Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Same-sex marriage plans explicitly exclude Anglicans in England and Wales

Updated

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):

On the principle of this matter, I sometimes think that we are talking at cross purposes. For me, there is absolutely no dispute that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) and I were all created equal in the image of God. That is not the issue. For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the distinctiveness of men and women, so removing that complementarity from the definition of marriage is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):

Marriage has changed over the centuries, has it not? For centuries, the Church of England’s doctrine was that the primary purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, but many heterosexual couples either are unable to have children or choose not to have them. Marriage today is, for very many people, about many other things—companionship, sharing one’s life, mutual support and so on. As I said to the Minister yesterday, I find it difficult to believe that any Christian, including many Anglican bishops and clergy, would not want that for every member of their parish. Will she therefore consider not putting such an ultimate lock on the Church of England, so that there is freedom for the Church of England? Those in the Church of England all voted to keep slavery for 30 years, but eventually they changed their minds.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab):

The Minister just spoke about the special protection for the Church of England. The Church of England plays a special role in this country as our established Church, so is she satisfied that it is once again opting out of equalities legislation?

The remarks of the Bishop of Leicester have been published previously.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth:

Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the official position of the Church of England on this, a good number of its members warmly welcome the Government’s position on this? Is she aware that privately, a fair number of individual bishops in the Church of England also support it, but are not able to say so publicly at the moment because of the political situation in which the Church of England now finds itself?

———

The government has announced its plans for same-sex marriage.

The press release is here.

The consultation response is here.

And here is the official fact sheet.

Here is the key section of the press release:

The Government reiterated today its absolute commitment that no religious organisation, or individual minister of religion, would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. European law already puts protection for religious freedom beyond doubt (under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) but the Government intends to go even further and put in place a ‘quadruple lock’ in domestic law.

The legal locks, which will be on the face of any primary legislation, are:

  • no religious organisation, or individual minister, could be compelled to marry same-sex couples (or to permit this to happen on their premises);
  • it will be unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to do so (and that would mean the religious organisation itself opting in, the presiding minister having consented and the premises in which the marriage is to be conducted having been registered);
  • the Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual minister for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose); and
  • the bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so. Canon law – which bans the marriage of same-sex couples – will continue to apply. That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same - sex marriages.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 1:18pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church in Wales | Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

Government Statement somewhat disingenuous. As I understand it, all that is happening is that the existing Canon Law stands (marriage between a man and a woman), and the Bill will indicate that the legislation on gay marriage doesn't override what is the CofE's existing position.

In other words, to allow for gay marriage in the CofE, canon law would need to be changed by Synodical process, and the proposed provisions in this Bill (when it becomes law) would also need to be changed.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 1:42pm GMT

Justin Welby said when his appointment was announced "I am always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us."

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 2:03pm GMT

What strategic acumen has been shown in excluding the Established Church from these provisions. Rather takes the wind out of the sails of some of the doomsday moaners !

Also a great help to Justin Welby.

However, it also highlights the increasing irrelevance in real terms of the C of E to so many us, even after a lifetime of attempts to serve it.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 2:04pm GMT

Laurence, I don't think this will be of any help to Justin Welby at all.

I think the coalition of anger that was created by the failure of the House of Laity to pass the women in the episcopate legislation will coalesce around anger at the failure to at least include the Church of England in permissive legislation.

People in the Changing Attitude network are already very, very angry and demanding that we take action. This strengthens my resolve to maintain pressure on the Church and the House of Bishops.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 2:26pm GMT

While delighted that my faith community (Religious Society of Friends) seems to have got what it wanted, I'm disappointed on behalf of those Anglicans (probably the majority, going by British Social Attitudes and other reputable surveys) who want the freedom to either conduct or refuse to conduct SSMs according to conscience. Maria Miller's Fourth Lock (exclusion of C of E and C in W from the legislation) is

a) redundant in light of Locks 1, 2, and 3;
b) obviously the product of secret negotiations that I would be surprised if any reader of TA knew about.

