Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 8 July 2023

HH Peter Collier KC Law & Religion UK Marriage and/or Holy Matrimony

Judith Maltby ViaMedia.News Equality, Parliament, and the Established Church: Some Recent Close Encounters

Iain McLean ViaMedia.News Can Parliament Permit Church of England Clergy to Marry Same-Sex Couples? Should it?

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Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
11 months ago

Peter Collier says that the 39 Articles contain little on marriage. However it is worth noting that the homilies mentioned in Article 34 include a homily “Of the state of Matrimony” (NB not Holy Matrimony)

Martyn
Martyn
Reply to  Mark Bennet
11 months ago

The CofE does not have a “doctrine of marriage”. It does not subscribe to the Roman Catholic theology – that it is a sacrament so indissoluble, hence divorce is not recognised, only ecclesial annulment – because the CofE only subscribed to baptism, Eucharist and ordination as sacramental rites. Possibly the coronation too, but that is a very limited sacramental grace – only one person may receive it, and it cannot be celebrated as a sacramental rite again until that recipient has passed away. The CofE recognises and accepts divorce. It accepts marriage can be undone. Baptis,, ordination and eucharists cannot… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Martyn
11 months ago

The Church of England was founded by Henry VIII to facilitate his divorce (he would have said annulment but divorce is more accurate). So the church’s previous opposition to divorce was actually rather comical. True to its Tudor heritage, the church has continued with its policy of one rule for those at the top and another rule for the lower orders.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  David Hawkins
11 months ago

It is too simplistic to say that Henry VIII’s matrimonial difficulties is the only reason for the establishment of the CofE. There was also a desire for reformation in England going on at the same time as the reformation on the continent. Henry rode the wave and has to some extent had the wave attributed to him.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Fr Dean
11 months ago

I heard a TEC (USA) priest make a very similar argument, and I disagree. The movie director Mel Brooks once made a movie called The History of the World Part I. It’s a series of historical segments as humor. One of them features French King Louis XIV at Versailles saying “It is good to be the King!” That could have been Henry VIII’s motto. What King Henry VIII wanted, he got. He had almost absolute power and used it. He wrote a defense of the Roman Catholic Church as the Protestant Reformation got under way, and the Pope conferred on… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
11 months ago

Marriage/matrimony, call it what you want, was not invented by the Church.
It is what human beings do. Some would call it a creation ordinance.
The Church witnesses and blesses a marriage; the couple do the marrying. All basic theology. A marriage in a register office is theologically a marriage. Blessing by the Church is a nice option for Christians but a marriage not FORMALLY blessed is still a marriage….but needs to be consummated.
Many Anglicans do see all such marriages as sacramental too!

Nuno Torre
Nuno Torre
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
11 months ago

True. This debacle over marriage on Protestantism and Anglicanism is mostly a late XX century sort of thing, mostly to show those conevos hate whatever else is not like themselves. Youtube is your friend. Plenty of those conevos bias elsewhere!… The Anglo Catholics seem to be out of the debacle, maybe, because most of them have already come home to Rome? Or they realise that hating wouldn’t do good for them in the long run?… Fortunately the most radicals of those conevos seem to have already gone or will go shortly. One of the most vocal ones announced his departure… Read more »

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

Read “Law in the New Testament”, 1970, by J Duncan M Derrett, Professor of Oriental Laws in the University of London, chapter 6 (pages 363-388), “The Teaching of Jesus on Marriage and Divorce”, not least to understand the crucial distinction between the divine institution of “one flesh” and the human institution of “marriage/matrimony”. The Biblical doctrine is clear from Genesis to Revelation : sexual activity is permitted only between none man and one woman, neither of whom (at least during the lifetime of the other) may have sexual intercourse with a third person.

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

For “none” read “one”!!

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

Ah yes, so clear. Remind me. Was Abraham condemned for his relationship with Hagar? And I thought the presenting issue with Solomon’s wives and concubines was their leading him into idolatry, not their existence?

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Jo B
11 months ago

The original position is found at Genesis 02:19b-24. For the duration of the Old Covenant, where that covenant was mixed with the nation of Israel, not all of whom were believers, practices were tolerated which contravened that position. When Jesus Christ brought in the New Covenant, of which only believers can be members, he re-instituted for those members the original position – see Matthew 19:03-12. For Abraham, please see below my reply to Pat O’Neill.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

“The Biblical doctrine is clear from Genesis to Revelation : sexual activity is permitted only between none man and one woman, neither of whom (at least during the lifetime of the other) may have sexual intercourse with a third person.”

