Love, actually … marriage, obviously

In the Church of England the highest value is being placed on the facilitated conversations achieving a consensus before any change of teaching about or practice in relation to the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Church can be considered. Achieving consensus isn’t in itself a bad ambition, but it might not necessarily be the prime objective for Christians.

Thinking about it from my biblical or Christological perspective other ideals or values might seem to be more obvious prime goals. I would place the at the centre the primacy of God’s unconditional, infinite, generous, faithful, gracious, creative love.

The hierarchy is annoyed that two different gay priests have gone ahead and got married, prioritising their own desire for personal love and fidelity in relationship over the needs of the institution which is prioritising other values. I suspect most people would support the priests in their decision to marry.

The two priests are not alone. Couples who are in love with each other and have lived in relationship for many years and are committed to each other in a covenant of faithful love and believe in marriage are going to prioritise the sealing of their relationship, legally, as a priority.

Lay and ordained lesbian and gay Christians who believe in equal marriage are now drawn to marry as the absolutely right thing to do. Is this really a selfish act, as the guardians of the institutional Church are telling us?

More than the desire to marry of those couples for whom this has been until recently a distant dream is the heartfelt yearning from thousands of people to celebrate joyfully and publicly with lesbian and gay couples who are marrying or planning to marry.

People want to celebrate this new-found freedom. Equal marriage is a moment of holy transformation for lesbian and gay people of faith. Our relationships are now honoured in society and by the State. The majority of Christians understandably want to celebrate the inclusion in marriage of a group of people who have long lived guilty, secret lives and loves, victims of prejudice and abuse.

The Church is attempting to suppress the freedom of people to celebrate with exhilaration and joy this new gift to a long-marginalised people. The Church of England wants to prioritise not loving, faithful relationships but the needs of the institution. Institutional needs are not a prime Christian value.

Equal marriage is a prophetic moment for the whole body of the Church catholic. A group of people, still marginalised and vilified by the Church in many countries and cultures, are being honoured for the quality of our loving, faithful relationships. What’s amazing is that this obviously just and right extension of God’s fidelity to us in unconditional love isn’t being welcomed by the whole Church.

Love is stronger than death, always stronger than death, even when achieving consensus and a legalistic Biblicism attempts to trump infinite love.


  1. says

    Colin, I was given to understand that consensus is *not* the aim of the promised conversations; rather the stated aim is to ‘learn to disagree well.’ (Stalling progress being one side-effect!)

    • says

      I feel I ought to correct myself: +Sheffield’s announcement of the conversation process (GS MISC 1083 released today) does in fact list the first objective as ‘reflection’ on LGBTI stuff. I continue to suspect however that this does not indicate an intention to reach consensus or to allow any progress to begin.

  2. says

    It was telling that Archbishop Justin remarked at one point that the respective marriages of the Revd Jeremy Pemberton and the Revd Andrew Cain are making life very difficult for the Church, or words to that effect. I was reminded of Lord Mountbatten, that most solipsistic of men, who wrote in his autobiography “It was a very sad day for me when I buried Edwina”, prompting the obvious retort that it wasn’t a great day for Edwina either.

    In the tally of oppression of the CofE by Messrs Cain and Pemberton, and oppression of Messrs Cain and Pemberton by the CofE, the Church is so far ‘winning’ hands down.

    • says

      I must withdraw my own remark, as it seems I may have ‘mis-spoken’. I have been asked for chapter and verse for ++Justin’s alleged remark about priests’ forcing the issue making life very difficult for the Church and, despite having got back to page 20 on Google, I cannot find anything to substantiate this. My apologies.

  3. Stephen says

    Lara, I’m not sure I agree that “the Church is winning hands down”. The truth is that Jeremy and Andrew Cain have each married the man they love. As Christians, the one thing we do know and believe is that Love is unconquerable. OK, the Church can be petty – it has taken away Jeremy’s licence, but, in the end, who is really going to lose out here? – Society at large is not exactly protesting at Equal Marriage – the society to which the CofE is meant to be ministering, but which it seems more urgently wanting to alienate and refuse to listen to. It is a fool who believes that God only speaks to the Church – God speaks to, and through, all people of love and good faith. I can imagine that God has stocked up on copious amounts of Nurofen + to cope with Migraine like symptoms at the way the CofE is dealing so badly with this whole scenario. Wait until
    December when all the CP priests can be married. If the Bishops think they have a problem now….. well, ha ha. It is they who will be needing the Nurofen then.

    • says

      Stephen, I think we may be talking at cross-purposes. I did put ‘winning’ in inverted commas, and it was meant ironically to suggest that the Church is shooting itself in the foot by its behaviour.

  4. says

    A beautiful and thoughtful post.

    I find it depressing that the HoB in particular York who gave the sanction to the retired Bishop acting as Southwell and Nottingham to withdraw the PTO of Canon Pemberton – it smacks to me of victimisation – the only sanction that they could apply, as they are unable to fire him, not being his employer.

    And the same Goes for Fr Andrew Cain who, has given a remarkable display of courage and clarity in his actions and one can only regard his marriage as one of love filled joy, which exudes from his every pore.

    I know that it’s unlikely that either of these will end up with a legal test in a court (whether Church or Secular) because the disruption and scandal would show up the HoB for what they are being, an intransigent group who are hanging on by their finger tips to a sinking ship of outdated doctrine which is in severe danger of being blown right over by the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing like a gale.

    The other unstated but obvious issue is a National Church being blackmailed by a group of other churches in the Anglican Communion which are threatening schism or dire consequences if the CofE moves towards formally recognising or celebrating gay relationships. I say, let them do their worst – if they schism, so what!! Let them go their own way and we’ll pray for their LGBT communities who are being threatened and persecuted, but not for those doing the persecution.

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