Comments: William Nye writes to The Episcopal Church about marriage rites

This is a threat, and an empty one at that.

Someone should tell the Archbishops' Council that what they are threatening would cause disestablishment.

I think it's time for more questions in Parliament.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 8:54am BST

First let me apologise for my Church. This is not a response of which all of us approve.

In terms of the "home" situation, this is deeply depressing. It appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury was a false witness when he spoke of the need for a radical new inclusion since, it appears, we aren't just stalling on progress within the Church of England but are seeking actively to deter other churches from cessation of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

What is truly disgusting is that the objection is supposedly about procreation but the Church of England will marry women older than the menopause who are medically unable to have children. Indeed, although the cannot have children, they still have a legal right to marriage. Nye's reference to procreation is, effectively, a lie and just an attempt to disguise that the Church of England is now institutionally homophobic.

Disgusted. Disgusted. Disgusted... ad infinitum

Posted by Kate at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:26am BST

I have lots of concerns. One of my major concerns is again one of governance. The Archbishops council is supposed to operate off a very narrow mandate: 'The Council’s statutory object is to coordinate, promote, aid and further the work and mission of the Church of England.’ So why on earth is the Archbishop's Council the right forum from which to generate this form of response?

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:41am BST

I like the simple, practical approach of SEC to this issue.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:46am BST

Then "dissociate!" You clearly don't need us, we are held back by you. Dissociate, already.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 10:03am BST

He asserts that within specifically the CofE, a majority of people believe that Scripture holds that same sex marriage is contrary to God's will. What does the current polling suggest?

Posted by John Swanson at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 11:12am BST

With a little work one can extrapolate the response of Nye to the SEC, though the latter did not request it as apparently TEC is seeking to do -- hence his letter to Jordan Hylden who serves on the TEC committee in question. It is interesting to see Nye state fairly clearly that the CofE has a special role in this matter vis-a-vis the Communion at large. One wonders how widely held that view is within the CofE itself. That is becoming as controversial as the presenting question of the definition of marriage, on which he focuses his remarks.

Posted by crs at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 12:37pm BST

PS--I see in the packet of Anglican responses to TEC, Australia does respond negatively to the SEC. So though the SEC says it disagrees with TEC's approach, Australia sees no real distinction and rejects them both. Congo, Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania have responses -- all opposed. I wonder if any of this will matter very much when GC does its decision making this summer. TEC (and others) have got used to not thinking Communion means anything finally relevant when it comes to this issue. One wonders what the point of the exercise really is? Perhaps Hylden argued for this -- he is I believe the sole dissenter on the Task Force.

Posted by crs at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 12:46pm BST

It might be helpful to tell us more about who this guy is, what his role and authority in the CofE might be, and etc. Perhaps tell us a little more about what the archbishop's council is, too. Perhaps explain why the secretary of the council, whom I would suppose merely takes the minutes at meetings, would send a letter deserving such attention. I think that most of us would expect that the person authorized to speak for a committee would be the chair of the group. Did they have a vote to authorize the committee secretary to send this? Tell us about that, too, please.

I suspect that, in addition to this being the usual sort of English lecturing of Americans that for long historical reasons carries no weight at all (see how Rowan's lectures helped the cause of marriage equality), a letter from someone who doesn't appear to speak for the Church of England will be read once and set aside. "Well, that's nice. Who is he?" "I don't know." "Ah. Moving on, then..."

Posted by Dennis Roberts at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 2:35pm BST

Go ahead, Canterbury, boot TEC: it won't make an ounce of practical difference in America; and it may, at long last, wake the majority of England's quiescent liberals and spur them into action.

When the CoE's house is at last in order, and homophobia no longer treated as holy writ in England, TEC can be welcomed back, and her prophetic witness recognized.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 2:57pm BST

Read the story carefully and you will see it does not reflect even opinion on the Archbishops' Council. Nye says his response “reflects discussions among staff of the Church’s Archbishops’ Council only”.

This suggests a straw poll in the office. And he has the nerve to lecture ECUSA from this basis.

Posted by cryptogram at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 3:01pm BST

I visited the TEC website today for the first time. Impressive. I love this page

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/value-streams

Why can't the Church of England just be like TEC?

Posted by Kate at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 4:28pm BST

I think Nye's submission is fair as an account of where the Church of England is "officially," especially in the light of the Pemberton case which pretty much established that in law there is an official line. This is of course quite different to agreeing with the position, but it is unfair to shoot the messenger.

Kate - to accuse the Archbishops of false witness seems rather strong, since they never really said what "radical new inclusion" means to them. If you want to accuse them, accuse them of using a phrase which was actually so vague that it could have a wide range of meanings - radical as in pulling up the roots, or going back to relying on the roots? I think people tend to answer that according to what they'd like the answer to be. We won't know, it seems until the teaching document is produced.

And again, the reference to procreation is not a lie, but a standard part of the theology of marriage. That a woman may be medically unable to have children isn't the same as theologically unable (think Sarah and Elizabeth in their old age). The theology of marriage necessarily and properly gives preference to theology over medicine/biology. We might note that known but undisclosed infertility is grounds for annulment - the biology comes into it here, but on the basis that the non-disclosing party never really intended to enter into a real marriage, since marriage includes the assumption of procreation being desired.

Andrew - it seems to me that this falls within the remit of the Archbishops' Council "to coordinate" the work of Church of England, and it is at least honest about whose response it is (and honestly, what other level of official response did they expect to a five-week consultation period?).

Posted by Bernard Randall at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 4:48pm BST

Mr Nye's letter suggests to me that the outcome of the 'Teaching Document' is a foregone conclusion (see p. 3). A great deal of time and money will be expended on, I suspect, producing another document defending the status quo with the now standard qualifier about how we should all be a bit nicer to gay people. In other words, the TD will simply be a longer, more academic sounding, better footnoted version of the pathetic and threadbare House of Bishops Report rightly rejected by Synod in February 2017.

I'd be happy to be wrong about that. Can anyone produce evidence that the 'conclusions' of all this scholarly activity by well intentioned people will not, in fact, be predetermined by others?

Posted by Grumpy High Churchwoman at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 5:26pm BST

"...in English law as it currently has developed, there are two understandings of marriage operating side by side..."

That is not the law. In English law, there is only marriage. A marriage contracted wherever and however, so long as it is valid, is, in English law, subject to the same understanding. Every English marriage is the same in law. There is no two-tier law of marriage in England.

Anyone can have whatever understanding they like about marriage and, no doubt, marriage means many different things to many different people. But none of these differences are an understanding of marriage in English law.

An appeal to secular law by one church in conversation with another church smacks of desperation.

Posted by badman at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 5:40pm BST

“That a woman may be medically unable to have children isn't the same as theologically unable (think Sarah and Elizabeth in their old age)”

Oh come on! In that case I and my civil partner are able to ‘theologically’ have children. Or is biological sex too much for God’s theological action in a way that virginity or old age aren’t?

Surely an incarnational faith doesn’t start separating ‘medical’ and ‘theological’ realities? To do so look like a) mangled Platonism trying to excuse b) structural homophobia to me.

Why heterosexual Christians should cling to a view of marriage that basically treats them as farmyard animals is beyond me.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 6:28pm BST

'as it currently has developed, there are two understandings of marriage operating side by side'. I presume this refers to the CofE's legal opt-out - like the legal permit to discriminate in employment practice on grounds of gender?

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 6:35pm BST

Time, perhaps, for the Episcopal Mission in England, under the authority of a bishop from the U.S., to buy up a church building near Christ Church Fulwood and be designated to perform religious weddings (same- and opposite-sex)?

Posted by ScotPeterson at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 7:46pm BST

"That a woman may be medically unable to have children isn't the same as theologically unable (think Sarah and Elizabeth in their old age). The theology of marriage necessarily and properly gives preference to theology over medicine/biology."
So as a heterosexual post-hysterectomy woman , theologically I'm still able to get pregnant? Gosh. Wouldn't that suggest that men can become pregnant too?

