The Huffington Post has photographs of Christmas 2012: Celebrations Around The World.
Jim Al-Khalili for The Guardian explains Why this atheist celebrates Christmas.
Linda Woodhead writes for The Observer that A British Christmas has lost faith in rituals, but not religion.
John Dickson writes for ABC Religion and Ethics about A fight they can’t win: The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus.
David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK presents this End of Term Quiz.
Cole Moreton for The Telegraph asks What has the Church of England ever done for us?25 Comments
We published the official summary of what was decided at the December House of Bishops meeting here.
Two articles have since appeared which discuss this.
David Pocklington wrote at Law & Religion UK Decisions by the House of Bishops and most of his analysis concerns the actions related to Women in the Episcopate. But he also notes:
…The House of Bishops is currently considering two aspects of human sexuality: one group is providing advice on the bishops’ review of the 2005 civil partnership statement, the membership of which was announced on 1st December 2011 another group to advise the HoB on the more general issues relating to human sexuality. The membership of this group was announced on 5th January 2012. With regard to the latter, the House considered an interimreport from the group, but pending the conclusion of its work in 2013, (i.e. the preparation of a consultation document), announced its intention not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. However, it confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate…
Christina Beardsley wrote at Changing Attitude Whatever happened to the HoB working group on civil partnerships?
…Paragraph 7 says that the House considered an interim report from the working party on sexuality chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling. It continues:
Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.’
There is no mention of the working party on civil partnerships, chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man, which was formed prior to Sir Jospeh Pilling’s group, and was due to ‘report to the House in time for the House to reach conclusions during 2012.’
It does look though, from paragraph 7, as if one important outstanding matter has been decided, namely, that a member of the clergy who is in a civil partnership is no longer automatically debarred from nomination to the episcopate. This appears to lift the ban on such nominations that was introduced when the working parties were announced in July 2011…
Frank Cranmer continues his series of articles for Law & Religion UK with Church and State III – the European dimension.1 Comment
The LGB&T Anglican Coalition welcomes the government proposals published on 11 December, and in particular the following points:
However, as Anglican Christians, laity and clergy, we are disappointed that the proposals to exclude both the Church of England and the Church in Wales appear to impose an additional barrier should these churches decide in future that they wish to marry same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. If this were the case, it would reduce religious freedom.
As a Coalition we have repeatedly pointed out that the Church of England’s official submission did not reflect the views of the many members of the Church of England who are in favour of equal marriage, and we are also aware that there is support among many in the Church in Wales. These churches should be as free to opt in as any others.
The Archbishop of Wales has made it clear that any additional obstacle would be unwelcome. The Church of England’s leadership is reportedly shocked at such an outcome, though it appears to reflect precisely what the Church requested in its submission, published in June. Church reactions to the Government’s proposals do confirm that the Church of England’s official position is out of touch, not only with a significant number of its own members, but with the majority body of public opinion.
We will be advising the organisations in our coalition to invite all of their members to write to their MPs calling for a review of the implications of the so-called quadruple locks in the proposed legislation, especially the fourth, which relates to the Church of England and the Church in Wales. In our view this fourth lock would inhibit the religious freedom of the people we represent, and who are in favour of equal marriage in these churches.2 Comments
The BBC carried this interview: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan
And Robert Pigott writes
This was Archbishop Nichols’s strongest attack yet on the government’s plans for gay marriage.
There was anger in his passionate criticism of the government’s plans, and a call to Catholics to become involved in the political struggle against them.
He said MPs would have a free vote on the issue, and they should feel the weight of the Church’s opinion.
I’ve never heard him speak with such emotion. This is something very close to the Church’s heart and his personally.
Many Christians – including Roman Catholics – do support marriage for same-sex couples, and the government has made it clear that no churches will have to perform gay marriages.
However, the Church feels very strongly, not about whether it has an exemption about carrying out same-sex weddings, but about the distinction between the ceremony – the wedding – and the institution of marriage.
The Church says the government’s plans will weaken society, “hollow out” marriage and diminish it for everyone else who’s been married.t
The text of the archbishop’s midnight mass sermon is published here.
The Independent reports: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan
And reports on a new public opinion poll: Gay marriage: public say Church is wrong
By a margin of 2-1, people oppose the Government’s proposal to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages. Asked whether its vicars should be allowed to perform such ceremonies if they wanted to, 62 per cent of people said they should and 31 per cent disagreed, with seven per cent replying “don’t know”.
And comments on the archbishop’s sermon: Editorial: The Archbishop’s unseasonal note
…No more of a shambles, it might be said, than the Archbishop’s Christmas message. His words might have given the impression that the Government would require the Roman Catholic Church to marry homosexual couples. But nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, one disappointing, even shameful, aspect of the proposed law is that the Church of England, the established Church, will be banned from conducting gay marriages, even though – as we report today – opinion is strongly in favour of letting individual priests do so if they wish.
And if the Church of England will not be permitted to conduct gay marriages, at least for the time being, it is unthinkable that any pressure would be placed on the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy is far more united in its opposition than that of the Anglican Church. The proposed legislation is designed to give gay people, not before time, full equality before the law. So what is the Archbishop so worried about?
