The Church of England is opposing gay marriage

We often give up on the vitality of Europe’s state churches, but the Church of England–unlike its affiliate Episcopalians in the U.S.–is standing up against the plans of the Conservative (!)  government to legalize gay marriage.  From Mark Tooley:

The U.S. based Episcopal Church’s recognition of same sex unions last month mostly excited a big yawn. More interesting is the resistance of its mother body, the Church of England, to Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to install same sex marriage in Britain. The latter’s opposition is more significant because it remains its nation’s established church and still wields political and constitutional powers. . . .

In a secularizing country, the Church of England (unlike U.S. Episcopalians, who mostly just resent more numerous evangelicals) appreciates the threat to religious liberty under a regime of imposed same sex marriage. How would the established church disallow what the civil law requires? The church may have to disestablish, especially if it desires any continued leadership over global Anglicans.

British media quoted church officials dismissing government plans as “‘half-baked,’ ‘very shallow,’ ‘superficial’ and ‘completely irrational.’” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu only slightly more diplomatically lamented that government proposals “have not been thought through and are not legally sound.” The church’s official response rejected the government’s push with vigorous, point-by-point rebuttals.

One organizer of that response was Bishop of Leicester Tim Steve, who declared on his own: “Marriage is not the property of the Church any more than it is the property of the Government. It is about a mutually faithful physical relationship between a man and a woman.” He warned, despite government claims of protection for churches, “If you do what the Government say they are going to do, you can no longer define marriage in that way. It becomes hollowed out, and about a relationship between two people, to be defined on a case-by-case basis.” Imposed same sex marriage would precipitate the “gradual unravelling of the Church of England which is a very high cost for the stability of society.”

via The American Spectator : This Could Be Its Finest Hour.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Jon

    And yet none of the Church of England apologists quoted here actually rested their opposition case on the Biblical definition of marriage.

  • Jon

    And yet none of the Church of England apologists quoted here actually rested their opposition case on the Biblical definition of marriage.

  • Stone the Crows

    Jon caught the same thing I did, Rowan William’s opinion does not reflect an unexpected turn into conservatism by the Archbishop of Canterbury, rather this is just another example of his long trail of muddled morality. He knows that same sex marriage is one more step in relegating the church of England into irrelevancy. His are the words of a political functionary who does not want to be told what to do, even if he agrees with the homosexual agenda in principal. The Bishop of Leicester comes perilously close to a Biblical definition of marriage but safely avoids it, using rhetoric rather than doctrine or scripture. This opposition is no sign of latent orthodoxy, but politicians straddling the fence protecting their vested interests in being an integral part of the system. This is similar to the Anglican groups breaking away from the Episcopal church in America, its not that they’re seeking to be more faithful to scripture, but that they’ve taken a good look at the status quo and said ‘I’m liberal, but I’m not THAT liberal.’

  • Stone the Crows

    Jon caught the same thing I did, Rowan William’s opinion does not reflect an unexpected turn into conservatism by the Archbishop of Canterbury, rather this is just another example of his long trail of muddled morality. He knows that same sex marriage is one more step in relegating the church of England into irrelevancy. His are the words of a political functionary who does not want to be told what to do, even if he agrees with the homosexual agenda in principal. The Bishop of Leicester comes perilously close to a Biblical definition of marriage but safely avoids it, using rhetoric rather than doctrine or scripture. This opposition is no sign of latent orthodoxy, but politicians straddling the fence protecting their vested interests in being an integral part of the system. This is similar to the Anglican groups breaking away from the Episcopal church in America, its not that they’re seeking to be more faithful to scripture, but that they’ve taken a good look at the status quo and said ‘I’m liberal, but I’m not THAT liberal.’

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#1&2 Arguing from scripture to a secular society is throwing pearls before swine. What would be the point? Secular society does not believe the scriptures, why should they see it as authoritative? If they do not see it as authoritative, reason says appeal to what they will see as authoritative and/or how it will impact society.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#1&2 Arguing from scripture to a secular society is throwing pearls before swine. What would be the point? Secular society does not believe the scriptures, why should they see it as authoritative? If they do not see it as authoritative, reason says appeal to what they will see as authoritative and/or how it will impact society.

  • Kyralessa

    As a Christian, am I going to listen if a Muslim argues for the definition of marriage based on the Koran?

    If we’re going to defend marriage, we need to defend it as a *human* thing, not as a *Christian* thing.

  • Kyralessa

    As a Christian, am I going to listen if a Muslim argues for the definition of marriage based on the Koran?

    If we’re going to defend marriage, we need to defend it as a *human* thing, not as a *Christian* thing.