From the speech of Chris Bryant MP in today's debate, we can be confident that this exclusion will be queried in Parliament.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 2:46pm GMT

@ Laurence Roberts: "However, it also highlights the increasing irrelevance in real terms of the C of E to so many us, even after a lifetime of attempts to serve it."

Laurence, I know how you feel, and that's what the fundies want -- they want to drive the rest of us out, so that a nice comfortable fundie club is left. At times, I go let them have it, at other times I go, no, I won't let them.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 3:02pm GMT

General Synod please note and copy government practice and, when making provision for people's consciences, make sure the provision is on the face of the legislation!

Posted by: David Malloch on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 3:36pm GMT

David, can you tell me what provision is made for the conscience of those C of E/C in W clergy who wish to marry all couples who come asking? As always, conscience is a one-way street.

Doesn't affect me, of course. I left the C of E some months ago.

Posted by: Jim on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 3:45pm GMT

This sounds like a typical politicians solution, both allowing and not allowing SSM at the same time.

Posted by: Tony B on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 3:45pm GMT

The redundant provision specifically forbidding CoE and Wales from participating in equal marriage is most unfortunate. It should be enough that religious organizations get to chose. CoE and Wales now have to decide church wide to opt-in and then get the law changed. It makes the church less relevant, is a turn off to the next generation, and removes credibility for the church to speak with power and integrity against discrimination and other social justice issues. Sad, really.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 3:51pm GMT

Laurence Roberts you are so right....it really is getting past a joke. We are going backwards which is very painful when some of us got ordained (40 years ago) to try and change things. I am rather tempted to hand in my PTO in the 2 dioceses I have it but noone would notice or care and I would just be shooting myself in the foot.What really frightens me at 2.00am in the morning is wondering whether they are all right and I am wrong or they are wrong and I am right. I am not sure which is the most frightening scenario!

Posted by: Robert Ellis on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 4:12pm GMT

'the bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so'

Wow... I know I predicted that the government wouldn't want to entrust General Synod with any important new powers, but I didn't think they'd go that far.

Posted by: Feria on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 4:22pm GMT

Colin Coward's thread highlights the lack of tolerance of the organisation he represents. Attitudes are rarely, if ever, changed by such displays of anger and articulation of demands, rather than by a call for negotiation.

Posted by: Benedict on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 4:28pm GMT

I'm not sure that I understand the reasoning behind Parliament's controlling future actions of the CofE in this matter. Yes, Parliament *can* do this, obviously - but what's the excuse for doing so?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 4:41pm GMT

David Malloch, the legislation makes no provision for people's consciences. It makes same sex marriage illegal throughout the Church of England regardless of the conscience of the clergy, the couple getting married, the other parishioners, the PCC, the Churchwardens or anyone else.

It is, in fact, equivalent to a single clause measure. But perhaps that is what you want?

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 4:43pm GMT

75% of those polled in this recent survey are in favour of same sex marriage.

http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3091/Poll-on-Gay-Marriage.aspx

So rather more than a 2/3rd majority there! And yet the Church of England yet again negotiated an exemption from Human Rights and Equalities legislation. Which parallel universe does it live in?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 5:20pm GMT

Note also that the government has given rather more weight to individual responses to its consultation than to mass organised petitions against.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 5:52pm GMT

@Pete Broadbent, "all that is happening is that the existing Canon Law stands (marriage between a man and a woman), and the Bill will indicate that the legislation on gay marriage doesn't override what is the CofE's existing position"

I hope you are right.

It would be really helpful to have confirmation of that point sooner rather than later, before we all bust a gut trying to get a layer of legislation taken away that was never there in the first place.

Posted by: mark nicholls on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 6:37pm GMT

Benedict: Negotiation has worked so *well* on women bishops. Not so sure I agree with you that anyone should adopt that approach on this issue, even if they are Christians (something about wise serpents (Matt. 10:16) comes to mind...).

