Speaking for the C of E on sexuality

There was a bit of a furore last week, caused by the publication of a letter sent by William Nye, who is General Secretary to the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, to The Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC). The letter had been written and sent last October, in response to a request from TEC for reactions to their plans to revise the liturgy of their Book of Common Prayer removing gender references in their marriage rites. The publication of the letter provoked a strong reaction in a letter to the Church Times from 126 clergy and laity, as well as two further letters from Giles Goddard and Anthony Archer.

It is worth reading carefully what William Nye actually says, since it is not obvious from the responses that everyone has done so. His letter, and the five letters from the other provinces who responded, can be read online.

First, Nye notes how short the notice period is for the request: ‘Five working weeks is rather short for a matter of this weight’. Anthony Archer praises TEC for making the effort at consultation, but giving such a short time-frame suggests this is a rather notional exercise, and this is confirmed both by the small number of responses (six from the 39 provinces) and the fact that the uniformly negative responses do not appear to have had any impact whatever on TEC’s decisions. Nye’s response, at eight pages, is longer than all the other responses put together, and he hints that the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Communion meant that he felt a full response from this province was needed.

Secondly, he then rehearses the doctrinal position and debate in the Church of England, and it is in this section that he includes a phrase which has provoked most offence in the letters to the CT. Nye notes how contentious the issue is in the Church, and notes that there is considerable disagreement. Nonetheless,

For a majority in the Communion, and in the Church of England (not to mention the Church Catholic), Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside marriage between a man and women is contrary to God’s will.

Nye here is simply summarising the official teaching position of the C of E in the context of the views of other Churches, and highlighting the fact that TEC’s proposed changes in doctrine are out of step with the position of these other churches, before he goes on to explore the consequences for relationships both within the Communion and within TEC itself. (Thinking Anglicans later offered the ‘development’ revealing that the Archbishops were consulted on the content of the letter. This is hardly news: you would have to live on the moon to think that Nye would send anything about the Communion without signing it off with them first.)

The outrage expressed in the letter to the Church Times was in response to the idea that ‘the majority in the Church of England’ believe that same-sex sexual relations outside male-female marriage is wrong—but that is not what Nye says. He has made is very clear all along that wider consultation is not possible in the timescale, and that what he is doing is stating the current position of the C of E. He also notes that ‘this is not the universal view within the Church of England’. He refers to the FAOC report Men and Women in Marriage from 2013, and the importance of the canons and liturgy in defining the Church’s understanding of marriage—but he could equally well have included reference to the Pastoral Letter of February 2014, which reiterated the same sources of authority.

The claim made by the letter-writers is that the ‘majority of Anglicans’ want the teaching of the Church to change—and that should be a material fact in determining the Church’s doctrine. The first of these ideas has been promoted previously—but in order to make the numbers work, it turns out that you have to allow people to self-identify as Anglicans, rather than ascertain whether they actually participate in Anglican worship or are members of their local Anglican church. And the research of Mark Regnerus in the States demonstrates that Christians who support same-sex marriage on the whole have no discernibly different ethical viewpoint from non-Christians on a whole range of issues around sexuality, so the implications of such an approach are far-reaching. And the effects of this are not limited to sexual ethics but other key areas of doctrine. Research into ‘ordinary theology’ shows that the majority of Anglicans (with the exception of those defining themselves as ‘evangelical’) hold non-orthodox views of Christology and the doctrine of the atonement. One possible response to this is to change the teaching of the Church—but another possible response is to put a little more energy into teaching what the Church officially believes, that is, investing in preaching and catechesis.

Perhaps a key motivation behind these responses is most clearly indicated by Anthony Archer, who claims ‘the writing is on the wall’ on this issue, so the only proper response is for the Church to end any further discussion, and follow the lead of TEC. I think there is an interesting irony in the use of a phrase from the Book of Daniel, where the finger of God is writing a word of judgement over the immorality of the pagan imperial court—but most notable is the assumption that arguments for continuing with the Church’s teaching are simply not worth listening to any more.

