At a recent General Synod (Nov.2002), where it was decided to retain the requirement that clergy must wear appropriate vestments when taking church services [even when the parish requests that they wear regular clothing], it was also decided that it would now be possible, by the law of the Church, for divorcees to be married in church using the official marriage service of the Church of England. Only one bishop voted against and he is the sole "flying bishop" in the Synod.
It has been possible for divorcees to be married in church for a long time, but this has been because the C of E is an established church and her clergy are marriage officers of the state. Thus the latter have been able to take the marriage ceremony allowed by the civil law even if not allowed by church law. In doing so they were open to be disciplined by the bishop. Now the Church law moves by a big step towards reconcilation with the liberal State law.
Church law, ever since the 16th century, has forbidden the marriage of a divorced person in church; and in England annulments have not been officially given by the Church, only by the State and that rarely. What has been passed by the Synod is not on paper a free for all, although once implemented it will be very difficult indeed to say "no" to any couple for if the local minister has conscientous objections, another minister will be asked to do the job.
Thus the C of E once again follows the secularist way of the ECUSA and in so doing will very soon like the ECUSA be allowing the blessing of same-sex couples. The one seems inevitably to follow the other in a culture of rights, self-esteem and self-fulfilment, and lack of objective, moral standards. No fence can be erected now in the C of E against the blessing of gay marriage.
I predict that [liberal] evangelicals & catholics who once opposed women's ordination and then became advocates for it, and who now seem wholly to favour this new liberal measure of Synod concerning holy matrimony as "pastoral", will (like a growing number of USA liberal catholics & evangelicals) soon be calling for certain limited rights for same-sex couples in church -- not in 2003 but by 2007.
One friend wrote to me in these terms on hearing the news:
"I am guessing that the Church of England has abandoned any official, common, and enforceable discipline regarding marriage. As far as I can see, besides the conscience clause given as a sop to the scruples of dissenting clergy (meaningful only as a private matter, not with a backing from the Church in any teaching capacity), there is absolutely nothing to prevent any and every kind of remarriage. The whole body of the Church of England cannot be held to the disciplines that some of the parts might enact, with varying intensity, and the teaching seems to be irreversible.
"Life-long" now seems to mean that people can have a succession of lives. It also seems that "exceptional" cases are now the rule, given that there is no rule to give meaning to the exceptions. Additionally, it seems that every (civil) divorce is a de facto Church annulment. This was not the intent, but this is the result. Or if annulment does not even enter into the equation, then state decretals are all the Church needs (plus a personal plea convincing to the mind of a single cleric) to perform a marriage."
May the Lord have mercy upon all who are called Anglican & Episcopalian! The Mother Church has taken another huge step in abandoning the Faith of the reformed Catholic Ecclesia Anglicana!
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America