Saturday, March 12, 2011

Voices of Faith Speak Out: Enough God to go around?

Commentary from the Guardian (UK). Backstory: the Church of England, cousin to the American Episcopalians, is having a hard time dealing with same sex partnerships, which are called "civil partnerships" in the UK. It wants to prevent other faith groups from celebrating them.
[T]he religious liberty defence has a patronising and hollow ring to it when Quakers and Reform Jews are asking precisely for the liberty to register and bless civil partnerships in their own places of worship. They do not need Anglican or Roman Catholic bishops to "save them from themselves" – especially since both our churches have a shameful history of persecuting these very same faith groups.

So why does the liberty to introduce God into civil partnership ceremonies devalue marriage? It would appear that there just isn't enough of God to go around. One cannot, apparently, honour and bless one pattern of living a faithful and committed life, without somehow devaluing another. It is the theological equivalent of printing too much money.

Western Christianity has been here before. ...When the religious life in the Church of England, pulverised at the Reformation, came back into its corporate life in the middle of the 19th century, many Victorian Anglicans saw it precisely in the same way: as a rival to marriage because it offered another sanctified, or blessed, way of Christian living. It introduced an element of "competition" into a spiritual monopoly.

The revival of the religious life in Anglicanism, and the honoured place it now has, goes to show how we can as a church change our mind and rectify our mistakes. It also goes to show that there really is enough of God to go around; that different ways of faithful living do not compete with each other but add to the enrichment of the whole. Gay and lesbian people of faith actually want God's blessing at an important time of public commitment. So much for aggressive secularism.

Stability, love, faithfulness, commitment: these are the things in human relating that matter and the things the Church of England should be doing its best not to disparage or demonise but to foster and celebrate – in short, to bless. There really is enough of God to go around.

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