Same-sex marriage: should the Church of England affirm culture, or confront it?

Nov 7, 2022 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

[…]  Next February, the Bishops will present their long-awaited findings to the General Synod, and their recommendations could pave the way for a historic vote following decades of division. Traditionalists have a hope of faithfulness and continuity. Progressives are hoping for reform and a “radical new inclusion”. Either gay sex is sin, or it may be blessed. It is hard to spy a potential via media here.

But it is very easy to see the endgame.

The Bishop of Oxford insists that bishops and other clergy who are opposed to same-sex marriage must be respected and accommodated because the “traditional view of marriage and human sexuality” is a “legitimate and honourable position”.

“They are sisters and brothers in Christ,” he writes. “It would be a tragedy if a journey towards inclusion for one group of Christians became an experience of exclusion for another.”

But that is precisely what will happen.

Remember Bishop Philip North, who was chosen by the Crown Nominations Commission to be made Bishop of Sheffield. He was forced to withdraw when his position on women priests was interrogated. His view was well known: the priesthood is male, and this is divinely instituted. He was content in his conscience to hold this personal belief ‘in tension’ with the settled view of the Church of England to ordain women; to make them priests and bishops. But he was hounded with questions of inconsistency and hypocrisy, and so he withdrew his name.

“If, as Christians, we cannot relate to each other within the bounds of love, how can we possibly presume to transform a nation in the name of Christ?” he pleaded in his statement of withdrawal. “The highly individualised nature of the attacks upon me have been extremely hard to bear,” he explained. Indeed, the more one is called a ‘bigot’, ‘hater’ or ‘misogynist’, or accused of advocating ‘sacralised sexism‘, the more one might be inclined to bury one’s head in the sands of resignation. To assail a flawed theology is one thing, but to attack a man for his deeply-held orthodox beliefs is not only ungracious, it is contemptible, wicked and fundamentally un-Christian.

“Philip North would have excelled among the diocesans in defending the poor & the parish, & promoting evangelism outside evangelical mould,” tweeted Cambridge theologian, the Rev’d Dr Andrew Davison. All that remains is the conditional perfect; a hypothetical event. Henceforth the intolerant inclusivist Test Act will be applied ‘robustly’ to candidates for the Episcopacy. Those who do not conform to the new inclusion dogma will be hounded to withdraw and hauled to the stake for incineration. The Church of England has hewn its sturdy catholic branch so that the ever-sprouting twigs of liberal reform might flourish. Mutuality has become a beatific pipe dream.

If the Church of England moves in the direction advocated by the Bishop of Oxford, there will be more Philip Norths who will be hounded as ‘bigots’, ‘haters’ or ‘homophobes’. Sandi Toksvig will see to that. And so will one or two progressive clergy.

Foreshew-Cain same-sex marriage

How can a bishop who believes a same-sex union to be contrary to natural law or the laws of God (or, indeed, simply sinful) possibly exercise plausible authority over priests who perform such public blessings with faithful conviction? We are concerned with questions of ambiguity and integrity, and the imperatives of sincerity and truth.

How can the Church of England simultaneously hold that the traditional view of marriage and human sexuality is “legitimate and honourable”, and also advance that the progressive view of marriage and human sexuality is also “legitimate and honourable” when they are opposed to one another?

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