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The state of the (Westminster) debate

3112UniversityChurchofStMarytheVirgin_pic1The Westminster Faith Debates are organised by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Lancaster University. (A good number of them, oddly enough, take place in Oxford at the University Church.) You might expect them, then, to offer a balanced engagement with issues on the basis of good research—until you looked at the balance of speakers in particular debates.

The last press release, for the debate on unity and diversity in the national church, also suggested something slightly different. It started by citing Justin Welby’s call for unity and careful listening to those with whom we disagree:

In his presidential address to General Synod this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of divisions within the Anglican Communion, and of the prize of being able to develop unity in diversity. Closer to home, he is supporting ‘facilitated conversations’ in the CofE as a way of healing rifts over the issue of gay marriage. What’s the chance of success?

But the assumption here is that the Archbishop already believes that unity is the most important thing on any issue, and that therefore the best outcome for the debates around sexuality is that we will adopt a diversity of views, but stay together as an institution. In fact, Welby’s comments earlier in the year showed that this was not the case, and he reiterated his concern the impact that any decision in England would have across the Anglican Communion again this week.

The press release goes on to make two interesting comments, arising from research:

When asked where they fall on spectrum from evangelical to catholic, roughly a third of all clergy say they are at the evangelical end…[and] a full 88% of these evangelicals say that same-sex marriage is wrong, compared with just over a third of the rest of the clergy.

It is not clear how accurate these findings are; similar research has previously claimed various things about the views of ‘Anglicans’, but it has subsequently turned out that a good number of these ‘Anglicans’ don’t actually attend church. But if they are close to being right, that is significant. Evangelical churches are, on average, larger than other Anglican congregations, so the proportion of Anglicans attending churches led by self-identifying evangelicals will be a good deal higher than that. Overall, a very significant proportion of those responsible for teaching the faith in local churches continue to be opposed to the Church recognising same-sex marriage.


The press release then goes on to identify an important distinction between men and women on this matter: women appear to be more willing to live with difference.

What the survey also finds, however, is that it is evangelical men not evangelical women who are opposed to the Archbishop’s goal of ‘disagreeing well.’ Most evangelical women clergy (61%) agree with the majority of clergy who support greater toleration. But 68% of evangelical male clergy disagree.

The typical view of evangelical male clergy is both to oppose gay marriage and not to wish the Church to embrace diverse views. Overall this combination of views is held by about 25% of clergy, the majority of whom are male evangelicals. These are a major block to the Archbishop’s dream of unity in the CofE.

Again, we find the assumption that Justin Welby’s priority is unity above concern for theological clarity. If this were the case, he would have moved a long way from his own evangelical roots, and Andrew Atherstone’s revised biography suggests he has done no such thing. There is also a hint here that a key issue is whether the Church as a whole will fulfil the Archbishop’s goal, suggesting the kind of top-down authority which JustinWelby has stated he does not have and probably would not want.


More concerning, though, is the message weaved into this use of research. It seems clear that these male evangelical clergy are the ‘baddies’ in the story—how unreasonable of them not to be willing to live and let live! After all, who are they to try and tell the rest of the Church what they ought to do? Why can’t we just agree to disagree, take a middle path and be reasonable, as the Church of England has always done in the past?

The reason, of course, is that that is precisely what is at stake. On the question of same-sex marriage, the heart of the question is precisely whether this can be considered one of the adiaphora, a subject on which we can agree to disagree, or whether a change of the Church’s position would go to the heart of Anglican identity by changing its relationship with Scripture as the key source of its theological understanding. And to decide this, we cannot simply take poll after poll, until we see views gradually change into the appropriate majority. We need to engage in the theological, hermeneutical and pastoral issues and (once again) thrash them out.

It also raises questions of what unity is actually about. If we agree about nothing theologically, but happen to remain part of the same administrative structures, what kind of unity is that? Is it really of any value at all?

The task of research, and publicly funded research at that, is to tell us what is—and this can never simply translate into what ought to be, unless (of course) it happens to be overlaid with a particular theological or ideological agenda.


Additional note: Andrew Symes, who participated on the debate itself, records his experience on the Anglican Mainstream website. Even if you read this with a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ and are not sympathetic to Andrew’s own position, it doesn’t sound anything like the kind of respectful debate on the issue that it should have been.


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76 Responses to The state of the (Westminster) debate

  1. Etienne November 21, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Well, who ARE you to try to tell the rest of the Church what to do?

    Church of England structures are (vaguely) democratic. And in what kind of democracy does the minority dictate to the majority?

    If the majority is willing to live with diversity, should the minority who can’t be able to scupper such a settlement? If they can’t live with it, they can always vote with their feet. And if they take their BIG churches with them, so be it. They can form their own Church along GAFCON lines and then spend the rest of their days engaging in that age-old male ritual of the p…ing contest: “mine is bigger than yours” sounds like a good enough rationale for Christian belief. Certainly no loopier than much of the guitar-strumming peace and love nonsense the majority Church will continue to engage in.

    I’m reminded of that wonderful scene in The Life of Brian where they’re sitting in the amphitheater yelling “splitters!” at all the different factions around them. So does this blog represent the People’s Front of Judea or the Judean Peoples’ Front? Whichever it is, the only definite conclusion that can be drawn from a splitter’s blog is that there’s been a split. And a house divided against itself cannot stand…

    • Ian Paul November 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

      The structures of the C of E are vaguely democratic, but the theological constitution of the Church is not. That reflects the belief that Christianity is (in formal terms) a revealed, rather than naturalistic, religion. Everything about the Church in terms of creeds, liturgy, formularies and practice talks of the inheritance of faith which is our guide in life. Democracy, in terms of defining doctrine, just doesn’t feature.

      (That is not the same as corporate discernment…but that is defined in quite a different way)

      • Etienne November 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

        Democracy features when you want it to. It featured when divorce was incorporated into Anglican theology. It featured when contraception was accepted by the Church. It also featured when women were ordained and when the idea of female bishops was approved.

        Revelation is the last refuge of bigots and reactionaries. Anything you don’t want to be changed is “revelation”. Anything you’re happy to alter no longer is, even if previous generations were convinced it was. Of course they were wrong and you are right because apparently you’re the only judge of what constitutes real revelation.

        Another clue that your God actually emanates from your own ego, as if another clue were needed…

        • DavidH November 22, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

          “Revelation is the last refuge of bigots and reactionaries.”

          No, conservative Christians don’t think like liberals!

  2. James Byron November 21, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    Ian, as I’ve asked before, why is adiaphora such a stumbling block?

    Why can you not argue that gay relationships aren’t “indifferent” while simultaneously tolerating clergy and laity who live their lives differently? Make your case. Try to convince them they’re wrong. Removing “discipline” and compulsion may actually help you do that, since people are more receptive when they’re not being coerced.

    When you chose to join, you knew the Church of England, and wider Anglican Communion, were broad churches, and contained many Christians who didn’t share your beliefs in biblical authority and sexuality. That being so, why should they be expected to live by them?

    Honestly, can you see your position winning out in the longterm? If not, given all the pain it causes LGBT people, why can we not look for another way forward?

    • Etienne November 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

      Oh dear, why do gay Christians always make me think of Neville Chamberlain?

      A call to compromise? Are you serious? Come off it … the Dr Ian Pauls of this world and his evangelical friends only have positions so they can camp on them. They will never compromise.

      What they want is to see every gay person in Britain eking out a miserable and lonely celibate existence. Only when we’re crying alone in our isolation cells will they be happy. And brimming full of so-called “compassion” too. Bible passages will be flung at us, as well as exhortations to take refuge in the Lord. We may even get the odd invitation to share a meal with them, although the prime motivation for that will be to show us the happy family life we can never have with the idea of twisting the knife even deeper into the wound.

      That’s their idea of a godly existence. Our place in their scheme of things is a penitential one. Only if we’re suffering can they be reassured that their faith and their families are the one true expression of God’s will.

      And you want to compromise with that position? You can’t. Their flourishing requires our utter defeat. No compromise is possible.

      • James Byron November 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

        Etienne, I have no desire to compromise with that position: I believe that lesbian and gay Anglicans should be free to pursue loving sexual relationships, and marry if they so choose, just as straight Anglicans are. Equal treatment, no segregation.

        If it’s to stay together, the church must find some way to compromise. That’ll be a hard enough process as it is, and the longer it’s put off, the harder it’ll be. It could go a lot quicker if more moderates would offer suggestions.

