EXTENDING marriage to
same-sex couples might be a "redemptive step", a member of the
Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) has said, in an article regarded
by some as a minority report to the Commission's much-criticised
paper on marriage, Men and Women in Marriage, which was
published on Wednesday of last week (
Comment, 12 April).
The article by the Revd Dr
Charlotte Methuen, a lecturer in church history at the University
of Glasgow, entitled "Marriage: one man and one woman?",
was published on the Open Democracy website last Friday.
After a survey of the
biblical and historical understanding of marriage, including
observations about polygamy, the submission of women, and
inequality, Dr Methuen writes: "I recognise that the Faith and
Order Commission's document offers one theological justification
for the Church of England's current position on marriage, but I
cannot see marriage simply and uncritically as part of the 'goods'
of creation. . .
"One of the flaws of our
current conception of marriage may be precisely the emphasis on
'one man and one woman', which seems consistently to imply
expectations about the role of women and men which tend to be
biologically determinist, and which reach beyond the question of
who is biologically capable of bearing children."
between gay people may be "less fraught" than those between
straight people, she suggests, "precisely because the couple is not
having to negotiate centuries of expectation of how men and women
should relate to one another. Extending the definition of marriage
to include same-sex couples might, in fact, be a redemptive step.
For it might allow the institution of marriage to transcend the
profound inequalities between men and women which have too often
Speaking on Monday, Dr
Methuen said that the article was published "as a contribution to
the current debate". The Commission's paper was published a month
earlier than originally planned, so that the publication of the two
The Commission's paper was a
response to its task to produce "a theological justification of the
Church of England's current position. This is obviously something
very different from what my own piece is doing," Dr Methuen said.
"There is always a balance to be struck between the views of the
individual members of the Commission, and the work the Commission
The Commission's paper has
met with confusion and criticism. On Saturday, the Bishop of
Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, wrote on his blog that it had
provoked "scorn from all sides".
On the day of its
publication, the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, described
one paragraph as "pure waffle", and identified "genteel homophobic
assumptions": "It does not speak for all Christians, as it claims
to, because many Christians do not regard gay people as in any way
On Friday of last week, the
Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, a Non-Stipendiary Minister at St John the
Evangelist, Hale, in the diocese of Guildford, wrote on her blog:
"I hate the theology, the psychology, the philosophy and the lack
of respect and love in this document. I hate that it feels like we
as the Church of England judge, we exclude, we nit-pick, we show
little understanding or grace."
On Monday, the Revd Thomas
Seville CR, a member of the Commission, said that the report was
"as clear as it could be" on the question of what it refers to as
"accommodations" for same-sex couples.
"The issue of producing a
report in soundbites, which has its temptations, is that you end by
giving people something superficial. 'Well-designed accommodation'
is a good one, it leaves things open which we should not really
have been speculating on." The Commission had been "mindful" of the
fact that the Pilling Review, which is looking at the Church's
approach to sexuality, is due to report: "We did not want to be
messing up their patch," he said.
The Commission had been
"very concerned not to make judgements or condemnation about other
forms of relating, but we were stating positively what the Church
of England actually taught." There was much discussion of the FAOC
paper, but it was agreed that it should be sent on to the House of
Bishops Standing Committee, and then to the House of Bishops." Fr
Seville said he hoped that the Commission would look at the issues
raised in Dr Methuen's paper in the future.
On Wednesday of last week,
the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, welcomed the
report: "We wish to see marriage itself strengthened, not weakened,
and married couples supported."