Church of England priests will not be allowed to bless gay and lesbian weddings, or marry someone of the same sex themselves, according to new guidelines issued by the church, which is struggling to heal divides over homosexuality.
Same-sex marriage becomes legal in England next month, posing a dilemma for the Church of England, which is the mother church of the world’s 80 million Anglicans and maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman.
England and Wales legalized secular same-sex civil partnerships in 2005. A church working group suggested last year that clergy allow gay and lesbian couples to mark and celebrate marriages held under the new legislation, as well as civil partnerships, in a religious service.
But after meetings last week, the church’s bishops released guidelines that ruled out any kind of blessing for gay marriages. Instead, they said, clergy could offer an informal prayer at their discretion and at the request of the couple.
“Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways,” said the guidance from the House of Bishops.
The Anglican Communion, which links Anglicans across and beyond the English-speaking world, has been split for years over gay rights and Biblical authority, especially since its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, ordained a gay bishop in 2003.
African traditionalists are strongly opposed to growing acceptance of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion and to a Church of England proposal for “facilitated conversations” on homosexuality.
The House of Bishops — one of three parts of the church’s General Synod — also said people in a same-sex marriage should not be ordained as bishops, priests, and deacons, nor should those in the ministry enter gay marriage.
“The House is not willing for those who are in a same-sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry,” the bishops said. “In addition, it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage.”
The legislation already forbids the Church of England and its sister Church in Wales from conducting same-sex marriages, although other religious groups can opt in if they want.
The Church of England had announced that it would address the issue of sexuality, saying it was aware it needed to reflect rapid changes in society and to address falling attendance rates and especially a failure to attract young people to the church.
The British parliament passed laws last year to allow gay marriages from 2014 in England and Wales. Scotland followed suit this month, becoming the 17th country to allow same-sex marriages.
Copies of the guidelines were sent to bishops and archbishops in other Anglican churches around the world, accompanied by a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu.
They acknowledged the divisions in the church on homosexuality but said same-sex marriage was a “new reality” with implications for the Church of England that had to be discussed and addressed.
A Christian street evangelist was arrested last week on a charge of alleged breach of peace with “homophobic” aggravation after a woman complained that he had spoken about sexual sin.
Tony Miano, a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, was part of a street preaching team holding a weeklong mission in Scotland. He was remanded in custody overnight Wednesday and later released on bail to appear before Dundee Sheriff’s Court on April 22.
Miano was the second of the street pastors to address lunchtime shoppers in Dundee High Street. He talked about the nature of sin—about the different sins that Jesus had come to save people from when a woman began to shout at him. He was preaching about sin in general and when he mentioned sexual sin including adultery, promiscuity and homosexual practice, the woman shouted that her son was gay.
Miano’s colleague, pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, who was present at the incident explains: “Tony wasn’t focussing just on homosexual practice—it was about all sin. A woman was yelling at him and her friend noticed we were filming the preaching, so she ran up to me and tried to smash my camera.”
He says the first woman then appeared to be calling the police on her mobile just as a council warden came along and said that while we were doing nothing wrong, and had the right to free speech, we should move on.
Miano finished his preaching in a few minutes and as the street preachers packed up two police officers arrived. At this point Williamson says the women shouted that they would get the preachers arrested.
“The female officer saw we had a camera and lunged for it and then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van,” says Williamson.
He says the male officer interviewed the women and then immediately arrested Miano, but did not question him or explain why he was being arrested.
“After Tony was put in the police van I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for a breach of the peace and for using homophobic language,” Williamson explains.
Miano appeared before the Sheriff’s Court on Wednesday, where he pleaded “not guilty.” He has been bailed to appear for trial at Dundee Sheriff’s Court on April 22 but is free to return to his home in the United States.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, says the incident raises serious questions about police procedure and understanding of the law in dealing with such incidents.
“This appears to be an overzealous reaction by the police. The incident, adds to the number of arrests of Christian street evangelists for preaching from the Bible. It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible,” says Andrea.
