Thinking Anglicans

Churches deny asking for quadruple lock

Updated yet again 23.00 with statement from DCMS

There are multiple reports in the media this morning.

Church Times see preceding article.

Sam Jones Guardian Church of England and Church in Wales protest at gay marriage ban

The Church of England and the Church in Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at the government’s plan to ban them from offering same-sex marriages, claiming they were not consulted over the proposed legislation, which would make them the only religious organisations to be legally barred from conducting the ceremonies…

…The Right Rev Tim Stevens, bishop of Leicester and the Church of England’s lead spokesman in the Lords, told a closed meeting of bishops, Lords and MPs that the government had not consulted the church on the proposal, adding that the church had never sought the government’s so-called “quadruple lock” on gay marriage. He also expressed his regret at the government’s lack of consultation.

A Church of England spokesman confirmed that the church had not been consulted over the government’s plans, saying: “Bishop Tim is correct that the first mention of a ‘quadruple lock’ came when the secretary of state announced it in the Commons. We had not been privately informed of this prior to the announcement.”

Miller had been due to meet the Church of England representatives last Thursday but she cancelled the meeting at the last moment…

John Bingham Telegraph Church accuses Maria Miller of ‘omnishambles’ over gay marriage announcement

…Although the meeting went ahead in Mrs Miller’s absence, the bishop was given a general briefing about legal provisions to enable gay couples to marry without churches which chose not to carry out the ceremonies facing challenges under human rights laws.

The first that officials at Church House in Westminster knew of a special legal bar, specifically aimed at the Church of England, was when Mrs Miller made her statement.

MPs expressed amazement when Bishop Stevens set out the sequence of events during a meeting yesterday with the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to discuss the separate crisis over women bishops.

Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP, who was present, said: “He said that ‘the Government did not consult us on this and we wish they had sought our advice’ – it was pretty strong.”

He went on: “At the end Bishop Justin simply said I really have nothing to add to what Tim has said, I agree with every word that he has said.”

Mr Gardiner added: “I think that there was shock on the part of the Church leaders that the Government had not even thought to consult with the bishops on this.

“The Government has behaved in an extraordinarily high-handed and cack-handed way.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport insisted it would have been “inappropriate” to tell the Church of England about the provision before it had been announced to Parliament.

But senior Church of England officials likened the cancellation of the meeting and failure to brief the Church to an episode of the satirical programme The Thick of It.

“It is an ominshambles,” said one. “This is legislation on the hoof, it has been a botched job.”

A spokeswoman for the department said: “Clearly, it would have been inappropriate to discuss the fine detail of our proposals prior to them being announced in Parliament.

“But the Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages would continue.”

Update

Questions are now being asked about why the Church of England did not express this surprise about the fourth lock earlier in the week. See this blog post: The Church of England, #equalmarriage And The Truth

The Church of England was quick to explain that the Government was not giving them any extra protections but respecting their right to opt-in constitutionally if they so wished. Their press release is here (it is their second version. The first was entitled “Equal Marriage and the Church of England”. Obviously that couldn’t stand, so it has been changed to “Same-sex Marriage and the Church of England. Note the “Same Same Marriage” reference in the left hand sidebar which I like to think suggests someone at the press office wasn’t happy with the need to change the title!). An excellent explanation of the Quadruple Lock and the Church of England’s position can be found here. But let us quote from the press release.

For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.

The Church of England, on the 11th, was extremely clear they didn’t want an opt-in as they already had one…

…Now the main issue the Church of England representatives have is that they were not consulted on the details of the proposals. Given their initial press release afterwards (where they expressed satisfaction with what the Government was proposing in terms of legal protections) I find this very disingenuous. Do these representatives want marriage equality in the church? The Bishop of Leicester, quoted in the story, certainly doesn’t…

And now the BBC has this report Gay marriage: Church says government move ‘absurd’

The day before the PM’s remarks, CofE officials had met for talks on the issue with officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“What is clear is that the amount of detail given by officials from the department certainly wasn’t the level of detail revealed on the floor of the House” five days later, said a CofE spokesman. “It think that’s surprising, at the very least.

