Icon (Close Menu)

The Society Endorses Paper on Marriage

The eight bishops who lead the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic ecclesial body known as The Society have endorsed a theological statement that reaffirms the Christian Church’s historic doctrine of marriage.

“On the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith process, we intend to issue a further statement in the coming months, in line with the timetable outlined for the July 2023 session of General Synod,” The Society’s eight bishops wrote in a statement released on St. Patrick’s Day. “In the meantime, we wholly endorse the contents of the attached paper on the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage, which — among others — the Bishops of Chichester and of Fulham have signed.”

The statement endorsed by The Society was issued in late January by 14 bishops, including two women who serve as bishops suffragan (Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster, and Ruth Bushyager, Bishop of Horsham). Their paper preceded General Synod’s vote authorizing blessings for same-sex unions.

Before General Synod met, The Society gave thanks that the prayers proposed by Living in Love and Faith did not change the Church of England’s canons about marriage, or liturgies that celebrate it.

“We welcome and reinforce the clear commitment to maintain the doctrine of marriage as the Church of England has received it, and which is shared with the great churches of East and West,” The Society said in a statement on January 18. “We are glad that no changes to the Canons or authorized liturgies of the Church of England as they touch on Holy Matrimony are proposed. …

“The use of these prayers will be entirely discretionary, and they would be commended by the House of Bishops in accordance with Canon B5, which requires that such forms of service are commensurate with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England. We will study this material carefully when it is published and, in due course, we anticipate issuing pastoral guidance to the clergy who look to us for oversight as to how best these prayers might be used locally.”

By contrast, three tall-steeple evangelical parishes — All Souls Langham Palace, St. Ebbe’s, Oxford, and St. Helen’s Bishopsgate — have vigorously protested General Synod’s vote to authorize such blessings for same-sex couples. The evangelical parishes have announced that they will withhold or redirect money they previously sent to their dioceses.

In Parliament, meanwhile, MP Ben Bradshaw of Exeter presented a ten-minute motion that would “enable clergy of the Church of England to conduct same sex marriages on Church of England premises in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.”

“Of course, discussion about the potential impact of the Bill is somewhat academic, given that it has no chance of becoming law,” Bradshaw said. “The main motivation in introducing it is to encourage the bishops to stick to the commitments and timetable agreed by February’s Synod and resist any delay or backsliding at the next Synod in July. There has been sustained pressure from a vocal minority inside the Church against the very modest proposals on the table.”

Bradshaw identified the dissenting churches as “a small number of homophobic parishes here [that] have stopped paying their diocesan contributions in protest.”

Bradshaw did not mention that St. Ebbe’s is led by the Rev. Vaughan Roberts, who disclosed in 2012 that he is attracted to other men but chooses celibacy as a matter of obedience to Christian teaching.

“We will be working closely with others, especially within the Church of England Evangelical Council, to discuss what other actions we can take, either individually as churches or together, both to distance ourselves from false teaching and to promote the cause of the gospel,” Roberts wrote in a statement on the St. Ebbe’s website.

“As a larger church, we are especially conscious of our responsibility to help and support smaller evangelical churches, as well as faithful clergy and laity who are in the especially vulnerable situation of serving in churches where their congregations are divided or against them on these issues.

Editor’s note: This revised story corrects a misinterpretation of The Society’s endorsement of the 14 bishops’ theological statement. The Society’s endorsement was not a protest of General Synod’s vote to authorize blessings for same-sex couples.

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Top headlines. Every Friday.

MOST READ

CLASSIFIEDS

Most Recent

GSFA Meets with Coptic Pope, Elects New Leaders

Delegates also visited a historical museum, library, and baptistry on the grounds of the papal compound.

GSFA Discusses Wartime Suffering, Sexuality

Delegates to the First Assembly of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA) heard from the Episcopal Church...

People & Places, June 14

Appointments across the Episcopal Church

Title IV Charges Revealed as PB Election Nears

The church released information about disciplinary complaints involving three of the five candidates