Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 10
Updated twice on Tuesday evening
The soap opera continues.
Bosco Peters has written Rethinking marriage? He concludes this way:
…By the 1928 marriage rite, wives obeying their husband had gone, and with it the biblical submit-and-subject wording. In only one prayer was the allusion retained that in marriage “is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church”. [In the CofE Common Worship rite that becomes, “they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind, as Christ is united with his bride, the Church” or “they shall be united in that love as Christ is united with his Church”].
Because the union of Christ and His church is an unbreakable union, Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery comes together with marriage-is-indissoluble. Furthermore inevitably with the inequality of Christ and His Church, this image comes with an inequality between husband and wife, and a distinction of their roles.
New Zealand Anglicanism shifted from a firmly-held “marriage cannot be dissolved” to “a couple when getting married should intend to stay together”. ALL references to Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery were completely removed from the three different rites available for getting married in the 1989 New Zealand Prayer Book. Even the Church of England’s own Common Worship rite has removed all but the tiniest single vestigial allusion (quoted above) to what was clearly once a dominant biblical paradigm for marriage.
What once again is clear when those who say the debates are not sourced in prejudice about homosexuality, but are about integrity to scripture and tradition, is that whilst a sea change has occurred in the understanding of marriage, they have only begun to register an issue when the direction heads towards committed same-sex couples.
In the discussion about whether gender difference is essential to marriage it is clear where the inner logic of the trajectory of Christian marriage changes leads, and that the Church of England bishops’ statement is on the wrong side of that trajectory.
Andrew Goddard has written an article in two long parts for Fulcrum:
The divisions within the Church of England and the multiple challenges it faces in the light of the advent of same-sex marriage have become even clearer and more serious in the weeks since the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance. In what follows I explore three areas where the bishops have been criticised and offer a defence of their stance…
This second part turns to highlight three areas of ambiguitiy, unclarity or inconsistency before concluding with some thoughts on the challenges we now face…
He concludes with this:
…One reason that further practical guidance is unlikely from the House of Bishops is that some of its members do not personally believe that the church’s doctrine of marriage as being a union of a man and a woman is true and something which “most benefits society” (para 8). Others, although personally convinced of such a view, are concerned about the implications – in church and wider society – of following that commitment through in church teaching and practice. Those concerns will have been deepened by the strength of criticism they have faced for upholding the teaching and following it through even to the extent they have done.
The sad reality is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Although it is reported that only one bishop voted against the guidance, it is also being claimed that a significant number, even a majority, are not personally happy with it. The reactions to the guidance make clear just how extensive the divisions are in the wider church and thus how difficult the environment for the facilitated conversations is going to be. They also perhaps highlight two areas where the conversations need to focus their attention but which were largely unaddressed by the Pilling Report:
(1) What doctrine of marriage should the Church have and how should it then bear faithful witness to that in ordering its own life and in mission in a wider society which recognises same-sex marriage? and
(2) What is to be done, what new church structures may be needed, so that those who find themselves unable to accept the conclusions on the doctrine of marriage and its practical implications can faithfully bear witness to their understanding of marriage without undermining the mind of the majority or condemning the Church of England to continuing destructive conflict over this issue?
Giles Fraser has written Gay clergy marriages: the final chapter of the Anglican Communion fiction.
…All this means that the bishops won’t be able to do a damn thing about their clergy having same-sex marriages. As the bishop of Buckingham explained: “If a member of the clergy wants to marry, I may like or not like the match, but I have no legal power to stop them marrying.” And when this happens, the toys will be thrown from many a Nigerian church pram. The fiction that is the Anglican Communion will be over and we can go back to being the Church of England, rather than the local arm of the empire at prayer. And thank God for that.
Peter Ould has published CDM or EJM? in which an anonymous correspondent who has “considerable experience in the exercising of the Clergy Discipline Measure and the processes before it and who has a firm founding in Ecclesiastical Law ” writes that:
…There can be no doubt that for a member of the clergy to commit matrimony in a civil register office with another person of the same sex, would be both perfectly legal according to the new Act of Parliament, and conduct unbecoming a clerk in holy orders so far as the Church of England is concerned. That Act of Parliament acknowledges that the law of the Church diverges from that of the state in such matters, and expressly permits the Church to act independently where marriage discipline is concerned. Even if Church legislation directly contradicts the law of Parliament, the Act expressly allows for this.
