Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Leicester issues statement on behalf of the Lords Spiritual

Updated Thursday afternoon

Church of England press release
Statement from the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

05 June 2013

“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape. The concerns of many in the Church, and in the other denominations and faiths, about the wisdom of such a move have been expressed clearly and consistently in the Parliamentary debate. For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned. The Bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children. If this Bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace. Our focus during Committee and Report stages in the coming weeks and months will be to address those points in a spirit of constructive engagement.”

Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester
Convenor of the Lords Spiritual

The statement published above has been reported in the Telegraph by John Bingham in this way: Church of England gives up fight against gay marriage

The Church of England has effectively accepted defeat over gay marriage signalling that it will no longer fight against a change in the law.

In a short statement, the established Church said that the scale of the majorities in both the Commons and Lords made clear that it is the will of Parliament that same sex couples “should” be allowed to marry.
The Bishop of Leicester, who leads the bishops in the House of Lords, said they would now concentrate their efforts on “improving” rather than halting an historic redefinition of marriage.
It represents a dramatic change of tack in the year since the Church insisted that gay marriage posed one of the biggest threats of disestablishment of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII.
And it comes despite a warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, that the redefinition of marriage would undermine the “cornerstone” of society…

…And he [Bishop of Leicester] made clear that the bishops would look not only at strengthening opt-outs for those who oppose a new definition of marriage but at the future practicalities for people in same-sex unions.
He signalled that bishops would seek to introduce a notion of adultery into the bill and extend parental rights for same-sex partners.
Under the current bill people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce for adultery after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between gay or lesbian couples.
The bishops are also seeking to change a provision which says that when a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage has a baby her spouse is not also classed as the baby’s parent.
The result is that in some cases children would be classed as having only one parent…

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Charlotte
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Charlotte

Is there anyone reading this blog who is able to translate the Bishop of Leicester’s statement?

Jeremy
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Jeremy

If you’re being run out of town….

Laurence
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Laurence

Stop digging Tim !

Your role will now be very limited and your role curtailed – you wanted NO further discussion, debate or consideration of these matters – remember ?

How do you imagine this is going down in East Ham / Newham ?

CRW
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CRW

As a gay couple with an adopted daughter this statement fills me with dread. What do they mean by rights of the child? Like most adopted children my daughter was abused by her birth parents and removed by a judge. A court of law then transferred all parental rights to us when we adopted her. Is the church going to try to insert some kind of right for her birth parents to be allowed to contact her no matter what we say? Are they going to have the right to stay on the birth certificate? Doesn’t the church realise that… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

How big of “the C of E” graciously to stop digging. I wonder how much their other Lordships will be bothered to listen to the Lords Spiritual now? They have surely used up a great deal of spiritual capital and credibility in jumping into the sinking ship of opposition.

All the more credit to Lord Harries.

Tim Moore
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Tim Moore

Within all this, I am getting the impression that we have an Archbishop of Canterbury who, in spite of earlier gestures, seems quite unwilling to really engage with the matters of same-sex marriage and human sexuality. The announcement by the Lords Spiritual represents a glimmer of common sense, in terms of the progressing legislation, but it carries a whiff of weary unwillingness to work for any real change in the official policy and practice of the Church of England.

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

Both this and the RC statement were probably hard to make, so we should graciously welcome their realism. Apologies will come – to the faithful believers and faith communities whose religious freedom they have tried to violate until these statements – but not soon. However, both the ‘children’ (I agree with CRW – and what about CofE adoption agencies?) and the ‘fidelity in marriage’ signals are concerning. I take it that the latter means that they will go on about adultery and non-consummation. Advice from a candid friend: don’t do it. Les Green, Oxford Professor of Legal Philosophy, recently wrote… Read more »

Andrew Hawkins-Kennedy
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Andrew Hawkins-Kennedy

