leadership feels worryingly like simple homophobia - or the appeasement of it.

Posted by fr.rob at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 1:39pm GMT

"some bishops must be tearing their hair but unable to speak."

What is stopping them, apart from their cowardice?

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 2:09pm GMT

I agree it is dreadful. I don't really understand it. Perhaps Welby was sat on by men in suits. Like others, I look forward to gay priests marrying and calling this bluff. Certainly such priests will attract tremendous support both within and without the Church.

Posted by John at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 2:31pm GMT

Is this the first recorded instance of the CofE withholding Blessings against a whole community/diaspora? Hmm interesting for this creed supposedly of love and acceptance...and so sad

Posted by Sue Benjamins at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 2:33pm GMT

Pastoral care to church not willing to fill its tank with love. CofEmpty

Posted by ChicagoEric at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 2:53pm GMT

Actually, item 21 has cleared up one area - in the conservative direction:

"The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to [lay] couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that *any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it*."

In other words, when offering pastoral prayer, clergy should explain why the Church disapproves of same-sex marriage.

Posted by RevdDave at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 2:56pm GMT

I suspect the Bishops thought that there was enough sugar in this to mask the bitterness of the pill. The BBC doesn't seem to have noticed; their report is uncompromisingly negative:

Where the Appendix falls apart is in the transition between paragraph 23 and paragraph 24. The first talks about "the way of Christ" and the "doctrine of Christ" but the second seems to assume that this is the same as "the teachings of the church" - yet Christ was not married himself and said nothing about homosexuality at all. This is, quite simply, a second order issue so far as those seeking the way of Christ are concerned, and cannot justify exclusion from every single order of ministry.

The suggestion in paragraph 25 that "theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity" means living otherwise than in accordance with your faith, presumably in the hope of change, is completely falsified by the martyrdom of Jeffrey John. He has lived a celibate ministry, which he does not agree with, and yet he has been excluded for decades from the episcopate simply because he is gay and believes that gay people, too, are allowed by God to incorporate sex into the fullness of their sexual relationships, notwithstanding his personal self denial.

I appreciate that the Church of England is riven by fear and crippled by prejudice. It is not, really, surprising that it continues to mess this up. But, every time it does, a little bit more of its ministry withers and dies, and the longer this goes on, the harder it is to be patient and hopeful on its behalf.

Posted by badman at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 3:09pm GMT

Contrast that with:"Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) rights:
The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family. Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained. The current attempts to criminalize LBGT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations. Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability. To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community. No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created. Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors."

Posted by Billie at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 3:29pm GMT

"It is too simplistic to argue, as many do, that just because we're all human, the public representatives of the church should not have different expectations placed upon them. Priesthood demands sacrifice on occasions, and actually many laity, though they don't always expect it of themselves, do somehow expect different of their clergy, as unrealistic as this may seem."

Perhaps the C of E should resolve this issue by requiring all of its ordained to be celibate. Look at what a success that has been for Rome.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 3:33pm GMT

This appalling document is nothing more than a parody of their former teaching on DIVORCE!

There too the Church teaching and law of the land were at odds. Though, as others say this seems to have been missed ......

The impact of that policy was a pastoral disaster, divorced people were refused ordination and those who were ordained and subsequently divorced ejected from pastoral responsibility. It was a horrifying sight as many of us will remember. It brought shame and scandal on our Church, people saw it as nasty and frequently that was just what it was.

Now, in a most perverse twist we are to be persecuted for marriage, it is difficult to understand how that discipline can be promoted without simultaneously diminishing us.

It cannot last. I doubt it can last even for a brief time.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 5:14pm GMT


At least we now know we're 2nd class Christians.

This will end badly.

Personally, I suggest a network of PCCs and priests take collective action and just go ahead and bless people (and marry a person they love, if they are priests).

This genuinely needs local action, instead of 'top down' imperium, because this is a matter of conscience. If bishops want to ignore one whole half of their flock (and these days a majority of people in the pews) then it really is time for PCCs and communities to just say 'Well we're going to.'

This statement they have issued really appals me. I'm shaken by it. This has to be resisted. Asking blessing for people is not a sin.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 5:29pm GMT

Article XXXII anyone? I thought it more authoritative than Lambeth 1998...

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 5:49pm GMT

I actually now feel like a third class Christian. Being gay clearly makes me second class in my bishops' eyes because my capacity to love another person in all its fulness is not equally recognised or celebrated. Being allowed a "lesser" calling, which enables me to marry because I'm a layman, knocks me down another notch.

Posted by Stephen De Silva at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 5:58pm GMT

"It cannot last. I doubt it can last even for a brief time."

