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.