The House of Bishops has expressly stated that it will not allow the clergy to enter into same-sex marriages. This statement forms part of the discipline of the Church, since the House of Bishops is the teaching authority for the Church, and its members administer the CDM. All of the clergy in office have signed the Declaration of Assent and have taken an oath of canonical obedience. The latter commits them to obeying the canon law of the Church of England, including the lawful directions of their bishop where he has authority to do so.
There can therefore be no doubt that a CDM tribunal will rule that a same-sex marriage by one of the clergy constitutes conduct unbecoming, just as surely as if the minister concerned had committed adultery or some other act of immorality of a sexual nature. This is not a matter of doctrine but of morality…
But do read the whole article.
Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream has written for the American Anglican Council: Gay marriage and the Church’s response
…But also among those holding to a conservative position there are divisions. Should Christian sexual ethics be explained outside the community of faith? Should Anglicans protest against gay marriage outside registry offices, or the teaching of homosexual practice in schools? Could it ever be right (even if not canonically appropriate) to refuse sacraments to those who have entered a same sex marriage against pastoral advice? Should people with same sex attraction be enabled to seek skilled help to change if they so wish? What about the future of the Church – would it be a good thing to participate in facilitated conversations? Are there any circumstances in which it might be the best thing to form a separate Anglican administration, either linked to the Church of England or not? Is GAFCON the solution? All of these questions separate the confessing C of E Anglicans…
US Supreme Court will not hear Falls Church case
Michelle Boorstein at the Washington Post reports: Supreme Court won’t hear appeal of dispute over Episcopal Church’s property in Va.
Seven years after 15 conservative Virginia congregations made global news by breaking away from the Episcopal Church — and refusing to give up tens of millions of dollars in property — the Supreme Court on Monday ended the complex legal dispute by declining to take up an appeal by the last remaining plaintiff.
The Falls Church Anglican, a 2,000-member breakaway congregation, had asserted that the nearly 300-year-old sprawling property belonged to the Anglican group because the Episcopal Church “left” its umbrella Anglican tradition by becoming more liberal in interpreting scripture and ordaining gay and lesbian clergy…
Mary Frances Schjonberg at ENS reports this way: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Falls Church Anglican case. This article contains many links to earlier documents.
More than seven years after a majority of clergy and members of several Diocese of Virginia congregations declared they had left the Episcopal Church and the question of ownership of the property involved began to be litigated, the U.S. Supreme Court refused on March 10 to hear the appeal of the last congregation still at odds with the Episcopal Church and the diocese.
The court gave no reason for deciding not to review a 2013 ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court reaffirming an earlier circuit court ruling that returned The Falls Church property to loyal Episcopalians to use for the mission of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The court’s decision was included in its March 10 order list and was one of 121 requests for review that it refused.
All that remains in the case is for the Diocese of Virginia to request an order from the Fairfax Circuit Court releasing to the diocese more than $2.6 million that was in the Falls Church’s bank accounts at the time of the split and that the court has been holding in escrow during the progression of the case…
We received word today that the United States Supreme Court has denied our church’s petition for certiorari and declined to hear our case. This means that the long legal process in which our church has been involved since we were sued by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in 2007 has come to its end.
We have pursued this legal process out of the conviction that it is one of the ministries that God has entrusted to our church and out of our desire to be faithful to God’s calling to see it through to the end. We are grateful that our nation’s civil justice system allows us this recourse and we thank the Supreme Court for its consideration of our petition.
We will keep praying for the many churches and dioceses that remain embroiled in lawsuits over their property with The Episcopal Church or other denominations. We will continue to pray for clarification of this area of law, which has become increasing convoluted and confusing for the lower courts since the Supreme Court last addressed it in 1979…
A.S. Haley has published Heartbreaker: U. S. Supreme Court Denies Falls Church Petition.
Update on the vacancy in the See of Hereford
The Crown Nominations Commission held its second meeting to consider the See of Hereford on 25 and 26 February, and was unable to make a choice. The Commission will reconvene in May and June. The news was announced in this press release published on the Hereford diocesan website.
