Simony in the Church of England

September 2003

Este artículo: en español

The Anglican Church of England (C of E) has fallen on hard times, both in terms of membership and finances. But there may be hope for the financial side if only that Church can get itself back into the marriage business, for marriages bring in big bucks — or pounds or euros or whatever. Initial steps have already been taken, by relaxing regulations to allow “remarriage” of divorcés and divorcées in the Church (without annulments).

But there’s still a long way go. According to Britain’s Guardian (May 1), as things now stand, 70 percent of couples want a religious service, but the C of E’s market share is only 33 percent.

Bishop John Gladwin, on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council, commissioned a report on the problem of paltry “market share.” The report urges the C of E to understand that there is a competitive market for marriages and commitment services, and that the C of E must start appealing to couples who don’t necessarily want to be married but want some sort of commitment ceremony, and that of course includes “gay” and lesbian couples. Says the report: “Like other public service providers, churches need to be client focused.” Yes indeed. If you want to stay competitive, you must abide by the First and Great Commandment: The customer is always right. If you turn away business or throw up roadblocks because your customer is living in sin, you will definitely lose market share, not to mention income.

The Guardian reports that the British government is insisting on “broadening the definition of acceptable adult relationships” to include homosexual couples, and so the report from the C of E (which is the Established Church) chimes in: “We are now saying we want to fulfil our duty to the nation and be in the business of supporting relationships.” No one ever doubted that the C of E is a thoroughly Erastian institution, but while the C of E has historically been responsive to Union Jack nationalism, now it’s learning how to be responsive to go-go capitalism. The report, which is full of free-market lingo, suggests that the competitive “marriage venue market” will stimulate reform of the C of E’s positions on marriage and sexual morality. It certainly will.

So add to Erastianism a heavy dose of Simony — the buying and selling of sacred things. The C of E report is quite thoroughgoing, pointing out the wisdom of “after-sales service,” especially for partners who are not church members. Golly, this is starting to sound like selling cars. If only the commercial Anglican gurus could figure out a way to give a 48-month warranty on the relationship!

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New Oxford Notes: September 2003

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