Recently, there has come to light a “gay wedding” at a Church of England parish in London. From what I read, it has caused quite a row. The policy of the Church of England as of now is that civil-union ceremonies or “marriages” are not allowed in CofE churches, although civil-unions are legal in England (and for priests).
In a recent Guardian Online (UK) story entitled, “Priest rebuked for ‘marrying’ gay vicars in church,” the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, is reported to have rebuked the priest, the Reverend Martin Dudley, of St. Bartholomew’s parish for conducting the “marriage” between two vicars.
The bishop’s rational for his rebuke is not what might first come to mind – anti-gay stuff. Here are a couple paragraphs from the article quoting the bishop’s letter to Fr. Dudley concerning his reasons for the rebuke:
In his letter to Dudley today, the bishop of London wrote: “I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your bishop. St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence.”
The point at issue was not civil partnerships or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice because there was a range of church opinion on these matters and homophobia was not tolerated in the Diocese of London, he added.
“The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your bishop.” [Emphasis mine]
I think the issue of “personal fiefdoms” and willfully defying church order, Canons, et cetera, is primary concerning so many of the controversies going on within not only the CofE, but also the Episcopal Church USA and all of the Communion. I like the term “personal fiefdoms.” Too many priests feel as if their parish is their own to do with and to whatever they “feel” is right, and to hell with vows, Canons, ecclesiastical rules, et cetera.
There are times when civil or ecclesiastic disobedience is important and justified. There are times when situations in organizations become so onerous to abide by that priests and/or people leave – quietly and peaceably (or at least they should). Civil or ecclesiastic disobedience should not be the norm, however. It has become the norm in too many places and we are all suffering the consequences of fiefdoms and disobedience.
Hat-tip: Thinking Anglicans
UPDATE: Here are the pertinent paragraphs from the bishop’s letter itself:
“The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.
“The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that â€œthose clergy who disagree with the Churchâ€™s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.â€
“St Bartholomewâ€™s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.”