Progress of equal marriage bill deepens challenge to the Church

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was given a third reading in the House of Commons yesterday by 366 to 161, a majority of 205. On the Conservative benches 133 voted against the bill compared with 126 Tory MPs who voted in favour.

A majority of Conservative MPs and DUP MPs from Northern Ireland feel vulnerable and deeply distressed by the progress of the equal marriage bill, as was evident when they spoke in the debates on Monday and Tuesday.

Many conservative Christians also feel distressed. The foundations of their faith and the traditional constructs of marriage are being deconstructed. For them, the essence of marriage is being changed. For them, being a union of one man and one woman who will create a family is fundamental rather the loving, covenantal commitment a couple vow to each other.

But for Christians and for God and for Jesus love IS the fundamental.

As a result of yesterday’s vote Church of England teaching about the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Church is now in an even more unstable state.

The teaching as currently adopted is:

  • It’s okay for a priest in a celibate civil partnership to be appointed as a bishop
  • The majority of bishops accept the presence of clergy in civil partnerships, no questions asked
  • A minority of bishops do not accept the presence of clergy in civil partnerships
  • Few if any bishops question the right of lay people to enter a civil partnership
  • Same-sex marriage is not accepted

The Church is opposed to equal marriage. The Church is against the love between same-sex couples being recognised in the highest human social form – Holy Matrimony – a covenant relationship modelled on God’s faithful love for creation and we, who are made in the image of God, male and female. The Church of England refuses to accept the highest good for lesbian and gay couples.

Not for the first time in history (and certainly not for the last) the hierarchy of the Church has lost the plot on something which over the last 20 years has become obvious to the majority as a good which should be welcomed by church and society. They’ve discovered that gay people are people like us, not freaks of nature or people with perverted practices and desires (or at least no more so than heterosexuals, though conservative Christians think otherwise).

Because the bishops and experts at the centre of the Church base their teaching on false Biblical authority and Christian values, the ‘Church’ is still casting LGB&T people, if not as freaks of nature, then as members of the human race who are inferior in rights and love compared with the majority.

Despite this, there is Good News – in God’s infinitely loving Kingdom there is ALWAYS Good News, of course. The Church of England’s teaching about LGB&T people and our relationships is in an increasingly unstable and untenable state, rejected by the majority and is on the verge of collapse.

If Sir Joseph Pilling’s report and the House of Bishops when they meet in December try to reinforce or re-impose a so-called traditional Biblical attitude, they will be ignored, as they already are both inside and outside the Church. Anything less than a fundamental revision of teaching will be treated

The Church has become, as it habitually becomes, the defender of God as a product, a false god, shaped by the Church and sold as exclusive to the Church. People within and outside the Church know this god to be false, a god reflecting the prejudices and limited understanding and vision of previous generations.

Watching the debate in Parliament this week, there was a noticeable contrast between the rather more generous, open, honest and relaxed speeches from those supporting the Bill, especially those who are gay, compared with the negative, defensive stance of opponents. The same contrasts are visible in the Church.

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