In an historic compromise, the Church of England’s bishops have now stated that they will support Same-Sex Partnerships in the Church – a move which has taken the wind out of the sails of the conservative opponents of homosexuals, as being ‘disordered’, and objectively acting against the moral teachings of Scripture.
With this myth now effectively ‘put to bed’ in the C. of E., its surviving supporters are now breathing fire and brimstone into the atmosphere, with threats of further schismatic action that threatens the stability of the Anglican Communion – in places where newly-emerging ‘Confessional Anglican‘ Churches have already been brought into being by the dissident Provinces of the GAFCON conglomerate and their schismatic offspring. One of these is ACNA in the U.S.A., whose Archbishop Foley Beach is also the current Chair of GAFCON.
Despite the FACT that the English bishops have stopped short of providing any form of ritual Marriage for Same-Sex partners (thus retaining the official Church of England’s extant doctrine: that Church weddings are only for heterosexual partnerships), those opposing any accommodation to the pastoral provision of Same Sex Blessing ceremonies in Church, are incensed by the C. of E. bishops’ action and have greeted the new announcement (shortly to be ratified by the General Synod) to be a step too far for the Church of England.
However, from the perspective of those in the Church who had looked for a more compassionate response to the reality of Same Sex Marriage being a possibility for faithfully monogamous S/S couples; this new openness to the Church Blessing of a Civil Marriage by the State does not go far enough. It is thought by such people (including some of the bishops themselves) that legalisation of Same Sex Marriage by the State in the U.K. ought to have prompted the Church to recognise the common good of such committed and faithful relationships, and make a move to incorporate this legal facility into its own liturgical marriage rites.
Whatever one’s own thinking about the situation facing the Church: in this historic acceptance of the fact that homosexual love is neither aberrant not sinful; there must, at least be a sigh of relief by most people that the Church has resiled from its original stance of religious opposition to all faithful homosexual relationships that, in essence, are little different from those of the majority heterosexual relationships. It may take a while for the Church to accept the incongruity of accepting the validity of S/S/ Civil Marriage, while yet resisting its full celebration liturgically.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
Campaigners respond with fear and dismay to Bishops’ proposals to bless same-sex unions
by FRANCIS MARTIN – CHURCH TIMES – 18 JANUARY 2023
No great welcome for what Bishops call ‘a step forward’ for the Church
SUPPORTERS and opponents of same-sex marriage have responded with fear, dismay, and frustration to the proposal to offer blessings, but not weddings, to same-sex couples.
Jayne Ozanne, a member of the General Synod’s House of Laity and a campaigner for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Church, said that the proposal for blessings, but not same-sex marriage, was an “utterly despicable outcome”.
In a message posted on Twitter, she said “We have had countless apologies over the years but no action to stop the harmful discrimination. It’s insulting to all who trusted the process.”
In a statement to the Church Times, she said that, because the new order of blessing would not be an authorised rite, LGBTQ+ people would remain “second class and discriminated against, even with this really small concession”.
The Revd Nigel Pietroni, who chairs the Campaign for Equal Marriage, said that such a “pathway” had “always been a central demand of LGBTQ+ Anglicans and remains a priority for our continued campaign”.
Of the proposed apology to LGBTQ+ people, he said that apologies “only actually mean anything if the person or institution offering it changes their behaviour.
“These proposals to offer commendations and blessings, whilst undoubtedly a small movement, continue to treat LGBTQ+ people and their relationships as inferior and second-class. Our relationships are not considered as equal to those of heterosexual couples. This is not good enough.”
Meanwhile, the director of strategy and operations for the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), Canon John Dunnett, said that, while “grateful that the House of Bishops seem to be indicating they don’t wish to change the doctrine of marriage”, members of the CEEC might worry that the proposals in effect would amount to a “Trojan horse” for doctrinal change.
Canon Dunnett told the Church Times that “we need on the conservative side to recognise that the liberals want something that is so different to what we believe is right,” and that this required clear differentiation between those in the Church of England who held different views.
A conscience clause for clergy, similar to that concerning the marriage of divorced people, would not be sufficient, he said, as this would leave a priest who declined to perform a blessing for a same-sex couple open to public criticism.
“When they say no, on social media in their town, they’re going to be the dinosaur, the homophobe, and no one’s going to cover their back because the bishop will say, ‘Well, I can’t issue a public statement in favour of you because I’ve got to be a bishop to everybody,’” Canon Dunnett said.
What was required, he said, was more formal differentiation, involving the creation of a “new space in the Church of England for those wishing to pursue change” (Comment, 6 January).
Bishops, however, including those who had publicly argued for same-sex marriage to be permitted within the Church of England, have defended the proposal for blessings.
