Genuine marriages only

The Church of England's Communication office seems very keen on (heterosexual) weddings (see yesterday's post).

Under the strap line "Join in with us wherever you are!" (why the exclamation?) they have a YouTube marketing video basically telling potential customers, you can get married in any church you like, one way or another. Everyone welcome - baptised or not, church-goer or not, believer or not.

Is the CofE continuing to lose market share? Or is this just a distraction from the question of civil partnerships? Or is it a merely matter of needing the fees?

However the video doesn't mention the CofE's guidance on marriage of non-EEA people. The UKBA have been paranoid about sham marriages. Or, in the more diplomatic words of the Faculty Office,
Strictly speaking the law of marriage and the national immigration requirements are separate. However, there is a contemporary concern that some couples may be contracting marriage solely for immigrations reasons. (here, pdf)
For some time the CofE resisted pressure to conform to secular changes in marriage preliminaries.  They have now caved in no doubt following the successful prosecution of Rev Alex Brown for his part in a series of sham marriages. To rub in its victory the UKBA sent its own guidance note along with the Church's.

I don't deny sham marriages take place, and may be arranged by organised criminal gangs, and that they are are a crime to be prosecuted like any other. But I do think the matter has been blown out of proportion.  For example, the press release, in support of the need for such a change, says there were 155 arrests in relation to sham marriages - arrests, not convictions, and presumably more than one arrest per putative marriage, and with no time-scale given. 

I also know that genuine marriages, contracted by "those who wish to do so to enter into the honourable estate of holy matrimony, intending a permanent and lifelong union, for better for worse, till death do them part." are threatened and, I believe, have been blocked. The reason is that sham marriages are only one of the UKBA's target. 

The other target is those asylum seekers or other non-EEA nationals who wish to contract a valid marriage. Such a marriage is likely to strengthen in their a to remain in the UK. To assert or assume that such benefit is the only or primary reason for marriage for every one is as demeaning of the holy estate of matrimony as is sham marriage. It reflects the UKBA's culture of disbelief and disdain towards those it is trying to keep out.  

The Case Study in the Faculty Office's guidance, which is less a case study than a statement of dfficult decisions to be made, concludes:
If the relationship is a genuine one and the parties understand the nature and import of marriage, it would be disproportionate to refuse the licence. Although the overriding interest is to ensure  that the marriage is based on a genuine intention, such procedures can help to ensure that the position of the Church of England is not abused in a way which could cause it potential embarrassment or damage its position as a national institution privileged and obligated to carry out national duties.
It is the final clause which the Revd Alex Brown flouted.

And I don't see in any of the guidance notes how to appeal the refusal of a licence if the incumbent considers a couple's application to be genuinely founded.


Communications Director: mind the barbed wire

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude has blogged that the Church of England's next Communications Director had better be pure, heterosexual, never-sinned-and-repented, and probably male.

Should the presumptions behind William Fittall's approach to recruitment be tested I think they would at least border on illegal discrimination. But I also have no doubt that Fittall is a good officer whose views coincide with those of his superiors. The Equalities Act and the egalitarian valuation of people that motivated such legislation (however inadequate in many ways) is a real stumbling block to those whose world view and ecclesiology is engrained with irrelevant discriminatory attitudes.
Peter Crumpler

According the the Communication Office's web page the present Director of Communications, Peter Crumpler, was, for 20 years, "in communications with British Gas". Sometimes it can take that long to sort out a bill.


More on the Bernard Mizeki memorial

The Bernard Mizeki shrine
Two newspapers reported the attempt to hold a commemoration of Bernard Mizeki at his shrine last weekend. Over 15,000 people were kept away from the shrine itself and met in a nearby showground.

According to the Standard

“We have no complaints, the police were here to protect us,” Gandiya said.
“Our only complainant is about politicians in the background who did not want to see us at the shrine. My question is: Are these police the same police force we know or a rogue force, considering there is a heavy police presence at the shrine?
“Why is Norbert Kunonga commanding the police?
While NewsDay had,
Police details were posted about three kilometres from the shrine and barred Gandiya and his followers from going there.
Gandiya said his people were denied access to the Bernard Mizeki Shrine by the police who said they were working under instructions.
Bishop Chad Gandiya was evidently angry at Kunonga's continued accusations that Bishop Gandiya and the church he leads endorses homosexuality and denied he was meddling in politics (the stock question of journalists the world over).

