Gay marriages?

by
21 March 2012

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From the Revd Toby Sherring

Sir, — The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, has des­cribed the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage as “patently un­principled” (News, 16 March).

Would it not be more accurate, and consistent with his expectation that the Church should “uphold justice and truth”, to say that the opposition is based on principles with which he disagrees? This looks like another example of so-called liberal and inclusive ecclesiology, which is only dogmatic and exclusive when it comes up against other points of view.

TOBY SHERRING

11 Meath Mews, Mosman Park

WA 6012, Australia

TOBY SHERRING

11 Meath Mews, Mosman Park

WA 6012, Australia

From the Rt Revd Michael Bourke

Sir, — Professor James Grayson’s interesting anthropological per­spective on the definition of marriage (Letters, 16 March) draws our atten­tion to the shift in the perception of sexual relations from a reproductive to a recreational focus.

It is customary to date this shift to the 1960s, but the way was prepared theo­logi­cally by the Lambeth Conference of 1958, which affirmed the freedom of married couples to make their own conscien­tious decision about the use of contraceptives. Within marriage, this certainly opened the door to a more “recreational” ap­proach, and also to the far-reaching changes in gender roles with which society and the Church are still coming to terms.

The Church, of course, may err, and Chris­ten­dom’s largest com­munion still refuses to endorse this development. But if Anglicans have departed from traditional ethical norms, this must surely be dated to 1958 rather than to the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Those who share Professor Grayson’s concerns need to clarify the scope of what they propose. Is their counter-cultural challenge aimed at the lifestyle of the vast heterosexual majority, within as well as outside marriage? If so, it will be fascinating to follow its pastoral, evan­gelistic, and ecumenical outworkings. Or is their critic­ism merely aimed at the narrower and easier target of homosexuality, where it can conveni­ently be reinforced by ancient prejudice?

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I believe that, in the perspective of history, the issue of homosexual relations will be seen as a footnote to the broader question of con­tra­ception, and that the Church’s affirma­tion of faithful, covenanted relationships of both a “reproductive” and “recreational” nature follows logically from the 1958 decision.

MICHAEL BOURKE

The Maltings, Little Stretton

Shropshire SY6 6AP

MICHAEL BOURKE

The Maltings, Little Stretton

Shropshire SY6 6AP

From Mr Hugh Harries

Sir, — “Love is love wherever it is found” (Letters, 16 March). Is it the view of the Revd Raymond Avent and others that adulterous relationships are therefore acceptable, as presum­­ably they must be? “Anyone who lives in love lives in God and God lives in him” (1 John 3.16). One wonders how the writer of the New Testament letter would have felt if he had seen his words used in this way.

HUGH HARRIES

19 Keynshambury Road

Cheltenham, Glos GL52 6HB

HUGH HARRIES

19 Keynshambury Road

Cheltenham, Glos GL52 6HB

From Mr Humphrey Clucas

Sir, — The Archbishop of York invokes the Book of Common Prayer while arguing against gay marriage (News, 16 March). The BCP service gives three rea­sons for matrimony: the procreation of child­ren, a remedy against sin for those who “have not the gift of continency”, and the “mutual society, help and comfort” of the two persons concerned.

The second and third would clearly apply to gay marriage. As for the first, the rubric before a prayer for fruitfulness states that it may be omitted “when the woman is past child-bearing”. So procreation is not essential to Christian marriage.

Of course, the BCP talks of a man and a woman. I suggest, nevertheless, that it may be invoked by either side.

HUMPHREY CLUCAS

19 Norman Road, Sutton, Surrey SM1 2TB

HUMPHREY CLUCAS

19 Norman Road, Sutton, Surrey SM1 2TB

From the Chancellor and Vicar-General of the Diocese of London

Sir, — I wish to trouble your readers one last time on the subject of the House of Bishops Pastoral Statement on Civil Partner­ships.

The reason why the Revd Gavin Foster (Letters, 16 March) and I have come to different conclusions on this matter is that we have adopted different approaches. I have adopted a judicial approach without any preconceived ideas about what I think the Statement says or should say. I looked at the words of the whole Statement to see what they did in fact say, not just the passages I quoted, and I also looked at Canon B5, which is rele­vant to the issue.

There was no interpretation on my part, as the Statement is clear and unambiguous; and I stated the legal situation, giving the words of the Statement their ordinary natural meaning in the context of the Statement as a whole and in accordance with Canon B5. I was not seek­ing to have anyone believe anything, as it is not a matter of belief.

Mr Foster has come up with something entirely different because he has not approached the matter with an open and independent mind. He has started from what he believes the Statement was intended to say and has then interpreted what he says he thinks the Statement means, even though that is not what the words actually say. That is not the way somebody acting judicially can, or should, approach the question, which is why I did not.

NIGEL SEED

3 Paper Buildings, Temple

London EC4Y 7EU

NIGEL SEED

3 Paper Buildings, Temple

London EC4Y 7EU

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