Church of England Goes Thumbs Down on Blessing Gay Marriages

Queen elizabeth at easter services

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at Easter Services 2013


The Church of England issued a report today in which it states that it will not support the blessing of gay marriages.

The report says in part:

… ‘marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace. Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society. It continues to provide the best context for the raising of children.’

 the sexual differentiation of men and women is a gift of God, who ‘created humankind in his image… male and female he created them’. It is on male and female that God gives his blessing, which is to be seen not only in procreation but in human culture, too (Genesis 1.27-8).

In calling it a gift of God, we mean that it is not simply a cultural development (though it has undergone much cultural development) nor simply a political or economic institution (though often embedded in political and economic arrangements).

It is an expression of the human nature which God has willed for us and which we share. And although marriage may fall short of God’s purposes in many ways and be the scene of many human weaknesses, it receives the blessing of God and is included in his judgment that creation is ‘very good’ (Genesis 1.31).

In calling it a gift of God in creation, we view marriage within its wider life-context: as an aspect of human society and as a structure of life that helps us shape our journey from birth to death. 

Lord george carey

This report from the Church of England comes after former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, issued a stinging op-ed rebuke to the Prime Minister and the whole movement that is pushing for gay marriage.

Recent polls indicate that “more than two-thirds of (British) Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority,” he wrote, ” … the prime minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties.”

Lord Carey’s op-ed piece goes on to note that the Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, “recently gave her support to the Labour MP Chris Bryant’s campaign to turn the 700-year-old chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there.”

It’s a powerful piece. I will put an excerpt below with a link so you can read it all. If you follow the link above, you can read the entire document that the Church of England issued today. It is titled “Men and Women and Marriage.”

I’m going to write more about this Friday, but it appears that British Christians are starting to come awake. From the news coverage I’ve read, the British press is almost as biased in favor of gay marriage as the American press. Some of the comments I read were completely over the top for anyone who claims to be a professional journalist.

All of us who follow Christ need to support and help one another. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Southern Baptist, Evangelical — it doesn’t matter. We need to stand on the Gospel principles we share and refuse to be moved. We also need to aid and help one another, including emotionally, as we go through the waters ahead.

Union jack

Here, from the Daily Mail, is Lord Carey’s op-ed piece:

I like David Cameron and believe he is genuinely sincere in his desire to make Britain a generous nation where we care for one another and where people of faith may exercise their beliefs fully.


But it was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should ‘stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation’ when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.


At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity. According to a new ComRes poll more than two-thirds of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.

Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties.


He seems to have forgotten in spite of his oft-repeated support for the right of Christians to wear the cross, that lawyers acting for the Coalition argued only months ago in the Strasbourg court that those sacked for wearing a cross against their employer’s wishes should simply get another job.


More shockingly, the Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, recently gave her support to the Labour MP Chris Bryant’s campaign to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there. The Speaker of the House of Commons is reported to be supportive of the move.


Now, there are many questions that we need to ask. If this means the removal of Christian symbols from the chapel to accommodate all faiths and even humanist ceremonies this would amount to changing the chapel fundamentally, even to banishing the Christian faith from the seat of political power. This would have implications for Her Majesty, the Queen, and could place her in a very difficult position as the chapel is a Royal Peculiar under her direct patronage.


As David Cameron knows, I am very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage, which come before the House of Lords soon, there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial.


Christian Persecution and Blood Red Shoes

Pope Francis is the Pope. If he decides to go for all the pomp his office allows ….

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That’s fine with me.

Because he’s the Pope.

If on the other hand, he decides to wear sandals and walk rather than ride – or some black-shoed something in between the two extremes — that, too, would be ok with me.

Because he’s the pope.

It appears that most Catholics are like me: Over the moon about our new papa. But, you can’t please everyone. Human beings are too contrary for that to ever happen in this world. In their displeasure with our Holy Father, some of these displeased ones have fixated on one thing: The color of his shoes.

The red of the red shoes refers to the blood of the martyrs they tell us.

I’ve been thinking about this for days, largely because I don’t understand why we need to see red shoes to think about the blood of the martyrs. The blood of people dying for Christ is not an ancient artifact from a long ago history that has passed. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground in a hundred places around the world as I type this.

This is the blood of the marytrs:

Nigeria

 

BurntNigerianChristians

India

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North Korea

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I have interviewed survivors of Christian persecution in Uganda and Nigeria. They are different from us. Their faith has been through the fire and this fire burned away the impurities of trivial concerns.

