‘Telegraph’ Report on Prayers after Same-Sex Weddings

Church offers prayers after same-sex weddings – but bans gay priests from marrying

Church of England draws up guidelines for ‘new reality’ of gay marriage but liberal campaigners dismiss arrangements as ‘dog’s breakfast’

Bishop of Durham to issue plea to traditionalists in women bishops showdown

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby: gay marraige is a new reality Photo: PA

By , Religious Affairs Editor

12:01AM GMT 15 Feb 2014

Gay couples who get married will be able to ask for special prayers in the Church of England after their wedding, the bishops have agreed.

But priests who are themselves in same-sex relationships or even civil partnerships will be banned from getting married when it becomes legally possible next month.

The blanket prohibition opens up the prospect of an embarrassing rebellion from gay and lesbian clergy who choose to tie the knot.

It would force local bishops to bring lengthy disciplinary measures to effectively have them defrocked for getting married.

It is understood the Church is already bracing itself for “martyrs” prepared to challenge the rules.

The ban, contained in new “pastoral guidance” from the Church of England, comes despite rules which allow those in civil partnerships to become priests and even bishops – as long as they claim to be celibate.

But the guidelines, announced by the House of Bishops ahead of the coming into force of the Same-Sex Marriage Act next month, also state that non-clergy who get married to someone of the same sex will be free to continue to receive communion within the Church of England.

Although the Church will not be carrying out same-sex weddings, the new guidance also invites newly-wed gay couples to ask their local priest for special prayers which will be seen as informal endorsements of their marriage.

The main stipulation is that the priest must not refer to it as a service of “blessing” – a term which is deeply divisive in the Church of England for theological reasons.

They must also have some form of “pastoral discussion” with the couple about why they do not accept the official church teaching which still maintains that marriage is between a man and woman.

But the new guidance makes clear that gay newly-weds must not be subject to intrusive “questioning” about their private lives.

At the same time the guidelines make clear that it will not be “appropriate conduct” for anyone in holy orders – deacons, priests or bishops – to enter a same-sex marriage.

Lay members who do so will also be barred from ordination.

Last night one leading liberal campaigner described the new arrangements as a “dog’s breakfast” which enshrined “dishonesty and hypocrisy” within the Church.

But the deal, reached in a meeting of bishops behind closed doors, will also anger traditionalists who see any endorsement of gay marriage as a major departure from what they see as the teaching of the Bible.

Copies of the guidelines were last night sent to bishops and archbishops in other Anglican churches around the world, many of whom have already publicly accused the Church of England of drifting away from Biblical orthodoxy.

In a joint letter accompanying the guidelines, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, acknowledged that there are deep divisions in the Church of England – including between bishops – over the issue.

They described same-sex marriage, which will be possible in England and Wales from March 29, as a “new reality” with implications for the Church of England.

While insisting that traditional doctrines remain unchanged, they added that they recognise that same-sex relationships contain some of the same “virtues” as marriage, upheld by the Church for centuries.

The new law comes into force as the Church itself prepares to carry out a lengthy programme of mediation to work out its reaction to a controversial report recommending public services to “mark” gay relationships – likely to be seen as weddings in all but name.

The Archbishops said: “As members of the Body of Christ we are aware that there will be a range of responses across the Church of England to the introduction of same-sex marriage.

“As bishops we have reflected and prayed together about these developments.

“As our [previous] statement … indicated, we are not all in agreement about every aspect of the Church’s response.

“However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.”

They added: “Same-sex relationships often embody genuine mutuality and fidelity …. two of the virtues which the Book of Common Prayer uses to commend marriage.

“The Church of England seeks to see those virtues maximised in society.”

The bishops’ guidelines say: “We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships to have a formal status.

“These include the joys of exclusive commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship.

“To that end, civil partnership continues to be available for same-sex couples.

“Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle.

“Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.”

They then quote previous Church decisions on civil partnerships ruling out “services of blessing” while refusing to “interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion” about more informal ways of marking the moment.

“The same approach … should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it,” the guidance adds.

“Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.”

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.”

________________________________________________________________

This ‘Telegraph’ report gives yet another slant on the Church of England’s polity on Same-Sex Weddings, which will be legal shortly in England but will not be allowed to be solemnised in Anglican Church buildings – even though such legally-married couples may have prayers said in Church but with no official Blessing given. This is what  John Bingham, the Religious Affairs Reporter for The Telegraph, has to say about this:

“Although the Church will not be carrying out same-sex weddings, the new guidance also invites newly-wed gay couples to ask their local priest for special prayers which will be seen as informal endorsements of their marriage. The main stipulation is that the priest must not refer to it as a service of “blessing” – a term which is deeply divisive in the Church of England for theological reasons.”

