Some Church of England leaders are calling for prayerful reflection and theological discussion on the nature of marriage. Photo: Laurin Rinder
In a recent letter to the Times of London, senior members of the Church of England say the church should support civil marriage for same-sex couples. Same-sex civil unions are legal in Britain.
“A number of recent statements by church leaders past and present may have given the mistaken impression that the church is universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples,” said the letter, which was signed by the bishop of Buckingham, as well as several deans, canons and lay members of the C of E’s General Synod. “We believe that does not adequately reflect the range of opinion which exists within the Church of England.”
A redefinition of marriage may be in order. The letter noted that the institution of marriage has greatly changed over the centuries, moving from the polygamy of the Old Testament, and later the preoccupation with status, property and procreation, to a covenant of commitment between partners united in heart, body and mind. By that token, the letter said, “same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian church.”
The signatories applauded current moves by the House of Bishops to reconsider its view of civil partnerships and human sexuality. “We hope this will lead to a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships and call on the church to engage in theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature of marriage,” said the letter. It concluded by saying that the church has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples.
Recently, both the bishop of Salisbury and the new dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, called on the church to affirm same-sex couples who wish to marry. While the Church of England ordains openly gay priests, the majority of bishops oppose gay marriage.