The Mothers’ Union and Marriage

One of the most interesting submissions to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Same-Sex Marriage is surely going to be the one from the Mothers’ Union.

I’m not going to rehearse the articles that I’ve put up on this blog about the MU and its attitude to all things gay in the past, but suffice it to say that one of the search terms that seems consistently to drive traffic to this blog is “Mothers’ Union, Homophobia”. For better or for worse (to misappropriate a phrase from the marriage service), this is one of the places that people look to work out what the MU think about these issues.

One of the things that my friends in the MU have always said when I’ve appeared to be mildly critical of the organisation, is that the MU is passionate about supporting all kinds of families and has a special concern that marriage offers something holy and good to the world to strengthen family life.

It seems to me that the current consultation is quite a significant moment for the MU. Does the MU in Scotland actually support all kinds of families. Locally, MU leaders have always been insistent to me that they support stable gay couples and believe that the values they stand for are not just for straight people.

Well, it will soon be time to find out whether what they’ve been telling me is true. I’m quite hopeful. The MU has supported many a radical campaign in the past and they are an amazing bunch of people when they get behind something.

I’m fascinated to know whether the Scottish MU is going to get behind the equal marriage campaign. It seems absolutely designed for them doesn’t it? They say they support marriage. They say to me that they support gay couples. It will be great news for the church if that turns out to be true and they support the moves towards equal marriage and help the rest of the church towards acceptance. It could well happen – never underestimate the MU, is a motto of mine.

One of the things which might be a determining factor is whether MU High Command in London gets involved. In the past when I’ve gently chided the MU, Mary Sumner House in London has been on the phone complaining to my bishop very quickly indeed. (They don’t like their brand being commented on negatively. They actually call it their brand too). My impression, which might be right or might be wrong is that MU leaders that I know in Scotland have been reasonably supportive of gay clergy and several times such individuals have insisted to me that the MU round here is supportive of gay couples in relationships and gay families in particular. Whether that support exists in Mary Sumner House, I have my doubts. My fear would be that it is dominated by appeasers of less reasonable parts of the Anglican Communion. However, one often hopes to be proved wrong.

Well, we shall see very soon what values the MU in Scotland actually have in these areas. I can’t see how they could not respond the government consultation. It is right up their alley.

Here’s hoping that what they’ve always said to me in private round here turns out to be true in public in Scotland.


  1. william says

    Kelvin, you seem to be piling up pressure on MU to line themselves up with your longings. Don’t you realise that it would be very difficult for any of these dear folks personally to resist your charm or dent your ego!
    Hopefully their London hierarchy will be able to work out their stance on the basis of their presuppositions for achieving the best conditions for home and family life.
    As representatives of the church surely we would hope that the divine revelation we have of God’s wise plans for His creation will influence their conclusions.

    • In my, albeit limited, experience, I’d suggest that God’s hopes for the world are best summed up as a hope that those of us on earth will just get on and do the right thing. Thank God we’ve been given holy common sense as a divine gift to make it so.

      Hopefully the response the MU in Scotland make will come from their leaders up here and not be drafted for them by others.

      However, who knows? I certainly don’t.

      • william says

        The problem is getting on and doing the ‘right thing’; fallen creatures don’t find that easy.
        Hence God’s written word and indwelling Spirit of holiness – to give us ‘holy common sense’, however uncommon that may be.
        Whoever does the draft, it would still reflect the generic principles of MU, one would presume – as any christian church ought always to reflect the mind of its Head, namely Jesus Christ.

    • The same “Divine” revelation that gave us the death penalty for homosexuality and nigh-on two millenia of women-as-property misogyny, William? One hopes that the MU are considerably more careful than you when it comes to attributing demonstrably hurtful human structures to the Almighty.

  2. Agatha says

    I’ve just had a real good giggle at the idea of the MU members I know lined up and Kelvin’s longings….

  3. A well written and structured post, but could be viewed as a little overbearing,
    and therefore prove counterproductive.

  4. Zebadee says

    Could it be that William actually thinks that he is God?

    • Well, it is possible, but I’m guessing it is more likely that William would be quite cross with anyone thinking they were God.

      Mind you, he does seem to know a lot about what God thinks….

