Thinking Anglicans

More about church reactions to same sex marriage

Continuing the soap opera, but broadening out a little from the bishops statement.

Savi Hensman Church of England faction urges punishment of partnered parishioners

David Pocklington Clergy, same-sex marriage and (quasi-) law

This is a good summary of recent discussion on the legal issues affecting CofE clergy who choose to enter a same-sex marriage.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Sex and Marriage

The controversial thing about same sex marriage – as distinct from same sex relationships, same sex civil partnerships, or even plain old same sex sex – is that if sex takes place within marriage, it isn’t sinful. Not all marriages (or other relationships) involve sex, of course. But it is the sex that is controversial.

Those who take an unhealthy interest in other people’s sexual sin have had a mantra – all sex outside of marriage is wrong. Marriage good, all other sex bad, is meant to be the rule. (Its a rule few people observe, but the point of this sort of rule is idealism rather than realism).

And that, of course, is why the idea of a couple of the same sex marrying each other, if you think gay relationships are always wrong, is a problem. Thats why the Church authorities – who argued vigorously against Civil Partnerships when they were first mooted – are now desperate for clergy in those partnerships to stay there, rather than get married.

Tom Brazier A promise is a promise

This is not a post about same sex marriage and the church. But I want it to be read by those who are talking about same sex marriage and the church. I especially want it to be read by @notsuchgoodnews, @MirandaTHolmes, @kateboardman, @StLCowley, @churchnw6, @StPancrasChurch, @changingatt and others who possibly disagree with me. Because this is something we should be discussing…

Church Times Gavin Drake Westminster rules on gay marriage in shared churches and chapels

Sam Norton Where is the redeeming grace?

There is one aspect of the conversation about gay marriage and so on which is really starting to become clear to me, which is, put simply, that to get from a conservative premise to a conservative conclusion you need to resort to some distinctly ungracious arguments…


Women in the Episcopate – diocesan synod votes 2

Updated Saturday evening

Four more diocesan synods voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation today: Carlisle, Ely, St Albans, Winchester.

At the time of writing I have not seen the result from Carlisle, but the other three all voted in favour by substantial majorities.

All today’s results are now available; all four dioceses voted in favour by substantial majorities. So far 13 dioceses have voted in favour and none against. At least 23 dioceses must vote in favour if the draft legislation is to return to General Synod in July.

The next diocesan synod votes will be on 22 March in Bath & Wells, Birmingham, Bradford, Lichfield, Liverpool, Oxford and Peterborough.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here. I have added running totals of the voting figures to the bottom of this table.



George Day writes for and about Fulcrum: Where are we and where are we going?

Anglicans Online has published these two essays.
Steve Caruso Lost in Translation — Aramaic in the Context of Christ Looking at Gallilean Aramaic, the language Jesus actually spoke. It is almost extinct.
Pierre Whalon Surviving Death? Thinking about what it means to die.

Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that Showing that a story isn’t factually accurate doesn’t diminish its truth.

Tony Benn died yesterday. Some reactions:
Benny Hazlehurst Tony Benn – RIP
David Robertson Christian Today Tony Benn – Lessons for Christians, Politicians and Secular Humanists
Giles Fraser The Guardian RIP Tony Benn: he encouraged us

Christopher Howse has been to Cork for The Telegraph: The ugly duck’s loveliest creation.


Equality and Religious Freedom – Equipping Activists for a Changing World

This conference has been postponed until Saturday 1 November, more information to follow

The fourth national conference organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium will be held on Saturday 5 April.

The conference theme is Equality and Religious Freedom – Equipping Activists for a Changing World.

Full details of the programme are published on this page and a flyer for the conference can be downloaded here.

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Oscar is a small red-haired bundle of endearing energy who peers at the word through John Lennon glasses so thick that when you read a map you can see people waving. Terminally incapable of sitting still, his presence at a school assembly is likely to bring to naught the most carefully crafted presentation. Exactly what he feels about it all is hard to tell, since his speech is all but incomprehensible and he’s clearly got ‘a problem’, but whatever it is, he’s clearly finding life rewarding. Oscar would never, ever fit into a flow-chart on classroom (or Church) management, and rather would stand there injecting his subversive presence into the situation with his face-wide grin.

