GS 2328 Summary Critique
Martin Davie wrote a detailed article and critique about GS2328 in his personal blog which can be found here. This is a one-page summary.
The argument put forward by the bishops in GS 2328 can be summarised as follows.
The forms of service for same-sex couples set out in Annexes C and D are not contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England in that they do not say that same-sex couples are married or that God approves of sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage.
It would be difficult to say that these forms of service are not indicative of a departure from the Church’s previous teaching that prayers should not be offered for same-sex couples whose relationships are or might be of a sexual nature.
Although the forms of service are a development of Anglican practice, they are not indicative of a departure from the Church’s doctrine in any ‘essential matter’ since all they are doing is recognising the ‘goods’ or virtues that can be found in same-sex relationships and asking for God’s blessing that these goods may increase.
What the bishops appear to be trying to do is to move past the deep disagreement in the Church of England about same-sex marriage and same-sex sexual activity by suggesting that, even if we disagree about such matters, we can (and should) still recognise the goods that exist in same-sex relationships and pray that these goods may increase.
How should we respond to this argument?
First, we need to acknowledge that point 1 is correct.
With regard to point 2 It is not only difficult but impossible to say that the forms of service are not a departure from the Church’s previous teaching. This means that they arguably go against clause (g) of the motion passed by General Synod in February which said that the bishops should not introduce anything that was ‘contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.’
With regard to point 3 we do have to say that contrary to what is required in the Canons they are indicative of a departure from the Church’s teaching on a ‘essential matter.’ This is because the doctrine of the Church of England holds that people to acknowledge, repent of, and confess their sins, not only in private but in the context of public worship, so that their sins may be forgiven and no longer constitute a barrier between them and God. Furthermore, the doctrine of the Church of England holds that being in a form of marriage that is not permitted by the law of God and engaging in ‘fornication’ (all forms of sex outside marriage including same sex sexual activity) are serious sins. In the proposed forms of service in GS 2328, however, no provision is made for those involved in such sins to be called to repent, to confess their sins and to receive absolution.
It follows that either the bishops are indicating either (a) that same-sex marriage and sexual activity are not sinful or (b) that that they are sinful, but that nonetheless a call to repentance, confession and absolution is not required. Either (a) or (b) would constitute a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England on an essential matter and would thus be contrary to the Canons.
Not giving people the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness is also a serious failure of pastoral provision because it demonstrates a lack of concern for the well-being of the people concerned that is contrary to the will of God who declares through the prophet Ezekiel ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’ (Ezekiel 33:11).
GS 2328 needs to be withdrawn or voted down so that a proper form of pastoral care for those in same-sex marriages or same-sex relationships can be developed instead.
Martin Davie is a Latimer Trust Research fellow, a lecturer and writer and blogger. His personal blog is Reflections of An Anglican Theologian.
Views expressed in blogs published by the Latimer Trust are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Latimer Trust.