…Although Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters remain more likely to support gay marriage, with respective majorities of 67% and 71%, there is now also a majority among Conservative supporters. Among those who voted Tory in 2010, gay marriage now enjoys 52%-42% backing, a big turnaround from ICM’s survey in March, which recorded 50%-35% opposition from 2010 Conservative voters.
Both men and women support gay marriage, although the majority is bigger among female voters, 65% of whom support gay marriage, compared with 58% of men. Gay marriage is backed by 60%+ majorities across every nation and region, the 74% majority recorded in Wales being the most emphatic. There is a pro-gay-marriage majority, too, in every social class – although the majority is somewhat smaller in the DE class, which contains the lowest occupational grades. Fifty-one per cent of this group is in favour of the change, as opposed to 68% in the C1 clerical grade, which emerges as the most enthusiastic.
Sharper differences emerge when the results are analysed across the age ranges. The over-65s resist the proposal, by 58% to 37%, but support is progressively stronger in younger age groups. The pro-reform majority is 64% among 35-64s, 75% among 25-34s, and an overwhelming 77% among 18-24s…
Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop’s Christmas Sermon – ‘join the human race this Christmas’
Archbishop of York Christmas Sermon – Let Light Shine Out of Darkness
Archbishop of Wales Catch a sense of wonder from children– Archbishop’s Christmas message
Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow Christmas Day Sermon 2012
Bishop of Chichester Bishop of Chichester’s Christmas Message8 Comments
Jake Wallis Simons writes in the Telegraph that I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the Church of England.
Timothy Radcliffe writes in The Guardian that Tolerance is not enough to learn the art of living with others.
Mark Vasey-Saunders retells the Christmas story: Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Damian Thompson writes in The Spectator about Alpha male: Can Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton save the Church of England?
Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian An atheist’s prayer for the churches that keep our soul.
Richard Coles writes for the Church Times about Salute the happy morn?
Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that Jesus knows, flooding isn’t the end of the world.
Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that Christmas shows us humanity’s hope is to be found in the crib not in the stars.19 Comments
The Secretary General has prepared an explanatory memorandum outlining the legislative process that would need to be followed by the Church of England to enable women to become bishops. Although prepared for members of the two Houses of Parliament it has been issued to members of General Synod and made available online.
I have also placed an html version online here.
The memorandum concludes, “It would, therefore, be possible for legislation introduced in 2013 to complete all its stages in the lifetime of this Synod, which ends in July 2015. Pending the discussions with all interested parties in the early months of 2013 it is too soon, however, to offer a confident prediction of what the timescale will be given the imperative need to avoid a second failure.”13 Comments
The summary of decisions taken by the House of Bishops at its latest meeting (December 2012) has been published.
The summary can be read below and has been posted on the Church of England website.
HOUSE OF BISHOPS – SUMMARY OF DECISIONS
A meeting of the House of Bishops was held at Lambeth Palace on 10-11 December 2012. Those matters reported below reflect the items discussed and decisions agreed upon.
1. The House considered the consequences of the 20 November General Synod vote on the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure. The House recognised and felt the profound and widespread sense of anger, grief and disappointment experienced by so many in the Church of England and beyond.
2. The House considered that the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions, and affirmed that the Church of England now had to resolve the issue through its own processes as a matter of great urgency. It was agreed that a statement from the House of Bishops on this issue would be released as soon as possible after the conclusion of the meeting.
3. The House expressed its gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, and its sadness that recent events had left so many feeling undermined and undervalued.
4. The House had the benefit of four senior female members of General Synod participating in their discussion. The House agreed to hold an event in early 2013 to which lay and ordained women will be invited, to discuss how the culture of its processes and discussions might be changed and a more regular contribution from women secured.
5. The House also set up a working group drawn from all three Houses of Synod (the membership to be determined by the Archbishops and announced before Christmas), to arrange facilitated discussion with a wide range of people of a variety of views in the week of 4 February and to advise the House so that it can decide in May what fresh legislative proposals to bring before the next meeting of the General Synod in July.
6. The House considered a number of items relating to appointments, personal data and ministry and:
7. The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.
8. The House was updated in relation to a draft document in preparation from the Faith and Order Commission in relation to the doctrine of marriage. The House agreed that, once further revisions had been made, it could be issued with the agreement of the Standing Committee as a FAOC document and commended for study.