The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus rather reminds me of Oscar. Nicodemus appears, grave, thoughtful, cautious, articulate, informed, to find out what this Jesus character might be about. What he gets has more in common with Oscar’s subversive smile than the Senior Common Room conversation that Nicodemus might have hoped for. Jesus’s enigmatic phrases — ‘being born from above’, ‘the wind blows where it chooses’ — leave Nicodemus’s formulæ in tatters, so much so that Jesus asks impishly, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?’

The longing so clearly present in Nicodemus’s opening statement is to try and understand how Jesus, this God-sent teacher, fits into his, Nicodemus’s, world-picture. The succeeding sentences demolish any hope of making sense of Jesus through such a lens, much as Oscar demolishes assemblies, not by being disruptive but by refusing to fit the expected pattern. The talk is of mystery, of inexplicable, unprompted acts of God, of a universe which cannot be constrained, neither by Nicodemus’s interpretative matrix nor even by his hopes. Consequently, Nicodemus must either leave his old lexicon behind, or else never acknowledge the new reality he has glimpsed, a decision whose outcome we are left to imagine for ourselves.

This encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus is a rebuke to every dream of an all-embracing systematic theology, even to those vain attempts to come up with definitive explanations of how Calvary and Redemption interact. We approach Jesus with our painstakingly worked out hypotheses and theories, only to realise in the moment of encounter that they miss the point almost entirely, that our understanding is almost completely unlike the truth, and that we have to choose between returning to something we now know to be more idol than deity or accepting that our carefully-laid foundations have yet again proved inadequate. ‘Are you a teacher of ordinands, and yet you do not understand these things?’

There is something profoundly disorientating yet also profoundly liberating about Oscar so clearly rejoicing in something far more important than what we think we’re doing so worthily and well. He brings us up short against another reality which we’ve missed, despite our dogged preparation. Thus too the subversive Christ: we can either ignore him as an unfortunate impediment to our carefully calculated blueprint of God’s grace, or welcome his invitation to something far richer and greater. Whether our love affair is with the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation or the Enlightenment, perhaps a useful Lenten self-denial might be to allow Oscar’s Christ to amble around the over-ordered schoolroom of our souls — and surprise us.

David Rowett is vicar of Barton-on-Humber in the diocese of Lincoln.


Reactions to the House of Bishops statement – episode 10

Updated twice on Tuesday evening

The soap opera continues.

Bosco Peters has written Rethinking marriage? He concludes this way:

…By the 1928 marriage rite, wives obeying their husband had gone, and with it the biblical submit-and-subject wording. In only one prayer was the allusion retained that in marriage “is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church”. [In the CofE Common Worship rite that becomes, “they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind, as Christ is united with his bride, the Church” or “they shall be united in that love as Christ is united with his Church”].

Because the union of Christ and His church is an unbreakable union, Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery comes together with marriage-is-indissoluble. Furthermore inevitably with the inequality of Christ and His Church, this image comes with an inequality between husband and wife, and a distinction of their roles.

New Zealand Anglicanism shifted from a firmly-held “marriage cannot be dissolved” to “a couple when getting married should intend to stay together”. ALL references to Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery were completely removed from the three different rites available for getting married in the 1989 New Zealand Prayer Book. Even the Church of England’s own Common Worship rite has removed all but the tiniest single vestigial allusion (quoted above) to what was clearly once a dominant biblical paradigm for marriage.

What once again is clear when those who say the debates are not sourced in prejudice about homosexuality, but are about integrity to scripture and tradition, is that whilst a sea change has occurred in the understanding of marriage, they have only begun to register an issue when the direction heads towards committed same-sex couples.

In the discussion about whether gender difference is essential to marriage it is clear where the inner logic of the trajectory of Christian marriage changes leads, and that the Church of England bishops’ statement is on the wrong side of that trajectory.

