Tag Archive | Church of England

The true cost of gay marriage

Happy CoupleGay marriage is here. It’s legal in many countries, it’s been approved by an ever-increasing number of US states, and the UK has now announced the date when same-sex couples will be able to get properly married, instead of separate-but-equal not-really-marriage.

Unsurprisingly, the dire predictions of terrible consequences should people of the same sex be allowed to get married haven’t come to pass. Polygamy, incest and bestiality remain as illegal and taboo as ever, existing marriages have persisted despite the claim that this “redefinition” threatened them in some way, and society is yet to collapse. Read More…

Preparing to come out

It all started with the best of intentions.

First, there were a lot of issues that were flying around my head. My previous beliefs were becoming ever less secure, but I’d been through this before. Most people find their beliefs wax and wane, so this wasn’t anything I was going to bring up out of nowhere to people who I wouldn’t normally be discussing my theological positions with. It was just business as usual.

Coming OutThen I started to drift away, losing my fear of unbelief and increasingly exploring those areas and imagining a life without religion. It was different, but possibly no more than increased empathy and openness to different arguments. I stayed put in the church, and nothing really changed. Still nothing that was worth specifically mentioning to anyone. Read More…

A strange kind of anniversary

FarewellTomorrow will be a significant day for me. On 12th June it will be exactly one year since the Church of England issued an astonishingly and uncharacteristically direct statement against the government’s proposals for same-sex marriage, which left me in shock all day and ultimately turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t want to revisit that right now, but you can read about it here or here if you’re interested.

What makes this anniversary so strange is not knowing how to deal with it. As it was a decisive moment in reaching my current position (which I naturally think is a good one to hold, at least for now), you might think I’d see it as an event that ought to be celebrated in some way. That’s not how I feel about it, though. And not just because the starting point was an illiberal and regressive territory-marking effort. Read More…

How not to persevere: a case study from the Church of England

Wedding RingsThe Church of England has hardly been shy of expressing an opinion on same-sex marriage, having fought against it tooth and nail, describing the very idea as an outrageous imposition which destroys marriage as we know it. But this week, having been soundly defeated in the Lords despite some outspoken criticisms of the bill, the good old CofE has suddenly started to make rather more accommodating noises.

Obviously, I welcome the fact that the church has belatedly recognised that they’re fighting a losing battle, and that the will of both houses is clearly in favour of the legislation. But if it’s a vital issue of morality and fundamental definitions of terms they believe are Christian ones (as they’ve consistently argued), it would be utterly bizarre to relax your opinion and stop fighting based on a simple matter of popularity. It makes me wonder what Bible they’re reading. Read More…

Secularists need to tread carefully on female bishops

When the Church of England’s General Synod vote on permitting female clergy to become bishops fell short of the necessary majority (as discussed ad nauseam in previous posts), a number of people asked why an apparently sexist and discriminatory organisation should hold a privileged place at the heart of our society, even being granted a substantial presence in the House of Lords.


Who honestly expects people like this to believe in absolute equality?

That’s a fair question, and a useful way of highlighting the constitutional peculiarities of having an established church, but it would be very easy to take that line of argument too far. There is a campaign at the moment to drum up further support for a petition calling for the removal of the CofE’s presence in the Lords on the basis of the church’s (current) position, in a push towards 100,000 signatures, but I think this is a mistake. Read More…

Why prohibiting a religious act will preserve religious freedom

Ever get the feeling you can’t win?

In the latest episode in the long-running saga of same-sex marriage, the government have published their proposed legislation, and a particular section has attracted a huge amount of attention. Religious bodies will be permitted to act as they wish, with two exceptions: the Church of England (CofE) and the Church in Wales (CinW) will be specifically banned from conducting same-sex marriages.

The immediate reaction to this peculiar clause has been interesting. Some have called it ridiculous, some have complained that it restricts religious freedoms, and some have even seen it as revenge for the CofE’s rejection of female bishops a few weeks ago. No conspiracy has been left unvoiced, but the reality is a little more complicated than it appears. Read More…

A Horseshoe Theory of Religion

Theological beliefs are very often understood as resting on a liberal-conservative axis. Over here [gestures] are the head-bangers who take everything literally as a strict rule for how we ought to behave, and believe in a personal God, eternal heaven and hell, miracles, and even Adam, Eve and a young Earth. Over there [waves] are the beard-strokers who embrace metaphor, reject supernatural claims, and regard the Bible as just an account of humanity’s attempts to understand the world we live in.

That more or less works, but there are other characteristics of theology that are relevant, one of the most visible being the divide between high and low church. Broadly, this is a distinction between an emphasis on process and ritual on one hand, and a rejection of ostentatious outward forms in favour of inward attitudes on the other. There are lots of different ways of modelling it, and the Church of England’s recent troubles made me wonder if I was looking at it the wrong way. Read More…

Beware simplistic narratives on the CofE’s Synod vote

It’s been a week since the Church of England voted on the draft legislation which would have created female bishops, and in that time, two dominant narratives have emerged. On the one hand, the church (or at least those who voted against the measure) stand accused of backwardness and sexism. On the other, the claim is that this wasn’t a vote against women being bishops so much as a vote against the details of how it was being implemented.

VoteHaving written about it at length, I’d intended to leave this subject well alone, at least for now. But then the details of how people voted were published, and I just had to write a bit more, because the picture painted is a long way from the way it’s being presented by the two sides of the argument. Read More…

Why are the laity so conservative?

This is the last I’m going to write about female bishops for a while, I promise.

I would have thought that the laity in the Church of England would be more liberal and progressive than the clergy and bishops, and I’ve previously posted about how it’s the church hierarchy that perpetuates the same old beliefs, but from Tuesday’s vote on consecrating women as bishops, the opposite seems to be the case. The further up the hierarchy of the church you go, the stronger the support for the draft legislation. That seems totally counterintuitive to me, but it seems the same thing happened over the ordination of women, so what’s going on? Read More…

A bluffer’s guide to the opponents of female bishops and a proposed solution

One of the peculiar aspects of the opposition within the Church of England (CofE) to women becoming bishops is that it comes from two distinct groups with almost nothing in common. In the red corner, there are the conservative evangelicals. They believe (more or less) that the Bible says women shouldn’t have authority over men. In the blue corner, there are the anglo-catholics. Their objection, by contrast, is that women can’t perform the functions of a bishop.

In terms of winning them over and ensuring that these groups won’t scupper any legislation making women bishops, the evangelicals are mostly quite easy to deal with. Give them some sort of alternative line of command that doesn’t include any women, and they’ll be pretty content. It’s an awkward compromise, but it would smooth the path until they came to terms with reality, or at least caught up with the 20th century, never mind the 21st. Read More…

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