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Church marriage – open to all?

Regular contributor Philip Young shares with us his personal view on whether churches should marry same-sex couples.

In the UK, same sex marriage has been possible since 29 March 2014.  The vast majority of these are state weddings performed by a registrar where no religious content is allowed.
However, a growing number of churches are now allowing same sex marriages and accepting that God can be asked to bless these marriages. In the UK, Quakers, Unitarians, Scottish Episcopalians, the United Reformed Church and, most recently, the Methodists have all decided in their favour of this.
The Church of Wales has recently voted that same sex marriages and civil partnerships performed by the state can seek a service of blessing in the Church of Wales after the civil ceremony.
The Church of England has many people in favour of church weddings or blessings for same sex couples, but, recognizing the opposing point of view, is encouraging their congregations to debate the issues in a useful set of study materials called, ‘Living in Love and Faith’ (see www.churchofengland.org and go to ‘Resources’).
My position is quite clear on this. I believe that God loves to bless love between human beings and that the gender of the lovers does not matter. I have many friends who are in loving same sex relationships, and they are usually very joyful and enriching partnerships. I do not believe that these are anything but good and stable relationships and deserve to be called good marriages.
There has been so much hatred and prejudice down the ages towards same sex friendships but, to my mind, this is not of God, for God is love. The modern Church of England wedding service quotes this passage from John, ‘God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them’ (1 John 4.16). I cannot find any reason why this should not include all loving relationships.
My poem Love between two people written in 2016 sums up these thoughts:
I am love.
Whenever two people love one another I am there too.
My love is like a third presence, a threefold cord is not easily broken.
The gender of the lovers matters not.
The love between a man and a woman is beautiful.
The love between a man and another man is beautiful too.
So too the love between a woman and another woman is beautiful.
Rejoice that such love may express itself in caring physical intimacy,
Above all be mindful of the beauty which resides in your hearts.
If love is in your hearts, then love triumphs.
And love is always beautiful.
These thoughts are mine and I know that not everyone will agree. I hope there will be a time when all the churches accept same sex marriage and that all couples, regardless of gender, can have a church wedding.
In the meantime, let us remember that Jesus came to show us how to love one another and that Christians should be known by their love. Let us listen to one another and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash.

Philip Young June 2014Philip is an Anglican, Quaker, and a member of the Third Order of Franciscans, and now lives in Felixstowe. Until July 2014 he was the Diocesan Environmental Officer for the Norwich Diocese. In June 2017 he stood as an Independent Candidate for the General Election in the Suffolk Coastal Constituency.  He is now Associate Priest at St. John and St. Edmund in Felixstowe and a freelance writer on spiritual and political matters. He is available to run Quiet Days, give talks, presentations or to preach and can be contacted at philipyoung@btinternet.com. Philip is developing a new website www.revolutionoflovenow.com.


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Dave Brennan (Guest) 13/01/2022 13:45
So how about marriage between 3 people, or 4? So long as there’s love God is there according to what you’ve been saying? Or marriage between close relatives?
Richard (Guest) 13/01/2022 15:12
Dave Brennan raises a great question. Everybody draws a line somewhere. Philip says "I believe that God loves to bless love between human beings and that the gender of the lovers does not matter." Ok, so can two children get married? Presumably Philip will say no. Ok, so when? English law says 16. Is that right? English law says you can only marry one person. Is that right? English law says relatives can't get married. Is that right? These are all lines that people draw.

Of course, there is no excuse for the offensive way some Christians have behaved towards those who are same sex attracted. But what does God say? The Bible seems pretty clear that God's idea of marriage is two people of opposite sexes. I might not like that, but there is plenty in the Bible that can be challenging. If I don't let the Bible challenge me, I make God in my own image.

Philip says "Jesus came to show us how to love one another". More accurately, the Bible says that because God loved us, he sent his son to save us. Of course he did demonstrate immense love in the person of Jesus and that included calling people to live lives that were radically different and to turn their backs on ways of living that were contrary to God's holy standards.
James Knight (Guest) 13/01/2022 17:21
Yes, I think Dave and Richard have posited the key question that brings difficulty to Philip’s argument – that in claiming “that God loves to bless love between human beings and that the gender of the lovers does not matter” – the question of how far this so-called tolerance extends looms large, and has not been justified. If the proposition is that as long as there is love between human beings then God loves to bless it, regardless of *gender* (this should say sex, not gender - or at the very least sex and gender), then where would Philip draw the line? And why draw the line there and not elsewhere?

I’m not saying whether I think Philip is right or wrong on where he’s drawn the line – but as Dave and Richard have already said, it’s a category of argument that can come to grief.



