Gene Robinson, the recently elected bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire, was the dream candidate of the revisionist left. A gay man who ‘celebrated’ separation from his wife and children in a eucharistic rite which ‘empowered’ him to live with his male partner, he epitomizes the bond between the divorce culture (which has overwhelmed the Episcopal Church) and the gay culture which is overwhelming it.
Walter Righter (but who remembers him now?) – the retired bishop who was cited for heresy for the ordination of a practising homosexual, who had declared that Mother Theresa would be vastly improved if she ‘got laid’ – was thrice married and twice divorced.
The American Anglican Church long ago abandoned the mores of Catholic Christianity. It now reaps the whirlwind. A church which bought into the divorce culture with relish and enthusiasm – and in which significant numbers of bishops are divorced and remarried – can hardly be expected to hold the line on gay ‘marriages’, gay ordinations or practising gay bishops. With Robinson the liberal revisionists are garnering the guilt of those who have made adultery an Episcopalian hobby: if it’s good enough for you, why shouldn’t it be good enough for us?
Gay activists, of course, talk about relationships which are ‘faithful, stable and monogamous’ and no doubt make much of the long-standing liason between Canon Robinson and his partner. But, looking at the marital state of the average American, how faithful is ‘faithful’; how stable is ‘stable’; and how monogamous is monogamy when it is serial?
All these questions are now finally being raised in England. One watershed was the remarriage of Mark Santer to the divorced wife of one of his own priests. Santer could have taken early retirement (the Church Commissioners would almost certainly have devised an advantageous package) but whether out of insouciance or defiance he chose to stay to the bitter end. Another watershed is the appointment of Jeffrey John, and John’s surely disingenuous denial of all he has previously (and courageously) stood for, in order to gain (as Lytton Strachey might have put it) ‘the hat’.
Moderate ‘conservatives’ on both continents can make as much fuss as they like: the dykes are broken, the flood is upon us. The tragedy is that those same ‘conservatives’ have brought on the catastrophe. They are the people who supinely condoned the divorce culture which was the preamble to the present crisis; and they are the ones who allowed, without comment or reproof, Canon Gene Robinson to exercise for so long such a high profile ministry.
Who will take notice of them now when they say ‘No’?
On the evening of Wednesday 28th May, the Reverend Margaret Marquardt officiated at a service of blessing for Michael Kalmuk and Kelly Montfort in an Anglican church in east Vancouver. Timed, by exquisite coincidence, to counterbalance the meeting of the Anglican Primates and their rejection of public liturgies for ‘same-sex unions’, it seemed to mark an irrevocable parting of the ways.
In this fast moving season, vying for attention as it is with Reading and New Hampshire, the ‘authorized’ rite of New Westminster at least had the advantage of being a real event. It happened, and there was no going-back. We woke up the next morning, and found?
What did we find? Not much. The full text of ‘The Celebration of a Covenant’ is so anodyne, it is hard to see how anyone could be offended. It is hard to imagine how anyone would even have noticed, without the accompanying spin. Pink candyfloss has a harder edge.
So all-embracing and earnestly inclusive are the words used, there seems no strong reason why it might not be celebrated by a nice little old lady and her pet cat (surely a proxy could make the ‘solemn promise’ on behalf of the latter). It speaks, it is true, about ‘intimacy and companionship’, but these, like all the other words, mean whatever you want them to mean, especially when repeated in ‘the litany of blessing’ which is spoken by everyone present.
It is a sadness of our age that as promises have become more and more vacuous so they become more and more popular. In this ceremony, five promissory responses are shared by ‘the couple’. Another four are made by the congregation. What would happen if they said no? Nothing of course. The ‘promises’ have the same solemnity as those used for the commissioning of PCC members, and rather less than an archdeacon demands of newly-elected churchwardens.
This is not a marriage, nor a substitute for marriage. There is no sex. There is no content. The promises are empty words. And there is no recognizable form of blessing. It is a kitsch mixture of theological nonsense and spiritual parody. It is … all very nice for people who like that sort of thing. Its timing and purpose, of course, are primarily political.
The mountain went into labour, you may say, and brought forth a mouse. But is it really for this that we are to sacrifice what is left of the Anglican Communion?
While Mr Blair continues his crusade to destroy the British constitution, his wife, Cherie, has a much greater target in her sights. Mrs Blair, ‘a devout Roman Catholic’ (except when it clashes with her feminism) has been to Rome. While the Holy Father advised the blessed Tony on alternatives ways of removing weapons of mass destruction from Iraq, it is unlikely that he saw it as his remit to challenge the great reformer on domestic matters. ‘The Bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction, etc’ to comment on, for example, the Balkanization of Britain, the politicization of police and judiciary, the surrender to domestic terror or the imposition of M Giscard d’Estaing’s ‘Constitution’.
No such courtesy restricts the advice of Mrs Blair to the Pope. Her recent Tyburn lecture was a call to feminize the Roman Catholic Church – beginning at Rome. But why stop at advice? Perhaps Cherie could lend JP2 the lovely Carole Caplin, her personal guru and former cult leader. Carole’s crystals, detox showers and eyewash would surely help poor old John Paul to self-actualize and become a much better person.