“There is this sense of the government slightly making it up on the hoof. This is an important and serious issue and a complex area of law. Doing all this on the hoof is absurd.”

But a DCMS statement said: “It is just not true to say that we have not properly discussed our proposals with the Church of England.

“As part of our consultation process, and before we finalised our proposals, Government officials met the Church of England at a very senior level.

“The Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages could continue. While it is inappropriate to share the exact nature of legislative proposals before announcing them to Parliament, discussions with the Church were quite specific about the quad lock.”

The CofE spokesman said there was no wish for “protection or exemption for ourselves in ways that are any different from any other Church”, though it was accepted that its unique position as the established Church would require particular legislation.

“If, despite our opposition, the legislation goes through, we support the government intention of leaving the choice of conducting same-sex weddings with all Churches and faiths.”

He added: “The Church’s position is about the meaning of marriage; the Church’s position is not about being anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) – we fully support civil partnership.”

The DCMS itself has published this on behalf of Maria Miller: Equal marriage and the Church of England.

…We discussed our plans with the Church of England

Some have suggested that the Church of England didn’t know in advance about the legal protections we were proposing. This is simply not correct. We sat down and had detailed, private discussions with them prior to my statement in Parliament. But of course, the rules of the House of Commons mean that the detail of legislative proposals is presented to Parliament before anyone else. We will continue to discuss our plans with them going forward, and those meetings have already started…

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Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Is there a bit of rewriting history here? If you scroll down a few stories you will find a reference to a CofE press release titled “Equal Marriage and the CofE” (now moved to a webpage titled “Same Sex Marriage and the CofE). This press release supported and justified the Government’s plans to provide additional legal protection for the established church – the quadruple lock. It was issued only a day after Maria Miller’s statement and seems to indicate a degree of knowledge of the legal issues. Yet now we are told there was no discussion and this was all… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

But from the explanations below I gather that this was the only way of ensuring that the church could not be taken to the ECtHR, so it was the only means the Government had to give the church what it wanted.

Is that not true now?

Father David
Guest
Father David

So why is the Church of England getting so hot under the dog-collar at the Government exempting them from abandoning the traditional view of marriage? I am beginning to have some sympathy with the Diocesan Bishop who referred to the Established Church as a “national embarrassment”

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Fair question, Simon D. Perhaps we will be told…

And thanks for drawing my attention to the broken link. It’s so easy to insert a forwarding mechanism in a web page…

MarkBrunson
Guest

The government just allowed the CofE to make it’s rope-walk, work the hemp, measure a good length, tie the noose, put it around its own neck, and now they want to *pretend* that they weren’t really just a bunch of old, selfish divas looking to keep their dried-up womb of a church exclusive (“Oh, no! We never meant for *that* to happen!”). Ha. Good luck. You twits made your own grave, lie in it.

At least people like David have the courage to be honest about their contempt and prejudice.

Sheenagh
Guest
Sheenagh

As I understand it, the CofE’s own submissions to the consultation emphasised that because of its position as an established church (so legally required to marry anyone in the parish *) we would need a particular set of legal frameworks/concessions to ensure we weren’t vulnerable to a challenge via the European Court of Human Rights. I suspect the hope was that the government would decide this was too difficult and give up on the whole idea. Now the CofE is cross that, in granting its original request, the government has made it look opposed to same-sex marriages (when it, er,… Read more »

John
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John

Highly disingenuous reaction from those bishops. But perhaps they’re beginning to realise how bad they look, and this in the aftermath of the disastrous census figures.

Stephen Morgan
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Stephen Morgan

How is it that the ‘Church of England’ can issue (as it did a few days ago) an instant un-signed response to the government’s proposals on same-sex marriage, (purporting to speak for all of us but having consulted none of us)and now be complaining loudly because it was (apparently) not consulted over the quadruple lock proposals of the government giving it (apparently) exactly what it wanted? Or does the ‘C of E’ not want to appear both mysognist and homophobic in the same calenedar month?