The approach of Archer and others is actually a mirror of TEC’s approach to the Anglican Communion as a whole, as Nye points out in the next section of his letter.

By promulgating the new marriage rites, TEC has taken a step which appears to conclude, at the level of an individual province acting unilaterally, a discussion that is still very much ‘live’ in the Church of England and the wider Communion. Because much of this debate concerns the question of whether or not same-sex marriage is a first-order issue which precludes continuing together in communion within the Communion and within the Church of England, TEC’s action in promulgating the new liturgies is, at the least, unhelpful to those of us who are seeking to bring the Church of England’s deliberations to a good outcome.

Tucked within this comment is the historical and rather vexed question of the autonomy of individual provinces within the Communion—but most would hold that, for the Communion to mean anything at all, autonomy in governance must be counter-balanced with agreement on questions of doctrine, including the doctrine of marriage, which explains why four of the other five responses offered to TEC were direct to the point of being terse—and entirely negative. But it appear that, as far as TEC goes, the debate is over, a view precisely echoed in the letters written to the Church Times. (The response of the Scottish Episcopal Church stated its own relative indifference to events in TEC, though had a curiosity of its own, most especially in the two comments: ‘The College of Bishops, in introducing this liturgy to the General Synod, made assurances that the gender-neutral language of the rite was not a gateway to marriage between persons of the same sex’ which is then followed later by ‘we find ourselves in the arguably advantageous position of having a rite which can be used alike for couples of the same sex or of different sexes.’ In other words, a rite which did not form a gateway for the redefinition of marriage did in fact provide a gateway for the redefinition of marriage!)

In his final section, Nye draws attention to the importance for understanding of marriage for procreation simply to be written out of the new liturgy (as it must be to include same-sex couples), and there is a parallel here with his comment earlier on the Church’s response to the Equal Marriage Act of 2013: both these moves do not ‘extend’ marriage but redefine it, and they do not redefine it only for those in same-sex marriages, but for all.

This, then, has implications for anyone in a Church where the marriage liturgy is revised—and it will have a direct impact on those remaining in TEC who still hold to an orthodox view of marriage. Though a number of bishops, clergy and congregations left the TEC to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) when the church began to change its doctrine, some remained, and could do so since the existing rites for same-sex marriage have been ‘trial’, and can only be used with the agreement of the diocesan bishop. Although the majority of bishops have given agreement, eight have not—but the change being proposed would make the rites permanent, so that the teaching position and authority of these bishops would be sidelined. Given that all those ordained in TEC have to “solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church” and that doctrine and worship is expressed in the Catechism and Prayer Book these proposals, if accepted, will make it practically impossible for clergy holding an orthodox Christian doctrine of marriage to remain with integrity in The Episcopal Church.

Zachary Guiliano, an Associate Editor of The Living Church, makes further observations about this:

In recent weeks, many have in the C of E and TEC have written that only eight bishops have declined to authorise same-sex marriage in TEC dioceses: the bishops of Tennessee, Central Florida, Dallas, West Texas, Albany, North Dakota, Springfield, and Florida. This is correct, but obscures the matter. These eight are in mainland diocese where the pressure to “give in” on same-sex marriage is higher, given the sea change in American opinion after the 2015 Supreme Court decision made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

But an additional seven bishops have already stated they would not authorise same-sex marriage in their dioceses: the bishops of Honduras, Columbia, Ecuador Litoral, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands, and Haiti. They have faced less pressure on this issue for a number of reasons: the countries in which they reside have not all legalized SSM, and, one suspects, TEC most of the time (a) forgets about these dioceses or (b) doesn’t want to be hypocritical in its advocacy for minority voices, while crushing down some of its Spanish- and French-speaking dioceses. But the Spanish-speaking ones especially have said it may be time for them “walk apart” from TEC due to this issue.

Taken together, these fifteen bishops are part of an organisation called Communion Partners, which is committed to respecting the moratoria called for in The Windsor Report. They are the bishops of over 295,000 baptized members of the Episcopal Church, which is not a small group by any means. It’s far larger, for instance, than those under alternative episcopal oversight in the C of E. Depending on which metrics you use, it’s either comparable to or significantly larger than ACNA. It’s of comparable size to many Anglican provinces in the Communion. This number, of course, omits conservatives in dioceses with progressive bishops.

