The Church of England seems to have made a U-turn.
For several decades in the English Church as in the Catholic Church, what went on among their priests was hidden away, this while preaching that having a relationship with someone of the same sex was a mortal sin and would bring one to hell. So there was very hypocritical preaching about being burnt for eternity in hell while committing ‘immoral’ acts themselves.
Especially during the transition from the last century to this one, there was a lot to do around sex scandals in the church, causing a lot of people to turn their backs on the church.
For a very long time, the Church of England and the Catholic Church have been bastions of men, where they somewhat looked down on women, and preferred to have those women by the fireplace and for producing children.
Following six years of consultation and deliberation, bishops in the Church of England, have rejected calls for gay marriages in churches, and have instead proposed, for the first time, that same sex couples can receive blessings after being married in a civil ceremony. This will form part of a new set of “prayers of thanksgiving, dedication” and
“God’s blessing for same-sex couples”.
The Church of England described her recent move that priests will be allowed to give God’s blessing to married same-sex couples, as “historic”. Such blessings will be voluntary for clergy, allowing them to opt out on theological grounds.
The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, said that what the Church is offering
“is a pastoral, not a legislative way forward”.
One would have thought that after many years of acting hypocritically, that church would finally come out of the closet and finally apologise to the many citizens they have hurt and deprived of their right to build something beautiful together in a community that would accept their attitude, because the church did not pronounce destruction on them. Again, we have seen a missed opportunity.
No wonder, the decision has prompted fury and disappointment from both equality campaigners who claim that
“we’ve had a tonne of apologies, and no action”
as well as traditionalists who said that the institution is paving the way for same sex marriage
“in all but name”.
Here we would say,
“They clearly missed the boat”
For months there had been speculation that the majority of bishops could endorse plans for same-sex marriage after the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, became the most senior Church of England cleric to back the proposals, breaking ranks with the Church’s official view.
After he spoke out in November, a number of other serving bishops came out in support of gay marriage. However, on Wednesday while the Bishop said that he was “sorry” that the plans were not endorsed by the majority of bishops he welcomed the Church’s “significant steps forward”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said that the bishops’ response “reflects the diversity of views” within the Church, adding:
“I rejoice in that diversity and I welcome this way of reflecting it in the life of our church.”
However, he said:
“I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.
In conservative circles, the turn will most certainly not be palatable. Many will also raise their eyebrows that the church is also not really expressing sincere apologies and that only a half-baked solution is being chosen.
“Most of all I hope it can offer a way for the Church of England, publicly and unequivocally, to say to all Christians and especially LGBTQI+ people that you are welcome and a valued and precious part of the body of Christ.”
said Justin Welby, who should know that in his church there are quite a lot of gay people active.
Andrea Williams, the chief executive of Christian Concern, the conservative lobby group, described the proposals as
“capitulation by the Church of England”
and said it
“is making way for the celebration of ‘same-sex marriage’ in all but name”.
It has taken ages, but it is good to hear that at last, the Church of England also confirmed officially for the first time that it has “gay, bisexual and same-sex attracted” bishops among its leaders.
Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who was excluded from serving as a priest after marrying his husband and who became the co-founder of the campaign for equal marriage in the Church of England, said of Archbishop Welby’s remarks:
“I’m not sure he’d get many invitations [to bless], if I’m honest. He’s not known as a friend or ally of gay people.
“However, there are many clergy who are, and I’m sure they’ll have opportunities to use these prayers and celebrate the faithful, holy, loving relationships of gay and lesbian couples and will be delighted to do so.”
Jayne Ozanne, an LGBT+ campaigner and member of General Synod, added:
“I do wonder whether the Archbishops have actually forgotten they’ve apologised to us before, many times, or whether they really think that this will cut it for us given that discrimination continues? I mean, Archbishop Justin admits he won’t even sully his hands to bless us.”
Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013. However, the Church of England did not change its teaching on the subject. Since then, both the The Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland agreed to offer same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Anglican Church in Wales also voted in 2021 to allow same-sex couples to have their civil partnership or marriage formally blessed.
The idiotic fact is that it is known that about 40 per cent of Anglican clergy are said to be gay. But not only them. Lots of people working for the Church of England, be them, organists, choir members or musicians, are gay.
Last weekend Rev Richard Coles, former pop star and media vicar, admitted in an interview that he had “an illegal service of blessing” with his late partner, David Oldham, in a church in 2010. That this is only now coming to light clearly shows how twisted the whole system in that church really is. He says:
“We were two gay vicars who wanted to get married in a church and weren’t able to do so.”
For him, it could well be that there are theological arguments
“but they are based on a completely specious and nonsensical view that somehow gay people are less estimable in God’s love and grace than anyone else and I just don’t think that’s true.”
For years, clergy have had to hide their orientation in several Christian church nominations. On one side there were men who were only too happy to have a woman at hand, while on the other hand there were men who preferably had a male partner close to them. Both possibilities were written off because those who wished to serve God had to be bound with Jesus, so to speak, and were not allowed to share their house and bed with anyone else.
For years, spiritual ‘leaders’ have otherwise natured treated as sick beings. Even worse, other dispositions were blackened and written off, and people were urged to avoid contact as much as possible. We still hear some voices that gay people should get treatment, but at least there has been changed a lot (in a good direction). But all the debates about transgender people do show that we still have to trot a long road.
It is still waiting for having enough people standing behind a law to ban all conversion therapy. Still too many do not want to accept that people may feel differently than them, and still be very healthy persons. The practice of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender makes still part of our contemporary society. It often takes place in religious settings and has led to accusations of exploitation.
Boris Johnson had severely criticised conversion therapy in the past, saying in July 2020 it was
“absolutely abhorrent and has no place in a civilised society and has no place in this country”.
Carrie Johnson said in 2021 that her husband is “completely committed” to protecting gay rights and is looking at “extending them further”.
Though now it was leaked that Mr Johnson seemed to have changed idea and is blocking such new law. Leaked documents suggested the ban was being ditched, triggering a backlash.
Mr Johnson then promised to ban gay conversion therapy, but said he would not do the same for transgender conversion, arguing the latter issue was more complex.
In the meantime those leading the country or the church shall have to take up the courage to see what happened in the church already for many years (not to say centuries) and how society has changed and which way we should go to live together in unison.
The Rev Coles sympathises with the dilemma but has a message for the Archbishop of Canterbury:
“Find some courage, show moral leadership.”
He’s right. The Church of England would be barely half itself without the gay Christians who preach and play and sing. They are not, nor should they be treated as, children of a lesser God.
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