|Here’s a thought that struck me as I read a blog on marriage today from a priest who is, as he says, in the middle of the Church. He doesn’t go for the full conservative approach to LGBTI but doesn’t think that marriage in Church should be for gay and lesbian couples but would happily bless a couple in church after their marriage at the local town hall. He is, I suspect, firmly in the majority of middle Englanders on this – not wanting to be nasty to the gays and at the same time still feeling that somehow the idea of two husbands or two wives is a bit icky or just a bit odd. He does confess in the blog that he has moved over women clergy and remarriage of divorcees in Church, so I am guessing he is ‘on a journey’ as the phrase has it.
Now, lots to say about the oddness of refusing to witness and register a marriage but being willing to bless what he refuses to witness. I am sure Alan Wilson can fill us all in on the odd view of marriage, the role of the state and state registrars (who are also clergy) in that pastorally complex approach.
But it did get me thinking about the double-think of the Church of England about marriage. In this country (ignoring the obvious problems about the Same Sex Marriage Act) – marriage is marriage is marriage, whether conducted in a Stately home, a Town Hall or the most glorious little country parish. The law and the Church treats them all the same. The Church of England has an exemption from officiating at gay and lesbian marriages but not from recognising them as legal marriages.
Which is why I registered mine with the pensions board and come the day I go to glory my husband is going to get a widowers’ pension from the CofE. (Just watch him take them to court if they try not to pay it!)
So – I’d not thought of this before – we are members of a Church which officially in defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and is hierarchy has a jolly good go at making clergy, lay people and the country believe it is so. (whilst failing convincingly to persuade even the members of the hierarchy in their private selves and the majority of its members publicly). And yet at the same time accepts the reality of marriage for gay and lesbian couples as well as for straight people
Crazy – no?
Fr. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, one of those redoubtable clergy in the Church of England who have contracted a legal Same-Sex Marriage while still serving as a parish priest, has posted this message on the Face-Book page of ‘Changing Attitude’, one of the Anglican groups dedicated to opening up the Church to include LGBTI people.
Father Andrew makes, I think, a valid claim when he points to the fact that, in its General Synod, the Church of England has already agreed to pay pensions to the same-sex surviving partners of its gay clergy. Having registered his own Same-Sex Marriage with the Clergy Pension Board, he claims that his partner now has a legal right to claim a pension from the board if he, Fr.Andrew, pre-deceases his partner.
This will, no doubt be subject to a legal ruling in such a circumstance but, in the meantime, there is this gap between what the General Synod has authorised – on behalf of Same-Sex partnered clergy and their spouses; and the present inability of the Church to fully recognise the legal marriage partnerships of its gay clergy.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand