Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Our will be done.

LADIES and gentlemen, gather round. We're witnessing something you only get to see once in a millennium - the death of a church.

It's been unwell for a while. The Church of England isn't as popular as it once was, and although one million people attend its services every Sunday that's just 1/60th of the population. Seeing as around 70 per cent of us say we're Christian, that's a massive failure of getting bums on seats.

Now the church has decided to stake its survival on the issue of gay marriage, a move which is so obviously suicidal that it might be time to declare the Church of England mentally incompetent.

The Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stephens, is even worried that gay sex might not constitute legal consummation of a marriage because it's done differently, a bit like when Queen Victoria outlawed male homosexuality but not female because she didn't see how it would work.

It doesn't really matter whether you think two people of the same sex should be able to marry in church or that they shouldn't. There are gays who want to, gays who don't, and clergy who have spent decades thinking one thing or the other who find it pretty tricky to think something different.

The fact is that it's happening. It's out of our hands. Under the European Convention on Human Rights we can't not allow people to get married in church on the basis of their sexuality any more than we could not allow it on the basis of their hair colour, skin tone or body mass index, so it's past the point of arguing.

The church's rules were last used as the law of the land in the 12th century, when the Normans realised the Saxon court system was much better. The church split four hundred years later and accepted the monarch as their supreme head, and canon law was officially repealed in 1638 when some antsy bishops picked a fight with Charles I.

These days their boss is the Queen, and she has to agree to laws voted for by Parliament. So Parliament is legally, practically and constitutionally able to regulate the church. It's a bit late for them to wail about that fact 900 years too late.

It's also ignoring its own history. The church has managed to adapt and change because of a variety of other social changes, although it tends to take its sweet time about it.

It was formed in 1534 solely because Henry VIII wanted to get rid of one wife and marry another but it wasn't until 2002 the general public could do the same in a religious ceremony. It picked bits of the Catholic liturgy and Protestant theology to use as suited, Latin was banned and reinstated then banned again, and today atheists, Muslims and Catholics can all marry in the CofE.

But the bishops in charge of the church today have forgotten the past few centuries of its history in favour of concentrating on the rules of a book written 2,000 years ago, and their pig-headed refusal to admit they're not all as relevant as they once were is pushing the church towards extinction.

On the one hand there are die-hards who won't change one thing more and insist their god doesn't talk to women or endorse the love between people of the same sex; and on the other there are modernisers who want to inhabit the 21st century with a website and Twitter account which proudly boasts: "We're here to learn and to engage."

Right then, vicar. Pin your ears back and listen to this.

Gays exist, and if they want to get married in a church then you are going to be incapable of stopping them. Gays aren't illegal anymore, and our laws take precedence over yours. Because of those laws you usually marry anyone who asks, even Katie Price who's demonstrably not very good at it.

The Government says there are 3.6m gay people in Britain, which is three times your average congregation. They don't want to all get hitched, but there's more of them than there are of you so they're going to win this one.

Last time your church split it did so with a great deal of pain, death and difficulty but various bits managed to grow new life, like an amoeba that's been through a bacon slicer. But then you were a big, sprawling thing that could take the division. If it happens again you're so small that you won't survive; you'll be reduced to a scream on the wind.

Frankly you're lucky anyone's still paying you attention at all.

Gay marriage isn't undermining the church; it's undermining itself. It has to decide if it wants to exist, and if so to admit what everyone else has got used to - that there's nowt so queer as folk, and if it wants to minister to them it had better start enjoying that fact.

It needs new customers, and needs them sharpish. Straight people are marrying in fewer numbers than ever before so relying on them for the future is a business plan Alan Sugar would laugh out the door.

And if the church can't cope with that, then for God's sake please just commit suicide quietly.

"Hello? Is that Dignitas? How much for a job lot?"


Matt said...

3 things.

1. Gay marriage is obviously bad, the discussion of it and distraction of talking about it caused David Cameron to leave his daughter in a pub. This would not have happened if gays didn't want to get married.

2. Every time gays marry an angel loses it wings.

3. As being gay is wrong can the church please get rid of all images/artifacts they hold that gay people have designed/made. After all if gays created it think what it is doing to your parishioners minds.

Marsdaddy said...

Death of a church? Bring it on!!

Jennie Kermode said...

I've no disagreement with the general tone of this article but I find the assertion that 1M Church of England attendees constitute a 60th of the population rather odd. You seem to be using the population figures for the whole UK (England has only 52M) when the Church of England - the clue's in the name - only operates in part of it.