Any new developments at TEC’s General Convention could endanger this group. I’d point readers to a pastoral statement issued by Dr George Sumner, the Bishop of Dallas, which lays out a way forward for conservatives: stay, vie for the truth, and keep the focus on Word and Sacrament ministry in the parishes.

All this points to the reality of the debate in this area, and the nature of the question itself. Unlike the debate in the C of E about women in ministry, this is not a subject on which we can simply ‘agree to disagree‘, since a Church cannot believe that something is both part of and contrary to God’s will, holy and sinful at the same time. And perhaps the action in TEC gives some insight into the future of the Church of England should we at some point in the future agree to a change in our doctrine of marriage. But most telling is the absence of any concern expressed about this move effectively disenfranchising and making ‘churchless’ a sizeable minority in TEC who still adhere to orthodox Christian teaching, and the elimination of the Christian doctrine of marriage.

A final concern for me, as a member of Archbishops’ Council, has been the response of Simon Butler, who made a statement to a TEC clergy blogger criticising William Nye’s letter. Simon appears to assume that Nye is speaking for the Council (which he is clear that he isn’t) and he implies that the views of the Council on doctrine are of significance—which they are not. I don’t know whether Simon has written personal to William Nye—but surely that is the way to address such a question, and not briefing against him to people in TEC. It is no way to run a railroad.

The doctrine of the Church of England is expressed in its formularies, its canons and its liturgy. Clergy are committed to upholding and teaching these, and bishops have a particular responsibility to refute error and teach truth—because this is what it means to be part of the one, holy, apostolic and catholic church.

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35 thoughts on “Speaking for the C of E on sexuality”

  1. “the majority of Anglicans (with the exception of those defining themselves as ‘evangelical’) hold non-orthodox views of … the doctrine of the atonement”
    I wasn’t aware that there was an orthodox (ie creedal) doctrine of the atonement. I’d be very interested in a further article on this point, as it touches on many other things that are going on at the moment.
    As for Nye’s letter, I’m not sure he could have done anything other than he did.

    • You are right about doctrine of the atonement…but the issue was the many didn’t think Jesus’ death and resurrection ‘effected’ anything. Do look at the booklet summarising the research; it is startling.

    • Sam
      There is an Anglican doctrine of the atonement and I believe it is the Biblical view. As far as I am concerned the debate/disagreement between me and Ian Paul and Will Jones on the thread “Did Jesus die to ‘satisfy God’s wrath’?” should continue. See the last post from me about the homilies on that thread. I have more to say when I have finished analysing Stephen Travis’ book “Christ and the Judgement of God” to which Ian refers. Of course this is a continuation of the disagreement about the Penal Substitution heart of the Atonement doctrine which has been ongoing among evangelicals for many years.
      Phil Almond

  2. Very good article.

    However, the quote from Nye (‘For a majority in the Communion, and in the Church of England … Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside marriage between a man and women is contrary to God’s will’) does seem to me to say that a ‘majority in the Church of England’ believe the Bible to rule out extra-martial sex. I can understand why people might take exception to this claim about what a majority of Church of England worshippers take scripture to teach – I’d be surprised if a majority in the CofE really do believe that, sadly.

    • The whole premise is wrong, because it presupposes that 100% can summarise what the scriptural texts say (on the basis of having a working knowledge of the said texts). 100% is not even close to accurate.

    • For sure, but you have to read this without the comma, and you also have to ignore his repeated comments that there has been no time for consultation, and that he is speaking only about the current position of the C of E.

      In the next sentence he acknowledges that this view is not universal! And he also notes that there is ongoing discussion.

      The CT letter just ignores all this content in order to push its agenda.