Andrew Goddard has written an article in two long parts for Fulcrum:

The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Part I – Engaging with the Critics

The divisions within the Church of England and the multiple challenges it faces in the light of the advent of same-sex marriage have become even clearer and more serious in the weeks since the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance. In what follows I explore three areas where the bishops have been criticised and offer a defence of their stance…

The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Part II – Raising Questions and Recognising Challenges

This second part turns to highlight three areas of ambiguitiy, unclarity or inconsistency before concluding with some thoughts on the challenges we now face…

He concludes with this:

…One reason that further practical guidance is unlikely from the House of Bishops is that some of its members do not personally believe that the church’s doctrine of marriage as being a union of a man and a woman is true and something which “most benefits society” (para 8). Others, although personally convinced of such a view, are concerned about the implications – in church and wider society – of following that commitment through in church teaching and practice. Those concerns will have been deepened by the strength of criticism they have faced for upholding the teaching and following it through even to the extent they have done.

The sad reality is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Although it is reported that only one bishop voted against the guidance, it is also being claimed that a significant number, even a majority, are not personally happy with it. The reactions to the guidance make clear just how extensive the divisions are in the wider church and thus how difficult the environment for the facilitated conversations is going to be. They also perhaps highlight two areas where the conversations need to focus their attention but which were largely unaddressed by the Pilling Report:

(1) What doctrine of marriage should the Church have and how should it then bear faithful witness to that in ordering its own life and in mission in a wider society which recognises same-sex marriage? and

(2) What is to be done, what new church structures may be needed, so that those who find themselves unable to accept the conclusions on the doctrine of marriage and its practical implications can faithfully bear witness to their understanding of marriage without undermining the mind of the majority or condemning the Church of England to continuing destructive conflict over this issue?

Giles Fraser has written Gay clergy marriages: the final chapter of the Anglican Communion fiction.

…All this means that the bishops won’t be able to do a damn thing about their clergy having same-sex marriages. As the bishop of Buckingham explained: “If a member of the clergy wants to marry, I may like or not like the match, but I have no legal power to stop them marrying.” And when this happens, the toys will be thrown from many a Nigerian church pram. The fiction that is the Anglican Communion will be over and we can go back to being the Church of England, rather than the local arm of the empire at prayer. And thank God for that.


Peter Ould has published CDM or EJM? in which an anonymous correspondent who has “considerable experience in the exercising of the Clergy Discipline Measure and the processes before it and who has a firm founding in Ecclesiastical Law ” writes that:

…There can be no doubt that for a member of the clergy to commit matrimony in a civil register office with another person of the same sex, would be both perfectly legal according to the new Act of Parliament, and conduct unbecoming a clerk in holy orders so far as the Church of England is concerned. That Act of Parliament acknowledges that the law of the Church diverges from that of the state in such matters, and expressly permits the Church to act independently where marriage discipline is concerned. Even if Church legislation directly contradicts the law of Parliament, the Act expressly allows for this.

The House of Bishops has expressly stated that it will not allow the clergy to enter into same-sex marriages. This statement forms part of the discipline of the Church, since the House of Bishops is the teaching authority for the Church, and its members administer the CDM. All of the clergy in office have signed the Declaration of Assent and have taken an oath of canonical obedience. The latter commits them to obeying the canon law of the Church of England, including the lawful directions of their bishop where he has authority to do so.

There can therefore be no doubt that a CDM tribunal will rule that a same-sex marriage by one of the clergy constitutes conduct unbecoming, just as surely as if the minister concerned had committed adultery or some other act of immorality of a sexual nature. This is not a matter of doctrine but of morality…

But do read the whole article.

Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream has written for the American Anglican Council: Gay marriage and the Church’s response

…But also among those holding to a conservative position there are divisions. Should Christian sexual ethics be explained outside the community of faith? Should Anglicans protest against gay marriage outside registry offices, or the teaching of homosexual practice in schools? Could it ever be right (even if not canonically appropriate) to refuse sacraments to those who have entered a same sex marriage against pastoral advice? Should people with same sex attraction be enabled to seek skilled help to change if they so wish? What about the future of the Church – would it be a good thing to participate in facilitated conversations? Are there any circumstances in which it might be the best thing to form a separate Anglican administration, either linked to the Church of England or not? Is GAFCON the solution? All of these questions separate the confessing C of E Anglicans…


US Supreme Court will not hear Falls Church case

Michelle Boorstein at the Washington Post reports: Supreme Court won’t hear appeal of dispute over Episcopal Church’s property in Va.

Seven years after 15 conservative Virginia congregations made global news by breaking away from the Episcopal Church — and refusing to give up tens of millions of dollars in property — the Supreme Court on Monday ended the complex legal dispute by declining to take up an appeal by the last remaining plaintiff.

