So this morning, as is usual for me I logged into Twitter via my smartphone. What was more unusual though was that every Tweet more or less seemed to be on the subject of equal marriage. Now on one level, this did not surprise me, as the Government consultation on the issue of equal marriage closes at the end of this week, and campaigners, naturally, have been doing their utmost to keep the issue at the heart of the news and social media agendas.
What was most unusual for me though was that the tone of the tweets was almost without exception a combination of sadness and anger directed almost universally towards the Church. Now again, this is no absolute surprise since the positions of some quarters of the Church and those in favour of marriage equality have long been diametrically opposed to one another.
However, what has provoked this latest conflict in a long line of many is that today the Church of England published its’ response to the Government’s consultation on equal marriage today. Here is what the Government hopes to enable the LGBT community to do in light of their proposals.
- To allow same sex couples to marry in a register office or other civil ceremony.
- To retain civil partnerships for same sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage.
- To allow people to stay married and legally change their gender.
- To maintain the legal ban on same-sex couples marrying in a religious service.
Now at first glance to me these proposals do not seem very provocative towards or very likely to cause conflict between the Church of England and the body politic at large.
But honestly if ever there was a case against being unrelentingly optimistic the Church of England is surely it, without a doubt.
It is worth pointing something out here, well two things really. Civil ceremony means just that, with no religious overtones whatsoever. These ceremonies would be conducted outside of Churches and in registry offices or other comparable venues.
However some quarters of the Church of England are not happy at all. In their response to the Government consultation, issued today it was suggested that;
“Government proposals to allow same-sex marriages by 2015 would “alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history”.
Furthermore, it was also suggested that marriage implied biological complimentarity, alluding to the possibility of procreation.
The Rt.Rev Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester who appears to be the spokesperson for the Church of England’s unhappiness with the proposals also opined:
“”I think this is the church trying to uphold our traditional teachings and understanding about marriage and trying to avoid a sudden and rapid redefinition of marriage for everybody at a time when many marriages are in difficulties and where it is very unlikely that, within just a few weeks, a universally acceptable new definition of a fundamental social institution can emerge.”
But away from hyperbole and hysteria I feel it important to point out something again. The Church’s teachings will not be altered a jot, as the civil ceremonies will not be taking place in churches, because, as can be clearly gleaned from the proposals, that ban still remains. The Church will be as free as a bird to carry on marrying the people that it selectively chooses to marry. It will just mean that couples in the LGBT community will no longer have to sit on the sidelines, longing desperately for change, as the Coalition Government will give it to them.
I suspect this is why it was so long in coming, because successive Governments, irrespective of political persuasion, knew the Church’s stance on this issue was at best myopic, and wanted to fudge the issue and avoid a showdown.
So whatever you think of David Cameron’s political beliefs, one at least has to applaud him for having the courage of his convictions on this issue.
But do you really know what I resent? Having some kind of biological superiority imposed upon me by the canonical elite. Thus, this invalidates the contribution that gay parents make to their children’s lives, giving them homes in difficult often challenging circumstances, therefore ensuring that they have the best start in life they could possibly want.
Whether you parent a child via biological or other means matters not. Biology will not make you a good parent. However, your ability to love, care and nuture will. However, I do not think who you choose to go to bed with has any bearing on these abilities.
Secondly, the point about history and tradition. My life now, at some point in the future will become my history. History is a frame of reference to the past, not unshakeable dogma.I am not advocating a wholesale reinvention of the Bible.
What I am saying is that there are some things in the Bible that were forbidden, that we now do. Have you eaten prawns recently? Or, have you worn any mixed fibres? I think you see my point.
History and tradition serve to preserve the past, because the world evolves. We no longer view minority ethnic groups as slaves. We no longer lock disabled children up in institutions, denying them humanity, and access to the world and educational prosperity and attainment.
So therefore, why should we deny LGBT couples the right to get married? Exactly! We should not. It is primitive, bigoted and utterly unjust.
In the midst of this “masterclass in scaremongering” as Ben Summerskill of Stonewall so rightly put it. I see a Church scared of change, so scared in fact that it is almost like it has stepped out of a bubble on to an alien planet.
A Church that it is abandoning its founding principles for homophobic ones.
A Church which makes the possibility of schism look ever more likely through its’ own stubborness.
A section of the Church which is lacking a Christian response. I say section because Giles Fraser and other progressives like him do not think in the same way.
When Jesus said the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law were hypocrites, He was right. But what is the difference between his pronouncement then and the way some Christians behave now? None really, is there? Food for thought.