The Oncoming Storm

Gay MarriageForget dealing with Pilling. That is a relatively easy job; set up a “facilitated conversation” (this will take a few months), engage in the facilitated conversation (this will take two years, as recommended by Sir Joseph), report back on the facilitated conversation (this will take half a year). Bingo, you’ve pushed off the debate for another three years. Oh and giving churches free licence to bless relationships won’t happen until that is over – that’s a minefield ++Justin doesn’t want to walk into just yet. Far better to shove it off into the future for deliberation (read “internecine apocalypse”) in a few years time.

Forget all that. There is another much more imminent storm coming that we have largely forgotten about in our debate over Pilling. It is the simple matter of how the House of Bishops will approach clergy entering into same-sex marriages. I understand that this was discussed at the last House of Bishops meeting and may be touched on when the College of Bishops (i.e. not just the Diocesans but the Suffragans as well) meets next week.

The issue is obviously sticky. Unlike civil partnerships which are ostensibly celibate relationships which *may* be sexual, same-sex marriage is, as a mirror of traditional marriage, an explicitly sexual relationship. Not only that, the doctrine of the Church of England is still that marriage is between a man and a woman, so two women getting married is a clear rejection of that teaching. Any clergy entering such a relationship will be blatantly and publicly rejecting and renouncing the Church’s teaching in this area.

On the other hand, the lawyers in Lambeth Palace and Church House are currently tearing out the little remaining hair that they have in their heads after working through Women Bishops on trying to get round the fact that entering into a same-sex marriage is essentially a basic civil right in England and Wales (as of this Spring). And of course this is essentially a no-win situation – if the House of Bishops ban clergy from entering same-sex marriage the revisionists will scream blue murder (and some of them are planning to enter into such marriages regardless to test the Bishops’ instructions) and if they don’t then the conservatives will, quite rightly, claim that the House of Bishops have effectively changed the doctrine of the Church on sex and marriage by the back door.

Does anyone have an Oxbridge College Justin can go and be Master of? It might be an easier ride….

54 Comments on “The Oncoming Storm

  1. let them scream… Changing Attitude have been screaming about this for long enough with no effect; I’m quite sure some more screaming won’t make much difference… I doubt it would even get much press coverage in the MSM given how little pilling made the news- pretty much everyone expects the CofE to be opposed to gay relationships already; they’d make more headlines if the acquiesced and rolled over.

  2. Can you please turn off the pop-up sidebar which obscures the text which you have written? It makes it very difficult indeed to read your blog.

      • You’re lucky this blog is so interesting; I wouldn’t stand for all the floating widgets on lesser blogs.

      • It’s a big, new monitor with a powerful video card, running at full resolution. There is nowhere else to go to avoid the irritating blocks following the screen as it scrolls. Except to avoid your website, which would be a pity.

          • Yes, the pop-ups which have suddenly arrived are irritating… I have a thing bottom right called “Recommended for you” with no apparent way of clicking it off-screen, and a bloc of squares on the left relating to Facebook, Twitter, e-mailing, printing and something else with an orange plus sign – all of which are more than a tad distracting… Can you de-clutter please? Thanks!

  3. “Unlike civil partnerships which are ostensibly celibate relationships
    which *may* be sexual, same-sex marriage is, as a mirror of traditional
    marriage, an explicitly sexual relationship.” Peter Ould

    Well, yes and no. Para. 383 of the Pilling report states: “…same sex marriage (which, like civil partnerships, makes no assumption, in law, about sexual activity).” might be the let-out clause which allows bishops to regard same-sex civil marriages in the same light as they do civil partnerships.

    The ‘liberal’ bishops can continue to turn a blind eye and quote this legal nicety in their defence and the ‘conservative’ bishops can also carry on as before – which probably means blocking gay clergy in any form of partnership (informal, CP or civil marriage) from employment in a particular diocese in the first place, just as they are currently entitled to do.

