Priests go ahead with gay wedding

On Saturday I wrote about an American Anglican bishop who has banned church weddings because they do not provide complete equality for same-sex couples. At least he was giving some respect to the international rules that same-sex weddings cannot be performed in Anglican churches.

Only hours after I posted that, the news broke that here in England, in central London, those rules have been blatantly flouted, at least not by a bishop (the Bishop of London has ordered an investigation) but by a priest who performed what has been reported as a wedding ceremony, not just a blessing of a partnership, between two Anglican clergymen. Amazingly, Ruth Gledhill reports that similar services have been “happening regularly” for 30 years despite “breaking all the rules”.

The order of service shows that this is clearly intended as a wedding service, with vows and an exchange of rings, in language clearly deliberately adapted from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The preface, also printed in part and in edited form by the Daily Mail, is adapted from the preface which I quoted in my previous post:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together these Men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity. Such a covenant shows us the mystery of the union between God and God’s people and between Christ and the Church.

The Holy Scriptures point to the offering and receiving of love as the principle [sic] sign of God’s presence; the union of two people in heart, body and soul is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and that their love may be a source of grace and blessing to all whom they encounter. Today Peter and David wish to commend themselves to each other exclusively and publicly, in making a solemn covenant as a seal and sacrament of their mutual love and devotion. This step has been carefully considered and is not enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.

The first and last sentences are almost completely from 1662. The middle is partly a pastiche of it – note that “mutual society” has become “mutual joy” – mixed together with some bad theology and bad grammar. Here are the vows, repeated identically except for the names by each partner:

Peter (David), wilt thou take this man as thy partner, in the sight of God? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, as long as ye both shall live?

Peter (David) shall answer, I will. …

I Peter (David) take thee David (Peter) as my partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, and thereto I pledge thee my troth. …

With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. …

Then shall the Minister speak unto the people.

Forasmuch as David and Peter have consented together in a holy covenant, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands, I pronounce that they be bound together. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

This is followed by a celebration of Holy Communion.

This Order of Service does avoid the words “matrimony” and “marriage”, instead referring to “a holy covenant of love and fidelity”. Instead of “I thee wed” is the rather odd “I thee bind”, at which some minds might wander to stereotypes of homosexual practices. So I suppose some kind of case can be made that this is not intended as an actual wedding. But I note that the covenant is called “a seal and sacrament of their mutual love and devotion”. So if it is not holy matrimony but is a sacrament, what is it?

Here are a couple of sentences from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer which were not included in this service:

Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace. …

For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.

In the case of these two men, men ordained to ministry in the Anglican church, there is plenty of “just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together”, according to God’s law and also according to canon law which is the law of the land. For they have clearly been “coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow”. So even if perhaps we should “hereafter for ever hold [our] peace”, God will be their judge.

0 thoughts on “Priests go ahead with gay wedding

  1. Not being an Anglican, I’m not very familiar with the common book of prayer, but the last part that you mentioned, about how if it’s not done under God’s rules, then they’re not really married (my paraphrase) was very interesting…and somewhat surprisingly that they left it out. I say “surprising” b/c I would think that the couple (and others there supporting them) don’t feel as if God is against homosexual activity or gay marriage…I would think that they don’t feel that they’re doing anything against God’s Word…but the fact that they left that out…makes me kinda wonder how they view all this after all.

  2. Thanks, Rhea. I suspect that they left that part out because they don’t care much about God’s written word. They did include

    The Holy Scriptures point to the offering and receiving of love as the principle [sic] sign of God’s presence

    but all that proves (apart from their illiteracy) is their ignorance of what the Scriptures really say.

  3. I note that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement about this gay “wedding” reminding people of the rules that which forbid it. They conclude, very sensibly:

    Those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.

  4. I live in California, and Peter’s words about Lot have become a description of me: “for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Pet 2:8, TNIV).

    Please pray for California.