I still have to think this through, having just read about it a few minutes ago (having been in meetings all day). But here is the first shot (comments invited). This is a by-product of establishment. The Church in Wales, having been established before 1920, still has a few marriage laws that are connected with the CofE; this cuts back, however, on the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and Welsh Anglicans should be really angry about it, whatever their position on the presenting issue (SSM).

For the Church of England, it's a product of being subject to the level of regulation that goes with being (in effect) a department of the home office (which it in some sense is). So, change is harder in established churches, and laws like this emphasize the fact that normal rules about 'freedom of religion' don't (and probably shouldn't) apply to them. I agree entirely with Cynthia, but institutional relationships underlie this moral problem.

Posted by: Scot Peterson on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 6:46pm GMT

I am entirely in favour of 'legal locks' 1 and 3, entirely against 'legal locks' 2 and 4. I certainly hope our generally wretched bishops are forced to capitulate on 2 and 4. Eventually, they will be. Pity it's not now. However, I also hope that principled priests will go ahead and conduct marriage services for gay couples: it is surely extremely unlikely that, bone-headed and uncharitable as many of them are, opponents will take disciplinary action. Nor - surely - will any government (even this one) prosecute such 'illegalities'.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 7:23pm GMT

Is THIS what the "CofE" (those anonymous Anglican big-wigs who presume to speak for every parishioner) really wants? I see soon-coming disestablishment and death-of-the-Church (not necessarily in that order).

God bless the Episcopal Church!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 7:35pm GMT

Wow! The Church of England would lose the marriage business for same-sex couples, thus making it more likely that same-sex couples and their friends will distance themselves from Anglicanism. More people will continue to give up on organized religion.

What about blessings of civil weddings? Would priests be barred from blessing a legally married same-sex couple?

It seems the Tories, by giving the C of E what it wants, an exclusion from equal marriage, would hurt the church by requiring that the whole body would have to vote to change canon law before Parliament would consider allowing the C of E to register marriages of same-sex couples.

Liberal parishes would not be allowed to minister to same-sex couples because their marriages would not be recognized by the church.

The church would now stand for gender apartheid, both in the episcopate and in marriage.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 7:39pm GMT

Write to your MP asking for him or her to support and consider tabling amendments.

I would, but my MP is a DUP Free Presbyterian so no chance of him supporting us...

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 8:20pm GMT

Actually no-one seems to have asked the Church in Wales- for Wales see England I suppose. Archbp Barry Morgan isn't best pleased: he wants the freedom for the Welsh Church to make up its own mind.

Posted by: Helen Lewis on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 8:33pm GMT

As a gay man I'm quite happy for the various religions to make up their own mind on the matter of marrying same sex couple but all churches and religions should be placed on the same footing - so no exclusion for the Churches of England and Wales. Moreover, if the establsihed Church of England doesn't wish to accept the changing nature of marriage as recognised by state, then it shouldn't be allowed to perform the civil element of marriage.

Posted by: Rick Savage on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 9:21pm GMT

Helen, if you read the Church in Wales response to the consultation, which was a very poor document, they ask to be treated like the Church of England.

If the Church in Wales response bore some relationship to the considered Presidential Address the Archbishop delivered to the Easter Governing Body then those advising government Ministers might have been kinder to the Welsh Church, but as it was their response owed more to trying to appease friends in England both Anglican and Catholic.

Go back and read it Helen, Barry has only himself to blame.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 9:44pm GMT

A number of possible ironies open up. Church of Wales lobbies to not be bound by this arrangement; C of E left as only religious body protected against itself possibly wanting to marry same sex couples (presumably in a moment of weakness); possibility of a mainline denomination allowing congregations/ministers to provide such services; finally the irony that David Cameron trying to detoxify his party but with it looking more homophobic than it ever did (C of E rushing to join the wilder shores of the Tory Party in its homophobic extremes).

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 9:44pm GMT

In future, perhaps the Church of England should be more careful for what it wishes.