Archbishop of Canterbury
March 7th 2014
From the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Diocese of Hereford
Vacancy in the See of Hereford - meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission
An update from the Archbishop of Canterbury - Chair of the Commission
Many of you will have been keeping the Crown Nominations Commission in your prayers last week, for which many thanks. It is good for those of us undertaking this work to know that we are being prayed for.
We thought it important to provide an update on the progress of our deliberations which are still continuing. The Commission has had two meetings. Following interviews, we did not feel able to make a choice as to whom God is calling to be the next Bishop of Hereford and felt that we needed more time to discern the next stages for mission and ministry in the Diocese. Taking time over appointments is important and the Commission is utterly committed to finding the right person to be your Bishop. We are therefore making arrangements to reconvene on 1 May and 6 June 2014.
As ever, I will be keeping the whole diocese in my prayers.
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
Sunday, 9 March 2014
Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 9
Anglican Mainstream has published an email sent by the EGGS Committee to the members of EGGS. EGGS is the Evangelical Group of the General Synod, and the names of the committee members are shown here. The full text of the email is copied below the fold.
The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday broadcast this morning carried a segment which discussed the legal implications for clergy who enter a same-sex marriage. The Bishop of Oxford was among those interviewed, along with the expert legal journalist, Joshua Rozenberg. The 10 minute segment begins about 35 minutes into the broadcast.Continue reading "Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 9"
Saturday, 8 March 2014
Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes
As I reported here the current legislation on Women in the Episcopate was sent to dioceses promptly after last month’s meeting of General Synod. The first diocesan synod votes were held a week ago, and so far nine dioceses have voted; all were in favour of the legislation.
I have compiled a table of the voting figures here which I will update as further votes take place.
David Emmott starts his new blog Campaign for Fair Rants with Becoming human.
David Walker writes for The Guardian The church has no choice but to act when faced with the reality of poverty.
Graham Kings writes for Fulcrum Life, Justice and Peace through Mission and Dialogue.
Ted Olsen writes for Christianity Today The Bible in the Original Geek: Inside the world of the new Bible coders—and how they will change the way you think about Scripture.
Richard Fidler of ABC has been in conversion with Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Jody Stowell asks Why are we so afraid of women bishops?
If God is love, then can God also be love, heat and passion? - Part 3 of the George Herbert series by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes in The Guardian.
Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian Secular Lent is a pale imitation of the real thing. I’ll have nothing to do with it.
Friday, 7 March 2014
Where The Wild Things Might Be
Mention the word ’ wilderness’ these days, and the images which come to mind may well be filtered through the lens either of the Romantic movement, which began to find the wild places and the uninhabited lands not life-threatening but life-enhancing, or that of a more recent sensibility, a conservation movement which seeks to preserve some parts of the earth as (nearly) untouched by human intervention, and finds in that a powerful good. Our remaining wildernesses are no longer fear-filled, distant from all that is humane, encouraging, civilised, as they were for so many generations and are still for some cultures and in some parts of the world. They have largely lost their edge of danger; rather than places of threat, they are seen as places of a strange and powerful beauty. For us, the children of a comfortable, largely urbanised society, they have become the settings for adventure or recreation. If they are places of challenge, it is often a very carefully orchestrated challenge, a battle for survival created as a source of entertainment employing the enmeshed forces of media and celebrity.
So we still have stories of ventures into the wild, often solitary; expeditions into the rainforests of the Amazon, treks across the Antarctic, solo crossings of the oceans in small boats. These are our narratives of risk and heroism, these are the tales of individuals deliberately placing themselves where their very survival may be at stake. In these stories of our own time and culture we can still hear an echo of the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. They are stories of the testing of the human spirit, they involve separation from the norms of daily life, the conscious placing of the self in danger, the denial of comfort, the need for inner strength, for great reserves of courage. However, at the heart of most of these stories is (in the tradition of the Romantics) the individual him or herself, asserting or proving a practical, emotional, and even spiritual self-sufficiency - however fulsome the tributes to the back-up teams at the end.