  5. Revd Ross Kennedy says

    Oh dear that word again – homophobia – not at all a nice word to use about people who take a different view to you, Kelvin. Some good folk have genuine difficulties in coming to terms with the concept of homosexuality (sorry – I mean same sex relationships) but they should not be described as being homophobic.

    The real question is what actually constitutes a marriage? As a Christian and therefore a follower of Jesus of Nazareth I have to accept his definition of marriage – i.e a man to a woman. (Matthew19:4). As an Anglican I base my faith on the Holy Scriptures, Tradition and Reason. On all three counts I have to say no to same sex ‘marriage’. But I am happy to affirm (and perhaps even bless – but not yet!) a same sex civil partnership.

    • Thanks for your post, Ross. However, did you mean to post it here or was it intended for the blog of someone who has just accused someone else of homophobia?

      I certainly didn’t in this post and very, very rarely use that term of anyone. Sometimes I think it is appropriate and justified. I’m not apt to use it simply of those with whom I disagree and it seems to me unhelpful to imply that I have done so here.

      I too have read Matthew 19 which seems to me to be more about divorce than about modern gay relationships. (People sometimes think I’ve never read the Bible you know). As a matter of interest, do you share Jesus’s view a few verses on that “whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery”?

      I’m happy to marry people who are not married to previous partners because of domestic abuse, emotional turmoil, abandonment and all kinds of complicated reasons that don’t neatly fall into a simple sentence. I guess that means I don’t agree with Jesus on that point. Do you?

  6. Rosemary Hannah says

    I think it is infinitely harder to justify re-marriage after divorce than same sex marriage. Before anybody misunderstands, let me add that I write this as a woman whose marriage has failed, and who has doubts about the propriety of any second relationship (not a current pressing problem, since I have nobody in my life who makes such a thing at a likely.) It is quite plain that Jesus IS condemning divorce. He thinks marriage is for life. Sure, I know the places for pastoral wriggle-room. Forgiveness, and, better, a time when men divorced women who were then pretty much destitute. Note that the question is if a man may divorce his wife, thus. But I am not convinced.

    But Jesus comments are about straight marriage. He replies that when a couple marry they become two parts of a whole, and God made them to do this. I don’t think anybody is arguing other – nobody is suggesting that God did not intend straight young people should be able to marry and have children. But Jesus says quite clearly that God does not intend everybody to do this. His view is that some are better unmarried for various reasons. So he is at best luke-warm to the idea that marriage between even straight people is a good thing. It is just a good thing for some.

  7. Revd Ross Kennedy says

    Apologies Kelvin – I obviously did not read your comments carefully enough. Yes Kelvin I do accept Jesus’ teaching on divorce which is why in my ministry I have never officiated at a marriage where one of the party had been divorced. Although I have to admit to having conducted services of blessing for such couples. Yes , I know that is not just a compromise but a contradiction – but then I’m pretty mixed up about a lot of things – including the SEC!

  8. william says

    Rosemary, I read most sympathetically and appreciatively your observations on marriage and divorce. I think it is overwhelming for us to take on board just what Jesus is saying to us about marriage and its significance – especially if you take on board its paradigmatic purpose for the church, as Paul explains to us [but I’m not allowed to indicate where, under Kelvin’s censorship of scripture usage on this blog! – even though he showed grace with Ross!]
    But when Jesus first expounded on marriage we see that his disciples were equally overwhelmed – and thought, as a result, it might be better not to marry.
    Clearly Jesus did not intend this, since he saw the provision of marriage to be a gracious provision of his Father for His creation whom He had made male and female for that very purpose – as Jesus indicates in this discussion of divorce with the religious leaders.
    So I was just a little concerned with your final para, which might be interpreted to mean that Jesus was lukewarm on marriage for the young[or older!]. Like every other relationship [even love of parents] it must always be subordinate to love for Him, but he was not lukewarm about it, surely.
    Rather the marriage relationship between male and female mirrors at a human level – and is on display to a watching world – the depth of the relationship that we are called into by God our heavenly Father with Himself, including even its creative power.
    I would agree that “It is just a good thing for some.” as long as that is not understood to diminish the value of the divine provision.
    I think the RC and Anglican communions have best taken on board the implications of divorce and ‘remarriage’ from Jesus’ teaching – which you seem to share.

