Men and Women in Marriage – new document from Faith and Order Commission
The Church of England's view of the long-established meaning of marriage has been outlined in a new report - "Men and Women in Marriage" - published this week by the Church's Faith and Order Commission.
The publication (attached) includes a foreword from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York which commends the document for study. The report sets out the continued importance and rationale for the Church's understanding of marriage as reflected in the 1,000 marriage services conducted by the Church of England every week.
The document also seeks to provide "a more positive background on how Christians have understood and valued marriage" arguing that marriage "continues to provide the best context for the raising of children".
The report takes as its starting point the Church's basic premise that "marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and means of His grace". The document also seeks to enlarge the understanding of marriage defined as "a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, central to the stability and health of human society."
Recognising the ongoing debate around marriage in society the report acknowledges that marriage "like most important undertakings in life, can be lived more successfully or less successfully. Mistakes are made, by couples, by their friends and relatives, and sometime by pastors and institutions of the church… Lack of clear understanding of marriage can only multiply disappointments and frustrations. Public discussion at this juncture needs a clear view of why Christians believe and act in relation to marriage as they do and this document is offered as a resource for that."
The Bishop of Coventry Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Commission said: "The Church has a long track record in conducting and supporting marriage, drawing from the deep wells of wisdom which inform centuries of shared religious and cultural understandings of marriage. There is a danger in the current debate of picking apart the institution of marriage which is part of the social fabric of human society.
"This report seeks to celebrate all that is good about marriage in its ability to bring together biological difference and the generative power of marriage to bring forth life. It also recognises that there are forms of human relationships which fall short of marriage in the form the God has given us.
"This report also underlines the role of the Church in seeking to provide care, prayer and compassion for those who for whatever reason are unable to receive the gift of marriage in the form that the Church has understood it and continues to uphold. Whilst it is right that priests and church communities continue to seek to provide and devise pastoral care accommodation for those in such situations, the document is clear that public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone."
The Faith and Order Commission (FOAC) advises the House of Bishops, the General Synod and the Council for Christian Unity on ecclesiological and ecumenical matters and acts as a theological resource for the Church of England as a whole. More information can be found at http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/work-other-churches/ccu/faith-and-order-commission.aspx
Members of the Commission
The Right Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry (Chairman)
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet
The Right Revd Dr Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge
The Right Revd Dr Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester
The Right Revd Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester.
The Revd Canon Professor Loveday Alexander
The Revd Dr Cally (Carolyn) Hammond
The Revd Dr David Hilborn
The Revd Canon Dr Charlotte Methuen
The Revd Dr Jeremy Morris
The Revd Dr John Muddiman
The Revd Professor Oliver O'Donovan
The Revd Thomas Seville CR
Dr Mike Higton
Dr Cathy Ross
Secretary of the Commission
Dr Martin Davie
A draft report from the Commission was considered by the House of Bishops of the Church of England in December 2012 who authorised the Standing committee of the House to approve the final text and authorise publication. The Standing Committee approved the report in March 2013.