Friday, 28 March 2014

Church Commissioners Questions - Same-sex Marriage (Priests)

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry) answered questions in the House of Commons yesterday, including this one on Same-sex Marriage (Priests).

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What the Church of England’s policy is on priests entering a same-sex marriage; and what guidance has been given on what would happen to a priest who did so.

Sir Tony Baldry: Clergy and ordinands remain free to enter into civil partnerships. The House of Bishops in its pastoral guidance distributed on 15 February said that it was not willing for those in same-sex marriages to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry—deacon, clergy or bishops—and that

“it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives”.

As with any alleged instance of misconduct, each case would have to be considered individually by the local diocesan bishop.

Mr Bradshaw: In light of the recent Pilling report, does the right hon. Gentleman believe it would be sensible if a hard-working, popular priest got married with the full support of his or her parish and congregation and was then disciplined, sacked or defrocked?

Sir Tony Baldry: The situation is clear. The Church of England’s understanding of marriage remains unchanged: marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and under the canons of the Church of England marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. The canons of the Church of England retain their legal status as part of the law of England and I would hope that no priest who has taken an oath of canonical obedience would wish to challenge canon law and the law of England.

Other questions were on Cathedrals, Investments, Diocesan Support, and Church Growth Research Programme

In an exchange on Twitter yesterday, Peter Ould asked “Who gives Tony Baldry MP the steer on what to say in response to questions in the Commons?” and churchstate (the Church of England Parliamentary team) answered “Process in a nutshell: we make suggestions after consulting senior colleagues & specialists. He then decides what to say.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 10:09am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

On a related matter, does anyone know whether the CofE pension scheme will have to pay a survivor's pension to a surviving same-sex spouse? If not, won't this result in the bizarre situation of a couple who 'upgrade' from a civil partnership (where a survivor's pension *is* payable) losing this entitlement upon marriage? - and of same-sex married couples being treated differently to opposite-sex married couples by the same pension scheme?

In any event, it is the administrators of the pension scheme who will become the data collection point of how many clergy have entered same-sex marriages. I wonder if the number of such marriages will become available under an FOI request?

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 10:30am GMT

Another good example of how not to answer a question.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 1:53pm GMT

So long as Anglicanism is established in England, Parliament is well within its rights to overrule Synod and change the canons itself. If this homophobic impasse on much longer, however unwelcome that responsibility, Parliament may have to take it on.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 3:30pm GMT

Isn't the church exempt from FOI just as it has all sorts of get outs from equality legislation?

Posted by: Turbulent Priest on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 4:19pm GMT

Actually, it is a good way to answer the question - honestly and straightforwardly, without trying to evade the truth because it would look better not to have to say it.

Whether that's what the answer should be is a different question. Whether I like the answer is a third. What to do about it is a fourth.

Who knows what the outcome will be. But it is not possible for magic or fantasy to change where we are.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 6:01pm GMT

As far as I know the CofE is not subject to FOI. FOI only applies to 'public bodies ' - i.e. public authorities and publically-owned bodies.

One imagines the Church, for this purpose, argued that it was not a public body. (Church schools are subject to FOI - but not Diocesan boards of education.)

Posted by: Linda Woodhead on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 6:23pm GMT

The situation is clear. The Church of England’s understanding of marriage remains unchanged: marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman.......but he forgot to add, but can be ended by either party at a future date, allowing for further marriages!

Unchanged from 2001!

Posted by: robert ian Williams on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 8:14pm GMT

Justin Welby’s answer to the Guardian today was brilliant: “I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it’s the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being.” With one bound, he is free.

But Tony Baldry’s answer has all the muddled thinking we have come to expect from Church House.

“The Church’s understanding of marriage is unchanged” - eh? This is wrong, and Welby is right: the law has changed, marriage now includes same sex marriage and the church “fully accepts” that that is the law, as of course it has to.

“...marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and under the canons of the Church of England marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.” But the canons do not define marriage at all. They state a doctrine of marriage, but Canon B30 does not claim to be a legal definition of marriage, even for the purposes of the Church of England, and it never has been a legal definition of marriage for any purpose. If it had, it would have unlawfully conflicted with statute law, which allows (for example) divorce.

“The canons of the Church of England retain their legal status as part of the law of England” Irrelevant, because Canon B30 is not a legal definition of marriage and so there is nothing to override the new statutory definition of marriage which applies to the Church as to everyone else.

“...and I would hope that no priest who has taken an oath of canonical obedience would wish to challenge canon law and the law of England.” Accepting that same sex marriage is the law (as the Archbishop of Canterbury does) is not a challenge to the law of England - obviously. Nor is it a challenge to canon law, because Canon B30 is not a legal definition of marriage.

The oath of canonical obedience does not oblige any priest to refrain from marriage to a person of the same sex as now permitted to him by the law of England. If the Church of England wishes to ban clergy from same sex marriage, or to introduce a legal definition of marriage which excludes same sex marriage, it will have to pass a Measure, or enact a new Canon, and it will never do that.

Posted by: badman on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 9:01pm GMT

So long as Anglicanism is established in England, Parliament is well within its rights to overrule Synod and change the canons itself.

I can't think of a better reason for disestablishment of the C.of.E ( and this has nothing to do with my views on SSM, rather the idea that state parliament could dictate to a church what it should or should not believe).

Posted by: ian on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 10:40pm GMT

".. under the canons of the Church of England marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. The canons of the Church of England retain their legal status as part of the law of England and I would hope that no priest who has taken an oath of canonical obedience would wish to challenge canon law and the law of England"
- Sir Tony Baldry -

Then its seems that the canons of the Church of England should be changed - to conform with the Law of the Land, which allows for the Marriage of Same-Sex persons. Otherwise, here are sufficient grounds for the disestablishment of the C.of E.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 11:34pm GMT

"With one bound, he is free."

Not really. He is not saying that the CofE will celebrate same-sex marriages.

Looks to me like a further flip of the waffle.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 11:55am GMT

"With one bound, he is free."

He's said absolutely nothing new. He always said the church should not be homophobic. This is just reiterating that.
And he accepted almost immediately after the House of Lords defeat that the church had lost the battle against civil marriage equality.

But he's not considering any form of joyful celebration of gay relationships in church. He's still not considering allowing his own priests to get married.

This is still an attempt at getting away with treating those we oppress with kindness.
It doesn't work. On the contrary, it's deeply shameful.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 7:06pm GMT

On re-reading, noticed this:

Sir Tony Baldry: "The situation is clear."

And burst out laughing.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 30 March 2014 at 4:20am BST
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