Comments: Opinion - 18 June 2016

Once again I find myself in disagreement with Kelvin. He supports the idea that no priest will be required to perform a same sex marriage. He puts his view eloquently and with grace. At first glance, allowing conscientious objection seems reasoned and reasonable.

But how will a young couple feel if a priest says he won't marry them because he doesn't believe same sex marriage is Biblical? What of a man whose husband is killed. What if the priest approached to conduct the funeral says, "If I conduct the service I cannot refer to him as your husband"? On closer inspection it looks like a compromise which suits priests allowing them to marry same sex couples if they wish, or refuse if they wish. But ordinary members can still be sent away by a priest so for them there is nowhere near as much improvement as they deserve.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 4:14pm BST

Kate is mistaken. In Scotland the legal system ensures that any priest can already refuse any marriage by any couple on any grounds. (Registrars can't).

The Canon that has received first reading simply mirrors what is already the legal case, something that opponents of same-sex marriage wanted to see in the canon.

There's no mention of refusing to marry a couple because they happen to be gay.

The text of the proposed change to the Canon begins:

"In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of
marriage in this Church, no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience".

I wouldn't have been able to support the change to the canon if it had said that "no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any same-sex marriage against their conscience".

All of this is particularly pertinent to me as I'm currently treating all couples as equitably as I can and am thus not conducting any marriages at all though I'm happy to bless any couples who have been married by someone else.

It is the case that some clergy might take the view that marriage is something that the church should keep out of. In the light of differing views about marriage in the church, they are not going to be forced to perform them.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 7:17pm BST

Kelvin,thank you for the reply. But that wording in the canon allows discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender reassignment and we all know that is how it will be used.

The canon is also silent on whether ministers will be required to recognise marriages against their consciences. That is such an enormous grey area that it is bound to cause problems.

So sorry, but I continue to disagree and think the wording of the canon serves priests but not couples and is therefore deeply unsatisfactory. Indeed, although I support same sex marriages I would personally vote against the proposed wording because it moves discrimination under the radar instead of prohibiting it and I think that is a cowardly step.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 9:36pm BST

TEC adoppted such a clause quite a while ago, to provide a way for clergy to decline to solemnize a marriage in which one or both of the parties was divorced. So TEC did not need to add such a clause when marriage equality became a reality.

There can be any number of reasons for a cleric to decline to officiate at a given marriage, and stating so with such open-ended language is commendable, and doesn't put any onus on one group or another.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 9:38pm BST

I confess to still not understanding why anyone would want to be married by anyone who didn't want to marry them.

The conscience clause alters nothing at all -- it expresses in words that which already exists in reality -- and without it I really don't think we would have got as far as even first reading of the amended canon. The situation is of course a little different in England where opposite sex couples have the right to be married by their CoE parish priest; in Scotland no couple has any such right.

Posted by Beth Routledge at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 10:12pm BST

Well said, David Ison. Yes, I see this woman. Because I am a woman, in all my brokenness, who loves Jesus. There are a number of stories in the Bible about Jesus' encounter with 'fallen' women. And the men who demean them. Both groups are diminished if we don't see each other. And, of course, that goes for any privileged group and any marginalised group.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 10:51pm BST

So is it acceptable in TEC or SEC for a priest to decline to marry on the grounds that the couple is same sex and to state that as the reason? (Or is this the un-love whose name can not be spoken?)

Posted by John Sandeman at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 11:13pm BST

"I confess to still not understanding why anyone would want to be married by anyone who didn't want to marry them."

Because the minister is only acting on behalf of God and their personal views should be irrelevant. They sign up to an office and should perform it utterly impartially regardless of any personal inclinations. That is their responsibility to God.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 11:20pm BST

Once again, the legal situation in Scotland is that any priest may decline to marry any person for any reason.

If you are a priest in Scotland, you can decline to marry a couple because they are mixed race. You can decline to marry a couple because one of them is divorced. You can decline to marry a couple because you don't like them. You can decline to marry a couple because you don't think the marriage will succeed. You can decline a marriage because you think the couple too fat. You can decline a marriage because you think the couple can't conceive.