The CofE has made its position pretty clear, I'd say. What it is saying is that the task of ensuring that homosexuals are excluded from the life of the church is more important than, for example, ensuring the church's continued operation. It realises that society at large equates not only violent homophobia with racism, but also the sort of genteel homophobia that eschews beatings but instead just settles for subtle humiliation and exclusion. But not only does it not care, it sets itself more firmly on the path towards irrelevance.

I have long since given up thinking that John Sentamu, so impressive as Bishop of Birmingham, has the insight or compassion to see this parallel. Fifty years ago, he would have been treated with the same scorn and disdain, and even if he escaped beatings, people would have sneered at him behind his back. But the population at large realises this, and realises that discrimination is not just about thugs and abuse, but about subtle exclusion and delicate dismissal. Sentamu has made his position clear in articles like and he is probably one of the most conservative influences on Welby. One might have thought his personal experience would have helped him see the light. It has not. We should not look to people who might understand discrimination to themselves speak out against discrimination.

Justin Welby knows that the church's attitude gay people is harming the church as an entity in England. He knows that the first attempt to discipline a priest for marrying will end in many charities and NGOs refusing to break bread with the CofE, and with the major political parties deciding to keep their distance. He realises that, pastorally, it will simply make the church look vile. It is not that he does not care in the sense of being careless; he does not care in the sense that, for him and his advisors, the task of keeping gay people out of the church is more important that the health of the church. Indeed, their perception of the health of the church is measured by how effectively it excludes gays. Given the choice between a healthy church with same-sex marriage and a dead church which dies refusing to embrace it, he will choose (indeed, has chosen) the latter. He would rather die for the principle of excluding gays than live, joyously, with love being celebrated in marriages of many kinds.

Other bishops agree with him, as otherwise they would speak out. Synod agrees with him
as otherwise it would speak out. The captain has decided, with the rest of the senior officers, to go down with the ship. The crew need to either mutiny, or learn to swim.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 6:04pm GMT

Yes, again the Bad News preached by the CoE bishops. Thank you, Interested Observer, yet again you really captured it.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 6:33pm GMT

See how these Christians love one another...

Posted by WM at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 7:05pm GMT


That God for the sanity of the Episcopal Church.

Another year for the locusts to eat....

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 7:51pm GMT

This is so absolutely appalling one hardly knows where to start. All the patronising language and not very thinly veiled threats. All that bold type.

I can hardly wait to have my first 'pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it'.

Perhaps it is time that the many 'inclusive' groups stop behaving like a parody of the Life of Brian (Judean Popular People's Front etc) and come together. Divided we fall as they say....

Posted by Fr Paul at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 8:19pm GMT

I loved the latest article on Bishpp Alan's Blog: "Let your Yes be 'YES; and your No be 'NO'" . Make your episcopal minds up, Bishops of the Church of England. Will it ever be possible for doctrine to change? If not, why the ongoing futility of the 'Facilitated Conversations'. End the charade, NOW.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 8:33pm GMT

I hope that the first priest thrown out will be licensed by +KJS and that the rest of us will be given the chance to follow. Also I wonder what parliament will make of the CDM being used in this context. Of course any gay priest who marries will be told that they are provoking schism when the fault is not theirs.

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:39pm GMT

Regarding this statement that the laity can enter same-sex marriages and the ordained cannot: given that the Church of England admits divorced people to ordained ministry, does this mean a lay person who divorced someone of the same gender could conceivably be ordained? So it is possible for a divorced person who has entered into a same-sex marriage to be ordained, but a person who has remained in a monogamous same-sex marriage cannot? Paragraph 27 which decrees that those in same-sex marriages cannot be ordained, has nothing to say about those who have divorced someone of the same gender.

Posted by David Beadle at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:41pm GMT

I don't think that Interested Observer's second paragraph is right. I think that Welby was trying to teach his church and that, for some reason, he got steam-rollered. In any case, depressing as the current situation is, the pressure of events - gay lay people getting married, some of them attending church, gay priests getting married - will build up and there will at least be peelings-off by wise, compassionate, or merely worldly diocesan bishops. This process will escalate. In the meantime, the rest of us should continue to register our dissent and - very important - should continue (or begin) to attend church.

Posted by John at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:48pm GMT

The nightmare scenario for the bishops is an Army chaplain who served in Afghanistan or Iraq getting married. It's possibly an even bigger problem if it's a former Army chaplain with a war record, now serving in parish ministry, because then they won't be able to dump the problem on the Bishop of the Forces.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 9:58pm GMT

What I can no longer stand is the: "there is no room for homophobia in the church" etc whilst restating a deeply homophobic position. The hypocrisy is truly awful. No blessings of same sex relationships of any kind, gay clergy forbidden from marrying, same sex couples tolerated at best. Facilitated conversations that, we are told, will not change anything. I think there will be many people wondering why they are still part of this last bastion of homophobia.

Posted by sjh at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 10:36pm GMT

The bold type adds to the general effect, which is one of desperation.

