New Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral advoctes a more open approach to same-sex marriage!

The Very Rev David Ison, the recently appointed Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London has said that the church should welcome gay people wanting to take on the virtues of marriage.

“We need to take seriously people’s desire for partnership and make sure that the virtues that you see in married relationships are available to people who are gay.”  he said in an interview with The Times newspaper today.

David Ison is preparing to move to London from Yorkshire where he has been Dean of Bradford Cathedral for 7 years.  He trained for ordination at an evangelical theological college, St John’s Nottingham, and in the 1980’s he spent 3 years training evangelists at the Church Army Training College.

Reflecting on marriage he said, “As a Christian who is committed to marriage, I would say that for people to take on board, in their relationships, a commitment to lifelong chastity and being together is actually the best way to flourish… whether you are gay or straight.”

His comments come in stark contrast to statements by the Archbishop of York and Roman Catholic leaders who have called the idea grotesque and compared the prospect of same-sex marriage to legalising slavery.

But he is the latest in a growing line of Anglican Church leaders who have been expressing support for a new direction in recent weeks.  The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam told the Times last month that although he used to believe that marriage could only be for heterosexuals, he was no longer convinced about that.  Then yesterday the retired Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, called on the church to move ahead with blessing for Civil Partnerships.

The Trustees of Accepting Evangelicals are discussing our approach to same-sex marriage at the moment.  We are aware that within our membership there will be a wide spectrum of views, and we want to ensure that Accepting Evangelicals remains a place that unites evangelicals who want to see the church move forward in recognising same-sex partnerships and developing a positive Christian ethic for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Why not drop us a line and let us know what you think, either by email or as a comment on this Blog?

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  1. Here are 10 reasons why I believe the church should authorise gay marriages:
    1. There is a human need to be met, based on God’s principle that “it is not good for the man to be alone”.
    2. There is a biblical precedent, in Jesus himself, for going over laws, even biblical laws and principles, when there is a genuine human need to be met, and many loving gay Christian couples do not regard civil partnerships as “the real thing”. They would prefer to make their vows before God. That is entirely reasonable.
    3. We have an obligation to show love and mercy to our neighbours.
    4. Marriage is a covenanted relationship that commits both partners to fidelity and to mutual comfort and support.
    5. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” and all the risks that entails, including promiscuity and therefore health problems.
    6. All true human love is a God-given gift.
    7. The couple may have felt a calling from God himself to get married.
    8. Marriage emphasises, and is dependent on, agape love, and not just eros.
    9. They would help clergy provide pastoral support to parishioners who are gay and in loving relationships.
    10. They would enhance the reputation of the church as a place of love, understanding, mercy, compassion and tolerance, all sound Christian values.
    In my view, these arguments outweigh the reasonable (and obviously the unreasonable ones) arguments against them that have been suggested.

    • Well said John Pike. Clearly set out…this is what we need to answer those who question why we support Gay marriage.

  2. It seems to be the word “marriage” that gets people hot under the collar. But in the Middle Ages, both the Eastern and the Western churches had a form of lifelong committed partnership for men (not for women as far as I know), sealed by public vows. In the East, it was called adelphopoiesis in Greek or bratinstvo in Old Church Slavonic. Both words mean “brother-making”. In the West, it was called wedded brotherhood.

    Clearly it was thought of as something like a marriage, something like a collateral adoption. It was not always a love relationship; it could be merely a business partnership, since it made each partner the other’s heir. In one famous case, it was undertaken to discourage a couple of mortal enemies from killing each other (it failed!). But there were many couples who entered into wedded brotherhood who were known to love each other dearly and were probably sexual partners – like the English couple who served together in the Varangian Guard at Constantinople and were buried in one tomb. Their tombstone shows their two helmets kissing mouth to mouth.

    Perhaps we should encourage a revival of this institution. It certainly has a long Christian history and would satisfy the desire of many couples to solemnise their union in the sight of God.

  3. I am totally supportive of committed, loving same-sex relationships; I am also very glad that we now have civil partnership available for gay couples; and I hope that one day the Church of England (and others, but as a member of the C of E it is obviously that church that particularly concerns me) will allow the blessing of gay relationships, and indeed the legal celebrating of partnerships within its church buildings. But I do not favour the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relationships.

    Earlier on this blog John Pile has listed 10 reasons for “why I believe the church should authorise gay marriage”, and what he has said merits comment.

    The first thing to note is of course that the question of the authorisation of gay marriage has to come from the state, because it is a legal thing. If that happens, then obviously the churches will have to consider how to respond, but the current question is about the government’s desire to allow same-sex marriage and make all the legal changes that would be needed for that.

