From today, many members of the Church of England, lay and ordained, will convert their civil partnership to marriage. Canon Jeremy Pemberton and Fr Andrew Foreshew-Cain will no longer be the only married gay priests in the Church of England – numbers of lesbian and gay clergy are known to be converting. The House of Bishops is confronted with the challenge of disciplining or ignoring or accepting the presence of same-sex married clergy across the country.
The first same-sex marriages in Scotland take place on New Year’s Eve. Same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday the Scottish Episcopal Church issued guidance in relation to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.
The substance of the guidance is very similar to that issued in February by the Church of England House of Bishops.
Changing Attitude Scotland has issued a response to the statement:
“Changing Attitude Scotland is saddened at the threatening tone of this statement in connection with those clergy, lay readers, ordinands and candidates who are in same-sex partnerships who might be considering getting married or converting their civil partnerships to marriage. Changing Attitude Scotland believes that marriage is a human right and that the College of Bishops has over-reached its authority in this area. There is no agreement in the church that the Code of Canons should be used as a doctrinal statement of the Scottish Episcopal Church and in any case, as Canon 31 (which concerns marriage in the Scottish Episcopal Church) was drafted at a time when the marriage of same-sex couples was unimaginable, it forms a far from useful commentary on, or guide as to how the church should respond to, current legal developments.
“Changing Attitude Scotland remains committed to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Scottish Episcopal Church and believes that whilst members of the church are threatened by the bishops for expressing their love in marriage, the whole body of Christ suffers.”
The House of Bishops of the Church of England met on Monday and Tuesday. Their meetings are confidential. No agenda is issued. We cannot know whether they discussed the conversion of clergy civil partnerships to marriage, a development confronting them with a new challenge to their authority – some clergy are converting today and many others plan to convert or marry in 2015.
The House of Bishops hasn’t issued a statement and has made no public comment. Bishops I spoke with at last month’s meeting of the General Synod said no plans had been made to deal with the impending change.
Changing Attitude England celebrates with all those lesbian and gay Christians, lay and ordained, who have married or are converting their civil partnership to marriage. They are doing what all Christians are called to do – celebrating God’s infinite and unconditional love for creation which draws many of us into loving, intimate, faithful relationships.
Whether single or partnered, the infinite love of God is the vocation we are called to celebrate and live Changing out in our own lives. This is how we live into the heart of God. This is the core of the Gospel message and the life and teaching of Jesus the Christ.
“This is my commandment to you; love one another.”
“The message you have heard from the beginning is that we should love one another . . . If we love one another, God himself dwells in us; his love is brought to perfection within us . . .My dear friends, let us love one another, because the source of love is God. Everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”
Changing Attitude England congratulates all who are converting Civil Partnerships to Marriages today. God celebrates your love and blesses you even if, so far, the Church of England cannot!