Thinking Anglicans

Still more about same-sex marriage

Updated Tuesday

The main editorial article in today’s Observer refers to the Friday press conference.
Gay marriage: a joyous day for respect and love

…Inevitably, also in the anti-gay marriage campaign are traditionalists in favour of “natural” marriage. They argue, along with the Catholic church and the Church of England, that the Bible refers to marriage as the union of man and woman for the purposes of procreation. Clergy in the Church of England are prohibited from marrying same-sex partners. Faith and equality have yet to cohabit successfully in the established church. On Friday, the bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, lambasted his superiors for hypocrisy. “There are partnered gay bishops telling their partnered gay clergy you shouldn’t marry your partner, Fred,” he said. Colin Coward, of Changing Attitude, a liberal pressure group in the church, is optimistic of movement. “I am already fielding inquiries from people who want to know if they can get married in their local church… the Church of England will be forced to face up to that reality.”…

Paul Vallely writes in the Independent that The church has lost its way on the road to gay marriage

Ding-dong the bells are going to chime. Or perhaps more accurately, since gay marriage became legal in England and Wales, ding-ding. Or dong-dong.
Not that the bells in question are in churches. Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church are doctrinally opposed to the idea of same-sex unions, though at least seven clergy couples are preparing to marry in defiance of their bishops.

But the loudest clerical voices are opposed. The executive secretary of something which likes to call itself Anglican Mainstream was darkly blogging last week to the effect that recent floods and storms are God’s verdict on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. If that’s the mainstream, it doesn’t bear thinking about what might be found on the C of E’s wilder shores…

Kelvin Holdsworth wrote The sacrament lottery.

Benny Hazlehurst wrote Will the sun still rise tomorrow?

Gillan Scott wrote Gay marriages are here and this is what I’m celebrating.

And Rachel Muers has written about Quakers (Same-Sex) Marriage and the State.


The Guardian editorial on Monday morning: Gay marriage: fair do concludes this way:

…The greatest difficulty is faced by the Church of England, which is legally obliged to marry almost everyone in this country – but is now legally forbidden to marry gay and lesbian people no matter what the wishes of an individual priest or congregation may be. This is not an issue on which it can or should come to a single mind. It may always be divided over it but the great majority of the church is not homophobic and recoils from those churches abroad which are.

The archbishop of Canterbury – a reasonable opponent of gay marriage, not gay people – called last week for the church “to continue to demonstrate, in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being”. He means it, but he may not be widely believed or heard. In the last 20 years the church has behaved with an unattractive cowardice over the issue. Now that it is trying to be humble and brave, few people care. Unfair, perhaps, but not undeserved.


  • Jamie Wood says:

    It’s hard to believe that someone as intelligent as Paul Vallely would misrepresent Andrew Symes so carelessly. When Mr Symes wrote that “we can’t be certain about the direct link between bad weather and the gay marriage legislation”, he (Mr Symes) was gently poking fun at the UKIP councillor who had suggested the link. Ever heard of irony, Mr Vallely? To use that quote to suggest that Mr Symes himself believes in the link is, well, unintelligent.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Well, it’s not so much a criticism of Vallely but of Mr Symes, who convinced many (if not most) he was serious and looking at the website in the past it would seem to me to be an intelligent assumption. But putting that aside, apart from a couple of rants from the loony eccentrics, the articles recorded on Anglican Mainstream itself demonstrate just how far outside the mainstream their thinking lies!

    For my money, the bishop of Buckingham has come out on top here!
    Just a few short weeks ago, Thinking Anglicans refused to publish a comment in a similar vein from me …… without any names ……on the basis that it was “outing people”…… TA has not acquitted itself well here.

    Still, lets give all the kudos to bishop Alan who has only said truth and who needs our support, for he surely will be savaged by his own constituency for “outing people” when all he has asked for is an ounce of integrity from all his fellow bishops.

