The C of E’s same-sex marriage of convenience

Dec 3, 2017 by

by Will Jones, The Conservative Woman:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was in Moscow last week delivering a lecture on the subject of ‘theology, anthropology and Christian hope’. This wouldn’t normally be an occasion for comment, save that in this lecture the Primate of All England and leader of the global Anglican Communion broached the flashpoint issue of family and marriage. His purpose, however, was not to present a challenge to Western society for its ever greater deviation from biblical standards and norms, but to challenge Christians and the churches to be more accepting of the ‘reality’ of modern families. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

The place where most people forge their first relationships is within the family. It is easy, however, to define what makes up the family very narrowly . . . The reality is that family life is and always has been complex. In the United Kingdom in the last forty years there has been a great shift in the understanding and the reality of family life . . . In recent years in a number of nations, including the United Kingdom, same-sex, or as it is called in law, equal marriage is now understood to be normal, acceptable and unchallengeable in many countries . . . The speed of change has led many constituencies such as churches and other faith groups to find themselves living in a culture that they have not even begun to come to terms with . . . The family, however it is experienced, is the place where we can be at our strongest and most secure . . . It is a gift of God in any society, bearing burdens, supporting the vulnerable and stabilising both those who believe themselves autonomous and those who feel themselves to be failures.

Now, there are obviously a number of serious problems with this (including the factual error that same-sex marriage is ‘legally’ equal marriage). But almost all of them stem from one fact: that it is far too deeply earthed in the ‘complex’ reality of modern family life, and far too weakly related to biblical norms of marriage and family. The basic message here, also evident in the Church of England’s recent highly controversial guidance on homophobic and transphobic bullying, is that modern forms of family and identity are simply realities which the church needs to come to terms with and accept. The absence in both cases of any theological, biblical or ethical evaluation of these realities is very striking, and deeply concerning.

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