As sure as eggs is eggs the Church of England will eventually get round to approving gay marriage. That is no longer a matter of doubt or dispute. What will matter more than the decision itself, will (as always) be the way it is made.
The scene was set in the protracted debate about the ordination of women, during which the CofE took a number of enduring decisions about its own nature.
It had previously been thought that one of the prime functions of a church was to guarantee the validity of its Orders, and of the sacraments of its minsters. But not so. Proponents argued that when women were ordained the church would have entered upon ‘a period of reception’, the conclusion of which might prove to be the rejection of the innovation. No guarantees there, then.
It had previously been thought that doctrine functioned upon the principle of non-contradiction: that what was sinful could not be sinless, and what was forbidden could not be admitted. But not so. After women’s ordination it was held that there were ‘two integrities’. It was said to be ‘equally Anglican’ to hold that women ought to be ordained and that they ought not to be; that the Church had authority to ordain them and that it had no authority whatsoever in the matter. Self-contradiction had become a matter of principle.
Both these new insights will naturally aid the adoption of gay marriage. But there is more. The process being adopted is that of ‘shared conversations’ with the help of ‘facilitators’ and a ‘director of reconciliation’.
The General Synod, founded by analogy with Parliamentary democracy and adopting many of its forms, is now being reshaped according to the insights of group therapy and psycho-social theory. The notion of objective truth is being abandoned in the interests of ‘reconciliation’. Social pressure is replacing force of argument. Scripture itself will be of use merely to decorate the conclusions reached – which can, in any case, be accurately predicted before the process begins.