Marriage Equality Biggest Threat in 500 Years, Says Church Founded by Serial Adulterer and Divorcer

Marriage Equality Biggest Threat in 500 Years, Says Church Founded by Serial Adulterer and Divorcer June 11, 2012

It seems like it should be an article from The Onion. But it isn’t. A spokesperson for the Church of England apparently really has said that the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.K. is the biggest threat the church has faced in its 500-year history.

The irony is unmissable – except apparently if you are a spokesperson for the Church of England.

The article in The Independent on the subject is worth reading to the very end, where a much more historically well-informed Christian perspective is offered.


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  • Thanks for pointing to the article.  That the church or the state have any say in what consenting adults agree to, baffles me.

  • Daniel Stoddart

    Oh dear, James. Tsk, tsk. You fell for it. The entire “Church of England Founded by Henry VIII” meme is a hugely popular piece of pulp urban myth. I’m an Anglican clergyman, and the history of the CofE is my wheelhouse. It’s easy enough for anybody with the slightest familiarity with Church history to blow to bits.

    The CofE was founded by Augustine of Canterbury in 597, as any schoolboy knows. All of the English Reformers (Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker, et. al.) taught that the CofE was the continuation of the ancient English Church, and had a completely legitimate claim on the Patristic consensus fidei. So Henry’s marital sins are neither here nor there when it comes to the question of origins or legitimacy of Christian marriage.

    Sorry, but I’m not impressed.

    • Just Sayin’

      Unfortunately Dr. McGra’ is not an English schoolboy, so is very probably ignorant of this.  Nor does he realise how the fact that the Church of England is the established church complicates matters.  Nor is he considering that, if the U.K., which already has civil unions giving gay couples equality in the sight of the law, introduces Gay marriages then, as surely as night follows day, malicious cases will be brought against ministers/priests/pastors to force them to allow gay marriages to take place on church premises, as has happened already in Canada.
      Dr. McGra’s country is playing catch-up on this issue, so he speaks out of ignorance.

    • Donalbain

       And if they taught it, it MUST be correct. After all, they were completely disinterested people with nothing to gain from such claims…

    • I’m puzzled then that the English schoolboys responsible for the announcement and the article seem also not to share the view of “Wyclif,” since they refer to the church’s 500-year history…

      • Daniel Stoddart

        The point is that attempts to use Henry VIII to militate against marriage are weak sauce. This is kiddie stuff. Perhaps you should stick to the NT. Feel free to get back to me once you’ve read the books. 

        • And who is militating against marriage, apart from some clergy and churches who are against some people marrying? Have you misunderstood where I am coming from on this?

          I am also not sure why there is a need to have the same conversation on Google+ as well as here…

  • Just Sayin’
  • Claude

    Anxiety among Church leaders is so acute that they raise the spectre of disestablishment, warning that any attempt to alter the definition of marriage could fatally undermine the Church’s privileged position.

    Good. Such religious institutions, in the name of a religious skeptic who rejected no one, are foremost concerned with the preservation of their own power and prestige. They should be fatally undermined.

  • Claude

    Oops.  I meant “religion skeptic,” of course, not “religious skeptic.”

  • Thomas More

    We all have a “holy history”, which does not always dovetail completely with actual history.

  • Just Sayin’

    In British law, there is no difference between and no status for civil as opposed to religious marriage – both are in law the same thing and merely take place in different premises.  Churches which perform heterosexual marriages will have to be willing to perform same-sex marriages and they will have no legal grounds to resist since the courts have determined that the ‘orthodox Christian view of marriage’ is not a ‘core’ part of Christian belief.  Whatever one’s view of gay marriage, coercing ‘conscientious objectors’ into performing actions they believe directly contrary to their religious beliefs, with the full backing of the British courts if they refuse, is not the way forward.

    • That’s certainly a problem with respect to religious freedom – for those who object to marrying divorced people on Biblical grounds, and others one can think of, in addition to those who may oppose GLBT marriage. But that’s an issue of religious freedom, and not about whether secular society should allow people of the same gender to marry. And it is, perhaps, a warning (says the Baptist) of the situation you are liable to find yourself in when you wed your religious institution to the state. If it hadn’t been for that “marriage” the issues related to these other marriages would not present themselves in the same way. 🙂

    • Has an Anglican church been forced to allow a Satanist wedding on its grounds? Or even just a Buddhist wedding?

    • It may not be the ideal way forward, but sometimes it proves efficacious.  It was government action that coerced the Mormons into abandoning their sacred principle of polygamy and it was government action that coerced Bob Jones University and other fundamentalist schools to admit Black students.  

  • domy

    As a bisexual man I would marry both a man and a woman; I hope Mr McGrath  would agree that a secular society should allow  this.

    • Andom, I am not sure whether “Mr. McGrath” was a reference to me, but I do indeed agree. I do not see why a society should prevent someone from marrying people of either gender, or both at the same time, It is not about merely being a secular society – one could have a secular society with a strong ideology about marriage. It is about being a free society that values the liberty of individuals and the freedom to be who we are in all our human diversity, with restrictions only to safeguard the liberty and safety of others. One can make a secular case for that, and one can also make a religious case that there is something fundamentally wrong with an institution that elevates love for others to be one of its highest principles seeking to prohibit consenting adults from marrying other consenting adults whom they love and pledging to continue loving them faithfully. I actually just posted something that relates to that topic in another blog post.

  • domy

    “It was government action that coerced the Mormons into abandoning their sacred principle of polygamy”…

    Mr. McGrath would disagree with this I suppose.

  • As I look at some of the sources cited by Dr. McGrath, it does appear to me that it may have been the newspaper reporter who made the reference to the 500 year history of the Church of England rather some Anglican official, although I am not entirely sure.  However, I suspect that an English newspaper wouldn’t report it that way if it weren’t the common understanding of the matter among the English people, schoolboys included.  

    I suspect that many Mormons would deny that a polygamist founded the religion that has been such a vocal opponent of marriage equality in the United States.  They would say that he just recovered and restored true Christianity. 

  • Dr. McGrath,

    I am very sorry, but I am going to have to withdraw my support from you on this issue.  I linked to this post on Facebook and my niece informs me that describing Henry VIII as the “founder” of the Church of England is academically unacceptable.  She has been immersed in the history of the period because she is writing her MFA thesis on an early play about Thomas More.  Unfortunately, it was returned to her for revisions as a result of what she says were comparable inaccuracies.  I wish I could cut you some slack on this because I thought it was a clever post, but my hands are tied.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I suppose that even I probably would not have used “founder” except for the fact that a more apt way of putting it doesn’t work in a headline – e.g. “owes its existence to the decisions and leadership of…” or something to that effect.

      Or is my perception of the king’s role in these events even further off base? I will be the first to admit that the early Reformation period in Britain is an area about which my knowledge is extremely limited and I am as prone to be misled by popular misperceptions as anyone else. So please do feel free to elaborate, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from your niece’s experience!

      • I confess that I don’t know a whole lot beyond A Man for All Seasons, but I am very hard pressed to think of any other one or two word term that would more accurately describe the role that Henry VIII played (and I would note that your Anglican commenter didn’t offer one either).   Henry may not have been the “founder” in the same sense that Joseph Smith was the founder of the Mormon Church, but before him you had “the church in England” and after him you had “the Church of England.”   He may not have been an originator, but I think that he was more than a catalyst.

  • Lucian

    You don’t listen to Churches founded by Apostles, martyrs, or monastics either…