The Falls Church Anglican, a 2,000-member breakaway congregation, had asserted that the nearly 300-year-old sprawling property belonged to the Anglican group because the Episcopal Church “left” its umbrella Anglican tradition by becoming more liberal in interpreting scripture and ordaining gay and lesbian clergy…

Mary Frances Schjonberg at ENS reports this way: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Falls Church Anglican case. This article contains many links to earlier documents.

More than seven years after a majority of clergy and members of several Diocese of Virginia congregations declared they had left the Episcopal Church and the question of ownership of the property involved began to be litigated, the U.S. Supreme Court refused on March 10 to hear the appeal of the last congregation still at odds with the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

The court gave no reason for deciding not to review a 2013 ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court reaffirming an earlier circuit court ruling that returned The Falls Church property to loyal Episcopalians to use for the mission of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The court’s decision was included in its March 10 order list and was one of 121 requests for review that it refused.

All that remains in the case is for the Diocese of Virginia to request an order from the Fairfax Circuit Court releasing to the diocese more than $2.6 million that was in the Falls Church’s bank accounts at the time of the split and that the court has been holding in escrow during the progression of the case…

Diocese of Virginia: press release and letter to diocese.

There is no press release as yet from CANA or ACNA. The latest email to the Falls Church Anglican congregation can be found here.

We received word today that the United States Supreme Court has denied our church’s petition for certiorari and declined to hear our case. This means that the long legal process in which our church has been involved since we were sued by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in 2007 has come to its end.

We have pursued this legal process out of the conviction that it is one of the ministries that God has entrusted to our church and out of our desire to be faithful to God’s calling to see it through to the end. We are grateful that our nation’s civil justice system allows us this recourse and we thank the Supreme Court for its consideration of our petition.

We will keep praying for the many churches and dioceses that remain embroiled in lawsuits over their property with The Episcopal Church or other denominations. We will continue to pray for clarification of this area of law, which has become increasing convoluted and confusing for the lower courts since the Supreme Court last addressed it in 1979…

A.S. Haley has published Heartbreaker: U. S. Supreme Court Denies Falls Church Petition.


Update on the vacancy in the See of Hereford

The Crown Nominations Commission held its second meeting to consider the See of Hereford on 25 and 26 February, and was unable to make a choice. The Commission will reconvene in May and June. The news was announced in this press release published on the Hereford diocesan website.

Archbishop of Canterbury
March 7th 2014

From the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Diocese of Hereford

Vacancy in the See of Hereford – meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission

An update from the Archbishop of Canterbury – Chair of the Commission

Many of you will have been keeping the Crown Nominations Commission in your prayers last week, for which many thanks. It is good for those of us undertaking this work to know that we are being prayed for.

We thought it important to provide an update on the progress of our deliberations which are still continuing. The Commission has had two meetings. Following interviews, we did not feel able to make a choice as to whom God is calling to be the next Bishop of Hereford and felt that we needed more time to discern the next stages for mission and ministry in the Diocese. Taking time over appointments is important and the Commission is utterly committed to finding the right person to be your Bishop. We are therefore making arrangements to reconvene on 1 May and 6 June 2014.

As ever, I will be keeping the whole diocese in my prayers.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury


Reactions to the House of Bishops statement – episode 9

Episode 8 was here. Earlier episodes from here.

Anglican Mainstream has published an email sent by the EGGS Committee to the members of EGGS. EGGS is the Evangelical Group of the General Synod, and the names of the committee members are shown here. The full text of the email is copied below the fold.

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday broadcast this morning carried a segment which discussed the legal implications for clergy who enter a same-sex marriage. The Bishop of Oxford was among those interviewed, along with the expert legal journalist, Joshua Rozenberg. The 10 minute segment begins about 35 minutes into the broadcast.



Women in the Episcopate – diocesan synod votes

As I reported here the current legislation on Women in the Episcopate was sent to dioceses promptly after last month’s meeting of General Synod. The first diocesan synod votes were held a week ago, and so far nine dioceses have voted; all were in favour of the legislation.

I have compiled a table of the voting figures here which I will update as further votes take place.



