July 17, 2013

Marriage Equality Still too Equal for Some...

... in England and Wales

With the Royal Assent coming very quickly on the heels of action in the Lords and Commons, marriage equality is a reality (on the statute books if not in the registrars’ offices; getting all the forms printed and revised will take some time, as no doubt the Sir Humphrey Applebys of the Civil Service are engaged in their usual careful and studious work. Sad to say that Nigel Hawthorne did not live to see this day.)

Thinking Anglicans reports that not all are pleased with the new law. Some anxious Christian groups are bemoaning what they see to be undue haste in the six months of debate and discussion that led to this Act. Perhaps they would feel more at home with our Congress, if not our Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Roman Bishops in the affected areas of Great Britain have said, “With this new legislation, marriage has now become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, are no longer central.”

Perhaps I missed the relevant clause of the Act (as it now is) that diminishes "openness to children" for those for whom such "openness" is possible, or the statute that allows for irresponsibility for the care of children born to them. I am not sure what the bishops mean by “central,” but where possible, childbirth is still possible, and the responsibility for the consequences of childbirth appear to be completely unaltered.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

Goliath Sometimes Wins

Further comment superfluous.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 9, 2013

The Pelvic Inquisition

The Church of England is putting into place a plan to ask probing questions of candidates for the episcopate. Gay or lesbian clergy in civil partnerships, and divorced candidates (to avoid the appearance of discrimination), will have to satisfy their inquisitors that they are not engaging in acts that church teaching defines as sinful. It isn't clear to me from the reports if mixed-sex married couples will come under such scrutiny. Only sex seems to be on the menu in this regard, so they will not face a quiz on their trips to the buffet of pride, envy, sloth, and so on. The concern of the Church of England tends to the pelvical rather than the ethical.

That being said, I wonder, once same-sex marriage becomes legal — which could happen within a few weeks, it seems — if someone will dig up reference to another teaching of the Church of England on the subject of marriage, as stated in the Articles of Religion (XXXII):

Of the Marriage of Priests
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God's Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.
Emphasis mine. Perhaps before the inquisition begins, the judgment of the individual concerning his or her own life should be placed above that of the inquisitors.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

July 6, 2013

Welby Begins, Wilson Continues

There are hopeful signs from the General Synod of the Church of England. In particular, the opening address of Archbishop Welby, with a character of thoughtfulness and honesty, made some very good points, revealing something of his own process of coming better to understand “some issues of sexuality.” For example, he noted

Anyone who listened, as I did, to much of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill, which included me and many other bishops, was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance in the House and participation in the debate, and majority, since 1945. There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches. I am not proposing new policy, but what I felt then and feel now is that some of what was said by those supporting the bill was uncomfortably close to the bone. Lord Alli said that 97% of gay teenagers in this country report homophobic bullying. In the USA suicide as a result of such bullying is the principle cause of death of gay adolescents. One cannot sit and listen to that sort of reality without being appalled. We may or may not like it, but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it.
Powerful testimony, including the closing affirmation that the evidence has not been heard. How revealing that it took the voices of the lay Lords, some of them not Anglicans or Christians, to make a somewhat less than fully convicting impression on the Archbishop. It is also poignant in that it had to be these voices from outside the clerical circle, or outside the church's circle altogether, rather than the voices of his own gay and lesbian clergy — whose souls lie in his cure — who have had to live with the sad effects of not being asked and not telling (or at least not overtly, for fear of the consequences engineered in the system).

Let's hope for more honesty, more openness, less fear, on all sides. Bishop Alan Wilson, God bless him, shows one way forward, modeled on, of all people, Paul of Tarsus. It is the way of charity, honesty, and dialogue — the only way through the times when irreconcilable differences could otherwise separate and divide. It doesn't mean pretending differences don't exist. It means not judging one another on the basis of those differences. Someone more significant than Paul of Tarsus limned out that pattern of behavior for us.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
Tips of the biretta to Thinking Anglicans and Episcopal Café