When we listen to the accounts of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, especially those in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we hear something different. We hear not about self-sufficiency, but about dependence: dependence on God as the source, sustainer, and shaper of life. If we move on a few centuries, to those other seekers-out of the wild places, the desert fathers and mothers, we learn not only about dependence on God, but dependence on each other. The physical and spiritual battles fought in the deserts of Egypt by those men and women of the 4th and 5th centuries are known to us because their struggles were so often resolved through conversation and exchange, through what was shared.
Whatever the wild places, of body, mind, or spirit, we find ourselves in this Lent, may we have the wisdom and the courage to recognise that we can’t flourish, or even survive on our own; may we allow ourselves to depend and trust on and in God’s sustaining presence, and to allow others to help make that presence known to us.
Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Looking neither back nor forward
Christians come to Lent from one of two directions. Some of us approach from the past. We look to the season as a time for penitence. We reflect and repent from previous sin. We acknowledge our individual and corporate failings. We give up, even if only for a few weeks, things that have distracted us from our holiness, or have become idols. Some of us approach from the future. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. We form spiritual disciplines which we hope might be landmarks on the lifelong journey we call sanctification. We commit ourselves to charitable works that might in time become habitual. We abstain from good things in order to appreciate them more richly later. Maybe, if we are experienced and sophisticated in our approach, we try to do a bit of each; to focus on both past and future.
These two approaches broadly reflect two metanarratives with which we approach life and faith: the myths of regress and of progress. To the regressive Christian, “Change and decay”, linked forever in the Hymn Abide with me, act as synonyms. The constant shortening of human lifespan recounted in the Book of Genesis is clear evidence that things only get worse. The first few chapters of Paul’s letter to Rome depict a process of degradation against which the Church of God must stand, rescuing whom it can, while it may. By contrast, to the progressive Christian, decay is the consequence of not changing enough, or not sufficiently quickly. Luke’s account in Acts of the gospel reaching out to begin its conquest of empire, offers a view of an ever advancing Kingdom. It’s a destiny towards which, like Paul’s athlete, we must run, and run at our fastest. If a traditional hymn is needed, let it be From Glory to Glory advancing.
Of course, these characterisations hugely simplify reality. We are all a mix of progressive and regressive. But the balance between the two can be very different in each of us. So here’s a challenge for Lent. Try to live it in the opposite myth to your natural preference. If you are a progressive, then let a backwards facing Lent be a way of broadening your sympathies, deepening your understanding of others, so as to grow in holiness. If you are naturally regressive then face forwards. Find something in the world to embrace and enjoy. Maybe force yourself to eat at least one piece of chocolate very day.
That’s a hard ask; for most of us hard enough if not too hard. But, for a minority who have the motivation and the strength, maybe there is, to quote St Paul again, a better way still. Live this Lent neither looking to the past or future. Live it deeply in the present moment. Fast not to improve yourself, nor to express regret; fast simply because Jesus did. Take up or give up such practices as you choose, not because they will help you to achieve some goal, but simply to mark out this season as distinct, as a time set apart. A time for God to use in whatever way God wants.
David Walker is Bishop of Manchester
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 8
Andrew Brown has published at Cif belief this report on the Bad History saga: Why the church’s gay marriage schism is here to stay in which he concludes:
…In other words, the conservative position today is that when the bible says (with Jesus) that a man can’t marry another woman while his first wife is still alive, that’s not about the nature of marriage; when it says (with Moses) that if his wife dies, a man can’t marry her sister, that’s not about the nature of marriage; but when it says (as it doesn’t, because this was too obvious to spell out) a man can’t marry another man, that really is part of the definition of marriage in the way that the others aren’t.
If this is what Fittall, Arora and the archbishops of Canterbury and York, deep down believe then their defence of the palpably silly makes sense. What God wants is by definition more valuable than anything else in the world and what God wants – Conservatives believe – is a straight man married to a straight woman: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve are the perfect couple. It is that relationship that shows the kind of love that leads us towards God. You or I might point out that since Adam and Eve never existed it would be unwise to draw conclusions from their relationship, but that’s not how the religious imagination works.
