Comments: Pressure on bishops to abstain in House of Lords debate

If the bishops defeat with a handful of votes there will be ... consequences.

Either the bill will be forced through under the Parliament Act without the hoped for Lords amendments.

Or a bill will be introduced under a future Labour/Lib-Lab governemnt and may not be the same bill at all (some of the compromises made in the current bill would surely be up for review if the bill is sunk by the bishops who are meant to be assuaged by them). Such a bill would then be forced through under the Parliament Act against a recalcitrant Lords who would then be on their 2nd/3rd blockage of the bill, egged on by the bishops.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 2 June 2013 at 11:25pm BST

Given the debacle over WB's, it is clear that CoE has much to lose if the bishops vote en masse and shoot down the equal marriage bill. The bishops could win the battle, but lose the war, so to speak.

The hubris of preventing religious freedom, i.e. trying to stop the Quakers and liberal Jews from following their conscience, is stunning. It is oppressive, vindictive, hateful, irrational. After all, the bill well provides for CoE's non participation.

It is past time for these guys to hit the "pause button" and abstain. And perhaps reflect on the real harm that comes of bigotry. As a gay American, I am not impressed. And I hope the ABC doesn't follow Rowan in trying to impose his bigotry on us.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 12:16am BST

"30 leaders of independent churches ... warn that the church of England faces a “defining point” over the issue of same-sex marriage."

Come again??? If you are not IN the CofE, who are you to "warn" (threaten?) of CofE?

FWIW, I think that if the CofE is being "warned" re the threat of disestablishment (from both sides?), the proper response to that is to Do The Right Thing, and let the chips fall where they may (of course, I think that Doing the Right Thing means supporting marriage equality, or *at least* not opposing it).

Posted by JCF at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 12:40am BST

Attended a communion service at a church in Eastbourne yesterday morning. About 50 or so in the congregation; almost no one under the age of seventy (well, it was Eastbourne). During the intercessions I was astonished to hear the congregation being asked (by the female celebrant, oblivious to the double standard) to pray that "marriage may not be redefined...that the House of Lords vote against the bill...that the legislation may not pass..., etc., etc." A political speech, done at some length and in poor taste during a service. Even if the Lords vote against it the legislation will almost certainly pass; it is unlikely her prayer will be answered.

There is such a thing as stupid conservatism (i.e., purblind reaction; insisting on fighting battles that are certain to be lost; cutting off your nose to spite your face), and then there is intelligent conservatism (picking your battles and your ground; knowing the art of the possible, and how to retreat in good order having obtained concessions that sugar the pill, etc.). It seems that there are many in the Church who are incapable of discerning the difference, and wish only to emit some sort of primal scream that will achieve nothing of advantage, but which will earn the enmity of many.

Posted by Froghole at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 1:06am BST

Do I hear the sound of chickens coming home to roost ?

Posted by Laurence at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 2:04am BST

JCF: "Come again??? If you are not IN the CofE, who are you to "warn" (threaten?) of CofE?"

Well, the CofE is the national church (in England, that is), so we hold a unique public role in representing faith and in serving the entire country (not just our own interests).

Posted by Dan BD at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 8:39am BST

"During the intercessions I was astonished to hear the congregation being asked (by the female celebrant, oblivious to the double standard) to pray that "marriage may not be redefined."

It's pretty straightforward. The bishops can join in the voting down of the bill in the House of Lords if they want. At least one, and probably all, of the following will then happen:

1. The bill will be pushed through with the help of the Parliament Act, either now or immediately after 2015. In the process it may become a great deal less deferential to the CofE. The use of nuclear weapons --- and, constitutionally, that's what the Parliament Act is --- is usually accompanied by fallout.

2. At least two major parties will put the removal of Bishops from the House of Lords on their manifesto, which will make it easy to then use the Parliament Act again to force it through. This might require disestablishment. Well, so be it.

3. Justin Welby will find that his calls to government go straight to the answering machine, starting from today. He will have humiliated the PM and the DPM, and will not be listened to again for a generation.

4. By 2016, same-sex marriage will be legalised anyway. And, if this bill is passed, subsequent bills may be a great deal less deferential to the interests of the CofE.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 9:58am BST

Cynthia I appreciate that Rowan's treatment of TEC was felt to be offensive, but I genuinely don't believe he is or was a bigot. He acted as he felt he ought to act as ABC (a big mistake perhaps, but he was probably damned by some if he did and by others if he didn't.) , when many of us would have preferred him to have acted as the author of The Body's Grace. You could try to forgive him- I'd guess that KJS has!

Posted by Helen at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 8:06pm BST

Helen, has Williams asked to be forgiven ?

Posted by Laurence at Monday, 3 June 2013 at 10:57pm BST

Interested Observer: Many thanks. I agree that the Parliament Act is almost certain to be used if the Lords defy the Commons; since the life of this Parliament is now fixed, the Lords cannot rely on the use of their right to delay the passage of the bill for twelve months in the hope that it will time out - since Parliament still has two years to run, and the leadership of both coalition parties will be anxious to use the legislation to bind themselves together in the run up to an election (which may be closely fought). What's more, the bishops may be used by the party leaderships as a convenient lightning rod/scapegoat in the event the bill fails to pass - even if its defeat is mostly attributable to temporal peers.

Do the bishops have any conception of how lucky they are to remain in Parliament? Their return to the Lords in 1662 was an afterthought in the wake of the Restoration; in the 1830s the Whigs were giving serious thought to their eviction (for instance Lord Spencer thought it worth retaining "one or two, to keep up the breed" - the Spencers had made their fortune in sheep); they narrowly escaped in the wake of the budget crisis of 1911, when it was proposed that they be removed altogether or reduced to a handful. They must also count themselves hugely fortunate that the Wakeham Commission suggested that they survive in reduced numbers, despite their indifferent attendance. In short, they have been [barely] tolerated in recent years chiefly because of the perception that they have helped accommodate protestant Christianity to an overwhelmingly secular political culture or, at any rate, that they have helped smooth off some of the rougher edges of religious influence in public life. They have also survived because they have remained pleasingly inconspicuous.

However, since they seem to have decided to respond to this bill (in which the major parties have invested so much political and emotional capital) with antagonism rather than neutrality, they will find their utility spent. The question for historians is whether it would have been better for them to have stood their ground on a more useful cause - and also how to account for their self-defeating stupidity and the futility of their actions. Yet it is also possible that the bishops feel they have little to lose; that their utility is already so very limited because of the abject weakness of Christianity in modern Britain; that they are unlikely to survive at all, and that since it is likely that they will go down, they might as well go down on a point of principle, however fatuous.

Their final ejection from Parliament will be a shame, albeit from an antiquarian perspective - since they are by far the oldest part of the legislature.

Posted by Froghole at Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 12:21am BST

"Was felt to be offensive"?

Was felt to be offensive? Or _was_ offensive?

Let's see whether the present Archbishop of Canterbury invites Bishop Glasspool to the next Lambeth Conference.

Then we'll know whether Canterbury discriminates against gay and lesbian bishops as a matter of policy.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 2:56am BST

Either Jeremy. But forgiveness is surely not dependent on conditions- not in a Christian context anyway. No-one who know Rowan could think him a bigot, though you might think him in some respects profoundly mistaken.

Posted by Helen at Friday, 7 June 2013 at 12:17am BST
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