THE Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, acknowledged that he was “entering a minefield” when he chose to speak about same-sex marriage in his presidential address. “There are no easy simple answers to complicated ethical problems, nor is there a straightforward single Christian perspective on it, in spite of what some people may think.” He was “trying to open up discussions”.
He acknowledged that many individual Christians and churches “insist homosexual relationships are against God’s law as revealed in Scripture, and contrary to nature, and that we ought not to be even considering the matter, let alone the civil marriage of people of the same gender”.
His concern, he said, was that in any discussion, “gay people may once more gain the impression that the Church is uncaring and unsympathetic. Things could be said in the coming months which I think could seriously damage people pastorally.”
The Welsh Bishops had recently issued a statement in which it abided by “the Christian doctrine of marriage as the union of one man with one woman freely entered into for life”, but it acknowledged that, “while issues of human sexuality are not resolved, there are couples living in other lifelong committed relationships who deserve the welcome, pastoral care, and support of the Church. . .
“The real question is: how do we hold together faithfulness to scripture and tradition with the wider New Testament call to love our neighbour? Within a local congregation, homosexual people and their partners often form an uncomfortable mismatch with what some in the Church regard as a lifestyle condemned in scripture.
“Homosexual people often feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, and sometimes leave for a more accepting church. Their doing so might solve the tension within that particular congregation, but further heightens the tension between so-called conservatives and liberals in the Church.
“If the moral aim of the gospel is to encourage love of neighbour, how can that happen when people are made to feel unwanted, unloved, and sinful? How is the gospel good news for homosexuals?”
The Church would have to accept the reality of same-sex married couples, he said, if the Government changed the law. “The state’s understanding of marriage will be the same as the Church’s: namely, a commitment for life, except that it will now be offered to same-sex couples. I cannot see how we as a Church will be able to ignore the legality of the status of such partnerships, and we ought not to want to do so.
“The question then, as now, is: will the Church protect and support pastorally, faithful, stable, lifelong relationships, of whatever kind, in order to encourage human values such as love and fidelity, and recognise the need in Christian people for some public religious support?”
Afterwards, the Archbishop said: “There are couples of the same sex who are members of our churches, and we have got to find a way of welcoming them. . .
“I decided to focus on homosexuality because the Government is saying that it intends to bring legislation about civil marriage for gay people. . . It has ramifications for the Church.
“I think it is disingenuous for the Home Secretary to say there is the state’s view of marriage, and the Church’s view of marriage, because up until now there has been a uniform view.”
He said that the Church cannot disregard the probably new situation “any more than when the Church in Wales didn’t remarry divorced people who wanted to be married in church. We nevertheless acknowledged the fact that they were divorced and remarried. In the same way, if we have people in our congregations who are homosexual, and who have undergone a civil marriage, we can’t disregard that, and nor should we want to do so. That has implications for how we welcome them.”