Posted by Cassandra at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 8:05pm BST

In my opinion, it would be generous of TEC to add the marriage rite for same-sex couples as an alternative rite to the existing marriage rite, at least for the nonce. One official, gender-neutral, rite seems to be the stumbling block. I am (civilly) same-sex married, and a separate rite would not offend me. I would be more offended by having the issue become a political football.

Posted by Richard at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 8:54pm BST

Just a comment for the benefit of any readers who might be browsing from TEC. Mr Nye's comments are ill-judged and ill-informed. More seriously, he simply lacks the requisite theological nous and nuance to write on such matters. His sentiments speak for some in the Church of England. But not many. He is entitled to his opinions, of course. But that is all it is: his opinion. Nothing more. His high office should not lead anyone to assume that his thinking on these issues are in any way hefty. Just weighed and found wanting (Daniel 5: 27). The only real writing is on the wall...

Posted by The Very Revd. Prof. Martyn Percy at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 8:57pm BST

When the Archbishops' Council was first mooted by George Carey, several notable people said it was an attempt to create a 'Curia.' Nye's response shows their concerns were well justified. It also shows what power the lawyers have been given. Kyrie eleison.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:02pm BST

I doubt TEC, an American church focused on American issues, has the slightest interest in provincial border crossing in order to save England from herself. Even if they didn't consider it unethical, TEC's leadership would rightly ask: what on earth's stopping you guys from voting to change your own church, as we did?

Check out the conversations of more, ahem, ruggedly libertarian Americans, and a recurrent theme is contempt for those who won't stand up and defend their rights. Expecting TEC to fulfill some kinda reverse colonial savior role isn't just unrealistic, it's straight-up unAmerican.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:02pm BST

"That a woman may be medically unable to have children isn't the same as theologically unable (think Sarah and Elizabeth in their old age). The theology of marriage necessarily and properly gives preference to theology over medicine/biology. "

If you wish to argue that, then CofE should marry lesbian couples since both are theologically (and medically as it happens) able to get pregnant. No?

"Kate - to accuse the Archbishops of false witness seems rather strong, since they never really said what "radical new inclusion" means to them."

Oh come on. Remember that Christ taught us (Matthew 23) that our commitments should be taken at face value. "Radical new inclusion" suggests, at the very least, that same sex marriages will be valued and respected by CofE even if it chooses not itself to solemnise them. But here we have CofE arguing that they aren't really marriages, trying to bully another church into not recognizing them, and lying about how procreation is central to marriage. To me either a) Nye is out of line and should be forced to resign or b) the Archbishops did bear false witness and should resign.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:03pm BST

"...it is at least honest about whose response it is (and honestly, what other level of official response did they expect to a five-week consultation period?)."

How about

"Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

"You will be aware that the Church of England is divided on this issue and our own position is still evolving; however, the Archbishop of Canterbury - himself an Instrument of Communion - has committed himself to a 'radical new inclusion' on this matter and therefore will welcome and support any decision TEC reaches on this matter even if different to the position of the Church of England or any other Anglican church"

Posted by Kate at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 9:26pm BST

"theologically unable"

What Fr. Andrew said.

This is simply another way of saying that God's grace doesn't extend the LGBTI people the same way it does to straight people.

"Theological bigotry," I call it.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 10:03pm BST

A couple of things to keep in mind. (1) In churches as with nations,foreign policy is almost always articulated with the domestic audience in mind. (2)Look for the realignment movement to exploit this kind of thing. The end game is kick TEC and ACoC out, and get ACNA in. In the latter case Canada is really co-lateral damage as ANiC is mostly a retirement home for disgruntled retired bishops. Although, new residents may eventually be admitted after our next general synod (see link).
(3) The conversation about sexuality Communion wide is a largely dominated by male/hetero-sexualist politics.

https://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/marriage-canon-resolution-may-be-amended-with-protections-for-traditionalists-bishops-say/

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 11:21pm BST

"[Nye's] high office should not lead anyone to assume that his thinking on these issues are in any way hefty."

Perhaps (scanning Nye's résumé, even if he's not a theologian by training, he's obviously ferociously intelligent, and presumably has a solid layman's understanding of the issues), but its merits don't matter, since Nye's the one in power. What he says, goes. Likewise, I can think of all manner of atrocious court rulings, in multiple jurisdictions, that must still be taken seriously.

Wrong as I believe it is, England has made her choice, and it's unlikely to be overturned anytime soon. That being so, TEC would do well to keep some dignity, and sever ties before they're cut by Canterbury. This drip-drip of slights and sanctions is humiliating. When relationships have broken down irrevocably, divorce is necessary.

I say let England have the ACNA: they deserve one another.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 20 April 2018 at 11:50pm BST

Rather sad, in a way, that TEC had the courtesy to ask other national Churches what they thought about the canonically legal decision of TEC to perform marriages that will meet the needs of their own congregations in their Church. Such courtesy - because of the combative way in which the Lambeth Conference decided to exclude TEC from the inter-Church ecumenical councils - has been rewarded with rejection by Mr Nye, purporting to represent the opinion of the C. of E. Archbishops' Council.

This latest rebuff could well motivate TEC (and maybe SEC - the Scottish Episcopal Church - too) to declare themselves to be no longer willing to be subject to the quasi-jurisdiction of either the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Lambeth bishops Conference.

However, as this is virtually what the GAFCON Primates have already decided for themselves - to separate out from the rest of the Communion by their 'Jerusalem Declaration of Faith', will it matter very much is each Province now recognised their sovereign independence from the Church of England, while yet retaining 'Ties of Affinity' with those Province that value their company.

How interesting that other Churches (e.g. in the U.S. the 'Old Catholics) have declared their filial relationship with TEC - despite the fact that the C. of E. has problems with maintaining its own relationship with TEC.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 1:18am BST

It was heartening (and surprised me !) to hear His Grace, The Primate of England call for the Commonwealth to embrace gay people, saying that this is "close to my " heart (I think).

On Any Questions on radio 4, Friday 20.00hrs

He alone referred to the situation of gay people in so many countries of the Commonwealth, and all the calls, demonstration for it, this week, in London, UK.

Good for John Sentamu.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 1:25am BST

The absurdity from Bernard Randall that Sarah and Elizabeth justify marriage for women not of child-bearing years could have come only from someone who has either a literalist/fundamentalist approach to scripture or who has no grounding in reality. Surely he is not suggesting that people who are unable to have children should remain unmarried? Many people who are married have motives such as love and support, without which the procreation of children is unhealthy.

Posted by Richard Grand at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 2:12am BST

I beg to differ from Dean Percy's view of the status of this letter. The letter from Mr Nye is clearly not written on his own behalf. He is a former senior civil servant, and now the top "civil servant" of the Church of England and he would know that he actually isn't allowed to express his own personal views in public. The letter itself is not from "Mr William Nye" but from "The Secretary General of the Archbishops' Council". It must be assumed that this letter was written with the full knowledge and authority of the Chair of Trustees of the Council, in other words Archbishop Welby. Indeed the letter carries the full authority of the Council, for which all its trustees are jointly and severally responsible. Perhaps those members of the Council who read this blog can enlighten us as to whether the Council more widely was consulted.

As for resignations, there's no reason for Mr Nye to resign. He is acting properly as a servant of the Archbishops' Council and secretary to the Trustees. He is not himself a Trustee (see http://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=1074857&subid=0). The only people who might consider their positions are any members of the Archbishops' Council who don't agree with the letter; on the analogy of joint Cabinet responsibility, or the corporate responsibility of charity boards, they should definitely dissociate themselves publicly, and it's up to them and the Presidents whether it is then felt they can with integrity remain members. Any member of the Council who doesn't explicitly and publicly say anything should be taken as having given their full agreement and support.

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 6:54am BST

Others may have already posted this here but on his FB page Simon Butler makes clear this letter did not come from the AC. Furthermore he says, 'I’m not sure it is appropriate for a discussion among the Archbishops’ Council staff to be sent as a formal letter to another Province on AC notepaper ... as a statement of the views of the Archbishops’ Council, it has no particular weight. I have no problem with a statement of the current position of the Church of England being a broadly conservative one, but I am afraid it does not reflect the views of the Archbishops’ Council. We have never been asked.'