David Emmott starts his new blog Campaign for Fair Rants with Becoming human.

David Walker writes for The Guardian The church has no choice but to act when faced with the reality of poverty.

Graham Kings writes for Fulcrum Life, Justice and Peace through Mission and Dialogue.

Ted Olsen writes for Christianity Today The Bible in the Original Geek: Inside the world of the new Bible coders—and how they will change the way you think about Scripture.

Richard Fidler of ABC has been in conversion with Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Jody Stowell asks Why are we so afraid of women bishops?

If God is love, then can God also be love, heat and passion? – Part 3 of the George Herbert series by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes in The Guardian.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian Secular Lent is a pale imitation of the real thing. I’ll have nothing to do with it.


Where The Wild Things Might Be

Mention the word ’ wilderness’ these days, and the images which come to mind may well be filtered through the lens either of the Romantic movement, which began to find the wild places and the uninhabited lands not life-threatening but life-enhancing, or that of a more recent sensibility, a conservation movement which seeks to preserve some parts of the earth as (nearly) untouched by human intervention, and finds in that a powerful good. Our remaining wildernesses are no longer fear-filled, distant from all that is humane, encouraging, civilised, as they were for so many generations and are still for some cultures and in some parts of the world. They have largely lost their edge of danger; rather than places of threat, they are seen as places of a strange and powerful beauty. For us, the children of a comfortable, largely urbanised society, they have become the settings for adventure or recreation. If they are places of challenge, it is often a very carefully orchestrated challenge, a battle for survival created as a source of entertainment employing the enmeshed forces of media and celebrity.

So we still have stories of ventures into the wild, often solitary; expeditions into the rainforests of the Amazon, treks across the Antarctic, solo crossings of the oceans in small boats. These are our narratives of risk and heroism, these are the tales of individuals deliberately placing themselves where their very survival may be at stake. In these stories of our own time and culture we can still hear an echo of the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. They are stories of the testing of the human spirit, they involve separation from the norms of daily life, the conscious placing of the self in danger, the denial of comfort, the need for inner strength, for great reserves of courage. However, at the heart of most of these stories is (in the tradition of the Romantics) the individual him or herself, asserting or proving a practical, emotional, and even spiritual self-sufficiency – however fulsome the tributes to the back-up teams at the end.

When we listen to the accounts of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, especially those in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we hear something different. We hear not about self-sufficiency, but about dependence: dependence on God as the source, sustainer, and shaper of life. If we move on a few centuries, to those other seekers-out of the wild places, the desert fathers and mothers, we learn not only about dependence on God, but dependence on each other. The physical and spiritual battles fought in the deserts of Egypt by those men and women of the 4th and 5th centuries are known to us because their struggles were so often resolved through conversation and exchange, through what was shared.

Whatever the wild places, of body, mind, or spirit, we find ourselves in this Lent, may we have the wisdom and the courage to recognise that we can’t flourish, or even survive on our own; may we allow ourselves to depend and trust on and in God’s sustaining presence, and to allow others to help make that presence known to us.

Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford


Looking neither back nor forward

Christians come to Lent from one of two directions. Some of us approach from the past. We look to the season as a time for penitence. We reflect and repent from previous sin. We acknowledge our individual and corporate failings. We give up, even if only for a few weeks, things that have distracted us from our holiness, or have become idols. Some of us approach from the future. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. We form spiritual disciplines which we hope might be landmarks on the lifelong journey we call sanctification. We commit ourselves to charitable works that might in time become habitual. We abstain from good things in order to appreciate them more richly later. Maybe, if we are experienced and sophisticated in our approach, we try to do a bit of each; to focus on both past and future.

These two approaches broadly reflect two metanarratives with which we approach life and faith: the myths of regress and of progress. To the regressive Christian, “Change and decay”, linked forever in the Hymn Abide with me, act as synonyms. The constant shortening of human lifespan recounted in the Book of Genesis is clear evidence that things only get worse. The first few chapters of Paul’s letter to Rome depict a process of degradation against which the Church of God must stand, rescuing whom it can, while it may. By contrast, to the progressive Christian, decay is the consequence of not changing enough, or not sufficiently quickly. Luke’s account in Acts of the gospel reaching out to begin its conquest of empire, offers a view of an ever advancing Kingdom. It’s a destiny towards which, like Paul’s athlete, we must run, and run at our fastest. If a traditional hymn is needed, let it be From Glory to Glory advancing.