Anonymous said...

I had a good giggle over this post... thanks Matt, you're quite the wit!

Ty said...

Funny how bigoted against something they are - I mean the Homosexuals

Greg_L-W. said...


death of the idiocy of man's determination to invent gods and then worship them must surely be seen as a far greater mental aberration than the simple perversion of homosexuality.

Perversion as in it is indisputably perverse to the norm - just as church worship is no more than a perversion since the norm amongst 60M+ is clearly not in church attendance and it is thus a perversion.

Can there be any other source of evil greater than the determination of the perverse to invent & worship gods?

Other than perhaps mankind itself!


Anonymous said...

This sort of sanctimonious crap just doesn't wash any more. If the Church of England wants to self-combust over this issue, fine. If it isn't equal marriage (what, by the way, are they afraid of in the word "equal"?) it'll be something else.

It can't happen soon enough, and if it means that the bishops are removed from the House of Lords sooner rather than later as a result, so much the better.

By the way - thanks for the mini-Where's-Wally game of finding the woman in the photo. I counted two. Speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

Hmm - maybe four Wallyettes. Still not great.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the uproar when women dared to become vicars and then bishops - how many devoted CoE supporters and clergymen left their faith to become Catholics?

Jesus' teachings were all about treating everyone equally, to love our neighbours - he doesn't add 'but only if they're straight'.

The Jubilee service reminded me how much I used to love going to church. The hatred of gay marriages (and 'different' people in general) reminds me why I no longer go. And I'm straight! The hypocrisy drove me away.

Anonymous said...

What really beggars belief is the arrogance of the Church. Why have they assumed that gays will actually want to visit an archaic, dying, backward and downright cretinous institution to get married in the first place??

Brian said...

Actually, according to this blog ( your point about the ECHR is over-optimistic. The European Court of Human Rights doesn't require churches (or anyone) to accept or carry out gay marriages, and "in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Schalk and Kopf v. Austria that it would not force states to allow same-sex couples to marry". So, it's not a foregone conclusion and we actually have to keep telling the CofE (and other churches) to keep their prurient noses out of our lives.

Anonymous said...

Gay marriage eh? What you mean two people who love each other wanting to cement their relationship in the same way us straight people do???
I say bring it blooming well on!!
We get one shot at life, one shot to be happy and fulfilled. Ive attended gay weddings and i love the gentlemen who got married and they love each other.
Im straight and have a broken marriage behind maybe were not the best judge of how marriage should work!

Anonymous said...

And what about those priests who abuse children and get away with it,we seem to hear of them more withing the catholic church, but they do exist in the church of england too. I saw a program on tv that had some ancient legal papers from a church court back in the 12 century i believe, a girl of about 10 had slept with a priest, she received fifty lashes of a whip around the town, probably her parents were fined and the priest? he got away with it!
What about gay clergy or those who have a wife in one bed and a same sex lover in another?
Double standards as usual from an insititution that is meant to love all and yet is to blatanlty bigoted it is sickening

Anonymous said...

Amazing how its ok to ve a paedophile in the Church of Enland but not aay man or woman. Bigots the lot of them. How dare they tell me that i cant mary somone of the same sex. Who the hell do these people think they are.....

Common Cents said...

Love that the ads at the top of this post are for a) Pilgrimages to the Holy Land and b) the anniversary of the Anglian Catholic Church!

Ursh said...

Because older things tend to have a certain camp charm - like Christopher Biggins

Chris Moroney said...

Hair successfully split, mission accomplished!

Anonymous said...

Obviously they do or it wouldn't be an issue

Anonymous said...

I live in Wales, and we have several Churches of England, I can't speak for Scotland or Ireland,

Stercus said...

Surely if the c of e doesn't want to marry gay couples then no one needs to force them to. Just do what has been standard practice in France for generations: Make all religious marriages non-legally binding and require a civil ceremony. If a church won't toe the line of the majority, remove it from authority. The c of e is at best a minority group and therefore if their method of marriage is not compatible with the general society in which it resides, then it should only have weight within its own minority enclave. The idea that any (comparitively) tiny group's archaic views should have veto over the democratic will of the people has no credence in a modern democracy.

thevicarswife said...

Just for accuracy Foxy, I don't think a vicar would have to conduct a wedding service for Katie Price, as she's been divorced. It's up to individual clergy if they will conduct second marriages.

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