“At the Christian Legal Centre we are committed to helping people to continue to preach the gospel in our nation.”
Miano was arrested in July last year, in London, for alleged “homophobic” comments. The case was dropped.
A major storm has hit northern Europe, leaving at least four people dead or missing, causing transport chaos and threatening the biggest tidal surge in decades.
Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed in the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland, while rail services were shut down in several countries.
One of Europe’s longest bridges – connecting Sweden to Denmark – closed.
Tens of thousands of homes were also left without power as the storm hit.
Winds of up to 228 km/h (142 mph) battered Scotland, where a lorry driver was killed when his vehicle was blown over near Edinburgh. At least two other people were injured by falling trees.
Police have confirmed reports that a man has been killed by a falling tree in Nottinghamshire, central England.
The storm has affected people across northern Europe, including Rotterdam where those venturing outside received a buffeting.
In Scotland, a lorry driver was killed when his vehicle blew over.
Preparations for a tidal surge are going on across several countries. Here, firefighters fortify an embankment in Cuxhaven-Sahlenburg, northern Germany.
Two sailors were reportedly swept overboard from a ship 22 km (14 miles) off the southern Swedish coast, and air-sea rescue services failed to find them.
A storm surge is due later on Thursday, coinciding with high tides in many areas.
Britain’s Environment Agency said tidal surges could bring significant coastal flooding, and the Thames Barrier was being closed to protect London.
British authorities said they had evacuated homes in Great Yarmouth, eastern England, adding that it could be the biggest storm surge for 60 years.
In the low-lying Netherlands, the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed off for the first time in six years. Dutch authorities said they had issued the highest possible flood warning for four areas in the north and north-west of the country.
The BBC’s Anna Holligan reports on heavy winds in the Netherlands
Germany reinforced emergency services in and around the northern port of Hamburg and cancelled lessons at several schools.
The storm was causing transport chaos throughout northern Europe.
Dutch airline KLM cancelled 84 flights from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, while about 20 were cancelled at Hamburg airport.
Weather presenter Matt Taylor explains how a storm surge happens
Flights from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports in Scotland were also cancelled.
Rail travel was badly affected, with all train services in Scotland cancelled because of debris on the lines and damage to equipment, and services in northern England were also hit.
The Oeresund road and rail bridge between Sweden and Denmark – which links the Danish capital Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmo and features in the hit television series The Bridge – was due to close from 1500 GMT.
Railway lines in Sweden and Denmark were closed, while Germany’s national railway, Deutsche Bahn, warned of likely disruption across a swathe of northern Germany.
Ferries to Germany from Sweden and Denmark were cancelled.
“I thought they were just bigots,” wrote one journalist, “but Peter and Hazelmary Bull’s sincerity on the BBC made me realize ‘bigot’ was entirely the wrong word.”
That was the conclusion of one hardened journalist who does not share the Bulls’ beliefs but thinks it is a shame they have been taken to court by “equality campaigners.”
Rebecca McQuillan, senior features writer at The Herald newspaper in Scotland, wrote, “A BBC report had just come on about Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the B&B-owning couple in Cornwall who turned a gay couple away.
“The Bulls had just lost their Supreme Court appeal against being found guilty of discrimination and the reporter was talking to them outside court.
“I got ready to roll my eyes. I braced myself for what I expected to be their thinly disguised homophobic views.
“How many cases must we have, I wondered, before people running hotels and guesthouses understand they can’t discriminate like this?
“So it came as a bit of a surprise to find myself, not sneering, but feeling rather sorry for this ageing couple who had found that their faith in the Bible put them drastically at odds with equality laws. ‘Bigot’ was entirely the wrong word.”
McQuillan says the Supreme Court was right to rule against Mr and Mrs Bull: “And yet I sat watching the Bulls and felt sympathy, not with their beliefs, but with their sense of bewilderment at finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
“Here were not two head-banging zealots full of self-righteous anger about homosexuality, but a quietly spoken couple with a set of sincerely held religious beliefs and a straightforward interpretation of the Bible.”
She concludes, “A gay friend of mine commented to me that if he had been visiting this B&B with his partner he would have respected the couple’s views by asking for a twin room instead.
“Perhaps, but I certainly don’t blame [the gay couple] Preddy and Hall for going to court.
“It is just sad that when conflict breaks out between equality campaigners and religious believers, one side must always prevail and the other ends up feeling so crushed.”
I believe every child of God is called to absolute surrender—a state in which she is completelyyielded to her heavenly Father in every area of her life. We have heard it before, but we need to hear it very definitely—the condition of God’s blessing is absolute surrender of all into His hands. If our hearts are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us and to the blessing He will bestow.
Absolute surrender—let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often. But once, in Scotland, I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of the church and what the great need of believers is. There was in our company a godly Christian worker who trains other workers for Christ, and I asked him what He would say was the greatest need–the message that ought to be preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:
“Absolute surrender to God is the one thing.”
The words struck me as never before. And now, I desire by God’s grace to give to you this message—that your God in heaven answers the prayers you have offered for blessing on yourselves and those around you by this one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands?
God knows there are hundreds of hearts who have said it, and there are hundreds more who long to say it but hardly dare to do so. And there are hearts who have said it, but who have yet miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned because they did not find the secret of the power to live that life. May God have a word for all!
God Expects Your Surrender
Surrender has its foundation in the very nature of God—the Creator of life, the only Source of existence and power and goodness. God has created the sun, the moon, the stars, the flowers, the trees and the grass. Are they not all absolutely surrendered to Him? Do they not allow God to work in them just what He pleases?
And God’s redeemed children, oh, can you think that God can do His work if there is only half or a part of them surrendered? He cannot. God is life, love, blessing, power, and infinite beauty, and God delights in communicating Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him. But ah! This lack of absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.
You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service.
I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing. It must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly.
And now, do you expect that in your immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received byregeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? He cannot.
The temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one condition—absolute surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.
God Accomplishes Your Surrender
I am sure there many hearts that are saying: “Ah, but absolute surrender requires such a price! I have passed through so much trial and suffering already, and there is still so much of the self-life remaining. I dare not face giving it up entirely because I know it will cause even more trouble and agony.”
What a shame that God’s children have such cruel thoughts of Him! I come with a message to those who are fearful and anxious: God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your own strength, or by the power of your will; He is willing to work it in you. Do we not read: “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13)?
And that is what we should seek—to go on our faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong. He will conquer what is evil and work what is well-pleasing in His sight. God Himself will work it in you.
Look at the men in the Old Testament, such as Abraham. Do you think it was by accident that God found that man the father of the faithful and the friend of God? Do you think it was Abraham himself, apart from God, who had such faith and obedience and devotion? You know it is not so. God raised him up and prepared him as an instrument for His glory.
I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear. Come with that feeble desire. If there is the fear that says, “Oh, my desire is not strong enough! I am not willing for everything that may come, and I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything,” I implore you, learn to know and trust your God now.
Say, “My God, I am willing for You to make me willing.” If there is anything holding you back or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now and prove how gracious He is. Do not be afraid that He will demand from you what He will not bestow.
God Accepts Your Surrender
God works surrender in the secret of our hearts; He urges us by the hidden power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to bring and yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when you come and bring it to Him, it may, as far as your feelings go, be a thing of great imperfection. You may doubt and hesitate and ask, “Is it absolute?”
But remember, there was once a man to whom Christ said:
“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
And his heart was afraid, and he cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24). That was a faith that triumphed over Satan, and the evil spirit was cast out.
And if you come and say, “Lord, I yield myself in absolute surrender,” even though you do so with a trembling heart and with the awareness that you do not feel the power, the determination or the assurance, it will succeed. Do not be afraid, but come just as you are. Even in the midst of your trembling the power of the Holy Spirit will work.
