Marriage equality: Churches Together England rejects Quaker; local school parts with its chaplain

Not very together from Churches Together.

Churches Together England has declined to accept British Quakers’ nomination for a senior role because of some churches’ discomfort about marriage equality. The group rejected Quaker appointee Hannah Brock Womack, a young, radical peace activist, who campaigns against the arms trade and works in the voluntary sector, because she is married to a woman.

Hannah Brock Womack (r) with Paul Parker (l)

Churches Together England said in a statement:

While remaining committed to the journey of unity we are on as churches from many traditions, the Member Churches of CTE, through the Enabling Group, have recently requested the Fourth Presidency Group to refrain from enacting its Presidency at this time, leaving the Fourth Presidency as an ‘empty chair’ for the current term of office. This empty chair represents the lack of agreement within the churches in England regarding human sexuality, and the reality that this dimension of the churches’ pilgrimage together is not yet complete.

British Quakers also published a statement with comments from Mark Lilley and Paul Parker:

Mark Lilley, Quaker representative to CTE Enabling Group and clerk of Quaker Committee on Christian and Interfaith Relations (QCCIR) said, “The grief this situation is causing Friends (known as Quakers) must not be underestimated by other churches. Work must be done to heal the pain through creative conversations about our differences. We are confident that the ecumenical movement will continue to serve as a model of cooperation and mutual understanding that recognises the unique gifts of each member.”

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said, “This is a deeply sad decision. Quakers in Britain value the fact that CTE seeks to encompass the wide diversity among Christians in England. It is important to us that the Quaker voice is heard in discussions between Churches.

“As Quakers, we are called to answer that of God in everyone. We recognise the inherent worth of each person. That leads us to welcome all committed same-sex relationships as equally as committed opposite-sex relationships. We value equally all people, regardless of sexuality or other defining characteristics. These characteristics are not the right way to decide if someone is right to serve as our CTE President.”

More in this Church Times piece here.

Meanwhile Kingswood School in Bath parted company last week with its evangelical chaplain David Hull. Revd Hull, who chairs the Methodist Evangelicals Together group, had reacted with dismay earlier this year to news the Methodist Church is moving forward on marriage equality. He was quoted saying that “God’s plan for creation is either that we are married as one man and one woman for life or that we are single and celibate just as Jesus was”. These comments were at odds with the ethos of Kingswood, a liberal Methodist school which considers itself a “safe space” and includes a thriving Pride Club for pupils.

British Quakers’ resolution to celebrate equal marriage in 2009 came at the end of a long journey. Quaker Faith & Practice (ch 22 para 13) quotes the seminal 1963 essay Towards a Quaker view of sex:

A distorted Christianity must bear some of the blame for the sexual disorders of society.

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