One of the many things about these people that impressed me is their gentleness; that, and their absolute faith in heaven. I never heard anything from them about the people who persecuted them being damned to hell. The harshest thing I heard was from an Anglican bishop who called them “ignorant.” Their focus is on Jesus. It is not on the ones who attacked them. They see past the persecution to heaven and the gift of eternal life.

More than once when I asked them how they got through it, they said two words: The cross.

They are different from you and me, these people who have been purified by the fires of persecution for the name of Jesus. I never asked any of them about red shoes. But if I had, I imagine that the response would have been incomprehension.

What Jesus Told Us

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Christian Persecution and the Terminology of Death

Desolate by Hoddie

Years ago, I had a conversation with a nice woman who held a responsible position in the Episcopalian (or Anglican, as it is called in most countries) missions agency. She kindly agreed to introduce me to several African Anglican bishops. In the course of our conversation, she told me that none of the Christians in the countries where these bishops presided were suffering “pure” persecution, since what they were going through did not come by direct government order.  Her contention was that “persecution” could only happen if a government ordered it.

She introduced me to a number of bishops, despite the fact that I did not agree with her on this. They gave me an entirely different story. They had no doubt that what they and their people were undergoing was persecution, many times to the death, for their Christian faith.

One bishop from Northern Nigeria told me that five of his churches had been burned to the ground, that his daughter had been seized, and that a member of one of his parishes was murdered by a mob that put the man over a sawhorse and cut off his head. I can still hear the pain and horror in his voice as he described this to me.

Yet, by the definition I had heard none of this would qualify as persecution.

I had an interesting conversation earlier today with a sophisticated and knowledgeable Catholic who holds the same view. If I understood him correctly, the only persecution that can be officially accepted as such is that which comes as an official action by an official government of the type that occurs in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and China.

I’ve been chewing on this all afternoon. I understand — or at least I think I do — the difference between government-enforced persecution and that which comes from groups of people in a society. There are few things more draconian that government-enforced persecution. However, to label everything that is not government-enforced as “not persecution” just doesn’t jibe with me; not if the horror stories I’ve read and been told are true. 

I’ve spent a fair lifetime in the world of political jargoneering, and I have an admittedly cynical view of it. When people parse the meanings of words to avoid the obvious fact that other people are being murdered, it triggers enormous emotional and mental resistance in me.

I tried to find the United Nations definition of persecution by looking online, and all I found were definitions related to refugees. I’ll quote the salient parts as I discuss them.

The first definition, which is a definition of persecution itself, says:

51. … From Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, it may be inferred that a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group is always persecution. Other serious violations of human rights – for the same reasons – would also constitute persecution. (Emphasis mine.)

I’m not versed in International law, but taken on its face, that seems to say that what the bishop from Nigeria described to me, as well as most of the other things I’ve heard and read, fit this definition of persecution.

The second part of the definition goes to what both the two people who think persecution only occurs at the behest of a government are probably referring to:

65. Persecution is normally related to action by the authorities of a country. 

However, the same definition goes on to say:

It may also emanate from sections of the population that do not respect the standards established by the laws of the country concerned. A case in point may be religious intolerance, amounting to persecution, in a country otherwise secular, but where sizeable fractions of the population do not respect the religious beliefs of their neighbours. Where serious discriminatory or other offensive acts are committed by the local populace, they can be considered as persecution if they are knowingly tolerated by the authorities, or if the authorities refuse, or prove unable, to offer effective protection.

The violent persecution I’ve described on this blog and heard about in my discussions with people from these countries seems to fit this definition to me.

All this came from a Google search. I may have the wrong definitions. However, it does show that at least part of the United Nations definitions of persecution include situations such as those I have been writing about.

The reason I’m going over this is because I believe that people are being murdered, imprisoned and otherwise mistreated in large parts of the world today because they are Christians. If I am wrong about this, I want to know it.

If, on the other hand, I am right, I intend to persist in calling it out so long as it continues and I am able to say anything about it.

My thoughts run along these lines:

This was not a government action.

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But it was persecution. 

 

This is not a government action either.

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But it also is persecution.

 

I am trying to understand how we can work around the intractability of legal definitions which narrow the meaning of persecution to the point that it allows things like these and does not call them by name.


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