So, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, the Morcambe and Wise of Theism—minus the talent, the humour, and the party-trick with the paper bag—have written a little letter regarding the Church of England and the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Quite why is beyond me, since the CofE is, bizarrely for an organisation which forms part of our government, mandated by law to continue discriminating against same-sex couples. But anyway, they did. And they appended a statement by the House of Bishops setting out the church's position in detail.
You can read it in full, without interruption, at the link above, but for those who aren't fluent in Ecumenical Bafflegab—a bastard hybridisation of High Office-Speak and Low Bullshit—I've reproduced it below, along with some hopefully-helpful clarifications by yours truly. Because I'm a very kind man.
And so, Gentle Reader, with but a short roll on the drums, a wee tinkle on the ivory, and a dram at the bar, without further ado, let me place you in the incapable hands of Welby-Sentamu: the only known being on the planet to possess four hands, four feet, two stomachs, and half a brain…
Following their meeting on February 13th 2014 the House of Bishops of the Church of England have today issued a statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.
Following a little chin-wag we had the other day, we'd like to make a statement to The Sheep, regarding our views on what genitalia a couple should be in possession of, if they wish to be married.
The statement comes as an appendix to a pastoral letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York addressed to the clergy and people of the Church of England.
The statement comes as an appendix to a shepherds' letter to the minor-shepherds and the sheep of the church which, like it or not, want it or not, believe it or not, is your official state church, and an arm of your government.
To the Clergy and People of the Church of England
To the shepherds and their sheeples, who gather 'neath our steeples
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Dear brothers and sisters in The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky
We write as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to love one another as Christ has loved us. Our vocation as disciples of Christ in God's world is to hold out the offer of life in all its fullness. God delights always to give good gifts to his children.
Hey, we love The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky, you love The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky. It's all good, innit! Our vocation as disciples of The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky in his daddy's world is to hold out the offer of life in all its fullness. (No, we have no idea what the hell we just said either; but it sounded good, didn't it.) And while we're spouting platitudes which have sod-all to do with the issue at hand, we'd like to mention that we give full and complete credit to The Invisible Man In The Sky for all of everyone's accomplishments. Great is The Invisible Man In The Sky, for he doth give us everything, provided we get it for ourselves first!
The gospel of the love of God made known to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest of these gifts. The call of the gospel demands that we all listen, speak and act with integrity, self discipline and grace, acknowledging that as yet our knowledge and understanding are partial.
The greatest gift he gives us is the purported life and unnecessary death-by-torture of his own son, a couple of thousand years ago. We call this "The Good News." (Why? Because it'd be bloody bad news if it was us being nailed to a tree.) Because of this story of gory death, we are supposed to act ethically and humbly. Just don't ask why we couldn't do that without some poor bastard having been tortured to death. Oh, and that humbleness gig; yeah, we're supposed to admit that we don't—yet!—know every detail of The Invisible Man In The Sky's Great Scheme. Even so, we're perfectly willing to treat certain people as second-class citizens on the basis of what it contains.
Talking of which, now we've done all the traditional meaningless mumbo-jumbo preamble, let's get to the actual friggin' point of this letter…
As members of the Body of Christ we are aware that there will be a range of responses across the Church of England to the introduction of same sex marriage. As bishops we have reflected and prayed together about these developments. As our statement of 27th January indicated, we are not all in agreement about every aspect of the Church's response. However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.
As members of the Body of The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky, we are aware that some people in the Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church don't give a rat's arse whether people getting married have similar genitalia or not, while other people in the Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church are bigots. We've thought about it a bit, and have spoken to The Invisible Man In The Sky about it—although we're going to quietly avoid mentioning whether The Invisible Man In The Sky spoke back. Ahem.
As we said a couple of weeks ago, we're not sure what our response should be, in the face of people not wanting to be treated as second-class citizens by a de facto arm of their own government. However, we are all in agreement that the Believers-In-The-Invisible-Man-In-The-Sky definition of marriage as being between a penis-owner and a vagina-owner remains unchanged; even though many Believers-In-The-Invisible-Man-In-The-Sky, including many in our own church, don't define marriage in such a way. Umm… moving swiftly on, in hopes that you might miss that little contradiction…
We are conscious that within both Church and society there are men and women seeking to live faithfully in covenanted same sex relationships. As we said in our response to the consultation prior to the same sex marriage legislation, "the proposition that same sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. Same sex relationships often embody genuine mutuality and fidelity…., two of the virtues which the Book of Common Prayer uses to commend marriage. The Church of England seeks to see those virtues maximised in society".
