UPDATE: Same-sex Marriage List Campaign Action
This Action, to build a list of serving clergy in the C of E who would be willing to solemnize the marriages of same-sex couples in church when it’s legal to do so, has now reached a critical stage. Earlier this month (October 2022), the number of verified clergy who had signed up reached 1000, and is now well over 1100 – see https://cofe-equal-marriage.org.uk/b/12Q.
We began by contacting our clergy supporters and letting other progressive organizations know about the Campaign Action, but then, finding the results encouraging, we decided to spread the news more widely and to make it known publicly.
If you are a serving priest (or distinctive/permanent deacon) and want to add your name to the List, confidentially and anonymously, please visit https://ring.cofe-equal-marriage.org.uk/b/XH for more details and to sign up. And if you’ve already done so, please tell other priests about it.
On Friday 21 October we sent out a press release to the news media. The Church Times published an article based on it on Monday 24 October (online) and Friday 28 October (print edition) – see https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2022/28-october/news/uk/we-will-conduct-same-sex-marriages-say-more-than-1000-clergy
We are in touch with the Next Steps group of bishops (and others), pointing out that those of us who are calling for real, radical change are far from being a tiny minority. In fact we almost certainly number far more than 1100, because most of the clergy won’t have heard of the SSM List, and even those who support equal marriage and have heard of the List may not have added their names. For example, many retired clergy have contacted us saying they would love to sign up to the List but cannot, as they no longer have PTO.
Of course it’s not just about numbers. The issue of equal marriage must be decided on the basis of prayerful study, wise theology, and Spirit-led discernment. But it is highly significant that so many clergy have done that work, often for years, and have concluded that the Church must change its attitude to LGBTQIA+ people – because to do so is required by God’s love for all and by the example of Jesus and the early church of including all those whom the religious authorities, and even the Hebrew scriptures, would exclude and reject.
Those clergy who conscientiously believe that it is right to marry loving same-sex couples are currently forced to act against their consciences when a same-sex couple who want their marriage to be celebrated in church asks them to marry them. By the rules they must say “I would love to marry you, but I’m afraid I can’t because the Church won’t allow it” – which is painfully disappointing to the couple and to the priest. God already blesses the couple’s love, and yet the priest isn’t allowed to declare that blessing. How can that be the good news that the priest is ordained to proclaim?
The bishops of the C of E are meeting at the end of October to discuss ways forward for the Church at the conclusion of Living in Love and Faith (LLF). The LLF project ran from 2017 to 2022, finishing with a consultation period. The reports, published in September 2022, analysed the responses and found there was a strong desire for change in the Church’s current attitudes to LGBTQI+ people and their relationships – see https://cofe-equal-marriage.org.uk/b/11b. The bishops are now tasked with bringing to the February 2023 sessions of General Synod proposals to break the current deadlock over these issues.
The Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged for the first time that legitimate theological differences exist on these issues when he said at the 2022 Lambeth Conference that those proposing change do so ‘after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature’ – see https://tinyurl.com/AbpJustin. The Equal Campaign welcomed these comments and is looking to the bishops to bring proposals that honour the conscience of those who through prayer and study have come to believe in a more positive, welcoming approach to same-sex couples and their relationships in the Church of England.
Nigel Pietroni, Chair of the Equal Campaign, commented: ‘It is clear from the feedback after Living in Love and Faith that the majority want the current situation to change and from the Archbishop’s own comments that the need for change has been accepted. There can be no more delay. We look to the bishops to allow freedom of conscience for clergy who wish to bless same-sex couples, and for clergy married to their same-sex partners to serve in ministry. The bishops must give a clear message that marriage equality will follow.’