These reasons for declining a marriage will be offensive to many but in each case, I'm afraid, not to all. But the point is not whether they are acceptable reasons for declining a marriage - it is simply the case that you can't force a priest to conduct a marriage they don't want to in Scotland. The reason for that is that celebrants have human rights too and in this case, the law respects the individual's right not to have to conduct a religious service that is against their conscience.

That is the situation in Scots Law, and that is different to other jurisdictions.

If people have a problem with any of that, then they need to propose and argue for changes to the law of Scotland. Changing a canon of the Scottish Episcopal Church would make not the slightest difference.

It is not a matter of whether it is acceptable for a priest to decline to marry a couple on the grounds that they are a same-sex couple. It is the law.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 8:08am BST

My view is that respect for people's conscientious belief is really important.

FACT: opinion is divided down the middle, as to whether gay and lesbian sex are alright or not.

If we insist on one side 'dominating' their 'truth' over the other side, what we end up with is schism.

Indeed, the efforts of the archbishops to impose uniformity of belief (or threaten sanctions) is just such an example of that domination of 'my truth' over 'your truth'.

If we want priests, ministers, PCCs, local churches to be able good conscience and affirm gay sexuality in their local communities... then we should also respect and protect the good consciences of those who cannot endorse those things. It's a two-way arrangement, that tries to respect people's consciences, and seek grace to live in a unity in diversity.

After all, it could be argued that fundamental truth is grace and love, and that what is needed is not 'one person's true dogma' or 'another person's true dogma' but rather the grace to love one another, affirm one another, serve with one another... in a unity based on faith in Jesus Christ.

It could be that the test for all of us is not 'theological rightness' but rather... the grace and love we open up to, as we try to live together in relationship.

That's what I believe.

I am happy for different Christians to have different versions of 'the truth', as long as they all have the essential truth of the love of God, and try to open up to that.

Because love is the ultimate truth.

I would feel unhappy if priests were not able to exercise conscience... indeed, as several Jeremy's have discovered, the exercise of good conscience can be constrained by attempts to dominate one another. The same should apply to people who in good faith don't believe that gay sex is right.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 8:47am BST

@John Sandeman: I would certainly think less of any priest who chose to do that, just as I would think less of one who refused to marry a couple because one of them was a Muslim. I do accept, however, that the nature of having diversity within the church means that some parts of that diversity may stray into areas that I find objectionable. I think to have pushed for a strong anti-discrimination clause in the SEC canon would be to let perfect be the enemy of good, because the vote would not have passed. As it is, it looks likely that as of next year anyone who wants to marry in the SEC will easily be able to find a priest who is willing and able. The priest might not be immediately local to them, but then a good many of us don't have a priest locally anyway.

Posted by Jo at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 10:04am BST

Kate,
can I ask what you mean by "The canon is also silent on whether ministers will be required to recognise marriages against their consciences."?

Ministers, indeed everyone, already has to accept the reality and legal implications of gay marriage, regardless of what they think of it.

What kind of recognition against people's conscience are you thinking of?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 11:08am BST

I agree there should be a conscience clause for priests: but not, however, for bishops, since, as seen in TEC, the exercise of their "conscience" involves trampling over that of every rector in their diocese. This has to work both ways.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 4:39pm BST

Beth,
"I confess to still not understanding why anyone would want to be married by anyone who didn't want to marry them."

I think I do. Priests come and go, congregations exist for decades. It's quite possible that someone has been a member of a congregation since childhood and that they feel fully part of that parish. They should not have to get married somewhere else just because a newish priest happens not to believe in same sex marriage.

People often come back to the church of their childhood when they get married. Again, the personal views of the priest should not be a reason they cannot get married there.

I would like to see PCCs making the decision whether a particular church is happy to marry gay people. A priest who cannot in conscience conduct such a marriage should then be required to let someone else take the service.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 5:05pm BST

John Sandeman, I can't speak for SEC, but in TEC a priest may decline to officiate at any marriage without stating her reasons, though nothing prevents her from stating the reasons. Those reasons could include the cleric's belief that the marriage could not, or ought not, be solemnized at all -- as I note, the clause was added after the church came to permit the marriage of divorced parties, and many in the church still felt such marriages were null. Those who believe a SS couple ought not marry (or in their mind, do not marry) are free to state that opinion.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 6:32pm BST

"So is it acceptable in TEC or SEC for a priest to decline to marry on the grounds that the couple is same sex and to state that as the reason? (Or is this the un-love whose name can not be spoken?)"

