Tag Archives: Marriage

Catholic Bishops’ “Working Document” on Marriage, Family

In preparation for the October “Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family”, the Vatican has released an “Instrumentum Laboris” (or working document), bringing together the submissions from national bishops’ conferences on their findings from the global consultation on marriage and family that was conducted during 2013. The actual conduct and quality of that consultation varied widely across the world. In the best examples, such as the Swiss, it was conducted by expert practitioners in social research. In the worst, lay people were not in fact consulted at all, with the bishops alone responding on their behalf, in consultation only with their priests. In between, bishops simply asked the people to answer the questions that had been prepared by the Vatican, questions that were not designed for lay people, and that many people in fact found confusing or impossible to answer. Nevertheless, Catholics around the world responded with enthusiasm, and questionnaires were completed in vast numbers.


When the bishops in some countries began to release their own results, it soon became clear what was already known from prior secular research: in general terms, Catholics as a whole simply do not agree with or comply with Catholic sexual teaching, on a wide range of issues, and particularly not on contraception.

The working document just released, largely corroborates that view – but draws from it the rather simplistic conclusion that the reason is that Catholics don’t understand the teaching, and that the Church must find ways to present its teaching more effectively. There is no recognition at all, that the real problem could be quite different – that perhaps there might be flaws in the teaching itself.

For the full text, see the Vatican website:

For news reports and commentary on the document, see:

A Revival in Marriage? 9 Facts

Reports that the number of marriages in 2012 increased by 5% over the previous year, reversing a long – term trend, received widespread press commentary, especially on the marked increase in marriages for the oldest age groups.

Marriage increase

The Office for National Statistics has released this summary of 9 key facts about this increase, some of which should prompt serious reflection by the churches:

  1. There was one marriage every two minutes in 2012.
  2. There was an increase in marriages in 2012, with 262,2401 taking place. This was a 5.3% increase from 2011 when there were 249,133.
  3. Civil ceremonies accounted for 70% of all marriages in 2012. The proportion of marriages that were civil ceremonies first exceeded religious ceremonies in 1976.
  4. 60% (156,480) of marriages took place in approved premises such as hotels, stately homes and historic buildings.
  5. 67% (175,0401) of all marriages were first marriages for both partners
  6. 15% of all marriages (38,320) were remarriages for both parties and 19% (48,8801) were to couples where only one partner had been married previously
  7. The greatest number of marriages were for men and women aged 25 to 29.
  8. The mean age at marriage was 36.5 years for men and 34.0 years for women.
  9. The largest percentage increase in the number of marriages was for men and women aged 65 to 69, rising by 25% and 21% respectively.

“To Have and to Hold” – Theology of Marriage Conference

A one-day conference on the theology of marriage in the light of equal marriage

London, September 27th 2014

Hosted by The LGBT Anglican Coalition

Recognising current unease in the Church of England over same-sex marriage, the conference will ask whether there is a theological basis for expanding the definition of marriage. If so, what might a theology of equal marriage include?

To Have and to Hold

Civil Partnerships: CSCS Submission to UK Government Consultation

Civil Partnership Review ( England & Wales): a consultation

INTRODUCTION – This submission is offered by the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, a unique UK-based ecumenical network specifically engaged in Christian communities’ need for a contemporary theology of sexuality and gender. CSCS provides opportunities for issues of sexuality and gender identity to be discussed honestly and openly, and aims to help others in the Churches to provide similar opportunities.

Same Sex Marriage
Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Q1 What are your views about abolishing the legal relationship of civil partnership once same sex couples can marry? Please choose one answer only.

We believe civil partnership should not be abolished because in as much as they exist for same-sex partners they offer a particularity of legal, social, and informal religious recognition as an alternative to existing civil or religious marriage. Civil partnerships were introduced to address the widely acknowledged problem that same sex couples in long-term, permanently intended relationships did not share the same legal protections enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, including next-of-kin, inheritance, and pension rights, as well as other benefits. Notwithstanding their reluctance to embrace same-sex marriage per se most main- stream Christian bodies in the UK now accept the importance of civil partnerships as contributing to the common good of the wider society. There are many people who do not, in conscience, wish to contract marital status, either for religiously theological reasons, or who on grounds of a firmly held secular belief reject the institution of marriage. Such objections are not based on an empty ideology. To abolish civil partnerships would be unfair to those couples who wish to retain this status, introducing an historic inequality that CPs are perceived as unequal and inferior to marriage. Abolition of CPs would make it compulsory either for existing civil partners to get married or to separate. Such an enforced change would result in those who refused such a transition to end up in a social and legal limbo. Given the inequalities which continue to exist, particularly for transgender people and lesbian women in certain areas of civil partnership legal and pension rights, it is imperative that the Government introduces secondary legislation to the Civil Partnerships Act.