On Wednesday morning, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said that the proposal as it stood was “pretty historic” saying: “While I recognise that it isn’t enough for some people, and it’s also too far for others, to propose prayers of thanksgiving and dedication for same-sex couples is, I think, a huge step forward.”
The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said on Wednesday that “there are very worthwhile things in these proposals,” despite having been in favour of more significant change (News, 3 November 2022).
“It’s important to note that hopes have been high. A lot of people will be disappointed that we’re not able to make greater progress at this time,” Dr Croft told the Church Times.
He urged people, none the less — and General Synod members in particular — to read the explanations for the Bishops’ proposals, to be published on Friday. He said that he was “disappointed that we are not travelling the whole distance that some of us wanted to travel”. What the Bishops proposed, though, was “a good step forward”, he said. “It will correct some injustices, and offer a tangible public service that wasn’t available before.”
One thing Dr Croft noted was that there had been much greater honesty among the bishops. They no longer maintained an illusion of public unity, as in the past, and this contributed to a more open process of discernment.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, wrote on Twitter that, while the media might present the proposal as “bad news”, “in fact, though it does not go as far as some of us would have liked, it is a huge step forward.
Bishops opt for blessings for same-sex couples in church, but not marriage
CLERGY will be able to offer services of prayer and thanksgiving for same-sex couples and bless same-sex civil marriages in church for the first time under proposals due to be presented to the General Synod next month
“We shall, for the first time, be able to affirm and pray for God’s blessing on faithful monogamous gay relationships,” he wrote.
Dr Eeva John, who assisted the bishops throughout the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process of discernment, said that the process had been an “authentic journey for the bishops” and that they “came to this new place together”.
The statement announcing the Bishops’ proposals suggests that the creation of new pastoral guidance to replace the 1991 statement Issues in Human Sexuality, which imposed celibacy on clergy living with a same-sex partner, would be the subject of a vote in the Synod. The inference is that this stipulation will disappear, but this was not made clear in the press release.
Bishop Mullally said that the Bishops had “heard very clearly that people want Issues to go”. Bishops were “not in the position”, she said, to propose what might replace it, but would listen to discussion in the Synod about what pastoral guidance should be put in place.
“We’re proposing a way forward which gives us an opportunity to do as much as we can, in a way that seek views from Synod but doesn’t actually require legislation,” Bishop Mullally said.
If you read the prayer resource put out late last week, it is clear that the Church of England isn’t even offering a blessing. It is offering prayers in subjunctive language: that God may possibly, perhaps maybe bless this couple who have already done the legal stuff anyway. This is the language of people who have not listened to the voices of the LGBTIQ+ people involved in the LLF process.
The prayer resource nowhere uses imperative language: that God desires to bless and does indeed bless the union of this couple who have already done the legal stuff because the Church hasn’t listened to the Spirit all these decades.
Now, I get that there is a fine line between what the Church of England should be doing, and the realpolitik of synods and so forth. I even understand that to a certain sort of episcopal mind the idea of riling up both those who are urging change and those for whom change is impossible is a kind of perverse win-win. It’s divide and conquer. But it does the Church no good in the long run. It would be better to simply go ahead and update the marriage rites so they are gender neutral and open to everyone. Or ask Parliament to do it so the issue doesn’t even go to Synod.
I have a feeling the Church of England is in a similar position of the legislation for women to be ordained as bishops in around late-2011. It was clear Rowan Williams wasn’t going to be able to do it, and the failure of the measure was the sign he needed to head back to academia. Now, I am not in any way inclined to predicting the future. It is conceivable that once the coronation is done a similar calculus might click into place for Justin Welby.
I think, Kieran, while agreeing with most of what you say here, that this is still a valid step towards the possibility of Same-Sex Marriage in the C. of E. Obviously, the ABC is scared by the possibility that – as Primus-inter-pares – he has to be open to the views of other provinces of the Anglican Communion (mostly GAFCON) that protest against the proposal on what they consider to be scriptural grounds, as he sees his office as being the axis of unity in the A.C.C. However, I think his tentativeness has already become redundant – simply because of the manifest determination of the GAFCON folks (and their followers in other provinces) to set up their own quasi-Anglican jurisdiction, believing that they only have ‘the True Gospel’.
You will notice that the Archbishop of York, +Stephen Cotterill, had no such qualms about his personal readiness to use such new provisions as were offered by the bishops to welcome S/S married couples into the fellowship of the Church of England.
My own view is that the dissenters in GAFCON should be quietly ‘let go’, so that the rest of us can go on with the inclusive mission of Christ to ALL PEOPLE.