Bolding being, after all, the typographical equivalent of pounding the table.

Having said that, the proper response to this stupidity is for liberals to organise around the next elections to Synod. The current Synod will never reject this teaching; a future Synod might.

Do not expect bishops to lead. Sometimes they have to be pushed.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 11:09pm GMT

"I think that Welby was trying to teach his church and that, for some reason, he got steam-rollered. "

Yeah, because it's not as though he's a senior figure empowered to speak for himself and disown things he disagrees with, is it? Your defence would appear to be "he isn't supportive of bigotry, he's just a coward who can't speak out". To be honest, I think that's worse: at least people who preach consistently homophobic nonsense are honest and true to themselves. What does Welby himself believe? Who knows? Who, to be honest, cares?

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 11:43pm GMT

" Riven by fear, crippled by prejudice " - Badman
This would make an excellent strap-line for either the House of Bishops or indeed the whole Church of England to adopt as it so succinctly summaries the approach to sexuality ( and not a few other issues as well )

Posted by Salopian at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 12:42am GMT

This has no effect on what the Scottish Episcopal Church will do (re civil marriage equality) does it? [Because what I know of "Scotland the Brave" makes me think they may go a Very Different Route---the "High Road", to the CofE Bishop's "Low Road" if you will ;-/ ---w/ marriages celebrated IN the Episcopal kirks.]

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:05am GMT

Welby seems more interested in placating ecumenical partners (Rome?) and the rest of the Anglican Communion (both of whom are largely against treating LGBTs as equals) than with the flourishing of the C of E. Not only do the bishops refuse to change doctrine but insist on including anti-gay groups in the facilitated conversations: "These conversations will involve ecumenical and interfaith partners and particularly the wider Anglican Communion to whom we rejoice to be bound by our inheritance of faith and mutual affection." LGBTs in Africa who run the risk of being stoned to death or imprisoned for life are abandoned.

This "flourishing" trope gets tiresome, as it recalls Aristotle's notion of eudaemonia. The goal of life, says Aristotle, is to live well. But that is a value judgement that needs to be debated. And, for Aristotle, unlike Plato, women could not flourish in the same way as men and never would be allowed to become philosophers. Plato, on the other hand, with his more spiritual approach, thought a woman could become a philosopher.

The Bishops seem to be following Aristotle's separate but equal rhetoric. Those who are not ordained are never to be treated as equals.

LGBTs are to be spoken about but never with.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 5:44am GMT

But it's not saying that the teaching of the church will not change, is it? Or that the facilitated conversations will not change the teaching? It's saying that until the teaching does change, the clergy should not behave as if it has - a demand which places the unusual unequal burden on gay clergy, but one which at least has a possible future in view.

Posted by Francis at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 7:55am GMT

Listening to Steven Croft on Radio 4. It was embarrassing. He was in denial about what is going to happen next. The culture of denial in the House of Bishops runs extraordinarily deep. The damage the Bishops are about to inflict on the C of E is profound. I can't pretend that it's exactly the most encouraging start to another back-breaking Sunday.

And he is one of the most grounded and reality-based bishops in the House. What are the rest thinking? We are heading for deep trouble.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:02am GMT

It would be very interesting to know the statistical number C of E ( inc bishops) who are re-married divorcees.

This has only be allowed in the past twenty years and the Bishop of Sheffield keeps up the mantra in the media " we have not changed the teaching on marriage!"

Surely the C OF E canon law was at variance with the English Common law from 1858, when divorce was allowed.Although prior to that could not aristocrats get a divorce through a private act of parliament.

Interestingly, divorce was allowed in Scotland in 1560!

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:11am GMT

RIW, you might like to read:

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:47am GMT

The CofE is not alone or indeed unusual in conflating the doctrines or teachings of Christ with the teachings of the. Church.

Remember the words of the hymn 'Firmly I believe and truly'. Verse 4 goes like this

And I hold in verneration
For the love of him alone
Holy Church as his creation
And her teachings as his own.

Some low church hymnals have reversed the meaning of the last line but the CofE seems to be as authoritarian as the Roman church for whom this was written by Cardinal Newman.

There is something very 1984 in all this, or is it Alice in Wonderland?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:49am GMT


I've started the petition "Bishops of the Church of England: To rescind their opposition to equal marriage. To take back their recent Pastoral Guidance. To create a Church where all are welcomed." and need your help to get it off the ground.

Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here's the link:

Here's why it's important:

On Saturday the 15th of February 2014, the bishops of the Church of England released Pastoral Guidance in relation to equal marriage. This document is an attempt on their part to hinder the movement of God's Spirit in relation to the full inclusion of all God's children in the Church of England. This document must not go unchallenged. By signing this petition, you are part of the ongoing struggle for change in the Church of England.

You can sign my petition by clicking here.