    On a side note, I would be disappointed if any member of CofE clergy were to enter a same-sex civil marriage merely in order to “test the Bishops’ instructions”. Surely these marriages (even if as a conservative one does not consider them to be real marriages at all) would be contracted for more substantive reasons than that?

    Laurence Cunnington

    • This. We’ll end up in the absurd situation of the CofE promoting celibate marriages for gay people. Because one man, 2,000 years ago, said so, no reason given.

      I think we need to rejig our terminology here. Is “liberal” really an appropriate term for a bishop who pays lip service to compulsory celibacy for gay people, and does nothing to oppose current policy, or discrimination by other bishops?

      “Moderate” would be better. Of the Letter from Birmingham Jail mould.

  4. Other-sex couples don’t have to consummate as long as both spouses agree. If one does want to consummate and the other doesn’t (within 6 months in the case law I believe) then the marriage can be annulled. Later on refusal to have sex can be part of the grounds for divorce under unreasonable behaviour.

    • In all forms of contract law, there can be a delay between agreement and fulfilment, resulting in a two-stage process. Even Jewish marriage consists of two stages:

      Kiddushin: the legal formality of betrothal;

      Nisu’in: the home-taking;

      A lack of fulfilment does not always completely relieve either party of obligation. Nevertheless, a spouse’s claim of non-consummation is legally recognised as a fundamental repudiation of their marriage agreement. It is evidence that the other party had either no intention or capacity to be bound by marriage’s reasonable and most fundamental capacity recognised by law: heterosexual union.

      What we now have under the SSM Act are types of relationships that the State has decided to recognise as marriage, that are naturally void of marriage’s reasonable and most fundamental capacity.

      What I find is thoroughly disingenuous is the attempt of gay marriage proponents to frame consummation as another form of discrimination.
      By that theory, any legal differentiation is discrimination. In which case, any ‘age of consent’ laws should repealed, since they ‘discriminate’ against adults…and children.

  5. I think there is reason behind this loss of hair!

    And all those of us with a civil partnership are required to do is fill in a form and send it off with £65.

      • I assume so, Peter.

        I have argued elsewhere that if the government press forward with their “conversion” mechanism then it will (genuinely) constitute a redefinition of marriage.

        Even if the conversion document contains an assent to the vows, it will make marriage a different sort of thing for us. We have pressed for this to be changed but were firmly rebuffed. The ideologues, it seems, want no chance for their doctrine that civil partnerships ARE marriage in all but name to be undermined.

        • One of the reasons I mention it here is that as I understand it this will be a private matter, not a publicly declared service open to all.
          I can only imagine it would be impossible to police.

        • So, like the rest of us, you don’t get to have an opinion on what marriage is if it disagrees with the ideologues? The idealogues are making my head hurt.

      • There will be three “layers” of legal marriage:

        1. Actual marriages.
        2. Marriages with a vow of permanence but no sexual activity (and therefore no vow of fidelity).
        3. Converted CP’s – no vow of permanence and no sexual activity (and therefore no vow of fidelity).

        To paraphrase Bruce Lee, we could call 3 “the art of marrying without marrying”.

      • The infallibility or otherwise of Jesus isn’t the issue, since we don’t have Jesus, we have translations of his words, written down after some 40 years, having passed through goodness only knows how many intermediaries.

        • I think I read somewhere that stories didn’t tend to acquire “extras” until about 100 years after the event. Also, the disciples were from a society whose thought process was primarily oral even though some of them could read. I believe that people currently from non literate cultures have a massively better memory than those from Western culture.

          • Even if you’re right, this doesn’t take account of the translation from Aramaic to Greek, or deliberate alteration by the gospel authors.

            It’s curious, when biblical authority rests on unprovable supernatural claims, that these naturalistic apologetics are also crafted.

            • I take your point about translation from Aramaic to Greek, but as someone on the science side of things, it has always been very important to me that there is good evidence that the gospels are reliable documents and that Christianity is about reality. I know you can’t “prove” God mathematically but there is plenty of evidence……I don’t think I’d find it easy to believe if there wasn’t.

