Terms of the debate on ‘gay marriage’

by
18 August 2010

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From the Revd Dr Martin Dudley
Sir, — The Revd David Perry (Letters, 13 August) has confused the issues when dealing with the use and meanings of the words “mar­riage” and “parent”.

In 2008, when I blessed the civil partnership of Peter Cowell and David Lord, I made it quite clear that theirs could be a marriage only in an analogical sense. I hold mar­riage to be the union of a man and a woman. A person may, in com­mon parlance, be “married” to his or her work or “wedded” to a specific idea, but to apply the term “marriage” to the committed union of a same-sex couple is to erase, linguistically and unwisely, the real difference between it and marriage in the ordinary sense.

Some new word needs to be coined if we are to maintain, as I believe we should, the difference between these types of union.

The parenting issue is a quite dif­ferent one; for children have always been raised by a variety of figures. There is good evidence that in ancient Egypt, where there was a high maternal mortality, children were frequently raised by a father alone. Others have been cared for by grandparents, uncles and aunts, nannies and nurses, and by schools.

Parents may be absent, uncaring, and even violent, and children are formed by the people who actually nurture them, irrespective of gender or title. Further, the Christian faith does not find it necessary to match the divine father with an equivalent mother, but sees male and female in the heavenly father who never­theless cares for us in a maternal way. Whatever we may say of Mary, we do not claim that she is the female equivalent of God the Father.

“Parent” involves much greater linguistic, social, and theological flexibility than “marriage”, and can certainly not be limited to the biological father and mother.
MARTIN DUDLEY
6 Kinghorn Street
London EC1A 7HW

From Carol Smith
Sir, — The Revd David Perry offers a very strange critique of parent­hood, regardless of whether one shares his views on gay relation­ships. There are thousands of people who, like me, have never known their biological parents, having been adopted at birth. Their children usually have no “biological grand­parents”. Their experience of parent­ing will have been as varied as that of children brought up by their biological parents.

As for giving “parent status to the partner who did not bear the child”, this has long been the position in law: the lawful husband of a woman who bears a child is deemed to be the father, unless evidence is brought to the contrary. In some cases, this may well have been an incorrect assumption.

Parenthood is about more than genes and blood-relations: a parent is the person who feeds you, gets up in the night when you’re ill, goes to parents’ evenings, copes with tan­trums, worries about you. Above all, parenthood is about love: 1 Corinth­ians 13 is still relevant.

As 50 per cent of marriages in England end in divorce, surely it is unwise to assume that other models of relationship will neces­sar­ily fare any worse.
CAROL SMITH
8 Allerton Grange Gardens
Leeds LS17 6LL

From the Revd Dr Martin Henig
Sir, — With David Perry, I, too, fear that gay marriage will be a major topic of debate this autumn, but I fear it for the callous and illiberal attacks that will inevit­ably be made on lesbian and gay people.

Sooner rather than later, a pastorally sensitive solution has to be found to the gross discrepancy between human rights and the law of the land on the one hand, and the narrow-minded bigotry of some in the Church. In the short term, I hope that the Church will devise liturgies that can be used for the blessing of friendships of all sorts.

Our Lord does not seem to have had much or any interest in the topic of other people’s sexuality, but he was very direct in his admonition that we do not judge others, and insistent that we love one another. He is very direct, too, that we stand by those whom society marginal­ises, very direct in laying upon us the duty to care for the poor.

Inci­dentally, with regard to marital breakdown, I know many marriages that have broken down, but the four same-sex partnerships I know well have lasted for two or three decades in mutual love.
MARTIN HENIG
Wolfson College, Oxford OX2 6UD

From Mr Steve Vince
Sir, — Archbishop Tutu, who says “I can’t worship a homophobic God” (News, 13 August), can take com­fort. The Creator of the universe does not suffer from any morbid fear or aversion (which is what a “phobia” is) whatever; and not even the most militant member of Re­form in England or the Anglican Church League in Sydney is going to suggest to him that he should wor­ship any other god.
STEVE VINCE
13 Selwyn Close
Wolverhampton WV2 4NQ

letters@churchtimes.co.uk

From Mr Steve Vince
Sir, — Archbishop Tutu, who says “I can’t worship a homophobic God” (News, 13 August), can take com­fort. The Creator of the universe does not suffer from any morbid fear or aversion (which is what a “phobia” is) whatever; and not even the most militant member of Re­form in England or the Anglican Church League in Sydney is going to suggest to him that he should wor­ship any other god.
STEVE VINCE
13 Selwyn Close
Wolverhampton WV2 4NQ

letters@churchtimes.co.uk

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