Thinking Anglicans

Pressure on bishops to abstain in House of Lords debate

John Bingham reports in the Telegraph Bishops under pressure to abstain in gay marriage vote.

Despite vocal opposition from the Church to the Government’s plans to allow same-sex couples to marry, it is understood that senior officials have personally urged bishops to stay away from this week’s vote.

They fear that a large bloc of clerics turning up to vote down the bill could rebound on the Church, reopening questions over the right of bishops to sit in the Lords and even raise the prospect of disestablishment.

They have also told bishops privately that they are convinced the bill, which includes legal “locks” to prevent clergy being forced to carry out same-sex weddings against their beliefs, is the “best” they could hope to achieve…

And this:

…In a letter to be handed in to Lambeth Palace this morning, 30 leaders of independent churches, including a string of so-called “black majority” churches, warn that the church of England faces a “defining point” over the issue of same-sex marriage.

It is understood that the Archbishop intends both to speak and vote against the bill. But officials are anxious not to be seen to be taking on the Government over the issue. Last night Lambeth Palace confirmed that Archbishop Welby would attend but declined to comment on how he would vote.

A recent Church of England briefing note to MPs warmly praised the Government for introducing legal protections for clerics.

A total of 26 bishops are entitled to sit in the Lords – although the bishops’ bench is currently reduced with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, recovering from a cancer operation, and the see of Durham left vacant by Archbishop Welby’s promotion to Canterbury.

But under current convention they take turns to sit in the Lords, with usually only two bishops in attendance for most debates.

Officials in Church House are said to have urged bishops to limit their numbers to around six at the most for the controversial debate. It is thought that up to 10 of them could defy the advice and vote against the bill.

The officials are said to be afraid that were the bill to be defeated by a handful of votes, the bishops would be singled out for blame.

One senior source said that officials in the Church had begun to “call the shots more and more” during the last 10 years, under the tenure of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams.

“What they are scared of is that this goes down by a few votes and then the bishops are seen as having swung the vote,” said one…

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Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

If the bishops defeat with a handful of votes there will be … consequences. Either the bill will be forced through under the Parliament Act without the hoped for Lords amendments. Or a bill will be introduced under a future Labour/Lib-Lab governemnt and may not be the same bill at all (some of the compromises made in the current bill would surely be up for review if the bill is sunk by the bishops who are meant to be assuaged by them). Such a bill would then be forced through under the Parliament Act against a recalcitrant Lords who would… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Given the debacle over WB’s, it is clear that CoE has much to lose if the bishops vote en masse and shoot down the equal marriage bill. The bishops could win the battle, but lose the war, so to speak. The hubris of preventing religious freedom, i.e. trying to stop the Quakers and liberal Jews from following their conscience, is stunning. It is oppressive, vindictive, hateful, irrational. After all, the bill well provides for CoE’s non participation. It is past time for these guys to hit the “pause button” and abstain. And perhaps reflect on the real harm that comes… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

“30 leaders of independent churches … warn that the church of England faces a “defining point” over the issue of same-sex marriage.”

Come again??? If you are not IN the CofE, who are you to “warn” (threaten?) of CofE?

FWIW, I think that if the CofE is being “warned” re the threat of disestablishment (from both sides?), the proper response to that is to Do The Right Thing, and let the chips fall where they may (of course, I think that Doing the Right Thing means supporting marriage equality, or *at least* not opposing it).

Froghole
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Froghole

Attended a communion service at a church in Eastbourne yesterday morning. About 50 or so in the congregation; almost no one under the age of seventy (well, it was Eastbourne). During the intercessions I was astonished to hear the congregation being asked (by the female celebrant, oblivious to the double standard) to pray that “marriage may not be redefined…that the House of Lords vote against the bill…that the legislation may not pass…, etc., etc.” A political speech, done at some length and in poor taste during a service. Even if the Lords vote against it the legislation will almost certainly… Read more »

Laurence
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Laurence

Do I hear the sound of chickens coming home to roost ?

Dan BD
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JCF: “Come again??? If you are not IN the CofE, who are you to “warn” (threaten?) of CofE?”

Well, the CofE is the national church (in England, that is), so we hold a unique public role in representing faith and in serving the entire country (not just our own interests).

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“During the intercessions I was astonished to hear the congregation being asked (by the female celebrant, oblivious to the double standard) to pray that “marriage may not be redefined.” It’s pretty straightforward. The bishops can join in the voting down of the bill in the House of Lords if they want. At least one, and probably all, of the following will then happen: 1. The bill will be pushed through with the help of the Parliament Act, either now or immediately after 2015. In the process it may become a great deal less deferential to the CofE. The use of… Read more »

Helen
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Helen

Cynthia I appreciate that Rowan’s treatment of TEC was felt to be offensive, but I genuinely don’t believe he is or was a bigot. He acted as he felt he ought to act as ABC (a big mistake perhaps, but he was probably damned by some if he did and by others if he didn’t.) , when many of us would have preferred him to have acted as the author of The Body’s Grace. You could try to forgive him- I’d guess that KJS has!

Laurence
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Laurence

Helen, has Williams asked to be forgiven ?

Froghole
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Froghole

Interested Observer: Many thanks. I agree that the Parliament Act is almost certain to be used if the Lords defy the Commons; since the life of this Parliament is now fixed, the Lords cannot rely on the use of their right to delay the passage of the bill for twelve months in the hope that it will time out – since Parliament still has two years to run, and the leadership of both coalition parties will be anxious to use the legislation to bind themselves together in the run up to an election (which may be closely fought). What’s more,… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“Was felt to be offensive”?

Was felt to be offensive? Or _was_ offensive?

Let’s see whether the present Archbishop of Canterbury invites Bishop Glasspool to the next Lambeth Conference.

Then we’ll know whether Canterbury discriminates against gay and lesbian bishops as a matter of policy.

Helen
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Helen

Either Jeremy. But forgiveness is surely not dependent on conditions- not in a Christian context anyway. No-one who know Rowan could think him a bigot, though you might think him in some respects profoundly mistaken.