Thinking Anglicans

Church of England responds to government on Equal Civil Marriage

The Church of England has published its response to the Home Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage.

The full text of its response can be read as a PDF file here. The response starts with this:

A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation – “Equal Civil Marriage” – from the Church of England

Summary

The Church of England cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

The consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious”. This is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage. The assertion that “religious” marriage will be unaffected by the proposals is therefore untrue, since fundamentally changing the state‘s understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed.

To remove the concept of gender from marriage while leaving it in place for civil partnerships is unlikely to prove legally sustainable. It is unlikely to prove politically sustainable to prevent same sex weddings in places of worship given that civil partnerships can already be registered there where the relevant religious authority consents. And there have to be serious doubts whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. For each of these reasons we believe, therefore, this consultation exercise to be flawed, conceptually and legally.

Our arguments are set out in greater detail below…

The previous background statement is still available here.

The Church of England has also issued a press release, the text of which can be read here, and which is copied below the fold. Note the quotation marks in the headline: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation – “Equal Civil Marriage” – from the Church of England

Press coverage of this is extensive, with front page stories in many cases:

Independent Gay marriage is one of the worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England

Telegraph Gay marriage raises prospect of disestablishment, says Church of England and
Editorial comment: Church and state collide over same-sex marriage

Guardian Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

The Times is not available online except by subscription but you can see its front page here. As you can see, the headline is Gay Marriage plan could divorce Church from State

BBC Church of England warning on gay marriage

Daily Mail Plans to allow gay marriages ‘could force Church to split from the state’ for first time in 500 years

Church of England press release
A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation – “Equal Civil Marriage” – from the Church of England

Embargoed until 00.01 am 12/06/12

In its submission to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage, which closes on June 14, the Church of England states it cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

It adds that the consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious” – “this is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage”. Changing the State’s understanding of marriage will, therefore, change the way marriage is defined for everybody and, despite the government’s assurances to the contrary, will change the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship.

The official Church of England submission sent to the Home Secretary under a short covering letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York also points out:

  • Several major elements of the Government’s proposals have not been thought through properly and are not legally sound. Ministerial assurances that the freedom of the Churches and other religious organisations would be safeguarded are, though genuine, of limited value given that once the law was changed the key decisions would be for the domestic and European courts.
  • Such a change would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which includes, for many, the possibility of procreation. The law should not seek to define away the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women.
  • The Church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no obvious additional legal gains to those already now conferred by civil partnerships.

The submission concludes that “imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise”.

ENDS

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Gareth Hughes
Guest

How can a church that is so clearly divided on this issue produce such a one-sided statement. This isn’t a consultation with the Church of England, just a handful of people who think they can speak in our name.

Dennis in Chicago
Guest
Dennis in Chicago

I am ashamed that the Episcopal Church has any ties at all to the Church of England. Seriously and truly ashamed for the Episcopal Church. Why have we fought so hard to keep up the ties to the CofE? We have almost nothing in common with those bigots.

Lee
Guest
Lee

Overly dramatic responses like this just make the institutional church appear to be more and more disconnected from reality and increasingly irrelevant.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Who wrote and authorised this ?

What does ‘the Church of England’ mean in this context ?

General Synod and the Diocesan and Deanery synods, most certainly have not.

And how very dishonest, deceitful and authoritarian.

rjb
Guest
rjb

Oh God. While I have some sympathy with ‘the Church’ over this, I wonder if it’s really a fight they want to pick. There’s no way they’re going to win this one, and it’s just going to make the C of E look antiquated (which it is), out-of-touch (which it isn’t), and irrationally prejudiced against LGBT people (which, with some notable exceptions, it generally is not). It’s not 1170 anymore, and the Church is in no position to throw its constitutional weight around. This kind of posturing is corrosive of the church’s credibility, damaging to its mission, and threatening to… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

“Gay marriage is one of worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England.”

Really? I would have thought that Mary’s abolishing the Church of England and burning its supporters at the stake would rank a tiny bit higher. Ditto, with Cromwell’s purge of its bishops and the beheading of King Charles I, its Supreme Governor.

Did anyone associated with this think about how utterly ridiculous and laughable this kind of thing makes the church look?

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

The bishop of Leicester’s claim that the CoE was “supportive of civil partnerships when the legislation was introduced eight years ago” is flat out untrue, as was pointed out by Ian McLean in a May 18th post at this site – http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/005503.html. This March, in his capacity as leader of the Anglican bishops in the Lords, he spoke strongly against the suggested amendment to the Act of Settlement – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9136295/Catholic-monarch-could-put-Church-of-England-in-peril-bishop-warns.html What is the matter with these people?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“The Church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships.”

Maybe this is correct – even though the Church of England will still not allow a Same-Sex Civil Partnership the Blessing of the Church?

Oddly, if Same-Sex Blessings had been supported earlier, there may not have been the same pressure for Same-Sex Marriage!

In the light of the Danish Lutheran Church’s determination to allow Same-Sex Marriage, this puts the Church of England at odds with its PORVOO Partner on this and other important issues.

MarkBrunson
Guest

” . . any attempt to alter the definition of marriage could fatally undermine the Church’s privileged position.”

That really kinda says everything that needs to be said, doesn’t it? St. Francis pulls down a house so that the friars won’t have possessions, the Son of Man has no place to lay his head, but we have to protect the CofE’s privileged position. God save us from your followers!

Scott
Guest
Scott

Dear me… when did Henny Penny become the spokes chicken for the CofE… Equal Marriage = the sky is falling… When equal marriage was first legalized in Canada all those years ago there was similar fear mongering, which simply never came to pass. Its a bit tinny by now to claim that disaster is sure to follow. Sadly, it does seem like a loud and clear invitation to many in England to stay far away from their local CofE. I realize, as the established church, that there are some slight differences to other countries, but in some ways, it would… Read more »

karen macqueen+
Guest
karen macqueen+

I can’t continue to read through these statements by the homophobic wing among the bishops, no doubt headlined by those trustworthy misleaders, +J. Sentamu and +R. Williams. This is literally sickening for me. What a travesty of the exercise of so-called moral authority. They have displayed over the years in office almost no sensitivity to or genuine care for youth subject to beatings and bullying on account of their sexuality. The bishops have not created institutions to help these young people, nor have they created any effective institutional response on the part of the Church for the awful numbers of… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Has the Church of England’s response to the Government’s Consultation document been discussed and voted upon by the General Synod let alone the 44 Diocesan Synods? I think not! On whose authority has this response, which raises the prospect of disestablishment, been sent to the Government?

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

The ‘Church of England’ or its spokesmen here, say they are afraid that by removing the requirement that a marriage be consummated will ‘hollow out’ its meaning … the same church that tries to insist that its clergy do NOT consummate their CUs. Well, make your mind up!

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

Oh, if I were them, I don’t think I would have picked this time to remind the English population that the Church has general sway over the law of the land. I don’t think I would have drawn any attention to this at all. Me thinks this roll of the dice is going to go very badly for them in the end, but I suppose they couldn’t help themselves.

Leon Clarke
Guest
Leon Clarke

Note that the deadline for submissions to the government consultation is June 14th – this Thursday.

I suggest everyone who is appalled by the church’s response here should submit their own consultation response distancing themselves from what’s being said in their name.

GET WRITING!

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

All guys, some gay, or so one hears, though they have to keep up a straight appearance if they want to keep the office, so sad. And these are the fellows who amended the (already compromised)act that would allow (or would have?) women bishops. Why do we need women in the HofB? Part of the answer’s right here.

Mark
Guest
Mark

The document says that “We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples.” Erm, no, my lords. Many of the bishops – Graham Dow, George Carey, Michael Nazir-Ali, Michael Scott-Joynt, Tom Wright et al – were amongst the foremost opponents of equalising the age of consent, gay people in the military, civil partnerships, etc; and the C of E still offers no public support for its members in civil partnerships. Please don’t attempt to rewrite (recent) history, C of E: the institution has been a major force… Read more »

sjh
Guest
sjh

“We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed”. The church tries to rewrite history : under George Carey the church opposed every improvement in the civil rights of gay and lesbian people, they voted 5 to 3 against civil partnerships and 6 to 1 in favour of a wrecking amendment. They refuse to bless civil partnerships in church and to allow their registration; they have… Read more »

Canon Barry Naylor
Guest
Canon Barry Naylor

My response to the Home Office consultation came to very different conclusions. It seems obvious to me that the greatest hindrance / threat to us witnessing faithfully to the Good News of Jesus is our link with the Establishment, not gay marriage. We need to be freed from the shackles of being a State Church as soon as possible.

Alastair Newman
Guest

Does anyone know who drafts and subsequently approves this sort of thing? As many other posters have said, this statement surely hasn’t been approved by deanery, diocesan or general synod. Has it even been approved by the house of bishops?

As a member of the church of england I find this official position highly discriminatory and frankly embarrassing. That it is effectively being made in my name on behalf of the church of england just makes it worse.

No. Not in my name!

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

The State may well end up divorcing itself from the Church; the established Church already having divorced itself from the people whose State it is.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“Has the Church of England’s response to the Government’s Consultation document been discussed and voted upon by the General Synod let alone the 44 Diocesan Synods?” Presumably the response would be, “We are stating what is present policy.” Or is the claim being made that the Church of England has in fact no teaching about marriage? It’s amazing how people who claim this goes back to the horse and buggy, or amounts to questioning electricity or internal combustion, believe the present teaching is eo ipso not a reality. Surely the idea that something must now change implies that something exists… Read more »

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Guest
Davis Mac-Iyalla

I am deeply disturbed about the statement from the Church of England . As a Nigerian born gay Anglican, I have experienced homophobia in all levels of the church and society. I came to England to be free from such hate and homophobia and can gladly say I have got lots of support from my local church, St Thomas Finsbury Park, which has helped me to integrate and to try to live a more settled life. However events has revealed to me that homophobia is a universal sickness and if the church that I am looking up to is going… Read more »

Dan BD
Guest

I am seldom stirred to ‘blog, but here it is, if anyone is interested:

http://danbarnesdavies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/this-is-outrage.html

badman
Guest
badman

Thoughtful, rational – and wrong. To take just one point, the document asserts: “The only kind of marriage which English law recognises is one which is essentially the voluntary union for life of one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others. That is the definition of what marriage is.” But this statement – which derives from a legal judgment of 1866, when even divorce was regarded as abnormal – has more recently been considered by the Court of Appeal which went on to say (in Bellinger v Bellinger [2002] Fam 150):- “…the world that engendered those classic… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

The first reply by Gareth Hughes says it all and is worth re-iterating: “How can a church that is so clearly divided on this issue produce such a one-sided statement. This isn’t a consultation with the Church of England, just a handful of people who think they can speak in our name.” There is no consensus within the Church of England that could possibly justify taking this polarised and one-sided stance. Quite simply, this is authoritarianism, assuming the right to ‘speak for us’ when society and people in the pews (and in the clergy) are increasingly accepting gay relationships and… Read more »

Steven Pape
Guest

The CofE objections to redefining Civil Partnerships as Marriage were distributed to local churches in the form of a petition. I cannot be sure if this was done at diocesan level or at a local one, but what I do know is that my local Anglican Church had a petition with the objections on at the back of the building and that several Sundays in a row people were encouraged to sign the petition. What I also know is that some people signed it without thoroughly reading through what they were signing. People who hung around after the service to… Read more »

David Wilson
Guest
David Wilson

Craig – disestablishment of the church is highly likely in an increasingly secular state. General levels of attendance at church is lower in a society that seems to have moved on in terms of what it wants to worship – it no longer likes the sexual morality, or what or who is really given priority in their lives – we have “moved on ” as a culture. Such a situation also brings stress to a broad church that goes from accepting Jesus simply as a man and a tradition we are free to re-interprete for our times or the Son… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

It would seem to an outsider that the Danish decision to make the Lutheran State church justify its position as the church for all the Danes has really put the wind up our own ‘State Shinto” aka the Church of England, that enjoys such immense privileges of its power-position with the state. If it now wants to eschew the full responsibilities and realities that a church for the whole nation might be expected to observe for a few thousand gay couples then it should have thought about its duty as a primary registrar for marriage (which we are told is… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

rjb on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:19am BST — You nailed it.

Ruth Gledhill
Guest

It was the bishops, in their recent pre-synod meeting in York, with a covering letter to the PM from the two Archbishops.

Feria
Guest
Feria

I think a particularly telling passage from the “consultation response” is the part that says ‘The Church of England’s understanding of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman is derived from the Scriptures and enshrined within its authorised liturgy. According to the Common Worship marriage service (derived from the Book of Common Prayer of 1662):’, then goes on to quote four paragraphs from Common Worship which repeatedly mention the phrases “one man and one woman”, “a man and a woman”, and “husband and wife”. One might reasonably ask: if the authors are so keen to stress… Read more »

Father Ian Stubbs
Guest
Mark
Guest
Mark

cseitz: “is the claim being made that the Church of England has in fact no teaching about marriage?” From what I remember of wading through those boring documents on Issues, More Issues and Yet More Issues of Human Sexuality, they stated that opinion within the Church of England was divided on the gay question. Some faithful Anglicans in England think one thing, some think another. However, this report does not acknowledge that range of opinion at all. It therefore gives a highly mendacious picture of what it claims to be the opinion of the Church of England; especially as the… Read more »

Jonty
Guest
Jonty

Surely it is rather heartening to discover the dear old Church of England believes in something after all? Incidentally, I don’t know anyone that feels their Civil Partnership is inferior to Marriage.

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

Well, I think “imposing for essentially ideological reasons am OLD meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.”

This is all about ideology. Frankly, the basic premises underlying this paper do not stand up well to close examination, and the authors are simply in danger of the old situation of being widowers to the spirit of a past era. Old ideas that are wrong are not to be privileged simply on the basis of age.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Incidentally, I don’t know anyone that feels their Civil Partnership is inferior to Marriage.” It’s legally inferior because, as Gary Paul Gilbert commented here on another thread yesterday: “The United Kingdom recognizes legal marriages of same-sex couples only as civil partnerships. But civil partnerships of same-sex couples are not necessarily recognized even in countries which have full marriage equality. Spain, for example, does not recognize civil partnerships. Marriage is a more general term and easier to get recognized. New York State, where I live, recognizes marriage but not civil partnerships. Civil marriages have portability, at least in theory, while civil… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Then let the hard work of drawing up new liturgies that redefine marriage be crafted and passed through the normal channels for that. Ditto in TEC. Until then, it is not like the CofE has done anything except state what has been the traditional teaching of the church forever and everywhere, as is reflected in its own liturgies, re: ‘one man and one woman’ with the customary biblical texts (Genesis 1 and Wedding at Cana). To say that Issues somehow trumps that is convenient but also un-synodical/un-conciliar.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

“Incidentally, I don’t know anyone that feels their Civil Partnership is inferior to Marriage.” Well, you do now ! It’s MEANT to be. It was designed to be. And it was done in the hope of placating the churches sufficiently to perhaps, be allowed to have them. And the C of E and the RCC and tory right fought against even Civil Partnerships tooth and nail. George Carey led a disgraceful bunch of bishops. Now they are lying again. The leadership of the C of E and the rcc is contemptible in its lies and lack of principle. What oh… Read more »

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

I wonder if the resentment of the bishops, already stoked, among other factors, by the Covenant and Women Bishops issues, may not manifest itself by steeling a sufficient number of members of Synod unhappy with the bishops’ revision of the measure to rejecting the entire Women Bishops’ measure as it now stands at next month’s session.