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 7:24am BST

@James: Unamerican seems a bit harsh. I'm fairly sure there are other progressive Episcopalians who might welcome a different approach to, e.g., marriage in England . Not sure I share your belief, or others', who might think the CofE could simply 'vote' to change, as the change would have to be approved by Parliament. (Congress doesn't vote on changes to the BCP.) The point is not about reverse colonialism, it's about healthy religious diversity among different denominations, and the CofE and TEC are increasingly different, as this letter shows. Also, I think TEC has some interest outside 'America': The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe comes to mind, with its cathedral in Paris.

Posted by Scot Peterson at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 7:40am BST

"...quasi-jurisdiction of either the Archbishop of Canterbury."

To repeat myself. Who gives the ABC this role? The CofE? God? The Communion? If people don't want this in the CofE have them say so. The Communion may be giving up on the idea on its own.

As for same-sex couples biologically equivalent to men-women in marriage--elderly, fertile, etc--that is biological nonsense as much as "theological bigotry."

I tend to agree with Byron when he suggests TEC ought just to sever ties. To do otherwise perpetuates the idea of a special role ("quasi-jurisdiction" probably puts it right) for the ABC when the CofE itself and the entire Communion no longer has a clear consensus position for just why he should have that anyway. "Drip-drip" is another accurately chosen phrase. Is the ABC the only person who is holding onto this idea, and what is his own justification?

Posted by crs at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 8:33am BST

David Runcorn has kindly answered a point made in my post (which was written before his post was moderated). That means that William Nye wrote in his capacity as Secretary General of the AC without the AC's authority. I trust that this will be drawn to the attention of the addressee of the letter. It's up to the AC to decide what it thinks about this situation; for example, was the Chair aware of the letter?

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 9:06am BST

Thank you, David Runcorn. Exactly what I pointed out, with a few extra trimmings. The eight pages have no standing other than the position of the writer, and as others have amply pointed out, that is more than a little rickety itself.

Posted by cryptogram at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 10:18am BST

Yes, this is a horribly blunt response, completely devoid of the theological nuance that any self-respecting Anglican would expect. It is evocative of Matthew 22.34ff, when the chief priests and Sadducees, unable to think with any clarity, got a lawyer to do their dirty work. It also leaves us in no doubt over what 'radical inclusion' actually means in the minds of 'The Executive.'

This is not a reflection of the current consensus (and lack thereof) in the Church of England; and, by writing in this way, William Nye has laid bare a contempt for our polity. Consensus is reached through synodical government - and not by an imposition from the kitchen cabinet, which attempts to define what we believe via the back door. I hope members of the General Synod who read this thread will consider raising this as a serious concern.

Posted by Simon R at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 10:25am BST

Actually Nye's argument is the wrong way round. He is arguing for the slippery slope idea, that allowing same sex couples to marry, will start to change the nature of marriage for everyone else.

In reality, the nature of opposite sex marriage has been changing for a long time – women are no longer the property of their husbands, couples can exchange rings and take the same vows to each other. Marriage between a man and a woman has already become equal marriage. Therefore, because of this equality in marriage, it becomes possible to include same sex couples in marriage.

English law has caught up with this reality, but the Church of England has not.

Posted by Ann Reddecliffe at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 10:53am BST

'Untethered to the facts' is the phrase that springs to mind on reading the legal, theological, historical and sociological speculations in this letter. Did I hear that somewhere before?

Posted by linda woodhead at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 10:59am BST

"Marriage between a man and a woman has already become equal marriage" -- which of course changes nothing substantively in respect of Nye's position. Ring up all the changes you like (esp. in the West) and his point remains exactly the same.

Posted by crs at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 12:18pm BST

“We have never been asked.”

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil....

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 12:35pm BST

"Actually Nye's argument is the wrong way round. He is arguing for the slippery slope idea, that allowing same sex couples to marry, will start to change the nature of marriage for everyone else."

https://mobile.nytimes.com/1994/06/11/us/beliefs-study-medieval-rituals-same-sex-unions-raises-question-what-were-they.html

There is a lot of material out there. Before the 13th century in particular (and to a more limited extent afterwards), European (ie Catholic) churches did essentially marry male-male couples. The language is slippery because, to a very large extent, until the Reformation marriage for all couples was often a private affair later (ideally) blessed by the church. Nye, like many traditionalists, has a somewhat selective approach to history.

Similarly these days the Church of England does not forbid the use of contraceptives and has therefore effectively abandoned procreation as an essential component of marriage.

If Martyn Percy chooses to parse Nye's letter, I am pretty certain he will tear it to shreds.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 1:34pm BST

There is an assumption in Nye’s response that the points he makes are from the point of view of Christian doctrine. There is a radical difference between a Doctrine of Marriage in the Western Church and a Doctrine of Marriage in the Eastern Church. Meanwhile the Lutheran Church does not accept that such a thing as a Doctrine of Marriage exists. In 2012 I was talking to Peter, Bishop of Copenhagen. I asked him how the Danes had taken to the decision by the Church of Denmark to allow same-sex marriages in church. He replied by saying that the decision had been received with a sense of relief that their church had not abandoned their society, but remained a place into which all people were welcomed to celebrate the great moments of life. But he conceded that for them the transition had been relatively easy. They did not accept there was such a thing as a Doctrine of Marriage. The state decides who can get married and the Church has the joy of praying with those who have entered into marriage. So it is misleading to suggest that we are defending THE Christian Doctrine of Marriage. Not all Christians agree that there is such a thing. And who are these Scandinavian Lutherans? They are a Church with whom we are in full communion.

Posted by Nigel LLoyd at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 2:19pm BST

"As for same-sex couples biologically equivalent to men-women in marriage--elderly, fertile, etc-" @crs

Try as I might I can't see where that claim has been made on this board. What I do see, though, is a straw man being introduced to the argument.

The point being made was that in regard to reproduction there is a biological equivalence between a union of two people of the same sex and a union of two people one or both of whom are infertile. The biological equivalence lies in the inability to reproduce. It is equally biologically impossible for a same sex couple to conceive a child as for a mixed sex couple where the female is post-menopausal (or a virgin (if she remains so)).

Clearly a biblical literalist would claim that God has intervened to make the latter two possible (Bernard Randall's examples). However, unless one is to maintain that God can only do what He has been recorded doing in the Bible (thus elevating the Bible above Providence), then it is equally theoretically possible for God to intervene to make the former possible (and if one is superficially fixated on body parts, this would be 'easier' were the couple both female).

If opposite sex marriage where reproduction is not possible is permissible, then logically reproduction cannot be an essential component of marriage. Arguing that because an infertile opposite sex couple would be able to reproduce were they fertile is special pleading of a most egregious kind.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 2:29pm BST

William Nye is just being a dutiful foot soldier for his outfit and his boss, just as he was when he blasted GAFCON a couple of years ago.

Archbishop Welby will probably have to comment on this eventually. In fact, the letter may be a sounding with a comment from Welby to eventually follow in the wake of the fall out Nye's letter was perhaps intended to create.

I predict that Welby's comments will be carefully crafted, a more PR slick version of the 'dire consequences' admonition from his predecessor. Welby will be making efforts to prevent the train to the Lambeth Conference from derailing, or least making sure its passenger cars are as full as possible.

Welby certainly seems to see himself as the driver, holding as he does the office of Archbishop of Canterbury which is the original of the so called "instruments of Communion" and from which the other instruments historically and logically flow.

Marginal comments about biology have been raised on this thread. I think those questions might be left to people with expertise in that area. However, I'm intrigued that the lion's share of opposition to same sex marriage across the Communion seems to originate with married hetero-sexual (apparently) men in patriarchal cultures or western sexist sub-cultures.

My question is, why are these guys so obviously obsessed with denying to same sex couples what they claim to cherish for themseleves? I'm guessing it cannot be healthy to be that fixated on someone's else's sexuality,no?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 2:55pm BST

Mr Nye dislikes the implied equality in the TEC draft rite of parenthood by adoption with parenthood by procreation (p. 4). He suggests that adoption is a ‘choice’ (indeed is ‘consumerist’ no less) whereas parenthood by procreation makes the children a ‘gift’. I await the next letter reversing the Anglican acceptance of the morality of artificial forms of contraception.