        Either it happens, or there’s a schism. Either way, this limbo is doing no-one any good.

        • Etienne November 21, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

          Actually “this limbo” is doing the Anglican leadership a great deal of good. Who knew who Justin Welby was before he became the archbishop superhero bravely battling to hold his Church together? The man’s press is inexplicably good given his basically homophobic stance. Just like Pope Francis, we’re dealing with someone who firmly believes that gays are sinners unless we make eunuchs out of ourselves, but still they manage to convince the world at large that somehow they’re on our side.

          With friends like that, who needs enemies? Carey and Wojtyla and even Ratzinger were preferable. Church leaders who stood up and openly condemned us focused people’s minds on the bigotry and unacceptability of religion. Welby and Bergoglio are far more sinister. They want to lure us in with promises of understanding and openness and then slam the trap door shut behind us, all while making huge reputations for themselves as mediators and reconcilers.

          So “this limbo” is exactly what they want and they’ll do their best to spin it out as long as they can. If you want a fair deal for gays in the Church, push for decisions to be made now. Waiting any longer just gives world class manipulators like Welby the chance to cement their public standing to the point where nobody can oppose them.

      • Ian Paul November 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

        In this context, I do love the idea of ‘camping’ in a position…!!

        • Jane Newsham November 25, 2014 at 12:21 am #

          Have we slipped into the 1970s?
          Required viewing, Ian: ‘http://www.channel4.com/programmes/it-was-alright-in-the-1970s/on-demand/57436-002

    • Phill November 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      “When you chose to join, you knew the Church of England, and wider Anglican Communion, were broad churches, and contained many Christians who didn’t share your beliefs in biblical authority and sexuality. That being so, why should they be expected to live by them?”

      James, I think we touched on this in a previous post but this debate (around sexuality) goes to the heart of what it means to be the CofE. Is it a broad church indiscriminately, or is there something at the centre which holds it together? Historically, Anglicanism has been about Biblical authority (see the 39 Articles, Article VI: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”)

      I think there’s a tension here between what the church is on paper, and what it is in practice. You focus on what the church is in practice. But much of what goes on in practice is different to what the church is in theory. So the church is in practice a diverse church in terms of Biblical authority – but on paper it is not.

      When I was ordained in June I had to take this solemn legal vow: “I do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness…”

      At the ordination service, the very first declaration I had to make was: “Do you accept the Holy Scriptures as revealing all things necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?” And further on, “Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it?”

      The Book of Common Prayer is the only permanently authorised form of worship in the CofE, and it is a Reformed liturgy.

      Now it seems to me that the ‘theory’ arguments are well on the side of saying that the CofE is grounded in Biblical authority. This is the argument many evangelicals have used over the years – that Anglo-Catholics and Liberal Anglicans are ‘cuckoos in the nest’ (I think that’s John Stott’s phrase, if I recall correctly).

      What’s interesting about this debate on sexuality is that it blows open to the core what many bishops and others in the church hierarchy have been trying to sweep under the carpet for decades: the church’s practice has been allowed to change without the theory changing. Others have been allowed in without them being given ‘official provision’ – they have simply been tolerated and things like discipline overlooked.

      (In the vow I mentioned above, I had to declare I would use only those forms of service allowed by Canon law. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t include the Roman Catholic mass – and yet, many Anglo-Catholic churches use it. I think it would be within the legal rights of a bishop to exercise authority and discipline on that matter, but no-one would ever dare to.)

      So what we’re seeing here is the tension between practice and theory being played out in the field of sexuality. The church has avoided making a decision about it for too long because making a decision – any decision – will offend those who are either conservative or liberal on this issue.

      All this is a long way of saying, I think officially Biblical argument and reflection is the way that the CofE makes decisions.

      You may be right in that the conservative position on sexuality is not one that is tenable in the CofE given it’s current position. I hope that is not true, but it’s a possibility. However, to say that Biblical argument and Biblical authority is irrelevant to the discussion is to misunderstand the role that the Bible still plays officially within the CofE. And if the church does move away from Biblical authority *officially*, then the CofE will have made a fundamental change.

      • James Byron November 21, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

        Phil, “So what we’re seeing here is the tension between practice and theory being played out in the field of sexuality,” says it well, thanks for that. 🙂

        People understand the ordination vow in different ways, ditto what’s meant by scripture revealing all things necessary for salvation. I’ve heard many describe it as “the Bible is the cradle of Christ,” i.e., its from scripture that we get the gospel message, not that words in the Bible have a special authority.

        Yes, diversity is practical, but also theological. The Church of England is broad. The reality may be Balkanized factions, but at least some think God reveals truth from that diversity. If, on this, the church must be narrow, it’ll fracture.

        Can you think of any compromise that you’d find acceptable? How about tolerating gay relationships and civil marriages while leaving the canonical definition of marriage intact?

        • Phill November 21, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

          Hi James

          Glad that was useful at least 🙂

          On the ordination vows and declaration – this is another thing which seems to have changed without any real discussion on the matter. I would say the Articles are fairly clear, but also there are things like the Book of Homilies which contain Cranmer’s sermon A Fruitful Exhortation Unto the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture. My point is that at the beginning the Church of England had a very high view of Scripture, and although it’s possible to reinterpret the words used in the ordination ceremony, it’s hard to get away from the fact that historically they were interpreted in a particular way.

          I’d also say that unless the church has a conversation about what those vows actually mean – rather than brushing the whole thing under the carpet (hmmm, there seems to be a recurring theme here – the CofE has been very good at brushing things under the carpet…) – then we can’t air those kind of issues and see which ones actually stand up to scrutiny.

          I think theological diversity can be a good thing up to a point – I would draw the line at same-sex marriage. The reason is, my understanding of a church is that it preaches the good news of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. If passages like 1 Cor 6:9f and Heb 10:26f, then a church which officially condoned same-sex relationships would – far from preaching good news – be excluding people from God’s kingdom.

          So, to answer your last question – I’m not sure I can think of a compromise. The reason I can remain within the CofE in good conscience is because I believe the theology and (official) practice of the church is orthodox and Scriptural. I can affirm completely the theology of the BCP, Articles and so on. I believe the CofE preaches the gospel, in a nutshell. If the CofE makes any moves in the direction of blessing same-sex unions, to my mind that will indicate that it has moved away from the gospel as I understand it, and I don’t think I would be able to remain in the church.

          Of course, given that this is the CofE, there will undoubtedly be some other way to brush the whole issue under the carpet for a bit longer. But i think the day is coming when a decision will need to be made on the issue which cannot be put off indefinitely. I can’t see a fudge like ‘tolerating’ gay relationships and civil marriages washing with the likes of Changing Attitude for example – not for long, anyway.

          • James Byron November 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

            Phill, I don’t see why your Rubicon would be open tolerance, not tolerance per se. You know that multiple bishops turn a blind eye to clergy in gay relationships. Why is the closet of such importance?

          • Phill November 24, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

            “surely something becomes de facto official if it’s widespread enough?”

            Well perhaps I’m hopelessly naive but I’m not convinced the practice is as widespread as you make out. Either way, whether it’s widespread or not, I think practice is not a good way of determining doctrine. If you went with what most people actually believe in the CofE (and I include more than a few ordained clergy in this), you probably wouldn’t have a Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. It is of course a different matter if Bishops and other clergy are the ones who are ignoring bits of church doctrine, but I still think the best way forward is to determine the best way to go before we step there, rather than simply accepting the status quo and rubberstamping it.

            Alternative oversight for LGBT clergy – that wouldn’t work either. As I said before, the traditional position on sexuality is that this is a salvation issue. You can’t ask Biblically and doctrinally orthodox bishops to affirm other bishops who do affirm same-sex unions. It would make a nonsense of episcopacy, and would in practice *require* all Bishops to affirm that same-sex unions were blessed by God – because they could do nothing about it, practically speaking.

        • Phill November 22, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

          Hi James,

          [Replying to 12:01pm comment]

          That is a fair question. I’d say that there is an important difference between tolerance and open tolerance. The bishops who affirm same-sex relationships at the moment do at least do so in breach of Canon Law. (And, I should add, I do not condone this practice. To my mind it seems dishonest.)

          If ‘tolerance’ is introduced officially, that would essentially mean that the church affirmed / blessed same-sex relationships – even if no new liturgy was introduced or Canons amended.

