Towards the end of yesterday’s reception at Downing Street hosted by the prime minister, Mr Cameron addressed the LGBT community members in a brief speech, during which he said: “I run an institution – the Conservative Party – which for many, many years got itself on the wrong side of this argument, it locked people out who were naturally Conservative from supporting it and so I think I can make that point to the Church, gently.”
I sensed that Mr Cameron carries a steely determination to achieve success in his equal marriage campaign, against the resistance of both old-school members of his party and the conservative elements in mainstream Churches.
Members of the group Out4Marriage said Mr Cameron had given the strong impression that he personally supports giving churches and other religious institutions the right to hold gay wedding ceremonies if they chose to do so in England and Wales. Although he was adamant that churches should be protected from being compelled to conduct gay wedding ceremonies, he also said that a debate on the issue still needed to take place as he recognised different opinions within the Church, with some vicars happy to celebrate gay weddings.
Joseph Musgrave of Out4Marriage, who I met at the reception, told PinkNews.co.uk: “The debate within religious organisations over solemnising same-sex marriages is fast taking centre stage and we are encouraged by the Prime Ministers’ comments yesterday.”
The House of Bishops and staff at Church House are very slowly beginning to understand that they may no longer have any control over the outcome of the CPs in church/equal marriage debate. For over three decades, conservative (evangelical) voices in England and across the Anglican Communion have been dominant.
Conservative evangelicals may still imagine that theirs is the authoritative, orthodox, traditional Christian voice. They may think the country will listen to their moral and ethical arguments but they are wrong. The majority of UK citizens and of MPs no longer agree with them or respect them.
Today’s Guardian carries an article about morality and ethics by Julian Baggini. He says “the decline of morality in the latter part of the 2oth century paralleled the decline of respect for the authority of the church, as we stopped looking up to clerics as moral authorities. The idea that [morality] is a set of rules prescribed by an authority, usually religious, has been understandably rejected.”
The Church of England is still engaging with homosexuality on terms set by conservatives, justifying evolutionary change against a reading of the Bible which justifies discriminating against LGB&T people. I suspect many members of General Synod are still processing the moral and ethical implications of the ‘clobber texts’ as articulated by Reform and Anglican Mainstream.
The majority of UK citizens have come to the conclusion that same-sex love and marriage is ethically and morally equal to heterosexual marriage. Supporters of Changing Attitude, LGCM, Inclusive Church, various bishops and staff members at Church House and many members of Synod are similarly convinced of the intrinsically moral quality of LGB&T relationships lived in accordance with Christian ethical values.
The Church of England is going to face considerable challenges over the next two years confronted with a government determined to enact equal marriage. For too long, the debate has been controlled by people whose own ethical values appear barely Christian at times, using abuse, manipulative tactics and distorting the truth of LGB&T Christian lives and ministries.
The future looks grim for the Church of England if it fails to confront and overcome such prejudiced, unloving attitudes.