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Right! Well first, there is the amazing Minister’s statement that I think was deliberately meant to wind them up and paint them in a very homophobic corner. Secondly there is the fourth lock which as far as I can see will render marrying a same sex couple and making the return, a criminal offence. This I imagine is to make the position very clear on what such a return constitutes after the definition of marriage is changed by law. The Registrar General might have said that if an Anglican cleric had made such are turn then he might be minded… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Looks to me as if the ‘leadership’ of the Church of England is having an institutional and collective mental breakdown. How else to explain the omnishambles we have witnessed this week. Coming on top of the women bishops debacle…

It has been said that Starbucks is going to take years to recover from the ‘reputational damage’ it has suffered as a result of its tax arrangements becoming public. Can the ‘church’ ever recover from this self inflicted mess?

jnwall
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jnwall

The Church of England got what it asked for on the subject of same-sex marriage. You can’t at the same time say same-sex marriages should not happen and also say if they are going to happen we should be allowed to do them.

What kind of drugs are the Lambeth Palace folks taking these days?

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

So now the church ‘fully supports civil partnerships’. Oh yes, and who is now rewriting history or making church policy in this area too on the hoof. Who is jumping the gun before the various commissions report? What authority is there for this statement? Or, heaven forbid is the ‘spokesperson’ vainly trying to justify the entrenched ecclesiastical discrimination by arguing that society offers something equal to and as valuable as marriage? Do these people think we have short memories or perhaps they think we are stupid? The church fully supports civil partnerships. That statement is a lie and the person… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

This is so hard to keep straight (as it were), first, the “CoE” responds to the initial announcement by the PM that marriage will be open to religious institutions with an extremely poor (intellectually and theologically lame) letter in which the only thing that was clear was strong opposition. The government responds with the quadruple lock. The “CoE” responds by saying that this is horrible, they were never consulted, and that CoE should have the same opportunity to opt-in as the other churches… Dear Rowan: please explain to us Americans how this is a shining example for us? And please… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
Guest

If the C of E fully supports civil partnerships, why are they banned from being blessed in church? Why do clergy and ordinands have to lie about the nature of their relationships if they are in a civil partnership? Why was Jeffrey John blocked by Williams and Sentamu from becoming Bishop of Southwark? Why do priests who bless civil partnerships risk their licences if it becomes public. I know when we took our vows to one another, we had to hold the service in camera, because even the openly gay priest who presided at the ceremony feared, quite rightly, for… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

This is my favorite bit (not in the TA summary): “It’s absolutely extraordinary,” he said. “The government gave the clear impression that this had been done at the request of the Church of England … but the bishop of Leicester said: ‘We didn’t ask for it’ … and was very upset about it because it gave the impression that the Church of England were unfriendly towards gays.” Someone needs to tell this fellow that oppressive policies are worse than unfriendly. And that the statement put out by the “CoE” against gay marriage was dripping with homophobia. The government only exposed… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

As they are so much in vogue nowadays would it be possible to table a Vote of No Confidence in the Church of England?

Susannah
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Susannah

I really want to challenge this statement by the Bishop of Leicester, which the so-called “Church of England” endorsed in its polarised statement(s) that ignored the half of its members: ““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” I thought the objectors to Equal Marriage have argued all along for “RELIGIOUS CONSCIENCE”. If churches, on grounds of conscience, don’t agree with the proposed law of the land, they should be allowed to exercise that conscience, through exemption. OK… Then what about… Read more »

Susannah
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Susannah

(Page 2 of 2) If we don’t act (and not just speak) then we’re presenting the public with a status quo that excludes many decent people from the most precious sacrament and communal recognition of marriage. Many Anglican communities may (and ought and should) decide that in THEIR churches, lesbian and gay couples are welcome, and recognised as married, and MAY celebrate marriage in the midst of the caring community. The spokespeople and the authoritarianism has gone far enough. It is way past time courageous Anglican churches took this matter into their own hands. I am positive, if orchestrated and… Read more »

Rosie Bates
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Rosie Bates

‘“There is this sense of the government slightly making it up on the hoof. This is an important and serious issue and a complex area of law. Doing all this on the hoof is absurd.”’ Who are they trying to fool with such a protest? Pity they didn’t consider this in a timely fashion. I seem to remember posting some spiritual advice about how to let the crazy voices out. Here they come. Thanks for these updates which sadly point to a need to seeking a higher authority than the Church of England for a reason to get up in… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“Why does Church House think we’re too stupid to notice facts in front of our faces?”

Spot on!

The CofE’s “oh no, the gays!” communications strategy worked so well with the Anglican Covenant, that they tried to turn it to other issues.

Reading between the lines, however, it looks as though Church House got way in front of some bishops.

Presumably the bishops were fine with bigoted statements for international audiences. But less so when the audience is English.

Let us hope the bureaucracy has been suitably chastened.

JCF
Guest
JCF

I’m sensing a “Henry & Beckett” thing going on here—

CofE (big-wigs): “Who will rid us of these meddlesomely marrying Gays???”

Cameron&Gov: “We will!”

CofE big-wigs: “When did we ever say we wanted to be rid of marrying gays???”

[To switch metaphors] Lay down w/ homophobic dogs, CofE, wake up w/ wide-spread reputation for (condemnation of!) homophobia fleas!

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Jeremy wrote: Presumably the bishops were fine with bigoted statements for international audiences. But less so when the audience is English.

Exactly. And Rowan tried to push us all to be in communion with the bigotry, at the threat of being isolated and treated shabbily (as was the treatment of ++Katherine Jefferts Schori and +Gene Robinson).

It looks like we are, after all, in communion with bigotry. Now we just know where it originates.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Susannah,
I think it is precisely because the church was afraid that individual priests would break ranks that it lobbied the Government for very strong protection and agonised that someone might win a ECHR case.
And that is precisely why the Government has presented a lock that would mean any such marriages conducted by individual priests would not be legally valid.

The church will have to sort this out through its own channels, and when General Synod has approved a change in Canon law, I’m sure Parliament will be happy to accept it back into the civilised world.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

I wonder whether the Bishop of Leicester was properly briefed on any discussions that went on with DCMS regarding mechanisms for ‘protecting’ the C of E.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

The DCMS page looks very sensible and rational to me. Doesn’t quite resolve the Church in Wales situation but goes a long way. My advice to bishops is to engage positively in arriving at legislation you are happy with (the Bill hasn’t been written yet) and present amendments in the House of Lords where you’re virtually a small (if at the same time noisy and irritating) political party. I must say I do feel for the civil servants whose job it is to deal with the Church of England, may God give them strength – maybe they rotate the task… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I think you are right Erika..a good number of clergy still have freehold..a few ( esp coming up to retirement) might well break ranks and that would cause a terrible fuss…and the C of E is never keen on fuss…..

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

The issue of religious conscience has been deployed, both as an argument against women bishops, and as an argument for the entire Church of England to be a no-go area for equal marriage. But what about local Anglican churches who, in religious conscience, collectively believe that gay and lesbian marriage should be affirmed in their churches and communities? What of priests who, in religious conscience, do not believe they can exclude people from the sacrament just because of their gender or sexual orientation? And what about sincere gay and lesbian Anglicans who, in religious conscience, believe their intimate and faithful… Read more »

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

(Proposals for action – 1 of 2) In the following two posts I will ponder and suggest some forms this non-compliance could take, where local Anglican churches have the courage to stand by their consciences and show that in THEIR communities, gay and lesbian couples WILL be married… in sacrament and liturgy, locally offered to God, as well as in civil law. There are too many examples in Church history of deference where religious conscience cried out for justice: the collaboration with the state when human rights were being abused, the accommodation of slavery, the segregation of people on grounds… Read more »

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

(Proposals for action – 2 of 2) To set an alternative chain of events in action, defiant of the entirely mythical idea that the Church of England en masse rejects equal marriage (and the latent homophobia that lurks behind it) I suggest: 1. A national call to local Anglican PCC’s to endorse the right of *all* to the sacrament of marriage, regardless of gender or orientation. 2. The creation of a network of these local churches, prior to action commencing, and the setting of a publicised date (say January 1st 2014) after which LGBT couples will be welcomed for blessing… Read more »