Rage Against The CofE
I’m fuming. Absolutely fuming.
I grew up in the Church of England and I remain a member of the church – well, as much as I’m a member of any church. I know there are plenty of strange and extreme views in the CofE, as a natural consequence of being a very broad church, but despite some high-profile missteps, I always believed that it was a basically sane, reasonable institution. After today’s press release opposing every aspect of the proposals for same-sex marriage, it looks like I’m going to have to revise that view.
It isn’t that I disagree (although I do), and it isn’t that the church is presuming to speak for me (although it pretty much is), it’s that the arguments are so distorted, disingenuous and outright false that it’s hard to believe they’re made in good faith. Worse, this statement on behalf of the church has been made anonymously, with no open consultation or discussion. I can’t even tell who I should be complaining to.
The statement attempts to establish the church’s gay-friendly credentials and head off charges of bigotry by repeating the claim that the church supported civil partnerships. That might be quite persuasive but for the fact that bishops spoke mainly against the legislation in the Lords, before voting 6-1 in favour of a wrecking amendment. That they eventually conceded the inevitable and voted the bill through at the second time of asking against a virtually identical amendment (8-2 this time) doesn’t make it reasonable to describe this as support from the church.
That blatant deceit is already sufficient to get my back up, but then there’s the scaremongering over the prospect of the church being forced to conduct gay marriages against its will (current total of marriages of divorcees the church has been forced to conduct: 0), and the bizarre assertion that same-sex marriage will devalue existing marriages, because it adds a new feature to an existing term. That’s like saying that new brands of car are acceptable, but only as long as they’re known by new brand names, and if they’re known as cars, it would harm existing car-drivers in some way.
And then there are the constant attempts to value “complementarity” in marriage. I feel moved to recommend Rachel Held Evans’ excellent blog at this point, as she’s been covering mutuality in exhaustive depth recently. Complementarians claim to believe in “separate but equal” partnerships, but the practical outworking of that principle always seems to be men in charge, women doing what they’re told. And now the CofE has officially embraced this vile doctrine, in an attempt to prevent basic equality in a different area. Well done, guys.
But what gets my goat above all is the sheer nerve of the attempt to claim ownership of a clear, consistent and unbroken tradition of marriage. Every single part of this claim is wronger than wrong, but the assertion is made nevertheless. This sort of laughable squirming, dissembling and special pleading makes the whole statement into a very bad joke.
The church does have a point on the flaws in the idea of retaining civil partnerships, but only for same-sex couples, and arguably on the sloppy and prejudged way the consultation has been carried out, but the hysterical overreaction has obscured those points. I’d also have a lot more sympathy if the response had simply said that the church was unable to agree on the morality of same-sex partnerships, and was unable to endorse the proposals for that reason. But instead, it resorted to the sort of crude strawmen and scaremongering that I thought were the preserve of Rome.
I’m seriously considering whether I want to have anything to do with an institution that produces such a statement. It’s rather ironic that for all my doubts about the church’s metaphysical claims, my final exit could be prompted by a simple issue of equality and decency.