The Hypocrisy of Authoritarian Bishops
By the Revd Dr Lee Gatiss
I wonder if the bishops who wrote this report did so with a straight face? They tell us that church blessings are not pronouncements, and approval cannot be inferred from them. They tell us blessings are given to people, not to ways of life. This is sophistry, not “our deeper understanding of the theology of blessing” as the report claims. It is designed so that our bishops can try to claim that all this does not contravene Lambeth Resolution 1.10 from 1998 which said the Communion “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”. We’re praying for blessing on the people, not blessing their unions. Oh well, that’s alright then (I mordantly imagine the African bishops might say). Seriously?
“May they dwell together in love and peace all the days of their life” — how is this not a signal of approval for a relationship on the part of the minister?
In his dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell described the way that the ruling elite controlled those under them. “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” he said, “It was their final, most essential command.” We are now living in just such a dystopia in the Church of England, where we are expected to swallow the idea that all those difficult “facilitated conversations”, all those reports over the last 40+ years on this subject, all that angst as we searched the scriptures and church history, was utterly pointless — because now we know that blessing same-sex marriages is actually not a departure from Anglican doctrine in any essential matter. If only we had realised this earlier! (satire)
This sheer assertion without obvious grounding in reality is a change of doctrine by executive decree, bypassing synodical scrutiny. It cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. It is too grave a situation. Surely at least a formal statement of grievance or complaint should be made by the House of Clergy or the House of Laity against the House of Bishops for attempting this underhanded manoeuvre in plain sight? Or perhaps there ought to be a judicial review of the proclamation by the bishops that Holy Matrimony is a completely different thing to marriage and we can pray God’s blessing for any state of life now? It would be expensive, but then challenging blatant undemocratic power-grabs by ruling elites usually is.
A couple, whether homosexual or heterosexual, “who have marked a significant stage in the development of their relationship” can, under the bishops’ proposals, now have a special service to mark the occasion in church. What such significant stages might be is not specified. First kiss? Moving in together? They can have rings and candles and hymns and readings and prayers for blessing. As can those who have entered a civil partnership or a same-sex marriage. Some campaigners are cross (or have confected outrage for the sake of a good media story) that this is not officially same-sex marriage itself in church, only blessings after the fact. But it sure does look like a church wedding and sound like a church wedding, and that’s the story which the pictures of groom and groom on social media will tell. Are the bishops telling clergy to bless people in pseudo-Christian cosplay weddings? And pretending this is kind and pastoral? How dare anyone suggest that this is a departure from Anglican doctrine in an essential matter! (irony)
I wonder how long it will be before the much-vaunted idea of “faithfulness” and “stability” in relationships is also recognised as a social construct which we can do away with at will? The bishops do say that the relationships which the church celebrates have to be between “two people”; but how long before this too is considered outdated and abandoned? After all, the stated basis for these changes is that society around us has changed its view of sex outside of marriage so the church must catch up and do so too. Where will the world go next, and those who have tied the church to it like a tow-truck?
The Revd Dr Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society. More info may be found at: www.churchsociety.org.