Really? Please explain Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, if you please.

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Pat ONeill
11 months ago

Please see above my reply to Jo B. As to Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, the tablets uncovered at Nuzi, Mari, etc. show the general custom/law of the period. Where the wife was barren, or had not produced a child, the husband, with the wife’s consent, had the right to have intercourse, often/usually in the wife’s presence, with the wife’s hand maid. The ensuing child was regarded as that of the husband and wife, and was destined to inherit, until and unless there should be born a natural child of the husband and wife. Such natural child displaced the adopted child.… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Alexander Thomson
Mark
Mark
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

While you might argue your way into heaven, and me out of it, thankfully I have another advocate, so peace be with you

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Mark
11 months ago

I don’t understand your remark, as I hadn’t read anything from you, so I couldn’t be replying to you! Will you please enlighten me? The only advocate whom we have is a man, Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 02:05), the very one who gave us the strictest teaching about marriage etc. Yes, thank God for Jesus’ advocacy when we have sinned; but, no, his words cannot be used to condone – let alone court – sin. Peace be with you also

Mark
Mark
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

Thank you for your response and request, Alexander. You are right, we don’t know one another in this forum, but I was responding to your comments here personally because I recognise their hyper-legal approach as of the kind that seeks to condemn me (among others) personally. My apprehension is confirmed as you now appear to be suggesting that I am condoning or even ‘courting’ sin. If I did not take religious questions seriously I might happily ignore such a proposition — as indeed do increasing numbers of the people that we have both (I assume) been called to serve in… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

So in fact your statement is not true: ‘sexual activity is permitted only between one man and one woman, neither of whom (at least during the lifetime of the other) may have sexual intercourse with a third person.’ You need to add, ‘but this absolute rule is qualified in the case of human beings who are owned by other human beings. In certain circumstances, sex may be had with them with impunity.’

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
11 months ago

It’s most certainly not the case that the New Covenant permits any such thing! Jesus teaches his disciples, not the world; and what he teaches his disciples is clear and strict.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

Your statement in full said, ‘The Biblical doctrine is clear from Genesis to Revelation : sexual activity is permitted only between none man and one woman, neither of whom (at least during the lifetime of the other) may have sexual intercourse with a third person.’ The point I am making is that ‘from Genesis to Revelation’ the case is far from clear. You said yourself that what Abraham and Sarah did was seen as acceptable in their culture and is so reported in Genesis. If by ‘from Genesis to Revelation’ you actually mean ‘from Matthew to Revelation’, then you may… Read more »

David Rowett
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

My copy of ANET was a casualty of my own divorce, so I can’t check the accuracy of the reference to the Nuzi, etc texts (and my Akkadian is a bit rusty these days – isn’t Enuma Elish a singer of popular music of some description?). However, I’d question the helpfulness of taking a text from a near eastern culture and applying it brightly with the intention of proclaiming ‘and this shows us why Abraham was entirely righteous and moral….’ So ANE culture permits the taking of a surrogate? I don’t see how that legitimises the practice sufficiently to gain… Read more »

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  David Rowett
10 months ago

Did I say that Abraham was entirely righteous and moral? He lived in an ANE culture, and so he followed at least some ANE customs. But ANE custom/law rendered his conduct socially and legally acceptable. God used all this, not to approve of taking another wife etc. – there is no exhortation to follow him! – but to further His patient plan to bring in, and to teach us about, the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. If you don’t accept that the Gospels record the “veritas narrati” or the “veritas narrationis”, what’s the point of reading them? The verb “apoluein”… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Pat ONeill
11 months ago

To quote Mark The Thinking Anglicans Commenter, not The Evangelist:-), while you might argue your way into Heaven, your flat assertion that the Holy Scriptures endorse only marriage between one man and one woman, The Jewish Scriptures are full of people (often at the top of society) who routinely did otherwise. What we call “marriage” is a civil institution, thank you, Struggling Anglican, created by human beings. Houses of worship then rushed in to make themselves dispensable to its enactment. (I’m always amused when ignorant reporters write/say two people consummated their marriage at the altar. That must get a few… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
11 months ago

Nobody’s mentioned the great King David, who had more than a few parallel, simultaneous wives and yet was a ‘man after God’s heart’. Idealised principles are one thing – and we all have them – coping with the realities of life is another.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

Ahem, quite a bit of flexibility around marriage, certainly as far as men are concerned, in the Hebrew Bible.

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Fr Dean
11 months ago

But, have you not read that the Old Covenant has been abolished, and that Jesus Christ has brought in the New Covenant? He it is who taught us stricter things than Moses ever did!

