Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oops, they did it again: Tone Deaf CofE Bishops refuse recognition of same sex marriages

Those of us who are church geeks (and I am one, even though I'm not a believer -- life's funny like that) are commenting with horror on Facebook about the latest example of tone-deaf stupidity from the Bishops of the Church of England.

To catch up on  where we've been, the UK legalized same sex civil unions a number of years ago, and then this year approved of same sex civil marriages.  The Church of England opposed both of these, with some vigor, and as the established church in the UK, made sure that it will never be required to formalize same sex marriages.

This goes on in a context where the CofE has grudgingly acknowledged that there are gay clerics but insists they live celibate lives with their partners (right) and it is widely accepted that there are a number of deeply closeted gay bishops.

You can read our previous posts on some of this under the label Church of England.

The new Archibishop of Canterbury at least acknowledges that there's a problem.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has told the Church of England it may have to accept changes many members do not like for the sake of unity – as it prepares for a battle over wedding-like blessing services for gay couples. 
The Most Rev Justin Welby acknowledged that many Anglicans would view it as guilty of “betrayal” and even “apostasy” if it implements a landmark Church report which includes a recommendation to hold special services honouring same-sex relationships. 
But he warned that others would see the Church as increasingly “irrelevant” and promoting attitudes “akin to racism” over its response. 
In a personal address to the Church’s decision-making General Synod, which is meeting in London, he urged members not to be afraid of “incoherence and inconsistency” in some cases and “untidy” arrangements to avoid splits. 
He insisted that it was not “wishy-washy” to attempt to accommodate people with opposing views and said it was time for a massive “cultural change” in how it approaches disagreement.
Well, i don't think this is quite the way to solve the problem, Archbishop.  The bishops' latest is to say that while gay people are going to get married, they certainly won't and never will be married in church, and the best they can hope for is an informal blessing.  And those partnered gay clergy better not try to marry, no sir!  You can read the full text here.  So if they were trying to thread the needle, they have failed spectacularly.

As one blogger writes,
Members of my church have often said to me, ‘Rachel, we want you to be happy.’ They know I can be a miserable so and so (:-)) and they know that I am alone, without a partner. They want me to have a partner. They also know that this will not be the solution to everything, but who does not want the joy, challenge and reality of a loving relationship? ...  
But now if I and another woman fell in love and became deeply committed to each other we could – in the eyes of the secular state – get married. And there would be much rejoicing! There would even be bishops who’d be invited along to share in our joy. My congregation would no doubt want to come and throw confetti. 
And yet…the church qua church might ask me to leave a cherished ministry. In truth, if it wanted me and people like me so little, I’d probably just go. But the joy of being married to one’s beloved would bleed into the pain of being seen as one who is failing in God's love as it is being shown in the Church. 
I weep for all my sisters and brothers – good, ordinary and faithful LGBT Christians and clerics – who are in committed relationships and yet are being pushed ever to the outside where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. I sense God is weeping too.
Honestly, can they manage to be more tin-eared about this? And on Valentine's Day?

They are writing themselves into oblivion.  The Brits are far more supportive of marriage equality than the Yanks.  And the C of E is making itself increasingly irrelevant to the lives and experiences of the people of England.

Update:  The estimable Rev. Tobias Haller calls it incoherent hypocrsy, and writes,
It is as if we were living on Animal Farm: the values of monogamy, permanent fidelity and mutual love (which the document cites as evident in at least some same-sex relationships) can be erased from the constitution, leaving only "man" and "woman" — the crucial defining adjective "one" no longer being applicable, even, as has been noted, for the likely future governor of the church. The Bishops have hinged the sole significant virtue (fidelity and so on being all very well but not restricted to mixed-sex couples) upon heterosexuality itself. Gender has become a virtue, and virtue insignificant. And they have the gumption to call this the teaching of Christ.