              • The notion that the Gospels were first written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek is not a theory held by many. For a start, where are all the Aramaic texts?

                • I suppose I just meant that yes I accepted that although the gospels were written in Greek, those who wrote them would have had to translate Jesus’ original Aramaic words……I don’t necessarily think that the meaning was changed.

            • I’m a scientist, so naturalistic apologetics are quite important to me. I’m naturally a doubting Thomas so I tend to need evidence which I at least find convincing before I believe something.

        • That’s not what you said, though. You said ‘We’ll end up in the absurd situation of the CofE promoting celibate marriages for gay people. Because one man, 2,000 years ago, said so’.

          • I was referring to Paul of Tarsus, since Corinthians and Romans are the proof-texts that get wheeled out the most.

            • Oh, I see. I just assumed by ‘a man 2000 years ago’ you meant Jesus. My mistake. Though, if you’re talking about Paul, he does actually give a pretty clear explanation as to why same-sex sexual activity is wrong. Whether you agree with him or not is another matter, of course.

                • Because (in spite of the committed friendships in the Bible
                  that liberal theologians presume to be faithful and gay) same-sex sexual activity: ἀφέντες (abandoned) τὴν (the) φυσικὴν (natural, original) χρῆσιν (use, function) τῆς (of the) θηλείας (woman).
                  According to Romans, it is a concomitant symptom of dismissing the goodness that God invested in the original function of the sexes during coition.

                  • When I sing I abandon the natural purpose of the mouth. Pretty much all of human culture is predicated on ‘abandoning’ the natural use of our bodies. And I really am not sure women have a ‘natural use,’ like pencils. Even in the natural world, very few things have a single purpose. Last, any non-reproductive use of sex has traditionally been seen as contrary to natural law in Christian thought, if this is the argument you want to make, I do hope you direct it at me from a position of integrity.

                    Now where do you read that God invested the ‘original function of the sexes during coition’ (whatever that may mean) with goodness? Everything, from the woman’s attraction to the man who will rule over her, to the painful mechanics of childbirth, is supposed to be the result of a curse in Genesis, if memory serves. The command to be fruitful and multiply, however, is what we have in common with all animals, whether they walk, fly, creep, lay eggs or hermaphroditically divide, no mention of coition is made.

                    I really am not willing to move on and you don’t need to translate the Greek for my sake, been teaching it for decades.

                    • I’m not sure this is the most fruitful line of argument, anyway. What is good in general is not necessarily good universally. It is good for people to be medical doctors, but since the world needs more than one profession, it would not be good for everyone to be a medical doctor. Similarly, it does not follow from the fact that heterosexual intercourse is (let’s agree) required for reproduction and therefore valuable, that it would be similarly valuable for the lives of all persons to include reproduction through heterosexual intercourse.

                      Anyway, this is all an example of naturalistic fallacy. Even if something could be said to have a natural “purpose” in the reductive way indicated above, it does not follow that other purposes are immoral; or indeed, that the natural purpose is moral.

                    • They would not, Gn 1-2 is an account of the beginnings of humankind, of course it presupposes heterosexual union, but it does not follow that because something is (very qualifiedly) commended in the text that everything else is forbidden.

                    • To clarify, are you disagreeing with Paul’s reasoning, or do you think the Church has been misinterpreting him for all these years?

                    • 1. A human member does not have to have a single purpose, but this scripture in Romans is not about an added function that your analogy of the mouth describes. It is about the application of our organs to a particular purpose. It is about a decisive abandonment of original function in fulfilling a particular purpose: sexual union.

                      2. Even though your analogy is poor because there is no major sexual differentiation of the mouth, the comparison would be a voice that will only communicate by singing. A better analogy would be advocate that since men also have nipples, a pre-disposition of certain men to attempt to breast-feed is normal.