Mesack (Guest) 13/01/2022 22:29
Philip, thanks for your article which brings out the viewpoint of many people in this nation and sadly many in the church. And a big thanks to Dave Brenan and Richard for raising questions that show the fallacy in this ideology to justify same sex marriage. Philip, speaking as a Christian, you say “Let us listen to one another and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit” and in response to Gill Austen you say “Prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit is the only way forward I think”. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit would lead to truths that contradict the Word of God? Or justify ideologies that are a contradiction to what is written in the bible?
James Knight (Guest) 14/01/2022 11:46
Mesack --

"Do you believe that the Holy Spirit would lead to truths that contradict the Word of God? "

By which you really mean "Do you believe that the Holy Spirit would lead to truths that contradict *my interpretation of* the Word of God? "

Always remember the interpretive component in reading scripture - it's essential.

Dave Brennan (Guest) 14/01/2022 13:42
James - the Old Testament and New Testament references to homosexual activity - of which there are many - are unanimous in condemning the practice. And there are no positive references to the activity, even though it was widely practised in the ancient world in the surrounding cultures. What possible “interpretation” can conclude from Scripture that it is ok? You might as well say “white is white” could be interpreted as “white is black”. Mesack is absolutely right. It is meaningless to say let’s listen to the Holy Spirit if we ignore what he has already said clearly through Scripture. And if we try to obscure what he has said so clearly with the mist of “interpretations”, well ultimately we are reading into Scripture whatever we like. Admittedly some issues in Scripture are not totally clear (presumably they were not intended to be), for example what kind of trans-local oversight was envisaged in a long-term way (i.e. bishops) - reasonable minds can disagree on such issues - but homosexual activity is not one of them. Interested to hear Philip’s answer to the original question about polygamy and incest.
James Knight (Guest) 14/01/2022 17:55
Dave, we are interpreting scripture every time we read it - it's your interpretation that leads you to your views, irrespective of how clear and obvious they may seem.
James Knight (Guest) 14/01/2022 17:58
I'm not saying whether I agree or not, just establishing that there is interpretation going on at every level, and that many Christians overlook this fact when proclaiming their views.

I hope Philip responds to your points Dave (and Richard's), as he's responded quickly to all the encouraging ones - and both are worthy of a reply.
Philip Young (Guest) 16/01/2022 18:25
Only just seen the latest string of comments as I don't look here every day! I am talking about marriage between two consenting adults. Civil law has already given the go ahead for same sex marriage and several churches have already moved to accepting these marriages in church and sees no problem in God being asked to bless them them. I'm quite sure God loves to see human beings loving one another and blesses that where more than two people might be involved and love between children is good. However I am talking about marriage between two people of consenting age. There are good reasons why incest is a bad idea linked mainly to mixing up the gene pool. I can see the Holy Spirit changing the accepted inherited norms. In Acts of the Apostles the accepted norm was that Jesus had come for the Jews only and it is the Holy Spirit who persuades Peter and Paul that he had also come for the Gentiles. In the same way marriage has been considered only for a man and a woman, but I can see the Holy Spirit changing attitudes in our own day until more and more people can accept marriage to be also be for same sex couples. As James and others point out Scripture is open to interpretation and what I see God condemning is promiscuity and exploitation within relationships. Faithful loving stable relationships are a reality already between same sex couples and I think it would be great for the church to recognise these positive loving relationships and to welcome them and bless them.
Dave Brennan (Guest) 17/01/2022 19:35
Thank you for your response Philip.

Can we be crystal clear here: when you say that God blesses “love...where more than two people might be involved” - are you speaking by about people sexually involved with each other? And when you speak about “love between children” - are you talking about sexual stuff there? If you simply mean platonic love in both cases, I doubt that anyone on earth would disagree with you, and your point need hardly be made. So did you mean sexual activity?

Also why should genetic mixing be a problem with incest if it’s homosexual incest? Do you bless homosexual incest?

I’m not sure the Jews-to-Gentiles shift is an appropriate analogy because the blessing to the Gentiles was amply prophesied in the Old Testament from at least as early as Abraham. Multiple Gentiles played key roles in the Old Testament such as Ruth and Melchizedek as a foretaste of this. Where is the analogous hint that homosexual activity would one day be embraced? There is no hint of commendation in the Old or the New Testament, even though the attitude of the Roman and Greek cultures at time of NT were in favour. So where did Bible’s opposition to it come from, when the surrounding cultures were so in favour?

Surely your argument (though I hope I’ve shown it’s flawed anyway) could be applied to anything. “Holy Spirit has changed stuff before so I now declare that he is changing attitudes on...polygamy.”

You appear to have the Holy Spirit as quite separate from Scripture. But as I say, Holy Spirit revealed to apostles what was already there in Scripture, that the Gentiles would be brought on. Indeed the whole argument of the Book or Romans is proving the gospel from the Old Testament.

You cannot use the “Holy Spirit” as an arbitrary carte blanche for any change you subjectively wish to see, regardless of (or in the face of) what is revealed in Scripture. Indeed the fear of God ought to terrify any one of us from daring to use the Lord’s name in that way.
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