    I agree strongly with the author of the Church Times leader who points out that the opportunity for facilitated conversations is evaporating almost week by week, and part of the reason for that is the failure of the English community of bishops to speak truth among themselves.

  • Father David says:

    Won’t it need an Act of Parliament to repeal the Quadruple Lock banning same sex marriages in Church of England places of worship? I can’t see the current hierarchy of the Established Church requesting that in any great hurry. My Lords of Sarum and Buckingham are currently liberal voices crying in the wilderness. We await with interest to see what Rev has to say on the matter later this evening when approached by two Gay friends seeking to tie the knot in his ill attended fane.

  • Interested Observer says:

    “Ever heard of irony, Mr Vallely?”

    The Rev Symes would appear to be a victim of Poe’s Law: “without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.”

  • Interested Observer says:

    And another point about Anglican Mainstream:

    Colin Coward blogged [1] about, and Peter Ould gave an interesting response about [2] a “conference” that AM hosted about same-sex attraction. It got 30 attendees, many of whom were either the organisers, speakers or bloggers come to report on it. In central London, AM was unable to get more than twenty people to come to a “conference” about one of its core concerns. The “conference” sounds, from the reports, utterly unhinged, but that’s besides the point: they simply couldn’t get people to attend for reasons much more edifying than morbid fascination.

    And that, I must say, is the real Anglican mainstream’s failure: they have not challenged Anglican Mainstream’s claim to be mainstream. You have to admire Symes and Sugden; as an act of marketing, it’s perfect. But an unwillingness by the real mainstream to challenge fellow Christians has ceded the high ground, and just as Muslims are angered and frustrated by the media’s enthusiasm for Anjem Choudrey as a “spokeman” for Islam (when in reality, he probably has a claque of about twenty supporters), Symes is now able to claim, unchallenged, to represent the “mainstream” when in reality he does no such thing. To the casual observer, a man appears on the radio, described as mainstream, and spouts the usual nonsense about the end of marriage as we know it: how are they supposed to know he represents only himself and twenty other people?



  • One of the problems for the Church of England, at its official opposition to this new initiative on the part of the U.K. Government to offer Equal Marriage to same-sex monogamous relationships as well as heterosexual ones, is that it has already tacitly accepted the reality of same-sex committed partnerships amongst it clergy. The G.S. ruling allowing payment of spousal pensions to the surviving partner of a clerical Civil Union testifies as much!

    Since the Church of England refused to offer official Blessings to Civil Partnerships (and still does so – despite the ‘under the counter’ permission for prayers for the couple) it has inevitably come up against the need to show some pastoral care for same-sex couples of the Church (and maybe – as the Established Church – to those outside of it) some official recognition of their intention to enter into a monogamously-committed, faithful and loving relationship that it urges upon other, heterosexual, couples.

    If Civil Partnerships seemed to be something that did not fit in with the Church’s understanding of the dignity of a ‘marriage’ commitment; perhaps the idea of civil marriage ought more readily to meet the existential needs of a society that recognises such commitment as a social good?

    Did not even Saint Paul say that it was “Better to marry than burn”?

  • Father David says:

    I am wondering, following his comments in Bury St. Edmunds cathedral, if Justin Welby is the most Erastian archbishop we have had in a long time? His support for the ordination of women to the episcopate and his comments about withdrawing CofE opposition to Gay marriage on the grounds that the Established Church should not oppose the Laws of the realm suggest that he has indeed a deeply Erastian soul. I know that he has been bitterly stung by the backlash to his ill timed and ill judged recent Pastoral Letter but has he forgotten that the Church of Jesus Christ is meant to be counter cultural?

  • Erika Baker says:

    Fr David,
    but please let’s not confuse getting hold of the same rope as culture but pulling in the other direction with being counter cultural.
    That’s being as immersed in the cultural issues of the day as you can possibly be.

  • John says:

    Your recent comments, Father David, seem to me to display interesting ambivalences. Glad at any rate your spirited campaign for the elevation of Jeffrey John seems not a whit diminished by his open (and brave) support of full gay marriage.

