This piece has been doing the rounds. It’s really rather wonderfully provocative.
OK, let’s step back. What does any of this have to do with views on marriage? Well, I know that we’ve had years of criminally one-sided media coverage, cowardly political leaders and elite cultural views that have conveyed to you that the only reason anyone might think sexual complementarity is key to marriage is bigotry. You may have even internalized this message. You may need to hold on to this belief for reasons of tribalism or pride. But in the spirit of Jon Stewart’s poster shown up at the top, which reads, “I may disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” let’s go on an open-minded journey where we seek to understand the views of others without characterizing them as Hitler-like. It’s difficult in these times, but we can do it.
OK. We probably already understand relationships have value, right? Assuming we’re not sociopaths, we do. So what is the difference between marriage and other relationships? There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?
Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. Knocking boots. The bump and grind. Dancing in the sheets. Making the beast with two backs. Doing the cha-cha. And so on and so forth. And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.
In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this.
Now if one wants to change marriage laws to reflect something else, that’s obviously something that one can aim to do. We’ve seen the rapid, frequently unthinking embrace of that change in recent years, described one year ago in the humanist and libertarian magazine Spiked as “a case study in conformism” that should terrify “anyone who values diversity of thought and tolerance of dissent.” Perhaps there should have been a bit of a burden of proof on those who wanted to change the institution — something beyond crying “Bigot!” in a crowded theater. Perhaps advocates of the change should have explained at some point, I don’t know, what singles out marriage as unique from other relationships under this new definition. What is marriage? That’s a good question to answer, particularly if you want to radically alter the one limiting factor that is present throughout all history. Once we get an answer for what this new marriage definition is, perhaps our media and other elites could spend some time thinking about the consequences of that change. Does it in any way affect the right of children to be raised by their own mother and father? Have we forgotten why that’s an important norm? Either way, does it change the likelihood that children will be raised by their own mother and father? Does it by definition make that an impossibility for whatever children are raised by same-sex couples? Do we no longer believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father? Did we forget to think about children in this debate, pretending that it’s only about adults? In any case, is this something that doesn’t matter if males and females are interchangeable? Is it really true that there are no significant differences between mothers and fathers? Really? Are we sure we need to accept that lie? Are we sure we want to?
I wrote a week or so ago about using some statistical methodology to try and predict the forthcoming General Election in the UK. I’ve now undertaken my first run of the model I developed and the results are below.
Remember, the model works on the following basis:
A statistical model that looks at historical trends for each party of the movement of the polls from x months before the election to the actual point of the election
Multi-variate analysis looking at the spread of the party’s support in the current polls
Based on 1 and 2, a projection simulation of the actual election next year. I run 2,000 random simulations and analyse the results to produce the results below.
Remember, the model is based on the party’s opinion poll support moving as expected before the next General Election. If the support doesn’t move as expected over the next few months then the model will self-correct and respond to the new situation.
The following table is the mid-point prediction – i.e. of the 2,000 simulations this is the most likely outcome.
Prediction Range (95% CI)
311 – 343
233 – 290
7 – 21
9 – 40 / 2 – 7
Other specific predictions
Conservative Overall Majority
Exact Seat Tie Con / Lab
Most Seats in Scotland – Labour
Most Seats in Scotland – SNP
Most Seats in Scotland – Tie
I need to do some more work on the Scottish component of the model as I suspect it is over-predicting the SNP share. I will therefore try and get some more data on Scottish polling and see if I can forecast the move from polls to outcome in that area.
A senior Church of England clergyman yesterday became the first to enter into a gay marriage – in direct defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – plunging the Church into a fresh crisis.
Canon Jeremy Pemberton tied the knot with Laurence Cunnington under new laws allowing same-sex marriages pushed through by David Cameron in the face of bitter opposition from backbench MPs and the Church.
But Canon Pemberton, 58, now faces disciplinary action from the Church and could be expelled from his work as a priest because the House of Bishops has barred clergy from entering such unions, saying they undermine its traditional teaching that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Although the Church of England formally objected to the introduction of gay marriage and has opted out of performing the ceremonies, there have been growing signs of a more relaxed stance on homosexuality. Bishops agreed that gay couples who get married will be able to ask for special prayers after the ceremony.
However, on Saturday night the Rev Preb Rod Thomas, chairman of the Reform evangelical group, said: “There’s no doubt that there is pressure within some parts of the church for the Church to change its mind on sexuality.
“If there is not clear discipline then it is the equivalent to saying ‘we really didn’t mean what we said.’ It will precipitate a crisis.”
He warned that traditionalists “who stick by the biblical understanding” of marriage would be unable to accept a “messy compromise”, potentially leading to a situation similar to in the US where a traditionalist splinter Church has emerged from the liberal Episcopal Church.
However, the Rev Colin Coward, a friend of Canon Pemberton’s and director of the Changing Attitude campaign group, of which he is a former trustee, said: “I’m really, really happy for Jeremy and his partner that they are finally able to get married after a long time of being together as a couple.
“I hope the bishops find a way to affirm and bless their relationship rather than taking action against them.”
Dr Giles Fraser, the former canon chancellor of St Paul’s, also congratulated the couple.
