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Church teaching on marriage disregarded: a crisis of authority?

by
09 August 2013

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From the Revd Toddy Hoare

Sir, - The Revd Neil Patterson's article ( Comment, 19 July) deserves a reply, because the Established Church needs to uphold and promote marriage as one of the building-blocks of society. Marriage has evolved, but Cranmer laid a good foundation for its future. Not every prospective bride and groom may grasp the ins and outs of Bible poetry and theology when being prepared for their big day, but trying to get them to enter into seeing how they complete God's creativity in freely joining what God in Adam and Eve divided does get some discussion going.

If the bride is on a me-me-me high and interested only in her procession, then the prognosis is not good. There was a wise old verger, when I was a curate, who would remark: "It won't last: they weren't with you." Sadly true, but from then more effort went into getting them with me.

Nevertheless, Mr Patterson overlooks, with a certain modesty, the fact that at some weddings the baby is already there and the big day might include a baptism. Perhaps this is nature's way into commitment?

Another good reason for the Church to promote marriage is that other religions, particularly Islam, are wanting when away from their cultural and home roots. Dazzled by the freedom of indigenous girls here, and frustrated by a system that keeps their own girls under lock and key, they have a problem that the recent convictions in Oxford of a group of girl-exploiters highlights.

Sex is here to stay, but, according to a Women's Hour programme that I had to listen to with my wife in the car, sex education is almost entirely lacking, because the parents assume that their daughter will be off to do it. Ignorance is not bliss; nor is endless intermarriage of cousins, judging by the remedial-surgery adverts.

Let the Church promote what is good and healthy, but stop the Church from invading every bedroom. The Roman Catholic Church still propounds its nonsense over contraception, which is a bit rich from a bundle of old bachelors. We should respect people's privacy, but let there be decent teaching for all about sex. The Prime Minister may be naïve in saying that marriage is good for all, but if that is where the young generation is, then the Church must rise to the occasion.

I do not want to see same-sex marriage, but I have written a Service of Commitment for same-sex couples which cannot be hijacked into a wedding, as so often a service of prayer and thanksgiving for divorcees was.

Each generation interprets life and values as it sees them, sometimes alongside and sometimes in opposition to the generation that has reared it. The Church as an institution, with its rules and regulations, invasion of bedroom privacy, and antiquated laws that not even its clergy understand, plus the glare of publicity from abuse and exploitation by clergy themselves, is not attractive to the young. Romance is not dead, however, and a wedding is a start along a stimulating spiritual path for many. They, in turn, will tell others.

TODDY HOARE
Pond Farm House, Holton, Oxford OX33 1PY

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