  • trotk

    Stone the Crows, as an Anglican who is a part of one of those groups that split away from the Episcopal Church, I can safely say that your characterization only reveals ignorance on your part.

  • trotk

    Stone the Crows, as an Anglican who is a part of one of those groups that split away from the Episcopal Church, I can safely say that your characterization only reveals ignorance on your part.

  • Stone the Crows

    trotk, my sincere apology for a false characterization I shall not use it again. As for ‘castinig pearls before swine’ my statement was not so much over a secular society seeing scripture as authoritative but whether the representatives of the church do. But since it was brought up, the notion that one should not offer spirtiual things to those predisposed to stubbornly reject them is a false anthropology and an erroneous understanding of Matthew 7:6 by divorcing it from the context of five verses that preceed it. Who is not stubbornly predisposed to reject the gospel? All people, as fallen sinners, by nature disbelieve in God and all will reject the Gospel unless the Holy Spirit works repentance and faith in their hearts through the Word and Holy Baptism. If Jesus were saying his disciples should not offer the Gospel or spiritual treasures to those predisposed to reject them, how would the disciples be able to tell who would fit into that category and who does not?

  • Stone the Crows

    trotk, my sincere apology for a false characterization I shall not use it again. As for ‘castinig pearls before swine’ my statement was not so much over a secular society seeing scripture as authoritative but whether the representatives of the church do. But since it was brought up, the notion that one should not offer spirtiual things to those predisposed to stubbornly reject them is a false anthropology and an erroneous understanding of Matthew 7:6 by divorcing it from the context of five verses that preceed it. Who is not stubbornly predisposed to reject the gospel? All people, as fallen sinners, by nature disbelieve in God and all will reject the Gospel unless the Holy Spirit works repentance and faith in their hearts through the Word and Holy Baptism. If Jesus were saying his disciples should not offer the Gospel or spiritual treasures to those predisposed to reject them, how would the disciples be able to tell who would fit into that category and who does not?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A stopped clock is right twice a day.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A stopped clock is right twice a day.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @6 The Gospel is not marriage or the marriage debate. I am not saying do not proclaim the Gospel only that arguing in the marriage debate from scripture is wasted effort because they do not acknowledge scripture’s authority in things of life.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @6 The Gospel is not marriage or the marriage debate. I am not saying do not proclaim the Gospel only that arguing in the marriage debate from scripture is wasted effort because they do not acknowledge scripture’s authority in things of life.

  • Jon

    @6 Then he ought to be arguing this point as Private Citizen (or rather, as Loyal Subject) Rowan Williams, and not as His Eminence The Archbishop Williams of Canterbury. If he is putting himself out there in the opinion sphere as the head of the Church of England, shouldn’t he espouse church doctrine to back his argument? That’s the whole point of interest, that the church is speaking on the subject, and yet you think that it should only do so by espousing a secular reasoning? What’s the point of that? It would be like the Church advocating for the use of a particular brand of laundry soap.

  • Jon

    @6 Then he ought to be arguing this point as Private Citizen (or rather, as Loyal Subject) Rowan Williams, and not as His Eminence The Archbishop Williams of Canterbury. If he is putting himself out there in the opinion sphere as the head of the Church of England, shouldn’t he espouse church doctrine to back his argument? That’s the whole point of interest, that the church is speaking on the subject, and yet you think that it should only do so by espousing a secular reasoning? What’s the point of that? It would be like the Church advocating for the use of a particular brand of laundry soap.

  • Jon

    9 was @ 8, not @6.

  • Jon

    9 was @ 8, not @6.

  • William Tighe

    This article is seemingly ignorant of the legal position of the Church of England and its fundamentally Erastian nature. In 1994 a clergyman of the Church of England, the Rev’d Dr Paul Williamson, launched a lawsuit to prevent the purported 0rdination of women in the Church of England, after the Church of England’s General Synod had approved a measure to permit it, and after Parliament subsequently gave legal force to the measure. Williamson’s argument was that the ordination of women was contrary to the doctrinal stance of the church of England, and also to the Queen’s Coronation Oath. The judges rejected his contention, stating that even if he was correct about the ordination of women being contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England, the Act of Parliament that had made the ordination of women legally possible had altered the doctrine of the Church of England as regards the matter. You may read an account of that case here:

    http://www.infotextmanuscripts.org/vexatiouslitigant/vex_lit_queens_bench_williamson.html

    The link actually leads to a subsequent legal case in which
    Williamson’s attempt to revive his previous case earned him being declared a “vexatious litigant,” but it contains a full description of the previous case. No doubt if, or rather when, Parliament passes a statute making marriage “gender neutral,” that statute will also determine the doctrine of the Church of England on the subject.

