Linda Woodhead : ‘Turning Point on S/S Marriage?’

The Church of England has reached a turning point on gay marriage

“Church of England could split over homosexuality” is a headline that occurs with the reassuring regularity of the shipping forecast. As with the boy who cried wolf, we hardly listen any more. But last week’s vote in the General Synod, in which the clergy voted against a bishops’ report that said only a man and woman can marry in church, is a genuine turning point.

The Economist followed a well-trodden path by presenting what happened as the triumph of modern liberalism over a “traditional” Christian view of marriage. It’s more illuminating to turn this view on its head. In effect, clergy rebels returned the Church of England to the position it had reached in the 1980s before it was diverted into a “family values” agenda—one which owes more to modern culture wars and the rise of fundamentalism than to tradition.

Traditionally, Christianity has supported vastly different kinds of family structure and taken a rather grudging view of sex and marriage as second-best to celibacy. The Church of England was founded on reason and tradition, not just the Bible, and was embedded in the universities and other institutions of learning. It has been a societal Church for the whole nation, not a sectarian one for purists.

By the 1960s the Church was, not for the first time, rethinking its attitude to the family and sexuality. Like its cousins, the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia, it had accepted contraception, played a role in the liberalisation of the law allowing divorce (1969), and was reconsidering its position on “gays.” In response to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, a Church working group chaired by the Bishop of Gloucester recommended modest reform.

Looking askance at these developments was a cadre of male conservative evangelicals with close links to American fundamentalism. Many of its leaders were trained by the Iwerne Trust, a charity which ran holiday camps in the 1970s and 1980s. Iwerne recruited boys from the top public schools and prepared them to enter the Church and parliament to spread their influence. Archbishop Justin Welby, an Etonian, was one of their number. The Trust hit the headlines this month for covering up physical abuse in its training camps.

Then in 1970 something happened which inadvertently played into the hands of this movement: the creation of “General Synod.” Before then, parliament had oversight of Church affairs and kept things under democratic control. The Synod broke this centuries-old tie between the Church and society, and offered the perfect stage for religious enthusiasts of all hues.

The coup came in 1987. A report was being prepared which would call for greater acceptance of homosexuality in the Church, but in wider society there was growing panic over Aids. The conservative evangelicals saw their moment. A motion proposed by Tony Higton, an Essex vicar, which said that sex should only take place between a married man and woman, and that “homosexual genital acts” should be repented was passed by the Synod.

In the decades that followed, the “Higton motion” was given a massive fillip by the increasingly networked and well-organized opponents of “gays and liberals” across the Anglican Communion. From Lagos to Texas they threatened to leave if their views were ignored. After he became Archbishop in 2002, even Rowan Williams, who had previously written a powerful theological defence of homosexuality, wobbled and changed his mind.

Despite these developments in central Church circles, the views of the English, including the roughly one-third who still identified as “CofE,” continued to move steadily in the opposite direction. The legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2013 sealed the shift. Recent polling finds that more Anglicans are now in favour of same-sex marriage than against. My own surveys show that many CofE evangelicals, including many evangelical clergy and so-called “conservatives,” agree.

So the Synod vote last week is a sign not of the weakening of tradition, but of the fraying of conservative evangelical control. What’s startling for the bishops is to find themselves on the wrong side of the moral debate. They had presented themselves as defenders of Christian ethics, but find themselves reflected in their opponents’ eyes as defenders of the indefensible.

This is Justin Welby’s most testing moment as Archbishop. Given his background, he could become the conservative reformer who leads a cross-party consensus to return the Church to the path it had been following before the 1980s. His best hope is to follow the example of the Church of Scotland and approve a “mixed economy” in which clergy and parishes are free to follow their consciences on the gay issue. But to do so he will have to abandon his previous stance, overturn his bishops’ report, and risk a walkout by opponents across the Communion. His predecessor Rowan Williams decided not to take the risk. The difference this time is that it is those in favour of the inclusion of gay people who are calling the shots and claiming to speak in the name of Christian tradition and values

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“Traditionally, Christianity has supported vastly different kinds of family structure and taken a rather grudging view of sex and marriage as second-best to celibacy. The Church of England was founded on reason and tradition, not just the Bible, and was embedded in the universities and other institutions of learning. It has been a societal Church for the whole nation, not a sectarian one for purists.” –  Linda Woodhead

In her article, [published in the magazine ‘Prospect‘, Anglican Theologian Linda Woodhead points to a new reality in the Church of England, where conservative elements – especially among the House of Bishops and their ‘Sola Scriptura’ backers in the Church of England – have been put on the back foot by the recent overturning of the Bishops’ Report on Marriage and the Church by the House of Clergy in the general Synod. This paragraph by Linda makes a claim that those opposed to Same-Sex relationships in the Church may well contest, but is it the emerging reality, now, in the Church of England?  