    In point 1 John rightly draws attention to God’s principle that it is not good for the man to be alone. But that can be supplied by civil partnership as well as by marriage, and so this point is not relevant to the question as to whether there should be gay marriage, as opposed to civil partnership.

    On point 2, yes it is good to go over existing laws, but that is not a reason in itself for change. As regards making vows before God, that could be done as well by churches being able to hold partnership ceremonies as by them being able to hold gay marriage ceremonies.

    Point 3 is obviously true, and sadly too often love and mercy have not been shown. But that does not mean one has to redefine marriage.

    Much the same applies to all the following points — much that John says here is obviously true, but can be just as readily dealt with by partnership as by marriage.

    If marriage is to be redefined, thus breaking with what has been understood since the beginning of human society in just about all those societies I think there needs to be much clearer reason for making the change, and that is going to have to include very clear explanation of why civil partnership is felt to be inadequate.

    Finally, a brief comment on the report about David Ison. It is headlined “New Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral backs same-sex marriage!” – but if you read his words carefully, that is precisely what he has not done. He clearly backs committed gay relationships, but what he has said is that we need to ensure “that the virtues that you see in married relationships are available to people who are gay”, but he has given no indication at all in these words whether that should be done through civil partnership or through gay marriage. So the headline is thoroughly misleading, and is perhaps typical of reportage that ignores carefully nuanced statements in favour of dramatic headlines.

    So, it would be good to ask David Ison how he would like to see these virtues being available, and whether or not he would want to see gay marriage as the means of doing that, but at least from what has been quoted above, this is entirely unclear, and it is therefore wrong to jump to conclusions.

    • Dear George

      Thank you for your comment and for putting the other side of the argument.

      For me (and this is a personal view) I would echo Michael Corry’s comment below and add that I think that same-sex partnerships will always be seen as somehow sinful until they are allowed to be expressed in Christian marriage.

      In my own reflections I have become less convinced that the theology of marriage requires gender difference, and see a number of pointers in the Bible which may lead us away from the traditional notion.

      But there is a debate to be had on this issue and the problem at present is that there seems little space in the church where that debate can take place.

      Thank you too for your helpful comments about David Ison and his interview – I have made some ammendments to the post accordingly.

      AE is about to consult members on our own approach to same-sex marriage in our next newsletter… watch this space!

  4. Not every LGBT person wants to redefine marriage to include same sex couples but one of the reasons that many do is that they see the words “civil partnership” as implying something cold, legal and altogether too clinical for a vibrant, caring and loving relationship.
    Of course marriages are sometimes mere legal formalities conducted to protect property rights as much as any thing but “civil partnership” still has the air of being something second rate. The virtues that you see in marriage may available to be people who are gay through civil partnerships but, for many, the words themselves are a hindrance to displaying them.
    The problem is that almost any word which segregates same sex relationships will always hint at the second rate in some peoples’ minds.
    Perhaps those who oppose to using “marriage” equally for everyone could come up with something better than “civil partnership”.
    Sadly, it seems to me that one of the reasons for their opposition is that they want continue to brand LGBT people as second class, even deviant.

    • I totally agree, Michael, that the words “civil partnership” sound clinical – “Will you civil partner me?” does not exactly have the same ring as “Will you marry me?” – and I do wish somebody would come up with something better and more positive, (rather as “gay” is so much less clinical than “same-sex”!) I wonder why nobody has come up with a suitable word or words.

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  6. I don’t think marriage is defined by being between two people – it’s between two people of different kinds with the implication that that usually has for the likelihood of procreation. Otherwise applying the analogy of marriage to Christ and the Church doesn’t make sense. If we use ‘marriage’ just to mean the sexual union of two people we are making the ‘two-ness’ the prime thing, rather than the difference, and we’ll have to find another word for a union of two people that carries with it the possibility of procreation. This isn’t at all about people in civil partnerships being though of as ‘second-class’, it’s about what marriage IS. If we can re-define marriage just like that then what is to stop us deciding to have ‘marriages’ between two men and a woman, or four women, etc.?

    • If marriage is Solely for the reason of procreation, why does HEBREW 13:4 Clearly states “marriage is honorable to ALL”?
      This doesnt mention “EXCEPT HOMOSEXUALS, Impotents, old people, transexuals, etc? So acc. 2 christ, They can marry, how can they reproduce?
      Coz i think ALL includes everyone indeed.

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