Yes, John. TEC clergy don't have to marry anyone they they don't want to marry, and not wishing to do inclusive marriage can be one of those reasons.

I know that there was some scare mongering going on about how clergy who won't marry gay couples could get defrocked, but that was baseless propaganda.

TEC basically approved SSM in a way that "walks together" with conservatives. The conservatives don't have to do it. They just can't stop others from exercising the inclusive conscience.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 19 June 2016 at 8:49pm BST

Erika, to answer your question first. What concerns me is if a priest might refuse a funeral for a gay partner, or refuse to refer to them as husband and husband. And whether they will recognise them both as a father of any children and so on.

Kelvin (and others) you are essentially arguing that in SEC a minister could refuse to marry all mixed race couples and that would be acceptable. I cannot agree. However, on further reading I think you might have correctly stated the law. However, the law doesn't preclude saying that anybody who openly declines to celebrate same sex marriages might be excluded from consideration for promotion so I think SEC could do something to prevent discriination for sexual orientation and race.

It seems truly bizarre to me that people have been saying SEC / CofE etc should offer ssm on grounds of equality but then not actually enshrine equality within the enabling canon / measure.

What is proposed is equality for priests - they get a right to marry ssm couples if they wish - but not equality for couples who might be turned away. That just stinks IMO and I can see zero Biblical justification for such an outcome.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 4:03am BST

Thank you, Tobias, that is quite clear.

Posted by John Sandeman at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 6:58am BST

So in any foreseeable conflict between TEC non discrimination canons and an individual clerics right to refuse the latter rules?

Posted by Cseitz at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 7:54am BST

> Kelvin (and others) you are essentially arguing that in SEC a minister could refuse to marry all mixed race couples and that would be acceptable.

No I'm not.

>However, on further reading I think you might have correctly stated the law.

Yes I am.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 9:06am BST

"You can decline to marry a couple because you don't think the marriage will succeed."

A reason for declining that probably all priests/ministers should use, more often! ;-/ [Yes, yes, yes: the CofE, being established, is different.]

Posted by JCF at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 11:11am BST

The Scottish approach which Kelvin outlines is almost exactly the one that I favour and have (along with others) been proposing here. I think it should be a model for England, and the English House of Bishops.

We do *not* all have to agree about human sexuality, and we won't. But we can agree to keep walking together, to love one another, to recognise the precious worth of God in one another's ministries, the greater part of which involves the sick, the lonely, the poor, the bereaved, and learning to live in relationship, valuing each unique individual. It is not all about sex, but sex is getting in the way, because people are being rigid and trying to dominate one another.

It really is beyond time that community and the wider care of people in need became the focus of our ministry and service, and we stopped trying to bully and dominate each other on issues of human sexuality.

In short, what we so badly need is *grace*... grace to live well in community with one another. And grace and love are essential truth. They are the true test (and invitation) of God.

It is so important to be grown up enough to recognise that someone may hold an opposite view on gay or lesbian sex, and hold it in good conscience. And that we respect one another's consciences. No-one should be 'sanctioned' for their conscientious belief and faith.

If we are willing to open our hearts to enough love and grace, then we can forge a unity in diversity. And, as Kelvin says, that unity is founded not in doctrinal exactitude and uniformity, but founded in Christ. We are only, ever, in union and in communion because we open our hearts to Jesus Christ.

God the Holy Trinity lives in eternal relationship, love and community. And they long to share those realities with us in so much abundance and grace. And for us to share them with others.

Instead of saying 'my truth is right and your truth is wrong', and trying to force uniformity on people... we can assuredly say, 'Whatever happens, love is the truth, and I seek the grace to love you and wish your flourishing... along your path of faith, and your path of service.'

