Sex and the Vicar..(18 Posts)
Honest opinions please.
I used to be a Catholic. Stopped going to church at 15 because I disagreed with the role of women in the church.
Three years ago, I started going to a c of e church with a friend. I feel I have started to find my faith again.
I personally believe that the church's fixation with virginity and female purity is outdated and damaging. Jesus says very little about premeditated sex, and cultural context of the Bible is different. I also firmly believe in gay rights. I appreciate there is a difference of opinion.
Now - here is the tricky part. My best friend is male. He is a churchwarden and lives with his long term gf. They are getting married next year, and are committed Christians. They just live together. They are two of the kindest people I know and have brought many new people to the church.
A new vicar arrived 6 months ago. After difficult discussions, he has asked my friend consider stepping down as warden. As a member of the church leadership, the Vicar feels my friend needs to be a role model and that cohabitation is in contrast to this.
I am angry and very hurt. I feel this vicar has pushed out a loving, good man who has done much to share gods love with others.
Am I wrong? Is this what a vicar should do? Can you cohabit and still be an active part of a church?
Sorry I don't have any personal experience of this sort of thing so can't advise but I am struggling a lot with similar thoughts to you on the church (its views on gay rights, women, sex in a loving relationship without benefit of marriage etc). I used to love going to church so much and it felt like such a loving environment. Now I just don't know what I believe. Does God really endorse the church at all when it really feels like a man made institution at times? Tricky.
For a long time (centuries) marriage was considered a civil matter and the church did not get involved so much. So from this perspective, if the warden and his partner are committed, as if they were married, they are as good as married. It was later that the church began to preside over marriage.
If this bothers you and tbh, to me, it does seem pointless, especially as they will be getting married soon, I would talk to the vicar in order to understand where he is coming from more, and visa versa.
From re-reading your OP, it does sound like the decision is your friend's whether to 'step down'. If it is his choice, he should do what he feels is right. Personally, from what you have said, I can see there being much value in him staying.
Different people in the CofE have different views on this, including priests. I personally think that the new vicar is wrong but no authority will tell him so.
I'm sorry, it is horrible when clergy change and people find their church community a less good fit than it was.
I think the vicar will quickly find that a good church warden is beyond rubies, and very difficult to replace.
(Providing, of course, that your friend is a good church warden and this isn't a sneaky way of getting rid of him ...)
When you say 'they just live together', do you mean they're not in a sexual relationship yet, just sharing a house before marriage and the vicar is worried about the scandal?
In that case, your friend would be perfectly within his rights to refuse to step down and take the argument to the next level up (I've never understood how Anglican hierarchy works, but I assume the bishop).
no wonder the church is a dying institution, with this kind of intolerance.
does the vicar have proof that these two are having sex? Is it any of his business anyway?
your friend should find another church. He'll probably take many of the congregation with him. The vicar can then rattle around in his pure but empty church.
I wonder whether we're hearing the entirety of the story here - presumably the vicar has his own side of the story which we don't know.
If your friend is a churchwarden then he will have played a part in appointing the new vicar and he should have known quite a bit about his theological views. To appoint someone with very conservative theology presumably this means that the church generally has a conservative theology - PCCs and churchwardens go to some trouble to write a parish profile that describes the traditions of the church and what they are looking for from prospective clergy.
Churchwardens can't be sacked by the vicar - they are elected by the annual parish meeting held in April, and their term of office runs July-July. You need at least one churchwarden because they have a statutory responsibility for the building on behalf of the parish. Is your friend a churchwarden of long standing?
While I don't necessarily disbelieve the story, I just think it is likely to be more complex than the account in the OP - as human situations tend to be. It's very easy to give your point of view and for strangers on the internet to agree with you (particularly if they have a bone to pick, like specialsubject). But it doesn't necessarily get us nearer the truth of the situation.
Thanks all, advice and thoughts much appreciated.
Niminy - the PCC has not been a part of the discussion so far as his 'stepping down' is a suggested outcome next July, rather than official request.
Feeling very sad, but there is little I can do.
Oh, that sounds very hard for your friend. If this idea of 'stepping down' is just coming from the vicar and he is pressuring your friend to make the decision, maybe a wider discussion with more of the church community is needed, if your friend is unsure what to do. From what you have said, his work is valued and the church would miss him.
The worry that he is cohabiting with his girl friend will be solved when he is married, it is not like he is not committed (from what you have said) and I guess it could be just too complicated to bring the wedding forward.
Does the vicar expect him to alternatively move out of his home until after the wedding? Without knowing their circumstances it is difficult to comment on whether this would be possible and it would seem like doing this would just be for 'show', if he is equally committed now as he will be after the official marriage.
Personally, I think this type of problem has been exasperated by complicating the process of getting married. If you look at the history (see below) for centuries getting married used to be a much simpler affair.
"With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the "verbum." If freely given and made in the present tense (e.g., "I marry you"), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense ("I will marry you"), it would constitute a betrothal."
( en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage )
Whilst I see there is a need for balance, in that marriage should be thoroughly thought through, the societal pressure to get married in particular way which requires lots of organisation, does, I think, mean lots more committed couples will want to cohabit.
Then again, if marriage is seen as sacramental (not all Christian churches do consider it such, see above link) this escalates the importance of being married before living together. However marriage has not always been regarded as a Sacrament and is still not be all Christian churches, the page I linked to says,
"and many Anglicans consider marriage termed holy matrimony to be an expression of divine grace, termed a sacrament or mystery."
Many suggests some Anglicans don't consider marriage to be a sacrament.
So, if your friend is at all unsure, as to what to do, I think a wider discussion with the church community is necessary.
Our local vicar (female) lives with a man to whom she is not married - no-one bats an eyelid.
Do you actually know this Mishaps? I mean , do you actually know the vicar and know the circumstances of their relationship? Because I'm very surprised to hear it.
I do niminypiminy - she is one of my best friends and I see her several times a week. And she met him at my house. Everyone is just pleased for them, as they have both suffered the loss of a former spouse. They will I expect get married at some point in the future.
That's fantastic . Lovely to see people finding happiness and the Church responding generously.
My now DH and I lived together before marriage, after a serious accident left me in need of daily care. I was asked to step down from 'visible service' - so no more music/choir/serving food etc. Still allowed to make food in advance etc. This is pretty standard in an evangelical church - not all of the CofE would identify as such however. I think what we really struggle with is seeing the grey areas. Life is not black and white.
In the end we just got married, registry office, 2 witnesses. That's what I'd suggest your friends do - in the next few weeks if needs be. The wedding is pretty irrelevant if it's the years of Christian marriage you are interested in.
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