The Church Times reports that the bishops’ letter on same sex relationships is causing lots of push back from all parts of the Church of England:
The Bishops’ guidance repeats the ban on a formal blessing for a same-sex couple, though it does give clergy licence to pray with them informally, a move that has drawn criticism from conservatives.
By far the greatest criticism, however, has come from the other wing of the Church. The LGBTI Anglican Coalition said last Sunday that it was “appalled” by the House of Bishops’ guidance. “In this document we see no acceptance of disagreement at all, but instead a heavy‐handed and legalistic imposition of discipline.”
The Coalition said that it was “ludicrous” to assert that the Church welcomed LGBTI people while it was impossible to have a C of E gay wedding or a church blessing for same-sex couples. The Coalition also criticised the production of the pastoral guidance in the light of a professed desire for dialogue. “The statement was made without any consultation with openly gay people, and fails to acknowledge that some of the bishops who are signatories are understood to be gay themselves. This heightens the corrosive sense of hypocrisy and cynicism with which this issue is surrounded in the Church.”
A group of 21 academics, including Professors Linda Woodhead and Diarmaid MacCulloch, have written that the guidance is wrong. The correspondence between Dr. Woodhead and the members of the House of Bishops is here.
The Thinking Anglicans Website has published a letter from Prof. Linda Woodhead (and others) which has been sent to members of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. In her letter Prof Woodhead says “Our attempts to resolve this matter by writing to Mr Arora and Mr Fittall have failed.”
That correspondence is reproduced below in chronological order for those interested in such matters.
In addition there has been a limited discussion on twitter which can be viewed via the @LindaWoodhead or @RevArun accounts.
The first exchange of correspondence between Prof Woodhead, Arun Arora and Prof Diarmaid Macculloch covers the dates 17 Feb – 18 Feb. The second exchange of correspondence between Prof Woodhead and William Fittall covers 24-27 Feb.
The Rt Rev. Alan Wilson weighs in, on the letter to bishops, on his blog:
I wrote today to fellow bishops, along with many academic colleagues more skilled in the field than me, to see if they might care to correct a foolish historical howler in the understanding that informed their recent letter on same-sex marriage.
It seems to me vastly unfair on those who struggled against Deceased Wife’s Sister marriages between 1842 and 1907 to suggest that a marriage setup that ran counter to Leviticus 18:18 should be a minor matter of “accidents” whilst one that potentially breaches Leviticus 18:24 should be a fundamental, matter of “substance.”
27th February 2014
Error in the Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriages
We write to alert you to the fact that an important statement in the Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriages issued on 14th February is wrong.The guidance claims that: “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 Prayer.” – House of Bishops, 14th Feb 2014, Appendix, para 9.
This is inaccurate. Civil law and church teaching have diverged before, on at least two occasions. The first was in relation to the marriage to a deceased wife’s sister, the second in relation to the remarriage of divorcees.There has been a robust discussion of this topic between experts on ecclesiastical history, law and sociology which Dr Scot Peterson summarises here. We are all in agreement that the statement in the Bishops Guidance is mistaken and misleading. Since it forms an important part of the case which is being made, we felt it was right to draw the mistake to your attention. We respectfully ask that it be corrected.
Our attempts to resolve this matter by writing to Mr Arora and Mr Fittall have failed. There is growing concern amongst the academic community about the situation.
Looking to the future, some of us are anxious to improve channels of communication with the Church, so that our research and scholarship can be used constructively. If you would be interested in a meeting to discuss this issue, we would be very grateful if you would reply to Professor Woodhead.
Professor Callum Brown FRSE, University of Glasgow
Professor Arthur Burns, King’s College London
The Revd Dr Mark Chapman, Ripon College Cuddesdon
Professor Grace Davie, University of Exeter
The Revd Duncan Dormor, St John’s College, University of Cambridge
Professor Kenneth Fincham, University of Kent
Professor Sarah Foot, Christ Church, University of Oxford
Dr Matthew Guest, University of Durham
The Revd Dr Carolyn Hammond, Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge (member of FAOC)
Professor Gerard Loughlin, University of Durham
Elizabeth MacFarlane, St John’s College, University of Oxford
The Revd Dr Judith Maltby, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford
Professor Iain McLean FBA, Nuffield College, Oxford
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch FBA, Saint Cross College, University of Oxford
The Revd Professor David Martin FBA, London School of Economics
Dr Charlotte Methuen, University of Glasgow (member FAOC)
The Revd Dr Jeremy Morris, King’s College, University of Cambridge
Dr Scot Peterson, Balliol College, University of Oxford
Professor Alec Ryrie, University of Durham
The Revd Dr Robert Tobin, Oriel College, University of Oxford
Revd Dr William Whyte, St John’s College Oxford
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
Professor John Wolffe, The Open University, President of the Ecclesiastical History Society
Professor Linda Woodhead, University of Lancaster