  3. I wonder if some of the reaction may have come as a result of the reporting (e.g. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anglicans-threaten-split-over-gay-friendly-marriage-rites-church-of-england-episcopal-church-0w2xxcs0x) which suggested William Nye was threatening a break relations with TEC if they proceed with replacing the marriage rites. This would have been rather overstepping the mark if true. My reading of this letter is that he did not say this, merely that pressure to do so would increase.

    I’d like to understand, however, why you believe that on same sex marriage ‘we can’t agree to disagree’ as it would be to allow part of the church to believe the actions to be holy and others to believe it is sinful. Are we not already in this position on issues like re-marriage after divorce (one man and one woman for life … except … sometimes ….)?

    • ‘Church Mouse’ I suspect you are right. But that means the 300 signatories to the letter have either relied on a media report, rather than reading what William Nye actually said—or have wilfully decided to misinterpret his comments.

      Which do you think it is?

      • Ian

        When it comes to the letter in the Church Times, it states, “Mr Nye writes about pressure from the Church of England to dissociate from the Episcopal Church. ” so appear to have read the letter carefully. I was referring to the wider reaction (which may have been a spur for those most concerned to organise the letter) where I suspect many have relied on media reports. Unless you are a very close observer of these matters, I think that is not unreasonable.

        As a matter of fact, I can’t see anything incorrect in the letter to the Church Times and I can’t see anywhere an attempt to mislead or misrepresent.

        In the interest of accuracy, however, you may wish to change your post where you say, “The claim made by the letter-writers is that the ‘majority of Anglicans’ want the teaching of the Church to change”. They do not say this at all – they say:

        “The letter [Nye’s letter] refers to a majority belief in the Church of England that the only legitimate locus for sexual relationships is within heterosexual marriage. This sweeping assertion cannot, in fact, be substantiated, as the Church of England, to our knowledge, has never asked her regular worshipping community what it thinks and believes about this.”

        Far from claiming to know what the majority view is they simply say that it is not known. As you say, a majority view on something doesn’t really mean very much, but it was Nye who claimed this as ammunition in his letter (“For a majority in the Communion, and in the Church of England …”, so better to be accurate about it.

        • ‘Far from claiming to know what the majority view is they simply say that it is not known.

          In fact, the Church Times letter-writers are inadvertently expressing somewhat more than this. They are asserting that, if the Church did survey what its regular worshipping [sic] community thinks and believes, then alternatives to heterosexual marriage could be legitimised by evidence of substantial support.

          However, Nye isn’t stating that support by a majority automatically confers legitimacy on the traditional view of marriage. Instead, he appears merely to explain that the majority in the Communion and CofE hold to the belief that Holy Scripture does not endorse sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.

          He isn’t wrong.

          • Hi David

            Do you really think that ‘the majority in the … CofE hold to the belief that Holy Scripture does not endorse sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage’?

            Sadly I think this is very unlikely.

          • Hi Will,

            In my discussion with CofE ‘rank and file’ membership, the belief isn’t that Holy Scripture endorses sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, but that, in the modern world, such activity is somehow beyond Scripture’s purview.

            What’s the basis for you thinking that a majority in the CofE believes that Holy Scripture endorses non-heterosexual marriage?

          • Hi David

            I think part of the problem here is that the question assumes that the majority of regular churchgoers have a view on what scripture teaches on sex. Which I’m not sure they do. Certainly I don’t get the impression that many think it is wrong to have pre-marital sex, though that could just mean they don’t think that what the Bible teaches on it should be taken seriously these days,.

            I’d be interested in any polls or research on the subject. I don’t have any specific reason for thinking the majority believes that scripture endorses pre-marital sex, or anything else, but I also don’t have any reason for thinking they think it doesn’t, or that they have much of a view on what the Bible says about anything. I certainly wouldn’t be confident making any claims about what the majority of CofE worshippers think the Bible says on any given subject. Which I guess shows my lack of confidence in typical Anglican Bible teaching, and in the typical congregant’s grasp of scriptural moral instruction.

    • I wonder if anyone agrees with me that once we get onto discussing things like this at all, we need to retrace our steps.

      (a) It occupies vast amounts of time, and that is time stolen from other things. And those other things already had too little time.

