Anglican Mainstream: “Standing Our Ground” on Marriage
A reflection following the passing of the same-sex marriage bill.
Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden
In a democracy, what happens when a view, previously supported by the majority becomes a minority view? Do you change your position – to retain ‘credibility’, or ‘influence’, or just simply not to be classed as a ‘nutter’, or stand your ground?
There is a current assumption that every social development and cultural change is necessarily ‘progress’. Part of the argument for ‘same-sex marriage’ is to keep pace with history. But the Bible and experience teaches us that not necessarily every social development brings human flourishing. Science helped the development of medicine but also of ever more sophisticated and destructive ways to kill masses of people. (Just think napalm and nerve gas).
As major cultural shifts take place it is always necessary to be self-critical. Have I, have we, been wrong? The church itself has many embarrassing skeletons in the cupboard. One of the oldest Anglican mission societies once owned slaves in the West Indies; only three weeks ago the General Synod offered an apology for the Church of England’s failures over the issue of child abuse in decades past.
But it is also necessary to ask “Has God changed his mind?” And so we ponder – would there be any circumstances under which we would believe that God had changed his mind about the way of salvation, the nature of grace and forgiveness, the presence and gifts of the Spirit? These are inalienable truths passed on to us through revelation. The very concept of revelation of God’s truth means that it is as eternal and as unchanging as God himself. It cannot be interpreted away.
Therefore to stand our ground on matters of conjugal marriage as God’s best for man and woman and children and society is not posturing or an ostrich like response to refuse to wake up to reality.
It is to remain faithful as a remnant – to keep the embers of the truth alive in society so that they can be fanned into flame when people realize the folly of the garden paths up which they have been led, and turn back (repent) to seek healthful and wholesome truth. That is a process that can take two or three generations. But the embers need to be there.
The Remnant is not an idea. It is a community that embodies the truths it seeks to uphold. It is a continuing reminder to everyone else that there is another way of living in the same world.The Remnant is not passive. It seeks to establish its presence in the midst of opposition and disdain. It commits to engage the rest of society with the truth it is entrusted and confront lies the culture is being shaped by. It will continue to evangelise the rest of society with the Gospel of the kingdom.
As Remnant we do not turn our back on the rest of society that has turned away from what we believe is God’s purpose for human flourishing. We do not just wait for Christ’s return to restore God’s order. We will ‘Stand our Ground’. We will engage with society seeking God’s Shalom and Justice for his world and we will continue to invite people to turn to Christ.
Messrs Samuel and Sugden, well-known supporters of the mis-named entity ‘Anglican Mainstream’, again demonstrate their disregard for actual mainstream Anglican thinking about the possibility of a civil form of marriage for Same-Sex persons. In speaking of ‘Anglican Mainstream’ as part of a ‘faithful remnant’ these gentlemen are purporting to be part of an ontological unreality – a ‘mainstream’ Anglican organisation, while yet a ‘remnant’. I’m sure the impossibility of occupying two such positions at once within the Anglican Communion Churches has not yet occurred to them. However, that obviously has not prevented them from saying their piece in opposition to Same-Sex Marriage – which has now become a possibility for people in the U.K. who want to publicly declare their life-long, monogamously faithful, Same-Sex relationship within the legal framework of an authorised Civil Marriage ceremony.
It is interesting to note that no-one in the Church of England will be in any way compromised by the legislation that has just passed its final hurdle in both Houses of Parliament in England. No Church of England ‘minister of religion’ will be allowed, in fact, to undertake the solemnisation of Same Sex Marriages – unless the Church of England decides, of its own volition, to enter into that arena. What Messrs Vinay and Sugden, therefore, have to say about Same-Sex Marriage – from the point of view of their own particular religious view point – may have little to do with what the majority of the British people, through the democratic governmental process, clearly have accepted. In the legislation provided, Church bodies that actually do want to celebrate Same-Sex Marriages – such and the C.of E. and the R.C. Church – may do so, without let or hindrance by the institution of the Church of England.
Messrs Sugden and Samuel (and their oxymoronically-named ‘Mainstream’ colleagues – a minority in the Church) are really only concerned with their own conservative point of view, which denies that any good could come out of society’s acceptance of LGBT people as fellow citizens being given the right to a commonly-accessed legal relationship, in a commonwealth of interest that exists outside of the Church of England.
Their ‘Remnant/Mainstream’ organisation, purporting to represent typical Anglicans, cannot in fact lay claim to such a burden. The more precise nom-de-plume that might apply to ‘Mainstream’ might indeed be ‘Slipstream’ – for all the relevance they may have in the affairs of the Gospel-oriented Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion outside of the GAFCON and its conservative church plantings in North America and the United Kingdom.
Sugden/Samuel may speak for their confederates of the conservative ginger-group GAFCON, shortly to meet again in Kenya under the chair-person-ship of Archbishop Wabukala, whose blatant opposition to Canterbury on matters of gender and sexuality has caused a split from the rest of the Communion Provinces. However, that will not prevent the rest of us, of the more eirenically-liberal persuasion in the Church, from continuing to implement the Gospel of Inclusion, and a radical openness to ALL people, regardless of their race, ethnic origin, culture, social standing, gender, or sexual orientation. After all, are we not all sinners in the eyes of God? Jesus came to save sinners – not the righteous! The Gospel continually warns us against the sin of self-righteousness. Kyrie eleison!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand