England – the gay issue
Posted by Fr Mark on August 13, 2009
Bishops turn blind eye to gay wedding ceremonies in church
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) is increasing its print run of same-sex liturgy in anticipation of a thousand blessings a year when the law changes. Nine out of ten such ceremonies are conducted by heterosexual priests.
Despite efforts of conservatives in the worldwide Anglican hierarchy to maintain a strictly biblical line, the Western Church is heading inexorably down the liberal road.
Bishops are turning a blind eye to gay ceremonies, many in church, which mirror blessing services offered already each year to thousands of divorcees who have civil weddings.
Officially, churches will refuse to accept civil partnership ceremonies on their premises, but there are plans to offer gay Christians an unauthorised Anglican “pink wedding” afterwards. Hundreds of priests and bishops are expected to bless same-sex unions. There are no plans for the Church of England to authorise such a liturgy, but already the Church allows clergy to improvise their own services and privately many bishops endorse the practice.
Peter Crumpler, a spokesman for the Church of England, said: “Clergy are free to pray for anyone in a private and pastoral situation.”
The practice appears to challenge the compromise suggested by the Lambeth Commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to resolve the crisis over sexuality. The commission’s Windsor report called for a moratorium on same-sex blessings and ordinations of gay bishops.
Whether the report can save the Church from an irreparable split will become clear after February when it will be debated by the Primates of the 38 Anglican provinces worldwide.
By officially shunning civil partnerships, some see the Church as missing an opportunity to play a role in an important rite of passage. The Rev Martin Reynolds, a licensed priest in Wales and the official spokesman for the LGCM, has waited for his partnership of 25 years to become “legal” before having it blessed. He said that retired bishops are “queueing up” to perform the ceremony.
“Here we have a Church struggling like mad not to allow its buildings to be used for the registration of same-sex partnerships, while at the same time privately acquiescing to the blessings of same-sex partnerships in church buildings,” Mr Reynolds said.
The Rev Neil Richardson, the Rector of Holy Cross, Greenford, in the London diocese, a married father of three, has done 12 such blessings, most recently for a lesbian couple in September. That service included a reading about love from I Corinthians 13 which is one of the most popular in the authorised marriage liturgy.
Mr Richardson said that no bishop had ever attempted to stop him and claimed that they had all known what he was doing. One prelate, the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, has even gone so far as to endorse a new book of prayers, The Naked Year, published this month, which includes a positive reflection on the annual Gay Pride march in London and a prayer for the blessing service of a lesbian couple.
The Right Rev David Beetge, Bishop of Highveld in the South African province and a member of the Lambeth Commission, said: “There is a concept in the Church called ‘reception’. It is a theological concept, to do with how a Church receives something that is new. The Church is in a process of reception at the moment. I long for a Church that is courageous enough to extend the boundaries.”