Does the Church of England really want its official position to be the privileging of biological parenthood over parenthood by adoption? Is the latter second class, are children that are adopted somehow less a ‘gift’? As a pastor, I have observed that It takes a lot more determination to adopt than to conceive (in most cases – I’m not in any way diminishing the painful experiences of those who have found it challenging to conceive or have been unable to). And isn’t one of the profoundest biblical expressions of the Christian’s relationship to God and to each other, is that we have been *adopted* as God’s daughters and sons, and therefore heirs with each other? Paul might be called lots of things, but ‘consumerist’ – I don’t think so.

Further, having followed the UK government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) hearings closely in the weeks before Holy Week, as a Church it is clear that we have failed in the most terrible and profound way to value children not so much as a ‘gift’ but as people with dignity. We have treated them (are still treating them) as objects – as here they are simply used as ‘an argument’ against equal marriage not as people in their own right. As a Church, we appear incapable of not using children for our own ends.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 2:57pm BST

Although Western Christians have long recognized procreation as a reason or cause for the _institution_ of marriage, they have equally recognized that the ability to procreate is not a _requirement_ for any individual marriage validly to be undertaken. English liturgy has recognized this since 1549, by directing the omission of the prayer for fruitfulness in the case of the woman being "past childbirth."

While one can recognize human procreation, and the need for the upbringing of children, to be a cause for monogamous lifelong marriage having appeared in many (though not all) human societies (seen by the tradition as a divine institution), it is a category error to hold procreation to be an essential to all marriages -- an error the liturgists of 1549 et seq recognize and avoid.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 3:12pm BST

A number of comments on what I said about the difference between theology and biology, so I’ll try a general response. In a nutshell “not the same as” doesn’t mean “having nothing to do with.” Biology is still crucial, but it’s about seeing which elements are crucial when speaking theologically.
Procreation has long been understood as part of the definition of marriage (one of the goods of marriage). This means that it has to be considered in any theological account of marriage (though of course there are other goods of marriage to consider). Take away one element of the definition/of the goods of marriage and surely you are no longer talking about Christian marriage, but something else (which may closely resemble it). An analogy would be that if you take away one of the Persons of the Trinity, you no longer have a Trinity. Take away processed wood pulp from wallpaper, and you have some other kind of wall decoration or covering. My point was not to say whether this viewpoint is right or wrong, but that it is just Church of England doctrine (see Canon B30(1)). There was nothing untoward in Nye stating that this is the C of E line.
Of course the biology of conception has to be part of the theology of marriage. Which would perhaps be why marriage is theologically of man and woman. Certain biological elements are presupposed. But it is a theological fact that Sarah conceived after “it had ceased to be with her after the way of women” (Gen 18.11). So some biological facts are more important for procreation, and thus for marriage which includes the possibility of procreation, than others, as determined by theological facts.
So there is no problem with someone thought to be infertile getting married – we might be wrong about the infertility. This allows marriage in old age with no difficulty. Marriage post hysterectomy is of course a recent conundrum (it not being medically viable in previous ages). I suppose if one were being wholly consistent one would probably say it should be a bar to marriage. But it would certainly be more pastoral to say that these hard cases are the exceptions which prove the rule, and should be taken by analogy with uncertain infertility rather than anything else. That’s certainly the line I’d take, as long as both parties are aware of the undoubtable infertility.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 3:30pm BST

Who is William Nye?

Posted by JPM at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 5:33pm BST

"So there is no problem with someone thought to be infertile getting married – we might be wrong about the infertility." - Bernard Randall

So presumably you support women marrying women because one of those women might, although you don't know it, be AIS intersex and the couple able to conceive? Biological sex is a bimodal distribution, not a binary as you and Nye are assuming. No?

When you and Nye speak of men and women as a biological binary - man and woman - you are denying the existence of intersex individuals. The homophobia in refusing to support same sex marriages is bad enough but using interphobia to support your prejudice is utterly unacceptable in a caring church.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 6:07pm BST

Re Bernard Randall, "... the biology of conception has to be part of the theology of marriage." Historically in so called 'traditional' marriage one party to the marriage ( the woman) was held to be inferior because of biology as destiny, subjected by obedience to the other party (the man) who was considered superior. The whole procreation thing was in many ways an attempt to use biblical mythology to sacralise what was fundamentally a property arrangement.

Our society, and indeed the church itself at a pastoral level, expects marriage to be grounded on relationship, equality, love,mutual society, help and comfort as the constants while the window of opportunity for human reproduction is merely one of several variables. The increase in life expectancy alone has changed the water on the beans.

There is no compelling reason (outside biblicism) for not making marriage available to same sex couples.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 6:22pm BST

"The biological equivalence lies in the inability to reproduce."

No, the biological non-equivalence is that a man is a man, made in God's image, and a woman is a woman, made in God's image.

To reduce the man-and-woman-difference to only their ability to reproduce, AND NOT to the reality of their difference AS CAPABLE of that, in God's image, is to flatten the reality of what Christians have taught and still teach -- whatever may be said of changing social mores -- regarding (traditional) marriage.

Posted by crs at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 6:42pm BST

Re JPM "Who is William Nye?" Obviously not the science guy. ( :

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 8:13pm BST

Nigel Lloyd makes a good point.I think the C of E sent a letter of concern when the Church of Sweden started same sex marriages. But there seems to have been no follow up and Porvoo bishops still take part in our consecrations. Somehow (though somewhat illogically)i cant see that changing.

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 8:30pm BST

Bishops and archbishops love big numbers & trips to Africa; that's why they've easily rejected TEC

Posted by scooper at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 9:39pm BST

I knew this business reminded me of something…

‘Dad’s Army’ : Series 08 episode 5 ‘High Finance’ first broadcast 3rd October 1975
Created by Jimmy Perry. Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft.

Mr. Jones the Butcher is overdrawn at the bank where Capt. Mainwaring of the Home Guard, Bank Manager, is interviewing him about his finances. Mr. Wilson, Chief Clerk, looks on.

Look, Jones. I'm sorry. But until this £50 overdraft is paid off, the bank can no longer honour your cheques.

-You couldn't do that to me, Mr Mainwaring.

-It's not I who is doing it to you. It's the bank. And I'm merely the servant of the bank, to carry out the policy of the bank. -Isn't that so, Wilson? –

That's so, sir. Yes, merely the servant.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm very busy, Jones.

Oh, well, thank you for being very helpful. Yes, thank you, sir. I'll just go home and I'll have a bit of a think. That's right. I'll go back to me shop and I'll have a think. Yes.

Posted by Another Fr. David at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 9:39pm BST

Why is the Church of England so concerned about marriage rites in the USA that do not refer to the procreation of children when it has for the last 11 years or more not cared a bean about marriages being celebrated in Scotland (often for English Anglicans wanting to put a kilt on their nuptials) which do not refer to the procreation of children?

I genuinely don't get what's going on here.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 9:49pm BST

"I genuinely don't get what's going on here."

Virtue signaling to get conservative Anglican provinces to show up at Lambeth 2020.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 21 April 2018 at 11:37pm BST

Whether it’s been Archbishop Williams, with his Chamberlain-like antics to try to retain the Gafconites, Archbishop Welby, with the Primates non-meeting Meeting and resultant surprise sanctions, or the tedious Mr. Nye, this lifelong Anglophile no longer cares what the C of E thinks of us.

Sorry; I’m grateful for the rich resources Anglicanism has given us, my friends in the UK, lots of British literature (Trollope especially) and Doctor Who.

But to extrapolate from one of the founding documents of Anglicanism, the Archbishop of Cantebury has no jurisdiction in this realm of the United States.

Love God, and do as you will.

As will we.

Posted by John Wirenius at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 2:01am BST

"Just a comment for the benefit of any readers who might be browsing from TEC."

Thank you, Father Martyn.

I doubt that anyone in TEC is the least bit concerned with Mr. Nye's opinion from a church that is obviously challenged with homophobia and continued misogyny. We've long gotten over the shock at the arrogance and nerve of such people.