It is clear that the Bishops have accepted that they have lost the cause of homophobic opposition to equal marriage. However, now there is a desire to enshrine inequality in the legislation to allow public servants to be homophobes. When slavery was abolished or when apartheid went were such bishops as eager to pursue their sins further?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Oh, Ian McLean, you are a spoil sport. I want to hear the Lords Spiritual, in their full regalia, debating at length what does and does not constitute sufficient sexual activity to constitute same-sex consummation and lesbian adultery. Perhaps they could download some helpful visual aids from the Internet and provide us with a Powerpoint presentation. “Here they are holding hands while listening to a kd lang record, or perhaps it might be Kylie the little Australian poppet: not enough”. “Here they are kissing, tongues and everything, while only wearing their underclothes: not enough.” “Here they are…well…I don’t know…what…but I… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

Can it be true? Is the war really over? I have gone through a number of stages on this – cynical, churlish, relieved and so on. As it is clear the bill will pass the statement in one sense adds little. In another it’s a signal to various refuseniks to give up fighting (bishops, Daily Telegraph, Church press office (ahem), wilder reaches of the Tory party, possibly C4M who at the moment are fighting on in hope of a different vote in the Lords). The bishops are saying “look folks, the fors and against have had it out; there’s a… Read more »

Stuart, Devon
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Stuart, Devon

I agree with Iain: we should welcome this statement. +Tim, who did not vote for the Dear amendment, has got the agreement of his colleagues that they should not continue to oppose the measure but work constructively for its adoption in a pragmatic form. This is very good.

Let’s not provide fodder to the canard of liberal illiberality.

sjh
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sjh

Interestingly some bishops at least kept their slaves after the slave trade was abolished right until slavery itself was abolished in the 1830’s. The bishop of Exeter was famously compensated for the loss of his slaves with a huge amount of money. So yes, Andrew the bishops did pursue their sins further! Despite the archbishop’s regret at the way the church has treated LGBT people, I doubt we will actually see any thing like eg blessing of civil partnerships any time soon. I hope I am wrong.

Laurence
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Laurence
Laurence
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Laurence

The chairperson of the LGBTory groups is not so sanguine; and feels that it could be voted down yet. As, some / many who did not vote for the amendment on constitutional grounds, nonetheless oppose the Bill, and will vote against it, in due course – unless convinced by letters, emails or messages via Contact-a-lord. I’ll seek out the url. As for illiberal liberals it doesn’t wash with me. Yes, bishops hung on to ‘their’ slaves and Exeter most famously. But they tended to be worked to death in a matter of six years – talk about godliness and personal… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Craig,
they’re not changing tack because they’ve had a change of heart but because their combined attempt at wrecking the Bill failed.
There will no change within the CoE and lgbt people will not easily forgive Bishops and in particular Canterbury voting for the Dear amendment.

The relief is that there will now be civil marriage. Within the CoE itself I don’t foresee any progress – not after the debacle we saw on Tuesday.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“I doubt we will actually see any thing like eg blessing of civil partnerships any time soon. I hope I am wrong.”

85% of those who took part in the Government consultation process on marriage equality said they would convert their CPs to marriages if they could.
I would say that all Christians would, at least, I cannot really imagine anyone who wouldn’t.

Once marriage equality has become law there will be nothing left for the church to bless.

Tom
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Tom

I wonder, after his speech in the Lords but then his vote FOR the Dear wrecking amendment, whether the new archbishop of Canterbury has yet realised that he has just cooked his goose? Who in the reasonable world will listen to him now? (And so soon after the promise signalled by his meeting with Peter Tatchell, too.)

Laurence
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Laurence

Interesting a positive piece from Jenkin an uncommonly decent man :

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/06/06/tory-lord-jenkin-the-lords-equal-marriage-vote-was-a-victory-for-common-decency/

The ending of provocation a bit odd – timewarp circa 1953 ?

I’ll so try not to provoke any dear beknighted heterosexual who can’t quite get his head – around it.

But no, that is, yes, a good piece for our days.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“[W]hether the new archbishop of Canterbury has yet realised that he has just cooked his goose?”