“So the Synod vote last week is a sign not of the weakening of tradition, but of the fraying of conservative evangelical control. What’s startling for the bishops is to find themselves on the wrong side of the moral debate. They had presented themselves as defenders of Christian ethics, but find themselves reflected in their opponents’ eyes as defenders of the indefensible.”

Certainly, the mood seems to have changed within the Church of England. Perhaps it is time for the Bishops to put on their thinking caps to decide whether they want to minister to the real needs of their constituency in the U.K., or should they continue to listen to the voices of the homophobic among the Anglican Provinces in GAFcON – at home and abroad?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope Francis’ Anglican Visitation

Pope Francis to visit Rome’s Anglican community

Rome, Italy, Feb 17, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will visit All Saints Anglican Church in Rome Feb. 26 to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City.

Jonathan Boardman, who serves as parish priest of All Saints, confirmed the news to CNA.

“The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, and it will follow the Eucharist celebrated in the morning by our bishops to mark our 200th anniversary,” he said.

The Pope will not celebrate Vespers, as he did in San Gregorio al Celio with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, on Oct. 5, 2016. However, he will take part in the blessing and dedication of an icon to celebrate the church’s anniversary, Boardman reported.

“Then, together with our bishops, the Pope will renew baptismal vows, in a spirit of communion, even though we cannot have full communion,” the Anglican clergyman said.

At present, the calendar of the All Saints Church’s website describes the Feb. 26 afternoon meeting as an “ecumenical service for the 200th anniversary.”

At the end of the celebration, Boardman said, “Pope Francis will witness a twinning between our parish and the Catholic church of All Saints in Rome, the only Catholic church in the Rome area dedicated to All Saints.”

The All Saints Catholic Church is famous because it is the site where Blessed Paul VI celebrated the first Mass according to the Novus Ordo.

Boardman said the event builds on good Catholic-Anglican relations in Rome.

“Our two communities have already a lot of activities in common, a working friendship that is expressed, for instance, in the common service to poor,” he said. “Now, we are going to seal it with a symbolic twinning.”

The anniversary event has been planned for years. Boardman said the parish first sent an invitation to the Pope three years ago, then sent two other letters.

He also gave a personal invitation to the Pope in November 2015, when Pope Francis visited the Lutheran parish in Rome.

“When I wrote again, he knew who I was,” Boardman said.

The community that would become All Saints Anglican Church in Rome was inaugurated Oct. 27, 1816. It serves about 250 Anglican faithful, though not all of them take part in Sunday services.

Boardman thought the anniversary event will mark the first time a Pope visited an Anglican parish.

St. John Paul II visited Canterbury Cathedral, while Benedict XVI visited Westminster Abbey.

David Moxon, director of the Anglican Center in Rome and an Anglican archbishop, said that Robert Innes and David Hamid, Anglican bishops, will take part in the celebration. Both play leading roles in the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe.

Boardman recounted previous good interactions between leading Anglican churchmen and the Pope.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has met with Pope Francis multiple times and at least four times in the last year.

The October 2016 meeting in San Gregorio al Cielo marked the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s gift of his episcopal ring to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Anglican Center in Rome.

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All Saints Anglican Church in Rome, Italy, will be visited by Pope Francis as a sign of fraternal relationship and to celebrate 200 years of the post-Reformation Anglican presence in the city at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church.

This visitation is yet one more sign of this present Pope’s ecumenical outreach to Anglicans at a time of political turmoil in both worldwide Communions. Pope Francis is opening up the Roman Catholic Church to an era of reconciliation that is totally in line with that of one of his illustrious predecessors; Saint Pope John XXIII, under whose charismatic leadership the Council of Vatican II was brought into being – with all its promise of renewal of the Catholic Church around the world.

