The county of Herefordshire is one of the most beautiful rural areas of England and its people, being country folk, are conservative in the broad sense of that word. It’s surprising then to see that the Diocese of Hereford is in the avant garde when it comes to issues of social morality. Hereford Diocesan Synod has put down a motion for the General Synod to debate blessings in church for homosexual “marriages.”
What do the boys and girls in head office think about this outburst of rural progressiveness? A spokesperson for the Church of England said:
“Clergy of the Church of England are unable to marry couples of the same sex and, under the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on same Sex Marriage, services of blessing should not be provided for those who enter into civil partnerships or same-sex marriages.”
Let’s tidy up that spokesperson’s language a bit. Clergy are not “unable” to marry couples of the same sex. By the Church’s rules, they are not “permitted” to marry them.
The spokesperson added:
“It is recognised, however, that there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality and the House of Bishops has recently embarked on the preparation of a major new teaching document on marriage and sexuality.”
That sentence could do with a bit of tidying up as well. Take the inaccurate statement, “There is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality.” There is in fact no such disagreement, real or unreal, profound or shallow. There can only be rational disagreement when the pertinent facts are in dispute. And here the facts are plain and indisputable: the universal Church from its beginning has always and everywhere declared marriage to be the union of a man and a woman. This it has done on the explicit teaching of Jesus Christ.
So that statement, tidied up, would go something like this: “The Christian Church has always and everywhere declared that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. Only very recently, a vociferous sectional interest pressure group has refused to accept this clear and unequivocal teaching of Scripture and tradition. The Church therefore calls this pressure group to order and requests that they desist from suggesting that marriage can be anything other than ecclesiastical authority has always proclaimed.”
The spokesperson further muddies the waters:
“We are seeking to find ways forward rooted in scripture and the Christian faith as we have received it and which values everyone, without exception, not as a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’, but as a person loved and made in the image of God.”
Yet again there is tidying up to be done.
Why is the General Synod “seeking ways forward rooted in Scripture and the Christian faith” when there are no such ways? Scripture has not changed over the two millennia of Christianity. On the matter of marriage the teaching has always been the same. What, therefore, could the bishops’ “major new teaching document” possibly have to say when the Church’s doctrine of marriage has never varied?
What is the purpose of the last part of the spokesperson’s statement saying that the General Synod “values everyone, without exception, not as a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’, but as a person loved and made in the image of God”?
Of course, Christians value everyone as persons “loved and made in the image of God.” The reason this sentence is added here lies in the subtle policy of the Bishops and the Synod to achieve their ultimate aim of allowing homosexual marriage. Disingenuously, they insist that the rules cannot be changed but that homosexuals must be loved and valued by Christian congregations. Christian congregations knew that already. The valuing, loving and welcoming is being used as the first step in a process which will allow doctrine to be based on practice.
De facto acceptance – give it time – will lead to de jure approval. This is the political device preached and practised by revolutionaries everywhere from Quintus Fabius Maximus to Vladimir Lenin: gradualism or softly softly catchee monkee.
Priestly blessings for homosexual “marriages” are already being performed by disobedient clerics. These are the storm-troopers in a guerrilla campaign. Bureaucracies such as the Synod prefer “due procedure.” They will get their way. It will just take a bit longer.
How long? I’d guess the Church of England will solemnise homosexual “marriages” within the next three years