There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.--Ecclesiastes 8:14
‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’” Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”--Matthew 8:8-11
"We must not torture the English language. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's marriage. We supported Civil Partnerships [the bishops in the House of Lords], because we believe that friendships are good for everybody. But then to turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that's not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting. I don't think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is."--Most Rev. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, January 2012.
I let out a loud scream from our back room last night when I opened a tweet from Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans and read where the Church of England has staked out a position opposing full marriage equality in that country. Besides the apparent lie in that statement (at least two or three other sources in England say the CoE has never supported Civil Partnerships in the House of Lords), when I saw ++Sentamu's comment about Civil Partnerships... that "friendships are good for everybody"... I was stunned at the level of insensitivity and dismissive patronizing inherent in that statement. This from one of the frontrunners to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the titular leader of the Anglican Communion. And I wondered aloud again, "Why should we bother remaining in Communion with these bores?!"
I have heard the complaint that marriage equality, and any other attempt to open the doors of the church to include more people, is in fact an assault on the tradition and such efforts are trying to bend the institution to be more reflective of the world around it. I would argue that it's not an assault; it's an effort to pull the church away from going over the cliff of total irrelevancy.
How many times have I read the complaints and the bemoaning of bishops, priests, deacons and some laity that there are fewer and fewer people who regularly attend church these days? Parishes struggle to keep their budgets together in the face of decreased giving. Schools and recreation departments schedule soccer practices for Sunday mornings. And everyone sits around, wringing their hands and trying to invent ways to make ourselves more interesting, entertaining, and popular as a way of keeping interest in Sunday worship services.
But all the changing of music and prayers won't mean anything to the throngs of people currently sitting outside the gate of the church when what they hear in the media is such nasty and prejudicial speech as ++Sentamu's. No one wants to come to a church that looks at the culture in which it finds itself and thumbs its collective nose at it. The fact is that marriage equality is coming. And the church keeps repeating the line, "...the intrinsic nature of marriage [is that of] the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history." (Really? Would this include our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?) This line will continue to push away the younger generation who don't have the same hang-ups about marriage that their parents and grandparents seem to have. These younger people can not reconcile the message of Christ, which is one of love and inclusion, with a church that keeps wanting to wear blinders in an effort not to see the very people its called to serve and continue to discriminate against whole groups of citizens.
I notice that the Church of England has a slogan on its news releases: A Christian presence in every community. Clearly, not in the LGBT community of England. I would suggest a new slogan for the CoE: Crucifying Christ One News Release At A Time.