Associate Minister's April Letter

Is Church the Last Bastion of Prejudice?

 

The Times today (13th March) had this headline on its front page:  Church is ‘The last bastion of prejudice’. And of course the topic was whether same-sex couples can get married.  It is one of those issues where I am like Mr Facing-Both-Ways in John Bunyan’s  The Pilgrim’s Progress!  I want to speak about a God who loves each and every individual and yet also maintain traditional marriage.  

 

On the same day Angela Tilby gave one of the most helpful Thoughts for the Day on Radio 4 where she tackles this very issue.  I’m going to quote her talk in case you missed it:

The issue is the nature of marriage. Is it a convention or a sacrament? If it is a convention of course it can be redefined. But if a sacrament this is not so easy. The point about sacraments is that they can’t be made up. They work because they are a precise configuration of the material and the spiritual. When I celebrate Holy Communion I need bread and wine; tea and biscuits won’t do because they don’t carry the memory of what this sacrament points to, which is the bread and wine that Jesus declared to be his body and blood. If marriage is a sacrament it needs male and female because the inner memory of marriage goes back to the Garden of Eden – it is about procreative sex; the possibility of children, born from the bodies of both parents. It is all very earthy and concrete and physical.

And of course that’s where the problems lie. Though people on both sides appeal to what is natural, nature unhelpfully supports both sides liking both consistency and variety in gender and sexuality. Most people are male or female; but there are some who are born with unfixed gender. Most people are heterosexual but some are not. Most parents have children but some do not. And then there are people who marry knowing they can’t have children, and children conceived with donated sperm or eggs, or born through surrogates. Our society believes passionately in equality and wants everyone to have the chance of a decent and fulfilled private life. I have no problem with any of that.

And yet I don’t want to lose the traditional view that marriage reflects a particular pattern in which a man and a woman unite across their obvious differences. Civil partnerships have a different pattern, and I think this could be sacramental too. I know partners who have created liturgies which celebrate their love, loyalty and commitment in the friendship of God. What I don’t want to happen is that the demand for equality reduces gay and straight relationships to sameness. Civil partnerships offer something new and creative to thank God for, but there is no reason why we should lose the blessing of what remains both ancient and instinctive.

        © 2012

What a helpful antidote to prejudice!

 

Christopher Cant


Rector's Pages
Webpage icon Rector's February 2016 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's January 2016 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's December 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's November 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's November 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's September 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's September 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's August 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's July 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's July 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's June 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's May 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's April 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's April 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's 2nd March 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's March 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's February 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's February 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's January 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's December 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's December 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's November 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's October 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's October 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's August 2014 Letter