Mark Kenny

Posted by Mark Kenny at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 9:31am GMT

I understand the deep sense of carelessness this document implies both for gay people and the well being of the Church.
While in Africa Christians compete to show how much harm they can do to homosexuals by imprisoning, torturing or murdering them, here persecution is more subtle, as they struggle to force gay people to self harm under threat of exclusion. They even give a subtext of self sacrifice - doing it for Jesus - that is profoundly abusive.

My point was that this cannot last, even for a short time.

My evidence for this is the transformation of attitudes and public policy since the introduction of civil partnerships just a few years ago. I remember all too well the antipathy and mean spirit present in Church House and across the board in the political spectrum, even amongst those who supported the measure. The fight to keep us from religious premises, the determination to deny vows ........

The clear blue water bishops wanted to see between CPs and marriage was the distance they wanted to exist between them and us, and while that might not have changed deep down the superficial claims have.
Even more evidence of change was clearly on show in Parliament and the lobbies recently where the desire for change was not through gritted teeth, but and enthusiastic. In the public forum the welcome, at first uncomfortable, muted has grown to a clamour for full inclusion.

While I see Welby has accepted this and is asking for this itself to be acknowledged in church circles, I believe he may underestimate just how deeply this change has gone and how strongly people will now resist this discipline,

Indeed as pointed out above this discipline is set to destroy family life if gay people abandon spouses and children to take up orders.

This document is itself profoundly disordered and again commentators here have identified why; it comes from having talked ABOUT gay people and not with them.

Again commentary above identifies the driving forces behind this ill favoured document are ecumenical relations and Anglican Communion homophobia.

It is time we were brave enough to take on the Orthodox driven hatred manifested in recent Russian legislation and attack full on the RC attitudes that drives so many young people to an early death at their own hand.

But above all this I think the pressure will build quickly and inescapably ...... It IS akin to racism and it WILL NOT do and it will not endure.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 10:36am GMT

the facilitated conversation will explicitly not deal with the question of gay marriage.
There is no plan even to look at this question, never mind a possibility of change.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 10:59am GMT

Couldn't agree more, Mervyn Noote, Croft was an embarrassment. (He can be heard on iPlayer, towards the end of this morning's edition of 'Sunday.') Evaded the question of penalties for several minutes, then talked about the church being "distinctive" in society.

Yes, the church is indeed distinctively homophobic. Society has taken note. Bravo. Slow handclap. Exit.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 12:13pm GMT

The Episcopal Church has a parallel jurisdiction across Europe to the Diocese of Europe but not in England so far. If it did there would be a rather long queue of clergy applying for jobs within it right now! Whilst ACNA, GAFCON and AIMIE threaten to establish structures in the UK for conservatives, perhaps TEC should consider doing the same for LGBT and LGBT friendly clergy and congregations!

Posted by John Connell at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 12:26pm GMT

I find this on the CofE website especially ironic after the House of Bishops statement:

Posted by Judith Maltby at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 12:44pm GMT

And the irony continues:

Posted by Judith Maltby at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 12:52pm GMT

"this discipline is set to destroy family life if gay people abandon spouses and children to take up orders."

A man or woman who did that would be beneath contempt, and a religious organisation that permitted or encouraged it should be shunned by all decent people, of alls faiths and none.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:03pm GMT

I hope that every member of the Church of England realises that they have been written to by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. They should then be polite enough to reply and express their reactions to the letter and the appendix. Since it is clearly their Graces wish to communicate with the whole of the Church of England, I think that the Parish Clergy could make a point of reading this letter out at every service next Sunday and suggest that each member of the congregation writes back.

Posted by commentator at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:31pm GMT

"They even give a subtext of self sacrifice -- doing it for Jesus -- that is profoundly abusive."

Martin Reynolds nails it with this observation. Literally. When it comes to pressuring gay people to suppress their sexuality, "carry your cross" rhetoric is used incessantly.

Abusive is exactly the word. And it cannot last. Just witness the fury this announcement has unleashed. I bet plenty bishops already know they've screwed the pooch.

Ultimately, the British parliament is in charge of the Church of England. Synod is just a delegated body. If the church doesn't fix this itself, pressure will mount on MPs to do the job form them.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:43pm GMT

Spot on Martin R. Parish clergy will simply get on with blessing married people! The game is up...the moment has passed...the bishops had one last chance...and, as you say, seem completely unaware that most people and most clergy have had their patience tested and will regard the new situation post March as the norm. I don't even give this new guidance weeks, or days. It is already dead.

Posted by Neil at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 2:57pm GMT

Martyn Reynolds wrote: "I believe he [Welby] may underestimate just how deeply this change has gone and how strongly people will now resist this discipline..."