          Think about the awkward situation this would create for orthodox bishops: discipline would not be possible for anyone in a same-sex relationship, you would have to teach one thing but do another. In other words, it would make an absolute mockery of church doctrine. It would be double-minded, essentially changing the doctrine of the church while trying to keep it the same. It’s impossible.

          Plus, as I said, I can’t imagine pressure groups like Changing Attitude standing for ‘tolerance’ – it would be naive to think that ‘tolerance’ would not lead to full affirmation.

          As I see it, the only way to include same-sex marriage in the Church of England is by changing its doctrine. This is no small change – and for many people it will be a watershed moment.

          • Ian Paul November 24, 2014 at 12:42 am #

            Phill I think that is a really important observation. Toleration in one place does in fact mean the end of discipline in all places, not least because any such discipline would be clearly found to be unfair if tested legally, as it would be bound to be.

            Yet again we see that there really is no middle way on this issue.

          • James Byron November 24, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

            Phill, surely something becomes de facto official if it’s widespread enough? Right now, the church looks (and is) hypocritical in the extreme, knowingly ordaining lesbian and gay clergy, then, in many cases, turning a blind eye. Actions are just as important as official policy.

            As for orthodox bishops, alternative oversight for LGBT clergy could be a possibility.

            Ian, how d’you know a middle way would be rejected? Have you proposed it? You could email Changing Attitude today and offer to support something other than the current position. Even if their board rejected it, I suspect that many LGBT Anglicans would jump at the chance to move things on from where we are now.

            The first, crucial step is getting different groups talking to each other, not in a tokenistic “I feel your pain” facilitated conversation, but in painful, hardheaded negotiations, to see if the church holding together is even a possibility.

          • Clive November 24, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

            Dear James

            As noted below, the Church’s position is not hypocritical at all.

            The belief that God accepts us where we are and died in order to change us CANNOT be separated. As explained below, if St Paul was constantly failing then all of us fail and so we accept people who are fallen. It is not hypocritical to accept a fallen person wherever they are, it only becomes difficult when they refuse to change and demands that God simply blesses them where they are. ALL of us fall short of the glory of God and all of expect God to change us bit by bit.

            You end up self-contradictory on so many points that it is tiresome. It is amazing that you don’t see the self-contradictions you make.

        • Phill November 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

          [duplicate comment, I apologise but the previous one appeared in a weird place! Replying to James 12:32pm]

          “surely something becomes de facto official if it’s widespread enough?”

          Well perhaps I’m hopelessly naive but I’m not convinced the practice is as widespread as you make out. Either way, whether it’s widespread or not, I think practice is not a good way of determining doctrine. If you went with what most people actually believe in the CofE (and I include more than a few ordained clergy in this), you probably wouldn’t have a Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. It is of course a different matter if Bishops and other clergy are the ones who are ignoring bits of church doctrine, but I still think the best way forward is to determine the best way to go before we step there, rather than simply accepting the status quo and rubberstamping it.

          Alternative oversight for LGBT clergy – that wouldn’t work either. As I said before, the traditional position on sexuality is that this is a salvation issue. You can’t ask Biblically and doctrinally orthodox bishops to affirm other bishops who do affirm same-sex unions. It would make a nonsense of episcopacy, and would in practice *require* all Bishops to affirm that same-sex unions were blessed by God – because they could do nothing about it, practically speaking.

          • James Byron November 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

            Phill, I’m not asking them to “affirm” their fellow bishops. With equal consecration, some bishops won’t believe their fellow bishops even are bishops! I’m asking them to tolerate their fellow bishops. If you can tolerate Richard Holloway and John Shelby Spong, surely you can tolerate disagreement on this!

            I accept that most evangelicals won’t budge on the “salvation issue” roadblock any time soon, if ever. OK, past that. What I’m interested in is whether some way can be found for them, and those who wish to act on different beliefs, to coexist within the same institution.

            I can’t believe that this is impossible on sexuality alone, but possible with divorce, abortion, remarriage after divorce, headship, atonement theologies and, as you say, the content of the creeds. Why must this one issue tear apart the church?

            As those who take an affirming position are willing to coexist, ball’s in the court of the traditionalist camp. How do we move forward? Name your terms, we’d at least have something to work with then.

        • Phill November 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

          “Phill, I’m not asking them to “affirm” their fellow bishops.”

          James, I disagree. If a bishop believes that unrepentant sexual sin is enough to exclude someone from the kingdom of God, their natural response should be to banish that teaching from the church and discipline those who teach it. If the church introduces ‘toleration’ for LGBT clergy – even allowing for differences of opinion with alternative oversight etc. – then it will be forcing one opinion onto all: because no bishop will be able to enact discipline on an issue which they believe to be fundamentally important.

          “With equal consecration, some bishops won’t believe their fellow bishops even are bishops! I’m asking them to tolerate their fellow bishops. If you can tolerate Richard Holloway and John Shelby Spong, surely you can tolerate disagreement on this!”

          Holloway and Spong – aside from the fact of not being Bishops in the Church of England – are oddities because what the teach does not accord with the doctrine of the church. They are ‘tolerated’ but they could and, in my opinion should, be disciplined / removed from office. (It’s not unheard of for bishops to be removed from office, even within the CofE). It’s the difference between what the church teaches in theory and in practice again.

          “I can’t believe that this is impossible on sexuality alone, but possible with divorce, abortion, remarriage after divorce, headship, atonement theologies and, as you say, the content of the creeds. Why must this one issue tear apart the church?”

          Let’s go through the list:

          Abortion – this would indeed be an issue of the same order as sexuality, in fact probably higher up the list as to my mind it is to do with murder, however at the moment it seems that the church’s stance on abortion is refreshingly clear and unambiguous and few (with one or two notable exceptions) want to challenge it. But a change in teaching on this issue would seem to me to be rewriting the 10 commandments, which I could not countenance!

          Headship – I think most conservatives would say this isn’t a salvation issue, it’s a matter of church order. i.e., whatever I believe about women bishops, it’s not excluding anyone from the kingdom of God! I also happen to believe there is a good theological case for women bishops – and it is on that basis that the church has proceeded (and not on a secular ‘equality’ agenda).

          Atonement theology – important but not a salvation issue.

          Divorce/remarriage – we’ve had this conversation before, but I believe there is a good Biblical case to be made for it (I personally would be happy to remarry a divorcee, for example, in certain circumstances – and I believe my teaching is fully consistent with Biblical teaching). The church has never had a unified position on this, and pastoral practice has always included divorce and remarriage to some extent.

          • James Byron November 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

            Phill, while the Church of England officially disapproves, it permits abortion, and does nothing to discipline female priests who terminate their pregnancy.

            If you take such a strong line on sexuality, why did you choose to be ordained an Anglican? You know that many in the church to which you belong don’t share your beliefs or the evangelical framework in which they’re shaped. How can it be fair to expect, say, anglo-catholics, liberals, and moderates to live by a worldview they simply don’t hold to, and one that their church doesn’t expect them to hold to?

            There’s also the clergy/laity split. Right now, LGBT laity are allowed to enter into sexually active relationships. Evangelicals don’t tend to separate presbyters from everyone else. Why do so here? Likewise, you’re in communion with Anglican churches that allow sexually active gay relationships, both in Scotland and America, and in Scandinavia.

            If there’s no way you can coexist in a church unless your view is imposed on everyone else, well, I guess all it could do is look at compensation packages.

        • Phill November 25, 2014 at 10:26 am #

          “Phill, while the Church of England officially disapproves, it permits abortion, and does nothing to discipline female priests who terminate their pregnancy.”

          I don’t wish to get into a discussion about the ethics of abortion, but I will just note that I think the official document is a very good one and the issue of discipline is probably about right – I don’t think one could set a policy on this given the various circumstances. I’d also say that the two issues (sexuality and abortion) are equally important but different – abortion is a one-time event whereas a same-sex relationship is an ongoing thing, a state. One can repent of an event but not a state, not while remaining in it permanently. Anyway, I think that’s by the by for now.

          “If you take such a strong line on sexuality, why did you choose to be ordained an Anglican? You know that many in the church to which you belong don’t share your beliefs or the evangelical framework in which they’re shaped. How can it be fair to expect, say, anglo-catholics, liberals, and moderates to live by a worldview they simply don’t hold to, and one that their church doesn’t expect them to hold to?”

          We’ve come full circle here. My belief is that the CofE is not Anglo-Catholic or Liberal officially – yes, they are openly tolerated, but I think ‘on paper’ the church is what you might call ‘Evangelical’. As Ian has pointed out elsewhere, see if you can find the word ‘altar’ anywhere in Common Worship… it’s just not there.

          Now of course there is a tension between theory and practice, which is what this whole discussion has been about. But to say that the practice has eradicated the doctrine and there is no discussion worth having is going too far. I was ordained in good conscience because I could believe 100% in the doctrine of the church and the vows and declarations I had to make. I simply don’t think an Anglo-Catholic or a Liberal could make them without crossing their fingers, or twisting the meaning such as to make it virtually worthless.

          In short, I think the CofE, according to its official liturgies and doctrine, supports me and my position completely.

          Which goes back to the nub of the discussion – if there is a change towards open tolerance of gay clergy (etc), then there WILL have been a change in doctrine whether you like it or not. What goes on in practice will have been enshrined in the church’s official doctrine. This is the issue.

          “There’s also the clergy/laity split. Right now, LGBT laity are allowed to enter into sexually active relationships. Evangelicals don’t tend to separate presbyters from everyone else. Why do so here?”

          For one, I think there are good reasons for requiring higher standards of clergy (e.g. “above reproach” – 1 Tim 3:2). That’s not to say that those same standards don’t apply to laity, but that a higher maturity and conformity to Christ’s teaching should be the norm amongst clergy. New or immature Christians – which you would hope not to find amongst the clergy – may still be living lives which are a long way off conforming to Christ’s teaching, but the trajectory should be towards it rather than away from it.

          The CofE’s teaching on sexuality is for *everybody*, it just imposes a higher requirement on clergy for their lives conforming to it – and certainly, in any church I serve, I would like to see everyone in the congregation conforming to it, and take measures of discipline where appropriate if it didn’t.

          “Likewise, you’re in communion with Anglican churches that allow sexually active gay relationships, both in Scotland and America, and in Scandinavia.”

          Depends what you mean by “in communion” … does that mean affirming everything that the church does? And isn’t there a rift between the CofE and the ECUSA, mainly over Gene Robinson?

          “If there’s no way you can coexist in a church unless your view is imposed on everyone else, well, I guess all it could do is look at compensation packages.”

          This (not wanting to “impose” a view) is not the view the church has historically taken. When the Ecumenical Councils met to consider Arianism, amongst other things, they did not consider a diversity of opinions on Christ’s divinity to be a good thing. They thought, and I believe along with them, that there is a right answer. Jesus and the apostles warned against false teaching in the church, and to embrace it would sooner or later lead to the end of the church. Paul came down very hard on the Galatians when they embraced “another gospel”. If you read the letters to the churches in Revelation, Christ commends/rebukes the church in a number of places for standing or not standing against false teaching (Rev 2:2, 14-15, 20 – in fact, looking at that list, it strikes me how much of it is about sexual morality).

          J. Gresham Machen wrote a little book early last century called ‘Christianity and Liberalism’. He makes a persuasive case that liberalism is actually a different religion from Christianity. If the Church of England officially embraces a different religion, it will cease to be a Christian church as I recognise it, and at that point I think I will in good conscience no longer be able to be a part of it.

  3. Clive November 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    If the agreeing to disagree results in a change of the law allowing same sex marriage in Church then that will be forced upon all CofE Churches and freedom of religion as a human right will, once again, mean nothing at all. The of not accepting the authority of Scripture is a basic, findamental change to the CofE.

    Calling people traditionalists an hateful is not helpful in any way and is trying to sideline the debate.

    I don’t rank myself as high as St Paul, but if even St Paul says of that process that he always falls short of the glory of God (Romans 7) then surely so do I.

    It is not hypocrisy for the Church to accept people who fall short of God’s glory so long as they accept the changes that God is slowly doing to us. The problem exists only where people want God to accept the lifestyle and stop changing people. So the church’s current position is not hypocritical at all.

    Because all of us fall short of the glory of God we are all being constantly changed, we understand how absurd the claim is that traditionalists are hateful when we are all changing. We don’t really understand the labelling of people as traditionalists simply because they believe in the Bible. When people become priests they quite clearly include in their oaths that they too believe in Scripture and it is both in the 39 articles, the ordination services, and in Canon B30. Some priests seem to have their fingers crossed. Jesus does talk about marriage and the example he gives can only be fulfilled by a man and a woman. Interestingly in the run up to Bible Sunday we had various relevant readings including Hannah and Sarah. Both became pregnant late in life proving that the law about the relationship between the marriage partners being not too close is correct and is not thrown out by any judge just because one of the partners claims to be infertile. The infertility argument just doesn’t work. People can be, and are sometimes, taken by surprise.

    I recently talked about the authority of Scripture and the accuracy of translation at Bible Sunday. I pointed out that saying that God meets us where we are is only half of the truth. God died on the cross, and the letters of the NT accept, so that we are also transformed gradually from where we are to Christ likeness. So, yes, God meets us where we are by coming to us but God also changes us and we have to accept God’s changes of us. You cannot separate them. The latter and the authority of Scripture is the real stumbling block. Agreement to disagree only makes sense if the land accepts human rights. SSM is not a human right according to ECHR, but freedom of religion is a human right.

    The Life of Brian, a very good film, also took the michael out of same sex marriage, but Etienne doesn’t probably remember that.

  4. rachel marszalek November 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    My own experience of cognitive dissonance in early ministry was in coming to terms with the idea that what I had promised at ordination seemed to be not what others had promised. I remember listening to strange logic that for some assent was only to the fact that yes, the 39 articles do indeed exist – there was not that sense of assenting to what they contain. I remember thinking through my own ‘signature on the bottom line,’ in terms of my life and its accord with Lambeth 1:10 to then be shown a church in which this recommendation was held so lightly.

    There is this trajectory now that hermeneutics extends everywhere, I know that there is, of course, no such thing as a ‘plain reading’ but from all the ‘Reader Response’ theory I studied in my first degree, I have surmised that perhaps it is now so that no definite statements can be made about anything. From my reading the C of E news today it transpires that 8% of clergy believe God a creation of the human mind. It is a wonder what quite we will be left with. Is there nothing now that we can declare with certainty and will this be the defining mark of this period that we look back on to declare post-post-modern.

    Perhaps with us all doing what is right in our own eyes, we really are headed for something very precarious. It will be interesting to discover whether the ‘new marginalised’ might be those expressing views that for many seem only to belong to a by-gone age, even it were 2000 years long. Still feeling very much at the beginning of my ministry, I wonder what the church will look like for the next three decades in which I hope to serve it.

    • James Byron November 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Rachel, how would you feel if the church imposed the Bible’s teaching on women in authority as unambiguously as it imposes its teaching on homosexuality?

      You have directly benefited from a generous hermeneutic. You don’t need to empathize with how it feels to have people seek to exclude you due to how you were born. You’ve lived it. You know how it feels. Why d’you seek to deny others what’s been given to you? We should be allies here.

      • Clive November 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

        James, the Bible doesn’t say that women should be silent because the same St Paul tells women to prophesy, which you can’t do in silence, and the same St Paul calls women apostles. Read Elizabeth Shuessler-Fiorenza’s book “In memory of her”.

        • James Byron November 22, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

          Yeah, I know it’s debatable, but that’s the traditional interpretation (I know you don’t like the word “traditional,” as I said before, I’ll consider any alternatives you give me). Overturning it has been, at the least, a novelty, and remains contentious.

          All LGBT people are asking is to be accorded the generosity and respect shown to women who feel called to ordination, especially from the women who’re in that position themselves. 🙂

          • Clive November 23, 2014 at 9:47 am #

            Dear James,

            You’ve referred to tradition and I have replied to you with Biblical-authority showing that women are not required to be silent. It’s the very thing that you seem to deny.

            Still I must go to Church now and contemplate all those clergy who make promises about Scripture without meaning a word of the promises.

    • Tony Oliver November 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      “From my reading the C of E news today it transpires that 8% of clergy believe God a creation of the human mind. ”

      I used to wonder why some members of the clergy who clearly didn’t believe in God persisted with their “vocation”, but then I understood that as Dostoevsky said “If God doesn’t exist everything is permissible”. (It’s probably a lot easier earning your living as an apostate vicar than working down the pit.)

      And Dostoevsky did mean everything, because if God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist. (By objective I mean independent of people’s opinions. i.e. that some acts are wrong irrespective of the culture in which those acts take place). Morality then is purely subjective, nothing more than a sort of fashion statement with one system of morality being neither better nor worse than another. The current secular fashion statement is that homosexuality is ok, it’s the ‘in thing’ so to speak. So non-believing clergy can easily go along with SSM, but what about the rest of the clergy? When it comes to moral epistemology what justification is there from deviating from the unequivocal teaching of both the OT and the NT on the immorality of homosexual relationships?

      • Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente November 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

        “If God doesn’t exist everything is permissible.” Have you taken a good look at atheists’ lives, even in non-Christian cultures?

        • Tony Oliver November 25, 2014 at 12:12 am #

          You’ll have to give me a bit more to work on if you want an answer -or to put it another way, I have no idea what you are talking about. I went to school in Hong Kong, so yes I have had a good look at the lives of others in non-Christian countries. What exactly are you trying to say?

          • Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente November 25, 2014 at 8:44 am #

            I’m trying to say that atheists and non-Christians do not seem to live amoral lives. In fact they are frequently more upright than believers. It is simply not true that ‘if God does not exist, everything is permissible,’ most non-Christian societies, both through time and geography, have not been a moral free-for-all.

          • Tony Oliver November 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

            You’ve misunderstood my argument. Of course you do not need to believe in God to be moral, but in order to be moral, God must exist. (What other ground can there be for objective moral values and duties?) If God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist. If objective moral values and duties do not exist then everything is permissible. In the absense of objective moral values and duties, how can anything be forbidden?

            The thing is, when pushed even the atheist will claim that some things are just wrong morally i.e. objectively wrong, but he will not follow the argument to its conclusion.

  5. Don Benson November 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    I am not sure that unity of itself is necessarily Godly or desirable. Can there be unity between truth and error? Surely that question answers itself but immediately poses the question ‘who decides what is true and what is in error?’ For several centuries in the Church of England the answer to that has been ‘the Bible, the Creeds and the 39 Articles in the Book of Common Prayer.’

    Surely if everyone in the church starts by accepting that basis in good faith, such differences as will naturally surface due to scholarship, interpretation or personal experience will be issues of secondary importance. And that seems generally to have been the case until the homosexuality issue burst on the scene. Up to that point unity and Christian love were broadly maintained despite considerable differences.

    But now we have an issue which directly challenges the basis on which we discern what is true, and where those who continue to accept that long-held basis are painted as the ‘baddies’ even though they are in fact the mainstream. Unity over such a fundamental difference is not going to break out, nor should it. ‘Facilitated conversations’, ‘indaba’, ‘good disagreement’, ‘flourishing’ cannot work here, and surely by now we all know that.

    We must all feel for a new Archbishop of Canterbury who has been landed with this situation. His office may indeed have far less power than is supposed, but he has been called to leadership and he has every right and duty to remind revisionists that their direction of travel is not in line with Anglican doctrine. I suspect that such clarity would be received with much greater enthusiasm and relief than he would probably expect; he has nothing to lose, and it is clarity that our church needs.

    This is well worth watching (18 minutes) and ends on exactly the right note:
    http://anglicanmainstream.org/anglican-unscripted-139-rebooting-anglicanism/

  6. DavidH November 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Ian, did you read through the full report? One statistics that Linda didn’t mention in her piece was that younger, and more recently ordained, clergy are more evangelical, and more conservative on sexual morality!

    • Ian Paul November 24, 2014 at 12:40 am #

      Thanks David that’s very interesting. Not something I think Linda would choose to highlight.

    • Etienne November 24, 2014 at 11:42 am #

      It seems logical to me that newly ordained priests would be increasingly evangelical and conservative. Boil a saucepan of milk down to its dregs and what are you left with? A burned-on and highly flavored concentrate that only appeals to those with very extreme tastes.

      Hmmm, thinking about it a little more, perhaps the schism I’ve been expecting won’t happen after all. Maybe the Church will just keep on slowly boiling off its liberal members until all that’s left is a dark and whiffy layer of crusted ooze at the bottom of the pot. An evangelical version of crème brûlée, all thick and coagulated and tasting of hatred and brimstone.

      The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. The bland, tepid and chemically neutral English temperament doesn’t contain the acid that split the American Church into curds and whey. And you have an able chief cook and pot stirrer in the form of Justin Welby. There he is, with his crozier stuck into the thickening morass, slowly moving it around in the caldron just enough to accelerate the evaporation process. No split for the English Church then. Just a slow reduction into carbonized evangelical glue…

  7. Martyn Taylor November 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    The Church of England is not the universal church but only a part of it. God knows who belongs to him in Christ from every denomination and Christian fellowship.

    In reality the C of E is a human institution and if we end up agreeing to disagree, we will in effect belong to the same organisation which is different to believing that we all belong to the Body of Christ. We may even call ourselves a body as do many institutions, but it does not have to be understood as being the body of Christ. In reality we already make these distinctions before we ever come to talk about sexuality.

    I do not mind co-existing in the same human organisation as people who believe differently to me, but I do not want my freedom to call all kinds of people to repentance forbidden. I don’t mind being called to repent by them. That is true tolerance.

    • Ian Paul November 24, 2014 at 12:45 am #

      Sure, but it is difficult to see how even a mere institution can have any coherence when it simultaneously believes an ethical issue to be both right and wrong at the same time.

      • James Byron November 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

        Is there any reason the Church of England must take a corporate position on sexuality? Corporate ethics are dubious in any case, as official teaching attempts to decide truth by authority.

        To draw an analogy, the church manages to include both liberals who believe that abortion is a morally neutral medical procedure and anglo-catholics who believe it to be a mortal sin. If a female priest has a termination, she isn’t disciplined. Female priests aren’t expected to pledge never to terminate a pregnancy, nor quizzed about their views on the matter.

        If this live-and-let-live approach can work for something as ethically charged as abortion, why on earth can’t it work for people in loving relationships?

        • Etienne November 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

          The Anglican Church winks at abortion because it takes place in private. You can’t censure a church member for doing something you know nothing about.

          Marriage on the other hand is a public affair. That’s the key difference. If you’re married, your church community will generally know all about it. They’re at their leisure to judge and condemn you. And they will. It’s their favorite pastime.

          • James Byron November 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

            Etienne, the “genital acts” condemned in Higton also occur in private (I’d hope), but that hasn’t stopped witchhunts over homosexuality. Practical difficulties aren’t the reason that female priests are free of intrusive questions about their pregnancies. There’s something else at work. What exactly, I don’t know.

  8. Etienne November 24, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    In reply to James Byron, I think it is an issue of public v. private. Marriage is a public declaration of a sexual relationship. The sex may take place in private, but the relationship itself plays out largely in the public arena. To the point where most marriage partners share a common surname and are recognized as a distinct and autonomous unit within society, and when the marriage breaks down and the partners want to dissolve it, the proceedings take place in an open court of law and are subject to public scrutiny.

    Compare this to abortion, which is a private act that can only have public repercussions if those directly involved in it choose to make it public. There’s no such thing as a secret marriage, or at least they’re pretty rare. Certainly when it comes to Anglican marriage, the procedure calls for banns to be read and public registers to be signed, so it’s hard to see how marriage can be anything other than a very public act.

    It seems to me that this is what evangelicals object to so much. They hate the idea of public validation of what they consider to be sin, although most of them seem happy enough to tolerate it when it’s kept private and isn’t “flaunted” in public. It’s like what matters isn’t the sin itself, but how other people see them reacting to it. What’s uppermost in their minds at all times is being seen to uphold the rules. This preoccupation with a public display of orthodoxy says a lot about them and their kind of religion, I think. It’s no more attractive in this day and age and on this blog than it was in Judea during the reign of Tiberius.

    • Clive November 25, 2014 at 7:47 am #

      Dear Etienne,

      It’s an issue of Biblical authority.

      Most Anglicans accept the Bible.
      The clergy affirm the Bible in the 39 articles.
      In Canon law (B30) even Jesus says that marriage is between a man and a woman. Canon law is the law of the land.

      • Etienne November 25, 2014 at 9:15 am #

        Canon law is NOT the law of the land. The UK is no longer a theocracy.

        • Clive November 25, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

          Etienne

          The Queen is both head of state and head of the CofE in the same office, so you are wrong. You are also wrong that Canon law, although applying to the CofE has been passed by Parliament and is the law of the land applying to the CofE.

          • Etienne November 26, 2014 at 12:55 am #

            No, you are wrong. You’re conflating the queen’s positions as head of state and supreme governor of the Church of England.

            In her capacity as head of state, the queen’s signature on an act of Parliament creates new legislation, i.e. new laws of the land. They apply to everyone regardless of religious belief.

            In her capacity as supreme governor of the Church of England, the queen’s signature on new canon laws simply creates new rules for the Church of England. Thus the recent Royal Assent given to the measure that allows for female bishops applies to no other church and the Catholics won’t be legally obliged to start consecrating women to their episcopate. If Anglican canon law was the law of the land, they would be obliged to do so. And wouldn’t that be a pretty kettle of fish?

            I wonder why it is that a certain generation of British men still have this fantasy that the state and the church are still one and the same thing?

          • Clive November 26, 2014 at 7:59 am #

            Dear Etienne,

            I’m sorry but I am not wrong. PARLIAMENT gives its assent to Canon Law and puts it into Law and Queen really is both Head of State and Church, they are not separate.

            The irony of your position in France is that Sarkozy has recently offered to rewrite the laws of SSM (not as the press reported remove them) to get rid of the discrimination against the family and against Children that is practiced.
            Ironically our Department for Education is showing the same prejudice and discrimination. DfE has been criticised for promoting sex to girlls (11+) at school when the legal age for consent is 16 and DfE is incapable of seeing the numerous headlines last week and this week about sex with under age girls.

            The DfE through OFSTED issued guidelines that empowered inspectors to be completely dismissive of girls who answered marriage questions with reference to traditional marriage because the guidelines issued to OFSTED only refers to same sex marriage and activities. That is open prejudice against the family and against children.

            As any Christian we will stand against prejudice and discrimination.

          • Clive November 26, 2014 at 8:02 am #

            Dear Etienne,

            I’m sorry but I am not wrong. PARLIAMENT gives its assent to Canon Law and puts it into Law and Queen really is both Head of State and Church, they are not separate.

            The irony of your position in France is that Sarkozy has recently offered to rewrite the laws of SSM (not as the press reported remove them) to get rid of the discrimination against the family and against Children that is practiced.
            Ironically our Department for Education is showing the same prejudice and discrimination. DfE has been criticised for promoting sex to girls (11+) at school when the legal age for consent is 16 and DfE is incapable of seeing the numerous headlines last week and this week about sex with under age girls.

            The DfE through OFSTED issued guidelines that empowered inspectors to be completely dismissive of girls who answered marriage questions with reference to traditional marriage because the guidelines issued to OFSTED only refers to same sex marriage and activities. That is open prejudice against the family and against children.

            As any Christian we will stand against prejudice and discrimination.

  9. Jane Newsham November 24, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    “Overall, a very significant proportion of those responsible for teaching the faith in local churches continue to be opposed to the Church recognising same-sex marriage.”
    OK, but what does this look like in practice?
    a) Those responsible for teaching the faith in local churches continue to be opposed to the blessing of same-sex marriages on church premises?
    b) Those responsible for teaching the faith in local churches continue to be opposed to the Church welcoming and integrating lay same-sex couples unconditionally into their congregations?
    c) Those responsible for teaching the faith in local churches continue to be opposed to the idea of the Church engaging with reality and respecting the marriages of same-sex couples to the same degree that we respect the marriages of opposite-sex couples?
    Hmm, I expect we’ll know it when we see it.
    Meanwhile, St Nic’s welcomes all the civil partnered and same-sex married couples in Nottingham and further afield to join its congregation (and why wouldn’t it, St Nic’s is a missional church).
    Those civil partnered and same-sex married couples may find it tedious and irritating to hear from the pulpit, ad nauseam, that ‘church teaching is that marriage is between a man and a woman’ but they’ll really just have to live with it. After all, it’s just tedious and irritating but it hopefully won’t detract too much from their overall experience of welcome and inclusion at St Nic’s. It won’t otherwise affect them adversely, or affect their marriages, or affect their commitment-to-marriage or affect the ongoing witness of their married life to their fellow church members at St Nic’s (and it is the ongoing witness of the married lives of civil partnered and same-sex married couples that are changing the hearts and minds of Christians nationally, and where same-sex marriage is permitted, globally).
    So while the Church of England’s message is that Marriage is Good for Straight People but Not-Good for Gay People, many of us are embarrassed by our Church’s illogicality. The Big Question as ever: how far might it serve God’s purposes that we treat straight and gay people in identical ways in order that we eradicate even a perceived level of discrimination which might fundamentally hinder mission (and especially at St Nic’s which, as I said earlier, is a missional church).

    • Tony Oliver November 25, 2014 at 12:57 am #

      “Those civil partnered and same-sex married couples may find it tedious and irritating to hear from the pulpit, ad nauseam, that ‘church teaching is that marriage is between a man and a woman’ but they’ll really just have to live with it.”

      Perhaps I’m being a little naive, but why are these SS couples going to Church if they don’t agree with the teaching of the Church? I’ve stopped attending my church because the sort of nonsense promoted by Jack Spong informs most of the current preaching. If you rejected the teaching of Sun Myung Moon’s Divine Principle, would you attend a Unification Church service each week? The notion that SSM is ok is a novelty so far as the Church is concerened. Those advocating it should establish their own “Churches” – they shouldn’t attempt to bully the faithful.

      • Jane Newsham November 25, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

        Tony, SS couples go to church because they feel that God has drawn them to that particular church, because they wish to worship God and become part of a worshipping fellowship, or they hope to play their part in that particular expression of the Body of Christ (there may be people they are meant to encounter or befriend or particular situations they feel called to pray for, to support prayerfully or practically), because they find the music or the fellowship or the Bible study or the outreach activities particularly sustain and grow their faith, because they enjoy enriching their church with their own particular gifting and commitment, because they’ve found a Christian ‘family’ with whom to share their Christian journey…..

        • Tony Oliver November 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

          Hi Jane, thank you for your response. If they feel that God has drawn them to a particular church where they are told that “church teaching is that marriage is between a man and a woman”, then maybe they ought to listen. Perhaps that’s the reason God called them there.

    • David Shepherd November 25, 2014 at 6:39 am #

      ‘many of us are embarrassed by our church’s illogicality’

      Presumably, it’s limiting on the benefits of marriage to one orientation and not the other that appears illogical.

      Of course, one of those benefits, once married, is to be legally presumed to be the rightful parent of any children born to one’s spouse. The onus is on any party outside of the marriage to prove otherwise.

      So, in the case of straight couples, this is based on biological probability, but can still be contested by clear and convincing genetic evidence to the contrary.

      In the case of same-sex couples, assuming the spouse to be the parent of any child born to the marriage partner perpetuates a complete legal fiction that prioritises parental intention above the natural rights of the father. Yet, doing exactly this would be the only way for same-sex couples to found autonomous family units that are invulnerable to the parental claims of the natural father.

      It’s sleight of hand to elide the fact that marriage isn’t just about two people, that marriage normatively prioritises the parental claims of the spouse of the birth mother, so that they can found an autonomous family unit and at the expense of the natural father who wanted to participate in the conception and upbringing of his child.

      There are too many case law examples in which same-sex couples happily embrace alternative multi-parent arrangements to procure a child on their own terms (without resorting to licensed IVF treatment or legal surrogacy). Once the child is born, they invoke the traditional two-parent marriage model to establish themselves as autonomous nuclear family, thereby excluding the other natural and willing parent.

      Yet, the liberal wing of the church wants this arrogation to be sanctioned as Christian marriage. This is part and parcel of their desperation to establish marriage as the legal means of achieving family status by proof of intention. This is impossible without supplanting the heterosexual ‘privilege’ of natural parenthood that will always threaten their own pretensions of parental autonomy.

      • Etienne November 25, 2014 at 11:11 am #

        Marriage is already established as the legal means of establishing legal family status. So we’re not desperate to achieve anything. We’ve already achieved it.

        You are aware that same sex marriage is now legal in England, are you not? Or are you stuck in some kind of Christian time warp where everything is perfect (according to your definition of the word), and whatever you don’t like is just a hypothetical threat on the horizon?

        In this little fantasy world, are evil non-Christians also “desperate” to obtain the legalization of divorce and “desperate” to get the blanket ban on abortion lifted?

        If so, you’ve obviously borrowed the Doctor’s Tardis and are speaking to us from some indeterminate point in history before the First World War.