Have you not yet learned the lesson that the Holy Spirit works with mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane.
We read that He, “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14), offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The Almighty Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony and fear and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed!
Externally, you can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but the Spirit of God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and fighting and trembling, have faith in the hidden work of God’s Spirit and do not fear, but yield yourself.
We want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily life God will have the right place and be “all in all.” And if we are to have that throughout life, let us begin now and look away from ourselves and look up to God.
Let each believe when he says, “Oh God, I accept Your terms. I have pleaded for blessing on myself and others. I have accepted Your terms of absolute surrender,” that there is a God present who takes note of it and writes it down in His book.
There is a God present who at that very moment takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may not realize it, but God takes possession if you will trust Him.
God Maintains Your Surrender
When God has begun the work of absolute surrender in you and has accepted your surrender, then God holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it. Do you believe that? Do you believe that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by moment?
A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. It is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined and a life that is possible for us. Let us believe that God will maintain it.
Give yourself up absolutely to the will of God. Say to Him: “By Your grace I desire to do Your will in everything, every moment of every day.”
It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender. Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we cannot understand but that God’s Word has revealed. He wants to work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike, unbounded trust.
God Blesses When You Surrender
This surrender to God brings wonderful blessings. But it must be absolute. We must say, even if with a trembling will: “O God, I accept Your demands. I am Yours and all that I have. Absolute surrender is what my soul yields to You by divine grace.”
You may not have as strong, clear feelings of surrender as you would like to have, but humble yourselves in His sight, and acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will, self-confidence and self-effort. Bow humbly before Him in the confession of that, and ask Him to break your heart and bring you into the dust before Him.
Then, as you bow before Him, just accept God’s teaching that in your flesh “nothing good dwells” (Rom. 7:18) and that nothing will help you except another life coming in. You must deny self once and for all. Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.
Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with the power of His death and the power of His life. Then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ–Christ crucified and risen and living in glory into your heart.
Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa and the author of numerous devotional works that have become classics, including Abide in Christ, Absolute Surrender and Waiting on God.
Have you run across this recipe for Tribes facing the dissolution of the treaty that binds them together? Here it is:
Pass a referendum bill…referendum campaigns conducted in a constructive manner…the need for a robust yet respectful debate…arguments “passionate” and “at times heated”, but informed and constructive…debate should be free from intimidation, jeering and sneering…politicians must not “go to war” over whether or not tribes should leave the political union…the sides on this question are not enemies…conduct this debate without losing the friendships and the positive relationships we have…whatever the result we will want to come together and whatever the people have decided we will want to act upon…mustn’t create a legacy of bitterness and hatred…a civilised debate rather than warfare between tribes…
By now, it is no longer news that Scotland is engaged in the exercise of her rights of Self Determination, pursuing steps to forge ahead and craft her own political and sovereign destiny outside of the United Kingdom, leaving a union resulting from a 300-year-old treaty. The UK government and the rest of UK have not tried to quash, subdue, suppress, intimidate or criminalize the process, nor threatened Scottish leaders and their people with the charge of Treason. UK has not bandied around the term, “indivisible” to mock and frustrate Scottish moves; UK has not made any claims of a special Divine dispensation guaranteeing her unity or stamping unity on her Seal. Rather, UK respects the right of her citizens and her tribal groupings to decide what is good for them and where they [want to] belong politically; and UK is determined, as a matter of principle and course, to abide by, facilitate and carry out such decisions. The rest of the world accepts the process, too. One does not read anywhere that such and such a country, superpower or not, is invested in the unity of UK; or that a “united UK” is supreme, and as such, Scotland is vilified and discouraged in her bid to leave, because “to keep UK one” is now an imperative to be achieved at all costs.