Pope Francis’ revolutionary outreach to divorced and remarried Catholics has stirred up opposition both in the Vatican and in other R.C. communities around the world – especially in the United States, where Cardinal Burke is threatening a type of clerical impeachment of the Pope that would certainly upset the pigeons in St.Peter’s Square in Rome.

An important part of the proceedings at All Saints in Rome will be the joint renewal of their Baptismal Vows by the Pope and his Anglican hosts. This sign of a basic unity in Christ was one of the hallmarks of the Visitation of Saint Pope John Paul to Canterbury in the 1980s. Lest the significance of this ritual be undervalued; it is surely a serious intention to underscore our common heritage as Christians – a seminal mark of unity in mission.

Despite Anglicans’ problems about the possibility of blessing the legal Marriages of same-sex persons among the clergy and laity of the Church of England, the reigning Bishop of Rome is not averse to reaching out the hand of friendship to his Anglican confreres. Pope Francis obviously takes note of the Maundy Thursday antiphon: “Where charity and love are: there is God”. May he be blessed in his ongoing ministry of reconciliation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Open Table Group, London. Meets over Supper

Open Table London met last night for worship and fellowship over a meal afterwards. Savi Hensman led us in reflecting on our journey to the point we have reached today and the over riding themes were solidarity and the need for confidence in expressing our faith- using the language of Jesus with ease and openness so that we can join in the debate in language that those we need to win to our side feel able to do so. There was much discussion about how to help those who want to support us feel more confident in doing so and also much optimism and hope. We were blessed with a pianist who stood in to help lead our worship and several offers of help with worship at future events. We are growing in numbers and finding our feet as a community. Your prayers appreciated, as always, and you would always be welcome – our next meeting is on March 19th at 6.30pm at St James West Hampstead

Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people sitting, table, food and indoor
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           Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, promoter of the new LGBTI Support group in London’s Anglican Diocese, places this photographs on Face-Book to commemorate the recent meeting in London of the local branch of ‘OPEN TABLE’, a group of clergy and laity of the Church of England who are seeking a more open Church on the basis of equality ‘in Christ’.
           At the front of this picture (on the left), is Christian journalist and Social-Worker Savitri (Savi) Hensman who, on this occasion, talked about her own spiritual journey as a one-time partnered gay person. Savi’s life partner died a few years ago. Their relationship gave Savi a personal understanding of the issues involved in convincing the Church of the need to affirm faithful monogamous same-sex relationships among its clergy and people.
          To my New Zealand readers, who may be a little apprehensive about meeting a person from the LGBTI community; these people seated around the table don’t look too fearsome, do they? They look much like any other interest group that could be meeting around a meal table anywhere in our Church.
          Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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Bishop Victoria call Press Conference on Christchurch Cathedral

Cathedral restoration: Church disputes Government offered 25m

restoration

Bishop Victoria Mathews called an emergency media standup on Sunday to refute Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee’s claim that  the Government offered the church a $25 million deal to restore the building.

On Friday Brownlee said he was disappointed an offer to help with the restoration of the Anglican Cathedral in Christchurch was turned down by the Church Property Trustees (CPT).

He said the offer was made up of $10m in cash and a $15m loan.

The Bishop says Brownlee’s claims of a $25 million offer of Government help are incorrect.

“CPT reached an agreement with mandated Crown negotiators including the Christchurch working group chairman Geoff Dangerfield . . . before Christmas,” Matthews said on Sunday.

“That agreement, to CPT’s surprise, proved not acceptable to the minister and at the last minute a two page, non-binding, principles document was sent through to the negotiating table.”

“This two page statement of principles significantly changed the terms in ways that were not acceptable to CPT as prudent trustees, with $42 million to put towards an over $100 million project.”

On Friday Brownlee had said a second government had made an offer with different terms.

He understood the CPT would be meeting this week to discuss the second offer.

However Matthews said there had been very limited informal discussion.

“A revised two page statement of principles, which is non-binding and which I believe has not been seen by Cabinet, arrived this week.”

“But it was not presented by the Minister, nor did we have assurance he was in favour of every aspect of it,” Matthews said.

On Friday the church said CPT has no scheduled meeting this week.

The church says a decision over the Cathedral’s fate will be out in the next six months.

The cathedral has been derelict for almost six years since the February 2011 quake, with parties at an impasse on whether to demolish or to attempt restoration.

The government set up a working group to look at options for restoration, but no deal has so far been reached.

