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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Spring and Love are in Bloom in the Old Country

Spring and Love are in Bloom in the Old Country

By John Gibson
Lay Reader in the Diocese of Los Angeles

It was announced by Clarence House that the Prince of Wales will marry his long-time squeeze, Camilla Parker-Bowles, following an affair that predates both of their prior marriages. Lambeth Palace issued a statement expressing +Canterbury's joy at the news and revealing that His Grace will preside at a prayer service following the civil service. His Grace laid aside any objections he might have had, "after a confidential meeting with the Prince." Even the predecessor Archbishop, the Evangelical and supposedly more conservative +George Carey has stated in writing that the couple ought to marry.

So, God's in his heaven, all's right with the world, and Charles may look forward to his eventual reign as King and Supreme Governor of the Church of England with the "help and support" of the woman he loves so harshly denied to his great Uncle, the unhappy Edward VIII/Duke of Windsor. Right? Well, there are just one or two flies in the ointment.

First, there is the awkward business about Jesus' view on divorce found in Matthew 5:31-2. He was against it. And, as though to make sure everyone is paying attention, Matthew repeats Jesus' view in 19:1-12. This version is also reported in Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18. Three out of four, surely, this must be at least pink-letter stuff according to the Jesus Seminar. This isn't interpreting an oblique reference to something or other in some priest manual or early fable. There it is in black-and-white, Jesus is against divorce in no uncertain terms; "whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery", full-stop; end of discussion.

Then, there is the little tidbit in the final paragraph of the AP (UK) story about the Lambeth Palace statement, "Charles and Camilla may have had to show that adultery did not cause their previous marriage breakdowns." Excuse me? Charles admitted to having committed adultery during his marriage to his former wife; Camilla hasn't said much about her break-up with her former husband, but certainly, canoodling with the Prince of Wales and getting the news spread about all over the Kingdom by the tabloid press and the BBC can't have helped matters. Really dedicated Biblical scholars can, if they wish, look up what the views of Christ and other Biblical authorities on lying were, but trust me, they didn't any of them think highly of the practice.

The AP reports that five years ago the Church of England "relaxed" its guidelines about performing marriages involving one or two divorced parties and goes on to report that it is now a matter of individual discretion for C of E clergy. Fine, makes sense to me, but wait, isn't Scripture supposed to be inerrant and immutable, at least for some of the more doctrinaire "orthodox" Anglicans in warmer places on the globe? I haven't seen any enraged releases from, say, the Province of Uganda, yet, but if consistency is a jewel there as it is elsewhere, surely we have only to wait. These people who claim such moral and theological outrage at the ordination of "out" (read, "honest") gay men and lesbians in the U. S. and the ordination of +Gene Robinson who has so far managed to make a stable, loving, monogamous relationship for at least as long as the Prince of Wales has; these people whose outrage +Canterbury supports and Lambeth feeds by acquiescence, they are bound to be furious about this development and I can hardly wait!

As for me, I wish the happy couple well and I wish they'd done this years ago. I detest hypocrisy. I am no happier about social norms and conventions forcing a straight couple to "live in sin" than I am about those norms and conventions denying a stable, loving, monogamous relationship between two people of the same gender denying them the right as baptized Christians to have the Church bless their union. I just wish +Canterbury and our fellow Anglicans in the southern Hemisphere (some of them in the northern Hemisphere too) felt the same way.

You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.


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