Q2 Once marriage is available to same sex couples, do you think it should still be possible for couples to form a civil partnership as an alternative to marrying?

Yes – To remove this option, after 60,000 + couples have civilly-partnered, assumes on no evidence that all future same-sex couples would prefer marital status. For many, including people of faith, the language of marriage is loaded with unwelcome meaning. The vocabulary of ‘husband’, denoting possession of a partner as property, in the way that we use ‘husbanding our resources’, and ‘wife’ as indicating an outdated mode of dependency, although rejected by many contemporary married heterosexuals, maintains a marriage culture which is rejected by a significant number of people today. If CPs were abolished the impact on those remaining in such unions could be severe, as their relationships would be perceived as a socially abandoned form of relationship, with negative effects. The language of ‘upgrading’ from civil partnership to marriage, even if not in any proposed legislation, should be rejected vehemently in any official guidance or government statements. Many of us find this attitude highly offensive and would propose the use of ‘convert’ to describe such a legal transition.

Q3 What are your views about extending civil partnership to opposite sex couples? Please choose one answer only.

We believe civil partnership should be extended to opposite-sex couples because a commitment to equality, human rights, and social justice compels us to wish to see this extended to all couples. There has been dramatic social change in understanding the nature and diversity of human relationships. Extending CPs to all couples in a personal and sexual relationship would be consistent with broadening the definition of recognised relationship and familial choices within contemporary society. Opposite-sex couples should have had this option from the outset of CP’s, providing an alternative to those wishing to secure the material benefits of a recognised partnership without having to become part of the institution of marriage which for conscience, and not simply ideological reasons, they reject. Statistical evidence is lacking to establish how many adults, currently co-habitees, would opt for civil partnerships, if available to them. Anecdotally, a number of those who have felt constrained to undertake existing civil marriage state that they would have preferred a civil partnership option if it had been available to them. Making CPs available to opposite-sex couples would secure greater economic security, not least for those with responsibilities of care for children, vulnerable adults, or older dependent family members. This would also be consistent with policies to strengthen legally recognised relationships, by offering alternative choices. The restriction of CPs to same-sex couples has implied a ‘not-quite-equal’ status, and this has also informed, unhelpfully, some of the same-sex marriage debates. Providing opposite- sex CPs would remove the requirement on trans-people to end their civil partnership when transitioning in gender. Recognising opposite-sex relationships, not called marriage, might also be welcomed by some bisexual people.

Q4 Given the choice between forming a civil partnership or living together as an opposite sex couple, which would you personally prefer? Please choose one answer only.

This question does not apply to us. In this formulation it can only be answered by individuals/couples, and not institutions.

Q5 Given the choice of forming a civil partnership or marrying your opposite sex partner, which would you personally prefer? Please choose one answer only.

This question does not apply to us. In this formulation it can only be answered by individuals/couples, and not institutions.

Q6 Are there any costs and benefits which are not included in this document linked to:

Stopping new civil partnerships being formed reinforces a view that these are inferior to marriage. It also raises issues about how legal relationships from other jurisdictions can be fully recognised within the legal systems of England & Wales, and by extension to Scotland & Northern Ireland.

Q7 Are there any detailed implementation issues which are not included in this document linked to:

Would it be possible, in future, to convert a civil marriage into a civil partnership? In the interests of equality would it be possible for those opposite-sex couples who civilly-married because this was the only option open to them be able to convert such a status into a civil partnership on the grounds of their right to ‘freedom of conscience, thought, and belief’ ? More detail is required about the conversion of civil partnerships into marriage, and vice versa. It should be made more straightforward for couples where one member undertakes gender transition to translate their civil partnership into marriage, and vice versa. Continuity of such relationships should be emphasised.

Q8 Are there any proposals for changes to the legal terminology and processes for forming civil partnerships which are consistent with civil partnership being different from marriage?

