Comments: CofE position on same-sex marriage

Who cares what the C of E thinks? Not me!

Posted by Paul Dean at Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 6:28pm GMT

"We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone" from the CofE official statement.

Whoever this "we" is it does not include me. Of course as a remarried divorcee I have already contributed to a dilution in the meaning of marriage so I am probably disqualified from having anything to say on the subject. Kyrie eleison.

Posted by Fr Paul Webb at Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 8:43pm GMT

The Archbishop of Canterbury told General Synod: “The Church of England has never regarded the validity or indeed value of a marriage as dependent on the possibility or intention of having children.” It would have been relevant if he had managed to smuggle that clear and important statement into the bizarre complementarian submissions to Government, drafted by others, which have been presented in the name of the “Church of England”.

The Revd Michael Parsons asked: “Is the Archbishop aware of the outrage felt by a significant proportion of the Church of England that this statement was issued in the name of the Church of England, whereas they would wish to dissociate themselves completely from it?” The Archbishop of Canterbury answered with a clear “Yes”. He stressed that “there was no Synod meeting during the three-month consultation period, which ran from March to June.”

But November General Synod comes and goes - and immediately another anonymous response from “the Church of England” goes in with no further discussion - as tendentious, unconvincing and unauthorised as the first.

This sort of thing does nothing to heal the lack of trust in the House of Bishops referred to Mark Chapman’s Church Times article.

Posted by badman at Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 8:43pm GMT

It's frequently claimed that the Conservatives made no Manifesto commitment to same-sex marriage at the 2010 General Election.

In fact, in this document
they said:

"We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage."

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 10:49pm GMT

The repeated use of the word 'complementarity' in the statement points to the Church of England's problems in articulating a coherent position on gender or sexuality. The failure of the General Synod on female bishops was partly because of the novel idea of complementarianism, rejected by many as an inadequate understanding of gender identity. Yet it here it is presented as the basis of the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage. We must do better than this.

Posted by Peter Sherlock at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 12:10am GMT

It's *not* that complicated.
Today, we rightly see discrimination based on sexual orientation as arbitrary, inappropriate and unfair. Looking back, we can hardly believe that such rights were ever a matter for debate. It is my hope that we will ultimately see the current debate in a similar light; realizing that nothing has been lost or sacrificed by the majority in extending full rights to the minority.

Without our relentless, inviolable commitment to equality and minority rights, Canada would not be at the forefront in accepting newcomers from all over the world, in making a virtue of our multicultural nature - the complexity of ethnicities and beliefs that make up Canada, that make us proud that we are where our world is going, not where it's been.

Four years ago, I stood in this House and voted to support the traditional definition of marriage. Many of us did. My misgivings about extending the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples were a function of my faith, my perspective on the world around us.

But much has changed since that day. We've heard from courts across the country, including the Supreme Court. We've come to the realization that instituting civil unions - adopting a "separate but equal" approach - would violate the equality provisions of the Charter. We've confirmed that extending the right of civil marriage to gays and lesbians will not in any way infringe on religious freedoms....

If we do not step forward, then we step back. If we do not protect a right, then we deny it. Mr. Speaker, together as a nation, together as Canadians. Let us step forward.

-- Paul Martin, Feb 2005, PM of Canada and practising Catholic, speaking on the passage of marriage equality in Canada.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 7:54am GMT


'Consider the case' is not the same as saying, 'Government’s consultation was not about whether to bring it in – but how to bring it in.' as the Coalition did. That was not the manifesto commitment.

It treated the case for same-sex marriage as a fait accompli, rather than providing each side of the debate with the opportunity to present its arguments.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 9:48am GMT

I simply do not understand how my heterosexual marriage would be 'diluted' if my homosexual friends were to marry. It seems to me that sex and gender are being confused in the CofE statements on this issue.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 10:50am GMT

Since when has complementarity been the CofE's official position? Can the CofE please tell us who is authoring these statements on our behalf.

Not in my name!

Posted by Alastair Newman at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 11:48am GMT

Peter Sherlock is spot on. What I find most striking about this statement from the ‘Church of England’, as a member of General Synod, is that it was precisely this language of ‘complementarity’ based on ‘objective’ differences between the sexes (any fifth former should know that ‘objectivity’ is a very problematic concept ...) which was used as an argument *against* the ordination of women in the recent debate debacle on women bishops. The fact that this intellectually feeble theology was so recently employed in that debate is getting reprised here, may tell us a great deal of where the authors (who ever they are) are coming from, so to speak. Or at the very least, there are some very strange bedfellows indeed.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 1:34pm GMT

If the State pressurizes the Church into changing its practice of marriage, will that not be a breach of religious freedom that would make disestablishment advisable? It's up to the Church to be led by the Spirit on this, not to be bullied by shallow politicians.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 5:31pm GMT

Yeah, complementarity's back, big time

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 5:33pm GMT

I have been a member of the Church of england for 76 years but i say quite firmly that what is claImed to be the Church of England's position on Gay Marriage is NOT mine.I am in favour and hope it comes soon. Rather than diluting the concept of marriage it develops it.


Posted by Jean Mayland at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 6:51pm GMT

Strange comment, 'Spirit'. Nobody on the 'pro-gay-marriage' side is 'pressurising' the church - Cameron is emphatic that the church will always have 'opt-outs'. He (and many of us) merely want 'opt-ins' for those many clergy who would be entirely happy celebrating such marriages in church. And, although in general I do think Cameron belongs to the category of 'shallow politicians', in this case I think he is acting out of conviction: for him it represents a sort of redemption for all the other dirty things he has been doing.