      (b) As far as organisations go, the main campaigners for such issues are not just nonChristian but antiChristian. That places these issues on the map.

      (c) People scarcely ever remember (let alone address) the points that have previously been made; nor care to do so. That suggests that the whole thing is an exercise in filibustering. See (a).

      (d) It boils down to: Ought not Christianity to become more secularised? No, Christianity ought not to become more secularised. The secular way produces dire stats. As to whether secularism should become more Christianised – now you’re talking.

      (e) The newsagent confirms that it is definitely true that people love to spend their time gossiping *if* that is seen as an acceptable option. Mags are filled with what sells and are a sure guide to people’s reading preferences. Or to our worse nature’s reading preferences.

      (f) Dodgy unexamined concepts like ‘equality’ make this issue a killer in terms of bringing down weaker and more suggestible sectors of the church. In terms of tactics, that is no.1. If our move is to join those weaker and more suggestible sectors in giving this issue the time of day, we are apparently saying it does deserve the time of day (rather than just one single occasion summarising the main points, and updating that where necessary).

      • (a) If it is a first order issue, then it is surely worth all the time it can be given?

        (b) Agree.

        (c) Disagree. I understand what you’re saying, but this seems like an unfair dismissal. It’s very difficult to look at this issue holistically, especially in this comment format. I think you’re holding people to standard that can’t be met.

        (d) I personally think it boils down to the weakening of scriptural authority and tradition. Increased secularism is the symptom, not the cause, as the church has sought to sure up a badly damaged column with pieces from a different building.

        (e) What’s your point; that humans suffer from confirmation bias?

        (f) Agree. The battlefield of language is of vital significance and I fear we are late to that party.

        • On the ‘first-order issue’ point, this seems to be the frame through which the issue is seen; but framing things in a certain way blocks off all the other angles, and the aim should always be to take a comprehensive, pan-angled (not selective) view.

          It is only a first-order issue because of the flagrant violation of logic, commonsense and the empirical (and of scripture which reflects the above 3). If I called a cat a dog, my error would be of the first order because it would be a clear and obvious error. But the way that is solved is not to call a cat a dog in the first place, and/or to admit one’s error in having done so. What people are calling a first-order issue is actually not an issue at all until someone puts it on the table as an issue. Those who did that wanted to conform the best and most accurate and truthful Way in the world to the Zeitgeist and to selfish human passions. That is not a position to be taken seriously or wasted time on, because we see where it is coming from.

          In conclusion, therefore, the whole ‘first-order issue’ rhetoric fails to see that anything at all can become an ‘issue’ if some person makes it one by voicing a different viewpoint for their own ends. And, secondly and importantly, the more untenable their position, the more serious is their error, and therefore the more serious and timeconsuming is the issue (IF one gives it the time of day). That is not at all the same as the issue being a genuine (academically contested) issue over which there is legitimate debate.

          • Well said, Christopher.

            This absolutely central point lies at the heart of the whole ‘sexuality debate’: there is no debate because it’s not remotely a real issue for Christians. That’s why there’s any amount of manoeuvrings in lieu of an honest attempt to present a cogent theological argument for same sex ‘marriage’. And it’s why the Bible similarly doesn’t address it – the Bible doesn’t waste its time on clearly ridiculous notions.

            And it’s why we can be sure the source of the whole spurious, time wasting business is satanic: it wastes huge amounts of Christians’ time, energy and interest; it saps at confidence in Biblical teaching as a whole; and it drives true believers out of the church. It’s a ‘triple whammy’.

  4. Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of the CofE to, I don’t know, commission some research that actually speaks to legitimate churchgoers and not nominal self-identified Anglicans? At the moment it’s very easy to claim you’re speaking for a consensus, when no one is precisely sure what that consensus is.


      • I wasn’t necessarily asking for a poll, and certainly not a ‘yes/no’ polarisation, but what we have now is, I agree, effectively valueless…*

        I don’t think we should be conducting research to ‘prove a point’ either. I agree entirely that some sort of scaling exercise, where positions are held relative to others would be an order of magnitiude more useful.

