Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Leicester responds to Government consultation on equal marriage

Bishop of Leicester responds to Government consultation on equal marriage

11 December 2012

Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church, the Rt Rev Tim Stephens, Bishop of Leicester, reminded Parliament in a response to the Government statement on equal marriage in the House of Lords, today.

While the forms and legalities around marriage had evolved over time, he said, one fundamental feature had remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.

The Bishop asked for assurances that, for example, teachers would not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings and that proper time would be given for consultation.

The Bishop of Leicester’s response in full:

“Those of us on these benches entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. That is why many of us supported civil partnerships as we believed that the rights and obligations that flow to those who wish to formally mark and celebrate their commitment to each other should not be denied to people simply because of their sexuality.

“However, my Lords, civil partnerships, while conferring virtually the same legal benefits, are not the same as marriage. Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church; and while the forms and legalities around marriage have evolved over time, as the noble lady minister has pointed out, one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.

“Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities? Can the Minister assure us that teachers for example in Church schools will not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings? Can the Minister assure this House in spite of the accelerated pace of this process, proper time, even over a Christmas holiday, will be given for adequate consultation with the Church of England’s Canon lawyers on the legislative drafting. Can the Minister assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudicial to gay people for taking a traditional stand, and perhaps most troubling my Lords is the fact that the Government and Opposition have together in their proceeding with this Measure led to division, not only within the country where polls consistently show half the population against this change, but also between the political class and the vast majority of practicing religious people. What plans does the Government have for working towards a degree of consensus on this matter?”

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mark nicholls
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mark nicholls

Does he (does anybody, in fact?)really fear that calling Civil Partnerships for what they are, i.e. Marriages, is going to cause society to collapse?

If that is what is truly feared, it is homophobic, by definition of the word.

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Didn’t anyone tell Tim the CofE had been exempted – or did he think, ‘I spent hours on this speech, and I shall give it no matter what” ?

He was over-taken by events and made no sense.

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

Oh dear, oh dear. He repeats that “many of us supported civil partnerships”. Some of us have been trying to nail that one for several months now, assisted by research from Church House itself, which reports that the large majority of bishops in the House supported a “wrecking amendment” (Church House’s words not mine)to the Civil Partnerships Bill in the name of the then bishop of Winchester. This has been linked from TA before. Looks as if it will have to be linked again.

Alastair Newman
Guest

“one fundamental feature had remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman” Really? Surely that is contradictory both to current practice and history. Polygamy is certainly present in the Bible, and the CofE now condones (within the conscience of the presiding priest) the remarriage of divorcees. “Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities?” Can anybody point to any evidence that shows that allowing SSM would destabilize communities in… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
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Gerry Lynch

What a dreadful speech. Let’s start with the inaccuracy – the Church of England does not support civil partnerships. It bans them from being blessed on its premises. In a small Dioceses, a priest entering a civil partnership will almost certainly lose their licence if it becomes public. Then the wilfully misleading bit – the claim that polls consistently show ‘half’ the population against equal marriage. This is just wrong. Let’s just start with the fact that today’s IPSOS/Mori poll shows a 73-24% majority in favour of marriage equality. Finally, the scaremongering – the Church of England is has a… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

I do wish bishops and others would read their Bibles. It’s quite clear from the earliest pages of the Old Testament that the union of one man and one woman has not been a ‘fundamental’ feature of marriage from earliest times. Indeed by and large the examples of marriage there, were they to replicated widely in the uk would really give the bishop something to worry about. And perhaps the bishop should look at the survey I quoted on an earlier post showing that 75percent of those polled that marriage should be available to same sex partners. It is no… Read more »

Joan of Quark
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Joan of Quark

“one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman”

You tell ’em, Bishop.

Who’s going to let Solomon, David, Abraham… know?

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

The poll by IPSOS referenced on a thread below gives 72% in favour of gay marriage.

Perhaps this bishop had missed that one.

sjh
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sjh

“one fundamental feature had remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman”
He’s not read the Old Testament, has he?

