27th January 2023

I am writing this at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as the Church of England gears up for a synod which will fight over single sex marriage again. The bishops’ proposals for prayers of blessing for single sex couples seem relatively harmless as the CofE blesses many things – nuclear submarines, donkeys, school bags among them. But this proposal does not go far enough for some and goes much too far for others. The Baptist Union is heading for a similar upset.

The Anglicans in Scotland permit single sex marriages. The Anglicans in Wales can bless them. Methodists leave the decision to individual churches which is a very Baptist solution – or a solution which used to be normal among Baptists.

The objections usually turn on quoting scripture, but over the years a number of scriptural injunctions have been put aside.

I had a Jewish friend who belonged to a Reformed Jewish congregation. Her view of the strict dietary laws we find in the Old Testament was that they were an admirable code for a nomadic people pre-1000BC but were unnecessary for a settled people with refrigerators.

For us Christians, a number of New Testament rules have changed over time. Despite what Paul said, slavery was eventually deemed to be wrong. Some churches (but not all) allow women to be ordained. Most do not require women to have long hair and wear hats and allow them to speak and teach in church. Divorce is allowed. All these were fought over for long years.

So here we go again…

Margaret Clements