Because each one of us is uniquely loved by God for who we are.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 3:00pm BST

Australia may have a plebiscite to ascertain the views of electors with regard to "same sex marriage" and the Commonwealth Parliament, though not obliged to do so, I think would then establish "same sex marriage" by law. (It is not legally obliged to do so ; that is only the case with referendums.) But even if it does, no law can force a cleric or other person to recognise a same sex union as marriage. And a considerable number of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others here will NEVER do so though some would accept and indeed welcome legal civil unions. (Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church, for example, is free to not recognise as a valid marriage the union of divorced persons whose original marriage has not been declared null and void.) One cannot conduct a marriage ceremony which one believes and probably always will believe is not and cannot be a marriage. Some of those who do quite passionately think it is a marriage do not help their cause by describing their opponents as "homophobic" or here in Australia by calling for there to be no plebiscite and for the Government to act without consulting the people. They claim they already have the numbers but some would suspect they think the plebiscite will not result in a majority vote in favour.

Posted by John Bunyan at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 3:03pm BST

CSeitz, Yes. There is no conflict because the non-discrimination canon (I.17.5) concludes, "except as otherwise specified by Canons." The clause in the marriage canon (I.18.7) specifies that exception.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 4:10pm BST

"You can decline to marry a couple because you don't think the marriage will succeed."

Oh my. Where to begin. It won't succeed because it is mixed race? It won't work because, well, gay couples are never faithful. Has the church learned nothing from safeguarding scandals that priests can do the wrong thing and the rules need to protect people from that.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. The hulking monolith is that marriages are a union made by God and that we should always expect and hope that any church marriage be lifelong and be genuinely surprised and saddened if it doesn't. If priests marrying people don't have that much faith in marriage and the Lord's commitment to marriage no wonder divorce is on the raise. Far from being an attitude which reduces divorce, I see it as one which causes divorce by suggesting that Christ's bride has no belief in the enduring strength of any marriage the Lord blesses no matter how unlikely prospects seem were it to be a civil wedding instead.

In all I have read on TA nothing has shocked me so much as that statement and the belief that priests back their own feelings about a union rather than placing absolute and unquestioning faith in God. No wonder the church is in serious decline.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 4:14pm BST

"Instead of saying 'my truth is right and your truth is wrong', and trying to force uniformity on people... "

That I think is the disagreement though, isn't it? Many (but not all) liberals see truth as personal / subjective and seek a compromise; many (but not all) conservatives believe there is an absolute, objective truth and that a faithful church should be obedient to that truth.

In suggesting compromise and diversity you are seeking to impose your version of truth (varied, personal) on other against their conscience.

And if schism comes, that I think will be the fault line between those who see truth to be multifaceted and personal, and those believe truth is universal even if we struggle to identify it. I know you think you are advocating a way to walk together - if only people will accept that personal gnosis is more important than striving as a church to do the best we can to find THE truth, but I fear the views you express are moving us closer to a split.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 4:32pm BST

John Bunyan: why is same-sex marriage placed in quotation marks in your post?

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 5:41pm BST

The one weak point in the TEC approach is highlighted by James Byron's and Cynthia's comments. Cynthia says "The conservatives don't have to do it. They just can't stop others from exercising the inclusive conscience." But James' earlier comment points out that if the conservative is a bishop, he or she CAN stop others from exercising the inclusive conscience.

Posted by Bill Ghrist at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 6:46pm BST

Part of the problem I think (but have thought for a long time) is that in common law countries (but also in Italy, for example)a marriage in church includes a civil contract (except in Italy there is an insidious opt-out too). It seems to me, and has for a long time, that France has got it right. The civil obligations of marriage accrue only to a civil marriage, any religious blessing is only an add-on chosen by the people concerned. For the state, you are married only if you have married in the town hall, after that you can do as you like.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 7:05pm BST

Kate - I feel that I'm running out of ways to explain that what I've described is the law of the land in Scotland. Clergy, by law, can refuse to marry a couple. They don't need to give any reason - they can simply refuse.

I wasn't giving you a list of examples as to why clergy *should* refuse to marry a couple. Merely stating what the law says.

Celebrants have human rights too and in Scotland they simply have the right not to conduct a religious ceremony they don't want to conduct.

Neither the Scottish Episcopal Church nor I have expressed a view on any reason why any priest might have ever in the past or ever in the future refuse to marry any two people.