Whatever comes of this, TEC will still be here when CoE wakes from its long nightmare where the Bad News of hate and exclusion rules.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 5:43am BST

Or indeed the second form of marriage liturgy in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia - Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, ki Nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa

I see no reference to children there at all.

Has this disturbed the Church of England's peace?

If not, why does what is proposed in the USA?

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 7:42am BST

"Why is the Church of England so concerned about marriage rites in the USA that do not refer to the procreation of children when it has for the last 11 years or more not cared a bean about marriages being celebrated in Scotland (often for English Anglicans wanting to put a kilt on their nuptials) which do not refer to the procreation of children?"

Because the TEC Task Force asked them?

Posted by crs at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 7:45am BST

Consider a story. Hypothetical but absolutely legal and consistent with CofE doctrine:

"Andrew was dating Brian. They wanted to marry in a Church of England church. They were told this was impossible, unlawful and theologically unsound because they could not procreate.

"Brian started living as a woman. She called herself Brenda. Without undergoing any medical procedures whatsoever, she obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate.

"Andrew and Brenda went to see a sympathetic Church of England minister. This time told the happy couple that they can lawfully marry in the Church of England and that he would be happy to officiate. There was no mention of procreation."

+ + +

Nye, Welby and all those saying procreation is essential might want to familiarise themselves with English law and the teaching of the Church of England because, quite frankly, they just look stupid and homophobic.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 12:01pm BST

"Has this disturbed the Church of England's peace?

If not, why does what is proposed in the USA?"

Because it's TEC, which has become the global scapegoat for conservative folk the world over. Think of the tropes when TEC went to court to fulfil its fiduciary duties over properties being expropriated by congregational schism, with all the unpleasant commentary applied to the last Presiding Bishop. Or the silly behaviour of certain primates towards letting TEC people even be in the same service of worship.

One wonders what would happen if the Americans simply switched off the money tap to the Anglican Communion until such time as Justin gets his act together. There's little likelihood of the next Lambeth conference going ahead, and other instrumentalities might well cease to function.

Posted by Victoriana at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 12:23pm BST

May I just say this discussion has offered very helpful reflections on aspects of marriage and doctrine - interspersed with the familiar struggles to manage the anger, frustration and pain that goes with the terrain here. Thank you.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 1:52pm BST

"One wonders what would happen if the Americans simply switched off the money tap to the Anglican Communion until such time as Justin gets his act together."

The implication is that 'the wealthy Americans' are bank-rolling and making possible the role of the ABC.

a) TEC isn't financially 'wealthy' and it has its own severe challenges b) there is no evidence the ABC makes his decisions based upon their money, c) why should it pay anything if it doesn't want to -- wouldn't it just have itself to blame?

One wonders how the rickety business of claiming a global Anglican 'thing' keeps deciding to plug along all the same. Right you are, just call it off. In the end decisions like this can be made rather simply.

So why not?

Posted by crs at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 2:40pm BST

Thanks David. But I have to say we are no wiser on the governance issues raised here. I think it is incumbent on Justin Welby in his capacity as Chair of the Archbishops' Council to clarify the status of William Nye's letter.

Can crs confirm whether a view was indeed sought by the TEC Task Force? That would be a natural thing for them to do. The ironic question "who is Mr Nye?" should actually be "What is the Archbishops' Council?"

The Archbishops' Council is a registered charity and its Trustees (i.e. members) are responsible for the actions of the Charity. I presume that Simon Butler will therefore be doing more than just stating on his Facebook page that he was not consulted, unless of course he's happy with the letter that's been sent on his behalf.

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 3:36pm BST

The response from SEC is particularly interesting. They didn't have to change their rite because they already had one from addressing gender inequality. The rite that my spouse and I used in TEC two years ago, "I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing" was actually encouraged for heterosexual couples as well. Precisely because it eliminated archaic bits about male domination and old elements on property.

I'm proud of TEC for bothering to ask. The predictable drivel is worth it to hear from the Lutherans, Moravians, Old Catholics, etc. It is typical of TEC to think of "the church" as something much, much larger than merely the Anglican Communion. What a blessing!

A roundup on questions that have been asked, as best as I can answer.
Isn't TEC involved beyond US borders? Yes, we have dioceses in 17 countries. My understanding about SSM as passed in GC (General Convention) was that it was for jurisdictions where SSM is legal (I suppose SSB's could potentially be used in some places). Tobias knows far more.

"Why can't the Church of England just be like TEC?" Because CoE is a very hierarchical church that does not respect the Body of Christ in matters of theology and discernment, even though their writings are so obviously questionable. TEC achieves a "mind of the church" by asking questions and listening broadly. Being people-centered rather than authoritarian is a completely different paradigm.

Re: reverse colonialism so TEC can "help" CoE. God helps those who help themselves. Normally, that is AWFUL theology, but it works for people of relatively equal privilege. NOTE: Same-sex English couples with means can likely find an American parish that would marry them in the church. Life could be worse than having a marriage and honeymoon in the Rocky Mountains or the beaches of California. I would stick with the "blue states."

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 4:31pm BST

I remember a time when there were still ties of friendship between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England. After experiencing 15 years or more of feeling that our church has been stabbed in the back I just think that most American Episcopalians probably don't care anymore what the Church of England thinks.

Those days of love for the CofE are long gone, killed off by Rowan and his friends. Remember when he spent the summer in Washington DC on sabbatical, living with Jesuits, and refused to darken the door of an Episcopal parish? Many of us do. Some symbol of unity. Along with lectures from visiting English bishops, refusal of permission for our Presiding Bishop to wear a mitre when in England, hateful letters, refusal of one of our duly elected bishops to even attend Lambeth, threats at gatherings, being kicked off of committees, being called everything imaginable. Some friendship, eh? Some family. For some reason your church decided to embrace the evangelicals in American society instead of the Church you were supposed to have ties with.

We were once friends, family even we were told, and we wrongly thought that our ties mattered to you.

I think many people in the Church of England have no idea how much American Episcopalians once really DID love and honor the CofE. And I think that they have no idea now of how much that no longer is the case.

It's too bad that a TEC committee even sent a request for comments from the CofE. At this point I think that many of us just don't care anymore. It was once nice to have some connection to the CofE. No longer.

Families can be destroyed by abusive relationships. This one was. Thanks for the letter, I suppose. More of the same from the Church of England.

Posted by Dennis Roberts at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 4:44pm BST

"Can crs confirm whether a view was indeed sought by the TEC Task Force?"

Dear Mr Silverman,

Thank you for your contributions here.

Jordan Hylden (PhD Duke) is canon theologian in the TEC diocese of Dallas (a post I held prior to moving to France). He is the lone conservative on the TEC Task Force. I believe he abstained from their final statement.

I would not assume he wrote the Communion parties independently/individually. I do not know how he could do that in the name of TEC.

Posted by crs at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 5:31pm BST

"For some reason your church decided to embrace the evangelicals in American society instead of the Church you were supposed to have ties with."

Evangelicals bankroll the CoE, that's why. As shown by the Jeffrey John debacle, at the first hint of liberalization on homosexuality, they'll gladly use money as a weapon. They've long taken over her leadership, too.

There's a small band of accepting evangelicals who may usher in change (politically speaking, their leader's ferociously astute), but we'll have to see. Nothing happens until the majority of English evangelicals -- their leadership especially -- are on-side.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 7:13pm BST

The arguments advanced by William Nye in this letter are remarkably similar to those put forward to the BBC in February 2013 by Dr Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs for Archbishops' Council, see here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21339877

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 22 April 2018 at 11:15pm BST

Profoundly though I disagree with the theological position outlined in William Nye's letter, I do think that he has been unreasonably maligned by some people on this thread.
His role as secretary-general is not confined to minute taking, but rather he is the most senior administrative official in the CofE. In that role, he is required, as most employees are, to do his master's will, and I don't doubt that he has done so here. Any criticism of the poisonous theology should be directed at the master, not the messenger. And the master is of course a prisoner of his constituency, not only at the national level but also more widely, where he seeks to keep his GAFCON friends on board and to retain his own arguable status as 'primus inter pares'.

