Statement from Bishops on Same-Sex Marriage

It’s good.

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23.  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’ that they may be ‘a pattern and example to Christ’s people’. 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.  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; 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 accepted ‘ (Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991, Section 5.13).

25.  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.  Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England.  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.  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.  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: “I 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.

“So 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.”

He added: “It is not only a dog’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]…. The reality is that dishonesty and hypocrisy is becoming more and more apparent.”

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?

12 Comments on “Statement from Bishops on Same-Sex Marriage

  1. Honestly, I’m surprised. I thought they’d OK “celibate” civil marriages between gay couples.

    Insofar as they’ve finally stopped wriggling, I agree, it is good. The liberals may now, finally, a quarter century too late, begin to fight.

    They’ll have a lot of allies.

    • While there was a genuine quandary over the sexual nature of civil partnerships, there is no such uncertainty over the sexual *nature* of marriage.

      Whatever a couple might personally agree between themselves, if sexual activity was not a common expectation of the institution of marriage, the denial of it would not legally regarded as unreasonable behaviour.

      • As conservatives said endlessly, consummation wasn’t extended to same-sex marriage. I thought the bishops would’ve been clever and waffled on about celibacy.

        They weren’t. More fool them.

        • Non-consummation is only applicable to annulment and it doesn’t extend to SSM. The case law is very clear.

          The issue of unreasonable behaviour relates to what is legally considered intolerable, including the neglect of sexual activity, as grounds for divorce.

          • Advocates of marriage equality are doing the work of Satan? Well, I admire your certainty!

            You’re right, the argument would be convoluted nonsense, but so is pretending that homosexual relationships are “friendships,” and civil partnerships an institution to uphold celibacy.

            The bishops’ contortions finally ran out of space.

            • I have no interest in defending the bishops’ pronouncements. You can make what you will of them.

              Thus far, what the church leadership can do and has done is to adapt to existing national institutions and customs in a manner that doesn’t directly contradict the Law and the Prophets and the apostolic tradition.

              In respect of the ‘sons of darkness’ statement, you seem to miss the point of the parable of that preceded it. The darkness refers not to consciously doing the work of Satan, but the moral myopia of tactical decisions, so shrewdly exploited to get what we want, only to losing sight of their uselessness to eternal well-being.

              More fools than those deemed too naive to capitalise decisively are those who miss the eternal futility of worldly gain.

  2. The pastoral letter that introduces the Appendix is worryingly one-sided. It leans well over to the revisionist side. I supposed that might be tactical because the Appendix seems slightly more conservative than its predecessors… It makes clear that all Anglicans should follow church teaching (while still preventing clergy from disciplining or even questioning laity about their relationships)! It also says that clergy should explain the church’s teaching to people who ask for prayer for their same-sex relationship.

    What concerns me most is the promise of talks (to start this summer, I think) as if there is any real prospect of agreement or even mutual recognition. I expect the opposite trajectory because:
    1. For the one side this is a fundamental question of human equality while on the other it is a fundamental question of Gods revealed Will (in Scripture and Nature).
    2. The politics: conservatives already seem to have been excluded from the House of Bishops – If the House can’t find a way to include conservative Christians, what chance does the rest of the CofE have?

    • Plenty evangelicals are joining the affirming camp: David Runcorn, Steve Chalke, Rachel Held Evans. I don’t know Jody Stowell’s exact position, but she found Fulcrum’s line too restrictive.

      Hopefully we’ll see open evangelical bishops like Pete Broadbent there before too long.

      • James, it doesn’t matter who thinks what, The only issue is what God’s Will is… And same-sex sex is clearly not His Will unless you think that Our will is His Will?

        • Since I don’t believe the Bible to be inerrant revelation, I don’t claim to know God’s will, clearly or otherwise.

        • You’re right, but just realise that you are contending against scepticism. At least, the Epicureans and Stoics claimed to have answers to, at least. some of the questions.

          In contrast, sceptics try to establish the notion that nothing can be known for certain, yet that very notion would itself be uncertain.

          They are therefore incapable of making definitive statements about anything because nothing is ever really settled. Of course, in practical terms, they are ready to espouse beliefs or opinions, provided it be understood that they do not know for certain that these beliefs are true.

          It’s people like this that Augustine challenges in his ‘Contra Academicos’. As one writer describes the conclusion: Accordingly, any Scepticism which attempts to establish an absolute gulf between
          thought and being is defeated from the outset. The answer to the Sceptical
          question is the Sceptic himself inasmuch as in his own activity he directly
          unites the very terms, being and appearance, that he would hold forever apart.

          St.Paul said this about rejecting open-ended philosophical enquiry and concentrating on the gospel: ‘These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies (zetesis) and quarrels about words (logomachy) that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suppositions and constant friction between people of degenerated mind, who have been robbed of the truth.
          We know the kind of person who’s doing that in our midst.

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