Of course, these characterisations hugely simplify reality. We are all a mix of progressive and regressive. But the balance between the two can be very different in each of us. So here’s a challenge for Lent. Try to live it in the opposite myth to your natural preference. If you are a progressive, then let a backwards facing Lent be a way of broadening your sympathies, deepening your understanding of others, so as to grow in holiness. If you are naturally regressive then face forwards. Find something in the world to embrace and enjoy. Maybe force yourself to eat at least one piece of chocolate very day.

That’s a hard ask; for most of us hard enough if not too hard. But, for a minority who have the motivation and the strength, maybe there is, to quote St Paul again, a better way still. Live this Lent neither looking to the past or future. Live it deeply in the present moment. Fast not to improve yourself, nor to express regret; fast simply because Jesus did. Take up or give up such practices as you choose, not because they will help you to achieve some goal, but simply to mark out this season as distinct, as a time set apart. A time for God to use in whatever way God wants.

David Walker is Bishop of Manchester


Reactions to the House of Bishops statement – episode 8

Andrew Brown has published at Cif belief this report on the Bad History saga: Why the church’s gay marriage schism is here to stay in which he concludes:

…In other words, the conservative position today is that when the bible says (with Jesus) that a man can’t marry another woman while his first wife is still alive, that’s not about the nature of marriage; when it says (with Moses) that if his wife dies, a man can’t marry her sister, that’s not about the nature of marriage; but when it says (as it doesn’t, because this was too obvious to spell out) a man can’t marry another man, that really is part of the definition of marriage in the way that the others aren’t.

If this is what Fittall, Arora and the archbishops of Canterbury and York, deep down believe then their defence of the palpably silly makes sense. What God wants is by definition more valuable than anything else in the world and what God wants – Conservatives believe – is a straight man married to a straight woman: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve are the perfect couple. It is that relationship that shows the kind of love that leads us towards God. You or I might point out that since Adam and Eve never existed it would be unwise to draw conclusions from their relationship, but that’s not how the religious imagination works.

The point is that they can’t be convinced by arguments from science, from history or from the law about what marriage is. Their minds will only by changed by arguments from God and what God wants. Only if they see God at work in their opponents will they change. To see that, they would have to be looking for signs of it. I don’t think there is any immediate danger of that, on either side.

Jonathan Clatworthy has written Church teaching and the general understanding of marriage:

…To me, the House of Bishops’ claim is a typical example of a stance just too common to require any alternative explanation. ‘Conservatives’, of both the campaigning and the fence-sitting types, love to think that the way things were in their childhood was the way they always had been, all the way back to the beginning. This, for example, is what the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission did last April with their unpopular Men and Women in Marriage; but it is so common that we can all think of examples, not just in matters of religion. I very much doubt that the House of Bishops considered the Acts of 1907 or 1937 and judged that they did not invalidate the statement; they just assumed that the current change is the first such change ever.

They contrast ‘the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England’ with ‘the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law’. I think they mean two things: that the Church’s doctrine of marriage will diverge both from the legal definition and from ‘the general understanding of marriage in England’. (I am not sure; they might have meant ‘the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law’, in which case ‘general understanding’ is only adding emphasis, not making an additional claim.) This post leaves aside the question of legal definition and focuses on the ‘general understanding’.

To judge whether the bishops are right we need an account of what this general understanding is, independently of the legal definition…

UNITE the Union had earlier published this:

Faith Worker Branch Executive statement in response to the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, 14.02.14

“We welcome the House of Bishops’ commitment to a process of conversations that will include profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application of scripture with particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and we would strongly urge the Bishops to pursue this as a priority.

We are concerned, however, that some aspects of the guidance, Paragraph 27 in particular, may discriminate against LGBT clergy in their pursuit of an authentic, loving and committed relationship that accords with their God-given sexuality, and which may as a result diminish their human right to enjoy that relationship.

We are concerned, too, that the vagueness of the guidance in Paragraphs 20 & 21 may unwittingly put clergy at risk of disciplinary action whilst attempting to minister appropriately in complex pastoral circumstances.