There are lessons here for Nigeria, most of them obvious, some not so obvious. For example, Scottish leader, Mr. Chisolm, sees the situation as an issue between “Tribes”. Wow! That word, Tribe, is a dirty word for Nigeria, a derogatory term retained from the regime of those who bequeathed their language to Nigeria and first used that word as an insult against Nigerians. No one in Nigeria can admit his or her tribe—not if he or she does not want to be thoroughly disparaged and condemned as a “Tribalist.” But to those who own the word and the language whence it derives, Tribe is a mark of natural identity which neither a three-century-old Union-treaty nor globalization can erase or take away. There in UK, it is still the “Queen of England”, not the Queen of UK; “the Prince of Wales”, not the Prince of UK, where England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are the major tribal groupings of UK. They know and understand that the Tribe is the most natural and logical unit and basis for sovereignty and sovereign pursuits. They do not forget or deny their collective natural identity which is defined by Tribe.
Another lesson for Nigeria is this: why is it acceptable for other tribes in the world to exercise their Self Determination rights, but the same world frowns upon and discourages African Tribes from seeking the same basic collective human rights? Isn’t it ironic and patronizing that the same UK government which allows its own citizens to purse a referendum for separation is yet the most ardent opposer of Nigerian Tribes seeking the same relief and disposition? Why does the US make [reported] statements implying that the continued forced unity of Nigeria is in the best interest (of the US?) and must remain so, even though the Nigerian Tribes want to do what the Scottish did not have to seek others’ permission to do, what the Scottish Tribe is allowed to do in UK? Nigerians, indeed, Africans, must be lesser human beings, not human enough to partake of natural liberties taken for granted by the rest humanity on this planet? Why do the tribes in Nigerian, in Africa, allow themselves to be deprived of these liberties, either by other countries and or their expectations, or by their own self?
In any case, Nigeria should learn and understand that the desire and pursuit of leaving a union by a Tribe as such does not constitute declaring or waging war against the union. In 1707 the Scottish Tribe signed a Treaty with Britain to form a political union. In 2014, the Scots are going to decide either to continue to honor the treaty or to pull out: that’s all there is to that. They don’t even have to have an adverse reason to do so; it’s their right. The act is not confrontational. Obviously, there are plenty of reasons why Nigeria’s 1904 political “Amalgamation” “Treaty” cannot stand; any Tribe opting to leave has plenty of justification. To read such a move as a hostile act against Nigeria is not called for; such characterization is neither logical nor justifiable. In other words, it cannot and should not constitute or be regarded as a threat to Nigeria or to Nigerians (or to the world) that any Tribe or Tribes want to leave Nigeria.
As Nigeria prepares to engage in what is now looking like a “been there, seen that, done that” exercise (in futility), otherwise known as a Sovereign National Conference, wherein the outcome of continued non-consenting, unequal and forced union of Tribes is already a fixed endpoint, it is crucial that Tribes and peoples living and suffering in Nigeria wake up and take notice. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, one cannot continue to do the same thing the same way over and over again and expect a different result. The Scottish Tribe of UK has handed you a recipe which fits Nigeria’s situation where Tribes desire to leave the (unworkable) union. Use it wisely; use it. Ignore it at your own continued peril. Here are the essential steps the Scots are taking:
– Craft and approve a Tribe Self Determination Referendum Bill
– Debate the Referendum
– Specify Procedural details
– Focus on what Independence really means
– Vote on the Referendum
– Resolve to carry out the Tribes’ wishes
– No hard feelings—preserve goodwill.
“In Ohio, they are obsessed, and Hillary is going to town on it because she knows Ohio’s the only place they can win,” Power said. “She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything,”
Now Power cringes at those remarks, she told the “Today” show.
“You lose your temper, and you’re in a campaign, and things go back and forth,” she said. “It just completely broke my heart . . . There is a fair amount of negativity heaped upon her that I find massively unfair. And the idea that I could have contributed in some way to that narrative was terrible.”
At the time, Power publicly apologized for her comments and quit the Obama campaign. Since then she has apologized to Clinton directly. “I was so grateful . . . to have the chance just to say in person what I had said to everybody,” Power said.