Church of England bishops will not recommend that gays partake in the sacrament of marriage, “a solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman, declared and celebrated in the presence of God and before witnesses.”
The BBC reported that Anglican bishops finalized their recommendations after several years of debate on the CE’s stance on sexuality. These recommendations will be factored in at the CE’s general synod in February, where the decision will be formalized.
What are the details?
After a “six-year period of listening, learning and discernment known as Living in Love and Faith,” CE bishops noted in a statement Wednesday that they are resolved to preserve the “Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony.”
Rhys Laverty, managing editor at the Davenant Institute, noted that “an organisation concluding that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman should not, in fact, be surprising,” granted “‘matrimony’ literally means ‘state of motherhood’ (from Latin mater).
Notwithstanding the church’s stance on this issue — the very issue that first distinguished the CE — the bishops nevertheless resolved to offer gays “the fullest possible pastoral provision”: “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership.”
Extra to making these concessions, new pastoral guidance in relation to the discernment of vocation will eventually be produced, “to which all clergy currently are asked to assent.”
This prospective document would replace the December 1991 “Issues in Human Sexuality” statement from the CE general synod, which claims, among other things: “There is … in Scripture an evolving convergence on the ideal of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual union as the setting intended by God for the proper development of men and women as sexual beings. Sexual activity of any kind outside marriage comes to be seen as sinful, and homosexual practice as especially dishonourable.”
The document also states that there is a “mismatch between [gays’] sexuality and their physical and often also their emotional capacity for parenthood. There may be for some a mismatch between their bodies and the ways in which they wish to express their mutual self-giving. Their sexuality can be a barrier rather than a help toward full man-woman complementarity.”
The CE’s “Issues in Human Sexuality,” which declares clergy cannot enter into active gay relationships, further condemns as “bogus” the “philosophies of erotic freedom which have … marked twentieth century European culture, and which have sought to justify every excess or deviation,” for having advanced “chaos and misery, disease and death.”
It is clear from the CE bishops’ latest statement that much of the language and argumentation in this church document will be abrogated – no doubt favorable news for the church’s “non-binary” Anglican priest and those clergymen driven to LGBT activism.
Apologies and ‘breadcrumbs’
The church will reportedly be issuing an apology later this week to “LGBTQI+ people for the ‘rejection, exclusion and hostility’ they have faced in churches and the impact this has had on their lives.”
Furthermore, the church will call on all congregations to welcome gay couples “unreservedly and joyfully” as they reaffirm their commitment to a “radical new Christian inclusion founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it — based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st Century understanding of being human and of being sexual.”
Various CE bishops commented on the proposals and the apparent balancing act between a prohibition on gay “marriages” and gay blessings.
Sarah Mullally, the bishop of London, said, “I know that this has been costly and painful for many on all sides of the debate and has touched on deeply personal matters and strongly held beliefs.”
Stephen Cottrell of York said, “This is not the end of that journey but we have reached a milestone and I hope that these prayers of love and faith can provide a way for us all to celebrate and affirm same-sex relationship.”
Justin Welby, the bishop of Canterbury, stated, “I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.”
Peter Tatchell, an LGBT activist, did not appear to receive the news in a “spirit of generosity.”
Tatchell tweeted that the CE’s decision is “like the southern US churches that refused inter-racial marriages 60+ years ago. Anglican leaders are the ENEMY of human rights & LGBT+ equality!”
The Times noted that Jayne Ozanne, an LGBT activist on the synod, similarly denounced the bishops for not accommodating the zeitgeist, saying the proposals were “breadcrumbs from bishops.”
“Therefore we are still second class and discriminated against, even with this really small concession,” Ozanne added.
Penny Mordaunt, a senior Tory minister who failed in her recent bid to become prime minister, wrote to the bishop of Portsmouth, suggesting that the CE’s refusal to marry gays has left many “feeling that they are treated as second-class citizens within our society.”
NBC News noted that the CE is at the heart of the Anglican communion, accounting for over 85 million people in over 165 countries.
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