And it is not as if Nye has sent off an unsolicited rebuke. The CofE was asked for its opinion, and Nye, as the most senior official, has provided a response. Given the unreasonably short timescales, he did not have time to consult widely, but he has stated the source of the opinion he gives. I don't agree with it, but I don't think he could have been expected to do otherwise.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 12:06am BST

"Isn't TEC involved beyond US borders? Yes, we have dioceses in 17 countries."

It is important for TA readers to know that the strongest unitary rejection of TEC's position on same-sex marriage comes precisely from dioceses in these countries.

Posted by crs at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 6:26am BST

The notion that the large and conservative evangelical churches bankroll the C of E is another popular myth. Some of the large evangelical churches in my diocese cap what they are prepared to pay at a staggering small amount. Many of our medium and smaller sized benefices pay the same, if not more, than the largest churches. In 2016 one of the largest churches in our diocese, which reports an average Sunday attendance of 920, with total income £1.8194 million paid just £89.89K in parish share. Such churches are not bankrolling every one else.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 6:55am BST

"Many people in the Church of England have no idea how much American Episcopalians once really did love and honor the CofE. And ... have no idea now of how much that no longer is the case."

Beautifully and poignantly put Mr Roberts. Sadly your disillusionment with the CofE is shared by very many, perhaps most, people even in England itself.

Posted by T Pott at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 11:09am BST

When Bp. Nazir-Ali argued, in a 1999 General Synod debate on the new Common Worship marriage service, that a marriage where no children were intended was 'defective in intent', he was vigorously refuted. In fact, a number of Synod members were outraged. That has never, to my knowledge, been the Church of England's doctrine of marriage. After all, Genesis tells us that God created Eve not so that she could bear Adam children, but because it was not good for him to be alone. The command to be fruitful and multiply came later.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 12:18pm BST

Even presuming, arguendo, that Andrew's correct about evangelicals' financial contributions, the important thing's that the bishops believe they control the purse strings, and shape policy accordingly. If this isn't the case, campaigners could make a breakthrough by looking at the books and producing evidence that the CoE can afford to lose a substantial number of her evangelical congregations.

This doesn't address the root cause, however: bishops should never have this much power. I agree with Cynthia when she calls the CoE "a very hierarchical church that does not respect the Body of Christ in matters of theology and discernment." The CoE's structures are authoritarian, reflecting the starkly authoritarian model of English government in general, which gives the privileged elite theoretically unlimited power via the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy. It's notable that Scotland, where this mindset doesn't exist, and which has a long tradition of democracy via the Kirk, not only elects her bishops, but has introduced equal marriage.

It's often said that TEC was born alongside the United States itself. Certainly, the kinda neo-feudal deference that allows the English bishops to do what they do is alien to the American mindset. It's alien to many Englishmen and -women too, and I can but pray that that the old English tradition of assertive liberty rises.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 12:19pm BST

I think the best reason for us to ask questions about how others see us is because we do care. We want to have those opinions, even of those who disagree with us. It helps us understand the world of which we claim only to be a part.

As a Deputy to this summer's General Convention, I am certainly interested. I would note, too, that Mr. Nye focuses on one possibility of Convention action, when the Task Force's report actually laid out three. Moreover, the one focus of Mr. Nye's anxiety is one that would take at least six years and two conventions, and likely much longer.

That doesn't mean, though, that we would find those opinions compelling. As an individual, I'm quite familiar with folks who hear my reasoning and don't feel swayed. I still value being heard. I don't expect to be able to force someone. True, I'm saddened when I don't feel I've been persuasive. And, also true, sometimes it's turned out I was wrong, and the other position was fruitful.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 3:18pm BST

I find the idea that Episcopal Bishops are unlike their English counterparts a bit bizarre.

They run dioceses, chair all committees of the diocese, make property decisions with near impunity (see Bruno in LA) in their regions, love purple and wear it to bed, have the power to veto the HOD, if they choose to, love their visits to Lambeth and on it goes.

Synodical government is simply different to a Diocese-based one, such as exists in the USA, where dioceses are corporations.

To fantasize about the democratic v. hierarchical models -- when it comes to the Episcopal Church and the CofE -- is like a lot of things a stretch. And if you want a polity that mirrors the civil realities in the USA, you will find it far more clearly in Methodism or Presbyterianism.

No point getting into the weeds in order to score 'great America points.' My hunch is TEC Bishops have a lot more authority over congregations committed to their care than what obtains in the CofE. Big, powerful, Evangelical parishes in the CofE have no real counterpart in TEC.

Posted by crs at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 3:47pm BST

"I think the best reason for us to ask questions about how others see us is because we do care. We want to have those opinions, even of those who disagree with us. It helps us understand the world of which we claim only to be a part."

Couldn't agree more. A commitment to listen to hostile speech is a mark of what separates TEC's social context from that of the mother country, currently busy convicting teenagers for posting up rap lyrics.

This cultural chasm between England and America is, I think, at the root of the mutual incomprehension and growing alienation between TEC and the CoE. English bishops, drawn overwhelmingly from a privately-educated elite that considers itself born to rule, just can't understand why those uppity colonials are defying them. It must be some personal sleight.

Concepts taken for granted in America, from popular sovereignty to inalienable rights, are beyond the ken of England's bishops. Far as they're concerned, so-called rights are mere privileges, granted by people like them, at a time of their choosing.

So long as that view persists, so too will letters like this.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 3:49pm BST

Re:Janet Fife, "After all, Genesis tells us that God created Eve not so that she could bear Adam children, but because it was not good for him to be alone. The command to be fruitful and multiply came later."

Your point about how we might differentiate between a hierarchy of values by revisiting our mythologies with regard to marriage is well taken.

I would simply add that we need to remember that Genesis is a myth i.e. somebody made it up,a group effort in creative writing. It was not dictated from heaven and binding for all time. The various exhortations in marriage liturgies are not biological or historical statements. They are religious views which were conditioned by cultural and historical circumstances.

It is interesting to note that the Genesis story which was used in the past to rationalize environmental and resource exploitation is now being used for the opposing view i.e. to promote an environmentally sound stewardship of the earth. One need look no further for evidence of this about face than he papal encyclical Laudato Si [Chapter 2 (II) (#67)].

So much for ancient myth as dogma.

We should just update our marriage rites and move on. I was reminded this past weekend reading a science article authored by a researcher friend of mine, about an insight from Thomas Kuhn i.e. old paradigms tend to die one funeral at a time.

The marriage controversy is in many ways a proxy for something deeper. I remain hopeful we will emerge with a "more perfect" Communion, to borrow an inspirational phrase from American literature.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 4:49pm BST

In 2014, according to the Church Times, 48 bishops out of 96 had been privately educated. I don't disagree with the feeling that that is too high a proportion, but to call it overwhelming is an overstatement. I don't know whether the arrival of women bishops has made any difference to the situation.
I certainly wouldn't disagree with the claim that England and the US have hugely different cultures. The established position of the C of E raises important questions about the gap between the view presented by Mr Nye and what I suspect is the prevailing attitude of the wider population to marriage.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 5:04pm BST

Without being apologetic, there is a fundamental issue for bishops in the Church of England, which runs counter to some of the comments above...
Once they have taken the relevant oaths, a bishop is bound to uphold the received doctrines of the Church of England. This means that they are bound to support the considered will of the Church - which is expressed by General Synod (historically Parliament). Looking back at history, it is generally the case that the Bishops have presented a fairly unified front on most disputed matters until the mind of the Church (expressed by Parliament/Convocations or, more recently, the Houses of Clergy and Laity in General Synod) is clearly made, at which point they have moved to support the newly agreed position of doctrine. This is not a new issue, but can be seen fully in the Tudor period. Under the polity of the Church of England power to effect doctrinal change comes from the people (either Parliament or now, General Synod) and does not lie with the Bishops, whose specific role is to maintain and defend the stated doctrines of the Church.
Once understood, this means that the Bishops (including those who may wish for change) are actually fairly powerless until the mind of the other Houses of General Synod are made up to change doctrine. Many people misunderstand this element of the huge significance of General Synod (acting in stead of Parliament) for defining the doctrines that Bishops have to uphold - with the conservative end of the Church seeming to grasp it to better effect...
Any bishop not upholding received doctrine would have a very hard job responding to the resulting complaint, which could be made by any 'interested person' (which, as a parishioner, would include almost anyone living within the Diocese).

