Frank Cranmer–An error in the House of Bishops’ Guidance on Same Sex Marriage? ”“ perhaps not

It would be pure cheek for me, as a Quaker, to comment on the substance of an internal matter for Church of England but I am not convinced that the statement by House of Bishops “is in error”. The extract quoted by Professor Woodhead is about what it says it’s about: “the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law”; Archbishop Davidson, however, was commenting on “the law of the State” in relation to whom one could legally marry, not on the definition of marriage itself.

The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act 1907 did not change the definition of marriage: what it did do was to remove a particular bar in the Table of Kindred and Affinity. Nor did it have anything to do with the indissolubility of marriage as such because, by definition, the man whose wife had died was free to remarry someone: the issue was whether or not he could marry his wife’s sister.

Read it all and take the time to read through the comments.


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5 comments on “Frank Cranmer–An error in the House of Bishops’ Guidance on Same Sex Marriage? ”“ perhaps not

  1. BlueOntario says:

    Another example of Alice’s Wonderland becoming real life?

  2. MichaelA says:

    I am very impressed with Frank Cranmer’s ability to state a case and argue his position respectfully yet firmly. If this is the sort of theologian that the Quakers produce then they are obviously doing something very right!

    Also good to see Ian Paul in there taking a stand, which is likely to get him vilified by the liberals in CofE.

    And finally, what a great statement of faith by Oliver Iliffe. I note that none of the liberals dare take issue with him:
    [blockquote] “The third, and indispensable layer, is that of Scripture – upon which Church of England doctrine and the BCP are professed to be based in Canon A5 of the Canons of the Church of England – and in which light they should be interpreted. The early Church faced a similar situation regarding “civil marriage” and it is instructive as to what was regarded as “marriage” by the Church and what was not. The first principle was that non-believers came to faith and their pre-existing marriages were recognised. This is evident from Paul’s exhortation to the Greeks of Corinth not to divorce their unbelieving spouses (1 Cor 7:12-14). The second principle is that marriage was fundamentally linked to heterosexual sex. This follows from Paul’s warning that men who sleep with female prostitutes become, in some way, one body with them (“as it is written, the two will become one flesh” 1 Cor 6:16) and, interestingly, this is still reflected in the requirement of consummation under English law. The third principle is that nowhere is a sexual relationship between two members of the same sex described as “marriage” either in a positive or negative context.” [/blockquote]
    Liberals of course would like to never mention Canon A5 of the Church of England, yet it remains the touchstone of faith for many English Anglicans, both inside and outside CofE:

    “A5: The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.”

  3. driver8 says:

    It’s completely true that senior church figures repeatedly argued that the law of the State was departing from the law of the Church. They did so in the 1850s when for most practical purposes the dissolution of marriage (as we know it) became possible under English law and throughout the 19th century. Famously the ABC abstained on a bill widening the causes for which divorce might occur in 1937 because it was “no longer possible to impose the full Christian standard by law on a largely non-Christian population”.

    It’s also largely true that the CoE later adopted into church law the changes to civil law that it had initially opposed. (The final residue of the CofE’s once traditional position on the indissolubility of marriage – namely, that second marriage after divorce ought not to take place in church – was formally disposed of by General Synod in 2002).

    Nevertheless, nevertheless – all though this – as the conditions of dissolubility were introduced and then widened (etc.) – both civil and ecclesiastical law took marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman. It is presumably this that the HOB intend when they refer to “the general understanding and definition of marriage” under English law.

    The state legislated for conditions under which such a union might be ended and a new one ventured and altered the law concerning those prohibited from entering such a union because of incest – laws often opposed by the COE at the time – but the union whose failure the state began to recognize, or make possible – remained, as far as I can see, in agreement with canon law, the intentional lifetime union of one man and one woman.

    Same sex marriage would, and is intended to, alter this definition.

  4. BlueOntario says:

    I should probably make clear that I am speaking of Woodhead’s continued defense in the comments that there has never been a clear definition of marriage that reaches imaginative heights, not Cranmer’s position.

  5. New Reformation Advocate says:

    driver8 (#3),

    You’re right. I’m glad to see you posting here once again. I’ve missed your ever astute and illuminating comments. I particularly relished your citation of the ABoC’s comment back in 1937, i.e., when it comes to divorce, it was “no longer possible to impose the full Christian standard by law on a largely non-Christian population.

    Alas, things have gotten much worse since then. The big question these days is whether it’s even possible to impose by canon law the full Christian standard on active members of the CoE itself. The sad fact is that we aren’t just dealing with the fact that the majority of the English population are non-Christians. What is worse is that a great many people even within the leadership of the CoE are pseudo-Christians.

    But then, what do you expect from a national church, established by law?

    David Handy+
    (As an American, I dislike and distrust state churches anyway)