We've noticed that both within the Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church and in society in general, people with similar genitalia are wanting to be recognised as being in committed relationships. And, look, we've bloody well said this before: we are in no way saying that such relationships are not meaningful and valid. (Just don't ask about our church's history of opposition to the legalisation of such relationships.) We love that people are having meaningful relationships, and wish to encourage them. To a point.
We have already committed ourselves to a process of facilitated conversations across the whole Church of England in the light of the Pilling Report. These conversations will involve ecumenical and interfaith partners and particularly the wider Anglican Communion to whom we rejoice to be bound by our inheritance of faith and mutual affection. They will include profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application of scripture to which we all seek to be faithful. They will involve particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. We believe that Christian understandings of sexuality have a vital contribution to make in our society's conversation about human flourishing.
We've decided we're going to talk about it with some other churches. This will include talks with other Anglican churches, but we don't intend to mention, in this letter, the Ugandan Anglican church, for instance; because we don't want you drawing distasteful conclusions. These talks will involve even more deep reflection on whether it's morally justifiable to treat people as second-class citizens, based on traits that anyone not obsessed with genitalia would rightly say are none of their business. We're even going to ask some of the people who are affected by our discrimination; ain't that just grand of us? And, of course, we believe that the holding of a belief in The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky is not only pertinent, but gives a vital viewpoint on "human flourishing." A term which is vague to the point of uselessness, but we thought we'd throw it out there, 'cause it sounds kinda nice.
The introduction of same sex marriage in our country is a new reality and has consequences for the life and discipline of the Church of England. We seek to model a distinctive and generous witness to Jesus Christ in our pastoral guidance to the Church at this time which is set out in the Appendix to this letter.
Oh noes! Change! We aren't sure that the Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church can cope with progress! We intend to pretend to be impartial, by quoting, in the
Small Intestine Testicle Appendix, lots of stuff from our Big List Of Stuff We Believe The Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky Wants, showing how people with similar genitalia getting married is really really bad.
The Good News about the tortured-to-death Son Of The Invisible Man In The Sky is, erm… Good News for everyone, everywhere, everywhen. We're gonna keep talking to The Invisible Man In The Sky about this
in the hope that he might actually answer for a change, and we're asking all the sheep to keep asking him to help us, as we try to proclaim belief without evidence trust afresh in this generation.
+ Justin Cantuar
+ Sentamu Eboracensis
✝ Ustinjay Anterburycay
✝ Entamusay Orkyay
On behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England
On behalf of the Boss Shepherds of the Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church
Spleen Kidney Omelette Appendix:
The Church of England and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
The Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
1: The Church of England's long standing teaching and rule are set out in Canon B30: 'The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord's teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity."
Look, it's very bloody simple: the Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church has been saying for years that marriage is between penis-owners and vagina-owners. Oh, and its major purpose is the production of sprogs. That's why we forcibly annul the marriages of couples who don't have children. You had noticed that we do that, yes?
2: The Book of Common Prayer introduces the Solemnisation of Matrimony by saying, 'Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee…'
It even says "Penis owner and vagina-owner" in our prayer book! And heaven forbid that we should change a couple of words!
3: The Common Worship marriage service, consistently with the Book of Common Prayer, says, 'The Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means to grace, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh…' The House of Bishops teaching document of 1999 noted that: "Marriage is a pattern that God has given in creation, deeply rooted in our social instincts, through which a man and a woman may learn love together over the course of their lives."
And it's in our marriage service, too! Jebus H Christ on a Honda Cub, how much bloody editing do you want us to do? And we doubled-down on it in 1999.
4: The Lambeth Conference of 1998 said 'in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage' (resolution1.10) This remains the declared position of the Anglican Communion.
The Laambeff Confrince of 1998 decided that marriage is between penis-owners and vagina-owners. We also noted that those who we don't allow to marry should bloody-well keep it in their pants. But we're not obsessed with other people's genitalia or sex-lives. 'Onest, we ain't guv!
5: The same resolution went on to acknowledge 'that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.' It went on to 'condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.'
