After years of study, bishops of the Church of England have announced that they will not allow same-sex marriages within their churches, nor allow their clergy to perform them, but they will allow their priests to “bless” same-sex unions after a civil marriage. In other words, they lack the courage to go ahead with same-sex marriage as a rite of the church, but their backup plan for now is to allow clergy to bless the unions they cannot approve.
The Church of England was famously born in compromise, but at least it once produced bishops like J. C. Ryle, definite statements of doctrine like the Thirty-Nine Articles, and theological achievements like the Book of Common Prayer. I am an unrepentant Anglophile, though certainly not an Anglican. Nevertheless, a portrait of 16th century Archbishop Thomas Cranmer hangs in my library. I can only imagine what bishops like Ryle and Cranmer would say to their contemporaries today. It might not be polite.
The bishops’ most recent statement is almost majestic in its obtuseness and political correctness. The bishops express regret and sorrow and apologize to those they identify as “LGBTQIA+ people” for “homophobic response in our churches” and “for this we repent.” But this is the language of the self-congratulatory apology that so characterizes the moral confusion of our day. What, pray tell, is homophobia, exactly? Would preaching on Romans 1 qualify? Do the bishops repent of once holding to biblical truth? At times, the Christian church has indeed sinned against sinners by resorting to slander and caricature and hatred. But the church has never sinned by preaching the Holy Scriptures and upholding holiness. The bishops repent of what they will not define.
Britain is an increasingly secular society with an increasingly hostile edge. A small fraction of U.K. citizens ever darkens the door of a local church and one of the church’s biggest challenges is how to maintain all its empty buildings. Clearly, it cannot. The Church of England is an established church and its bishops are simultaneously clerical and political, with some sitting in the House of Lords. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was identified as an evangelical of some sort when he was elevated to that high office. It does appear that he is the sort of evangelical who is no evangelical at all.
Predictably, the bishops were also unclear about what exactly they were allowing under the rubric of “blessing” same-sex unions, except that the unions, which cannot be performed in a Church of England parish and cannot be presided over by a Church of England minister may nonetheless be blessed by the same minister in the same church by means of a structure not yet determined which will nonetheless be some kind of blessing that will, you know, bless.
The bishops also do a ridiculous two-step on the issue of sex itself, and admit they are doing so, describing the issue as a question that “arises.” You can’t make this up.
The real point of all this is that the Church of England is now to bless same-sex unions in clear defiance of both the Bible and the tradition of the Christian church. It will do so even as many of the more conservative churches in the Anglican Communion threaten to break from Canterbury. It will do so even as those identified as LGBTQIA+ in the bishops’ statement are outraged that the church is so tepid. It will do so even after evangelicals rightly call the move outright rebellion against the Word of God.
Read it all at AlbertMohler.com