Tag Archives: same – sex unions

CoE Bishops’ Statement on UK Same Sex Marriage – Not Truly “Pastoral”

In response to the imminent introduction of same – sex marriage in England, the Church of England House of Bishops has released a statement on suggestions for Anglicans to deal with the new situation, both for couples wanting church approval for their unions, and for lesbian or gay clergy wishing to marry. The document is called “‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’, but in the view of the CSCS trustees, expressed in this public statement, this document is

ANYTHING BUT PASTORAL!

CSCS calls on pro same-sex marriage Bishops to speak out 

The Centre for the Study of Christianity (CSCS) supports, unequivocally, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which enables same-sex couples to celebrate equal civil marriage with effect, in England and Wales, from 29 March 2014. CSCS rejoices with sisters and brothers in Liberal and Reformed Judaism, the Society of Friends, and Unitarian Free Christian Churches who have opted-in, to enable such marriages to be celebrated on their premises. CSCS also recognises that amongst people of faith and none, diverse theological and ideological positions might be held regarding same-sex marriage.

 Following its Annual Conference, Redefining Marriage?, held in Birmingham on 15 February 2014, CSCS expresses serious concern at the possible impact of Church of England House of Bishops so-called ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’. This, and the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, appear to pre-empt the process of facilitated conversation, listening and reflection, called for by the Pilling Report and referred to in the 27 January 2014 Statement from the College of Bishops. The House of Bishops latest statement sets down answers, even before many of the questions have been asked.

Any true pastoral process in the LGBT context should begin with a listening to, and analysis of, the lived experience of people of faith, particularly its LGBT members, their parents, spouses, and families. It should then proceed to reflect on this in the light of developing, and not fixed, understandings of scripture, tradition, and reason. The latter should not rely on un-reformed views of natural law but, discerning the signs of the times, encompass the insights of contemporary thinkers in the fields of gender, sexuality, anthropology and other human sciences. The House of Bishops’ Statement, and indeed the Pilling Report show little evidence of such engagement.

 The Bishops’ Statement, if taken as authoritative even for the time being, could lead to pastoral chaos, as well as unwarranted intrusion into the lives and consciences of Church of England laity and clergy. We call upon those Bishops of the Church of England who have hitherto expressed support for same-sex marriage to come out and clearly state whether the House of Bishops Statement of the 15 February 2014 is issued in their name and with their support. If it is not we urge them to disassociate themselves from the Statement, declining to implement its proposed policies and procedures in their Dioceses.

 

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Jim Cotter, The Service of my Love (Book review)

Anthony Woollard

Jim Cotter, The Service of my Love, Cairns Publications 2009. ISBN 978 1 870652 45 2 Hardback, 114pp. £10.00.

This book arrived just as this edition of the Newsletter was about to go to press. In the time available, I am not sure that I can do it justice. But three facts speak for themselves. First, that it comes from Jim Cotter. Second, that it is about the celebration and blessing of civil partnerships – described as “a pastoral and liturgical handbook” and including a number of relevant liturgical forms as well as much wise pastoral thinking. And, third, that it has had to be privately sponsored and in effect privately published.

The saga of private sponsorship is itself worthy of mention. Jim approached a number of people and organizations looking for help. Even amongst organizations which were broadly supportive, not all felt able to sign up. Most of the signatories are individuals and a number of couples, both straight and gay. They include our own Martin Pendergast and his partner as well as myself and some other members of CSCS. Most of those who read the list are likely to recognise some names – and to be profoundly encouraged by their number and variety. If I may be permitted a very personal observation, I saw one name there of a woman in whom I was once rather interested; the fact that she now has a same-sex partner makes me realize that there may well have been nothing personal in her
negative response to my advances, and after 25 years that in itself is something of a revelation.

The liturgical material itself is what we have come to expect from this author: a rich and imaginative use of words – though perhaps at times a few too many of them. It is always good to follow Jim Cotter’s thought patterns, whether in prose or in poetry/liturgy, because they lead one constantly back to a re-evaluation of the body and sexuality, and of friendship and love. But to undergo one of his very rich liturgies without due pause for reflection would be rather like bolting a whole Christmas pudding. That aside, there are resources here which could be used, not just for the blessing of same-sex partnerships at different stages in their life-cycles, but also for use in worship and prayer more generally amongst those (no doubt including most of my readers) who share Jim’s underlying values.

The tragedy, of course, as the prose commentary points out, is that the likelihood of any tailor-made liturgies to bless same-sex relationships being authorized any time soon is remote. The theology behind this is teased out a little (perhaps just teased might be a better word!) and the inconsistencies made clear. As one good priest once said to me,“I’ll bless anyone or anything if it stands still long enough”, and it must seem exceedingly odd to outsiders that the Church has in the past (albeit maybe less readily nowadays) blessed nuclear submarines, manifestations of human fear, yet is unable to bless manifestations of human love. More work needs to be done on what “blessing” really means; Jim only starts this.

Finally, a marketing criticism! The book claims to be available via the Cairns website (www.cottercairns.co.uk). But when I checked the site it was not yet listed as an available publication! I hope it is by now, because there could, and should, be a heavy demand for it.

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