Wednesday 16 April 2014

The Telegraph reported that a priest in the Lincolnshire Diocese has gone through a ceremony of (so called) marriage with his male partner. This was previously a married man with five children. There were the cries of delight from the usual crowd one expects from those who like to challenge all traditional theology.

The Evangelical body, Reform, have called on the Church to discipline the priest who has disobeyed the ban on clergy going through such ceremonies. It has been suggested the Church of England could follow the example of the American Anglican Church and form a breakaway Church. Whether this will happen is an open question, but what is quite clear is that any hope of disciplinary measures being taken against the offending priest is just not going to happen.

The Bishop of Lincoln states he was warned in advance of the intention of the priest; what has not been stated, as far as I am aware, is that the Bishop has acted responsibly and suspended him.

The Archbishop of Canterbury recently took part in a question and answer session on London Radio and I listened and watched a filmed recording of the interview. He was asked by one questioner if the Church should oppose the government, which has excluded the Church from performing same sex marriage. He was asked for his opinion and declined to give a positive answer, preferring to give the nebulous answer that all sex outside marriage is wrong according to the Bible, and added that the Church was working out how to deal with the Same Sex Marriage Act.

The Archbishop went on to say that groups within the Church had different understandings and (they)claimed the situation had changed from Bible days when social circumstances were different.

He was then questioned by Ann Widdicombe. For the benefit of international readers, Ann was a formidable Conservative government minister and one who had clear views, and was not afraid to state them. (It was interesting to see the looks on the faces of the Archbishop and radio presenter when she came on.) Ann left the Church of England in 1992 because ‘of its ‘wishy washy’ attitude, giving vague answers and having no clear stance on any issue’. I don’t think in fairness anyone could quarrel with her on that opinion, particularly after listening to this programme. She challenged the Archbishop to give a straight answer whether it was his opinion that homosexuality was theologically right or not, and he refused to do so, saying he was not infallible and the Church must treat all people with dignity.

He also stated he was convinced that it was theologically right to appoint women as bishops. I know the biblical case which has been put forward by those oppose such appointments, I have yet to hear the biblical case by those who approve. The main justification for approval is based solidly on cultural popularity, and to appear to be supporters of the Equality Act.

I just cannot understand the refusal to face up to reality. People may, and are entitled to, have their own personal thoughts, but when responding in any Ministerial capacity, any priest in the Church of England at least, has to have the moral courage and spiritual duty to say, ‘that is what the Bible states’. Indeed, every priest on ordination vows to adhere to the full teaching of Scripture.

I have quoted previously of an instance when a prominent evangelical preacher was being interrogated by a prominent American chat show hostess, who at the same time was trying to embarrass him. She asked him the same question as the Archbishop was asked by Ann Widdecombe. He replied, ‘I state what the Bible states, and if the Bible states something is wrong, I say it is wrong.’ This does not condemn the person but rather the act. This is in similar vein to the statement of Cardinal Nicholls who stated he was not in a position to be popular but to do what was right.

I believe the Archbishop now has a duty and a responsibility to take action against the priest who has ignored Church ruling. I have to say I do not have a lot of confidence.

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