The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev Christopher Lowson, said: “I am aware that a member of the clergy who works in the Diocese of Lincoln has married a partner of the same sex. The priest concerned wrote to me in advance to explain his intention and we had a subsequent meeting in which I explained the guidelines of the House of Bishops.”
What do I think? Well first, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting at some point with both of them and have always found them courteous and pleasant. Laurence has commented a number of times on this blog and you can see from this interaction in particular that he is not in any sense a radical. I think we’re all big enough to realise we can (profoundly) disagree with people and still get on with them, so let’s try and do that. And that attempt to be courteous includes reflecting on the way some conservatives continue to use “marriage” and “husband” when referring to such relationships. Jeremy and Laurence got married (no quotes). They are husband and husband (no quotes). These are legal facts and we should recognise and accept them.
Second, (and speaking of legal facts) it’s very clear now that the Bishop of Lincoln cannot avoid having to make a decision about Canon Pemberton’s future licensing. The story is in two national newspapers and given that he’s admitted he knows about it he will need to take some form of action. But don’t expect anything too soon – the CDM process (forget the nonsense about the Ecclesiastical Jursidiction Measure) takes time and it is unlikely (though not improbable) that Canon Pemberton will be “suspended” in any way pending the outcome of the disciplinary process. And get out of your head any notion that because Bishop Lowson is a liberal he will go easy on Pemberton – if anything it will work the other way as the Bishop of Lincoln will not want to be seen as undermining the collegiality of the House.
Third, we need to pray for our Bishops and senior leaders as they deal with this. There will be some very hard decisions to make and its likely that attempts will be made to placate both sides at some point. Remember that an individual decision made by an individual leader does not necessarily indicate the direction of travel for the whole higher cadre of the Church of England.
We are cursed, as someone said, to live in interesting times…
Q1 What are your views about abolishing the legal relationship of civil partnership once same sex couples can marry?
This response to the Consultation is sent on behalf of the Church of England. The content of the submission is based on the views of the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops.
We believe that civil partnership should not be abolished.
When civil partnership was introduced, it addressed the widely acknowledged problem that same sex couples, many of whom were in long term, faithful relationships intended to be permanent, did not share the same kind of legal position enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, such as the rights of next-of-kin, inheritance and pension rights and so on. The Church of England recognises that same sex relationships often embody fidelity and mutuality. Civil partnerships enable these Christian virtues to be recognised socially and legally in a proper framework.
The introduction of same sex marriage now offers an alternative way for same sex couples to secure those advantages. It is, however, too soon to know what proportion of people currently in civil partnerships will wish to convert them into marriage and how many people may in future decide to enter a civil partnership rather than marry. And whatever the numbers turn out to be, abolishing civil partnership would pose an invidious choice for those who may, on grounds of religious conviction or for other reasons, not wish to enter a same sex marriage.
Whilst civil partnership and marriage confer effectively the same legal standing upon a relationship, there remain important differences. The differences are especially important for
many Christians who accept the churches’ traditional teaching both on marriage and on sexual behaviour. As civil partnership is not marriage and also involves no presumption that the relationship is sexually active, it offers an important structure for the public validation of the relationship of a same sex couple who wish to live in accordance with the church’s traditional teaching. If civil partnership was to be abolished, such couples would be faced with the unjust choice of either marrying (which might conflict with their religious beliefs about the nature of marriage) or losing all public and legal recognition of their relationship.
Q2 Once marriage is available to same sex couples, do you think it should still bepossible for couples to form a civil partnership as an alternative to marrying?
Yes. For the reasons outlined above, we believe strongly that the option of civil partnership should remain open for same sex couples who do not believe that marriage is right for them. This is more than a matter of personal preference. In the debate leading up to the legislation on same sex marriage, many of those who opposed the legislation did so on the grounds that, whilst same sex couples should have every legal entitlement that was available to heterosexual couples, the single word “marriage” was being used to denote two different kinds of relationship. That view did not prevail in Parliament, but it continues to be held by a significant number of people in the country and not just by Christians.
The retention of civil partnership will mean that Christian and other same sex couples who hold the traditional understanding of marriage as being between a man and a woman, will still have a social and legal framework in which their relationship can be honoured and recognised. We believe that this constituency for civil partnership extends beyond those who chose civil partnership over marriage on religious grounds.
Q3 What are your views about extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples?
We do not believe that a case has been made for extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples. Our arguments for the retention of civil partnership are based on the need to maintain an option for those same sex couples who wish for proper recognition of their relationship but do not believe that their relationship is identical to “marriage”. It is much less clear what comparable disadvantage arises from the absence of opportunity for opposite sex couples to form civil partnerships.
It will be interesting to see what the Government ends up doing with Civil Partnerships. As the Church’s response points out later on, the idea that they just convert all Civil Partnerships to marriages is a nonsense.
God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Aber mit der Heimat
geht man immer herum,
durch die Welt,
dort und dort
No one could describe
the Word of the Father;
but when He took flesh from you, O Theotokos,
He consented to be described, and restored the fallen image to its former beauty.
We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and image.
Kontakion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy