When Jesus was being tested by what my grandmother would have called a “Philadelphia Lawyer” the following is recorded in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 10:
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Around 2,000 years later the Chelmsford Weekly News reported on a lawsuit being launched against an Anglican parish church by someone who self-identifies as a practising Christian thus; http://www.chelmsfordweeklynews.co.uk/news/10617202.Gay_dads_campaign_for_church_wedding/
While I do not wish to examine the rights and wrongs of same sex marriage at this point, it is important to note that the Church of England has a statutory exemption from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.
I will assert that the church, its parochial church council and its vicar are all neighbours of Mr. Drewitt-Barlow. I would therefore ask if he is following Jesus’ command when he started his lawsuit. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth had some fairly harsh words to say to those who were taking other believers to court.
I am aware that there is a difference between hurt and harm. As Dr. Henry Cloud makes clear, the sugary drink does not hurt you but it does harm you, whereas the dentist, when filling the cavities caused by the sugary drinks, hurts but does not harm.
What is the hurt and what is the harm in this situation? Certainly Mr. Drewitt-Barlow is hurt that he cannot have the sort of ceremony he wanted to have with his partner in his local parish church. No doubt, so is his partner.
Taking this matter to a civil, as opposed to an ecclesiastical, court will cause harm, because it will highlight divisions within the church and the congregation and almost certainly will cause lasting harm to the unity and the witness of the congregation in their village. There is also a matter of acting contrary to Scripture. By so doing, the plaintiff is clearly stating that he does not accept the authority of Scripture to have the final word about the way in which we conduct ourselves.
There are some matters that ought to be taken to civil courts whether they happen under the auspices of a church or not; like embezzlement of church funds or abuse of vulnerable people whether children or adults, but this is clearly about internal church government. I know that Scripture does not matter to many of the members of the House of Commons, but if one considers oneself to be a practicing Christian, then it ought to be more that a lucky charm you carry with you to church on a Sunday.