We affirm our support of all of our clergy members, and will continue to support and represent them in all aspects of their ministry, including any action taken against them as a result of the application of the Bishops’ guidance.”

The Bishop of Dorking delivered this speech to Guildford Diocesan Synod. Several people have commented that it contains echoes of what the Bishop of Oxford wrote earlier.


Anglican reactions to Nigerian and Ugandan legislation

Updated Monday lunchtime

Update According to the Daily Monitor Church ready to split from England on homosexuals

The Archbishop of Church of Uganda (CoU) has responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, saying Uganda is ready to break away from the Church of England if its views on homosexuality are not respected.

Addressing Christians at St Andrews Church, Bukoto yesterday, Archbishop Stanley Ntangali said the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York John Sentamu recently wrote to him, saying the Church of England was concerned about the CoU’s anti-homosexuality stand.

“I have written back to Archbishop Sentamu. I told him it does not matter even if we do not work with them because the Church of England is a product of repentance and USA is founded on Christian values but they seem to have become spiritually blind,” Bishop Ntangali said…

And AFP reports, via the Telegraph Uganda church warns of Anglican split over gay law

“The issue here is respect for our views on homosexuality, same sex marriage as a country and church. If they are not willing to listen to us. We shall consider being on our own,” Uganda’s top Anglican, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, told AFP.

“Homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture, and no one in the leadership of the church can say legitimise same sex unions or homosexuality,” he said, urging the “governing bodies of the Church of England to not take the path advocated by the West”.

“If they do we shall have no choice but to be on our own,” he said.

[Original article started here]

The most recently published statement by the Church of Uganda on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality legislation appears to be in this statement dated 30 January:

The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”

The Church of Nigeria has recently published this letter sent to the Church of Uganda, commending it for its position on homosexuality.

And there is this news story from Nigeria itself in the Daily Post: Anglican Church in Nigeria subjects members to oath denouncing homosexuality

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has introduced a clause in its constitution subjecting members, who intend to hold positions in church, to take an oath of allegiance to God denouncing homosexuality.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public denunciation took place in Abuja on Sunday at St. Matthews, Maitama, during the swearing-in of new members of the Parish Church Council (PCC).

The Vicar of the church, Ven. Ben Idume, who administered the oath to members of the PCC, said the church recognised that those with such sexual orientation needed help and counselling.

“But they would not be allowed to hold any position in church,’’ he said.

The legislation is significant because it applies to members of the laity, clergy and house of bishops of the church.

It also banned bisexuals from holding any church office.

The text of the vow reads: “I declare before God and his Church that I have never been a homosexual/bisexual or (have repented from being homosexual/bisexual) and I vow that I will not indulge in the practise of homosexuality/bisexuality.

“If after this oath I am involved, found to be, or profess to be a homosexual/bisexual against the teachings of the Holy Scriptures as contained in the Bible.

“I bring upon myself the full wrath of God and subject myself willingly to canonical discipline as enshrined in the constitution of the Church of Nigeria, so help me God.’’

The Archbishop of Kenya is reported by The Star via to have said this: (original report here)

KENYA does not need a new law on gay relationships as the constitution clearly outlaws homosexuality, Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said yesterday.

Wabukala was responding to journalists’ questions on the sidelines of the Anglican Development Service meeting at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi.

He said whereas Uganda’s Parliament and President Yoweri Museveni accepted a law that penalised lesbian gay bisexual transgender relationships, “Kenya’s constitution clearly outlaws” them.

“As the Anglican church in Kenya we are very clear when it comes to matters of relationship which should be between two opposite sexes,” Wabukala said.

He said the church will not accept anything that is not allowed in scripture.

Wabukala faulted those who support the human right of LGBTs. He said human rights are not the same as rights.

“Human rights and rights are different. Human rights have no values while rights have values.”

“Just like Uganda has been guided by the constitution, Kenya has a more clear constitution on the relationship.”

On the other hand, the archbishops of New Zealand have published this: Archbishops: Pray for Uganda.

…Dear Friends and Colleagues in Christ,

Anglicans throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia continue to wrestle with divergent views on many aspects of human sexuality, and on a Christian response to the marriage or blessing of same gender couples in particular. However, we believe that all Anglicans are united in condemning homophobic attitudes or the persecution of people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Many of us will have seen reports this week (eg: ) that Uganda’s President has signed into law a bill that toughens penalties for gay people.