So far I've heard of lots of conservative clergy (including some who are gay) who have sacrificed their jobs on principle. But I've only ever heard one liberal clergyman resigning (over the church's demand that Civil Partnerships must be celibate). If more did, it would at least show everyone that it's not just conservatives who are so committed to their beliefs that they are prepared to sacrifice their livings and take the risk of leaving to form a new, affirming church.

Posted by RevDave at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 3:52pm GMT

What strikes me about Article 32 is the phrase (my capitals)'....therefore it is lawful for them, AS FOR ALL OTHER CHRISTIAN MEN, to marry at their discretion......'. No nonsense then about one rule for the clergy, another for the laity! But the article ends 'as they shall judge the same to better serve to godliness.' So it's our decsion, not for others (in this case bishops)to decide for us!

Posted by peter kettle at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 5:21pm GMT

Obviously, Croft was playing for time. If gay clergy in Sheffield challenge the policy by marrying, I don't believe they will suffer anything more than a mild slap on the wrist - as opposed to the only thing that matters: withdrawal of their licence. In Durham of course Wright did withdraw a licence when a partnered gay couple refused to give an undertaking of celibacy - and got very bad publicity. The publicity would be far worse now. And Croft is far more humane than Wright. In any case, if the bishops en masse have now embarked on an untenable policy that is bound to fail (which I do believe), isn't that good? will it not expedite the state of affairs that we liberals all want?

Posted by John at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 5:37pm GMT

the problem is that it will still take individual couples to put themselves out there and become the high profile victims of disciplinary procedures. In online conversations with various priests yesterday it became clear that many are simply not in a position to risk their livelihood for the sake of pushing the CoE in the right direction. And the bishops know this well enough. People in power always know that.
What we need is a major outcry by the majority of people in the church, something akin to the mass movements you have in the final stages of tyrannical regimes.
I don't see that happen quite yet.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 5:55pm GMT

I was surprised to hear Colin Coward, on Radio 4's Sunday programme, state that LLMs/Readers would be disciplined alongside clergy, if they enter into a same-sex marriage.

This is not stated in the house of Bishops' statement, though I am aware that many bishops interpreted Issues in Human Sexuality to apply to 'leaders' other than clergy e.g. one bishop who 'sacked' two LLMs after they had a CP and another who vetoed the election of a partnered lesbian churchwarden.

(Apologies - I posted this on another thread by mistake)

Posted by Derek Jay at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 6:08pm GMT

Erika -

As I understand it, Pilling *couldn't* talk about same-sex marriage, because it wasn't within their terms of reference, but there is no way of ruling it out of the facilitated conversations, and every reason to make sure it is in there.

Posted by Francis at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 6:10pm GMT

A marvelous idea Mark Kenny ! This will help - especially if signed by thousands - or millions !

I also think it would helpful if we all wrote to our own MP about it. We may ask for questions to be raised in Parliament. Many MPs and indeed peers, will be very exercised about this injustice, and concerned for the welfare and human rights of ministers. Ministers are, after-all a very vulnerable group, precariously positioned as they are with limited 'employment rights' as they are said, by the Church leadership, not to be employees and therefore unprotected.

Also our partners and families.

Posted by Revd Laurie Roberts (not McCain) at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 6:24pm GMT

you say that it is reasonable to ask clergy to behave differently.
So what is this actually saying:
We believe same sex marriage to be immoral but we make an exception for the lay riff-raff and allow priests to say a little prayer? Or are they saying it's only immoral for priest?

And from an Anglo-Catholic point of view this is all wrong anyway. As an AC priest said: 'the idea that clergy are called to "a higher standard of conduct" is clericalism, devalues baptism, has no Catholic precedent, and is probably heretical'

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 6:42pm GMT

Quizzed on Sunday ( Radio Four) and asked would prosecutions result.. he basically dismissed that option, and so like the bishops and the nineteenth century ritualists, discipline will be a dead letter.

However what confuses me is that in the statement the bishops feel gays should not be barred from Holy Communion or baptism and no questions asked. Surely conservatives should be upset by that, if they really believe gay sex is sinful.

If you can't deny gays communion, how can you deny them a wedding?

Posted by robert Ian Williams at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 6:58pm GMT

Derek Jay,
the rules for lay Readers etc. are entirely at the discretion of the respective bishop. And there is no formal disciplinary procedure for them either, bishops simply remove their licenses.
Happened to my wife when we moved in together after she'd been a Reader for many years. And I was told I might as well not finish my training as I would not be licensed.
Even if someone has a friendly bishop now there's no guarantee that the next one will be like that.
It's completely arbitrary.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 7:27pm GMT

OK, Erika, we'll see. Other people have said there are such priests. If there are, we should support them with might and main. It also depends on which diocese. Certain diocesan bishops would find it very hard to act punitively (including Croft, I do believe, liberal though he ain't). I agree with you that a mass, grass-roots, protest isn't there yet. On the other hand, I think a great deal can be done to inform people. At our church this morning no one but me had even heard of the bishops' statement, and our pretty Evangelical female ordinand rapidly revealed herself to be nearly as outraged as I was. I continue to be interested by the disjunction between Welby's address to Synod and this document. The former is the reality, and I think he - and many others in the hierarchy - knows it.