  • William Tighe

    This article is seemingly ignorant of the legal position of the Church of England and its fundamentally Erastian nature. In 1994 a clergyman of the Church of England, the Rev’d Dr Paul Williamson, launched a lawsuit to prevent the purported 0rdination of women in the Church of England, after the Church of England’s General Synod had approved a measure to permit it, and after Parliament subsequently gave legal force to the measure. Williamson’s argument was that the ordination of women was contrary to the doctrinal stance of the church of England, and also to the Queen’s Coronation Oath. The judges rejected his contention, stating that even if he was correct about the ordination of women being contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England, the Act of Parliament that had made the ordination of women legally possible had altered the doctrine of the Church of England as regards the matter. You may read an account of that case here:

    http://www.infotextmanuscripts.org/vexatiouslitigant/vex_lit_queens_bench_williamson.html

    The link actually leads to a subsequent legal case in which
    Williamson’s attempt to revive his previous case earned him being declared a “vexatious litigant,” but it contains a full description of the previous case. No doubt if, or rather when, Parliament passes a statute making marriage “gender neutral,” that statute will also determine the doctrine of the Church of England on the subject.

  • P.C.

    While visiting the Washington, DC area recently, I attended worship services at the historic “The Falls Church.” This former Episcopalian congregation, now Anglican with over 2000 members, lost their entire church campus worth $40-$50 million and over $3 million in cash in a lawsuit with the Episcopal denomination that started with The Falls Church disassociating themselves from the errant Episcopalians for the reasons noted above. The Falls Church congregation worships at a Catholic High School auditorium, their youth groups meet at a Baptist church, and other group meetings and functions use a Presbyterian Church and member’s homes. They lost their property and finances but didn’t lose their faith in God. They are to be commended for their faithfulness in spite of the persecution they are severely enduring.

  • P.C.

    While visiting the Washington, DC area recently, I attended worship services at the historic “The Falls Church.” This former Episcopalian congregation, now Anglican with over 2000 members, lost their entire church campus worth $40-$50 million and over $3 million in cash in a lawsuit with the Episcopal denomination that started with The Falls Church disassociating themselves from the errant Episcopalians for the reasons noted above. The Falls Church congregation worships at a Catholic High School auditorium, their youth groups meet at a Baptist church, and other group meetings and functions use a Presbyterian Church and member’s homes. They lost their property and finances but didn’t lose their faith in God. They are to be commended for their faithfulness in spite of the persecution they are severely enduring.

  • Stone the Crows

    P.C. The treatment that these separatist Anglicans have recieved from The Episcopal church, most notably at that hands of Bishop Schori is a disgrace.

    3 & 8, I understand what you’re getting at, and yet everyone within earshot of the Archbishop’s comments were not the proverbial ‘swine.’ Is it not possible that there are sheep from his flock who would like to hear their ecclesiastical leader give them some encouragement and a basis for their personal defense of marriage? Is it possible that there are indeed Anglicans within the government who might just need to hear a well known leader of their church speak on a hot button issue on a Biblical as basis as well as a cultural one (and perhaps be swayed by those words)? I understand what you’re saying, that its not a moment to evangelize per se, but a well known member of the clergy should not be expected to bite his tongue about his faith but rather should be expected to have an opinion formed by his faith. That said, peace to you, and thanks for the interesting discussion.
    StC.

  • Stone the Crows

    P.C. The treatment that these separatist Anglicans have recieved from The Episcopal church, most notably at that hands of Bishop Schori is a disgrace.

    3 & 8, I understand what you’re getting at, and yet everyone within earshot of the Archbishop’s comments were not the proverbial ‘swine.’ Is it not possible that there are sheep from his flock who would like to hear their ecclesiastical leader give them some encouragement and a basis for their personal defense of marriage? Is it possible that there are indeed Anglicans within the government who might just need to hear a well known leader of their church speak on a hot button issue on a Biblical as basis as well as a cultural one (and perhaps be swayed by those words)? I understand what you’re saying, that its not a moment to evangelize per se, but a well known member of the clergy should not be expected to bite his tongue about his faith but rather should be expected to have an opinion formed by his faith. That said, peace to you, and thanks for the interesting discussion.
    StC.

  • Stone the Crows

    Dr. Tighe thanks for the link, and I thought it was bad when a Churchwide Assembly or a Synodical Convention determined doctrine via majority vote. This being true what would happen if a member of the clergy were to refuse to performa a same sex marriage? Would he be defrocked, arrested? Or, does the Anglican church, like most institutions have its own version of Siberia?

