org's blog- The confessions of a Sci-fi addicted vicar

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Today has not been a day I've been proud to wear my dog collar, but I think I've calmed down enough to blog about this now.

Having read through the House Of Bishop's response to the consultation on marriage being made available to gay people, and discussed the reaction to the response in the press with my good, dear friends on twitter, my issues seems to boil down to two simple problems:

- When it is reported that "the Church Of England says", who is actually doing the 'saying'?

- Can the definition and institution of marriage be as changeable as any other word and institution?

Issue one has come up many times in the past, and will no doubt do so in the future. Clearly the statement is from the house Of Bishops of the CofE, but are they the Church Of England? Certainly they have an important role to play within the church, as pastors and symbols of unity. Of course, it's the latter feature that's problematical- how can you be a focus of unity, when clearly not everyone in your diocese let alone your whole church is going to agree with all the things you believe? The bishops themselves don't agree with one another on everything, let alone the people they represent. So when the press reports 'The Church Of England says', the actuality is usually, 'some of the significant members of CofE say'. Such accurate statements don't sell papers or garner attention on TV & radio though, so the press are as much to blame in some ways for my anger today.

But surely there must be some issues the church can speak about with one voice? Historically there have been basic issues over which church unity has revolved, key issues of doctrine that early on in the life of the church got enshrined in what we call creeds. Marriage of any kind has never been in them though.

'Traditionalists' would argue that marriage is a credal issue (hence risking disunity), since scripture's primacy is affirmed by the creeds, and the Bible clearly says that marriage is between a man and a woman. But there are many things that to quite a few Christians are not as cut and dry as the Bible makes out. Our understanding of mental illness for example has come a long way from the times of Jesus, when those who were mentally ill were seen as being possessed by demons. Our attitude to slavery, the position of women and children in society, the relative worth of various makes of mobile phone*, our attitude to family and society in general- all have changed from the days of the good book. And that is natural, because change is natural and from God.

Which brings us onto the second point- can our definition of marriage change? The House Of Bishops (or at least a majority of them) thinks not. Some of my colleagues in the ministry that I met over lunch today clearly think not, with one clearly harking back to a medieval definition that quite frankly gave me a case of the screaming heebie-jeebies in it's harshness and lovelessness.

But not all the Church Of England believes this. Not even all the bishops think this. Yes, in Biblical times getting married was all about children, dating from the days of the OT when the Israelites saw it as the mission from God to multiply and be fruitful and fill the promised land.

But now? Really? What about those who are married and can not have children? What about those of us who think it responsible for the good of the environment to limit the number of our children (to say nothing about the consequences on our bank balance and the mental well-being of older siblings)? Is marriage really all about becoming a baby-factory?

And can marriage never be between a man who has fallen in love with another man, or a woman who has fallen in love with a woman? I've met gay partners who have displayed far more love and affection for one another than straight couples. Was that not real, not God given?

And now I'm ranting so I'll stop...

*Okay, I made that one up.

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