The Church of England and complementarity

The Church of England tries to dismiss Cameron’s latest drive for gay marriage:

However, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.

This argument simply doesn’t work. Because other things that embody the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women are korfball and mixed-voice choirs.¬†Sure, you could play korfball with all-male or all-female teams, as indeed you could make up a choir with all-male or all-female voices. But it wouldn’t be the same, eh?

Incidentally, I can’t be the only person that was amused by the use of the adverb ‘explicitly’ to describe ‘the biological union of man and woman’ ūüėÄ

It’s a Church of two halves

The issue of women bishops continues to divide, irritate and enrage people, both Christians and non-Christians. The Church of England has, in its own inimitable style, decided not to decide until later in the year. Luckily, the Church of the Dead Dad is on hand with a solution:

The Church of England should create a brand new church that allows only women bishops. This church, which we might call the Church of Wengland, will allow men in all other clerical roles but they will be forbidden from being bishops in this new church. In all other aspects, the new church will be identical to the existing Church of England.

Of course, there will be quite a bit of administration necessary to create the new structure, as well as some tough choices over how to find suitable venues for worship and how the Church of Wengland might be funded in its early years. I’m not exactly proposing a schism, but it would be reasonable to expect there to be some transfer of existing worshippers from the current Church of England to the new church. Given that the Church of Wengland will expect its funding to be separate from the Church of England, this could create some divisions. However, I do not consider these insurmountable.

Having created the new church, all criticisms of the Church of England’s position on women bishops would be instantly illegitimate. It could be pointed out that women can be bishops, just in the Church of Wengland, not the Church of England.

OK, some of you might be protesting. “But the Church of Wengland isn’t the real church; the Church of England is”.

To which, I respond: so why are we so tolerant of the England national football team? The England national football team is, for some reason, spared the incessant criticism the Church of England faces. Why? Football is, in many ways, in a far worse and intolerable state than the Church. Unlike the Church, football is totally dominated by men at all stages, including management, coaching and ground staff.

We will, I am sure, see women bishops in the Church of England within the next ten years. At what point might we see a woman football player playing in the England football team? Why is that prospect so remote? Why aren’t the same people who want women bishops demanding women strikers?

One can only conclude that criticism of the Church of England is motivated more by rabid atheism than by genuine concern over gender equality.

Going underground

Today, we held a service for the Dead Dad at the church in the village where He lived for over 40 years. He was cremated quite some time ago, but He’s had a nice green box to rest in while we waited for an appropriate moment to hold the service.

And that moment was today. We took His ashes down to the church, where Stephen the vicar was waiting for us. Mother carried Him a fair bit of the way, but he was heavy so I carried him the rest and held him during the service. Stephen had dug a little hole, just big enough for the box.

And then Stephen read the following, from Psalm 139:

1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

5¬†You hem me in‚ÄĒbehind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

11¬†If I say, ‚ÄúSurely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,‚ÄĚ

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

We then said a couple of prayers, again led by Stephen.

Now, it turned out that I was the only man in our party. So Stephen asked me to put Him in the hole, which I did – box and all. And then he asked me to cover up the hole with earth. I was in a suit and ill-prepared for this sort of gardening, but I did a reasonable job. There was a worm on top.¬†And my sister placed a pot of hyacinths on it. We’re still waiting for the stone to be engraved, so that was that.

Later that day, while we were eating sandwiches back at the house, we learned that his granddaughter is expecting her first baby. And so the circle of life continues.

Text of Psalm 139 is copyright¬†THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION¬ģ, NIV¬ģ Copyright ¬© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.‚ĄĘ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Lynne Featherstone misses the point on marriage

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said the government was entitled to introduce same-sex marriages, which she says would be a “change for the better”.

Ms Featherstone also appealed to people not to “polarise” the debate about same-sex marriages.

“This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs,” she said.

“This is about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms.”

Lynne Featherstone wants to allow gay marriage. Here at the Church of the Dead Dad, we’re all for it. However, we’re observant enough to notice that our friends at the Church of England aren’t quite ready. The Anglican Church encompasses a wide set of beliefs, held together¬†somewhat loosely (and occasionally tenuously) by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The issue of gay marriage is likely to create huge problems for the unity of his church and it’s right that he should be given more time to allow others in his church to get comfortable with the idea.

Unfortunately, the Coalition has continued much of the clumsy and cack-handed approach to equality as the Labour government. Lord Carey’s comments reflect a justifiable fear that, once gay marriage is legalised, churches may be forced to accept gay couples for marriage, on fear of being sued under discrimination law. This is much in the same way as Catholic adoption agencies have been told they must consider gay and lesbian couples as potential parents and Christian hotel owners were sued for refusing to rent a room to a gay couple.

Were the government to make it crystal clear that no church would ever face legal challenge for refusing to marry gay or lesbian couples, I suspect the Church of England’s criticisms would melt away. It would then have time to acclimatise itself with our more liberal social attitudes, as indeed it has done many times in the past. But beating up the church without recognising that it’s the government’s own policies that are to blame is particularly shameful.

God Save the Queen

Earlier this month, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years as our queen. Queen Elizabeth is very important to this church as she is our Supreme Governor, a role she also holds in respect of the Church of England.

It is indeed entirely proper that she should be our leader. Having been brought to the throne by the death of her own father at such a young age, she understands what it means to lose one’s father and the transformation it makes to one’s life. For sixty years, she has demonstrated strength, endurance and courage, even while harbouring the intense grief brought on by his departure. She is a true example of how, bereft of one’s paternal parent, you can still lead a wholesome and fulfilling life.

Prince Charles, whose own father still lives, is by contrast a feeble and monochromatic character against this lion-hearted figure. May she reign forever!