Religion news 20 January 2023

Image credit: Church of England

CofE bishops unveil reasons for same sex marriage decision today

Church of England bishops will give a press conference this morning outlining their proposals to ban same sex marriage but allow blessings, and explaining their reasoning. On Tuesday, all 110 bishops met to agree their response to the Living in Love and Faith project, which encouraged all church members to discuss divergent views on whether same sex marriage should be recognised. Their conclusion to ban marriages but bless civil weddings has been criticised by all sides of the debate as theologically incoherent. Their justification will be made clear this morning.

Timeline of sexuality and the Church of England here
Podcast of our briefing on the bishops’ proposals here

…Rules that clergy must be celibate in same sex relationships to be “retired”

The Bishop of Manchester David Walker has written an open letter revealing the bishops will retire guidance saying clergy must not be in same sex relationships and if they are in civil partnerships they must be celibate. The letter, published by the Church of England, says: “The bishops have agreed to retire the document Issues in Human Sexuality, which is now over 30 years old. It remains in force for a short while yet, but will be replaced with new Pastoral Guidance, which I would expect to be consistent with the new position and context we are in”. He went on to say he agreed with the bishops’ proposals:: “The last few years of the LLF process have made it very clear to me that there is not sufficient consensus at present to seek to move to marrying same sex couples in church”. 

… Blessings of same sex marriage can go through without a vote

The Church Times reports that the bishops’ plan to allow same sex couples to  have  civil weddings blessed in church does not need approval by the General Synod, the church’s parliament.  There had been suggestions that it would never pass the necessary two thirds majority, but the Church Times article says it has confirmed that canon law “allows for forms of service to be used without a vote at the General Synod, provided that they are neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter”. For this reason, it is expected that synod will not have a vote on the bishops’ proposals when they are debated next month. Church Times article here

How the bishops’ proposals affect relations with the state

For an explanation of the legal considerations on this proposal – whether there are exceptions for religious groups and the question of how it is appropriate to have an established Church with a divergent understanding of marriage and equality to the state, see Law and Religion blog by Prof Russell Sandberg here

GAFCON chair slams audacity of bishops on same sex decision

Archbishop Foley Beach, chair of GAFCON, the rival Anglican group which split from the mainstream over disagreements on liberal tendencies in the church, has criticised the “audacity” of the Church of England bishops on same sex marriage. He said the bishops’ decision to allow blessings blatantly ignored the global Anglican consensus, rejecting the authority of Scripture, the teaching of the historic church and the consensus of the Body of Christ.

BBC series on Narendra Modi and Muslims in India provokes protest

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has criticised the BBC’s programme India: The Modi Question as “a propaganda piece, designed to push a particular discredited narrative”. The two-part series broadcast over two weeks on BBC2, investigates allegations about the attitude of Narendra Modi’s government towards India’s Muslim population, and reviews recent riots and killings. A Ministry statement said “the bias, lack of objectivity and continuing colonial mindset is blatantly visible”. The BBC said the documentary was rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards. The UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, asked about the programme in the Commons, said he did not agree with the characterisation of Modi put forward in the programme.

House of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in Abu Dhabi

A project is underway to build the “Abrahamic Family House” in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which will serve as a centre for Jews, Muslims and Christians, under one roof. Designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, the complex includes a mosque, a church, and a synagogue, plus a cultural centre for all. It is designed as a combination of three cubes to promote shared values of coexistence and understanding. The project was unveiled by the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs in New York in 2019 and is due to be finished this year.

Religious leaders fight Missouri abortion ban

The Associated Press reports that religious leaders in Missouri who support abortion rights are challenging the state’s abortion ban, saying that when the ban was drafted, religious beliefs were imposed on others. The ban, except in cases of medical emergency, was imposed after Roe vs Wade was overturned in the Supreme Court. The Missouri lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Christian and Jewish leaders seeks a permanent injunction barring the state from enforcing its abortion law and a declaration that provisions of its law violate the Missouri Constitution. AP story here


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