The House of Bishops and parliamentarians must not ‘salami slice’ Christian doctrine over the issue of gay marriage, members of the Anglican Mainstream have said.
In a public statement, signed by convenor Dr Philip Giddings and secretary Canon Dr Chris Sugden, the Anglican Mainstream said it was important to stick with biblical teaching.
The statement said, ‘As made clear in the Ordinal, bishops of the Church of England promise both to fashion their own life and that of their household according to the way of Christ and to be guardians of the church’s doctrine.
‘Given the ambiguous nature of civil partnerships, it would not be credible for a person in such a partnership to make such promises. Most people assume that civil partnerships are sexual relationships. It is casuistical to claim that they are not…’
‘A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church. Such an appointment would be a very divisive move both within the Church of England and in the wider Anglican Communion’.
The comments came in response to a ruling by the House of Bishops to allow clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops if they promise to remain celibate. The Rt Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, issued a statement about the ruling on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
He said, ‘The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate’.
However, stinging criticism of the move came from former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali. He said, ‘When the Civil Partnerships Act came into force, the Church of England, like other churches, had an opportunity, as far as its clergy were concerned, to opt out. It chose not to do so allowing, rather, the government of the day to change ecclesiastical law by Order.
‘When the House of Bishops pastoral letter was issued in 2005, I asked how clergy could be allowed to be in a relationship which, under the provisions of the act, mimicked marriage, even if the relationship was “celibate”.
‘Some of us had tried in the House of Lords to amend the act in such a way that it did not mimic marriage, but this was not acceptable to the government of the day. Since then public perception has increasingly seen such partnerships as equivalent to marriage. What I said then about the clergy applies even more to bishops’.
Meanwhile, the Anglican-based Church Society has declared that it stands ‘in firm agreement with the Church’s clear and biblically faithful statement that sex is exclusively for heterosexual marriage…’
‘We do not believe that church leaders at any level should confuse and undermine the call of the gospel — to deny oneself and follow Jesus — which unfortunately would be the case if those who have chosen a different path by entering civil partnerships are permitted to undertake authorised public ministry in the church’.