The point is that they can’t be convinced by arguments from science, from history or from the law about what marriage is. Their minds will only by changed by arguments from God and what God wants. Only if they see God at work in their opponents will they change. To see that, they would have to be looking for signs of it. I don’t think there is any immediate danger of that, on either side.
Jonathan Clatworthy has written Church teaching and the general understanding of marriage:
…To me, the House of Bishops’ claim is a typical example of a stance just too common to require any alternative explanation. ‘Conservatives’, of both the campaigning and the fence-sitting types, love to think that the way things were in their childhood was the way they always had been, all the way back to the beginning. This, for example, is what the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission did last April with their unpopular Men and Women in Marriage; but it is so common that we can all think of examples, not just in matters of religion. I very much doubt that the House of Bishops considered the Acts of 1907 or 1937 and judged that they did not invalidate the statement; they just assumed that the current change is the first such change ever.
They contrast ‘the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England’ with ‘the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law’. I think they mean two things: that the Church’s doctrine of marriage will diverge both from the legal definition and from ‘the general understanding of marriage in England’. (I am not sure; they might have meant ‘the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law’, in which case ‘general understanding’ is only adding emphasis, not making an additional claim.) This post leaves aside the question of legal definition and focuses on the ‘general understanding’.
To judge whether the bishops are right we need an account of what this general understanding is, independently of the legal definition…
UNITE the Union had earlier published this:
Faith Worker Branch Executive statement in response to the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, 14.02.14
“We welcome the House of Bishops’ commitment to a process of conversations that will include profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application of scripture with particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and we would strongly urge the Bishops to pursue this as a priority.
We are concerned, however, that some aspects of the guidance, Paragraph 27 in particular, may discriminate against LGBT clergy in their pursuit of an authentic, loving and committed relationship that accords with their God-given sexuality, and which may as a result diminish their human right to enjoy that relationship.
We are concerned, too, that the vagueness of the guidance in Paragraphs 20 & 21 may unwittingly put clergy at risk of disciplinary action whilst attempting to minister appropriately in complex pastoral circumstances.
We affirm our support of all of our clergy members, and will continue to support and represent them in all aspects of their ministry, including any action taken against them as a result of the application of the Bishops’ guidance.”
The Bishop of Dorking delivered this speech to Guildford Diocesan Synod. Several people have commented that it contains echoes of what the Bishop of Oxford wrote earlier.
Monday, 3 March 2014
Anglican reactions to Nigerian and Ugandan legislation
Updated Monday lunchtime
Update According to the Daily Monitor Church ready to split from England on homosexuals
The Archbishop of Church of Uganda (CoU) has responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, saying Uganda is ready to break away from the Church of England if its views on homosexuality are not respected.
Addressing Christians at St Andrews Church, Bukoto yesterday, Archbishop Stanley Ntangali said the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York John Sentamu recently wrote to him, saying the Church of England was concerned about the CoU’s anti-homosexuality stand.
“I have written back to Archbishop Sentamu. I told him it does not matter even if we do not work with them because the Church of England is a product of repentance and USA is founded on Christian values but they seem to have become spiritually blind,” Bishop Ntangali said…
And AFP reports, via the Telegraph Uganda church warns of Anglican split over gay law
“The issue here is respect for our views on homosexuality, same sex marriage as a country and church. If they are not willing to listen to us. We shall consider being on our own,” Uganda’s top Anglican, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, told AFP.
“Homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture, and no one in the leadership of the church can say legitimise same sex unions or homosexuality,” he said, urging the “governing bodies of the Church of England to not take the path advocated by the West”.
“If they do we shall have no choice but to be on our own,” he said.
[Original article started here]
The most recently published statement by the Church of Uganda on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality legislation appears to be in this statement dated 30 January:
The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”
The Church of Nigeria has recently published this letter sent to the Church of Uganda, commending it for its position on homosexuality.
And there is this news story from Nigeria itself in the Daily Post: Anglican Church in Nigeria subjects members to oath denouncing homosexuality
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has introduced a clause in its constitution subjecting members, who intend to hold positions in church, to take an oath of allegiance to God denouncing homosexuality.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public denunciation took place in Abuja on Sunday at St. Matthews, Maitama, during the swearing-in of new members of the Parish Church Council (PCC).
