North-London PCC votes against Bishops' same-sex marriage guidance

21 March 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

A PCC in North London has passed a motion condemning the House of Bishops' pastoral guidance which banned clergy from holding services of blessing for same-sex marriages ( News, 21 February).

The council of St Mary the Virgin, in the parish of East Barnet, passed the motion earlier this month as a response to the prohibition, and has now sent it to its diocesan bishop, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith.

The motion states: "The ongoing prohibition upon the public blessing of same-sex couples implies that the church has reservations about those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. We believe this is at odds with the bishops' firm rejection of homophobia."

The Rector of East Barnet, the Revd James Mustard, said that the bishops appeared to believe in "loving the sinner, not the sin" when it came to gay relationships. "The bishops are trying to solve this issue doctrinally . . . but that doesn't really help us in something like this, where it is going to be experience that guides us."

"This is very counter-productive," he said. "There are big consequences for mission. According to surveys, there could be up to 900 gay people in my parish, and they all have friends and family. I think there is a real problem there."

He said that it was important supporters of same-sex relationships began to make their voices heard, in case the bishops were lobbied only by those opposed to blessings for gay marriages.

The full resolution read:

To the Bishop of St Albans,

from the Rector, Churchwardens and Parochial Church Council of East Barnet.

1. In partnership with our bishops, we are committed to upholding the Established ministry of the Church of England in this parish. We believe that the church exists for the benefit of all: people of all faiths and none.

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2. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and others who do not identify as heterosexual, live in our parish, as they do in every parish in the land. The Church of England's bishops stand firmly against homophobia. It is implicit, therefore, that the church exists for everyone, to enfold the lives of all into our parish communities and incorporate them into the Body of Christ, whatever their sexuality.

 3. The ongoing prohibition upon the public blessing of same-sex couples implies that the church has reservations about those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. It suggests that the church does not cherish them so much as fully to embrace them. We believe this is at odds with the bishops' firm rejection of homophobia.

 4. The House of Bishops states "the proposition that same sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute" and it wishes to see virtues of "genuine mutuality and fidelity" in all relationships "maximized in society." This implies that same-sex relationships can be positive and can contribute to the common good.

 5. By limiting our ability publicly to bless and recognize God's grace in same-sex relationships, the House of Bishops implies that the church does not view them as positive and does not wish to encourage them. We believe this contradicts the bishops' desire to see the virtues of these relationships maximized in society.

 6. If we cannot publicly recognise God's grace in same-sex relationships, we do not believe we can fully incorporate people in these relationships, or those who might enter into these relationships, into the community of faith. We believe this is dissonant with the mission of the church.

 7. We urge the House of Bishops to adopt the Pilling Report's recommendation that "a priest with the agreement of the relevant PCC should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service."

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