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Gay marriage: arguments for and against

07 September 2012


From the Revd Professor Martin Henig

Sir, - Praise God for the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John's forthright and honest article about gay marriage (Comment, 31 August). Until the Anglican Church as a whole is similarly honest and forthright, it will continue to be seen as unfair, cruel, repressive, and lacking in pastoral care for those who most need and crave it.

I know so many wonderful and committed Christians who are gay, among friends who were too meticulous to proceed to ordination because they were in a same-sex partnership. The Church has been the loser over the years.

What would Jesus think about a Church which marginalised a whole section of society like this? Don't we know? Are not the Gospels absolutely full of condemnation of those who obey the letter of the law and disregard the spirit?

When, at long last, the Church decides to accept all its children, as I have faith it will do sooner or later, it will be able to move on and become true to the mission that our Lord gave it: to succour all in need of help, and to tackle the big issues that beset humanity - war, hunger, disease, and disregard of the environment.

While people remain obsessed with preserving the sanctity of heterosexual marriage by banning gay marriage (though I don't see how the one affects the other in that way), we will rightly continue to be derided by many people of large and liberal hearts and minds as a rather pathetic joke.

Wolfson College
University of Oxford OX2 6UD

From the Rt Revd Dr Laurie Green

Sir, - Dr John's article challenges us all - especially us bishops - to "tell the truth about gays", and offers a covenant theology of marriage which "does not depend on gender or childbirth".

I once sat in on a series of seminars offered at Harvard by a group of eminent Roman Catholic ethical and biblical scholars. Their scholarship convinced me that the few references to homosexuality in the Bible are simply not applicable to the very different homosexual love in contemporary culture.

The biblical text does, however, witness to the overwhelming inclusivity exhibited by Jesus. It was a loving inclusivity that Jesus's immediate followers did not find easy to accept, and they were soon at loggerheads over whether the Church could include those who had not been circumcised, and were therefore sexually and culturally "unclean".

The outcome of that debate rocked the Early Church, but has since allowed such as me, a Gentile, to belong, and play a full part - not by virtue of my own "gender or childbirth", but by virtue alone of the grace of God. That debate stands as a biblical "worked example" of why the Church should deal with these questions of exclusion by primary reference to God's extravagant grace.

Despite this, Cardinal O'Brien has told Roman Catholics in Scotland that marriage cannot be redefined to include gay couples. Social history, however, undoubtedly shows that marriage has been refashioned repeatedly. Moreover, Jesus's statement that "the sabbath is made for mankind, not mankind for the sabbath" assures us that even God-given institutions can indeed change.

So the crucial question becomes: "Will this change to marriage impoverish, or enhance it?" Perhaps it would be an enhancement, for example, if same-sex marriage reminded heterosexual couples that there should be more equality within our marriages. I have counselled many a failing marriage where one of the partners saw themselves as superior to the other by virtue of "gender or childbirth".

As a bishop, I must also be true to church tradition. A theological statement, believed to date from before the formalisation of the eucharist, is usually sung in Latin as, "Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est" - "Where there is love, there is God." So, where we see love, this tradition says we should bless it.

Our lawyers can, I'm sure, find ways around "Establishment" difficulties, and allow the Church of England to fulfil the hopes of many gay couples by affirming their love and offering them the supports that marriage provides.

My initial reaction against gay marriage is being tempered by more careful reflection. Thus far, I am finding the arguments "for" increasingly convincing, and those "against" not sufficiently biblical.

Belclare, 86 Belle Hill
Bexhill-on-Sea TN40 2AP

From Mr John A. Ormes

Sir, - Regardless of any argument put forward by Dr John, "gay marriage" will always be regarded by me as wrong. Those who propose "gay marriage" might also be described as the "cabal of the noisy and the bullying" who wish to impose their desires on others (Letters, 31 August). A paedophile may love children, but that doesn't mean it is considered right; neither is a man's sexual desire for another man considered natural.

55a Blendon Drive, Bexley
Kent DA5 3AA

From the Revd Douglas Durand

Sir, - The article by Dr John fails to address the most important argument of all: what is marriage? The Oxford Dictionary defines marriage as "the legal union between a man and a woman". Consequently, persons in a partnership of the same sex cannot be called married. Far more important, however, is the definition of marriage given by Jesus.

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh." By quoting Genesis 2.24, Jesus goes back to God's definition of marriage when he created the world. Jesus explains what he means in Mark 10.8-9: "The two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two but one flesh. What God has joined together let no man put asunder."

This definition makes it abundantly clear that a homosexual relationship cannot be the same as Jesus's definition of marriage.

This has nothing whatever to do with the European Commission on Human Rights. Marriage, which is a unique relationship between a man and a woman, is in no way dependent on surveys and statistics.

The authority for this is natural law, and the authority of the Bible interpreted through the mind of Jesus. If any government in the United Kingdom tries to force a contrary definition of marriage on its citizens, they will have to decide whether to obey Caesar or God.

21 Nelson Road
Norfolk NR26 8BU

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