The Vicar of the church, Ven. Ben Idume, who administered the oath to members of the PCC, said the church recognised that those with such sexual orientation needed help and counselling.
“But they would not be allowed to hold any position in church,’’ he said.
The legislation is significant because it applies to members of the laity, clergy and house of bishops of the church.
It also banned bisexuals from holding any church office.
The text of the vow reads: “I declare before God and his Church that I have never been a homosexual/bisexual or (have repented from being homosexual/bisexual) and I vow that I will not indulge in the practise of homosexuality/bisexuality.
“If after this oath I am involved, found to be, or profess to be a homosexual/bisexual against the teachings of the Holy Scriptures as contained in the Bible.
“I bring upon myself the full wrath of God and subject myself willingly to canonical discipline as enshrined in the constitution of the Church of Nigeria, so help me God.’’
KENYA does not need a new law on gay relationships as the constitution clearly outlaws homosexuality, Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said yesterday.
Wabukala was responding to journalists’ questions on the sidelines of the Anglican Development Service meeting at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi.
He said whereas Uganda’s Parliament and President Yoweri Museveni accepted a law that penalised lesbian gay bisexual transgender relationships, “Kenya’s constitution clearly outlaws” them.
“As the Anglican church in Kenya we are very clear when it comes to matters of relationship which should be between two opposite sexes,” Wabukala said.
He said the church will not accept anything that is not allowed in scripture.
Wabukala faulted those who support the human right of LGBTs. He said human rights are not the same as rights.
“Human rights and rights are different. Human rights have no values while rights have values.”
“Just like Uganda has been guided by the constitution, Kenya has a more clear constitution on the relationship.”
On the other hand, the archbishops of New Zealand have published this: Archbishops: Pray for Uganda.
…Dear Friends and Colleagues in Christ,
Anglicans throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia continue to wrestle with divergent views on many aspects of human sexuality, and on a Christian response to the marriage or blessing of same gender couples in particular. However, we believe that all Anglicans are united in condemning homophobic attitudes or the persecution of people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Many of us will have seen reports this week (eg: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26320102 ) that Uganda’s President has signed into law a bill that toughens penalties for gay people.
This new law includes the provision of life sentences for certain of these new ‘crimes’, and the legislation appears to have been passed with the encouragement of Uganda’s Joint Christian Council – which includes the country’s Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican bishops.
We recall Resolution 1:10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which encouraged Anglicans throughout our Communion “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals…”
We note with dismay these developments in Uganda, and encourage you to remember that country, those placed further at risk by these laws, and those who lead the Church and the state in Uganda, in your prayers…
Sunday, 2 March 2014
Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 7
Continuing from here…
Mike Higton has written two long articles discussing what’s going on in this debate about the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance. They should both be read in full, but here are some excerpts to give you the flavour:
…look back again at the Church’s ‘Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation’ – which I assume can be taken to represent the views of at least some of those responsible for the current Pastoral Guidance. The section on ‘The Church’s understanding of marriage’ is the heart of the report, and before it gets to the two brief paragraphs on civil and religious marriage and their possible divergence, it has thirteen paragraphs that make a rather different point. The centre-piece of this part of the Response is the other paragraph that is put in bold, paragraph 13:
We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.
My suggestion – which I can only make very sketchily here, but will fill out in a subsequent post – is that, for at least some of those who have rejected Linda’s criticism, this is the central issue, and its centrality is so obvious, so luminously blatant, that to pretend that other aspects of the Church’s definition of marriage might be as central – especially issues about which there has been all sorts of complex and detailed disagreement for as long as we’ve been a church – can only be deliberate obfuscation, akin to the claim that the whole structure of the Bishops’ argument should be called into doubt because there is a misplaced semicolon in a footnote somewhere.
In other words, I think I can see that, for someone who inhabits the views set out in that Response to the government consultation, the criticism that Linda and her colleagues made, and that I like them would like to see taken seriously, must look like such a stark case of missing the point that it can only be a deliberate missing of the point…
… I assume that it is not unfair to think that something like this thinking is being expressed both in the House of Bishops’ promulgation of their Pastoral Guidance, and in its defenders’ reaction to the question posed by Linda Woodhead. And, as I suggested in my previous post, I think grasping this point helps to make sense of their reaction.