Posted by John at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 7:43pm GMT

Crucial point about livelihoods, Erika.

The vulnerability of priests-in-charge to the whims of their bishops is itself a scandal. The power to suspend livings, intended to aid parish reorganization, had the unintended consequence of giving bishops far too much control over clergy. No priest should have to depend on a bishop's license. After Higton, the Pastoral Measure 1983 is prime candidate for repeal.

Still, there are many -- non-stipendary ministers; incumbents with freehold; chaplains, etc -- who can't be bullied so easily. Even for them, the pressure will be immense, but at least they're in a position to make a choice.

Even in the Church of England as it has become, power still has its limits.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:17pm GMT

It strikes me that this "pastoral" guidance relies on civil partnerships continuing to exist.
I wonder what they will do if the Government abolishes CPs. Will they then deny clergy the legal security, pension rights etc. that come with marriage and that is already available to CPd priests?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:18pm GMT

"In any case, if the bishops en masse have now embarked on an untenable policy that is bound to fail (which I do believe), isn't that good? will it not expedite the state of affairs that we liberals all want?"

It's generally held to be a bad thing in law, in semi-formal environments like "managers' authority over staff" and "teachers' authority over pupils" and in informal environments like "parents' authority over children" to make threats you cannot carry out. It makes you look weak and desperate. And upon learning that you cannot enforce one rule, people tend to assume you cannot enforce others.

So making empty threats is not a cost-free exercise for anyone. Failing schools have inconsistent discipline which lacks credible rules and sanctions. Failing businesses have failing governance which permits managers to do their own thing. Families that are struggling often have parents that cannot provide effective limits and rules for their children.

Yes, the House of Bishops making empty threats will accelerate the process of, on this particular issue, their position being overturned. But in the long run, the failure of senior executive body of a large organisation to function credibly is not good for anyone.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:45pm GMT

Erika, the same Anglo Catholic you quote would doubtlessly also tell you that same sex marriage is not possible, hence the bishops' and church's line. That does not equate with condemnation of gay relationships. Clergy especially cannot enter into a gay marriage, since they must uphold the church's teaching. That is not clericalism, it is fact.

Posted by Benedict at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:52pm GMT

It is rare for any thread on Thinking Anglicans to attract over 100 comments and, on the few occasions when this has happened, it has taken the best part of a week. This thread shows every sign of reaching its century within 48 hours. That alone should tell the bishops of the strength of feeling about their statement, as should the fact that hardly a single comment is even slightly supportive. Why did they let the item on the Pilling report go ahead at GS on Wednesday when they knew this statement was about to be published? They can't possibly have come up with this diatribe last Thursday - someone must have been working on it for weeks, presumably ever since their meeting in January.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 8:57pm GMT

Love, divine and otherwise, is a passion that frequently throws a monkey wrench into orderly workings of any kind. Love more than any other facet of life successfully resists all efforts to bring it into rational discipline. For that reason it is despised by moralists, ideologues, and economic planners of all sorts. Love can build cities or commit crime.

I think it is entirely possible that a cleric or 2 driven by this passion will risk a career and marry his/her "roommate" and force the issue. A disciplinary measure or an ecclesiastical trial over such a marriage would be a major calamity for the Church hierarchy. In the USA, even when gay-hostile church establishments win these legal battles against the disobedient, they end up losing public opinion and their war against the dreaded Gay.

By the way, I heartily second Martin Reynolds when he equates homophobia with racism, and I agree that it will not endure.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 10:47pm GMT

Bishop Steven Croft refused, on the BBC radio program Sunday, to answer the question of how he would punish a priest who married a same-sex spouse. He said the source of the problem is that in March there will be two different kinds of marriage. It seems once again the C of E wants to impose itself on secular law. It would be logical to say that whereas marriage within the church remains closed to same-sex couples, marriage at the register's office or in a welcoming church or synagogue is something else.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 5:54am GMT

"If you can't deny gays communion, how can you deny them a wedding?"

PRECISELY the argument, RIW, that LGBT Anglicans have been making for *at least* 20 years. [Though I must note, with dismay, that you and I draw opposite implications from that argument. "All the blessings for all the baptized" as God wills, and the Church should affirm!]

Posted by JCF at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 9:14am GMT

yes, there are priests who are not working directly for the church and they can get married and possibly cope with the consequences of disciplinary action. I suppose they could only lose their PTO not their job, on the other hand, their job might be linked to having PTO.

But the real challenge will come when an ordinary parish priest gets married, that's when the full force of this will become apparent.