It looks as though we must resign ourselves to yet another Archbishop of Canterbury who has neither moral backbone nor strategic sense.

Fr Paul
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Fr Paul

According to Hansard only 32% of eligible Bishop’s exercised their right to vote – +Leicester was not one of them. Those that did were 100% against. What happened to the other 68%???

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“It looks as though we must resign ourselves to yet another Archbishop of Canterbury who has neither moral backbone nor strategic sense.” Or one who is a genuine homophobe. Does theological training in the UK involve a study of justice issues? Justin is not a God Hates Fags homophobe, although that nuance may not travel well across the pond. But the idea that we LGBT people have our “place,” i.e. civil partnerships but not marriage, doesn’t wash. We’ve learned that separate is unequal, it is an insult to our dignity, keeps us and our families exposed to the oppression of… Read more »

James Mackay
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James Mackay

This sort of statement comes all the time from all sorts and kinds of bishops–Episcopal/Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Moravian, Lutheran. I find it offensive. It is demeaning to have intimated that the love I have for my partner–soon-to-be husband [Thank you, State of Minnesota.]–is some how defective, some how less than the opposite-sex marriage, some how ‘intrinsically disordered’ (as Roman Catholic bishops sometimes say) or ‘inconsistent with what the Scriptures tell us’ (as my Episcopal bishop has put it). What the debate in the House of Lords has made clear, if nothing else, is where the Lords Spiritual and their… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

“He signalled that bishops would seek to introduce a notion of adultery into the bill […]. Under the current bill people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce for adultery after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between gay or lesbian couples. Under existing law, people in opposite-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them with someone of the same sex are not able to divorce for adultery – they divorce on the basis of it being ‘unreasonable behaviour’. This ground for… Read more »

RPNewark
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RPNewark

“According to Hansard only 32% of eligible Bishop’s exercised their right to vote – +Leicester was not one of them. Those that did were 100% against. What happened to the other 68%??? ” – Fr. Paul.

I can tell of two – +Sentamu Ebor: is on sick leave (see a thread a little lower down) and +Paul Southwell & Nottingham is out of the country at a long-arranged conference on ministry to children that is taking place in Finland.

JCF
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JCF

“Perhaps they could download some helpful visual aids from the Internet and provide us with a Powerpoint presentation. “Here they are holding hands while listening to a kd lang record…”

Interested Observer, I may require a new keyboard, from the cranberry juice you’ve just made me spray all over my old one! ROFL!!!

[@CRW: God bless and protect you and your family.]

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“+Sentamu Ebor: is on sick leave”

Clearly, one wishes him a speedy and complete recovery.

However, it’s unlikely that his presence in the House of Lords would have added nuance, insight or charity to the debate. His pronouncements on same-sex marriage have been clearly tailored to appeal to audiences more conservative than the CofE in England.

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Paul Southwell and Nottingham is not a member of the House of Lords yet.

Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

When the archbishop says that the “redefinition of marriage” will undermine a “cornerstone” of society, what evidence does he adduce to support such a position?

The answer is that he can’t because none exists. Like so many clerics and others, he’s just pulling stuff out of his

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Father Paul, it sounds as though your 32 percent statistic does not include the bishops who were present, but who abstained.

Chris H.
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Chris H.

CRW, I don’t know if adoption records are permanently sealed there, but at least in the U.S., more states are allowing adopted children to see their original birth certificates AND sometimes allowing the biological parents to maintain contact in “open adoptions”. The push to allow this was made by support organizations for adopted people wanting: a.)health/genetic information and/or b.) a desire to meet their biological family and “know where they come from.” When an adopted child has to sue to gain access to the records, these reasons are often called the “child’s rights”. Open adoptions are also pushed by women(often… Read more »

Laura Sykes
Guest

The advice of Polonius – ‘this above all, to thine own self be true’ is surely essentially Christian. Our episcopate, supposed to be leading the rest of us, have set two appalling examples: failure by some to vote according to their consciences in the first place and now this ungracious bowing to the inevitable for fear of losing their collective seats in the House of Lords and risking disestablishment.

