Mr Murdoch, Miss Hall and the evolution of marriage

This weekend gone Rupert Murdoch, the Australian press baron and Knight of the Papal Order of St Gregory the Great, married his fourth wife. Jerry Hall, his new wife, has been married before, though the marriage was declared invalid by the British Courts. All ten children from the happy couple’s previous marriages attended the subsequent blessing of this civil marriage, which was performed by a Priest of the Church of England in the Church of St Bride, Fleet Street, London.

Marriage is a universal institution. It is not specific to the Christian faith. It is also, clearly, and evolving institution. In the Roman Republic kinship ties were easily created (by adoption) and easily dissolved (by divorce). Like many Roman institutions, marriage (and the family) was profoundly changed by Christianity. Adoption and divorce became practically unknown until the modern period. By the Sixth century, the Church was blessing marriages in the context of the Eucharist. A whole theology of marriage, which saw it as a representation between Christ and the Church, was developed.

In England the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act was finally passed in 1907, and the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act in 1921. These followed almost a century of opposition from the Church of England over what the Table of Kindred and Affinity in the Book of Common Prayer regarded as marriage within the prohibited degrees.

So the question may reasonably, I think, be asked: Given that no one, seemingly, within the Church of England, regards marriage as a static institution, and given that the Church of England is willing to bless a union such as that of the new Mr and Mrs Murdoch, why should a monogamous life-long union between two people of the same sex be beyond the Church’s blessing?

Christianity And …

In The Screwtape Letters CS Lewis has the senior devil Screwtape advise his nephew Wormwood that if he cannot stop his Subject becoming a Christian, the best thing is to get him involved in ‘Christianity And’. The ‘And’ can be anything worthy. Screwtape mentions Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order [presumably not the post Ian Curtis Joy Division!], Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. The aim is to keep him from what Lewis (and Screwtape) refer to as Mere Christianity.

The point is that the ‘And’ comes to dominate. Christianity comes to matter only insofar as it promotes the ‘And’. And in the end it matters less and less.

So is this blog about Christianity and Gay Rights, or somesuch thing? I hope not. I think Lewis’s insistence on Mere Christianity is right and important. This blog will consider (I hope) all sorts of things, such as current affairs, books, liturgy, even (heaven forfend) what the General Synod is getting up to. But from the perspective of someone who happens to be a gay Christian.

But isn’t that just as bad? Isn’t it enough to be a Mere Christian, as Lewis would have it, not a gay Christian? Well yes. I am a pretty mere Christian (using mere much as daisy Ashford would, as well as CS Lewis). But being gay does give one a certain perspective. There is also the whole issue of identity. This seems important. It is part of human nature to seek identity, to identify oneself with a group, a gang, a tribe. And that instinct is probably more pressing for those of us who belong to minorities of one sort or another.

So no Christianity And, I hope. But Christianity from an intelligent perspective (I hope) of one whose faith journey has involved coming to terms with his sexuality, and for whom that it is an important part of who he is.

I hope you will join me.

Return to Old Mother Damnable?

So why? Why, after 25 years away from the Church of England (or Old Mother Damnable, as Ronnie Knox used to call her) think about returning?

There is so much behind that sort of decision. And so much that can only be unpicked over time.

Suffice to say that I have travelled a long way since the early 90s, when, in what I thought was a principled stand for apostolic faith and order, but was really about the feared end of a comfy Anglo-Catholic gay ghetto, stamped my feet over women priests and flounced off to the Church of Rome.

I guess I was looking for certainty.

Now I am older. I am probably not much wiser, but I am more tolerant. I see through Roman Catholic ‘natural law’. I see that the arguments used against women priests (the male priest represents the male Christ, married to the female Church) are based on the same outmoded ideas of sexuality and gender that are used to condemn gay people.

The Catholic Church makes victims of women and gay men (and others). But ironically, or hypocritically if you like, it makes use of women and gay men. Without women, the churches would be empty. Without gay men, the priesthood would be, shall we say, much reduced.

But women and gay men are made complicit in their victimhood. They are even told that being a victim (ie being a 2nd class citizen) somehow helps them to mystically share in Christ’s sufferings.

Well it won’t wash anymore.

Now the Anglican position on LGBTI people may be confused. But at least it is an honest confusion. And at least there is an acceptance that there is a debate which needs to take place.

Today the LGBTI Mission has been established in the Church of England to campaign for full inclusion of us LGBTI people in the life of our Church. And that seems reason enough to start this blog, as a place to muse on faith – in the context of being gay.