Flora Alexander
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Flora Alexander

This is a weak argument, and it suggests the Bishop doesn’t know much history. As a CofE member I find it annoying and embarrassing.

Gerry Lynch
Guest

@Laurence Roberts – reread the statement. This wasn’t “I’ve forgotten the C of E is exempted”. This was “I’ve noted the C of E’s exemption but I still think marriage equality is bad”.

Awful. They really never learn.

Andrew
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Andrew

So 1 Kings 1 of no consequence? When choirs proclaim ‘Zadok the priest…’ we should disregard the embarrasing details not present in Handel’s anthem? The quadruple wedlock lock may have secured for the Church hierarchy cast-iron guarantees that no gay couple ever darken the door of a church in search of ceremonial acknowledgement of life-long fidelity, but what of the remnant? Will heterosexual couples be enthusiastic about tying the knot in a fortress-like, hermeneutically-sealed institution where gay siblings, friends and colleagues are specifically outlawed from doing so? The Archbishop of Wales quite rightly argues this may be a step too… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

I feel a letter coming on:-

mailto:bishop.tim@leccofe.org

jean MAYLAND
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jean MAYLAND

I am appalled that the bill now makes it illegal for the C of E to conduct gay marriages. We MUST resist this

karenmacqueen+
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karenmacqueen+

The bishop stands up in the House of Lords and he lies. At least three lies. So, what is the point of granting seats in the House of Lords to bishops? Certainly not for their wisdom or moral guidance. The CofE is caught in a spiral of self-destruction.

Father David
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Father David

With regard to the “one fundamental feature” – don’t the expressed gospel views of Jesus of Nazareth trump those of Solomon, David and Abraham?

Neil
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Neil

The same argument deployed by +Leicester (that marriage is not the ‘property’ of either the church or state) is exactly the one used by honest Anglicans who claim that the priesthood is not ‘ours’ (in the CofE) to change or play with. The radical change in tradition would need agreement across the denominations and Catholic Christendom. I don’t think he believes this argument when it comes to women’s ordination, and so am not convinced he actually believes what he is saying on this matter either.

JCF
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JCF

“Can the Minister assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudicial to gay people”

God forbid anyone prejudicial to gay people be LABELLED “prejudicial to gay people”!

{sarcasm/Off}

Damian Thompson: “Christianity is fading away in Britain” . . . and statements like the Bishop of Leicester’s is precisely WHY. Mercy, the CofE is depressing me. Again this Yank says “God bless the Episcopal Church!”

Cynthia
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Cynthia

In the US, in states where marriage is legal, TEC is starting to do marriage. I really don’t want any grief from the ABC about how we are not “in unity” with this kind of thinking. Untruths and thinly varnished homophobia are really hard to rally around… Somehow I can’t imagine that the CoE’s leadership’s responses would be so lame if there were women bishops in that leadership. I am empathizing with the frustration of the majority that long for a Church that “gets” that all people are created in the image of God, and that that truth has consequences… Read more »

sjh
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sjh

Fr David –
The Bishop of Leicester’s point was that marriage had always been between one man and one woman. This is patently untrue.

Jesus did not ban polygamy or say anything specific about it at all – in Judaism, it was not banned until 1000AD. As far as I understand it, monogamy was a Roman idea not a Biblical one.

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

So is Bishop Tim actually saying that the government doesn’t have the right to legislate about marriage? Not about dead wives’ sisters? Not about divorce law? No, I didn’t think he was. Parliament makes the laws in this land, and if parliament makes a change to law regarding who may marry whom it has every right to do so – because they are the legally elected body representing all of us. His representation of – 1. the Bible on marriage 2. the attitude of the C of E to civil partnerships 3. the nature of marriage through time and history… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Well, the government just undermined the CofE good’n’proper. Now, it is completely irrelevant to decent people of goodwill and a desire to know God in all others.

Nothing done *against* the CofE could’ve made dis-establishment easier. Well done, Parliament.

David Shepherd
Guest

I’ve tried to avoid ‘slippery slope’ arguments, but when commenters here suggest that the case against polygamy is no more settled than the case against same-sex marriage, you can’t help but think that they’re attired in the debating equivalent of alpine skis and googles.