        To answer the question of ‘why?’; so as to prevent the easy propagandising of said data, surely. I mean, people will still try, but we could at least make it harder. 😉

        *Didn’t Peter Ould write a piece for Psephiso about the weakness of the data we have, and the difficulty of statistics? I can’t find it.

  5. It reads to me that the reaction to Nye’s letter setting out the ‘actual’ doctrinal position of the C of E was pre-determinedly fuming. An ecclesiastical ‘disgusted ofv unbridge Wells’. If he was mistakenly read then that points to a flimsy intellectual approach which can only lead to further pointless discussion. If it wasn’t merely mistaken then was it spiritual blindness? And where did that come from? That’ll sound harsh but responses like this don’t leave much room for other compassionate reasons.

    As for ‘the writing is on the wall’… I’ll put that in the same box as ‘on the right side of history’.

    Considering the (generally liberals) snide remarks over decades about ‘evangelicals’ and their supposed lack of intellectual ability (‘noise in the shallow end’ etc) ‘people in glasshouses’ springs to mind… and that’s actually kind.

  6. As one of the signatories to the Church Times letter I have several concerns about William Nye’s letter to TEC.
    Firstly, he appears to arrogate authority and power. The Letter was written on Archbishops’ Council writing paper. It was, we learn, agreed by the two archbishops, but not by any other bodies. And it was covert. Only the TEC’s transparency has revealed this correspondence.
    Secondly, he does threaten the TEC with ‘implications in terms of our relationships’, et seqq.
    Thirdly, he proposes an account of marriage which is not uncontested. It is not true to say that the understanding of marriage has been immutable and univocal across cultures and centuries ‘indeed, for as long has marriage has existed’. This is unhistorical tosh and the Church should be ashamed that Nye is making this claim.
    Fourthly, the relationship between Christ and the Church is indeed a metaphor. The difference mirrored there is between Creator and created, not between genders. If it were, then the Bride of Christ would be a very queer bride, indeed.
    Fifthly, Nye is simply wrong about the ‘God’s gift of children’ wording. As I said above CW can drop the [born and] part of the marriage service.
    Finally, can Christopher Shell stop committing outrages such as: ‘As far as organisations go, the main campaigners for such issues are not just nonChristian but antiChristian. That places these issues on the map.’ All of the signatories to the Church Times letter are Christian. None is anti-Christian. He may not agree with their theology, and is free to contest that robustly. But he is very wrong to impugn their integrity and it does not improve the tenor of these debates.

    • But when did I say that the Church Times letterwriters (who, as you’ll agree, constitute a tiny percentage of the revisionists) were the main campaigners? I count them as not being ‘main’ in the sense of not being secularists, since the ‘main’ (largest and most typical) move in that direction comes from the secularists. There will always be cultural conformists joining them: cultural conformism (however unjustified) is a fact of life.

    • ‘It is not true to say that the understanding of marriage has been immutable and univocal across cultures and centuries ‘indeed, for as long has marriage has existed’.’

      Agreed, but that not what Nye wrote. Instead, he described the first understanding of marriage in which ‘the heterosexual and therefore procreative meaning of marriage is explicit’ and which is, at least, ‘partially defined by openness to the procreation of children’. He also contrasted this with ‘marriage according to the State’s practices’ which is ‘gender-neutral and not understood to be even partially defined by openness to the procreation of children’.

      He’s right. This ‘openness to procreation’ (from which gender-neutral marriage departs) is not disproven by the stock rhetorical question about whether spouses are required to procreate to have a legal marriage.

      Instead, throughout history, there is the common understanding that marriage confers a built-in contingency for rebuttably presuming from birth that the husband is the father of any child born to the wife during the subsistence of the marriage (the presumption of legitimacy).

      To gender-neutralize marriage undermines the validity of this presumption.

      This understanding of marriage as ‘geared towards the fundamental possibility of procreation’ explains why the ECtHR dismissed the complaint of Schalke and Kopf that Austria had violated their Article 12 ‘right to marry and found a family’.