                      3. The mode of sexual differentiation described in Genesis as specific to mankind immediately precedes its purpose: ‘For this cause…and they two shall be one flesh’. This is different from other forms of life. Christ certainly does not inveigh against the Animal Kingdom for its short-lived couplings. The greater divine intimacy involved ingin demands greater accountability. The diiferentiation occurs before the Fall and undergirds Christ case against divergence from God’s archetype for marriage in respect of divorce, so why not against divergence from God’s archetype for marriage in the respective gender of spouses?

                      This varies from the general blessing of fruitfulness. While ‘one flesh’ union of ed by God and preceded the Fall, it is specifically the divinely prescribed remedy of ‘not good that man should be alone’.

                    • Certainly the Genesis account doesn’t allow for homosexuality or for gay relationships, but what of it? Both human sexuality and the universe in general are more complicated than the authors of Genesis supposed – far more complicated and a great deal more interesting.

                    • ‘But what of it? Both human sexuality and the universe in general are more complicated than the authors of Genesis supposed’

                      Let’s think about that. So, instead of the more complicated view of sexual relations negotiated by the Law of Moses, Jesus resorts to what you present as a far more naive view in terms of the permanence of the marital bond. By extension, He would undoubtedly resort to this as the archetype of sexual relations, unless you believe that homosexuality deserves a special pleading.

                      So, the Jesus of the gospels clearly sided against the more liberal view of marriage by citing the Genesis. That’s fine by atheists, but for Christians to discount Christ’s moral position is an unconscionable defection.

                    • Even as a proponent of gay marriage, Guglielmo understands the argument. He clarifies that the Genesis account, to which Christ harked back as authoritative in relation to marriage, ‘doesn’t allow for homosexuality or for gay relationships’.

                      I couldn’t put it better than him. But perhaps, you think your comrade in argument is thoroughly mistaken.

                    • The Genesis creation narrative has nothing to say about gay relationships, and I would not expect it to be otherwise: since it is a story about how the human race began, relationships that do not contribute to the propagation of the human race would have no relevance. Even if the authors of Genesis thought that their narrative constituted a complete account of human sexuality, we have no obligation to think so too, any more than we have to accept the primitive view of the universe implied in Genesis 1:16, where God makes a big day light and a small night light for the earth, and then, almost as icing on the cake, gives us a mega-generous sprinkling of little mini-lights.

                      The so-called Law of Moses no doubt expresses a more complicated view of sexual RELATIONS than is given in Genesis, but its unknown authors’ view of human SEXUALITY is not any less simplistic. Its brief references to homosexual behaviour appear to understand it merely as a naughty parody of heterosexual behaviour (“as with a woman”).

                      Fair enough, Jesus quoted the words of Genesis to illustrate his point that marriage is meant to be a permanent covenant – although, to be honest, I have never been fully able to grasp the force of the illustration – but he did so in reply to a question about divorce, not to one about gay relationships. To suppose that the latter were in any way on his mind is quite fanciful. Nor do I see any reason for our understanding of human sexuality to be circumscribed by ancient Hebrew mythology.

                    • Regardless of what you described as simplistic, Christ harked back to it.

                      I don’t have to prove that Jesus had gay relationships in mind at the time. I only have to demonstrate that, for Him, the Genesis account had enduring moral force.

                      You’ve simplistically chosen to ignore aspects of that account that explain the proscriptions that are continued in St.Paul’s declamation against the heathen world. You are trying to justify what the apostolic faith describes as the final concomitant of false worship.

                    • The Genesis account, no matter what its moral force, says nothing about homosexuality or gay relationships.

                      St Paul apparently assumed that homosexuals are simply heterosexuals – although he wouldn’t, of course, have used either of those actual words, which didn’t then exist – who have perversely abandoned their former heterosexual practices and have re-directed their libido towards people of their own sex and started having sex with them instead, and that this “ex-straight lifestyle” is the result of their ceasing to worship God and turning to the worship of images of mortal men, birds, quadrupeds and reptiles (Romans 1). I am not aware of knowing anyone whose sexual history this describes, and I see no reason for us nowadays to take this curious theory any more seriously than the Emperor Justinian’s belief that homosexual behaviour was the cause of famines and earthquakes.

