Since the beginning of July, when my one and only husband almost popped his clogs, my life has changed drastically, and by no means for the worse. In some ways it’s been definitely for the better. I no longer listen to the Today programme, for example.
Therefore, I didn’t hear the Reverend Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford, explaining that his Diocesan Synod had been merely seeking clarification, with their motion regarding same sex marriage blessings.
Here is that motion in full.
“That this Synod request the House of Bishops to commend an Order of Prayer and Dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage for use by ministers in exercise of their discretion under Canon B4, being a form of service neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, together with guidance that no parish should be obliged to host, nor minister conduct, such a service.”
Following the Equal Marriage Act of 2013 the Church of England issued the following statement in February 2014. I suppose it took them a long time because the words had to be very carefully chosen.
“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 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.” (My emphasis.)
I read that and was immediately transported back twenty or thirty years. In those days I frequently found myself asking one or other of my children, “Exactly what part of the word NO do you not understand?”
But this is the Church of England and Sex that we’re talking about so, of course, there are weasel words. This is the sentence missing from the pastoral statement above:
“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.”
Is it the word ‘informal’ that’s causing the bishop’s confusion?
Informal: not according to the prescribed, official or customary manner; irregular; casual; relaxed; easy going. The Church of England and the Church in Wales are certainly irregular these days, but not very relaxed or easy going if you can’t follow them down their road.
It’s interesting that +Richard is seeking “clarification” because he’s quite good at obfuscation himself. I suspect, from the clever wording about his marital status that there might be a divorce in there somewhere. I thought, when I first read about the synod motion that this was yet another attempt to push the boundaries, then I read Psephizo’s blog of October 24th about salami slicing and growing a beard. Brilliant confirmation! And it’s happening everywhere you look.
If I were Caroline Welby I would ban my husband from doing any more interviews. In the past, when he was interviewed by Christians, he came across well. Thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent and in control. Not any more. Recently he has seemed out of his depth, buffeted by the questions to which he seems not to know the answers.
This quote comes from his interview with Alastair Campbell for GQ magazine. Why on earth did he agree to the interview in the first place, given that he’s nothing like as slippery and slithery as his questioner? He’s not good at spotting booby traps either.
Asked, of course, about sex and gay marriage he agreed that the two sides of the argument are “irreconcilable” and confessed, “I haven’t got a good answer, and I am not doing that bit of work as well as I would like.” Too right he’s not. He even went so far as to admit to GQ, “I am copping out because I am struggling with the issue.”
He’s not the only one. There are hundreds, even hundreds of thousands of us, struggling with that issue. I feel particularly sorry for heterosexual married men and women trying to bring up boys and girls. They know instinctively that they are doing the right thing. They get plenty of support from statistics and scientific studies but precious little from the clergy. It should be crystal clear that children do best when brought up in a stable family with a female mother and a male father.
Yet the same sex marriage lobby is now so strong that even those bastions of British values like the National Trust and John Lewis are jumping on the LGBTQUI+ band wagon. Actually I think the news about the JLP stores removing their ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signs so as not to offend transgender children must be fake. Surely no shop hoping to make a profit would set out to help the odd 1,000 at the risk of losing a million.
But it was certainly true that the National Trust at Felbrigg Hall insisted their volunteers had to wear Gay Pride badges or lurk in the background out of sight of the visitors. They were doing it to show ‘inclusivity’ they said. I was sitting beside my husband’s bed in hospital when I read that so you can understand my snort of derision. If you want to see inclusivity at work go to a hospital.
Now the Prime Minister is having a go at those of us who hold the simple belief that “marriage” is between a man and a woman. This is a common sense belief which has served human kind well throughout all the generations. It does not make us homophobic. As for compassion, which Mrs May seemed, in her conference speech, to equate with support for same sex marriage—I have enormous compassion for children growing up with any number of mothers and fathers of both sexes and none.
Is this sort of thing really too complicated for Justin Welby to come to terms with?
I first heard the Chinese greeting ‘May you live in interesting times,’ many years ago but it wasn’t till I read a lecture by Rabbi Lord Sachs recently that I learned it is actually a curse.
When I signed off from this blog for the summer at the beginning of July I was expecting things to jog along through July and August pretty much as usual. They didn’t. I have certainly lived through some very “interesting times” over the last three months – nerve wracking, exhausting, frightening – but, thank God, I haven’t had the feeling that I’d actually been cursed. I am both sadder and wiser than I was; wiser because of the things that happened to me and my family and sadder because of the bizarre things that continue to happen in the world.
Briefly, my one and only husband went into hospital for minor surgery and ended up spending seven weeks there, including two bouts in Intensive Care, and has come out needing dialysis. A few weeks into this trauma son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters came home and announced that next year they were planning to live with us full time. (Clearly they no longer trust us to live on our own.) So builders have moved in to turn an old people’s house into a multi generation home.
The builders will be with us until November and at the moment the only rooms habitable are the kitchen, the sitting room and our bedroom. Sometimes we have no water and sometimes we have no electricity but Nigel and Mark have been well trained. When they make tea for themselves they also make tea for whoever else is around at the time. Oh, yes, and, during one of the Intensive Care episodes, I took delivery of an eight week old puppy, encouraged and cheered on by my husband’s nurses. Nigel and Mark are also good at puppy-sitting and mopping up after her.
For much of my time, during those long weeks, I sat beside the bed, lost in admiration for the skill, devotion and dedication of the staff from consultants to porters. Professor Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals in England has just announced that the NHS is no longer fit for purpose. Whoever that statement applies to it’s not Welsh health care staff.
Here’s one of the things that has made me sad.
Have you ever seen anyone more dejected and despairing. The funny thing is, I don’t think I ever felt that hopeless and helpless even when I was sitting in ITU with my husband drifting between life and death.
Perhaps there was a good reason for that. I was surrounded by people who were dedicated to their jobs, devoted to their patients and prepared to work long, unsocial hours (including Sundays). I bet Justin Welby wishes he could rely on such loyal, single minded support.
And what had caused the Archbishop’s angst and misery? A question in his LBC radio interview about a 6 year old boy in a dress!
For a start shouldn’t he have expected that question or something similar? Shouldn’t he have prepared a sound theological answer? After all, he is still the titular head of the whole Anglican Communion.
He says he doesn’t have a problem with a boy wearing a dress. Of course not. A little 6 year old can wear anything he likes; batman, superman, fairy twinkle toes.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make it clear that the boy in the dress isn’t the problem. The problem is transgenderism, which has taken off as the latest weapon of the “let’s smash the family” brigade.
A class of five and six years olds shouldn’t be made uncomfortable, puzzled and concerned by the selfish actions of a befuddled child, his parents and his teachers.
My sympathy is with all those parents who chose to send their children to a Church of England school in the hopes they would be taught the basic tenets of the Anglican faith. They have been let down, not least by the Archbishop of Canterbury.