I do so hope there will be brave parish priests who will risk it. But they will need a considerable amount of courage now.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 9:18am GMT

No individual priest should resign on this issue. Why should they leave churches where they are wanted, and where the PCC and community will often love, bless and support them.

On the contrary, the logical way of defying this prejudice - which is much an issue of conscience as those whose conscience was cited over women bishops - is as follows:

A principle is agreed, unreservedly, that if a priest and PCC support the blessing of lesbian and gay marriages and partnerships (because blessing people is not a sin) then they should assert that position of conscience, in defiance of a 'top down' oppression of their conscience.

A website and 'facilitated conversation' between an alliance of parish churches with a social conscience over this issue... should be initiated. Individually priests can be picked off and sacked. Collectively, 100 churches are a different issue.

On behalf of gay and lesbian and transsexual individual's integrity, I do earnestly ask for resistance. There is no moral authority in the episcopal statement. Only imperium. This is no way to run a church. It is totally disrespectful.

Let PCC's and local communities decide. Please form an alliance of resisting churches.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 4:45pm GMT

The bishops' policy widens the gap between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, where bishops in states which have civil marriage equality have been requiring priests to marry their same-spouses. The general principle is to hold all priests, regardless of the gender of their spouses, to the same standards--same rights and obligations.

The C of E looks more and more like a church of apartheid.

I would be tempted to walk away with my Book of Common Prayer and do my own services.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Monday, 17 February 2014 at 10:23pm GMT

"[B]ishops in states which have civil marriage equality have been requiring priests to marry their same-[sex] spouses."

I don't know about requiring, but isn't this the more Christian response to marriage equality?

Shouldn't the Church _want_ people in loving, long-term, monogamous relationships to marry in church?

Instead the CofE takes one step forward on women bishops, and one step backward on same-sex marriage. It's nothing less than tragic.

Do these English bishops purport to lead the Church of England? Or do they think they have some other, more conservative province in their charge as well?

The House of Bishops cannot serve two masters. It will end up pleasing neither.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 12:18am GMT

Susannah Clark has it exactly: resistance, not resignation.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 12:55am GMT

James Byron - well yes of course, and I think it should go without saying. This pastoral guidance is already dead in the water, and rather than resist, it will simply be ignored. Yes it would be good to be 'organised' but I suspect even without consulting fellow clergy, most parish clergy will simply provide the leadership that has been so absent from bishops.

Posted by Neil at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 7:53am GMT

"'[B]ishops in states which have civil marriage equality have been requiring priests to marry their same-[sex] spouses.'"

"I don't know about requiring, but isn't this the more Christian response to marriage equality?"

I don't have enough knowledge about all the bishops affected (which now probably involve 30 dioceses or so).

But I understand the bishop of Massachusetts (Boston) did tell tell his clergy that all clergy living together in same sex-relationships must get married in 90 days or separate.

I also understand that the bishop of Los Angeles told his clergy that he wouldn't apply that strict timetable but he wanted to talk to clergy living in same-sex relationships within 90 days about their plans to get married. He also wanted to have the same discussions with some opposite-sex couples living together who had refused to get married until their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters could do so.

In both situations, the bishops believed that Christian ethics required clergy living with others in relationships to be married if they could. They all could now get legally married and they needed to do so.

Posted by dr.primrose at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 4:20pm GMT

It has only taken the C of E a quarter of a century after the first consecration of women as bishops in the Episcopal Church to move forward on such in England.

The pace is glacially slow.

Yes, supporting priests and their families makes sense rather than treating them as if they were a scandal. Civil partnerships offered lots of deniability.

Parliament really should abolish civil partnerships because they were only offered to same-sex couples as a consolation prize.

In some countries civil unions are offered to both same-sex and sex-discordant couples as an alternative to marriage open to all.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 5:18pm GMT

Do we know if a vote was taken on this statement, and who voted for or against it, and whether there were any dissenting voices... in the interests of, you know, transparency...? I personally cannot believe that all the bishops, some of whom I know and genuinely respect, would be happy with this document.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 6:38pm GMT

"I personally cannot believe that all the bishops, some of whom I know and genuinely respect, would be happy with this document."

They're happy, as otherwise they would have said so or resigned.

It's too easy to excuse people for doing bad things because they were somehow forced into it. These are clever, articulate, insightful men. The reason they agreed to it is that they agree with it. Why else would they agree to it? These are not children. These are not fragile, emotionally unstable people who need support to decide what to do. They're big boys, and they said what they said because they mean it.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 10:52pm GMT

"These are clever, articulate, insightful men." Interested Observer

You've obviously never heard one of the Bishop of Durham's radio interviews.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:19am GMT

Fully agree with Interested Observer.
These bishops are all in secure jobs and at the top of their career, they would risk nothing by opposing such an appalling statement if they wanted to.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:41am GMT

What specifically did the Bishop of Durham say that was worse than any of the others?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:45am GMT

@Simon -I was thinking of the last time he was interviewed on Radio 4 regarding child protection. He could barely string a coherent sentence together - and it's his specialist area of expertise within the church. It was embarrassing.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:58am GMT

The Bishops thought that their Pastoral Statement just continued the status quo and so should not be too objectionable. They thought that if they covered it up with warm words the essential point - the double standard for clergy and laity and a ban on clergy same sex marriage - would not hurt too much.