The question about this peculiar state of affairs might be: “When is a Blessing not a Blessing?”, or, “Do prayers for a couples on the occasion of their Civil Marriage not equate to the Blessing of the Church?” and, “If not, why not?”

Another important proviso  – re the acceptability (or not) of Same-Sex Marriage by the Church of England – is that Church of England clergy-persons who are in a Civil Partnership may not convert this to a Civil Marriage. Nor can any person who is part of a Same-Sex Marriage be accepted as a candidate for ordained ministry within the Church of England. Only members of a Same-Sex Civil Partnership who promise to maintain celibacy in their partnership will be eligible for selection for ordination in the Church of England.

This definite distinction between Lay and Ordained membership of the Church of England – where clergy are expected to maintain celibacy in a Same-Sex partnership, but lay people are not, may become a problem for the Church to monitor into the future. In fact, this stipulation could be a source of further hypocrisy with the Church, where a person’s private conscience may be held to ransom by Church polity – not unlike that of the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church who ignore the No-Contraception dogma of their Church.

Here is a link to “Rachel’s Blog” for a personal view of the H. of B. Statement:

http://therachelmannblogspot.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/personal-response-to-house-of-bishops_15.html

See also ( from the ‘Church Times’) :

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/14-february/news/uk/no-blessings,-no-same-sex-marriages-for-clergy-bishops-keep-the-door-shut-as-act-comes-into-force

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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3 Responses to ‘Telegraph’ Report on Prayers after Same-Sex Weddings

  1. Universal GAYety is Coming !

    Gays are found throughout history. For the first time ever – finally – they’re almost worldwide! Wow!
    This global gaydom is even foretold in the Bible – predicted by Jesus (see “days of Lot” in Luke 17 and compare with Genesis 19).
    And the Hebrew prophet Zechariah (14th chapter) says that during the same gay “days” ALL nations will come against Israel and fulfill the “days of Noah” at the same time (see Luke 17 again) – a short time of anti-Jewish genocide found in Zechariah 13:8 when two-thirds of all Jews will die.
    In other words, when “gay days” have become universal, all hell will break loose!
    Shockingly, the same “days” will lead to and trigger the “end of days” – and when they begin, human government will quickly wind down in just a few short years. For the first time in history there won’t be enough time for anyone to expect to live long enough to be able to attend college, have kids and grand-kids, save for and enjoy retirement, etc.
    One final thought. The more we see gays “coming out,” the sooner Jesus will be “coming down”!
    (For more, Google or Yahoo “God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up” and “Jesus Never Mentioned Homosexuality. When gays have birthdays…”)

    • kiwianglo says:

      Thanks, Irv. I’m leaving your comment on my web-site, as a perfect demonstration of anti-gay and literally hopmophobic (fear of homosexuality) sentiments held by conservative Evangelical Christians whose view of Biblical Inerrancy would, perhaps, match your own. However, from your comment, I have realised that you are perhaps an Orthodox Jewish Believer, for whom the inclusive ministry of Yeshua would probably be anathema to you any way.

      I think you need to understand that, in the Con.Evo Christian world, Gays are seen with the same disrespect, as are your fellow Jews, by those in society who have no respect for Jesus’ calling to be the authentic Messiah. I would have thought that your experience of institutional anti-Semitism might have given you a fellow feeling with the victims of homophobia. Perhaps not? May God bless you. But, do not be afraid. Fear is the opposite of faith in a Loving God!

  2. murraysmallbone says:

    Oh Dear!!! What can one say about our Bishops.No wonder James ii got fed up, throwing the Great Seal in the Thames and running away. However I digress.
    A reading of Article xxvi (Articles of Religion) gives food for thought in the context of these latest Episcopal “directions”. So The Articles of Religion remain 40 stripes less one.!!
    It is almost as if the Bishops are inviting a would be martyr. A test case would create no winners.The spectre of which would be mediaeval,but that is what we are watching now.
    The Bishops are making a rod for their own back;so diverting from the Mission of the Church.
    But before a sacerdotal “test case”,I would expect a civil “test case” brought by a couple who are now allowed to avail themselves of the sacraments in their parish church, but not The Solemnisation of Matrimony in their Parish Church,but only an Exhortation and a “Blessing”.
    Fodder for Canon Lawyers, but not nurture for the Faithful.

    Jesus mercy. Mary pray.

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