The troubles of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe won't be over till Mugabe and his regime is gone. That isn't going to happen anytime soon. Mugabe controls the security apparatus, has the backing of the army and barely pays lip-service to Tsvangirai and the MDC.


Bernard Mizeki, Catechist & Martyr

Morning Prayer, Bernard Mizeki, Catechist & Martyr, 1896, 16 June

For the second year running, Anglicans in Zimbabwe have been forced to find another place to mark the memorial of African martyr Bernard Mizeki after being denied access to their official shrine.
Last year worshippers, who had travelled from all over the country, were driven away by the Zimbabwe Republic Police despite assurances from the government that they would not be disturbed or harassed.
Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Dr. Chad N. Gandiya called on members of the Anglican Communion to pray for the safety of the pilgrims who travel to the Marondera Show Ground this coming weekend.
“The love, courage and commitment of Bernard Mizeki to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel he preached among the Mangwende people is an inspiration to us all as we suffer persecution,” he said.
“Like him our people continue to witness to God's love and grace regardless of arrests, ridicule and harassments. Celebrations this year are particularly meaningful because of what we are going through.”
In addition to praying, members of the Anglican Communion are asked to visit and 'like' the Facebook page I'm Standing with Zimbabwe's Anglicans to stand in solidarity with the Anglicans of Zimbabwe. The aim is to show Zimbabwe’s Anglicans that they are not alone in their suffering, that fellow brothers and sisters around the world are praying for their situation.


Just say NO

When the Covenant was first being discussed a bishop for whom I have considerable respect advised ignoring it. It will, he predicted, go away. It didn't.

Now I hear that some Church of England bishops think the same thing will happen if the Covenant is adopted, that it will just fade into disuse, another Anglican document of historical interest only. It won't.

I see also that some in the US think that sections 1-3 could be endorsed without section 4. Even if this was formally on the table, which it isn't, it would be no better that passing the whole thing. Sections 1-3 presume the enforcement mechanism of section 4.

The reason why the Covenant didn't go away and won't fade away and why sections 1-3 can't be disconnected from section 4 is one and the same:

  • the Covenant creates a new entity, a centrally governed Anglican Church
  • the Covenant creates new powers and 
  • grants those powers (and others) to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and, critically,
  • once a new entity is created and new powers placed in people's hands they will never be given up.
I am well aware that the Covenant says it won't change the internal workings of member churches but it will. The internal logic of the powers will drive it in this direction. Some provinces - the US and, I think, Canada, Australia and New Zealand at least - will almost certainly have to amend their constitution to the Covenant. Furthermore the Covenant is addressed to provinces: if dioceses or other units can act in ways the Covenant mechanisms would disapprove they will have to be brought in line - and in many places this would be a direct assault on the autonomy provinces have previously exercised.

The TEC opinion says, and I believe that to varying degrees this will apply to all provinces:
As developed further in this report, the SCCC is of the view that adoption of the current draft Anglican Covenant has the potential to change the constitutional and canonical framework of TEC, particularly with respect to the autonomy of our Church, and the constitutional authority of our General Convention, bishops and dioceses.
I am aware that the powers are phased as advisory. But they're not really. This is just a fiction to get the Covenant passed. 

I profoundly disagree with the substance of the Covenant, I abominate its initial motivation of expelling TEC and ACoC from the Communion, I deplore the manner in which it is being driven through, and I despair of the kind of Church that process and product embody and will engender.

And beneath all this I believe that the desire to put coercive force at the foundation of the Anglican Communion is wholly incompatible with a Christian faith founded on a death and a resurrection.

If you have a vote or a voice, just say NO.

Hello again

I see it was March when I last posted anything. I have drowned in work and other changes in my life. I'm coming up for air now because I'm on holiday - whether I can sustain posting again in the future we'll just have to see.

I'm not going to look back - I wiped 900 accumulated and unread RSS messages - but I do wish to continue to add my voice to the campaign against adoption of the Covenant.