Time for the Church of England to affirm, welcome, celebrate and bless same-sex relationships

The leader in the Church Times yesterday concluded by saying, “In the mean time, there are the twin concerns of public perception and mission. A greater enthusiasm for the blessing of same-sex partnerships in church would be one effective way of countering the negative impression given this week.”

The blessing of same-sex partnerships is the key. We know it is going to take the Church of England time to rethink its teaching and theology about same-sex relationships. We hope that all members of the College and House of Bishops understand that Changing Attitude is committed to the affirmation of loving, lifelong, faithful relationships, gay and straight. We hope that all bishops are committed to the same Christian values.

The slow, careful processes by which the church’s teaching evolves has been confronted with the need for a more urgent and radical review as a result of the past week’s developments. The reports of two House of Bishops review groups are going to come under much greater scrutiny now when published – and published they must be. Whatever the reports recommend will be judged in the context of this week’s events.

The church was pushed onto the defensive this week, anxiously claiming that the Church of England really likes gay people after all. The church doesn’t want to appear homophobic and it has said it doesn’t want to be locked into a ban on same-sex marriage. That’s a change!

Has the staff at Church House (and I don’t mean the lesbian and gay members of staff) woken up to the fact that, as Jonathan Freeland wrote in the Guardian today, “…. the landscape [for same-sex marriage] has been utterly transformed in a single generation.”

Bishops, I’d like you to authorise a change in current teaching, dating from Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991. What better way to demonstrate that you really mean it when you want to avoid the church looking homophobic than to approve the blessing of same-sex relationships in church and recognise civil partnerships?

This is really the only solution to the dilemma the church finds itself in, to redeem the damage done to people’s impression of the church. The Church of England urgently needs to restore the trust of English society and of LGB&T individuals, couples and families.

Archbishop of Wales complains

The Most Revd Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales and a patron of Changing Attitude, has complained that the government has put his church in an “enormously difficult position” which threatened to “severely curtail” its freedom to act according to its conscience. He said, “To regard the marriage of gays as a criminal act, I don’t think helps anybody. It certainly doesn’t help the church and it doesn’t help gay people either.

Labour asks the Church to reconsider

The Labour party accused the government of making a “real mess” of its equal marriage proposals and urged a rethink. Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary and minister for women and equality, asked the Church of England to reconsider the matter. She said, “Although the Church of England has said it does not support same-sex marriage right now, I hope it will change its position in time.”

Jonathan Freeland concludes his article by quoting Peter Tatchell, who says the remarkable struggle to end discrimination against LGB&T people, “helped everyone, gay and straight. It’s made Britain a kinder, more liberal society.” Says Freeeland, “I think he’s right. When this last piece of legislation is passed, we should all raise a glass – a celebrating a movement that has made our country a better, happier place to live.”

Comments

  1. Alan Birt says

    ……….. but what is actually meant in the present day by the word “MARRIAGE” ? I understand the latest figures show that about half of the couples and families living together in the UK are not ‘married’ in the strict legal sense of the word, as traditionally understood until recent decades. So why this emphasis on being ‘married’ ? Apparently about half of the UK population don’t bother with the formal marriage ceremony anyway so why are these other people so concerned about it ?

    Alan Birt

    • Kate says

      Because some LGBT people, like some straight people, would like to express their commitment to each other by being married. It’s only if you’re really wedded to the idea that queers are the most faithless and have the most transitory relationships that this becomes at all confusing. If equal marriage does one thing, it’ll be to dispel the idea of gay people as utterly other. Actually many want the same sorts of things as you. Isn’t that good?

  2. Alan Birt says

    The previous message states, ” … many want the same sorts of things as you. Isn’t that good?” No, they DON’T want the same as me – that is the point ! I do not want to indulge in behaviour that is an abomination (see Lev XVIII 22) and clearly is a perversion. I do not want perverts to be classified as ‘the same as me’.