We are, such a person might think, dealing in this debate with a fundamental structure of creation, and of society – and of our law’s relation to that. We might all agree that questions about fidelity and mutuality go as deep as this question of gender complementarity, but nothing else comes close. In particular, questions about remarriage after divorce and questions about the precise circle of people you can’t marry are clearly not even in the same league as this question. We are dealing with a fundamental structure of creation, and therefore with the very possibility of flourishing in a society that has to live in harmony with creation. That’s clearly what was really being said when the bishops talked about there having been no fundamental divergence between civil and religious understandings of marriage until now – and all this fuss over secondary details is a mischievous smokescreen. It’s all about gender – and this criticism from the likes of Woodhead, her colleagues, and now Higton – well, it dramatically misses that point.
Have I got that right? Is that a fair representation of the source of the impatience with Linda’s question that I’ve been hearing? I realise I’m putting words into mouths here, but I hope I haven’t slipped into caricature?
Phil Groom has written Heaven is Weeping: An Open Letter to the House of Bishops @C_of_E @JustinWelby @JohnSentamu which is also very long, and worth a read.
Saturday, 1 March 2014
Linda Woodhead The crisis of religious authority
George Athas ABC Religion & Ethics Did the camel break the Bible’s back? Nice try, but no
The final part of the Church Times Church Health Check looks to the future. Three of the articles are available to non-subscribers.
Linda Woodhead A remedy for an ailing Church
David Goodhew and Bob Jackson Can we grow? Yes we can
Martyn Percy It’s not just about the numbers
Rachel Mann Church Times Distracted by instant messages
Giles Fraser The Guardian If religion exists to make raids into what is unsayable, musicians penetrate further than most
Friday, 28 February 2014
Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 6
Updated yet again Saturday morning
First of all, a roundup of links on the story so far. Episode 5 was here. Earlier episodes all linked from there.
Since our original publication of Linda Woodhead’s article An error in the House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage we had a follow-up in More about historical error in the House of Bishops statement.
And we have also reported that the LGBTI Anglican Coalition sends open letter to House of Bishops and Bishop of Oxford writes to his clergy on same-sex marriage.
Now the new items.
Today in the Church Times there is Sexuality ‘fudge’ sticks in critics’ throats by Tim Wyatt and Gavin Drake. This quotes the Archbishop of York:
Dr Sentamu, speaking at a meeting of Jewish and Christian students in Durham in the middle of last week, said that the Church of England’s position was that “a clergy person has a right, an expectation, to live within the teaching of the Church, but for lay people and others they should be welcomed into the Church.
“Immediately, when you say that, people say that I’m homophobic. You can’t win on this one. How can I, on one hand, uphold the teaching of sexuality as I see it in scripture, and yet, at the same time, say - this is Anglican fudge - that people’s sexual orientation cannot lead to discrimination because they’re human beings just like anybody else, and God loves them deeply?
“As far as I’m concerned, whatever the sexual orientation, gay people are people, and they need to be given the same protection.”
The story also reports that:
In addition, a group of 21 academics has stated that a statement in the Bishops’ guidance “is wrong”. The guidance suggested that the legalisation of gay marriage meant that, “for the first time” civil law and C of E doctrine of marriage diverged.
The academics, who include Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor David Martin, and Professor Linda Woodhead, call this “inaccurate and misleading”, arguing that the Church’s understanding of marriage has differed from civil law since at least 1857, around questions of divorce and second marriage.
In reply, the secretary to the House of Bishops, William Fittall, wrote this week that the bishops knew that canon law and statute law had not been identical for years.
He maintained, however, that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex partners was of a different order of disagreement.
He also said that the point about a divergence between canon and statute law was not essential to the bishops’ theological case.
The full text of the letter, which has now been sent to all members of the House of Bishops, is available below the fold.
Update 1 The CofE Communications Office on Friday afternoon published Full Correspondence with Professor Linda Woodhead on Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance.
Update 2 Alan Wilson has published Who’s fooling who about history?