There should be greater legal flexibility for those religious bodies who wish to register civil partnerships in their buildings, or those shared with other faith-groups. The distinctive nature of same-sex civil partnerships needs to be acknowledged in guidance to and training for civil registrars. This might then prevent such persons claiming spurious conscience grounds on ‘religious belief’ to refuse to register such unions.

Q9 Are there other options for civil partnership which have not been raised so far but which are within the scope of the review and consistent with its principles?

Should a civil partnership be allowed to be dissolved for the express purpose of a marriage taking place, or should it be that a marriage in itself dissolves a previous civil partnership between that same couple ? There will be some who do not wish to simply convert their civil partnership as a purely administrative or bureaucratic action, but wish to be married in a civil or religious wedding ceremony and so would have to find some technical reason for dissolving their civil partnership in order that a valid marriage could take place. It would be detrimental to remove the ability of religious buildings and organisations to host civil partnerships, and this should be extended to the realm of religious marriage for those who so wish.

Q10 Are there people who share a relevant protected characteristic other than those identified above who would be particularly affected by a decision to make, or notto make, one or more the potential changes to civil partnership highlighted in section 3.1 of this document?

The abolition of civil partnerships would promote historical and institutional discrimination against lesbian women and gay men who are, or were, in civil partnerships, as it would imply that such unions were second-rate and unequal to other legally recognised relationships. It is important in a plural democracy that formally recognised beliefs and not simply ‘personal opinions or interpretations’ conscientiously held by minorities should be respected by both the state and faith-communities themselves, where they do not undermine the practice of the majority. It is also necessary to protect those with a conscientiously-held religious belief which does not enable them to embrace same-sex marriage, including some same-sex, civilly-partnered couples who consider their unions to be already ‘sacramental’ – even if not formally recognised as such by their religious denominations. The retention and extension of civil partnerships will do nothing to undermine the validity of same-sex or opposite sex marriage, but will provide a structure whereby those who retain this conviction will not be excluded from the legal and public benefits of their union, but will be able to do so without doing violence to their right to ‘freedom of conscientious, thought, and belief.’

4.4 Additional research/information on same-sex unions

In the absence of much recent research there are a number of websites which contain useful resources and express the diversity of views within faith-communities on the topic of same and opposite sex civil unions and marriage:

  • www.christianityandsexuality.org;
  • www.queeringthechurch.com ;
  • www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk ;
  • www.cuttingedgeconsortium.co.uk ;
  • http://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com
  • www.ekklesia.co.uk
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“Theology and Sexuality”: Volume 18, no 1

6 Articles in this issue:

Theology & Sexuality

You can view selected content online free of charge and also sign up for free table of contents alerts at www.maneyonline.com/tas

Members of CSCS (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality) are able to include a reduced price subscription to the Theology and Sexuality journal, bundled with their society membership.

Sexual and gender issues in the Church of England: three notes

Anthony Woollard

Gay Marriage

Before getting into the topic of gay marriage we first have to ask whether gay relationships in any form can ever be right or good.  There is no getting away from the fact that the tiny handful of direct references to homosexuality in Scripture are pretty condemnatory.  On the other hand, Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, condemns many other things – from lending out money at interest, to eating pork, to wearing clothes with mixed fibres – and we don’t necessarily regard those condemnations as binding today.  So why is homosexuality different?

Many people, religious or not, would still see homosexuality as unnatural; surely men and women are meant, or have evolved, to mate with each other and not with their own sex, primarily in order to produce children.  Yet something like what we call homosexuality occurs fairly widely in nature[1].  It is no more unnatural in a literal sense than, say, left-handedness.  And it may be worth remembering that left-handed people – “sinister” people in Latin – have also at times been regarded as unnatural, and persecuted[2].

For most of history, in many cultures, gay people have been regarded as things of horror and pushed to the margins of society, not allowed to form public relationships.  The writers of Scripture could not have known what we now know – that gay people can enter into loving, stable, productive relationships and play a part in the mainstream of society.

We must avoid looking at a few texts in isolation.  A very wise Evangelical used to say “A text without its context is just a pretext”.  And the context in which we look at this question has to include, not only the huge cultural changes since Biblical times, but also and most importantly the teachings of Jesus.  I think of two sayings in particular.  “I am come that they might have life in all its fullness” – and for me, “they” must include all humanity, gay as well as straight.  And “by their fruits you shall know them”.  I know a number of gay Christians and cannot in my deepest conscience deny that the fruits of the Spirit are obvious in them – not in spite of their gayness but perhaps even because of it.