    • Just to be clear, discussion of the bible which may sometimes include pointing people to particular passages is encouraged on this blog. Using proof texts is not. This has nothing to do with the Bible, it is because I regard such behaviour as rudeness.

      • william says

        That seems to have struck a raw nerve.
        I had aways hoped that – “discussion of the bible which may sometimes include pointing people to particular passages is encouraged on this blog.” – and any time I have done precisely that, it was in that spirit.
        In fact in a previous blog I was making exactly the same point as Ross, earlier, and quoted precisely the same biblical reference – but the reference was removed. Hence my assumption that scripture was being censored on this site.
        Obviously I have misunderstood, Kelvin; I certainly would never have engaged in rudeness – and apologise unreservedly if you thought “I regard such behaviour as rudeness.”
        Maybe ‘proof texts’ are in the mind, eye, conscience of the reader?

  9. Rosemary Hannah says

    William, in suggesting that Jesus is luke-warm on marriage, I am perhaps being more than generous to his enthusiasm for it, but certainly not less than generous. Generally, he is rather down on family ties. I think one would have a hard job proving that Paul is any more favourable, unless one is prepared to accept post-Pauline pseudo-graphical writing as Pauline. However, I guess one could say that ‘some Biblical writers’ see in marriage an image of what the old English prayerbook called ‘the love which is betwixt Christ and the Church.’ In as far as that analogy holds true, it is about the quality of love between a married couple, and not about their gender, or their ability or intent to procreate. But in the first place, in the pseudo-Pauline writings, it was intended to indicate the hierarchical nature of marriage, something which I hope we have now left behind. And, to bring this full circle – that very hierarchy (I suspect, though I cannot prove) is the reason for Jesus’s luke-warmness on the subject. He was, after all, very radical in teaching women and refusing to allow them to be brow-beaten for stepping out of the domestic role.

    • william says

      Rosemary, I’m sure we must appear to one another to be making reasonable and acceptable assumptions about scriptural texts/authors/interpretations and then proceed to our exegetical conclusions.
      We then end up with divergent interpretations of scripture.
      This enables many [Ryan would be a prime example on this site!] to conclude, almost as a given, that scripture means anything to anyone. The tragedy of such an approach is that scripture can be ignored, which ofcourse has been almost the default position of the church from OT times, cf the trajectory God himself set for Isaiah.
      I would rather prefer, and so might you, to be nearer that end of the spectrum which believes in the perspicuity of scripture. If not, why aspire to preaching 45 minute expositions of God’s Word to any who would have ears to hear?
      The challenge then is, how do we prune our starting points so that the conclusions of our expositions are more convergent – thus enabling the people to hear what God would say to us all.
      Would that be our joint ultimate aim?

      • Actually, Ryan, like Kelvin, takes Scripture seriously, which is why he keeps making points about interpreting texts that you keep ignoring. I’d certainly love it if you’d deign to actually offer an argument *for* your readings (or, like, anything), O William, instead of proof-texting with an unspoken (and sometimes not so unspoken) inane “so there!” flourish.

        A 45 minute certainly (in theory) *could* tell us much about Scripture, but I’d maintain that many of them say far more about the speaker, analogous to the way in which your many contributions tell us a great deal about Your Sacred Story and your “ideas” about Scripture but tell us exactly hee-haw about God Himself.

  10. Oh, and may I respectfully suggest that “Hence my assumption that scripture was being censored on this site.” doesn’t tend to give one much confidence in the accuracy “assumptions” that you are bringing to Scripture (or anything else) ?

  11. Rosemary Hannah says

    These days, I usually fid it easiest to draw others into the Bible by story-telling.

  12. william says

    Which texts, Ryan, do you think come into the category – “texts that you keep ignoring”?
    It’s sad that we can conclude about one another in the church that they “tell us exactly hee-haw about God Himself.”
    Remember that Jesus was continually, if not continuously, encouraging his hearers to take care how they hear. I’m including myself, Ryan!!

  13. William, I was not accusing you of ignoring a particular x, y or z text; I said :

    “making points about interpreting texts that you keep ignoring”

    The “About” is key. And I agree with your last point; as a great evangelical once said: “we’re all just sinners” 😉

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