  • Stone the Crows

    Dr. Tighe thanks for the link, and I thought it was bad when a Churchwide Assembly or a Synodical Convention determined doctrine via majority vote. This being true what would happen if a member of the clergy were to refuse to performa a same sex marriage? Would he be defrocked, arrested? Or, does the Anglican church, like most institutions have its own version of Siberia?

  • William Tighe

    StC,

    Absent any law penalizing clergypersons who refuse to perform SSM, and absent any protection for them (there probably will be “protection,” at least for a time), possibly such clergy could be prosecuted under antidiscrimination, and fined if found guilty, and possibly removed from their benefices if they persist in their refusal.

    A few years ago Sweden abolished “civil partnerships” for homosexuals, and made marriage “gender neutral.” The Church of Sweden allowed for the “blessing” of such “partnerships” in 1994, while at the same time not making it mandatory for clergy to do so and also producing an elaborate rationale, turning on the point that such “civil partnerships” were not “marriage,” to justify their stance. Now, however, *SveK has decided to accept gender-neutral “marriage,” and has decided that pastors can refuse to officiate at such “marriages,” but that those who so refuse must procure some other clergyperson to officiate in their stead, and also to allow their church (building) to be used for the ceremony. The same question is now being agitated in the Church of Denmark, and one of the issues is how much to indulge the consciences of Danish pastors opposed to SSM.

    *SveK is a lovely term; it can stand for Svenska Kyrkan, the Church of Sweden, but “svek” is also a Swedish word meaning guile, deceit, dissembling.

  • William Tighe

    StC,

    Absent any law penalizing clergypersons who refuse to perform SSM, and absent any protection for them (there probably will be “protection,” at least for a time), possibly such clergy could be prosecuted under antidiscrimination, and fined if found guilty, and possibly removed from their benefices if they persist in their refusal.

    A few years ago Sweden abolished “civil partnerships” for homosexuals, and made marriage “gender neutral.” The Church of Sweden allowed for the “blessing” of such “partnerships” in 1994, while at the same time not making it mandatory for clergy to do so and also producing an elaborate rationale, turning on the point that such “civil partnerships” were not “marriage,” to justify their stance. Now, however, *SveK has decided to accept gender-neutral “marriage,” and has decided that pastors can refuse to officiate at such “marriages,” but that those who so refuse must procure some other clergyperson to officiate in their stead, and also to allow their church (building) to be used for the ceremony. The same question is now being agitated in the Church of Denmark, and one of the issues is how much to indulge the consciences of Danish pastors opposed to SSM.

    *SveK is a lovely term; it can stand for Svenska Kyrkan, the Church of Sweden, but “svek” is also a Swedish word meaning guile, deceit, dissembling.

  • Stone the Crows

    Thanks for your reply, very interesting and useful information.

  • Stone the Crows

    Thanks for your reply, very interesting and useful information.

  • Robert Placer

    The effort by some Church of England clergy and laity to resist the legalization of “gay marriage” is closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. This is one more example of the failure to understand how one truth relates to another truth. The Church of England approves the ordination of women, and at least tacitly the unofficial ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, so on what biblical grounds will the Church of England stand against “gay marriage”. At the very least, church leaders will be accused of being inconsistent in matters of doctrine.

    Disestablishment of the Church of England would perhaps give the faithful some protection against the state but such an act would require Parliament to set a special commission to determine who owns the local church property. The diocese in most cases does not own the local church property. For example, some parishes are owned by Church Society and other such religious foundations such as the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection. Many parish churches were founded centuries ago in many cases by monastic orders no longer in existence. Tourists admire the ruins of such monasteries in England while they now admire the ruins of what was once the Church of England in parishes that still use the Book of Common Prayer 1662 and reject female clergy.

  • Robert Placer

    The effort by some Church of England clergy and laity to resist the legalization of “gay marriage” is closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. This is one more example of the failure to understand how one truth relates to another truth. The Church of England approves the ordination of women, and at least tacitly the unofficial ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, so on what biblical grounds will the Church of England stand against “gay marriage”. At the very least, church leaders will be accused of being inconsistent in matters of doctrine.

    Disestablishment of the Church of England would perhaps give the faithful some protection against the state but such an act would require Parliament to set a special commission to determine who owns the local church property. The diocese in most cases does not own the local church property. For example, some parishes are owned by Church Society and other such religious foundations such as the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection. Many parish churches were founded centuries ago in many cases by monastic orders no longer in existence. Tourists admire the ruins of such monasteries in England while they now admire the ruins of what was once the Church of England in parishes that still use the Book of Common Prayer 1662 and reject female clergy.

  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/286053575072/ DaveUK

    Lord knows.. we wouldn’t want have marriage equality in the UK and sully the Church of England’s traditional and sacred definition of Marriage as the adulterous and utterly disposable union between one King and seven women.


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