So what about gay marriage?  Gay people have been granted civil partnerships.  In some churches, though not alas the Church of England yet – at least not officially – those partnerships can be separately blessed.    So why insist on marriage?  Isn’t this just those pesky gays demanding absolute equality with “us” straight people?  (I use the us and them language deliberately, but of course it’s not Christian.)

It depends on what you mean by marriage.  Is it inherently about the creation of a new family through the mating of two people of opposite sexes?  I know some gay Christians who would agree with that.  I know others for whom the concept of marriage carries too much baggage to be seen as a partnership of equals.  But equally I know some who are hurting deeply because they feel excluded from an institution which they see as basic to society and affirms everything they want to affirm.  I think of Sharon, a pastor in the Metropolitan Community Church which ministers mostly to gays, and her partner Franka.  I know how much this means to them.

By their fruits you shall know them.  I am come that they might have life in all its fullness.  For me, the fundamental teachings of Jesus have to be determinative in deciding issues like this.  Certainly, if gay marriage were introduced, the nature of marriage as a concept would be changed.  But it has constantly been changing.  If you don’t believe me, read Jane Austen!  In many ways I am agnostic about gay marriage, but I simply have to hear the hurt of my friends Sharon and Franka and thousands like them.

St Peter in Acts chapter 10 was faced with a very irregular and unnatural[3] situation, when a group of Gentiles – outsiders who were banned from membership of God’s people – responded to the Gospel of Jesus and showed signs of being possessed by the Holy Spirit.  This wasn’t meant to happen in Peter’s world!  And he was forced to ask “Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?”  I equally find myself forced to ask “Could anyone refuse the sacrament of marriage to Sharon and Franka?”

Marriage and cohabitation, and does it matter?

What do we mean by marriage?  We may think of it as a very defined legal and perhaps religious status based on a once-for-all ceremony without which you aren’t married. It didn’t mean that in this country until the Hardwicke Act of the mid-18th century.  Before that a lot of “marriages” were much more informal – they might start with betrothal or even with pregnancy, and were often tied up (literally) with dowries.  In other cultures, there has been even more variation (see Duncan Dormor, Just Cohabiting?)

There is a lot of teaching about marriage in the Bible – and also a great deal which has been read into that teaching and elaborated it.  Marriage, we are told, is meant to be exclusive – one on one, forsaking all others.  It is meant to be for life, entered into unconditionally.  It is the only safe framework for a sexual relationship[4], and certainly the only proper framework for the upbringing of children.  Interestingly, there is nothing in there about licenses or ceremonies, let alone bridesmaids or confetti.  So the question “what makes a marriage a marriage” is left rather open.

At its best, the Christian vision of marriage is very wonderful.  At its worst, it can be just too much for sinful human beings to bear.  In the form we know it, it is a huge package, a very big deal both for individuals and for society, and it is understandable why some people are nervous about it.

Various developments in society have led to a questioning of formal marriage as the only way for people to get together in a relationship.

One of them relates to the position of women.  A favourite feminist saying goes like this:  In marriage two people become one person – and that person is the husband.  If you read some of the great Biblical passages on marriage, from Genesis to Ephesians, it is very easy to come to that conclusion.  Marriage can be seen as potentially crushing individuality, particularly for women.  There are other passages in Scripture which suggest that this cannot possibly be a true understanding of God’s purposes.  But the direct teaching of Scripture on marriage can be, and has been, used in this way.  Now we have come to re-evaluate the place of women, and this, I believe, is of God.

Our attitude to love and sex has also changed.  The development of pretty reliable contraception is one factor here.  But there is also, for better or worse, a greater emphasis than ever before on individual self-fulfilment; that leads amongst other things to the idea that a relationship between two individuals is their business and no-one else’s.  I don’t think that can be fully true, as a matter of fact or of Christian teaching; but I do think it may be a necessary corrective to a sort of Fascism in which the individual and her needs is completely subjected to society.

And related to all that, our attitude to families has changed.  I mentioned Jane Austen last week.  It’s not so long ago, that amongst the upper classes at least marriage was heavily about things like property and handing it on through the generations, and links between families, and making sure that women were financially secure.  It may be good that we are less obsessed today about family, its preservation and its prosperity.  I would argue that some old-fashioned family values have been used for a sort of extended selfishness – my family right or wrong, and the rest of society can go hang.  Some of this is still part of the baggage that is experienced by those who have doubts about traditional marriage.

