At our District Church Council on Wednesday 19th February 2020 we passed the following statement on Equal Marriage and Civil Partnerships prompted by the House of Bishops recent guidelines on Civil Partnerships. We issue it on the eve of the beginning of Lent 2020 a time for reflection and repentance for Christians, in the hope that as the Church of England we may take this time to reflect upon our participation in promoting and colluding with the sins of homophobia and transphobia in the church and wider society, so that we may seek God’s grace to transform ourselves in the light of Christ’s passion and resurrection into a church that repents of the violence we have inflicted upon our LGBT + siblings in Christ and of our failure in mission to share the good news of Christ’s love to all people.
1. We believe in Marriage and its potential for enabling human flourishing – at its best marriage can be a process of sanctification an opportunity through the development of relationships of commitment and fidelity to grow in the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.
2. We want that opportunity to be open to all. Therefore, we support equal marriage and welcome the fact that same sex couples can now be legally married.
3. We regret that the Church of England has sought to remain outside of this extension of marriage and that the House of Bishops has both in 2014 and more recently this year in 2020 sought to present a closed theological perspective on the nature of modern relationships and has denied the possibility of same sex marriage to those in the ordained ministry of the church.
4. As well as being in favour of marriage we recognise that the reality often does not fit the ideal, we accept that the way marriage has sometimes been lived and promoted by both the church and wider society has led to the oppression of women and the marginalisation of minority sexualities.
5. We believe strongly that the opening of marriage to same sex couples by the state is a good development and that the Church of England should follow suit.
6. We believe this gives an opportunity for the redemption of marriage from oppressive constraints and the possibility of fresh insights for the church into its theological and spiritual significance in relationships of equality and mutuality.
7. As the established church we believe the Church of England should have been one of the first churches to embrace this opportunity and in its refusal to engage positively with this development has cut itself off from large sections of the population and from the potential of a positive and creative dialogue with wider society on the meaning and significance of marriage and modern relationships.
8. We feel that refusal to support this development and enter dialogue with wider society is a denial of the mission we are called to as a church and that we may sit under the judgement of God because of this.
9. We accept that for many people because of its association with oppression marriage is not an option often for good moral reasons. Therefore, we support the extension of civil partnerships to mixed sexed couples, as an opportunity to provide security and legal protection, to relationships of commitment and love and the families that have and may grow around them.
10. We want The Church of England to more fully engage in dialogue with contemporary discussions and explorations on sexuality, relationships and gender with an open heart and a listening ear.
As a local Church we will:
1. Offer liturgies to requesting couples that communicate the reality of God’s blessing on all relationships of love and commitment – same sex and mixed sex; marriages and civil partnerships. We recognise that this puts us in direct conflict with the Bishops’ Pastoral Guidelines of 2005, 2014 and 2020. However, we can no longer square the circle of our commitment to an inclusive church and following what we in all conscience believe are damaging pastoral guidelines that give credence to homophobic attitudes in society and undermine the mission of the church.
2. Actively support the work of The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England promoting its cause amongst our congregation and the wider church and making an annual financial donation to the campaign.
Bibliography and Further Reading
A Theology of Marriage including – Same-Sex Couples: A View from the Liberals by Deirdre J. Good, Willis J. Jenkins, Cynthia B. Kittredge, Eugene F. Rogers, Jr. in Anglican Theological Review Volume 93 No 1 Winter 2011 pp 51-87
An Invitation to the Feast: A Positive Biblical Approach to Equal Marriage by Simon Taylor in Modern Believing Volume 58 No 1 2017 pp 41-53
On being pastorally (ir)responsible – and not waiting for bishops by Ray Gaston published on https://medium.com/