The government has played a very clever card. On the back of the the widespread public distaste at the failure of the Church of England to pass legislation on women bishops, it is now seeking to appease its own members who are opposed to gay marriage, by stopping the C of E from ever conducting such marriages. This helps them pass the legislation by keeping ultra Conservatives happy, whilst putting the blame squarely at the feet of the already unpopular C of E institution.
This is a terrible blow to all of us who are pushing for the opportunity to be able to perform same sex marriages within the Anglican tradition.
I had hoped that the legislation coming might lead to that eventuality. It seems correct to allow churches to make up their own minds, even if the process seems tortuous. I can cope with the fact that Quakers and Methodists are quicker of the mark on social justice issues, mostly because they 'pave the way' and make it easier for the larger denominations to eventually catch up.
The proposed legislation though, would never allow us to 'catch up' with our more progressive friends. It would be 'illegal' for us to ever perform same sex marriages, despite the fact that nearly 45% of clergy are not opposed to the idea.
It would eventually lead some of us to 'push the bouondaries' of the law and risk losing our jobs, or even facing convictions. This is truly absurd, and needs to be resisted by all, regardless of their position on gay marriages.
To exempt the Churches of England and Wales from the possibility of opting to perform same sex marriages will just lead to many of us eventually leaving for more progressive Anglican shores, or joining other denominations. This is crazy. I am an Anglican priest. I am proud of the fact that the Holy Spirit has moved in our Church and helped us to move from positions of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
It does take time, and the move to ordain female bishops shows these frustrations. Change though is possible, and we will see female bishops in 2/3 years. We cannot allow this government use legislation to stop the Church of England from ever allowing some of it's diocese's, parishes or clergy to endorse same sex marriage.
I hope that those in the leadership of the C of E will recognise that their position must change. Otherwise we will lose another generation, as our institution looks more and more irrelevant and unkind. It does not bode well for us that the 'nasty party' can easily pass us off as the 'nasty church'.
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