It is simply and factually the case that they can do so and that won't change.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 8:41pm BST

Kate 'In all I have read on TA nothing has shocked me so much as that statement and the belief that priests back their own feelings about a union rather than placing absolute and unquestioning faith in God. No wonder the church is in serious decline'. You've missed quite a lot on TA then. But sorry, this is baffling. Are you saying there is no place for marriage preparation? Just trust in God for any couples who turn up? No place for helping couples to think it through carefully - and possibly even come to recognise it may not be wise for them? Pastoral wisdom is not infallible but it is based on something much deeper than 'backing their own feelings'.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 9:06pm BST

@Kate

At the risk of 'mansplaining' - and I'm quite sure that Kelvin Holdsworth can speak for himself - I think all he has done is describe what the law in Scotland *is*. Not that he necessarily agrees with it.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 9:11pm BST

Kate: I have no doubt that there is such a thing as universal truth; but I very much doubt that it is possible for any one human being (or even a collection of same) to know what it is.

That being the case, I prefer to let each person define truth as he sees it, except for the things which we as a society have decided.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 20 June 2016 at 10:20pm BST

A couple practical examples of how conscience works, from personal experience.

Last week, I officiated a marriage between a Christian and a Buddhist. The rector of the church where the bride had been baptized refused it. He was under no obligation to take it, and in fact I was required to obtain the bishop's permission because it was an interfaith marriage.

Twice I have refused to officiate at marriages where it was clear that the primary purpose of the marriage was to provide a means to permanent residency for one of the spouses. In one of those cases, the couple did agree to do two months of marriage preparation counseling -- after two sessions the problems in their relationship came to the forefront and they cancelled plans to marry.

I appreciate the simplicity of the Scottish solution.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 1:34am BST

John Bunyan, I would consider a person who did not want to grant equal rights in all aspects of law to a coloured person to be a racist. So I consider a person who does not want to allow same sex marriage to be a homophobe and you have stated elsewhere that is your opinion.
Here in New Zealand, the parliament was able to hold a civil debate where members stated their views then were given a free vote and 64% voted in favour so it is now the law.
I cannot see why a similar process cannot be followed in Australia. There are not plebiscites on many other matters that come before parliament. We expect parliamentarians to canvass public opinion and make their own decisions. The plebiscite has been forced on the present government by the homophobic right wing to which the Prime Minister has felt he should bow. A plebiscite is most likely to lead to vitriolic public statements by those on the homophobic right wing which can only cause hurt especially to those already battling with the realisation they are LGBTI. I pray that it will not lead to something like we have seen this week in the UK.
Thankfully I will not be there. Now that I am a NZ citizen, I try to forget that I was born in Australia.

Posted by Brian Ralph at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 3:43am BST

Pat, I believe Kelvin Holdsworth has dealt with this issue with integrity and refuses to marry any couple at present rather than discriminate against same sex couples. If a church votes to allow same sex marriage then any priest who by conscience doesn't wish to do that should follow Kelvin's admirable lead and cease conducting any marriage rather than discriminate. Accommodating personal truth / conscience can usually be achieved without opening the door to discrimination.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 6:23am BST

"Just trust in God for any couples who turn up?"

Yes.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 6:43am BST

Brian Ralph may designate all who oppose "same sex marriages" as homophobes, members of the "homophobic right wing", and claim all that they say as "vitriolic". I think that this is simply nonsense and I am still free to express my views. I don't hear vitriolic language coming from supporters of the traditional understanding here, and I have not heard it from Church leaders or church people, but of course (tragically) it does exist in some places . Many of those supporters, however, often remain quiet because of the kind of accusations made by Mr Ralph and others. (An attempt was made recently to bring the R.C. Archbishop of Hobart to court because he distributed a dignified, courteous statement of Roman Catholic belief about marriage to his own R.C. schools). And I am hardly on the "right wing" (another silly generalisation bandied about), my last job having been Rector for 22 years of a flourishing working class parish, and now at 80 the voluntary C.of E. chaplain in a largish hospital in the heart of multi-ethnic Sydney (a record 119 patients on my lists recently - C.of E./Protestant/Christian/Maronite etc - who had chosen to identify themselves as such). I deplore homophobia, seen at its worst I suppose, under Hitler and in some eastern countries, tragically evident though less so in countries such as our own. Nonetheless,every week encountering people with a whole range of problems, some very ill, some involved in accidents, some facing death - and less frequently, some of those whom I meet as an ex-services chaplain with their difficulties, I deplore this never-ending obsessive debate about this one issue, Bishop Colenso might have said one of those "frenzies" which comes along in the Church from time to time, important but not all important.