Source

It seems to me, from the sidelines, that The ‘Impasse’, claimed to have been caused by the Cathedral Property Trustees (CPT) in the ongoing delay on the re-build/replacement of the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, was clearly outlined by our Bishop Victoria Matthews at the recent Press Conference she recently called.

Critics of the delay need to be reminded (yet again) that this is not the fault of either our Bishop or the CPT of the Christchurch Diocese. Left alone, the diocese would already have demolished the earthquake compromised building and begun a brand new Cathedral on the site. The delay is entirely the fault of the Greater Christchurch Building Trust (GCBT), headed by Messrs: Philip Burdon and Jim Anderton – former parliamentarians – whose links with the current governmental review authority cannot be denied.

Despite being called in as a ‘referee’ on the re-build, it would appear that Minister Gerry Brownlee’s offer of financial support from the government might have been dependent on the CPT bowing to the insistent demands of Messrs: Burdon and Anderton to  rebuild the Cathedral in the same style as the original; whose design has already twice failed the test of earthquake suitability. 

Today’s (22 Feb.) Press Editorial contains the relevant facts about the financial offer from the Government which, though in itself not ratified, would still not meet the actual cost of the more expensive restoration option. The Diocese had already decided to build a brand new purpose-built Cathedral which would have – if not legally challenged by the GCBT – by now have been well advanced; at a cost less than that of GCBT’s proposal for restoration.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Conservative View of the ABCs Reflection on G.S.

[G Ashenden] The Radical Call To Go The Wrong Way’. Archbishop Welby’s charge to General Synod

At the end of the recent General Synod when an alliance of orthodox Christians and pro-gay progressives defeated the Bishops’ report on Marriage and sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a rallying cry to a perturbed and divided Synod and whatever part of the wider Church was listening in.

It had three elements:

1- “We need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.

2- “It must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.”

3- “The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”

The problem these words present, is that they involve a distortion of Christianity. They preference a non-Christian ideology that gives us a sub-Christian or even perhaps an anti-Christian version of the faith.

That is a very serious charge to make. Because if it is true, it challenges the authority of an ancient office and both the direction and integrity of the Church of England.

Read it all

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Kendall Harmon’s blog, offering this Con/Evo review of the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the recent failure of a call at the Church of England General Synod to ‘Note’ the Bishops’ Report on Gender and Sexuality; betrays the sort of anxiety that propelled the schimatic departure of the writer from TEC into the schismatic ACNA.  

To accuse the Archbishop of Canterbury of leading the Church of England towards heresy is, as the writer himself admits; “… is a very serious charge to make. Because if it is true, it challenges the authority of an ancient office and both the direction and integrity of the Church of England.”

The point for members of the Church of England is that conservative Americans who have already left the official Anglican Communion, have absolutely no right to dictate the policy of the Church of England, nor to encourage further schism on the basis of their own Sola Scriptura puritanical agenda. The issues addressed by Archbishop Justin have an importance far beyond the parsimonious ideas of stone-age pundits on gender and human sexuality.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Giles Fraser – Clergy: 1 – Bishops Nil

A delegate walks past protesters outside the General Synod at Church House in London on 15 February 2017
A delegate walks past protesters outside the General Synod at Church House in London on Wednesday. ‘The problem is the bishops themselves, tense with self-imposed anxiety.’ Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

It rained in London on Wednesday afternoon. Then the sun came out. And so it was that when the General Synod of the Church of England met to discuss the acceptability of same-sex marriage, a huge rainbow appeared over Church House, Westminster. Even God, it seems, was making his feelings known on this one.

The bishops had produced a report after a three-year listening process. This itself was just another kicking-into-the-long-grass exercise. After all, who can refuse listening? So church reports that seek no change always call for another report and more listening. But had anybody heard anything useful? The report called for a “change of tone” towards LGBTI people – yes, they always do that, and always in the same patronising tone – but no change of doctrine. The bishops refused to budge on the question of same-sex couples getting married in church. And so the clergy of the C of E threw the report out, leaving the bishops angry and embarrassed.

Recalling the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in the book of Genesis, Canon Simon Butler – gay, out and partnered – told synod: “I will not let go until you bless me.” Those of us wrestling for equal marriage will not stop until gay people are offered the church’s blessing. We bless battleships with missiles. But not the love between two people. And the problem here is not the clergy or the people in the pews. The problem is the bishops themselves, tense with self-imposed anxiety.