Posted by NJW at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 6:42pm BST

The most unfortunate thing about this discussion is that people are not responding to what the TEC task force on Marriage actually recommended, nor do they get the differences in the American context.

1. There is no proposal to change the Book of Common Prayer rite of marriage. The rites used when a same sex couple marries in an Episcopal Church are available as a "Trial Use" rite only. This means a bishop has to give explicit permission for it to be used in his/her diocese. Eight bishops have refused. Those dioceses were supposed to provide an accommodation to same sex couples that would give them access to a church rite. What the 8 dioceses did was say "go to another diocese." The Task Force on Marriage has proposed regularizing the rites, but not including them in the Book of Common Prayer. This would mean that clergy could choose to use the rites despite the bishop. It would also be difficult for bishops to forbid clergy from participating in an authorized rite in another location. Several of the 8 have even forbidden clergy from attending a service elsewhere, even if it was their child or sibling getting married.

2. The current TEC Book of Common Prayer does not make procreation a rationale for marriage. There is one OPTIONAL prayer that refers to children.

3. Bishop's powers are limited when dealing with priests who have been seated as rectors. Bishops have VERY FEW powers that apply to laity. Their control of property depends on state law and diocesan canons. It varies greatly.

4. There is a separate committee that was charged with looking into recommending a PROCESS to revise the Book of Common Prayer. It came back with multiple options which would put off any revisions for at least another 9 years.

Posted by Joan Gundersen at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 7:25pm BST

The comment by NJW is helpful. The comment by Joan Gunderson regarding TEC and the conversation at hand on this thread is especially helpful.

We all have our contexts. The Canadian Church moves into second reading on an amendment to our national marriage Canon (Canon XXI) at our next General Synod. I suspect canonical aspects peculiar to the Canadian church are as arcane to most commentators here as the canonical situations in the C of E and TEC are to someone like me.

What interests me as a member of the Anglican Communion with regard to the Nye/TEC controversy is it's bearing on The Communion. The Nye/TEC correspondence is typical of the pressure other churches in the Communion have experienced from the C of E, Canada included, on this matter. However, I think we all recognize that since the ABC is located in the C o E, there are particular issues.


Beyond that the ensuing conversation here allows an exchange of views on such things as biblical texts; the perception of liturgical texts as lacunae infilled with biblical didacticism and 'doctrine'; and the relationship of church rites of passage (marriage) in the light of contemporary social experiences.

Let's revise our marriage rites and move on. That is my view as a Canadian for the Canadian Anglican context. Once done we may then be able to deal more effectively with the evolution of The Anglican Communion to which many of us remain deeply committed, a natural evolution it may require notwithstanding. It would be better if these kinds of issues were explored internationally with a much greater role for the Anglican Consultative Council.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 11:44pm BST

NJW thank you. I too feel very strongly about the oaths. A discussion for another time, though,because in this case they aren't relevant. William Nye is not a bishop and is not bound by those oaths. Moreover even if he was, he could have replied. "The Church of England's view is that it would better if the Anglican Communion remained in step on the issue of same sex marriage. Rather than rushing into anything with haste, we urge you to wait until Lambeth 2020." No party could have found much in that to raise a serious objection, although most would have reservations - for quite different reasons.

Lambeth 2020 is a looming disaster, by the way. This time the program includes events for spouses. It is hard to imagine a less-subtle way of indicating that Lambeth 2020 will vigorously support the traditional view of marriage.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 3:54am BST

Dennis Roberts, you got it. That's how we, in the rank-and-file, feel about this. Enough with the CofE and the Anglican Communion. If they don't need us, great. I don't believe we need them, either. Certainly, they haven't helped us, in any way, only hindered.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 7:19am BST

Kate Actually the Lambeth conference has always included a program for spouses. And quite right too. This is no policy statement on the understanding of marriage. It simply supports those who are married and share in often very costly Christian ministry. Consider that (once again) many will be coming from parts of the world in appalling chaos, war, oppression and poverty - and with the regular threat of violence to their own families. They need support and love. That you, I and others here long that this might soon welcome and include those in same-sex marriages is a matter of fact and painful waiting. But I would not withhold vital support and care from anyone else in the meantime and I would be surprised if you would.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 7:52am BST

"The current TEC Book of Common Prayer does not make procreation a rationale for marriage"

On procreation and man and woman, from the BCP:

Then the Celebrant, facing the people and the persons to be married, with the woman to the right and the man to the left, addresses the congregation and says,

The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation (Genesis 1-2), and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 3). It signifies to us the mystery of the union of Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5). The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 8:07am BST

"After all, Genesis tells us that God created Eve not so that she could bear Adam children, but because it was not good for him to be alone. The command to be fruitful and multiply came later."

Leaving aside what "came later" theology might purport to mean, the command to be fruitful and multiply is in Genesis 1.

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 8:17am BST

"Lambeth 2020 is a looming disaster"
Certainly true if, in October 2017, Archbishops Council staff were reduced to this.
My question is whether all bishops of the Anglican Communion will be invited--including those who are openly LGBTI and those who permit same-sex marriages in their dioceses.
I had the impression of the last Lambeth Conference that it became an Instrument of Oppression. Presumably those who care about the Lambeth Conference will try to avoid a repeat.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 8:57am BST

David Runcorn

My understanding is that there has previously been a parallel program for spouses at the Lambeth Conference but that next time the Lambeth Conference events for bishops would include the actual participation of spouses.

That is surely not to be welcomed.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 9:05am BST

Kelvin Ah. If that is true then I too am concerned.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 10:43am BST

"This would mean that clergy could choose to use the rites despite the bishop."

This should more accurately read "despite the diocese" since the Bishop does not set the canonical standards; the Diocese does that.

We are obviously heading now in a direction where the entire idea of diocesan canons is vacated.

You also make it sound like the point of creating "regularized" instead of "Trial" rites is to circumvent the latitude given to Bishops in respect of the former. And at the same time assure everyone they are not (yet) BCP rites.

At some point this just sounds contrived expediency. It is easy to condemn Mr Nye but this is one artificed bit of legerdemain, difficult for anyone fully to track except the initiated. "Not Trial, not BCP, good for getting around a Bishop, en route to something but not there yet."

I believe +Springfield has said he is not going to agree to this, so we can expect an effort at some species of enforcement. It will be interesting to see how the HOB processes all this in July.

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 12:28pm BST

I was glad that the response from the SEC ended with 'we have looked rather to our foundations'. The SEC, it must be remembered, is the outcome of the Scottish Reformation and is not an outgrowth of the CofE. At least, when debating equal marriage over the past years we were spared a repeat of Archbishops Carey and Williams lecturing us. Archbishop Justin merely pointed out in a conversation with the Primus that there would be consequences. Perhaps he realised that at this juncture, the ABC realised that a senior representative of the CofE, an old Etonian to boot, lecturing a bunch of Scots would be counter-productive. TEC must take its own decisions based on where it discerns the spirit leads on it and not look over its shoulder at what the CofE thinks it should do.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 12:52pm BST

"TEC must take its own decisions based on where it discerns the spirit leads on it and not look over its shoulder at what the CofE thinks it should do."

I don't think there is any doubt about that!

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 3:12pm BST

One question about the next Lambeth Conference raised in this thread is whether LGBTI bishops will be invited. I include the spectrum because I only know of lesbian and gay male bishops at the moment. There may well be bisexual, transgender and intersex bishops in the Communion.

Gene Robinson was not invited to last Lambeth Conference. There are now several very open lesbian and gay bishops in the Communion, some of them partnered. Will the bishops be invited? There will be a parallel programme for spouses - will the spouses of lesbian and gay bishops be invited?

Posted by Colin Coward at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 10:32am BST

My thanks to Flora Alexander for the correction: I've googled the article in question,* which states that, of the 50% of bishops who weren't privately educated, just 13% went to a comprehensive school. This is probably the figure I had in mind.