        • David Shepherd November 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

          Oh dear, Etienne,

          You really should read Schedule 4 Part 2 of the Same Sex Marriage Act 2013:

          ‘PRESUMPTION ON BIRTH OF CHILD TO MARRIED WOMAN
          Common law presumption

          2 (1) Section 11 does not extend the common law presumption that a child born to a woman during her marriage is also the child of her husband.

          (2) Accordingly, where a child is born to a woman during her marriage to another woman, that presumption is of no relevance to the question of who the child’s parents are.’

          You may need to fast-forward several more years in your Time Machine in order to eliminate this clause that limits the marital presumption of parenthood (upon which autonomous families are founded) to heterosexual couples.

          SSM might provide legal recognition for same-sex couples themselves, but (apart from licensed IVF under HFEA regulations), it still doesn’t recognize them automatic joint parents of children born to the mother after the marriage.

          No doubt for you, that’s part of the terrible legacy of state homophobia.

          • Etienne November 26, 2014 at 12:42 am #

            There’s nothing homophobic about recognizing that when a woman bears a child, her wife cannot be the natural father. It’s just realistic. Two women cannot (yet) produce a child that is the genetic offspring of both of them. The sperm has to come from somewhere, and when it comes from a known father who donated with the intention of being recognized as such, I tend to agree that he should be.

            In cases where women use an anonymous sperm donor, I see no issue with recognizing the birth mother’s spouse as the child’s parent. It’s a legal fiction in the sense that she’s not genetically related to the child, but it’s no more fictional than the status granted to any other adoptive parent.

            Of course there will always be cases where anonymous donors change their minds, or where agreements between lesbian couples and known sperm donors break down and the man changes his mind and wishes to be recognized as the child’s father despite initially agreeing not to be.

            To my mind, such agreements should always be contractual and each party should have to abide by the terms of the original contract. There’s just too much scope for pain and suffering otherwise. How would you feel if you were the lesbian spouse of a pregnant woman who’s just about to give birth, and for nine months you’ve considered yourself the parent of the child who’s about to be born, but then suddenly the sperm donor turns up on your doorstep and says “sorry love, changed my mind, I’m ripping up our agreement and I demand joint custody and full parental rights!”

            Perhaps the only solution is government regulation of all gamete donation. One day reproductive technologies will reach the point at which gametes can be combined regardless of sex, so gay couples will be able to reproduce without having to resort to donor gametes and this kind of dispute will become a thing of the past. But until that happens, which may not be that far in the future, there should be clear rules in place about parental rights based on freely given and binding consent.

        • David Shepherd November 26, 2014 at 7:53 am #

          ‘There’s nothing homophobic about recognizing that when a woman bears a child, her wife cannot be the natural father. It’s just realistic. Two women cannot (yet) produce a child that is the genetic offspring of both of them. ‘

          Good. We can actually agree on this (for once). However, all that influential LGBT activist groups like the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) do is to treat the paternity as a heterosexist obstacle to the freedom of any child born to a person after they’ve entered a same-sex marriage/civil union.

          I quote from their official position paper on Family Law , ‘ILGA-Europe’s response to Professor Nigel Lowe’s Report to the Committee of Experts on Family Law’:

          ‘The principle of ‘presumption of paternity’ is not extended to the second lesbian mother in any of the EU Member States even when the couple is married or registered. This means that all children of same-sex partners have to be subsequently adopted (where possible) by the non-biological parent through a second parent adoption in order for them to establish a legal link with both parent.

          As indicated above, second-parent adoptions are only possible in nine EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway. This procedure may take up to six months to complete and leaves the child with only one legal parent for the duration of that period.

          Children of same-sex couples coming from the other 18 Member States cannot establish a legal link to one of their parents and as a result their rights to freedom of movement in the EU are significantly hampered.’

          Part II Parental Affiliation

          Article 10 The establishment of parental affiliation
          The law shall always provide for the possibility to establish parental affiliation by presumption, recognition or judicial decision.

          Article 11 Birth mother
          The birth mother shall be considered as a parent regardless of genetic connection and marital or registered partnership status.

          Article 12 Spouses and registered partners
          A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth shall also be considered as a parent, regardless of genetic connection.

          Article 13 Child born after end of marriage/registered partnership
          1. A child born within a time limit, determined according to the law by reference to the normal period of gestation, after the end of the marriage or registered partnership of his or her parent shall be presumed to be the child of the parent’s spouse or registered partner.

          2. States are free not to apply this presumption if a child was born after the dissolution of the marriage or registered partnership by annulment or divorce.

          So, notice how this powerful EU lobbying group elides the child’s right to maintain its natural identity and prioritizes the impact of a lack of automatic same-sex co-parenthood through marriage/civil union on the same child’s right to freedom of movement in the EU.

          This position is more than wishful thinking. Look at the US, where, in place of presumption of paternity, there is a conclusive marital presumption of parenthood through the Uniform Parentage Act, regardless of how the child was conceived. The same is true in many other states where same-sex marriage has been legalized.

          Let’s consider the case in California, In re: M.C. involving the custody of a young girl conceived through sexual relationship between her father, Jesus and her bisexual mother, Melissa (who had broken up with her domestic partner Irene with whom she had a stormy, violent relationship).

          Although, Jesus was a committed and involved expectant parent (Melissa lived with him and his family and they attended ante-natal classes), Melissa also broke up with him later on in the pregnancy and married Irene. This meant that M.C. was born into that marriage.

          Melissa and Irene split up and their fight over custody of the child turned violent. With Melissa in prison, child services sought to place the child with either Irene or Jesus, but the conclusive presumption of parenthood through marriage alone undermined his paternal right to rebut Irene’s parental claims. Irene herself was deemed unfit, so M.C. was made a ward of the State instead and placed into foster care.

          In the US, the only reason that the presumption of parenthood was made conclusive was to make same-sex family arrangements as autonomous as natural genetic parenthood. If joint same-sex parenthood was rebuttable by genetic evidence, it would *always* leave their arrangements vulnerable to intervention of the child’s natural father.

          So, marriage becomes the vehicle for prioritizing the parental intentions of the married couple at the expense of the child’s natural identity.

          So, while you emphasize added binding contractual arrangements, marriage itself carries its own long respected tradition of binding precedents, including the rebuttable presumption of paternity. Some jurisdictions have re-purposed this to grant same-sex couples automatic and conclusive parental recognition, and who, as you say, ‘ cannot (yet) produce a child that is the genetic offspring of both of them’. We can see the awful injustice that it has caused.

          Your contractual proposals undermine the public purpose of marriage which, for the State standpoint, is to support the founding of stable family units by fixing publicly the assignment of joint primary parental responsibility for children and by encouraging the lifelong union of those naturally responsible for their origin.

      • Jane Newsham November 25, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

        Wow, David, how did we move on to paternity rights? This is a whole other blogpost.
        I’m sure that you will have links to all the cases that you cite here and so I don’t dispute any of them, but there are plenty of other same-sex couples who are raising stepchildren (in a similar way to opposite-sex couples who are now in second relationships) and who just want the very best for their children, including access to former partners, and a very settled and stable home life.
        I’m sorry that you still see same-sex couples who go to some trouble, emotionally and financially to bring a child into the world as an arrogation, but our hope for these families too is that the Church is there for them, especially to support them in their parenting during those tougher stages of family-raising.

        • David Shepherd November 26, 2014 at 12:14 am #

          Jane,

          Paternity rights are part and parcel of the public purpose of marriage.

          As you say, there may indeed be same-sex couples who are raising stepkids. The legal question is whether such specific instances of conceding access to former partners justify the admission of same-sex couples to an institution, like marriage, that prioritises their *primary* parental claims of one spouse over any child born thereafter to the other.

          Whatever the emotional and financial efforts of same-sex couples to, in your words, ‘bring a child into the world’, they are not capable of doing so without recourse to another natural parent.

          There are other means, such as adoption, that require the natural parent to provide consent.

          You should read In re: M.C (California Court of Appeal) to see what happens to the parental rights of natural fathers when the State grants the normative presumption of parenthood via marriage for same-sex couples.

          Rather than just focusing on homophobia, why not also campaign to end this injustice towards natural fathers? Why the monolithic uncritical support for every part of the same-sex marriage campaign?