The Laambeff Confrince then went on to say that queers are perfectly fine, as long as they know their place. Then it went on to mention marital abuse, promiscuity and prostitution. Not, of course, that we mention those things which are entirely unconnected to the topic at hand, merely to damn same-genitalia-marriage by implicit association. We wouldn't dream of doing such a thing! 'Onest, we wouldn't guv!
6: In February 2005 the Dromantine Communique from the Primates of the Anglican Communion again affirmed the Anglican Communion's opposition to any form of behaviour which 'diminished' homosexual people.
7: It stated: 'We …. wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.'
How many times can we say this? We love dykes, trannies and shirt-lifters! Just because we want to treat them as second-class citizens, doesn't mean we want them treated as second-class citizens. Umm. Yeah, that.
8: It was on the basis of this teaching that the then Archbishops published in June 2012 the official Church of England submission in response to the Government's intention to introduce same-sex marriage. They arguments in it were based on the Church of England's understanding of marriage, a set of beliefs and practices that it believes most benefits society. During the legislation's passage through Parliament, no Lord Spiritual voted for the legislation.
We told (the rest of) the government, when it hatched this crazy idea of "equality," back in 2012, that we wanted no bloody part of it. No sirree Bob! We told them that unfair discrimination is the only solid foundation for a society, but would they listen? Would they 'eck-as-like. Oh, and none of us bothered to represent the thousands of Believers-In-The-Invisible-Man-In-The-Sky who say that we shouldn't be obsessing about married couples' genitalia, of that you can be sure.
The effect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
9: The Government's legislation, nevertheless, secured large majorities in both Houses of Parliament on free votes and the first same sex marriages in England are expected to take place in March. From then there will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.
But, sad to say, the crazy bastards went ahead and voted for fair-play and equal-citizenship. Form March onwards, we expect to see the unholy and abominable unions of people with matching genitalia being performed by various churches. From then on, it looks like the rest of society will get a bit nicer, whilst we'll still be pretending to own the moral high-ground, based on an unwillingness to edit some books.
10: The effect of the legislation is that in most respects there will no longer be any distinction between marriage involving same sex couples and couples of opposite genders. The legislation make religious as well as civil same sex weddings possible, though only where the relevant denomination or faith has opted in to conducting such weddings. In addition, the legislation provides that no person may be compelled to conduct or be present at such a wedding.
The upshot of all this is that there will no longer be any distinction between "two people who love each other" and "two people who love each other." People who want to conduct weddings between people who have matching genitalia may now do so, and any prudes who don't want to see two adults kiss at the altar, are free to not bother attending—just like they were before.
11: The Act provides no opt in mechanism for the Church of England because of the constitutional convention that the power of initiative on legislation affecting the Church of England rests with the General Synod, which has the power to pass Measures and Canons. The Act preserves, as part of the law of England, the effect of any Canon which makes provision about marriage being the union of one man with one woman, notwithstanding the general, gender free definition of marriage. As a result Canon B30 remains part of the law of the land.
12: When the Act comes into force in March it will continue not to be legally possible for two persons of the same sex to marry according to the rites of the Church of England. In addition the Act makes clear that any rights and duties which currently exist in relation to being married in church of England churches do not extend to same sex couples.
The Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church has managed to force through an amendment to the effect that not only does it not have to marry people with matching genitalia (We're not obsessed!), but it would take a further act of law to allow it to do so. We regard it as a victory, that the only church which forms an actual part of your actual government is forced, by law, to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. Something which the rest of your government is forbidden, by law, to do. Can I get a hallelujah!?
13: The legislation has not made any changes to the nature of civil partnerships though it paves the way for a procedure by which couples in civil partnerships can, if they choose, convert them into a marriage. The Government has indicated that it will be later this year before the necessary regulations can be made and the first conversions of civil partnerships into marriages become possible.
14: There are three particular areas on which some guidance is necessary on the implications of the new legislation in relation to our common life and ministry in England.
Access to the sacraments and pastoral care for people in same sex marriages
15: In Issues in Human Sexuality the House affirmed that, while the same standards of conduct applied to all, the Church of England should not exclude from its fellowship those lay peope of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and who, instead, chose to enter into a faithful, committed sexually active relationship.
