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Gay marriage: the debate continues

14 September 2012


From the Rt Revd Graham Dow

Sir, - The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John (Comment, 31 August), sets out the arguments for Christian support for gay marriage. He argues that marriage is covenant love, and there is nothing essential to marriage between a man and a woman which is lacking in a same-sex partnership. There is, therefore, no objection to treating the divine institution of marriage as applicable to a same-sex partnership.

Bishop Laurie Green (Letters, 7 September) also argues that there have been many changes to marriage. But none has been as fundamental as setting aside the bringing together of a man and a woman.

The purposes of marriage as given by God are declared in our Anglican liturgies as bringing a man and a woman together as one, who then belong to each other, are united in love, and provide comfort and help to each other. They strengthen their union in a sexual relationship; and they have children who are brought up in accordance with God's will.

If we consider how these purposes can be worked out in a gay marriage: first of all, such a partnership will certainly provide comfort and help to each in a covenant of loving unity.

As to children, they cannot be conceived from both partners in a same-sex couple; nor can they be reared with parents able to provide for the child a role-model in society of both men and women.

The great unmentionable in this discussion is the sexual relationship. Issues need to be aired about the appropriateness or otherwise for all couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, of certain forms of sexual intimacy. At what point do such expressions cease to reflect wholesome human sexual bonding as God created it to be? In a same-sex marriage, the traditional form of sexual expression and that which gives rise to children is not possible.

So the argument that there is nothing present in traditional marriage, as its purposes have been declared by the Church, which is not present in a same-sex marriage is not, after all, convincing. Marriage, as given by God, is for a man and a woman. Whatever form the institution for same-sex partnership comes to take, let us not call it marriage.

34 Kimberley Avenue, Romiley SK6 4AB


From the Revd Paul Burr

Sir, - The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John identifies his "own relationship of 37 years" with that of "thousands of other same-sex couples", and asks what the missing ingredient is when compared with "heterosexual marriages". The missing ingredient in the Dean's relationship is sex: the Church tolerates civil partnerships among clergy only provided the parties are celibate. It is surprising that this could have been forgotten.

As for the wider question, no sophistry can obscure the simple fact that all reference to marriage in the scriptures is posited on the union of male and female.

The Church's present position is, of necessity, a nuanced one. Of course there is a gospel for gay people: it is the same as for everyone else. But the integrity of bishops is not to be determined solely on the basis that their public utterance accords with their private views.

Bishops have "a special responsibility to maintain and further the unity of the Church, uphold its discipline and guard its faith": so they acknowledge a duty to put the Church's integrity before their own. Any priest holding senior office should know better than to impugn bishops for pastoral comments that they may have made which are expressly or implicity confidential - especially if they have been as generous to Dr John as he alleges.

The Vicarage, The Common, Swardeston, Norwich NR14 8EB


From the Revd Dr Hannah Cleugh

Sir, - My personal views concerning the question of gay marriage notwithstanding, I am astonished at your decision to print John Ormes's letter (7 September).

Mr Ormes is entirely free to regard gay marriage as "wrong", and entirely free also to take issue with its proponents. Where I take profound issue with his letter is with his paralleling of paedophilia and homosexuality, as though the two were somehow morally equivalent.

They are not; and the insidious suggestion that they are feeds into the homophobic prejudice and discrimination that has no place in any Christian community.

26 Windrush Road, Berinsfield, Wallingford OX10 7PF


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