ON St Valentine's Day last Friday, the Revd Andrew Cain got
engaged to his partner, Stephen Foreshew.
The following day, he saw the House of Bishops statement
(reproduced in full below), which repeated the ban on blessings in
church for same-sex unions, and ruled out same-sex marriage for
clergy or for anyone seeking to be ordained.
Mr Cain's marriage plans remain unchanged, he said on Tuesday.
"I have always believed in equal marriage; so it would seem very
odd, as someone who supports it, not to take advantage of it.
"I am aware of clergy wanting to get married who now feel unable
to do so, and have been very upset about that. They are saying 'Why
should I now stay in the Church?" And I am saying 'You have to
stay, and you have to get married, because it is our equal right to
do so; and if we believe in it, then we should do it.'"
The statement from the Bishops reads: "Getting married to
someone of the same sex would . . . clearly be at variance with the
teaching of the Church of England. The declarations made by clergy
and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have
real significance and need to be honoured as a matter of
"The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a
same-sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of
ministry. In addition, it considers that it would not be
appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a
The statement ends with a warning that, although "the C of E has
a long tradition of tolerating conscientious dissent and of seeking
to avoid drawing lines too firmly", the Bishops expected their
clergy to honour the vow of obedience made at ordination.
In the hours that followed its publication, gay clergy expressed
hurt and anger. The Revd Rachel Mann, Priest-in-Charge of St
Nicholas's, Burnage, in Manchester, wrote: "I actually cried when I
read the statement: wept. I am an emotional person, but I was
On Tuesday, Mr Cain, Vicar of St Mary with All Souls', Kilburn,
and St James's, West Hampstead, said the statement had come as a
shock, especially after the Archbishop of Canterbury's presidential
address at the General Synod on Wednesday. Archbishop Welby had
spoken of the search for "good disagreement", in the facilitated
conversations on sexuality recommended in the Pilling Report and
"Many thought we might have finally reached a place where we
could have a proper conversation about gay clergy in the Church,"
Mr Cain said. "This [statement] has killed the conversation dead. .
. It is such a shock and such a disappointment, because all bishops
know good and faithful gay and lesbian clergy and lay people."
Mr Cain and his partner have been together for 14 years. They
had their relationship blessed by a priest, eight years ago, in a
garden. "We have always been very open about our relationship," he
said. "Before all this blew up, I emailed our PCC and said we had
got engaged, and the response has been delighted."
When asked whether he expected gay clergy to be disciplined for
going ahead with same-sex marriages, he said: "They will have done
something which is a legal right, so do bishops really want to be
seen to be taking action against clergy who are taking up a legal
right; and wanting to live faithfully with their parnters for
life?" His own bishop had, to date, been "very supportive of gay
clergy, and created a safe environment for us", he said.
Despite a recommendation in the Pilling report that blessings
for civil partnerships be permitted as a "pastoral accommodation"
6 December), the Bishops stated on Saturday that the 2005 ban
on such blessings should be extended to include same-sex
The Bishops state that they do not wish "to interfere with the
clergy's pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of
prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the
light of the circumstances".
They speak, however, of "the assumption that any prayer will be
accompanied by pastoral discussion of the Church's teaching and
their reasons for departing from it. Services of blessing should
not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively
in other ways."
The Rector of St Laurence's, Cowley, in the diocese of London,
the Revd Stephen Hardwicke, advertises on the church's website that
it "now offers blessings to same-sex couples in committed and
On Tuesday, he said that he had been "appalled by the Bishops'
stance, which we think is hypocritical and basically unjust". He
described the guidance on giving couples seeking prayer a "pastoral
discussion of the Church's teaching and their reasons for departing
from it" as "complete and utter nonsense. It makes no sense
whatsoever. If you say first to the couple that they are departing
from the Church's teaching, what kind of prayer can you have after
On Wednesday, an online petition organised by the Revd Mark
Kenny, an NSM at St Gabriel's, Aldersbrook, in the diocese of
Chelmsford, had gathered 2369 signatures. It calls on the Bishops
to "rescind their opposition to equal marriage. To take back their
recent Pastoral Guidance. To create a Church where all are
Some have welcomed the Bishops' statement. The Revd Lee Gatiss,
director of Church Society, said on Sunday: "This is courageously
clear, and in accord with biblical teaching that homosexual
practice is seen by God as sin, along with heterosexual sins such
as adultery and extra-marital sex. . . It will be difficult for the
Bishops to implement their guidance in the face of the intense
lobbying they will face, and we must pray for them and support them
in any way we can as they seek to carefully shepherd the
Mr Cain said that he had been expecting to get married "in quite
a small service, then having a bunch of our friends round. But now
there has been such a massive reaction that people want to come.
