Week or so back, in a move that surprised everybody, the Church of England remembered for a brief moment what it was a Church of.
They issued a statement saying that sex was only for married people.
They said only men and women could marry. Each other, that is. And they said sodomy was a no-no.
When they woke up and realized what they had done, they retreated faster than the Brits running from Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.
Justin Welby squished to the nearest microphone and apologized for God proscribing sodomy. He lisped “We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this [statement] has caused.”
Here are the details.
The news on 23 January was “Sex is for married heterosexual couples only, says Church of England“.
The Church of England has stated that sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, and that sex in gay or straight civil partnerships “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings”.
Bishops have issued pastoral guidance in response to the recent introduction to mixed-sex civil partnerships, which says: “For Christians, marriage — that is, the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows — remains the proper context for sexual activity.”
The church “seeks to uphold that standard” in its approach to civil partnerships, and “to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships” within such partnerships.
It adds: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings.”
The affirmation of traditional teaching at a time when the church is undergoing a major review of sexuality and marriage will delight conservatives.
Delight is too strong a word. Amused is better. No one on the right had any confidence it would last, and it didn’t. Plus, the “guidance” itself, while pleasing in parts, was not strong or consistent.
Still, it said some good things (pdf):
It has always been the position of the Church of England that marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace. Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman making a public commitment to each other, is central to the stability and health of human society. We believe that it continues to provide the best context for the raising of children, although it is not the only context that can be of benefit to children, especially where the alternative may be long periods in institutional care.
Members of the CofE will be shocked by that “permanent” business. Had they ever heard it before?
In the light of this understanding the Church of England teaches that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (Marriage: a teaching document of the House of Bishops, 1999). Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.
Saying these relationships fall short God’s purpose falls short of calling such acts sinful. Or even wrong.
Because of the ambiguity about the place of sexual activity within civil partnerships of both sorts [same- and opposite-sex], and the church’s teaching that marriage between a man and a woman is the proper context for sexual intercourse, we do not believe that it is possible for the church unconditionally to accept civil partnerships as unequivocally reflecting the teaching of the church.
You can feel the “but” coming—and it does, down a couple of paragraphs. “It will be important, however, to bear in mind…” Same kind of thing that followed the 10 Commandments, no?
Call the whole thing a minor victory in the culture wars.
Which only lasted a week.
Headline on the 30th: Church sorry for saying that sex is just for married heterosexuals
The archbishops of Canterbury and York have apologised over a statement issued by Church of England bishops last week which declared that only married heterosexuals should have sex.
Justin Welby and John Sentamu said they took responsibility for releasing the statement which “jeopardised trust”. They added: “We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”
The archbishops’ statement did not retract the substance of the “pastoral guidance” issued by the bishops, but implied it should not have been issued while the C of E is in the midst of a review of its teaching on sexuality and marriage.
Gee, I wonder what the review will “discover”.
The archbishops’ statement said: “We as archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.
How reiterating what scripture and thousands of years of tradition have said about marriage and sex “jeopardised trust” with churchgoers is a mystery. Don’t they have Bibles? That it caused hurt is surely true. Lot of effeminacy about these days. People cannot bear to be disagreed with. But the statement must have caused less hurt than anal sex, yes?
To support this site and its wholly independent host using credit card or PayPal (in any amount) click here