Thinking Anglicans

William Nye writes to The Episcopal Church about marriage rites

Updated again Thursday

Madeleine Davies has a report in the Church Times: Nye letter warns about same-sex marriage rites

PROPOSALS to incorporate marriage rites used by same-sex couples into the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of the Episcopal Church in the United States will increase pressure in the Church of England to “dissociate” itself, the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, has warned.

In a letter to the Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which has produced the proposals, Mr Nye writes that, if the rites — written to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples — are incorporated into the BCP as the only marriage rite, “the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC [the Episcopal Church], in all manner of ways, would increase”. Such a move would also be “potentially damaging” to work in the C of E to create a new teaching document on sexuality (News, 30 June), he writes….

The 8-page letter is contained in a file of responses from other Anglican Communion churches to a consultation request from The Episcopal Church for comments. This forms part of the materials prepared for the forthcoming General Convention in July.

The response from William Nye is now available separately here.

The response from the Scottish Episcopal Church is here.

There is also a response from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO).

And there are ecumenical responses too.

Updates

Reports of this letter have also appeared elsewhere:

The Times (behind paywall) Anglicans threaten split over ‘gay-friendly’ marriage rites

Premier American Anglicans would face ‘consequences’ over gender neutral wedding services

Further mentions:

Christian Today Pro-LGBT Anglicans hit back at letter threatening split over US gay friendly prayer book

Episcopal Café Who answers for the Church of England when the Episcopal Church asks about marriage?

Susan Russell Simon Says: “Let’s get the truth of the situation out there”

110
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
110 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
49 Comment authors
JCFKateJordan HyldenRod Gilliscrs Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

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… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

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?

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

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

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

Then “dissociate!” You clearly don’t need us, we are held back by you. Dissociate, already.

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

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?

crs
Guest
crs

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.

crs
Guest
crs

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… Read more »

Dennis Roberts
Guest
Dennis Roberts

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?… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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.

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

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?

Bernard Randall
Guest
Bernard Randall

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… Read more »

Grumpy High Churchwoman
Guest
Grumpy High Churchwoman

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… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

“…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… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“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… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

‘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?

ScotPeterson
Guest
ScotPeterson

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)?

Cassandra
Guest
Cassandra

“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?

Richard
Guest
Richard

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.

The Very Revd. Prof. Martyn Percy
Guest
The Very Revd. Prof. Martyn Percy

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… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

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.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“…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… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

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/

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“[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.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

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)… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

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.

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

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.

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

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… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

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… Read more »

Scot Peterson
Guest
Scot Peterson

@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… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

“…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… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

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?

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

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.

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

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… Read more »

Ann Reddecliffe
Guest
Ann Reddecliffe

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.… Read more »

linda woodhead
Guest
linda woodhead

‘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?

crs
Guest
crs

“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.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“We have never been asked.”

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil….

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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… Read more »

Nigel LLoyd
Guest

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… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“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… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

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… Read more »

Judith Maltby
Guest
Judith Maltby

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… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

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… Read more »

Bernard Randall
Guest
Bernard Randall

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… Read more »

JPM
Guest
JPM

Who is William Nye?