The Rev Andrew Symes is Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream
…the Bishop of Guildford has published guidelines on “Requests for Prayer” from same sex couples
After a long preamble covering all the legal bases, the Bishop [of Guildford] opines that
it would be appropriate for clergy who conscientiously judge a same sex Civil Marriage to be an authentic Christian relationship to similarly pray with, and for, such a couple. Because the teaching of the Church remains that this is not marriage, the texts of the Marriage Services should not be used.
This is already creating a lot of comment. I want to focus on just four issues:
1.The content. Here a Church of England Bishop is saying, in black and white, that its possible for a same sex marriage to be “an authentic Christian relationship”, which should be supported in prayer and by implication blessed by the church, as long as marriage rites are not used!
2.The method. The official church teaching still says that homosexual relationships are sinful. The Pilling Report has not yet been released and the Bishops have not discussed or endorsed it. Even if it does tentatively recommend private blessings of gay marriages, or perhaps as many are now suggesting sets up an “indaba” at parish and Diocesan level before a Synod vote in say 2016, Guildford with his “guidance” has gone ahead and changed the doctrine of the church and pre-empted Pilling and the Bishops’ discussion at a stroke! Andrew Goddard asks:
Might the guidance itself be a sign of what may be delivered by the Pilling Report or an attempt to force the hands of the House and College when they discuss the Report?
3.The timing (1) This has come out just before General Synod, and just after (or perhaps even during) a visit from the Primate of Nigeria to Guildford. I’m sure that the English Bishop did not wish to insult his Nigerian guest but there is no doubt it will have been seen this way. Was the timing of the Bishop’s guidelines an unfortunate mistake, or was it done as a deliberate challenge to GAFCON’s clear position on maintaining the traditional line on sexuality?