23.Â At ordination clergy make a declaration that they will endeavour to fashion their own life and that of their household ‘according to the way of Christ’Â that they may be ‘a pattern and example to Christ’s people’.Â A requirement as to the manner of life of the clergy is also directly imposed on the clergy by Canon C 26, which says that ‘at all times he shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.’
24. Â The implications of this particular responsibility of clergy to teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church have been explained as follows;Â ‘The Church is also bound to take care that the ideal is not misrepresented or obscured; and to this end the example of its ordained ministers is of crucial significance. This means that certain possibilities are not open to the clergy by comparison with the laity, something that in principle has always been acceptedÂ ‘Â (Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991, Section 5.13).
25.Â The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.
26.Â Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. Â The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be honoured as a matter of integrity.
27.Â Â The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.
28.Â The Church of England has a long tradition of tolerating conscientious dissent and of seeking to avoid drawing lines too firmly, not least when an issue is one where the people of God are seeking to discern the mind of Christ in a fast changing context. Neverthless at ordination clergy undertake to ‘accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it.‘ We urge all clergy to act consistently with that undertaking.
All those emphases are the Bishops’ not mine.
John Bingham in the Telegraph points out the obvious challenge that will come from liberals.
The Rev Colin Coward, director of the Changing Attitude group, said: â€œI know of at least one couple, including a priest, who have already booked their wedding and told his bishop that he has got a date booked.
â€œSo the Church is going to have to confront the reality that clergy couples will be getting married and the question of what kind of action individual bishops are going to take against such people.â€
He added: â€œIt is not only a dogâ€™s breakfast but many inside the Church know perfectly well that significant numbers of bishops already break the guidelines [by ordaining non celibate gay clergy]â€¦. The reality is that dishonesty and hypocrisy is becoming more and more apparent.â€
I suspect the legal challenges may begin shortly, but whilst we do so, perhaps a moment for those utterly skeptical as to the ability of conservative Bishops in the Church of England to hold the line to pause for thought?