Church backs ‘Men and Women in Mar­riage’

The Church of England - - LEADER & COMMENT -

Mr Cameron’s sud­den con­ver­sion to be­ing a passionate be­liever in ‘gay mar­riage’, dra­mat­i­cally an­nounced at last year’s Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence to a stunned au­di­ence, may have been caused by his opin­ion poll­ster, An­drew Cooper. An ‘ul­tra-mod­erniser’, he con­vinced Mr Cameron that ‘gay mar­riage’ was the sure fire way to win votes, de­spite a few grum­bles. Mr Cooper is now leav­ing Num­ber 10 to re­join Pop­u­lus, the polling com­pany, since his ad­vice proved to be cat­a­stroph­i­cally bad, alien­at­ing a huge sege­ment of former Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers. The point to be gleaned for the Church is that a core so­cial eth­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion has been rad­i­calised by an opin­ion poll­ster, and purely for party po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. Can this be jus­ti­fied?

Mr Cameron is forc­ing through this change to the UK’s his­toric so­cial in­sti­tu­tion, the state is co­erc­ing so­ci­ety: in con­tra­dic­tion to his ‘big so­ci­ety’ man­i­festo mes­sage. Any such change should have been placed in his next elec­tion man­i­festo for the peo­ple to de­cide, not an opin­ion poll­ster of a po­lit­i­cally cor­rect per­sua­sion. Like­wise Mr Cameron has said sev­eral times that he wants to sup­port the Es­tab­lished Church: in fact he has co­erced it and wors­ened its prob­lems of han­dling di­vi­sion over ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity con­sid­er­ably. It is prob­a­bly true that ‘es­tab­lish­ment’ is now threat­ened, since no Chris­tian Church can ac­cept hav­ing its the­o­log­i­cal ethics de­cided by the state, Hitler was the last Euro­pean leader to try that pol­icy. The lawyers are clearly wor­ried that the Church needs to keep in step with government leg­is­la­tion on civil part­ner­ships and mar­riage.

The Faith and Or­der Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion of Gen­eral Synod, a body com­posed of bish­ops and aca­demics, has pro­duced ‘Men and Women in Mar­riage’ as a pos­i­tive state­ment of Chris­tian mar­riage, re­in­forc­ing the pre­vi­ous state­ment by the bish­ops that ‘mar­riage is a cre­ation or­di­nance, a gift of God in cre­ation’, is ‘a faith­ful, com­mit­ted, per­ma­nent and legally sanc­tioned re­la­tion­ship be­tween a man and a woman’ and ‘is cen­tral to the sta­bil­ity and health of hu­man so­ci­ety’. But ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is pre­sent­ing prob­lems, com­pared to that of di­vorce and polygamy, in the FOAC pa­per. Th­ese are dealt with ‘pas­torally’ and in per­son. Mar­riage can­not be re­de­fined to solve this is­sue. Rather ‘a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity’ may be called for in up­hold­ing mar­riage and help­ing those caught up in prob­lem­atic pat­terns of life – as for mis­sion­ar­ies deal­ing with polyg­a­mous wives as kindly as pos­si­ble. FOAC says the Church can ‘de­vise ac­com­mo­da­tions’ on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis. This looks like Ro­man Catholic and Ortho­dox con­fes­sional prac­tice for in­di­vid­u­als. But the goal of that is that the pen­i­tent ac­com­mo­dates her­self to God’s re­vealed ways, not the other way round – although priests say that very many ho­mo­sex­ual part­ner­ships are in fact ac­cepted in this se­cret sys­tem. And the state cre­ated ‘civil part­ner­ships’, th­ese must be recog­nised by the Church or state pros­e­cu­tion could oc­cur: are th­ese to com­pel ‘ac­com­mo­da­tions’ - grad­u­ally over­turn­ing the ex­cel­lent doc­trine of the FOAC pa­per, in prac­tice? At least the pa­per up­holds Chris­tian mar­riage.

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