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Posts Tagged "Laity to bless same-sex marriages? Laity to set example to clergy? Cutting the Gordian Knot in the Church of England":

Time For The Laity To Lead On Blessing Same-Sex Relationships?: Chris Fewings


It is time for “lay” Anglicans in the Church of England to start celebrating public thanksgivings for and blessings of committed same-sex relationship – in churches where possible, in church halls and church porches, in parks and on village greens.

Must I be ordained to bless my brothers and sisters? To give thanks to the Lord of love? Do priests and bishops control the life-giving mysteries?

That was my first thought on hearing of Men and Women in Marriage “a document from the Faith and Order Commission published with the agreement of the House of Bishops of the Church of England and approved for study” this week. The document seems to entrench an attitude of inertia in the institutional Church of England and make for a deeper divide between its upper echelons and substantial proportion of its clergy and laity. It also reflects an idealised view of the nuclear family which belongs more to the aspirations 1950s than the realities of the 21st century.

Peter and JaneJane married Peter. Peter married Jane. Hello Peter. Hello Jane.

Jane and Peter had 2.4 children and went to church on Sundays. Hello children. Hello Peter. Hello Jane.

The 1950s came to an abrupt end. Some people were very confused. The church painted a big picture of Peter and Jane and their 2.4 children on the church noticeboard and varnished it with everlasting varnish.

Everyone felt much happier now. They went inside the church and it was just like the 1950s picture books. It was such a lovely game of Let’s Pretend that they all vowed never to stop playing it for ever and ever Amen.

When I posted my thoughts on Facebook one reaction was that Methodism began with a similar eruption of lay activity, to which I replied:

Am I right in thinking that both John and Charles Wesley remained presbyters of the Church of England all their lives? And were deeply reluctant to allow their followers to form a separate church?
There are surely many examples of movements within the church, some perhaps lay-led, which largely stayed within the church – the charismatic movement of the 1960s for example. In the middle ages they tended to form themselves into orders (after starting as raggle-taggle bands like Francis’s) and eventually get papal approval. At a parish level this could be a peace and justice group, or a contemplative prayer group, or a bible study group.

In some cases I suppose the movement splits two ways – some remain to reform from the inside, or simply be a nucleus for a minority who cannot follow the ways of the majority, but can remain in formal unity. I have the impression that C19 Evangelical Anglicanism was a child of Methodism.

There is already at least one church which originally formed as a home for LGBT Christians who felt ostracised by mainstream churches, and no doubt there are many LGBTQI local, national and international groups and organisations which function within Anglican churches and/or ecumenically.

Perhaps until recent years these groups have mainly acted as pressure groups (and pressure valves) for individuals who do not conform to conventional pre-1960s views of sexuality, and feel excluded or marginalised or confused, with a few Wilberforces joining them in solidarity.

I’m suggesting something which would be led as much by “straight” CoE Christians as “gay”, who disagree with the House of Bishops and wish to openly, publicly, prayerfully, ceremonially and joyfully celebrate the love of God as expressed in same-sex relationships in ways that make sense within their own traditions.

For some, it would be important not to use terminology reserved for the sacrament of marriage by those who have received the sacrament of holy orders. For me, the essential points are that the ceremonies:-
– should not be hidden away
– should affirm their Christian and Anglican nature (for example by being held in or outside churches)
– should in no way be seen as second-rate rites for second-class citizens.

The illustration is copyright: kabliczech via Shutterstock

The above article is made up of comments posted on Facebook on 10th April, with the explanatory paragraphs in smaller type added on 12th April. Chris Fewings.

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