When attendance at a handful of elite universities is factored in, English bishops are undoubtedly unrepresentative of all but a tiny fraction of the wider population.

Now, this unrepresentativeness could perhaps be set aside if they'd simply been elected as the best of the best by their dioceses, and acted accordingly: but given the entrenched, hereditary class system of which they're a part, the secretive way in which they're appointed, and the dismal level of theology on display, I find it much less benign.

* https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/5-september/news/uk/half-the-bishops-in-the-c-of-e-were-educated-privately

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 4:42pm BST

"Leaving aside what "came later" theology might purport to mean, the command to be fruitful and multiply is in Genesis 1"

Though generally Gen 1 is taken to reflect the later P tradition rather than the earlier Genesis 2 E one, but as I'm sure the poster meant, chronological precedence is not the issue.

What is an issue is how one responds to clearly different and exclusive traditions in the Biblical record about the purpose of marriage (or at least male -female unions: 'marriage' as an institution doesn't seem to appear as such in most of the proof texts) There are many strands: one is quite clear that it's all about companionship, one that it's about breeding .

How does the good Christian proceed? By creating a synthesis to support one's adherence to a long-established teleological naturalistic fallacy, forcing the Bible witness into the shape we want?

Or by acknowledging that there are divergent views even in the Biblical witness and acting like intellectual grown ups?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 5:17pm BST

"Though generally Gen 1 is taken to reflect the later P tradition rather than the earlier Genesis 2 E one (sic), but as I'm sure the poster meant, chronological precedence is not the issue."

Are you serious?

I must read all the most recent scholarship on pentateuchal studies. I must teach my PhD students on its iterations. The entire idea of J and P (and E?) and their relative dates in respect of each other is completely contested.

You are being generous in attributing to the proponent ideas that would justify her confusion about literary matters, but I suspect it was a simple mistake, and one that cannot now be papered over by dated JEDP thinking of the 50s-60s.

Modern pentateuchal critics 'date' longitudinal sources non-P and P at the same era. For what that is worth.

No, all of this soi-disant "technical" or more "simple" argumentation just collapses on itself. It has to do what conclusions one already wants to affirm.

Be fruitful and multiply coheres with the creation--not just of man and woman--but across the entire creational intention. As scholars now put it, the ontological takes precedence in the canonical form over the economic.

All of this is of course so much distraction if one wants to make "lonely man needing fellowship" something superior to anything else. This of course lines up with no historical critical findings nor the recent historical critical replacements for them.

Posted by crs at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 7:18pm BST

"It has to do what conclusions one already wants to affirm." @crs

Precisely, which is what I was saying.

Mostly, it seems, people want to confirm a heteronormative, patriarchal, reproductive-reductionistic view of marriage. Which of course it's possible to see in the Bible, just as you can see a face in the clouds and Mary's face on my toast. If you want to see it, you'll see it, and no amount of academic fig leafing will make you immune to the effect.

Liberal interpreters of the scriptures are frequently accused of cherry picking to suit their agendas, which of course is true. And it is also equally true of conservatives. The person who argues for the 'superiority of lonely man needing fellowship' is being as selective as the person who argues that breeding 'coheres with the creation' (as if non-breeding doesn't?) The difference seems to be that liberals, if pressed, might be honest enough to entertain the notion that they may be motivated by the conclusions they want to affirm. Conservatives just seem to keep on believing they are speaking the plain word of God.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 8:51pm BST

"Be fruitful and multiply coheres with the creation--not just of man and woman--but across the entire creational intent"

Coherence doesn't exhaust meaning or automatically exclude everything else. Reproduction is part of creation indisputably. But then so is non-reproduction. Creation is abundant, teeming with non-reproduction. And if Biblicists don't want to read from the evidence of creation all around them, think of all the 'barren women' that feature in Bible plots. Some of them married (which presumably they shouldn't be).

What is it that makes Christians privilege one expression of God's creative delight at the expense of others? Perhaps it's just seeing what we want to see...?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 10:28pm BST

"What is it that makes Christians privilege one expression of God's creative delight at the expense of others? Perhaps it's just seeing what we want to see...?"

Let me give you the short conservative answer: "Liberals see what they want to see, conservatives are guided by God."

As you are equitable, I will be, too - liberals will give the reverse of the same answer. What does that tell us? YES . . . everybody is seeing what they want to see. Perhaps, that's why even the intractable Paul enjoined working out one's *own* salvation in fear and trembling, rather than a similar injunction to work out everybody else's salvation? All the "theology" and course-work is, in the end, guesswork, in a real sense, because it's always about God, using words written by men, under "inspiration," which, in no other facet of life would be taken as conclusive on its own. The idea that its authority rests on having "always worked before" is to impute to humans and human society the same absolute and unchangeable stability and perfect wisdom of God, and that is something that is not supportable. Beyond that, *has* it always worked, or has it been, as we've come to realize over centuries, that history is written by the winner?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 26 April 2018 at 6:27am BST

The argument from scripture as probative was initiated here in favor of the revisionist position, not by me. The idea of something significant in the parenthetical loneliness comment being critical because it preceded 'be fruitful and multiply' was not made by me. I was pointing out that it was simply in error literarily -- leaving aside what theological significance it might be said to herald. I suspect the readings of Ricoeur, Beauchamp, Childs, myself and others are closer to the truth of the sequential matter, in any event: the effect of 2:4b is to ask us to go over the ground again. The two narratives lie on top of each other, as it were. Newer pentateuchal analysis cannot decide whether to think in complementary or contradictory terms when evaluating roughly contemporaneous narrative threads ('source' is in any event a timed-out idea). It seems odd to grouse about conservatives and liberals when in this case the argument arose in order to dismiss procreation in favor of "loneliness remedied." That was a scriptural argument, made by a liberal.

Posted by crs at Thursday, 26 April 2018 at 12:03pm BST

Intriguing to and fro between Fr. Andrew & CRS.

One could have a PH.D. in Hebrew bible and be an atheist. One could be a person of one faith or another and appreciate bible stories as such without comprehending advanced technical erudition --what people of faith do all the time. One of course may be both an expert and a person of faith. This raises additional questions.

Consider Handel's Messiah. Handel is not concerned with theories regarding suffering sermon poems or infancy narratives. Yet he created a kind of 'canon' in microcosm. Both people of faith and those who do not describe themseleves as such wonder and find it meaningful.

True enough that liberals and conservatives engage in eisegesis. Such duels should be understood as position and counter position either yielding new insights or confusing the community.

The Genesis story tells us nothing about the creation of the universe, nothing about male and female biology, nothing about the human sexual response, nothing about the origins of the origins of marriage from an anthropological viewpoint. It does tell us something about the strata of the society which produced it, and by inference something about the various societies that have found it meaningful. (See, just for example Northrop Frye or Joseph Campbell or Leo Perdue).

Societies differ one from another. Christianity as a 'society' with its constituent communities is evolving. There are new realities to contend with. We may read our myths and rediscover them, not as commands that favor a dominating strata, but in terms of a 'living tree'--to use a phrase borrowed from the language of Canada's Supreme Court. Once we have embraced a myth, whether one is liberal or conservative, we have 're-mythologized" it, if that's a word. Metaphysics does not come to everyone.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 26 April 2018 at 12:22pm BST

I noticed a question above: whether or not the Task Force was asking these questions, or I was asking them independently. It was certainly the former. My name appears on these letters simply because I was in the subcommittee tasked with this, and it fell to me to actually send all of the emails and collect the responses. But I carried no special weight; I told everyone the question was from the Task Force, not from me.

Posted by Jordan Hylden at Thursday, 26 April 2018 at 7:55pm BST

Jordan, thank you for the clarification

Posted by Kate at Friday, 27 April 2018 at 5:31am BST

Nye: "harming the stringent efforts to reinforce moderation in religious expression in countries like ours which are affected by terrorism”.

Considering that THE most victimized group is LGBTQ people, this line is just about the most heinous VICTIM-BLAMING I've ever heard. Anathema!

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 22 May 2018 at 8:59pm BST
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