Canon B30 – Change, Uphold or Ignore

Some great stuff from Andrew Goddard on Fulcrum.

Andrew GoddardIn summary, those clergy who marry someone of the same sex, and those who support them in doing so, appear to be presenting the bishops and wider church with a very hard choice:

  1. Change canon B30 so that marriage is not defined, is re-defined to include same-sex marriage, or is defined without reference to “our Lord’s teaching”
  2. Take some form of disciplinary action against those who act contrary to canon B30 and thus canon C26 by marrying someone of the same sex
  3. Abandon the responsibility to uphold a canon which claims the authority of Christ himself and take no action against ministers who are licensed by bishops to minister in the name of Christ and his church but are openly living in a manner which contradicts what church law says is the teaching of Christ.

My genuine question is whether anyone – whatever their views on same-sex marriage – can see any way out of this difficult set of choices flowing from the arguments presented here about the canons and the decisions of some clergy to marry someone of the same sex.

If not, then unless we agree to end up (perhaps by default and through an attempt at conflict avoidance) in what we all acknowledge is the messy theological and ecclesiological incoherence of option 3, perhaps trying to dress it up as some “via media” or “living with difference”, we now have to grasp the nettle and work out whether we can remain a healthy body united under the same canons and episcopal authority structures by attempting either option 1 or option 2.

I think Andrew nails it. Either the Bishops act or de facto they have changed Church of England doctrine.

33 Comments on “Canon B30 – Change, Uphold or Ignore

      • Acts 28:22: ‘But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect. They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.’

        Strange how God can turn negative PR into missionary opportunity, eh?

        ”But we want to hear what your views are on marriage, for we know that people everywhere are talking against Anglicans who oppose same-sex marriage’

  1. I am sorry but I do not think that Andrew Goddard can frame the arguments about canon law generally or specifically in this way and expect that to be the way it is.
    Disobedience of other Canons appears to be a badge of party affiliation and a mark of thinly veiled contempt for bishops and Church teaching accross the Anglican spectrum. I notice those most keen to advocate the teaching of the Prayer Book never use.
    How is this departure more significant than allowing divorced and remarried clerics?
    Surely the life long nature of marriage is what is being alluded to in the claim for Christ”s imprimatur ….
    I still hear bishops claiming marriage is all that the canon says it is while happily marrying divorcees while the spouse still lives, or people beyond the age of childbirth or barren etc…..

    Why couldn’t a bishop say this too while nodding in the direction of same sex couples?

    Finally, I thought we had already covered this ground, discipline is mostly informal and pastoral, I see no reason why bishops should continue this ancient practice in these cases. So it is more than possible to tick the ticking-off box without fanfare or Andrew’s approval, and still feel able to put your hand up to the relevant canon.

    • ‘I still hear bishops claiming marriage is all that the canon says it is while happily marrying divorcees while the spouse still lives, or people beyond the age of childbirth or barren etc…..’

      Yep. Divorcees can marry once they’ve that divorce is a breach of God’s will for marriage. So, admit that of same-sex relationships and we’ll all be on an even footing.

      References to age and infertility are category confusion. The prohibitions are on types of sexual relationships. Age and infertility are not types of sexual relationships, but individual conditions.

      • The pastoral accommodation for divorce is still a fudge. The canon is clear even if advice to clergy doesn’t abide by it:

        “marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman”

        I think the important words are “in its nature”, it’s not representing God’s ideal for marriage but putting forward an absolute definition.

        • A fudge? Yes, I agree. But this is a church born in enforced compromise, with little room for hard-line Puritans and Popists.

          The reality is that even victims of adultery who wish to marry in church must accept that a second marriage does not represent marriage ‘in its nature’, i
          Your comment on the Fulcrum shows commendable thoughtfulness

      • If your understanding proves correct let us hope that this is a temporary measure while matters are resolved. For all our sakes.
        So, do you think that in the other areas where canons are routinely ignored, circumvented, winked at, that there has been a de facto change of law? Why the panic about this one?

      • If you are referring to the case of Jeremy Pemberton, you are mistaken.

        Laurence Cunnington

        • To be absolutely clear, there has been no withdrawal of PTO and there has been no threat of withdrawal of PTO? From either Southwell Diocese or Lincoln?

          • pushing it, Peter …….
            why would someone discuss this here?
            You have your answer.
            Tell, us!
            Who told you different and when?

            • If I’m wrong it’s incredibly easy for Laurence (or Jeremy) to say “no, that is not true, neither has occured” and the matter would be ended.

                    • “you are mistaken”
                      Pretty unambiguous, it seems to me.
                      So, tell us what bird would give you “accurate” information about something so private and personal relating to another cleric?

                    • and when did you suddenly transform from
                      ” has been removed already”
                      to questioning if this had been “threatened”
                      Sounds like a very questionable fishing exercise to me. Not good!

                    • “You are mistaken”
                      Both explicit and unambiguous. No assumptions.
                      Caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he continued to deny it!

                      Very naughty fishing expedition …….

                    • And yet still no explicit denial. How easy to say “no, that is not true”? How revealing such a statement isn’t forthcoming.

                      Really Martin, I don’t bandy around gossip for the sake of it. I’m sharing what I know to be so and the one person who could easily correct this mistake (as you suggest) doesn’t want to.

                      There again, perhaps Jeremy needs a lawyer for conveyancing……

                    • But Peter, you do this all the time!
                      Andrea won’t talk to me, the bishops ignore my requests for information, etc etc . Then, when someone actually does put you right, does actually bother to talk to you, you set a new set of questions to satisfy your curiosity.
                      Everyone reading this blog now knows that despite what you claim Jeremy still has a PTO.

                    • Look, in all seriousness, I’m not on any kind of fishing exercise. I’m trying to report news. If it turns out that Jeremy hasn’t had his PTO removed but rather has been asked to provide a Bishop with reasons why the Bishop shouldn’t remove the PTO, it pretty much amounts to the same thing.

                      These matters are incredibly important for our church. How (the first) cases like Jeremy’s are resolved will set the pattern for future discipline (or lack of it) in these matters. That Jeremy chose to be the first priest to get married to someone of the same sex is an historical accident but it is also of vital interest for many people on all sides of the debate interested in seeing how the situation resolves.

  2. There are canons relating to worship, at the heart of our identity as a Church and the core of our relationship with the divine, I was thinking of.
    Many canonists would quote Our Lord in Luke 16 verse 10, in regard to your idea that there is a relativist approach to law.
    But my question still stands: Why does this suddenly rewrite the law when all that has gone before, did not?

    • You’re misunderstanding me. I’m saying that some laws, when broken, do not actually cause divine offence. Other (canon) laws are framed as much to prevent the offending of the divine. In that sense the latter are more important than the former.

      But if your best argument is “why aren’t they wearing stoles” when complaining about those themselves complaining about the breaking of Canon B30 (as it were), then that’s not a terribly sophisticated way of arguing. A complaint against someone breaking Canon B8 should be examined on its own merits, not as a comparative against someone breaking Canon B30.

  3. “ ‘God bless my soul!’ said the archdeacon, ‘how odd it is that you will not see that all we are to do is to do nothing.’ ”

    – ANTHONY TROLLOPE, The Warden

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