We've even had bishops saying 'We want to come.'"
Question of the week:
Should there be tougher sanctions against clergy who marry their
House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex
15 February 2014
To the Clergy and People of the Church of England
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We write as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to
love one another as Christ has loved us. Our vocation as disciples
of Christ in God's world is to hold out the offer of life in all
its fullness. God delights always to give good gifts to his
The gospel of the love of God made known to us in the life,
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest of these
gifts. The call of the gospel demands that we all listen, speak and
act with integrity, self discipline and grace, acknowledging that
as yet our knowledge and understanding are partial.
As members of the Body of Christ we are aware that there will be
a range of responses across the Church of England to the
introduction of same sex marriage. As bishops we have
reflected and prayed together about these developments. As
our statement of 27th January indicated, we are not all in
agreement about every aspect of the Church's response.
However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding
and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and
one woman remains unchanged.
We are conscious that within both Church and society there are
men and women seeking to live faithfully in covenanted same sex
relationships. As we said in our response to the consultation
prior to the same sex marriage legislation, "the proposition that
same sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in
dispute. Same sex relationships often embody genuine
mutuality and fidelity…., two of the virtues which the Book of
Common Prayer uses to commend marriage. The Church of England
seeks to see those virtues maximised in society".
We have already committed ourselves to a process of facilitated
conversations across the whole Church of England in the light of
the Pilling Report. These conversations will involve
ecumenical and interfaith partners and particularly the wider
Anglican Communion to whom we rejoice to be bound by our
inheritance of faith and mutual affection. They will include
profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application
of scripture to which we all seek to be faithful. They will
involve particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgendered people. We believe that
Christian understandings of sexuality have a vital contribution to
make in our society's conversation about human flourishing.
The introduction of same sex marriage in our country is a new
reality and has consequences for the life and discipline of the
Church of England. We seek to model a distinctive and
generous witness to Jesus Christ in our pastoral guidance to the
Church at this time which is set out in the Appendix to this
The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people in all
times and situations. We continue to seek God's grace and the
prayers of the whole Church as we seek to proclaim that faith
afresh in this generation.
+ Sentamu Eboracensis
On behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of
The Church of England and the Marriage (Same Sex
Couples) Act 2013
The Church of England's teaching on
1. The Church of England's long standing teaching and rule are
set out in Canon B30: 'The Church of England affirms, according to
our Lord's teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union
permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do
part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on
either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the
hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and
affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the
one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and
2. The Book of Common Prayer introduces the Solemnisation of
Matrimony by saying, 'Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here in the
sight of God, and in the face of this congregation to join together
this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable
estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency,
signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and
his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with
his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of
3. The Common Worship marriage service, consistently with the
Book of Common Prayer, says, 'The Bible teaches us that marriage is
a gift of God in creation and a means to grace, a holy mystery in
which man and woman become one flesh…' The House of Bishops
teaching document of 1999 noted that: "Marriage is a pattern that
God has given in creation, deeply rooted in our social instincts,
through which a man and a woman may learn love together over the
course of their lives."
4. The Lambeth Conference of 1998 said 'in view of the teaching
of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a
woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for
those who are not called to marriage' (resolution1.10) This remains
the declared position of the Anglican Communion.
5. The same resolution went on to acknowledge 'that there are
among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual
orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are
seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's
transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering
of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience
of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are
loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons,
regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of
Christ.' It went on to 'condemn irrational fear of
homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and
commercialisation of sex.'
6. In February 2005 the Dromantine Communique from the Primates
of the Anglican Communion again affirmed the Anglican Communion's
opposition to any form of behaviour which 'diminished' homosexual
7. It stated: 'We …. wish to make it quite clear that in our
discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific
human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the
pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation
or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be
ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure
homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued
by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and
8. It was on the basis of this teaching that the then
Archbishops published in June 2012 the official Church of England
submission in response to the Government's intention to introduce
same-sex marriage. They arguments in it were based on the Church of
England's understanding of marriage, a set of beliefs and practices
that it believes most benefits society. During the legislation's
passage through Parliament, no Lord Spiritual voted for the
The effect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act
9. The Government's legislation, nevertheless, secured large
majorities in both Houses of Parliament on free votes and the first
same sex marriages in England are expected to take place in March.