…It seems to me vastly unfair on those who struggled against Deceased Wife’s Sister marriages between 1842 and 1907 to suggest that a marriage setup that ran counter to Leviticus 18:18 should be a minor matter of “accidents” whilst one that potentially breaches Leviticus 18:24 should be a fundamental, matter of “substance.”
What really intrigues me about the whole rhetoric of “redefinition” developed by the Moral Majority on the West Coast in the 1990’s is how appealing it is to those who don’t want to allow gay people to marry, but how completely ineffective it has been with everyone else. Not only did it pancake seriously in both houses of the UK parliament, but all those right wing websites that swore to carry on the struggle after the legislation went through last year seem to have packed up and gone home. I wonder why?
Update 3 It appears that Update 1 left out one of the emails received by Linda Woodhead.
[Original article continues]
And there is an analysis of the Bishop of Oxford’s letter by David Pocklington here: Oxon Ad Clerum: Bishops’ Pastoral Statement
The Church Times also carries a very interesting article by Will Adam titled Breaking the rules on gay marriage but this is available only to subscribers.
The Bishop of Salisbury issued this statement: Bishop Calls Attention to Same-Sex Marriage Guidance.Continue reading "Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 6"
Thursday, 27 February 2014
Statement from the Church Commissioners on Wells Palace
27 February 2014
The Bishop’s Palace at Wells was discussed by the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners at its meeting last Tuesday (25th February). This was the first meeting of the Board since it made its decision at the end of November last year.
At the meeting the Commissioners were given an opportunity to read the correspondence received and examine the petition recently presented to the Secretary to the Commissioners. They were also provided with a report of the public meeting attended by Sir Tony Baldry MP.
During their discussion the Commissioners discussed the views of those opposed to their decision and acknowledged the strong feelings that the decision had aroused within the diocese. It was noted that there were also voices of support for the decision.
The Commissioners reiterated their understanding that the ministry of the new Bishop should not be encumbered or restricted by being housed in a place with a high level of public access which is guaranteed and even encouraged in relation to which he might be expected to fulfil a significant role.
Reference was made to the statement of needs for the new Bishop of Bath and Wells which recommended that “the bishop will need to develop a new, and less demanding, relationship with the Palace Trust, in order to be able to focus better on the life of the wider diocese.”
The Commissioners also reiterated their support for the Bishop’s working arrangements and the shared offices of the Bishop of Bath & Wells and the Bishop of Taunton situated in the north wing of the Palace and for the Bishop’s Chapel which will continue to be used for daily prayer, a weekly staff Eucharist, and other services.
The Commissioners agreed that a group would investigate and consult on alternative uses for the Bishop’s apartment in the Palace which would be consonant with the continued rhythm of work and worship at the heart of the Palace.
In reaffirming their decision the Commissioners also confirmed their intention to write formally to the standing committee of the Bishop’s Council in the Diocese of Bath and Wells with notice of their intention for the Bishop’s residence to be moved from the Palace to a new temporary residence.
GAFCON chairman criticises CofE bishops for support of same-sex marriages
The Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, writes in his capacity as Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council to the “Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends”. The letter includes the following passage:
…After the praise that greeted the news that Oxford University is to honour the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States with an honorary Doctorate in Divinity, it was helpful to be reminded of the sober facts in the Statement issued by the Global South Primates Steering Committee last week. It was recognized that ‘the fabric of the Communion was torn at its deepest level as a result of the actions taken by The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada since 2003’ and the Communion’s London based institutions were described as ‘dysfunctional’.
The breadth of the wide gate can be dangerously appealing as an easy choice, avoiding the need for theological discernment and church discipline. This is why I have already written a response (http://gafcon.org/news/a-response-to-the-statement-by-the-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york) earlier this month to the Statement of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about pastoral care for people who engage in same sex relationships.
Sadly, the lack of clarity in that statement about the biblical understanding of such relationships has been repeated in the pastoral guidance issued subsequently by the Church of England’s House of Bishops as same sex ‘marriage’ becomes legal in England and Wales next month. While the Church’s official teaching on marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman is affirmed, it is effectively contradicted by the permission given for prayers to be said for those entering same sex ’marriages’…