Scot Peterson
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Scot Peterson

Can’t possibly say it better than Interested Observer. Like JCF, I *nearly* had an iPad incident…

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Chris H
as far as I’m aware adoption has become much more open in Britain over the last few years. Children are encouraged to have contact with their birth parents where that is safe and possible, and they certainly have access to relevant information when they are 18.
I am not aware of any moves to change that.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

The idea that the Government has “failed” to define what constitutes sex between gay people is wrong. The Government doesn’t define it for straight people either. There is only sexual activity that can be cited as adulterous. All the others, which happen to be the same ones gay people engage in, do not count in law. If anyone wants to divorce on the grounds of those activities they will have to cite unreasonable behaviour. That does emphatically NOT mean that it is considered to be ok for straight to have non penetrative extra marital sex. Or that we don’t actually… Read more »

David
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David

Well I am with Iain and Stuart. I welcome the bishop’s statement and trust their honourable intent (even though I wish they have spoken and behaved in other ways) though it takes a stiff drink to say so in present company here. The tone of contributions illustrates the difficulty of trying to explore genuine questions or hold different convictions within the same faith. The attitude to bishops is at best exasperated – and I share this – but contemptuously dismissive at worst. Is this is really Christian or helpful? The real positive in recent months for me is the way… Read more »

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

My first contribution on this thread about children was written before the “Telegraph” story appeared. If the bishops’ intention is an amendment to create a presumption that both SS parents are the parents of the child, then like Erika I applaud it. If it is to create new rights for biological parents, then like CRW I am scared of it.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David, of course newcomers to the debate must be given time to explore the various views and come to their own conclusion. But not at the expense of denying me civic legal equality in the meantime. That time is definitely over. Thankfully – because, you know, some of us having been having this conversation for decades and we’re not getting younger and if we had to wait until the last Christian in the CoE had come to the conclusion that we might just possibly be allowed to get married we’d never get there. Think, discuss, engage – by all means.… Read more »

CRW
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CRW

@chris H Adoption in the US and UK are pretty different. Adoptions here are indeed already open. My own daughter sees several half siblings, adopted by other people, and we are supposed to have letter based contact with the birth parents, but they never write. Adoption files in this country are never truly sealed, children have a book detailing their early lives and the reasons they were taken into care, along with photos of the birth family etc. You are given all the medical records they have and any information social services have. Children have a right to all this… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“The attitude to bishops is at best exasperated – and I share this – but contemptuously dismissive at worst. Is this is really Christian or helpful?” David, sad to say, I’m one of the “contemptuously dismissive” ones. Here’s the deal. We LGBT persons have all been hurt for who we are and who we love. We’ve been hurt terribly. We’ve been hurt by the church when it tells us we aren’t loved by God, or not equally loved by God, and aren’t eligible for the Grace of God via the Sacraments, such as marriage. That pain alone is bound to… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

David, you said: “To acknowledge and honour difference is not to practice discrimination actually. ‘separate is unequal’ ? – and where is there anything in the Biblical theology of creation of, say, Paul’s theology of the body of Christ to support this?” Think about the power relationships and who is being defined by whom? If LGBT persons in very large majority were happy with this “difference,” you would have strong point. However, if LGBT persons aren’t happy with this “difference,” then it means the majority is thrusting, enforcing, and oppressing it’s ideas on an unwanting population. In most cases, if… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Following on from the points made by David and others, if the bishops are signalling that they want both spouses to be treated as parents and faithfulness to be as important for gay and lesbian as heterosexual couples (though this may be impractical because of the difficulty of finding a suitable definition), then I think this is positive. I understand that some people are so frustrated that anything the bishops do is attacked, but ultimately this is unhelpful, I daresay there may be some differences within the House of Bishops, with some wanting a more constructive approach and others implacably… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Savi and David are looking on the bright side and I wish them well. We all saw the flawed and insulting statement made on marriage. That seems to be the basis of much of the Lord Bishops rhetoric. It’s rotten to the core. Is anything salvable? God can transform this hate into healing love. Who will step up in this work? Who will walk the playgrounds? Talk to bullied children? Talk to gay families? To gay Anglicans? Who will listen to the pain of centuries of hate? Over here, there are a ton of organizations where this dialogue would be… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