We know that a majority of cohabiting relationships today are not, in a legal sense, marriages.  In very many cases they are a stage on the way to formal marriage, and the church report Something to Celebrate  suggested that these should be at least accepted and preferably honoured.  In other cases they are an alternative to formal marriage, and there may be many reasons for this; I believe we should not judge, but, again, celebrate wherever faithful love is found.

So: does marriage matter?  In one sense, obviously, yes; it is as much part of the framework of mainstream society as it ever was, and above all so where children are involved.  In another sense, surely what matters is the integrity of relationships.  Love and faithfulness are important, and hard, but if some people in our flawed world find these outside marriage, they may actually be helping to challenge the misuse to which the ideas behind conventional marriage have often been put.

Can the Anglican Communion survive?

We’ve been looking in this series at some of the issues which divide Christians – including Anglicans – relating to sexual matters.  We have seen over the past decade huge tensions between the broadly liberal Anglican churches of North America and more conservative provinces elsewhere.  We’ve had the debate about a possible “Anglican Covenant” which was intended to put pressure on those parts of the Communion which are seen by others as going out on a limb doctrinally.  It’s all very difficult, and very painful.  Can the Anglican Communion survive – and does it matter?

Anglicanism has always been rather unusual amongst Christian denominations in its overt, built-in breadth.  Catholics, evangelicals and liberals, plus various combinations of all three, have been present and acknowledged for many centuries, sometimes very uneasy bedfellows and yet somehow “holding together” (to use the title of the Bishop of Coventry’s book on the subject).  This goes back to Elizabethan times , when writers like Richard Hooker struggled with the balance in church life between Scripture, tradition and reason – all of them being emphasised by different groups in that fertile society which also gave rise to Shakespeare.  Elizabeth I, who famously refused to open a window into men’s souls, needed a church which would hold together the diversity of her people.  And that is the genius of Anglicanism.  It is also its weakness – but St Paul tells us that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul also writes very movingly, in both Romans and 1 Corinthians, about diversity in the Body of Christ.  He didn’t deny that there might be limits to that – mainly where people were excluding others by their teachings or their behaviour.  But the overriding message throughout all his letters is that we should accept one another, in all our diversity, as God in Christ accepts us.  And Anglicanism at its best has always modelled that.

I think we have discovered over the past couple of weeks just how much – more than debates about evolution let alone about how many candles on an altar – issues about sex go to the heart of who we are as human beings and how we express that in society.  This is both about how we relate to Scripture (and tradition and reason) and how we relate to culture – and how we process all this in our personal experiences.  None of this is straightforward, and for most of the participants some very serious matters of truth and justice, as well as equally serious matters of personal identity, are at stake.  So maintaining unity is genuinely hard, and we feel that hardness in our guts, more deeply even than all the debates about the nature of resurrection and the place of the sacraments which have stressed out the church in ages past.

But this idea of unity in diversity is at the very heart of the Gospel; not only in Paul, but in so much of what Jesus himself is reported to have said, culminating in that great prayer for unity in John chapter 17.  We must go on struggling, under God.

We have said remarkably little in this series so far about divorce.  Divorces do happen, not just in marriages but also in other human institutions – including churches.  The Reformation was a great divorce, or rather a complex series of divorces.  Such events are, at best, necessary evils.  Some divisions are already happening.  We have seen a small number of clergy and parishes divorcing themselves from the Church of England and remarrying the Church of Rome over the matter of women’s ministry.  Some more conservative provinces from elsewhere in the world have established what is called the Anglican Mission in England.  As St Paul said, again in 1 Corinthians, such divisions are pretty inevitable and may even be necessary in God’s purposes.  We may continue to see some realignments at the margins; some may leave us, some may join us from elsewhere, as happens indeed in the life of Holy Trinity.  But I believe we can and must “hold together” at the centre.

Just one final reflection.  It comes from the experience of Street Pastors, which of course is not Anglican in origin at all.  Recently the national leader of Street Pastors, Les Isaac, himself a black evangelical, issued a statement making plain that Street Pastors was NOT going to oppose gay marriage, because any position on the issue would get in the way of showing the unconditional love of Christ to all on the streets.  One or two Street Pastors, elsewhere though not in Stratford, have left the movement as a result.  The great majority, whatever their personal views, continue to “hold the centre” in the name of the Gospel.  I believe the Church of England and the Anglican Communion can do no less.