In answer to Nathaniel Brown, I put "same sex marriage" in inverted commas simply because using the term without them, like using the term "marriage equality", begs the question. Though an old rather agnostic, liberal parson, I do not believe "same sex marriage" is marriage, and no law can make it so. (I strongly support legal civil unions.) But regarding all this, those who make sweeping, intolerant, and inaccurate accusations regarding their opponents are hardly likely to win them over.

Posted by John Bunyan at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 8:53am BST

Brian:

Regarding plebiscites on this or any other matter, I have always regarded this quotation from Edmund Burke to be the epitome of conscientious government.

"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 11:36am BST

John

As soon as one says a gay person may not do something a straight person may do, many people would say that is homophobia. It doesn't matter what that "something" is - teach, adopt or marry - or the reasons one gives.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 12:23pm BST

All this discussion over a hypothetical situation where a same-sex couple are turned away! If such a problem actually arises, it can be addressed in future synods (e.g. by requiring the priest to allow another priest to come to the church to officiate). I think we can trust the Scots to figure something out.

Posted by Paul Powers at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 2:20pm BST

The root sense of the suffix 'phobia' obviously is 'fear', but in useful and practical ways, the word 'homophobia' has taken on deeper meanings... not just 'fear' of homosexual people and sex, but 'discrimination', 'repulsion', 'dislike', 'disgust', 'exclusion', 'marginalisation', 'erasure'...

A whole range of negative feelings and actions towards lesbian and gay people.

Indeed, the very act of describing gay sex as against God's will is an act of homophobia, even though the opinion may be held in good conscience and with good intent.

But the accumulative effect of all these degrees of distance from gay and lesbian sex is devastating and harmful.

When that is done in the name of the Church, it conflicts with the core message of relationship and inclusion in the family of God and, worse still, sends a message to 'haters' out there, that the Church mandates the condemnation and vilification of gay and lesbian people... as abominations... as beyond the pale... in some cases not even Christians at all but destined for destruction... thereby giving succour to the hateful.

It is the same with transphobia. Unless you know what it is like to do ordinary things - to walk the street and shop and get out - never knowing when the next attack is going to take place... it is really hard to 'theologise' externally, and speak words you think are come from God.

I disagree with Kate on a number of things, but on this I agree: that homophobia is about discrimination at all levels, and not just 'fear', and to be on the receiving end of that discrimination... the violence, the unexpected abuse, the dirty looks, the mockery... can be a grave diminution of decent people.

This is not just theoretical. It is our lives. Lives lived around the world, often in more brutal and violent places than Britain. But even in Britain, the violence and brutality is only ever just below the surface.

In such a context, the Church should be a haven, a place of inclusion and affirmation, a place where you are recognised as 'gift' not problem, where you are valued and precious, not for who others think you should be, but for the whole of who you are.

Until we get to that place, homophobia will still stalk the Church, and gay people will be marginalised and diminished.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 2:47pm BST

Although I'm pretty convinced that opposition to equal marriage *is* homophobia, in a situation where it might be debatable whether a position is prejudiced, discriminatory etc (e.g. homophobic, racist, sexist) perhaps we could be humble enough to think that it is the people who are usually at the receiving end of that particular prejudice who we should use to guide us as to whether it actually is or not?

Although one can always find exceptions (and please don't tell me about your gay 'friends' who are against gay marriage'), any visit to, say the Pink News web site, will demonstrate that the vast majority of gay commentators think opposition to equal marriage is homophobic. If nothing else, that should make, ABC, ABY, some of the 'traditional' commentators on TA etc, take pause and think.

I would hope that if I were accused of being racist, sexist etc. I would take those accusations seriously, particularly coming from a person who elsewhere is subject to those prejudices.