  • Richard Ashby says:

    The blog below spells out clearly the consequences of the HoB guidance. Did they really consider the consequences of their words?

    ‘The prohibition on ordination is tantamount to a process of same-sex cleansing’

    So much for the weasel words of welcome and appreciation for the work of the Church’s lgbt clergy.

  • Interested Observer says:

    “the Church of Jesus Christ is meant to be counter cultural?”

    There’s a difference between critically evaluating societal change and assuming as a knee-jerk reaction that it is always wrong. Just because on some issues society is moving faster than the church does not necessarily mean that society is wrong, nor, of course, that it is right. It just means that people who see themselves as morally aware should examine the change and react thoughtfully.

  • RevPeterM says:

    But ‘critically evaluating societal change’ (Interested Observer) is as immersed in the culture of the day as pulling in the other direction on the same rope. Archimedes asked for a place to stand so he could move the world, we would have to join him there if we are to judge all cultures.

    We are called instead to follow our incarnate Lord. That is, to be fully part of the culture we live in (especially if we feel we are missionaries from the past) but critical from within. Critical solidarity with humanity is what Jesus displays and we in the church should do likewise in our age.

    As Passiontide approaches we have to follow Jesus on the way of the cross, rather than stay with Pilate at the seat of judgement.

  • Geoff says:

    It surprises me how few of those calling for the Church to take a “counter-cultural” approach to gays were arguing for marriage equality in the 80s and 90s!

  • Gary Paul Gilbert says:

    How ironic that the religion of Constantine would ever claim to be countercultural!

    In any case, getting outside of one’s culture would be like trying to jump out of one’s skin–an impossibility. One is always a product of one’s culture. The difference is how one reads it and which parts of it get cited.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  • Interested Observer says:

    Geoff, it’s entirely useless as a concept. It allows reactionaries to boast that they are being “counter cultural” in denying rights to, variously, non-whites, non-men and non-hets (society is changing too quickly, we must hold fast to eternal truths) while simultaneously providing backing for rights for non-whites, non-men and non-hets (society is not changing quickly enough, we must strive for justice and truth).

    As we don’t live in a uniform society, I doubt there’s any social concept where you can’t argue that there’s pressure to do something you don’t want to do, and therefore your chosen path is “counter cultural”. It’s meaningless.

  • Jeremy says:

    “As Passiontide approaches we have to follow Jesus on the way of the cross, rather than stay with Pilate at the seat of judgement.”

    I don’t think these metaphors are very illuminating in this context. Indeed, they could generate confusion.

    I trust that RevPeterM is not asking that gay people be willing to be crucified on the cross of the established church’s bigotry.

  • Cynthia says:

    “I trust that RevPeterM is not asking that gay people be willing to be crucified on the cross of the established church’s bigotry.”

    Let’s hope not, we’ve been living with that for a long time and it’s time for us to get down off that cross. And work that no others suffer for the sake of keeping the the dominant classes comfortable at all costs.

  • RevPeterM says:

    No, I’m not asking anyone but the church (all of us) to walk the way of the cross. I just don’t think that it is possible for us to independently assess new developments in society and reliably decide the good from the bad. Instead we must live in the society we find ourselves and find out what God is doing there.
    It’s just that sometimes (or always?) faithfulness leads to the cross and resurrection. Avoiding that by standing separate from our contemporary society is not on.

  • Feria says:

    Father David: ‘Won’t it need an Act of Parliament to repeal the Quadruple Lock banning same sex marriages in Church of England places of worship?’

    No, it won’t. The Justice Secretary or the Lord Chancellor (who currently both happen to be the same person) has power to do it by a Statutory Instrument subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The power is conferred by section 17(2) of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

    It could also be done by a Church Measure, since the original 1919 Act that invented Church Measures allows them to amend primary Acts of Parliament.

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