They were wrong on both points. And the reason they were wrong is because the status quo has changed. Same sex marriage is a new thing in this country, and it is no longer a proposition to be debated and opposed, but a living fact of life in our society. Therefore, to put out a positive statement banning clergy from marrying was not more of the same but a pulsating new sore on the body of the Church.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 1:09pm GMT

The bishops are unelected and, apparently, unaccountable. Dioceses should elect their bishops.

They would give better interviews if their careers depended on what the public thinks of them.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 3:24pm GMT

I have a further question.

What is the position of transsexual men and women who wish to get married or blessed inside the community and fellowship of the church?

For the purposes of acceptable Christian marriage, if a transsexual woman seeks to marry a man, would the church be happy to relax its rules and bless them, even though chromosomally both parties would be male?

And if a transsexual woman seeks to marry a woman, would that be acceptable to the church, given that the couple's chromosomes would be different, and only a simple surgical procedure has taken place?

Would the transsexual woman be allowed to be married and blessed in (a) both cases (b) one or other case (c) neither case?

And why?

The very fact that mere surgery is involved points to the reality that what matters ought to be the integrity and love of two people, not their genitals, whether natal or constructed.

Transsexual men and women highlight and exemplify just how archaic this genital model of relationships really is. The love remains the consistent value, and the sexual variations in no way exclude either transsexual people or anyone else from equally blessed relationships.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 6:05pm GMT

Couldn't agree more Gary. Even better, in addition to election, dioceses should have a recall mechanism at their disposal.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 7:22pm GMT

Susannah: I had understood that the position of transsexuals - at least those who are heterosexual - is in a sense ahead of that of gays and lesbians in the CoE. The Gender Recognition Act makes the marriages of trans individuals another exception (along with divorcé-e-s) to the general right to be married in one's parish church. But I believe that, as with the divorced, it only removes the _obligation_ of the vicar to solemnise the marriage. It does not remove her discretion to do so. Trans* gays and lesbians, as well as those who for whatever reason have not "medically" transitioned, are presumably still out of luck.

Posted by Geoff at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:01pm GMT

On what biblical grounds does a simple surgical procedure qualify someone who has male chromosomes to marry someone who also has male chromosomes, but disqualifies that same person with male chromosomes from marrying a person with female chromosomes?

What precisely and theologically has made the one relationship a blessing from God, and the other unworthy of blessing?

If change of sex validates a person born a man getting married to a man (and ironically, disqualifying a person born a man from marrying a woman) then the objection can't be to anything chromosomal.

Furthermore, what if a person previously identifying 'male', changes sex, and is already married to a woman? Is their relationship a blessing before, and 'wrong' after?

Furthermore, there are transgender men and women who get legally recognised in their new genders without having the genital surgery. What on earth does the bible say about them?

Furthermore, what about people who are intersex, or genderqueer, or androgenous, who may not identify exclusively with one sex or gender, or the other?

What I'm really trying to suggest is that the writers of the bible quite understandably did not anticipate the world we would live in 2000-3000 years later, when it came to matters of sex, gender and psychology.

But for people like myself, this is not theory, this is our lives. Same with lesbian and gay people, who some of us are as well.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 8:46pm GMT

It all recalls the lyrics of the song "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Bishops who teach hate should be recalled. Too bad in religion they don't recall defective products!

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 9:37pm GMT

"Bishops who teach hate should be recalled."

Now there's an idea!

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 10:01pm GMT

It is with great sadness that I read the comments posted here, which are in the main against the current church teaching on marriage. The command to love is first and foremost to LOVE the LORD your God with heart mind and soul and to Love your neighbour as yourself.
What it seems is that God is left out of the picture when it comes to an increasingly secularized church. Loving one another without an understanding of what loving God means, is to our detriment. Fearing and loving a Holy and sin hating God, should be our first call. If God says something is sinful, then accept it and agree with Him.
The C of E also does not regard divorce in the same way Jesus did and hence it has become watered down in its stance.
My prayer is that those who wish to only love the created but not the Creator,would leave the established church so that the purity of Christ may once again be seen, then others would be drawn by this purity and seek to have their own lives purified too!
I love all of you who have commented here, and my heart goes out to you, to reflect once again on the beauty and purity of Jesus Christ and then to desire to rid yourselves of the sin which so easily entangles!

Posted by Rev JU at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 3:22am GMT
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