Posted by John at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 7:32pm GMT

In response to David Shepherd - they did consider it; the conclusion of their considerations was that they should proceed to do it.

I'm not sure why they had a consultation about 'how not if'. I think it's because they're a coalition government and the range of issues are agreed by the two parties who each need to be happy with the overall mix of policies (I do not support either party by the way) but a coalition government by definition is going to be different to one party rule in such matters.

Anyhow I think it would be a bit ridiculous to consider but then do nothing about it based on your considerations.

By the way, can't wait to read the Bill.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 8:09pm GMT

All you GS members - what about a private members motion to demand that no press releases are issued without signatures of the individuals or groups of individuals responsible?

Someone signed off on this. It is damaging and deceitful for them to remain in the shadows.

Posted by Samuel Denyer at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 8:46pm GMT

The bishops are going to find it difficult to maintain a coherent policy in the months ahead defending the complementarity doctrine in their opposition to gay marriage whilst ignoring it in their support of women bishops. Even if one might disagree with the Reform position, at least it is consistent, in contrast to the bishops' irreconcilable statements.

Posted by Andrew at Sunday, 9 December 2012 at 9:32pm GMT

One of the bodies the Communications Office answers to is the Archbishops' Council, of which Rowan Williams and John Sentamu are the joint presidents. This is not good news for advocates for equality.

Philip Giddings, Chair of the House of Laity, was involved in seeing to it that Jeffrey John was denied a position as a bishop in 2003. Another sign that he is less than liberal is he voted against opening the episcopate to women this November.

This council only goes back to 1994 and seems to be part of a general trend toward centralization.

If I can find out these things from North America I would imagine people in England can find out how to deal with this council.

Gary Paul Gilbert

The list of members is

Joint Presidents

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury
The Venerable Christine Hardman

Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York
The Revd Canon Glyn Webster

Chair of the House of Laity
Dr Philip Giddings

Vice-Chair of the House of Laity
Mr Tim Hind

Elected by the House of Bishops
The Rt Revd Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield
The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover

Elected by the House of Clergy
The Revd Canon Robert Cotton
The Revd Mark Ireland

Elected by the House of Laity
Mrs Christina Rees
Mr Paul Boyd-Lee

Church Estates Commissioner
Mr Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner

Appointed by the Archbishops
Mr Andrew Britton: former Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
Mrs Mary Chapman: former CEO, Chartered Institute of Management
Professor John Craven: Vice Chancellor, University of Portsmouth
Mr Philip Fletcher: Chair, OFWAT
The Revd Dr Rosalyn Murphy: priest-in-charge, St Thomas's, Blackpool
Miss Rebecca Swinson: Medical Researcher

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 4:39am GMT

Some excellent points here. On an earlier thread Fr David made the same comparison. But surely those now making these comments on behalf of the CofE can see the glaring inconsistency as well as us? It does rather beggar belief.

As to the "not in a manifesto" argument, apart from the excellent piece from Simon, the key issue here is that this is a matter that enjoys cross party support. Only the DUP has opposed gay marriage.

Surely this makes the test of the ballot box moot.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 8:15am GMT

Can somebody help me here (as English is not my first language)?

Is the Church of England for or against same-sex marriage?

This sort of faux sophistry and waffling gives the CoE less, not more legitimacy in the eyes of Africans.

Posted by A Nigerian at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 8:30am GMT

I understand now that the CofE 7 Dec press release was drawn largely from the House of Bishops' submission to the government of June 2012. This suggests that about 40 years of work in Womens' Studies, Gender Studies, and Queer Theory has passed the House of Bishops by.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 10:22am GMT

From the Editorial in The Times this morning:

"Allowing same-sex couples to marry will strengthen the institution of marriage, bolster social stability and make a great many people very happy."

But "the Church of England" is against it.

Posted by badman at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 12:18pm GMT

As we have never seen the text of the covering note to that response from the CofE in June, we have no idea whether it was sent in the name of the House of Bishops, or anyone else, other than the two archbishops.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 12:20pm GMT


Whatever the reasons, I'm just saying that it's not the same as a prior Manifesto commitment to support same sex marriage.

Looking forward to joining in the dissection of the draft bill, even if I contradict liberal orthodoxy.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 2:03pm GMT

-The proposal is the work of "men of loose morals."

-It will affect "both public morality and our whole standing as a Church."

-It will "destroy the happiness of a thousand homes for the sake of a few."

The above arguments were put forth by Bishop John Medley, Metropolitan of the Province of Canada in response to a Bill in the Parliament of Canada to legalize marriage to a deceased wife's sister in 1880. "An Act concerning Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister" received Royal Assent in 1882. (The UK took another generation to adopt the same provisions)

Seems there is truly nothing new under the sun.

Posted by Alan T Perry at Monday, 10 December 2012 at 7:44pm GMT

> The Archbishop of Canterbury told General Synod: “The Church of England has never regarded the validity or indeed value of a marriage as dependent on the possibility or intention of having children.”

Thank you 'badman' for sharing that - it is reassuring, but (as you say) the 7 December statement differs. Comparing it now to the June 2012 statement (thanks) the authors have moved further towards linking the essence of marriage to "fruitfulness of procreation" i.e. reproductivity.

Posted by John McKeown at Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 2:55pm GMT
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