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Reply to the Scottish Consultation on proposed extension of marriage law to gay and lesbian couples

Hugh Bain

I write with 20 years’ experience of heterosexual marriage and 30 years subsequently in a gay relationship. Formerly a Church of Scotland minister, and since 1985 a Roman Catholic layman, I have wide ecumenical work experience and am well informed  concerning recent academic research into sexuality and the varieties of sexual and gender perception, and also patterns of social behaviour found among gay and lesbian couples.

I write to deplore the form of the current campaign by Catholic bishops on the meaning of marriage. The campaign lacks any consultation of the huge lay component with continuing experience and expression of committed sexual relationships and has allowed for no dialogue with the significant number of religiously practising homosexual and lesbian citizens.

While I personally favour full equality for all in terms of Civil Partnership legislation, I also support lesbian and gay encouragement for the category of marriage to be extended to all such persons as want to engage with it. There is no evidence that variation in sexual orientation diminishes in any way the possibility of commitment, love and where possible the good adult care and support of children and adolescents. It is a myth that the proposed extension of marriage constitutes a threat to heterosexuals and their children. I therefore strongly support willingness to respond to the increased tolerance of sexual variation widely shown in most of the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and urge that proposed legislation be enacted. Much good can come from society’s celebration of committed and loving sexual relationships being extended beyond the heterosexual model.

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A Dialogue between the Churches on Sexuality Issues – An Anglican Approach

The Rt. Revd. John Gladwin

A personal disclaimer – what I say should not be taken as necessarily representing Anglicanism! I am an Anglican and what I say I believe to be in that tradition – but many Anglicans may come at these matters very differently – a matter which I consider to be a strength in church life.

Anglican conversations about sex, its meaning and purpose in human life, spin round our traditions on marriage. In a variety of ways Anglicans enter this field from this entrance point. Since liturgy plays an important role in shaping our doctrine and attitudes, the changing shape of the liturgies of marriage play an important role in this.  Anglicans would be heard saying the following sort of things:

  • Marriage is a gift God gave to humanity in creation.
  • Marriage is a covenant of love and commitment between a man and a woman.
  • Marriage is a sacrament or is sacramental in type – a means through which God’s grace may be experienced in our lives.

The character of the gift.

  • Universal – for all and to be a blessing for the world, including those who do not formally enter into marriage.
  • It is an exclusive bond – joining of the couple in union is the bodily sign of the love that brings them together. Sex, commitment and love are to be held together.
  • It is the context within which God wills the creation of new life in children.

Marriage is not a civil arrangement, nor a service in church.

In regard to the morality of sexual behaviour these understandings would resist two ways of creating a division between sexual behaviour and the relationship between the people. There is the obvious one that sex for self gratification irrespective of whether there is any relationship is sinful – fornication. There is the less obvious one of the suggestion that where there is love, anything goes. So Anglicans have, from a variety of frameworks of moral endeavour, always taken an interest in the morality of the act as well as the quality of the relationship.

The sexual bond and act is of itself a profound good – part of the gift of life God has given in our creation as human beings. So that long cultural history of experiencing sex as sinful in itself and dirty has no place in serious Anglican theology – from the Prayer Book onwards!

In attending to these questions of both relationship and praxis, Anglicans always hold to the essential authority of the church in the Bible, interpreted down the centuries in the teaching of the church and qualified by reason – which some would say includes experience.

We may not hold as true, things which are manifestly against the doctrine of Scripture.

When tackling the complex issues facing us today – not just the personal and pastoral needs of same sex couples, but cohabitation, the forms of marriage in society where many are reticent about making such commitments and the impact on behaviour of safe contraceptive protection, the HIV/Aids crisis and of the wider cultural mores which are manifestly changing – Anglicans can look back on a history of development and even change in their judgements.

The obvious ones

  • Contraception and family planning
  • Divorce and remarriage
  • Contemporary techniques in human fertilisation, family reconstruction and so on.

So we are always having to reshape how we speak about these issues – finding new directions in Scripture and in the understanding of our traditions.

What I think is remarkable at present is the shift in thinking about the needs of same sex couples. From an age of deep ambivalence about marriage, we now have same sex couples seeking stability, recognition and human rights in parallel to marriage.

Is this compromising our doctrine of marriage or is it strengthening it?

That is unfinished business for us.

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