Church Times Editorial on Church v. Culture

Leader: A reality check

The RC Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, remarked after the vote: “I think really that the Church needs to do a reality check . . . to look at the areas where we really have to start and say: ‘Look, have we drifted away from young people?'” It is interesting, and encouraging, that he put it that way round rather than repeat the common suggestion that it is the young people who drift away. He will know, as the Anglicans know, that it is not enough simply to look for new ways to present old doctrines. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said after the UK vote on same-sex marriage two years ago: “We may or may not like it, but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it.” The evidence is there: the British Social Attitudes survey in 2007 recorded that 47 per cent were in favour of same-sex marriage. Five years later, in 2012, the figure had risen to 56 per cent. The Irish vote at 62 per cent shows that the tide continues to flow in one direction, and is probably lower than in the rest of the British Isles. An opinion poll for BBC Radio last year suggested that 68 per cent were in favour.

Of course, theology is not a democratic discipline. A statement from the conservative Core Issues Trust warned against “simple majoritarianism”. To agree that same-sex marriage is right just because the majority believe it to be so would entail having agreed that it was wrong hitherto, just up to the point when the balance tipped. Followers of a Christ who was abandoned by all must be ready to belong to a minority. On the other hand, all Churches have mechanisms for reassessing doctrine in the light of new evidence and understanding. And, as Archbishop Welby reminded the General Synod last year, the Church of England, in particular, is not “a closed system”.

This paper has argued before now against the view that allowing same-sex marriage somehow undermines the institution. The continued withholding of the Church’s blessing from certain couples, on the other hand, will increasingly undermine the Church, if not marriage itself. Rather than seek to find ways to get young people to agree with it, the Church ought to consider whether it should agree with the young people

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There once was a time when the Anglican weekly ‘Church Times’ was considered not only catholic in ethos, but also broadly conservative. However, with the march of time, and new perspectives on faith and morality – especially in the light of advances in the way sexuality has become more honestly and openly discussed in both Church and society – this venerable newspaper has come to terms with the ‘facts of life’ as they really are, rather than how they ‘used to be’. Here is the seminal, final, paragraph of this week’s editorial:

“This paper has argued before now against the view that allowing same-sex marriage somehow undermines the institution. The continued withholding of the Church’s blessing from certain couples, on the other hand, will increasingly undermine the Church, if not marriage itself. Rather than seek to find ways to get young people to agree with it, the Church ought to consider whether it should agree with the young people” – (Church Times editorial)

When even the Roman Catholic Churches have been discovered to be less than honest and open about the problems of pederasty in the ranks of their clergy (see the latest news on Cardinal Pell, of Sydney, whose abrupt transfer from Australia to serve in the Vatican has revealed the fact of his cover-up of paedophile priests in Sydney), one might ask what denomination of the Christian Church can claim exemption from a lack of propriety in its dealings with matters concerning sexual behaviour in its ranks?

The Church Times is right to draw attention to the current dilemma in the Church of England; where monogamously-partnered same-sex couples are denied the blessing of the Church, when their only alternative is celibacy or promiscuity.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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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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