                    • The scale of the Romans 1 condemnation is epic. Paul sees divine retribution as an active principle at work in human society everywhere (all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men) surrendering to their desires those who do not respond with gratitude to His revelation through the gift of creation. They supplant divine order and replace it with their own material priorities. The re-direction of sexual expression is presented on a societal scale, its progressive indulgence of homosexual acts.

                      For some, this is exhibited in the worship of statues. But the same St.Paul sees a far more insidious form of idolatry in Colossians 3:5: πλεονεξίᾳ, the tendency to arrogate, to claim what is not rightfully ours.
                      I’m surprised that you measure the descent into idolatry by the most overt expression of it when we both know that it begins with the intention to supplant the rule of God for our own self-serving purposes. Romans 2 shows that those who are covert in prioritising material desires are no better.

                    • Yes, well, you may subscribe to such far-fetched theories, as is your unquestionable right. I don’t.

                    • Well, Haller is right, I’m afraid.

                      1. Using your wanger for non-penetrative purposes IS an added function, how is it a ‘decisive abandonment’?

                      2. “No major (why major?) differentiation function of the mouth”, means nothing, at least I cannot understand the phrase. The analogy you then propose is no analogy at all and I would never have used it. It is physiologically impossible for men to breast-feed. Without getting into steamy detail, it is blatantly not impossible to use the sexual organs in non-reproductive ways.

                      3. Christ makes no case against ‘divergence from God’s archetype,’ he answers a very pointed question: Is it lawful for a man to repudiate his wife (give her a get, a certificate of divorce, which Moses allowed. Many rabbis have argued in the same fashion. You point out your logical leap yourself: “Christ’s case against divergence from God’s archetype for marriage in respect of divorce, so why not against divergence from God’s archetype for marriage in the respective genders of spouses.” Why argue from indissolubility to gender?

                      4. Marriage is not ’caused’ by sexual differentiation.

                    • Perhaps, you should review the Thinking Anglicans debates thoroughly before you muster an opinion.

                      1. The issue is not whether the male member can function non-penetratively. As I said, ‘a human member does not have to have a single purpose’. The issue is whether that member is re-purposed in sexual acts to *never* achieve sexual union (‘one flesh’), as divinely instigated by sexual differentiation.

                      The ‘never’ is a decisive abandonment of a fundamental part of sexual functioning between sexual partners. It is not based on an individual incapacity, like impotence. It is a constitutive failure. All homosexual relationships will never achieve sexual union as divinely instigated by sexual differentiation.

                      2. Fortunately, the fact that you would never have used my analogy means nothing. The function of the mouth shows no sexual differentiation. For both sexes, they perform the same functions. There is perhaps some sexual differentiation in form. Therefore your buccal analogy is lame.

                      Again, you’re saying an added function (non-reproductive acts) is not impossible. I am saying that a fundamental function of sexual partners in marriage (sexual union, which is not the same as reproduction) should be possible.

                      3. Why argue from indissolubility to gender? Because, otherwise, it becomes a special pleading to invoke solely the bits of Genesis account that tally with your scruples.
                      4. ‘For this cause’: the preposition ‘for’ introduces the intended goal of the preceding account of sexual differentiation: heterosexual union.
                      Sexual differentiation is the divine instigation for a man leaves the descent group to hold fast to his wife, which is marriage. The result being sexual union. Maybe you can find another ’cause’ that precipitates this joining in Genesis.

                  • Which does not mean, of course, that we, getting on for 2,000 years later, are bound by Paul’s thinking on the matter.

    • Especially when Jesus would (depending on your beliefs about incarnation) have been baffled by the very idea of sexual orientation.

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