Some of us have been horrified at the extremes the Church of England has engaged in over the entirely predictable marriage equality bill. Apart from the official pronouncements we have had a truly vicious press operation designed to undermine the Conservative Party (of which I am not a member) when there has historically been a certain affinity between this party and the CofE. The point I would stress is this. The attitude of the CofE has been caustic. We’ve seen the Archbishop of Canterbury describing the Prime Minister as a dictator, for instance. Fundamentally there was never question if obliging… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Cynthia, I am still seething with anger at Justin Welby’s behaviour on Tuesday, making friendly noises towards lgbt people and apologising about the way they have often been treated by the church about 10 minutes before voting for an amendment that, if successful, would have stopped the House of Lord completing the democratic process of this Bill. It was a very very bad day for the CoE. But I do share Savi’s optimism. There are now more and more positive voices within the CoE even higher up the hierarchy. Grudgingly but nevertheless, Justin Welby acknowledged, for the first time ever,… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

Sorry I think it was the Archbishop of York who called David Cameron a dictator, not the Archbishop of Canterbury (either current or previous, though if I read Rowan Williams’ speech to the World Council of Churches aright he supported the movement towards same sex marriage – provided it was a natural development within the ethical life of the community as opposed to being based on a discourse of rights. His speech will stand rereading in a few years’ time).

Laurence
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Laurence

I applaud Cynthia’s comments which speak my mind and hurt. Also of course, Craig Nelson. And Erika. Some writers here, seem not to have taken on board that Welby and the bishops have acted in bad faith, telling untruths (is that lying ?) and acting with deceit. So their offer after their defeat to be constructive, offer guidance and so on, can only be interpreted in THIS context as chillingly cynical. I do not trust them – do you really ? They go on lying about their support of civil partnerships too. I returned my PTO when I read the… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Erika, your message gives me hope. At least the “waiting in the wings” bit.

I still believe that this needs more flesh and blood, i.e. witness and dialogue with real people to hear how homophobia negatively impacts us. And how equality hurts no one.

David
Guest
David

Cynthia Thank you so much for sharing something of your story, your faith and your partnership, I found it very moving and I too long for this to move on to more honouring and creative acceptance in the church and society. I cannot begin to know what it feels like from your perspective to live through all this in love and faith. I do not think you have responded to my theological challenge on ‘difference’ though. But to speak of ‘the arrogance, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance of … your Lord Bishops’ … honestly do not find this honouring or acceptable… Read more »

magistra
Guest

David – Erica and Cynthia have talked from the perspective of LGBT people, but as a straight, married woman who was herself adopted, I also found the Church of England’s “debate” on marriage personally uncomfortable (as well as offensive to my LGBT friends). In their urge to exclude gay couples from marriage, church spokesmen seemed happy to throw overboard large numbers of heterosexual relationships as not “proper” marriages. If, as they claim, a marriage is intended primarily for a husband and wife to raise their biological children, where does that leave couples who can’t or don’t want to have children?… Read more »

RPNewark
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RPNewark

“Paul Southwell and Nottingham is not a member of the House of Lords yet.” Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday.

Of course he isn’t. Silly me. Must remember to put brain in gear before letting out clutch on keyboard.

He’s currently fourth in the queue and awaiting the departure of either +Guildford or +Hereford – that is unless the CNC, following its meeting this week, submitted his name to the PM as its nomination for translation to Durham in succession to Justin Welby.