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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Minority madness

Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for it and died penniless in exile. Alan Turing killed himself after providing our nation with unparalleled service in our greatest need. Just two tragedies illustrating that prejudice against homosexuality does humanity no credit. But is there a line to be drawn? Estimates suggest that just 1% of the population consider themselves gay or lesbian, only some of whom would like the opportunity to be 'married' rather than to be bound by a civil partnership. This is seen as a step too far, particularly in a religious context. The debate about same-sex marriage appears to be out of all proportion to the numbers involved but an injustice is still an injustice if it is legitimate. But what of justice for whom marriage is a sacrament which joins man and woman together for the procreation of children in biological and spiritual union as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer:

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,

   DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together 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 Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
      First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
      Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.
      Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. 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.

Government assertions
 that churches will not be forced into conducting same-sex unions have already been dismissed. There is a cautionary warning from Canada here.

The Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, summed up the position in this piece in the Guardian: the CofE had been supportive of civil partnerships when the legislation was introduced eight years ago. But he added: "I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is to say that there can be no distinction at all between men and women. The government is seeking to meet what it perceives to be the needs of the gay community. I would say that the Church of England is sympathetic to those needs, we want to see a society in which gay people are fully included and their needs are fully provided for.""But this does not amount to a basis for introducing a complete redefinition of the concept of marriage based on a consultation process which is at the very least rapid
"From a standing start within three months to arrive at a fully considered, weighed and articulated redefinition of a fundamental social institution which has been thought about in one particular way for centuries and which is broadly accepted as a social institution in the same way internationally - to change all that on the basis of a consultation like this seems to be at the very least unwise and ill considered."

What I find remarkable about this debate (which seems to have arrived from nowhere and has become such a divisive issue when there has been no mandate for change) is the supposed drive for justice for a tiny minority view which confuses equality with uniformity. Why is it that those in the Church of England who now see themselves in the majority do not have the same regard for those of us who, through synodical procedure, find ourselves in a minority as we seek to uphold our traditional belief in the priesthood in common with the wider Apostolic church?  The Church of England at last sees the writing on the wall with the threat of exclusion. Many of us already know what that means!  


  1. I disagree that believing marriage that should remain exclusively between a man and a women is enough of reason to block others from marrying. There is a lot to be said in the joking comment from stonewall: 'if you don't like gay marriage then we strongly advise you not to marry someone of the same sex.'

    Your religious belief in marriage is your opinion after all, considering not everyone is Christian, and not every Christian is against equal marriage.

    Marriage has been redefined many times in recorded history:

    Here is a good blog entry countering other claims often made against equal marriage:

  2. Thank you for your contribution Charles. My objection is not wholly on religious grounds. I do not understand why same-sex couples would want to be 'married' out of what appears to be pure self-interest while being dishonest in the process. If you look at '38 Degrees' listed under blogs I follow
    you will note, not for the first time, that those opposed to same sex marriage are classed as homophobic bigots discriminating against a minority. From a religious point of view I know only too well what it is like to be discriminated against (in my case for holding to the Apostolic faith) and do not discriminate against gays.
    It should also be noted that the link you provide regarding redefined marriage is between a man and a woman. While welcoming civil partnerships some foresaw the resulting clamour for so called equality in marriage which is where we are now. Again, from a religious perspective, it is the ordination of women all over again. Give an inch, take a mile.

  3. I would agree that activists brand people homophobes very quickly these days, which can be very counterproductive, especially here in the UK.

    Now, I speak for myself and therefore this is anecdotal, but also I would like to stress the human side to this whole debate.

    I am gay. I struggled through my teenage years very much in the closet. Family is very important to me and one of the things I have always wanted very deeply was to have a family and children of my own. However, the social attitude towards gay relationships made them seem inferior to me (civil partnerships arrived when I was 14 and clearly appeared to me to have a lesser social standing than marriage). I felt the only way I could get my loving family was by pretending to be straight. It was horrible. I tried dating girls, but it felt wrong and I never had any feelings apart from friendship towards them. I then realised how terrible it would be to marry a woman and have the very foundations of a marriage based on a lie.

    My teenage years as a gay guy were easy in comparison to some. Society has not got there yet. Nearly, but not quite. By extending civil marriage to same-sex couples, the government is sending out a message to all the gay teenagers out there: 'it's ok- you're ok, and you can have a loving and stable relationship and a family just like everyone else.'

    In your original post you say: 'the debate about same-sex marriage appears to be out of all proportion to the numbers involved but an injustice is still an injustice if it is legitimate.' I see injustice. We disagree on the legitimacy, and yes there are plenty of more unjust things in this world, but at least you can imagine how some people feel very strongly that the current system should change.

    I want to be able to marry the person I plan to spend the rest of my life with, not 'civil partner' them. I want the things you want- stability, love and respect from society. To say that this would 'weaken' the institution is frankly very insulting. I am a real person who would be affected by this legislation. I am not an activist.

  4. "It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication"

    Totally an aside, but can someone explain this to me? Isn't "fornication" defined as sex outside of marriage. Isn't it sort of begging the question, then, to say marriage was established to prevent it? Does it even make sense to speak of "fornication" PRIOR to the concept of marriage?