Posted by: Kennedy on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 10:14pm GMT

Robert Ellis, Don't be frightened at all. You have the courage to use your full name. The darkest hour is just before dawn and all the dark nights of the soul are of infinite value. There are two fundamental issues at stake at the moment and these are definitely 'dove'-tailed. Prayer winging your way. With love in Christ, Rosie

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 11:02pm GMT

This particular "lock" or "lockout" forbidding England and Wales to perform SSM even if their governing bodies decide to do so seems a bit like our American "fiscal cliff" -- a law put in place to prevent a body from doing what it very well knows it might one day choose to do.

The fact that there seems to be a need for such an external restraint is testimony to the lack of resolve -- and the pressure for change -- within these institutions, and a sad sign of a kind of immaturity and unwillingness to deal with reality.

Odysseus bound to the mast comes to mind...

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 11:29pm GMT

Thanks for the various comments. I'm tired right now. I'm glad there are good folk on to this. I returned my PTO at the time of the misnamed 'Bishops' Pastoral Letter' condemning Civil Partnerships; and that's it as far as I'm concerned- I'm glad we get our pension and partner post mortem.

The 'official C of E' has got what it asked for.

It is one headache less for Welby.

Tim Stephens misleading and indeed sad speech in another place today, further demonstrates how moribund and dishonest is the 'leadership'.

Main thing is keeping a sense of proportion - I listen to 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' (Mon 6.30pm radio 4)and of course, 'Strictly Come Dancing'- so much to see and enjoy.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 11:46pm GMT

So much for the distestablishnment of the Church in Wales!

Another LLoyd George cock up.....Irish partial independence and quasi disestablishment in Wales.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 6:36am GMT

Martin Reynolds, you're absolutely correct. The Church in Wales actually asked to be treated like the CofE under the legislation - it doesn't make much sense for them to cry "foul" now that they have received what they ask for.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 6:40am GMT

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.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 7:53am GMT

So what happens if a gay member of the Royal Family, say a close relative of the Queen, wants to get married.

Oh, they'll just get a registrar in,,,or a Quaker, or Unitarian minister in. Either that, or homosexuality within the Royal Family is simply beyond the realm of possibility.

It's Christmas, folks, so I'm feeling generous!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 8:15am GMT

It's Advent, and you have nothing to be generous either with or about - nothing comes from *you*.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 10:14am GMT

I guess that there will be loads of C of E churches offering liturgies that are illegal in the eyes of the church for people who will have got married legally in a civil ceremony. That at least will be possible (apart from the clergy who get rapped over the knuckles by an anti bishop), whereas, even if the legal bar on CofE civil weddings were not in the published bill, the lock of demanding the agreement of the particular denomination's governing body would have meant it having to get all the way through Synod before a single wedding could have taken place. Which, given the slowness and contrariness of Synod would be sometime in the 2030s. I might just be alive...

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 1:06pm GMT

Tony Baldry: "For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the distinctiveness of men and women, so removing that complementarity from the definition of marriage is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged."

So now the purpose of marriage is _explicitly to acknowledge sexual difference_?

I guess there are some people who believe such mumbo-jumbo. The rest of us can't quite figure out what it means.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 1:13pm GMT

To say that "sexual difference is essential to marriage" is just a circular argument for "only mixed-sex couples can marry." To say that removing sexual difference from marriage means we have to remove it from all other social institutions is to the point, though. I mean, haven't we? Shouldn't we? Is it just that marriage is the last bastion of the social shrine of sexual difference? To what end?

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 5:52pm GMT

"So what happens if a gay member of the Royal Family, say a close relative of the Queen, wants to get married."

There is the precedent of King Edward II. I don't believe that it came out well for anyone.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 8:17pm GMT

Mark:

Bah, humbug! I meant the informal civil celebration of Christmas, not the formal religious one. As liberals proudly declare, civil and religious celebrations within the same institution are not one and the same.

We must be careful to insist on that difference in every debate!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 8:48pm GMT
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