      If some are skeptical about Nye’s statement, then they should provide hard evidence of the various cultures and/or civilizations in which (contrary to Nye’s statement and the Roman rule: pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant) marriage hasn’t conferred the presumption of legitimacy; where the State has routinely placed the onus of proof on a husband to prove his paternity of children born to his wife.

  7. While this is an in-house discussion, it is much a wider Kingdom of God issue and harks back to the many topics highlighted by Ian P such as changing liturgy without changing settled and scriptural doctrine.
    Here is a link to an article which identifies some aspects of the slippery slope and extrapolates from the present to the future:

    Having practiced family law, in divorce proceedings, while there is a need to discuss reconciliation, there is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales – irretrievable breakdown of marriage- for a legal separation of ways – an exodus, as it were, from communion. What does scripture and church history teach about mixture and separation? Interestingly, one factor to demonstrate that level of breakdown is a couple living “separate and apart” under the same roof. The law recognises that it can not put a broken, cracked, egg back into its shell.

  8. In one of your final paragraphs here, Ian, you have used the word “Railroad” – which, when applied as a verb, describes adequately just what you, Con/Evos in the C.of E., GAFCON, ACNA and associated conservatives in (and separated from) the Anglican Communion are using against the eirenic actions of TEC, SEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, which Provinces are trying to do to bring local Anglicans into the modern world; where issues of gender and sexuality are not ‘First Order’ issues.

    • Ron
      Issues of sexuality are first order as both apostles Paul in 1Corinthians and John in Revelation make them such.
      As for being irenic, I doubt that’s what the faithful ministers and congregations in TEC and Anglican church of Canada thought when they were barred from their churches for holding to historic orthodox theology and ethics.

    • As has been said n times:

      Why would it matter how ‘the modern world’ judges things unless the modern world is infallible? But

      (a) no other era has been infallible, not even remotely;

      (b) simply following cultural tides is a desperately easy option that requires no effort, and is the option rejected as a principle by those with analytic powers, brains and/or conscience;

      (c) why belong to the church if there is an infallible world-order already?

  9. Of course, the steep and precipitous drop in TEC’s membership is the conspicuous backdrop to its plans to promulgate a gender-neutral marriage liturgy: https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/19546

    So, 15 years after TEC’s decision to ordain an openly gay bishop, support is wearing thin for the view of many in TEC’s leadership that the Church’s traditional position on marriage is damaging to mission.

    In fact, Honduras has experienced the highest growth among the TEC dioceses, despite the country’s Constitution expressly banning marriage and de facto unions between people of the same sex.

      • Hi Ian,

        I did some research (see https://pr.dfms.org/studyyourcongregation/) into the detailed statistics for parishes in the diocese of Honduras, which reported an overall 121% increase in membership.

        In contrast, due to new reporting rules, the same diocese posted sharp declines in membership for 2013 and 2014.

        The massive increase in membership may be explained by the large numbers that can be confirmed and received into the church during episcopal visitations (See Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theology of Confirmation for the 21st Century, p. 66) If membership is measured by this yardstick, rather than Average Sunday Attendance, then it does explain the discrepancy which you’ve mentioned.

        To its credit, under Bishop Allen’s oversight, the Honduras diocese is very mission-oriented: it has seven bi-lingual schools; the El Hogar farm school, technical school, girl’s boarding school, orphanage; 3 HIV clinics; Anglidesh an organization for the development of Honduras through micro-business finance; and the Faith, Hope, and Joy Housing Project.

        • Hi David.
          Thanks for that info and the link. It is interesting if looking odd in the way it’s all done. Very Sharp drops in ‘baptised’ members aren’t likely to be deaths…even in a mad gun culture…. So it must be (?) diassociations. The figures seems far to high to be baptisms in the year numbers. Or the method isnt quite obvious. Overall it shows a church where the income has not gone down in line with either baptisms or attendance.

          So the core group is paying more year by year. Cost saving by bishop ‘redunding’ (to coin a phrase) might help… 😉


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