Bad news and Good news in the Church of England

By Andrew Symes for AAC


First, the bad news. There are more examples of heresy in the hierarchy. An 87 year old retired priest, faithfully continuing to serve the church, was helping during an interregnum in a small town parish on the South coast. When a young lesbian couple met with him for the final administrative details of the private baptism of their child, the old man did not refuse to conduct the ceremony but stated that it would not be possible to register the child as having two mothers. The two women, upset at this, complained to the Archdeacon, and went to the press. The Archdeacon immediately overruled, saying that of course the child could have two mothers; he found another clergyman to take the service and sign the register, leaving the 87 year old to face the baying press alone.


Eyebrows have been raised in the wider church by diocesan lawyers wondering how the Archdeacon could have taken such a controversial decision without watertight legal advice on a matter for which there is little precedent. Retired clergy up and down the country are no doubt wondering why they should continue to serve in parishes given this new added risk of trial by media. It has been noted with sadness that both the previous vicar of the church, who had organized the baptism, and the Archdeacon himself, considered themselves to be evangelicals. No doubt their intentions were pastoral and evangelistic, but the effect has been to create confusion, division and alarm. Does the Church of England now unquestioningly accept the fiction that a child can have two parents of the same gender? And how long can the big rifts in the C of E as a whole on attitudes to homosexual partnerships continue to be papered over? For some, a baptism like this is a cause for celebration; for others a matter for uncomfortable compromise but no different from baptizing the children of any parents who are not professing orthodox Christian faith. But a third group of clergy who operate a stricter policy on baptism generally will be concerned that their consciences could be overridden by Bishops and Archdeacons on this issue in the future.


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