It should not be the case that the oppressed must beg the human rights that are morally theirs from their oppressors: it should certainly not be the case that those who are not oppressed should decided whether the positions they hold are prejudiced or not.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 5:02pm BST

"I put "same sex marriage" in inverted commas simply because using the term without them, like using the term "marriage equality", begs the question. Though an old rather agnostic, liberal parson, I do not believe "same sex marriage" is marriage, and no law can make it so."

The problem, John, is that I am sacramentally married to my partner of almost 25 years. And your claim that my marriage isn't a marriage disparages the most holy thing in my life. You think it's just a position that you have the right to hold, I see it as an attack on my being and my wonderful marriage to my anam cara, a true gift from God, affirmed by my priest, parish, bishop, and church (TEC).

I'm sorry, but your attack on my marriage is homophobic, just as an attack on a mixed race marriage would be racist.

According to TEC and SEC, you are not obliged to perform these marriages, and I support that situation. But disparaging us not quite right, either. In light of Orlando, the sting of this attack hurts a bit more than normal... but it always hurts. So I wonder why anyone feels so entitled to hurt others in this way and contribute to a climate that makes us more vulnerable to bullying and hate crimes? In the name of God? The God of love, who bashed the church for it's awful treatment of the marginalized.

If Orlando didn't open you heart to a new way of looking and speaking of these things, what will?

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 6:01pm BST

John Bunyan "I don't hear vitriolic language coming from supporters of the traditional understanding here, and I have not heard it from Church leaders or church people, but of course (tragically) it does exist in some places . "
I am well aware of the "love the sinner" attitude of Sydney Clergymen. However whenever I came out as a gay man to my rector, I was not asked to leave but my name was taken off any rosters within the church. Of course women did not read the lessons so why should a gay man. I can imagine the response if I had offered to return to Sunday school teaching (Teaching was my profession). I finally moved to St James, King Street where those of all sexualities are welcome. I had heard that Rev John Bunyan once had a role there which is why I am so disappointed to read his comments here. He should know that, even at St James, care had to be taken so that the Diocesan authorities did not find an excuse to intervene in an Anglo-Catholic Inclusive parish. It happened elsewhere but the wealth of the St James Parish provides a form of buffer. Finally I have moved to a Diocese where the Bishop is openly supportive, there are a few openly Gay and Lesbian priests and I do not have an 80km journey to reach my local parish. I applaud the chaplaincy work of Rev John to which he continually refers but am sure most of us here do what we can. In my case it is driving elderly ladies to church and other activities.
In my youth I knew one friend who committed suicide because he could not deal with the conflict between what the church taught and his innermost feelings. I also saw my Rector, a wonderful youth worker have several nervous breakdowns and also finally commit suicide. I believe my life would have been happier without such conflicts. In those days (1950's and 60's) the church had much more influence than today. I would not recommend any young GLBTI person to become involved with the church today. Thankfully there are now many support groups outside of the church. So while there are many problems in the world today and I know the church is one agency dealing with them. In this case the church is the problem.

Posted by Brian Ralph at Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 10:12pm BST

Thank you for your Witness, Brian, I'm so sorry about the loss of your youthful friend and a Rector to suicide. Sadly, it is still too common, especially amongst our youth, who are especially susceptible to the abhorrent messages from the church, and who suffer a range of bullying in school and online.

Church leaders need to accept responsibility for their role in this misery, and put an end to the hateful and exclusionary rhetoric that feeds that nasty beast. Separate but equal is a lie. The message that we are less valued in the eyes of God and in our culture can be deadly, whether it is self inflicted or the product of a hateful loser with access to weapons, like in Orlando.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 22 June 2016 at 12:19am BST

Those who don't hear vitriol can usually afford not to, while finding vitriol anywhere that questions that very privilege.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 22 June 2016 at 6:31am BST

"The problem, John, is that I am sacramentally married to my partner of almost 25 years. And your claim that my marriage isn't a marriage disparages the most holy thing in my life. You think it's just a position that you have the right to hold, I see it as an attack on my being and my wonderful marriage to my anam cara, a true gift from God, affirmed by my priest, parish, bishop, and church (TEC)."

And that is why I believe the SEC approach is wrong and that the wording of any new canon or measure needs to recognise same sex marriage explicitly. The issue is recognition.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 22 June 2016 at 12:05pm BST
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