This new law includes the provision of life sentences for certain of these new ‘crimes’, and the legislation appears to have been passed with the encouragement of Uganda’s Joint Christian Council – which includes the country’s Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican bishops.

We recall Resolution 1:10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which encouraged Anglicans throughout our Communion “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals…”

We note with dismay these developments in Uganda, and encourage you to remember that country, those placed further at risk by these laws, and those who lead the Church and the state in Uganda, in your prayers…


Reactions to the House of Bishops statement – episode 7

Continuing from here

Mike Higton has written two long articles discussing what’s going on in this debate about the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance. They should both be read in full, but here are some excerpts to give you the flavour:

Disagreeing about Marriage

…look back again at the Church’s ‘Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation’ – which I assume can be taken to represent the views of at least some of those responsible for the current Pastoral Guidance. The section on ‘The Church’s understanding of marriage’ is the heart of the report, and before it gets to the two brief paragraphs on civil and religious marriage and their possible divergence, it has thirteen paragraphs that make a rather different point. The centre-piece of this part of the Response is the other paragraph that is put in bold, paragraph 13:

We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.

My suggestion – which I can only make very sketchily here, but will fill out in a subsequent post – is that, for at least some of those who have rejected Linda’s criticism, this is the central issue, and its centrality is so obvious, so luminously blatant, that to pretend that other aspects of the Church’s definition of marriage might be as central – especially issues about which there has been all sorts of complex and detailed disagreement for as long as we’ve been a church – can only be deliberate obfuscation, akin to the claim that the whole structure of the Bishops’ argument should be called into doubt because there is a misplaced semicolon in a footnote somewhere.

In other words, I think I can see that, for someone who inhabits the views set out in that Response to the government consultation, the criticism that Linda and her colleagues made, and that I like them would like to see taken seriously, must look like such a stark case of missing the point that it can only be a deliberate missing of the point…

Disagreeing about Marriage – and Gender

… I assume that it is not unfair to think that something like this thinking is being expressed both in the House of Bishops’ promulgation of their Pastoral Guidance, and in its defenders’ reaction to the question posed by Linda Woodhead. And, as I suggested in my previous post, I think grasping this point helps to make sense of their reaction.

We are, such a person might think, dealing in this debate with a fundamental structure of creation, and of society – and of our law’s relation to that. We might all agree that questions about fidelity and mutuality go as deep as this question of gender complementarity, but nothing else comes close. In particular, questions about remarriage after divorce and questions about the precise circle of people you can’t marry are clearly not even in the same league as this question. We are dealing with a fundamental structure of creation, and therefore with the very possibility of flourishing in a society that has to live in harmony with creation. That’s clearly what was really being said when the bishops talked about there having been no fundamental divergence between civil and religious understandings of marriage until now – and all this fuss over secondary details is a mischievous smokescreen. It’s all about gender – and this criticism from the likes of Woodhead, her colleagues, and now Higton – well, it dramatically misses that point.

Have I got that right? Is that a fair representation of the source of the impatience with Linda’s question that I’ve been hearing? I realise I’m putting words into mouths here, but I hope I haven’t slipped into caricature?

Phil Groom has written Heaven is Weeping: An Open Letter to the House of Bishops @C_of_E @JustinWelby @JohnSentamu which is also very long, and worth a read.



Linda Woodhead The crisis of religious authority

Ian Paul State of the Church: sociology or theology?

George Athas ABC Religion & Ethics Did the camel break the Bible’s back? Nice try, but no

Frank Cranmer Law & Religion UK George Herbert on clergy and the law
In part 2 of her series in The Guardian on George Herbert, Miranda Threlfall-Holmes asks How can we measure the immeasurable?

The final part of the Church Times Church Health Check looks to the future. Three of the articles are available to non-subscribers.
Linda Woodhead A remedy for an ailing Church
David Goodhew and Bob Jackson Can we grow? Yes we can
Martyn Percy It’s not just about the numbers

Rachel Mann Church Times Distracted by instant messages

Giles Fraser The Guardian If religion exists to make raids into what is unsayable, musicians penetrate further than most

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