  5. I should think that going ahead with this marriage in the fear of God is very appropriate. I’m sure we should be crying out for God’s mercy on the church that has completely lost its way on this issue.

    I understand that people are confused and the desire to have a partner is natural and strong within the majority of the population. So what are we doing to help homosexuals in the church who are struggling with loneliness and isolation? It is easy to condemn those who wish to be in a gay partnership but does the church actually offer them something better? I believe we do, in the form of a joyful celibacy, but you don’t hear that talked about much do you?

  6. Mike, that’s a good point. As a man who has chosen singleness at least for now, without being gay even by orientation, I know very well the isolation of those without partners in a church dominated by married couples. We need to give welcome and support for those of any orientation who choose “joyful celibacy”. But instead such people are so often ignored and marginalised, treated as overgrown youth or prematurely old.

  7. Now the Bishop of London, despite his personal friendship, has issued what amounts to a public rebuke to Rev Martin Dudley who conducted this ceremony, noting also that investigations are continuing which could in principle lead to disciplinary action.

    The bishop also writes, in the covering letter to all his clergy and congregations,

    So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda.

    Amen!

  8. Ruth Gledhill reports a legal opinion on this ceremony by diocesan chancellor Dr James Behrens, commissioned by Anglican Mainstream, which concludes that

    The service at St Bartholomew the Great was indeed indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in an essential matter. It was therefore illegal.

  9. Unfortunately, this episode just places in the mind a view that this church has become a haven for ‘gay’ clergy. If a movie of the modern church were to be made, what would be its title? I can think of one, but I would not like to say it here. The movie would either be a comic farce or a tragedy.

    It is high time the Anglican Church defrocked all whose behaviour disqualifies them from holding office (but not much chance of that, I’m afraid!).

    I am sorry, but proceedings as those described make a mockery of Christianity and offend all true worshipers – not just within the Anglican communion. The traditional values of this church are being flouted at the highest level.

  10. Norman, I agree. But what should ordinary Anglicans like myself do about it? Should we just leave and let what remains go down the drain? Or should we stay and be a biblical witness? Not an easy question.

  11. Hi Peter,

    I’m sure that you have already reached your own personal decision and it is never easy standing up against the flow.

    What one decides will largely depend upon the local situation – the known views of the minister and the bishop – and whether or not there is any possibility of having an influence on decisions taken at higher level.

    How many homosexual clergy have a vote and influence in synod? Decisions and appointments may be impossible to reverse.

    Please don’t read into this that I am down on homosexuals – I am not. In my view, they are handicapped in such a way that disqualifies them from holding pastoral leadership positions – whatever other qualities they may have. Lovable though a Down’s person may be, such a person would be unsuitable for pastoral leadership. We accept this, because of the mental condition. The same should apply to homosexuals. A minister needs to be an exemplar for others to emulate, especially children. Through perhaps no fault of their own, this they cannot be.

    The Anglican Church needs to take some hard decisions – for the sake of the flock – and the sake of Christ.

  12. Pingback: ‘The Bartholomew Blessing’ - Shameless in the sight of God - Come now, and let us reason together

  13. Norman, thanks for the comment, and the link.

    There are surely some homosexuals on General Synod but not a majority. But the Synod has little power in such matters. It is really up to the bishops, if they have the will to act in matters like this, if they are prepared to make the necessary hard decisions. As for my own decision, this is on hold at the moment, but I remain in an Anglican congregation because of that congregation, and if I had to find a new one it would probably not be Anglican.

    I agree with you that people in homosexual relationships are not qualified for ministry. But I’m not sure that handicap is a good model for homosexuality. This is different from Down’s Syndrome people who can’t make themselves qualified. But in my opinion someone with homosexual orientation who repents of any past action and genuinely becomes celibate is qualified for ministry. So it is a matter of individual choice.