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

Have these comments been written by one person using many pseudonyms? They say the same thing over and over again with little variation suggesting that only tortured homosexuals read this website. Are they nostalgic for the past? The Church of England is only maintaining its own teaching, in the same way that the Catholic Church does. These days that represents a rare alliance. What your commentators fail to realise is that a significant proportion of homosexuals do not want marriage. There is a groundswell in the country in favour of heterosexual marriage. The Conservative Party is working against its core… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

The CofE changed the order of priority of reasons for marrying so that now marriage is understood as being primarily for a couple to support each other. The other 2 reasons are that marriage is the proper context for sex, and the final reason is that children might be born. Previously the Catholics and CofE had the same 3 reasons but in a different order: Children-Sex-Each other. But the CofE changed, and the latest teaching is that marriage is first and foremost for the mutual love and support a couple have for each other. Human love and desire for commitment… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Bowles, no need to smile. Well, not unless you can smile with joy. We hired a marquee in a well known and well respected location that does have a large green area – and yes, true to British style it did rain. But that did not dampen the joy of our 170 guests, our parents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, and of the priests who had so kindly offered to celebrate for and with us. But I agree with you that until the church becomes a civilised organisation God can only be invited to these celebrations in private.… Read more »

Alastair Newman
Guest

John, I can assure you that there is more than one of us posting on here. I for one don’t operate under a pseudonym. I am also not a “tortured homosexual” – I’m straight. I also wouldn’t know anything about the “radical years of the 1970s” as I wasn’t even born then. And yet despite not operating under a pseudonym, despite not being a tortured homosexual and despite not belonging to the radical years of the 1970s I still support same-sex marriage. I also completely oppose today’s response from the Church of England (of which I am a member). Funny… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Sent to Lambeth Palace today – I must protest loudly about the paper which has been issued today in the name of the Church of England. It is a tendentious, niggardly, dishonest and mean document which should never have seen the light of day. It is not true that the Church of England has supported civil partnerships. A majority of bishops opposed them from the start and an even great majority voted for the wrecking amendment. The church has systematically opposed all developments towards the full equality of Gay and Lesbian people, any semblance of tolerance has been reluctant and… Read more »

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

When we read comments such as this from members of the hierarchy we are truly able to see the depth of ignorance that seems to be present in their statements. This is why so many people are against organized religion. It is the damage they (the hierarchy) do to others without having to pay for their words. Words hurt. The disenfranchisement of the glbt community from the life of the Church has been an ongoing conflict but the statements coming out of the hierarchy be it Anglican or Roman, tell us we need a radical and democratic shift in the… Read more »

Jean Mary Mayland
Guest
Jean Mary Mayland

I am angry that the media keep saying ‘The Church says…’ It would be more accurate to say ‘ A group of people given the task of responding for one church say’ ! Many of us in that Church thoroughly disagree with the statement. I do not want the Church to be dis established as I think that on the one hand it gives the church wonderful pastoral opportunities and on the other it enables society to challenge the church and prevent it from retreating into being a backward looking sect. I think this report is full of scaremongering and… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Just a further thought. What interests me in this C of E statement is the deep anxiety it evinces about men’s and women’s gender roles. The authors of this statement, whoever they are and whomever they purport to represent, fear that if same-sex couples are permitted to marry, the assertion of irreducible differences between men and women will become impossible to maintain. As I can’t imagine that creating legal same-sex marriage will suddenly unsex all men and women, it can’t be the facts of biology they are concerned about. Those will remain what they are. So, is it the thought… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

“…the insistence on the procreation of children as one of the principal ends, if not the principal end, of marriage requires examination. It is indisputable that the institution of  marriage generally is not necessary for the procreation of children; nor does it appear to be a principal end of  marriage as understood in Christendom… It seems to me that the true view of the matter is expressed in Lord Stair’s Institutions, 1681 ed., book I., tit. 4, para. 6. That learned and distinguished author put the matter thus: “So then, it is not the consent of marriage as it relateth… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Erika Baker on 12 June at 5:25pm BST, Mazel Tov, and God bless you for what you wrote! ********** From the CofE summary: “Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity…” This is a “Wile E Coyote” argument. I first heard it at the Colorado state legislature. One of the houses was debating a bill to ban recognition of same-sex civil marriages from other states. A rural representative said that marriage promotes fidelity, strengthens the bonds between the partners, makes for a stable relationship, provides means for people to take care of each other, decreases… Read more »