In a surprise move, the main governing body of the Church of England has rejected proposals to create a “blessing” ceremony for same-sex “weddings.” In a guidance issued Saturday on same-sex “marriage,” the House of Bishops also said it “is not willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry.”
“Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways,” the guidance reads. These other ways could include offering an informal prayer over the partners.
“In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.”
“Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be honored as a matter of integrity,” the statement added.
For people who suffer from same-sex attraction, the bishops said, “In view of the teaching of Scripture,” the Church of England “upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.”
“We recognize,” the guidance said, that same-sex partners seek “formal status” to “extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship,” for which civil partnership “continues to be available.”
“Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshiping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.”
An introductory letter signed by Archbishop John Sentamu of York, said, “As our statement of 27th January indicated, we are not all in agreement about every aspect of the Church’s response.”
“However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.”
“We are conscious that within both Church and society there are men and women seeking to live faithfully in covenanted same sex relationships,” the statement continued.
The bishops reiterated their statement to the Parliamentary committee, saying, “Same sex relationships often embody genuine mutuality and fidelity… two of the virtues which the Book of Common Prayer uses to commend marriage. The Church of England seeks to see those virtues maximized in society.”
The statement is in response to the suggestion that the Church of England create wedding-like “blessing” ceremonies for same-sex partners as a means of solving the conflict within the Church. The suggestion came in a report from a commission chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling in November that was lauded by pro-homosexual Anglicans but, according to the Daily Telegraph, “provoked anger from conservative evangelicals and traditionalist Anglo-Catholics.”
England and Wales passed a bill to allow same-sex “marriage” in July 2013 and it will come into force on March 13, 2014. Homosexual activists have said the first same-sex “marriage” ceremonies will take place on March 29, 2014. Scotland passed same-sex “marriage” in February 2014 and the bill currently awaits royal assent. Northern Ireland has stated that there are no plans to create “gay marriage” in that province.
David Cameron’s Conservative coalition government was at pains to convince the Church of England – Britain’s established church that has the Queen as its head – that its clergy would not be required to participate in same-sex “marriage.”
Despite what the government called its “quadruple lock” in the law dispensing Anglican ministers, homosexual activists have already begun legal action.
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, a homosexual activist from Essex, launched a lawsuit against a Church of England parish in Maldon for refusing him and his civil partner a lavish “church wedding.” Drewitt-Barlow told the Essex Chronicle that he has launched the suit because, despite the law, “I am still not getting what I want.” The Christian Institute reported that Drewitt-Barlow has donated around £500,000 to groups lobbying for same-sex “marriage.”
The United Kingdom Independence Party issued a statement in November 2012 that said lawsuits against clergy are “inevitable” with the new law. UKIP said that their legal advisers told them gay partners will “seek the right to marry in Church and that Churches will refuse to permit them to do so.”
“There will, very soon after the introduction of gay civil marriage, be a challenge in first the domestic courts of England and Wales and then in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the exclusion of gay people from the right to have a religious ceremony of marriage is unlawful discrimination against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation.”
“Moreover, given the ECHR’s previous rulings, the outcome will be against the churches. There is a very strong likelihood that the Court at Strasbourg will agree that it is an unlawful discrimination on those grounds and order the United Kingdom to introduce laws which will force Churches to marry gay people according to their rites, rituals and customs,” the statement said.
In addition to the same-sex blessings, the Pilling Report, which has become the latest topic of contention in the ongoing “culture war” within the Anglican Church, also recommended a two-year period of “study” and “facilitated conversations” on the question of homosexuality. But at a meeting of 90 Church of England bishops in January most agreed that the best that could be hoped for was a “good disagreement.”
John Bingham, religious affairs editor at the Telegraph, said there are fears that “any further steps by the Church of England could lead to African churches,” where most of the world’s 80 million Anglicans live, triggering a final and permanent separation.
The African branch of the Anglican Church remains steadfast in its refusal to accept even the kind of conciliatory language as that used by the House of Bishops statement. In a note to the conservative Anglican website Virtue Online, Nigerian Archbishop and Primate Nicholas Okoh said, “Our position on gay marriage is well known; we don’t accept gay marriage; we don’t condone gay marriage and we don’t regard it as part of Christian life; but we have no hatred for anybody.”
“We want to show them love by rehabilitating them and helping them to abandon that habit which they have acquired and is inconsistent with the scriptures.”
The Primate is on record saying, “Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance.”
“When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration.”