    • Kate says

      Hmm, OK, here’s a handy list of things forbidden by Leviticus – ranging from the plainly sensible to clearly daft: http://leviticusbans.tumblr.com/post/23730370413/76-things-banned-in-leviticus

      I’m chronically guilty of number 12 and I bet you’ve done 14. What we learn from this is that picking a quote from out of the Bible when it happens to suit your gut feeling, and ignoring everything about the context and surrounding society really isn’t good enough and won’t work. The pernicious innovation here is Biblical literalism, which didn’t exist until the last couple of centuries.

      Ultimately, the risk is that you read the Bible in exactly the same way as a very geeky atheist: they take the one-line, face value approach as a way of having a jolly good laugh – you, perhaps as insulation against ever having to change your mind. But in doing so you read the Bible with less respect than you might bring even to understanding a good novel – where the layers, contradictions and complexity have to be understood as a whole structure, in the context of when they were written.

      Things do change over time, and some of the fourth century squabbles of the church were over things much more fundamental to the faith than homosexuality. You may continue to think that it’s wrong – fine – but it will do you no harm to think more deeply about it, because saying ‘Leviticus!’ just isn’t an argument.

  3. Alan Birt says

    Any obstruse, artifically-created objection apparently justifying the disregarding the specific ban stated in Lev XVIII 22 could be equally applied to ignoring the prohibition stated in Lev XVIII 23. I therefore presume these perverts support the practice of bestiality, too.

    • Kate says

      Dear, dear – your logic is awful. No Christian LGBT activist is saying ‘we must do everything that is forbidden in Leviticus’, are they? Instead, they know that an ancient text which also condemns messy hair and shellfish is a very misleading starting point for understanding Christian sexual morality. No one is advocating bestiality: it’s only conservative Christians who seem obsessed with the idea.

      You’re free of course to dodge all the points put to you and instead revert to straw men. But that’s exactly why you’re losing the argument and society – and an increasingly large group of Christians – are just getting on with it and embracing equality.

      • Alan Birt says

        I do not comprehend what “messy hair and shellfish” have to do with a discussion about buggery and bestiality. It is a standard politician’s tactic, when he does not want to answer or does not have an answer to a particular question, to evade to the point by raising another irrelevant and obscure topic. That seems to be what is being done here !

        However, I will answer the “red herring” point being raised. Firstly, I do not have messy hair – I wash my hair every morning with the use of ‘Head & Shoulders’ shampoo. So I cannot justifiably be accused of have ‘messy hair’ ! Secondly, I have never eaten shellfish. When I was six, I was given a cockle to eat. After examining it in the palm of my hand, I decided that I did not want to eat such a repulsive item. Similarly mussels and similar items I find visually loathsome. When I was about eight my father bought some winkles which he extracted from the shells with a pin. I was offered one to eat. Again I declined as it looked like a worm. Likewise crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimps and prawns I have have refused to eat as I find their appearance repellent. So I can honestly state, hand on heart (or on the Bible, if you prefer) that I have never eaten shellfish.

        But where does this statement get us ? It answers the “red herring” but does not progress the discussion any further forward !

        • Kate says

          Well thankyou for making me smile very much on a dark Sunday afternoon, but you’re still missing the point. Unless you are so hardline that – in addition to carefully washing your hair with Head and Shoulders every day in a way that would surely make your mum proud – you condemn everyone who doesn’t, and unless you rage at the wickedness of everyone who picks up some prawns in Sainsburys, you are not really using Leviticus as a moral guide, are you? If you were, the gay people and the shellfish eaters would be equally dodgy characters in your opinion. I’ve yet to see a ‘prawns, food of the devil’ campaign run by Anglican Mainstream or anyone else.

          Where we can agree is that Leviticus is a huge distraction – neither you nor I use it as a moral code: it’s simply that having decided what you already think about gay people, you use it as a backdated justification of why you think that. If Leviticus is not the real reason for your feelings, then it’s no good quoting it in a dispute about gay relationships.

          I don’t mind that some people disagree about gay marriage, but it so frequently seems to be a very unexamined position on the part of people who hold it – they cling to a couple of Bible verses and that’s about it. If you want to get better at discussing the issue, and understanding what the ‘other side’ are saying, then Changing Attitude has a large and helpful book site: http://books.changingattitude.org.uk/ But I probably shouldn’t be telling you that, because people with thoughtful, informed positions tend to be much better at winning arguments….

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