On the same day the report was being sunk by synod, a British Social Attitudes survey found that only 17% of Anglicans now believe that same-sex relationships are “always wrong”, the lowest level since 1983 when people started measuring these views. Back then, the figure was 50%. In the intervening years churchgoers, like the population in general, have dramatically changed their mind over homosexuality. And hurrah for that.

But don’t believe that this is all the church wants to talk about. In my parish, it’s a non-issue. We’ve had openly gay clergy ministering here and many gay people in the pews. While the bishops take themselves away to discuss fictional case studies involving problematic gay-related situations (NB don’t say problem gay people – that’s all part of the “change of tone” directive), we in the parish just get on with doing the stuff we’re supposed to. No, the problem is within the episcopate. They voted 43-1 for the report. And the one who voted against wasn’t some brave bishop registering dissent. It was the bishop of Coventry who couldn’t figure out how to work his voting console.

Such is the high degree of corporate responsibility the bishops feel, that even those sympathetic to same-sex marriage voted for a report that condemned it. Thus the bishop of Liverpool wrote: “For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document?”

The answer is always the same. The job of the bishops, the current lot insist, is to provide a “focus of unity”. That’s why when bishops retire, and are freed from the responsibility of keeping their dioceses together, they write letters to the papers saying how much they disagreed with what they used to have to support. The bishops tell themselves that they sacrifice their personal views for the greater good. And they ask us to feel their pain. Responsibility for the way in which this need for corporate double-speak has blunted the prophetic witness of the episcopate is squarely on the shoulders of the secretive process by which bishops are selected. It’s a process that promotes the same sort of people – glorified administrators who are good at “tone” and are not given to bursts of independent mindedness. None of which are qualities associated with the prophets of the Bible.

What Wednesday’s synod vote revealed was not only that the church continues to move in a progressive direction – though with the engine of a lawnmower and the brakes of an articulated lorry. It also demonstrated the widening gap between bishops and their clergy. The C of E works best at the local level. Head office is out of touch. ______________________________________________________________

This article, by Fr. Giles Fraser in ‘The Guardian’, takes time out to consider the failure of the ‘Bishops’ Report’ to bring any hope to those people in the Church of England – both clergy and laity – who happen, because of their innate sexuality, to have a legally valid commitment to a same-sex partner and would like the Church to recognise this commitment.

What Fr. Giles point to is the fact that serving Bishops seem to think that loyalty to their clerical order is more important than loyalty to the people who have been committed to their oversight as members of the Body of Christ. He believes (and I agree with him) that this unwillingness to publicly stand up for their individual consciences on this matter of opening up the Sacrament of Marriage to faithful, same-sex partners, seems more like a private club mentality than a preparedness to stand up for justice for a minority in the Church. Here is an important paragraph in Fr. Giles’ article:

“Such is the high degree of corporate responsibility the bishops feel, that even those sympathetic to same-sex marriage voted for a report that condemned it. Thus the bishop of Liverpool wrote: “For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document?”

Many of us are aware of other sympathizers with the LGBTI community in the House of Bishops in the Church of England. Is this a directive from the ‘top table’ that has rendered them ineffective in voicing their doubts about the ‘Bishops Report”? Obviously, there was no such restraint felt by the House of Clergy, whose voted scuttled the Report, rendering it non-actionable in its present format.

Whatever arises out of this present impasse, it has become obvious – even to the House of Bishops – that to ‘change the tone of conversations about LGBTI people in the Church’ will simply not serve what surely ought to have been the intention of the original Conversation format in the first instance. With Equal Marriage now a fact of life in the U.K., the State Church of England will need to find a way of dealing justly with those of its adherents who claim the freedom to comply with this latest accommodation to their deeply-felt need.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Synod Speech by Andrew Foreshew-Cain

My speech from Synod on Wednesday;

Andrew Foreshew-Cain – London 161

Thank you, Mr Chairman, I am afraid I listened to rumours and prepared something lasting a minute, so forgive me if I stumble slightly as I try to find say a few more words.

Synod, I want to ask you not to do this, please, do not vote for his measure. We deserve better. Your LGBTI sisters and brothers deserve better, both here in the Church, and in the country. Our churches and communities deserve better. And the country we seek to serve with the love of Christ deserves better.