Even though we said back up at number-four, that couples we don't allow to get married should cease and desist from the rumpy-pumpies, we're going to allow couples who we won't allow to marry to get jiggy with it—as if we had any way to stop them in the first place, the filthy fornicating bastards. Because, erm, we don't want to lose them to churches which don't treat them like shit.
16: Consistent with that, we said in our 2005 pastoral statement that lay people who had registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and holy communion, or being welcomed into the life of the local worshipping community more generally.
Bottom line: we need the bloody bums on pews, okay, and if we have to sacrifice a few principles to get 'em there, we will.
17: We also noted that the clergy could not lawfully refuse to baptize children on account of the family structure or lifestyle of those caring for them, so long as they and the godparents were willing to make the requisite baptismal promises following a period of instruction.
We refuse to act like the being we worship as perfect, by visiting the sins of the parents upon the children. But The Invisible Man In The Sky is still the source of all human morals.
18: We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships to have a formal status. These include the joys of exclusive commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship. To that end, civil partnership continues to be available for same sex couples. Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.
We don't have to like it, but if you do it elsewhere we'll turn a blind eye. Hypocrites? Us? No! Just, erm… umm… Oh, just shut up, already.
Acts of worship following civil same sex weddings
19: As noted above, same sex weddings in church will not be possible. As with civil partnership, some same sex couples are, however, likely to seek some recognition of their new situation in the context of an act of worship.
20: The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who registered civil partnerships. The House did not wish, however, to interfere with the clergy's pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances. The College made clear on 27 January that, just as the Church of England's doctrine of marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice also remains unchanged.
21: The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church's teaching and their reasons for departing from it. Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.
No, we won't bless such abominations-in-the-eyes-of-The Invisible Man In The Sky. But, if you're very very lucky, we might, you know, say some prayers an' stuff as if we were blessing your unholy pact with The Beast. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.
Clergy and ordinands
22: The preface to the Declaration of Assent, which all clergy have to make when ordained and reaffirm when they take up a new appointment, notes that the Church of England 'professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.' This tension between the givennness of the faith and the challenge to proclaim it afresh in each generation, as the Spirit continues to lead the Church into all truth, stands at the heart of current debates about human sexuality and of what constitutes leading a life that is according to the way of Christ.
Oh gawd, the tension; the awful, nerve-wracking pain of having to oppose something we'd really really like to back, if only we could possibly change a faith that's been unchanged for generations. That's why we also still preach about not playing football on Sundays and not letting women have pain-medication during child-birth. It's why we still proclaim Genesis to be literal truth and why we still call for the stoning of blasphemers.
23: At ordination clergy make a declaration that they will endeavour to fashion their own life and that of their household 'according to the way of Christ' that they may be 'a pattern and example to Christ's people'. A requirement as to the manner of life of the clergy is also directly imposed on the clergy by Canon C 26, which says that 'at all times he shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.'
24: The implications of this particular responsibility of clergy to teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church have been explained as follows; 'The Church is also bound to take care that the ideal is not misrepresented or obscured; and to this end the example of its ordained ministers is of crucial significance. This means that certain possibilities are not open to the clergy by comparison with the laity, something that in principle has always been accepted ' (Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991, Section 5.13).
We have some rules for clergy, which say that clergy have to stick to certain rules. Oh, and clergy are supposed to set a good example to the sheeples.
25: The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.
We just love playing with logic based on the unevidenced assertion that The Invisible Man In The Sky is really real. That's why clergy can argue for changes that we've made sure are illegal for us to implement…
26: Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be honoured as a matter of integrity.
…And, anyway, the lesser-clergy can argue all they damn well like; we've already made our minds up.
The Church of England has a long tradition of tolerating conscientious dissent and of seeking to avoid drawing lines too firmly, not least when an issue is one where the people of God are seeking to discern the mind of Christ in a fast changing context. Neverthless at ordination clergy undertake to 'accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it.' We urge all clergy to act consistently with that undertaking.
The Ludicrous and Anachronistic State Church has a long tradition of being dragged, kicking, screaming, and bawling like a spoiled brat in a sweet-shop, into something vaguely approaching an equal ethical and moral standpoint with the rest of society, then claiming, after the dust has settled, that it was at the forefront of change. And once again, we urge clergy to hold out to the last possible second. It's what The Invisible Man In The Sky and his son would want.
House of Bishops
15 February 2014
House of Bishops
15 February 1420
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