Anne
Guest
Anne

Neil says: “The same argument deployed by +Leicester (that marriage is not the ‘property’ of either the church or state) is exactly the one used by honest Anglicans who claim that the priesthood is not ‘ours’ (in the CofE) to change or play with. The radical change in tradition would need agreement across the denominations and Catholic Christendom.” The point is (though I am not sure the Bishop of Leicester appreciates it) that people will define marriage as they want to – right now across the world many people think of the union of one man with several women as… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

Richard Ashby: ‘I do wish bishops and others would read their Bibles. It’s quite clear from the earliest pages of the Old Testament that the union of one man and one woman has not been a ‘fundamental’ feature of marriage from earliest times.’ The phrase “one man and one woman” appears to originate not from the Bible, but from the marriage liturgy in The Directory for the Publick Worship of God. So I guess “earliest times” means 1646 AD. Of course, we ditched that liturgy in 1662, only to allow the phrase “one man and one woman” to sneak back… Read more »

Joan of Quark
Guest
Joan of Quark

“With regard to the “one fundamental feature” – don’t the expressed gospel views of Jesus of Nazareth trump those of Solomon, David and Abraham?” I didn’t know Solomon *had* a gospel view. Actually, with all those beautiful women in his harem he probably had a GREAT view, though not a moral one*. @DavidShepherd “I’ve tried to avoid ‘slippery slope’ arguments, but when commenters here suggest that the case against polygamy is no more settled than the case against same-sex marriage, you can’t help but think that they’re attired in the debating equivalent of alpine skis and googles.” I fear it… Read more »

Rosie Bates
Guest
Rosie Bates

‘The Bishop asked for assurances that, for example, teachers would not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings and that proper time would be given for consultation.’ Bishop Tim will not get these assurances, thank God. He will not get them because fine educationalists recognise that there is no common mind within the Church of England as to rational traditional teaching. This concerned grandparent is not impressed with the mind of Bishop Tim. His royal ‘we’ assertions are an insult to the common people – ie, The Holy People of God with Christ as their King. The Holy Spirit may… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Joan of Quark: Thanks for your reply. You claim that marriage has not had a stable definition throughout its history. There are aspects of marriage which have, as you say, evolved, but what has always remained is the primacy of biological kinship. To this day, the courts still take the view that the biological relationship must take precedence in determining parental and extended kinship rights. Currently, a husband’s presumption of paternity holds for children of the marriage, even in cases of assisted reproduction. HFEA 2008 Section 35 guarantees this. Let’s say the proposals are implemented. This would mean that, if… Read more »

Rob
Guest
Rob

For those of you pointing out the bishop’s “biblical ignorance,” please give me one example where polygamy is portrayed as in accordance with God’s will, no better yet, even positively? [deafening silence…] That the sins of humanity are redolent in the bible and even the lives of its OT leaders does not contradict the good bishop’s correct theology. They do show that the offense of the cross is something humanity continues to need to hear. For all of our “advances,” contemporary culture continues to pursue the same age old sinful errors. The bishop, of course, is entirely correct. And he… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

Rob: ‘For those of you pointing out the bishop’s “biblical ignorance,” please give me one example where polygamy is portrayed as in accordance with God’s will, no better yet, even positively?’ The bishop was not making claims about God’s will, but about what has in fact happened throughout history, and it was those claims that were being challenged. Nevertheless, no-one ever actually used the word “ignorance”. Tom: ‘Jesus’ unambiguous teachings on marriage in Matthew 19′ I suggest that to read into Matthew 19 any “unambiguous teaching” on whether marriage should be exclusively mixed-sex and/or monogamous (or even on divorce and… Read more »

Rob
Guest
Rob

Prominent notable exceptions do not change the common historical fact of marriage between one man and one woman. Pointing out these exceptions as if the bishop was ignorant or intentionally overlooking them to support his argument is what I was addressing. The Prohibitions you cite merely reinforce the plain, clear teaching quoted. Me stretching? You have that reversed. Yours is the argument from silence which you are filling in with contemporary cultural patterns.