Comments: Inclusive Church response to government consultation

You did not ask but it is certainly "in my name" and thank you. I think we might just win this one!

Posted by Robert Ellis at Tuesday, 19 June 2012 at 12:06pm BST

See IC's answer to consultation question 5: "IC disagrees with this proposal. We believe there is a fundamental principle of religious liberty at stake here. Faith groups that believe it is right to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples should not be prevented by law from doing so. "

As a Quaker who lurks here from time to time, I do hope that some posters who agree with the position expressed in the C of E document would explain why their theological position - which I respect, even if they do not respect mine - entitles them to restrict the Quakers' religious liberty? Not just to restrict it, but to use the apparatus of the state to restrict it. We thought we had escaped that in 1753. Please? David Shepherd or Benedict or cseitz?

Posted by Iain McLean at Tuesday, 19 June 2012 at 2:29pm BST

Iain McLean makes a very important point here. For the Church of England to deny the right of other Christians to celebrate Same-Sex Marriage - when the anticipated Government Legislation would allow this - is a fundamental denial of their right to their own religious beliefs.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 9:55am BST

Sorry Iain, I was responding elsewhere.

The focus of Lord Hardwicke's 1753 Act was to curb clandestine marriages. The Jews and Quakers were well-known for keeping meticulous traceable records of 'hatchings, matchings and despatchings'. All others were required by law to be married by the parish priest, regardless of faith or affiliation. Priests conducted legal marriages on behalf of the State until they shared that role with registrars from 1836.

If the proposal's distinction between civil and religious marriage was valid, the State would not want to appear to impose blanket changes on all 'religious' marriages.

Even the current option to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in a religious setting ensures that the State does not permit aspects of religious rites to occur during the registration.

If the proposals become law, I don't really see how anyone could legally restrict gay couples from having a civil marriage in a place of worship which has already been registered for that purpose by the Registrar General.

If the same gender disqualification is removed, I also can't see how Quakers could be prevented from conducting legally valid religious marriages for gay couples. Nevertheless, I'm not a lawyer.

Well spotted.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 12:55pm BST

Thanks David. We agree on the facts you state about the 1753 Act, but those facts are not the whole story for Quakers and Jews. For 100 years before 1753, Quakers had flatly refused to have their marriages conducted by the state or the state church, on the grounds that:

"For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests or magistrates; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but
witnesses" (George Fox 1669; see further http://www.quaker.org.uk/sites/default/files/We-are-but-witnesses.pdf).

Therefore it is a red-line non-negotiable point of our theology that marriage is the Lord's work. We have come to unity in our Yearly Meeting in the belief that the Lord is marrying same-sex couples. We ask only to be allowed to pursue what George Fox called the Light where it takes us. We do not wish to impose our belief on other churches or faiths. Therefore our answer to consultation question 5 is the same as Inclusive Church's.

When the Church of England has truly had a chance to consider this, we hope it will realise the force of the argument from religious freedom.

Posted by Iain McLean at Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:25pm BST

Although I am conservative on sex (all sorts of sex, not just homosexual sex) I really can't understand why the Government thinks it is doing *anyone* any favours by trying to ban marriage of same-sex partners in religious premises.

It makes gay people feel worse than necessary about religions that hold to the male-female model of marriage, and it doesn't make conservatives feel any better about the idea that two people who love each other can be said to be married ("Anyone" that is unless: 1. they are siblings; 2. they are closely related; 3. they are already married to someone else; 4. they are incapable of giving consent; 5. etc etc etc)

But it does neatly distract from the real argument about whether marriage should be defined only by human love, or remain restricted by human biology too.

How will it affect *everyone's* attitudes to the obligations to nurture of children, to care for weak and vulnerable family members, to remain committed to each other intergenerationally. I fear more atomisation of society, and more demands on the state to provide the cradle-to-grave care that biological families naturally feel obliged to provided. And will we be willing to pay up, so the State can do it properly, or will we end up saying it's too expensive and more weak and vulnerable individuals end up neglected? Our record on relationships and care for the weak and vulnerable has not been good since sex and procreation, and marriage and commitment, have become detached from each other.

Posted by RevDave at Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:59pm BST

And will we be willing to pay up, so the State can do it properly, or will we end up saying it's too expensive and more weak and vulnerable individuals end up neglected? Our record on relationships and care for the weak and vulnerable has not been good since sex and procreation, and marriage and commitment, have become detached from each other.

Posted by: RevDave on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:59pm BST

Have you never heard of the Work Houses of those halcyon days of 'biological families' ?

Are you ignorant of the long tradition of lesbian and gay people caring for young and old ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 6:34pm BST

'Have you never heard of the Work Houses of those halcyon days of 'biological families' ?'

The original Poor Laws laid the parish-based foundations of our national insurance scheme. A poor-rate was levied by each parish on the property of wealthier citizens (living as biological families) to buy raw materials for the able-bodied poor to work with. Although workhouses were mismanaged, they were established to fight poverty and end vagrancy and public mendicancy.

The draconic workhouse regime was a result of ignorance about how to alleviate the cause of poverty, bureaucracy and the reckless handover to unscrupulous profiteering private contractors. The image of corrupt Bumble the Beadle in Oliver Twist comes to mind.

Making a connection between workhouses and the halcyon days of 'biological families' is as bad as connecting global warming to the sexual revolution. The prevalence of one is not caused by the other.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 21 June 2012 at 12:24pm BST
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