          • Jane Newsham November 28, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

            David
            Thank you for your comment but you do realise that same-sex couples may now legally marry? We are no longer having the discussion ‘what are the instances that justify the admission of same-sex couples to an institution’ when they’re now admitted. They’ve arrived. Please engage with reality. Save your pixels to berate individual same-sex couples if you must but this never appears as a very charitable Christian witness. Sometimes we just have to get used to the idea that the world changes and not everyone behaves in the way that we think they ought to behave. Meanwhile the Church is the institution that supports people on their journey, in church or not, in faith or not, and without judging people for the decisions that they have made.

          • David Shepherd November 29, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

            Dear Jane,

            The fact is that in the UK, thus far, same-sex couples have marriage without any legislation that ‘prioritises their *primary* parental claims of one spouse over any child born thereafter to the other..

            What hasn’t changed in the UK (which is our reality) is the bar that prevents same-sex married couples from being automatically presumed as founders of autonomous family units, as evidenced by Schedule 4 Part 2 of the Same Sex Marriage Act.

            I presume that should late-term abortion and euthanasia on demand be legalised, you’ll expect Christians to engage (i.e. capitulate to that reality too.

            The Erastian approach that you appear to be proposing would have made Vichy proud.

            It just doesn’t quite match up to the faith whose Leader lauded His forerunner as a bright and shining torch: one who wouldn’t engage with the ‘reality’ of Herodias’ completely legal marriage to her half-uncle.

    • Clive November 25, 2014 at 7:52 am #

      Dear Jane,

      What you have written is not what has been consistently said.

      you wrote:
      “b) Those responsible for teaching the faith in local churches continue to be opposed to the Church welcoming and integrating lay same-sex couples unconditionally into their congregations?”
      That simply isn’t true.

      We ALL fall short of the glory of God. None of us nit-pick as to how. But ALL of us should accept that God transforms us to be Christ-like bit by bit. The argument is that many don’t want to be changed at all and want to live permanently in the half-truth of God coming to us where we are but simultaneously refusing to be changed by God.

      • Jane Newsham November 25, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

        Dear Clive
        In the Church of England, we are encouraged by the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Same-sex Marriage (February 2014) to welcome same-sex married couples into our congregations, not to question the nature of their relationship and not to deny them access to any of the sacraments. There may be church members who feel that these same-sex married couples ‘want to live permanently in the half-truth of God coming to us where we are but simultaneously refusing to be changed by God’ but I’m afraid that this becomes their problem (those church members) rather than their problem (the same-sex married couples attending a Church of England church). If you really struggle to extend the same respect to a same-sex married couple that you would to an opposite-sex married couple, may I please ask you to look at the reasons why this might be the case?

        • Clive November 26, 2014 at 9:29 am #

          Dear Jane,

          I don’t disagree with the Bishop’s pastoral statement but that has nothing to do with my point.
          I don’t see how you can conflate the Bishop’s pastoral statement with being unchangeable. When a Priest celebrates the Eucharist they are a fallen person that the Bishops accepted as a Priest.

          • Jane Newsham November 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

            Dear Clive
            You have suggested that ‘many’ (LGBT people, same-sex couples?) ‘don’t want to be changed at all’ although to me this sounds rather sweeping and judgmental – after all, how could you possibly, humanly, know this? Surely, what you are saying is that if you had your way, gay people would be changing promptly to celibacy (?) and presumably even those people currently in committed-to-marriage relationships like civil partnerships and marriages. In the old days, we used to do this by reference to any of the six ‘clobber’ verses in order to evoke guilt, shame and fear in people to ‘encourage’ compliance with a particular theological viewpoint. (Well, Jesus calls us all to carry our cross – yes, but when one Christian is telling another Christian how heavy that cross will be and for how long they will be carrying it, alarm bells should start ringing – this is controlling and manipulative behaviour.)
            I am making the point that under the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance, we do not question the nature of civil partnered or same-sex married couples’ relationships so I’m afraid you really won’t know if they are having sex or not, and any temptation you may feel to ‘hurry up’ their transformation should be strenuously resisted.
            Meanwhile Adam and Jake, a recently married couple, join your church and enjoy becoming part of the fellowship. You, Clive, won’t necessarily know that Adam is being transformed by God in the area of his overspending, now will you know that Jake finds God working in the restoration of the relationship with his estranged brother. God transforms us as, when and how he wishes and his priorities and timings are not available for comment. Meanwhile, if you struggle to extend the same respect to a same-sex married couple that you would to an opposite-sex married couple, may I please ask you to look at the reasons why this might be the case?

          • Clive November 29, 2014 at 7:52 am #

            Dear Jane

            I spoke about the generality but it is you that has taken just one issue in spite of the gospels and unjustified by the Scripture referenced.

            You speak about me not knowing if the couple are having sex or not, but the reality is that I don’t have to know and I don’t need to know because what I do know is that every priest is an imperfect person and it is only through Christ’s forgiveness that we are covered. It was you who brought up communion and I have answered it.

            I don’t make a point of how people are changed at all. The only problem is when people refuse to allow God into part of their lives, declaring that part out of bounds, whatever part that is.

            The issue for me is still Biblical authority and I will not discard the Bible. The falsehood of the so called “clobber texts” has been answered elsewhere so I won’t repeat here.

          • Clive November 29, 2014 at 8:31 am #

            Further, it is this society that is trying to make us judgmental when the Bible says not to be. Anyone in the Church is imperfect, we really don’t have to ask why. In that sense the Bishops’ pastoral statement is right.
            Anyone who excludes God from part of their lives is not following the Bible. God will change all of our life during the transformation referenced in the Bible and God will change all of us, there are no exceptions. We are all imperfect people and true Christians don’t enquire why. It is quite conceivable that someone can have same sex attraction and God deal with other parts of their life. It doesn’t mean they drew a fence round that part of their life, nor does it mean I have to enquire at all. But don’t promote what the Bible doesn’t say and doesn’t support. The issue here is Biblical authority.

          • Clive November 29, 2014 at 9:56 am #

            It is you who has taken the Bishops’ pastoral statement which is not un-Biblical and projected onto it something un-Biblical.

            The Bishops’ pastoral statement really doesn’t say that same sex marriage is fine in Church and we should all throw the Bible in the bin.

            The Bishops’ pastoral statement is only saying that we are all imperfect people being made perfect (so long we don’t fence off any part of our life).

    • Etienne November 25, 2014 at 11:32 am #

      You make it sound as though gay couples have no choice when it comes to the Church’s position on marriage and sexual morality. We do. We don’t have to put up with anything. There are a variety of options open to us. We can walk away, which is I suspect what most of us end up doing. We can stand up and vocally disagree with the Church’s position and then agitate for change. We can take it a step further and stand outside churches, protest and take homophobic priests to task à la Peter Tatchell. We can do a whole lot of things rather than just sit there passively and let you spray your homophobic hogwash over us.

      Personally I prefer the “just walk away” solution. The fewer gays there are in the Church, the more its reputation as a homophobic nest of vipers is reinforced, the less credibility it has in society as a whole, the quicker it will decline and trouble us no longer.

      • James Byron November 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

        Etienne, that might work in secular France, but England doesn’t have laïcité: it has a state church, which runs a third of the state schools.

        The Church of England is central to much of the cultural life of the nation. It officiates at Remembrance Sunday, Parliament, royal weddings, state funerals, coronations, etc. Church weddings are popular, as are baptisms and church funerals.

        Education is biggest. How on earth can a child feel good about their sexuality when their teachers and peers tell them that expressing it in any way is a sin that’ll send them to hell? If they protest that it’s homophobic, they’re told that the church has said that homophobia excludes theology, and who are they to question that? Remember these are state schools. They might well be the only option.

        So long as the state church views all non-celibate LGBT people as sinners, LGBT people will never be equal in England (the picture is, admittedly, better in Scotland and Wales, and worse in Northern Ireland).

        • Clive November 29, 2014 at 7:57 am #

          The schools were started by the Church in this country, not the state, and the churches paid for the schools, not the state.

          It is the state through DfE and OFSTED that is now showing its clear prejudice against the family and discrimination against children.

  10. Gill Forbes November 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Irrespective of these heated debates, a case has just been completed at the Employment Tribunal, one of the main decisions are whether Bishops are qualifications bodies i.e. public bodies given the licensing system and safe to receive system. The result of the case is due at the end of January 2015. Bishops then will not be able to discriminate in any way including married gay clergy or those in sexually active civil partnerships. Incidentally, Bishops and Archdeacons were accused of lying under oath.

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