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

“have you not read that the Old Covenant has been abolished”
18 million Jews would like to have a word with you.
And my understanding of what Christianity teaches about Jesus is Jesus came to “fulfill” the Jewish Scriptures, NOT abolish it.

Last edited 11 months ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
11 months ago

Well said, Peter. That isndeed what Jesus said his mission was – and that he came not to condemn the world but to redeem it.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

Alexander, I think it was you who took us back to Genesis. Once we arrive in the new covenant; marriage is for weak people who cannot cope with St Paul’s preferred model, that of celibacy. Jesus is also dismissive of the importance of family relationships. I wonder if in your hermeneutical desire to present heterosexual marriage as the only ideal, you’ve overlooked texts that considerably muddy the waters of your argument.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

I can see why you think that but Jesus’s teaching is rarely absolute and so often “it depends” is part of it. If you look at Matthew 19:8-9 we can see it for”one flesh”. ‘Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”’ So divorce and remarriage is possible in the case of sexual immorality. In other words, if a marriage breaks down so far that one… Read more »

Alexander Thomson
Alexander Thomson
Reply to  Kate
11 months ago

Matthew is the Gospel-writer who has the so-called ‘exceptive clause’ and he records the Pharisees and Jesus as using the same word – Greek “apoluein” = put away /etc.”. And it is Matthew, at Matthew 01:19, who uses the same word about Joseph’s intention to “put away” Mary. This lawful “putting away” is not divorce after marriage : it is the lawful decision of the one party to resile, during the period of betrothal/engagement, from the intended legal marriage, should immortality be found in the other party. Just as with Abraham’s case, Jesus’ teaching is illuminated by knowledge of Jewish… Read more »

David Rowett
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

‘…should immortality be found in the other party.’ This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.”

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

I assume that there was no sex during the betrothal period? So what you are claiming is that certain celibate committed relationships were binding and could only be left if there was sexual infidelity. So the “one flesh” stuff doesn’t come into it. What’s the difference then between a celibate same sex civil marriage and one of these relationships? There isn’t. Essentially you are arguing for the full acceptance of same sex relationships if they are celibate. (I don’t, however, accept your argument in the first place because for me the telling word isn’t “divorce” but “wives”. I think this… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Alexander Thomson
11 months ago

It seems perfectly reasonable to believe that God made human beings with the tendency to pair bond for life whether they are Christians or Samoan Green Turtle Worshippers.
To make such a crucial distinction is possibly a pious construct and dubious theology.
Was not JND Anderson also a Professor of Oriental Law?
Being a devout lawyer is not necessarily a guarantee of theological perspicacity.

Lottie E Allen
11 months ago

Re Iain McLean Thank you for this very thoughtful piece. There is an alternative tactic. There are now two legal codes in England concerning marriage. That of the State as refined in the Same Sex Marriage Act 2013. And that of the Church of England. This is both unsustainable and indefensible. The Church of England needs to marry everyone, or marry no one. There is an alternative. A one clause Cross Party Bill revoking Part II of the Marriage Act 1949. Then the Church of England can marry no one. We are a deeply secular multi cultural and multi faith… Read more »

Jonathan Chaplin
Jonathan Chaplin
Reply to  Lottie E Allen
11 months ago

Agreed.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Lottie E Allen
11 months ago

This is, I believe exactly what already happens with people of other faiths, such as Sikh or Hindu. (I’m fortunate to have had many friends in both). The legal marriage is a civil one, which takes place in a registrar’s office, followed by a ceremony in their particular place of worship. I think this is also what happens on the European mainland, particularly in France. As a simple matter of fact, Jill (my wife) and I had the same arrangement – Jill, as a divorcee didn’t feel happy with a church wedding, so we went to our registrar’s office. A… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Lottie E Allen
11 months ago

Oddly enough, on this side of the pond, some supporters of same-sex marriage have proposed that GOVERNMENT get out of the marriage business all together–that the state has no business saying who is married and who is not.

Lottie
Lottie
Reply to  Pat ONeill
10 months ago

That is very interesting. Can you provide a reference to read?

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Lottie
10 months ago

No….but it has never been considered as a serious proposal. There are too many issues–taxes, child-care, Social Security, inheritance–that marriage is integral to and government must have laws that cover them.

Lottie
Lottie
Reply to  Pat ONeill
10 months ago

That makes sense. What Ben Bradshaw MP is currently doing in the House of Commons is important and worth following. But I think the alternative tactic of repealing Part II of the Marriage Act 1949 is worth thinking through.

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