From then there will, for the first time, be a divergence between
the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as
enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of
England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common
The effect of the legislation is that in most respects there will
no longer be any distinction between marriage involving same sex
couples and couples of opposite genders. The legislation makes
religious as well as civil same sex weddings possible, though only
where the relevant denomination or faith has opted in to conducting
such weddings. In addition, the legislation provides that no person
may be compelled to conduct or be present at such a wedding.
The Act provides no opt in mechanism for the Church of England
because of the constitutional convention that the power of
initiative on legislation affecting the Church of England rests
with the General Synod, which has the power to pass Measures and
Canons. The Act preserves, as part of the law of England, the
effect of any Canon which makes provision about marriage being the
union of one man with one woman, notwithstanding the general,
gender free definition of marriage. As a result Canon B30 remains
part of the law of the land.
When the Act comes into force in March it will continue not to be
legally possible for two persons of the same sex to marry according
to the rites of the Church of England. In addition the Act makes
clear that any rights and duties which currently exist in relation
to being married in Church of England churches do not extend to
same sex couples.
The legislation has not made any changes to the nature of civil
partnerships though it paves the way for a procedure by which
couples in civil partnerships can, if they choose, convert them
into a marriage. The Government has indicated that it will be later
this year before the necessary regulations can be made and the
first conversions of civil partnerships into marriages become
There are three particular areas on which some guidance is
necessary on the implications of the new legislation in relation to
our common life and ministry in England.
Access to the sacraments and pastoral care for people in
same sex marriages
In Issues in Human Sexuality the House affirmed that, while the
same standards of conduct applied to all, the Church of England
should not exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or
lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that
a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and who, instead,
chose to enter into a faithful, committed sexually active
Consistent with that, we said in our 2005 pastoral statement that
lay people who had registered civil partnerships ought not to be
asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship
before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and holy communion,
or being welcomed into the life of the local worshipping community
We also noted that the clergy could not lawfully refuse to baptize
children on account of the family structure or lifestyle of those
caring for them, so long as they and the godparents were willing to
make the requisite baptismal promises following a period of
We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships
to have a formal status. These include the joys of exclusive
commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition
of the relationship. To that end, civil partnership continues to be
available for same sex couples. Those same sex couples who choose
to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping
community and not be subjected to questioning about their
lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be
denied access to the sacraments.
Acts of worship following civil same sex
As noted above, same sex weddings in church will not be possible.
As with civil partnership, some same sex couples are, however,
likely to seek some recognition of their new situation in the
context of an act of worship.
The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to
produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the
registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not
provide services of blessing for those who registered civil
partnerships. The House did not wish, however, to interfere with
the clergy's pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of
prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the
light of the circumstances. The College made clear on
27 January that, just as the Church of England's doctrine of
marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice
also remains unchanged.
The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should
therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the
assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral
discussion of the church's teaching and their reasons for departing
from it. Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should
respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.
Clergy and ordinands
The preface to the Declaration of Assent, which all clergy have to
make when ordained and reaffirm when they take up a new
appointment, notes that the Church of England 'professes the faith
uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the
catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim
afresh in each generation.' This tension between the givenness of
the faith and the challenge to proclaim it afresh in each
generation, as the Spirit continues to lead the Church into all
truth, stands at the heart of current debates about human sexuality
and of what constitutes leading a life that is according to the way
At ordination clergy make a declaration that they will endeavour to
fashion their own life and that of their household 'according to
the way of Christ' that they may be 'a pattern and example to
Christ's people'. A requirement as to the manner of life of
the clergy is also directly imposed on the clergy by Canon C 26,
which says that 'at all times he shall be diligent to frame and
fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine
of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies,
wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.'
The implications of this particular responsibility of clergy to
teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church have
been explained as follows; 'The Church is also bound to take care
that the ideal is not misrepresented or obscured; and to this end
the example of its ordained ministers is of crucial significance.
This means that certain possibilities are not open to the clergy by
comparison with the laity, something that in principle has always
been accepted ' (Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991, Section
The Church of England will continue to place a high value on
theological exploration and debate that is conducted with
integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue
for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while
at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently
with that teaching.
Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly
be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England.
The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as
to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be
honoured as a matter of integrity.
The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same
sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry.
In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct
for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given
the need for clergy to model the Church's teaching in their
The Church of England has a long tradition of tolerating
conscientious dissent and of seeking to avoid drawing lines too
firmly, not least when an issue is one where the people of God are
seeking to discern the mind of Christ in a fast changing context.
Nevertheless at ordination clergy undertake to 'accept and minister
the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised
within it.' We urge all clergy to act consistently with that