The report itself admits that it only addresses the concerns and divisions of the Bishops on marriage alone and nowhere do I think does it reflect the work and the struggle and the genuine listening we have all been involved in for the last three years. It fails to allow for the possibility of what we could achieve as a Church working together. I think the bishops have begun to realise that it is a document divorced from the living reality of the people of God.

We need something better to show that reality.

I suggest we need a Commission drawing together voices from across our Church, the voices of all of us. Yes, of course, the Bishops – but to help them understand where we really are, lay men and women taking serious their call to leadership in our Church. And we need openly confident LGBTI people in the room, taking part.

We need better, because we, your LGBTI brothers and sisters, are not beggars looking for a new tone or welcome on the borders of the Church seeking entrance. We are your family in Christ. We are baptised, faithful, and prayerful, we read and study our bibles.

I am not a case study.

We are flesh and blood.

We need to be able to honest about the divisions in this church as Jayne pointed out and that honesty should not be behind closed doors fearful of episcopal unity but genuinely honest about what divides us and the great hope in Jesus Christ that unites us all.

And we need to trust in each other, trust in our maturity in Christ to sit across the table with each other and see in each other the face of Christ despite our divisions.

And we need love. I need love. Oh God, do we all need love – to hear a little genuine, heartfelt love in this debate because it hasn’t been there much and perfect love casts out fear. The fear that I think this Report reflects too clearly.

Sisters and brothers in Christ. We need better. We deserve better. Synod, please, I beg you. Do not give in to fear, do not be afraid, do not take note.

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Fr. Andrew Foreshew-Cain is a beneficed Anglican Vicar in the Diocese of London, who recently married his same-sex partner and is vitally interested in the Church of England’s seeming double-mindedness about the Church’s open acceptance of the legal relationships of many openly gay priests whose lives are, nevertheless, lived out in a spirit of service to the Church in their local communities.

Father Andrew was one of several speakers at the recent General Synod, whose experience of alienation by the Church authorities – simply because of their sexual identity as bearers of God’s Image and Likeness who happen to be ‘different’ in an ongoing culture of homophobia (and transphobia) that is no longer reflected in the world outside of the church – reveals the dichotomy between the seeming acceptance of them in the ‘Bishops Report’ and the contrasting statement (in the Report) of doctrinal opposition to their situation of being legally partnered in civil marriage.

The culture of institutional hypocrisy involves the fact that, in the Church of England, a same-sex partnered clergyperson’s pension rights have been officially extended to their surviving partner in the event of the clergyperson’s death. This shows a tolerance of a situation which the Church still has difficulty in admitting to. On the one hand, General Synod is exhibiting evidence of justice and charity towards committed same-sex clergy relationships. On the other hand, the recent ‘Bishops Report’ (rejected in the House of Clergy at this General Synod) refuses to consider changing the Doctrine of Marriage to accommodate the real situation of the monogamous same-sex legal partnerships among its serving clergy.

In stating that the Doctrine of Marriage cannot be changed; the Bishops seem to forget that the Anglican Church has already changed its doctrinal attitude to Contraception, Divorce and Re-Marriage. To extend the Institution of Marriage to include Same-Sex committed monogamous partnerships would do absolutely nothing to deny the veracity and holiness of the more usual heterosexual  Marriage of two persons – a fact that remains, whether or not the Church comes to recognise Same-Sex Marriage as an extension of its extant doctrine.

It is salutary to realise that, in his Book: ‘Archbishop (Arthur Michael) Ramsey – The Shape of the Church’ (Revised 2015); Peter Webster says this of the Archbishop:

“Attached to catholic order though he was, Ramsey’s attachment to it was always subject to the reality of divine action in the present age. In a situation of crisis in church relations, and indeed throughout the church and the nation (UK) from the mid-1960s onwards, many things that had seemed certain in interwar Cambridge seemed mutable, dispensible. If the greater need of God’s Church on earth demanded it, then there was little in the ordering of God’s Church, so often thought to be immutable, that could not and ought not to be overturned. What God had instituted. He could surely amend”.

It was thus that Archbishop Michael Ramsey was privy to the following changes made in the Church of England’s understanding of (1) Homosexual Law Reform (with the ABC a willing party to this reform); (2) Marriage and Divorce and (3) Contraception.

The question now is: if Archbishop Michael were ABC in today’s Church, would he have helped to turn the tide of resistance to same-sex marriage in the Church of England?

I think he would!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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