I was told the following story last night, and wanted to share it with the SE1-ers.
I have an in-law who's a C of E vicar. I'll call him Bob. Nice chap underneath it all, Bob, but one might consider him a bit old-fashioned in his outlook and pretty much of the hanging, flogging, birching, "Mrs Thatcher was a wonderful woman" school of thought.
Recently, Bob was preaching a sermon touching on something like how we have to challenge our long-held beliefs in the light of the way the world changes (or something like that - it was a Bible text and I can't remember it exactly), and he thought it would be good to draw parallels with the recent debate on whether the church should allow gay marriages.
Apparently, he said something like this:
"Much as I personally abhor homosexuality, I do think that the Church should be there to support marginalised people and that in that context we should review our traditional views and reconsider them."
(I'm bound to have misquoted awfully, but hopefully I've got the basics reasonably accurate.)
I was being told this story in the context that parishioners had removed themselves from the church in protest, people had resigned from the parish council, and that there was general scandal through the small village where Bob preaches.
The interesting thing to me was when I realised just what the parishioners were complaining about.
Being (a generalisation on my part, but IMO reasonably fair) a congregation of mainly retired, conservative gentlefolk, the parishioners were unsurprisingly up in arms about having a vicar who, in addition to saying the word "homosexuality" out loud and in front of the women, didn't immediately say something like: "they're all going to hell anyway, but we should probably shoot them first just to make sure they don't linger too long on this side of the veil".
It struck me that if I repeated Bob's words to anyone of my age or anyone who lives in a bit more of a socially mixed place, they too would be up in arms.....only the bit they'd find offensive would be that a spritual leader could stand up in public and tell his flock that he abhorred homosexuals.
There's no real point I want to make by this. I just thought it was a good story, and a reminder that there are still rednecks out in them there woods.
Sorry, I got distracted before finishing the above post. The reason I think it is an important distinction to make is that there is a great deal of difference between abhorring homosexuality and abhorring homosexuals. It doesn't necessarily follow that because you abhor homosexuality, you abhor homosexuals. (I abhor neither, by the way.)
I don't find the fact he stood up and said he abhorred homosexuality offensive. I just think it's a shame that he feels that way. But despite that, I actually quite admire him because he is willing to examine and reconsider his views, and also to speak out, in the face of obvious opposition, to encourage others to do so.
This is an interesting post, 'cos it's something I've been thinking about over the past week. The reason being is that I just got engaged, and I was reminded that in order to have a Church wedding, I need to be christened.
I am, however, quite concerned that now I'm partly wise to the ways of the Church, I have to be put through a Christian ritual when I'm not actually particularly religious, and I actually disagree some of the beliefs of the Christian faith - particularly their abhorrence of gays and lesbians.
I'm fingers crossed I'll find me a Church with a progressive Priest/Vicar, so I'll know we're singing from the same hymn sheet (pun definitely intended!) with the same attitudes...
Christening's not the half of it. I should get to the meat of matters and get hold of a copy of the marriage service.
If you can get past the preamble (an integral part of the service), where it says [words to the effect of]: "these two people are here for the following reasons: to harness the sinful condition of lust within a god-approved form of partnership; to have children and bring them up as good little Christians; [and something else ridiculous that I can't remember]", then you should have little problem with getting baptised (where, after all, the service has nothing to do with the baptisee in the sense that you don't get to say anything yourself).
I was amazed when I read the marriage service. It had nothing at all to do with loving the other person [for themselves, not as a handy vessel for putting little Christian babies in, to the greater glory of god] and had so little to do with the reasons for which I was getting married, that getting married in a church seemed ridiculous to me. I'm guilty of plenty of fibs, but really coudn't start off the ceremony where I make the most important promise of my life with a load of old cobblers about the reason why we were doing it.
Since then, I've got very used to going to friends' weddings and seeing them stand there, eyes glazed over in a lovely building, as the old man in the dress, who's met them about three times before, mumbles words that have nothing to do with the reason they are getting married, and have learnt that most other people don't see it that way.
Re your point about "homosexuals" vs "homosexuality". Understand what you're saying, but to give Bob some credit, I don't think he would see the difference between the two words in the same way you have. We're talking about a v quiet little village, where most of the people are retired and (to Bob's knowledge) homosexuals just don't exist. In fact, it's very likely that he's never (knowingly) met a homosexual person, so I don't think there's any personal abhorrence. I think we've got to give Bob some benefit of doubt and say that whether he said one word or the other, he meant the act or lifestyle and not the people as individuals.
In a way, your query highlights some of what my original post was about (difference between attitudes of people brought up in a more multicultural - some would say more politically correct - society, and people in Deliverance country).
Providing that you are willing to be married in your local CofE parish church, and neither you or your partner have been divorced, then as the Established Church aka National Marriage Service as governed by the Marriage Act 1949, I don't think that the CofE can turn you down.
A more practical matter is whether your local parish church would be a venue that you would want to get married in! Some churches (and their immediate environs) are rather more attractive than other in SE1
Very interesting to see that the forward-thinking up-to-the-minute C of E have contemplated the (remote, obviously) possiblity of a member of their religion marrying a "devout member of another faith" (as long as the non-Christian doesn't mind adhering to the Christian marriage vows, that is!). That's really excellent, and brings our national religion up to at least the 14th century.
How long will we have to wait until there is a proper loosening of the stranglehold the C of E have over weddings, or until there is anything approaching an acceptable marriage service where one person is a Christian and the other is anything else?