  14. Thank you, Peter. I wonder if the General Synod will act?

    ‘But in my opinion someone with homosexual orientation who repents of any past action and genuinely becomes celibate is qualified for ministry. So it is a matter of individual choice.’

    I wouldn’t take the risk, not unless there was complete healing. There are other areas of ministry that might be open – but not anything pastoral. Its not just homosexuals, in my opinion, lots of people are not suited to the pastoral ministry – for all kinds of reasons. 🙂

  15. Norman, I take your point. I don’t think pastoral ministry should be for anyone who has not experienced complete healing, so we agree really. But I would not say that “complete healing” for a homosexual would necessarily be a complete change of orientation, it might just be a full acceptance of celibacy. And as with any pastor there needs to be continuing accountability.

  16. In my view, they are handicapped in such a way that disqualifies them from holding pastoral leadership positions – whatever other qualities they may have.

    I wholeheartedly disagree! If we all have to wait for complete healing before we begin to minister then we will never do it. Or is that comment just for gay people? It may be that is not what you really mean, but I think it is important to say what we really mean and not just prejudiced generalisations. We are ALL in the process of healing and becoming more like Christ and all have sins we need to overcome. Why do we have to single out gay people as being ‘handicapped’? It’s complete nonsense!

  17. Mike, in general I agree with you. But note that Norman carefully referred to “pastoral leadership”. People who are not completely healed should certainly minister in various ways, under the authority of the leaders of their congregations. But I would think it dangerous to appoint someone to a senior pastor type position who has significant continuing unhealed areas in their life. I say this because such areas tend to become all too obvious under the responsibility and stress of a pastorate. I recognise that for this reason I am not suitable to a pastor, at least at present.

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  19. I’m totally blown away (should I be worried about you Christians reading something into that?) over the innuendo and ridiculous notions you people have not only concerning gays but over morality in general. At least the “good Christians” that you all show yourselves to be really comes out honestly and clearly in your attempt to broadcast stereotypes—as if pedophilic priests are the only stereotype of Christians we should promote, eh? I wonder how many of you morons would be up in arms over that, showing your hypocrisy right where starts: your heart of hearts, that place where you claim your God resides in each of you. And if I were of the type easily persuaded by the fairy tales of such a religion as yours, I would be ashamed to be anywhere near you people. God doesn’t cry over the gays. He cries over those who call themselves his own. They make a mockery of love, compassion, justice, and sincerity. They make a mockery of the words of their dead (and/or risen, who really cares) savior. The fact is: you people have an empty cross and an empty tomb. Like your religious professions here and holy opinions above: everything you have is empty. Like your words, actions, and convictions. Bah! No wonder Christianity is dying and no longer the largest religion in the world. It’s impotent and little more than a gay-bashing, redneck, hoedown. Bah!

  20. Peter, thank you for your reply. I agree with you that it is a ‘matter of choice’; I belive God will use anyone who is walking in the Spirit and obedience, in spite of their weaknesses and past life. Isn’t the Bible crammed full of examples! I do however agree with you of course, that things have to be dealt with in our lives before we can move to different levels of ministry.

    Norman, I disagree with your stance that all ‘homosexuals’ are somehow disqualified for pastoral minstry, on two points:

    Firstly, your blanket term ‘homosexuals’ is unhelpful. Human sexuality is a complex issue and many people experience varying degrees of attraction to both sexes. In the church many gay people have decided to marry in order to conform but in my opinion may still be referred to as homosexuals. It is absolutely vital to distinguish between those of ‘homosexual orientation’ and those in ‘practising homosexual partnerships’.

    Secondly, I do not believe that homosexual people are necessarily more broken than heterosexual people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and we all need healing. I find it worrying that you say you ‘wouldn’t take the risk’ even with someone who was walking in repentance. How indeed would you judge ‘complete healing’? It is the blanket condemnation all homosexuals that may provoke such comments from Anubis and others.

    You may find this article interesting to read; it describes eloquently the position many gay Christians face in the church. Thank you.

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