9. The Archbishop of Canterbury briefed the House on recent events throughout the Anglican Communion.
10. The House approved new policies in relation to Local Ecumenical Policy.
11. The House approved a proposal to update the publication of Bishops’ Working Costs.
12. The House was briefed in relation to ongoing work by the Archbishops’ Task Group on Spending Plans.
13. The House was briefed on the published results of the 2011 Census. The House noted a statement which had been made on the results.22 Comments
Paul Johnson has written an article for the Jurist titled Same-Sex Marriage To Be ‘Illegal’ in the Church of England and Church in Wales. He argues that the effect of an on-going human rights debate in the British Isles and the European Court of Human Rights may have a detrimental effect on the same-sex marriage debate in the UK…
I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
…On the basis of a growing moral panic about human rights in the UK, the government has announced deeply problematic legislation. Whilst they will extend marriage to same-sex couples in England and Wales, they will also amend the Equality Act 2010 to establish a form of legal discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation. They will also write legislation to make same-sex marriage in a Church of England or Church in Wales church “illegal.” The UK government will, therefore, follow a number of other states, such as those African states like Nigeria, that are regularly held up in the UK as the embodiment of homophobia, and introduce legislation designed to prohibit same-sex marriage in a particular context…
Paul also wrote this article last June: Same-Sex Civil Marriage Gives Deference to Church of England Canon Laws
Scot Peterson has written an article, now republished at Law and Religion UK titled Same-sex marriage, National Churches and the quadruple lock.
On 11 December the government announced its response to the consultation on same-sex marriage that took place from 15 March to 14 June 2012. The initial consultation concerned how (not whether) to proceed with same-sex civil marriage. In its response to the initial consultation, the Church of England failed to respond to the question that the government had asked. It took the position that all marriage (civil or religious) was the same and that same-sex marriage should not be offered by the state. The church failed entirely to say how it could be offered, arguing that same-sex marriage should not be offered at all, even by the government in non-religious ceremonies…
And he concludes:
It seems clear that the constitutional, political and legal complexities of the law of marriage in Wales surprised the government. But good, sensible argument, not a generalized attack on the government’s competence is needed. And extending the omnishambles argument to the Church of England is entirely unfair given that Church’s general, public refusal to cooperate with the consultation in the first place.
The Church of Wales may have received a temporary scare, which will make it think twice in the future about trying to ride on the coat-tails of its established equivalent in the east. The Church of England may have received its just deserts for being obstinate. But the government should not be the target of general criticism for an honest mistake on an obscure point of law, which was unforeseeable when the Church in Wales did not address this point, or any other, in its response to the consultation.
The problems in this bill can easily be corrected. This is a cross-party question of policy that addresses a felt need by LGBT people and religious freedom for minorities like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews as well as for those, like the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, who disagree. It should not be turned into a political football.
Anya Palmer has written in the Solicitor’s Journal_ One step forward, two steps back.
The government’s decision to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages leaves Anya Palmer questioning its position in society.
The agenda and supporting papers for the meeting of the House of Latiy to be held on 18 January 2013 have been published.
I have copied the agenda below.
The press have been advised that this is a public meeting and that it will be chaired by the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC, Dean of the Arches.
HOUSE OF LAITY
Notice is hereby given of a meeting of the House of Laity to be held at 1.30 p.m. on Friday 18 January 2013 at Church House, Westminster.
Westminster SW1P 3AZ
18 December 2012
Chair of the House of Laity: HL01A and HL01B
Canon Stephen Barney (Leicester) to move:
1. ‘That this House have no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House.’
Notes to the agenda are below the fold.30 Comments
19 December 2012
Bishops’ office and working costs published
The 2011 office and working costs of bishops in the Church of England are published today. Figures for individual bishops were first published, for the year 2000, in December 2001. Bishops’ office and working costs were previously published as a total figure. The latest report reflects the recently introduced block grant funding to support bishops’ ministry.
Total expenditure by and on behalf of bishops in 2011 totalled £17,013,912 (2010 £15,983,479) including an increase of £782,216 in legal costs incurred.
The report includes a full description of the important role played by bishops locally, regionally and nationally.
The 113 diocesan and suffragan bishops of the Church of England institute and support the ministry of all clergy and lay ministers in their dioceses, as well as providing pastoral support to them. Each diocesan bishop has ultimate oversight of several hundred clergy, Readers and lay workers and of a diocesan budget and portfolio of assets. In addition to diocesan responsibilities, such as ordinations and diocesan festivals, and engaging with the communities which they serve, bishops often chair or serve on national and international Church boards and councils, as well as large charities, special commissions or public inquiries. They are involved in the growing work towards visible unity with other denominations both nationally and internationally and in work with other faiths.
Twenty-six diocesan bishops sit in the House of Lords: at least one is present every day and others will attend according to the subjects under debate that day. The Bishop of Sodor & Man sits in the Tynwald.4 Comments
Following the meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this month when they said that they would appoint a working group to assist them in formulating new legislative proposals on women bishops the Archbishops have today announced the membership of the group.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the membership of the new working group established by the House of Bishops following the defeat of the women bishops’ legislation.
The group includes members of all three houses of the General Synod – Bishops, Clergy and Laity – and a senior member of clergy who is no longer on the Synod. The members are:
The Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (chair)
The Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester
The Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester
The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
The Ven Christine Hardman
The Rev Dr Rosemarie Mallett
Dr Philip Giddings
Dr Paula Gooder
Mrs Margaret Swinson
The group’s task (see PR 160.12) is to assist the House when it meets in February and again in May to come to a decision on the new package of proposals which it intends to bring to the Synod in July. The group has been tasked to arrange facilitated discussions in February with a wide range of people of a variety of views. It is expected to have two initial meetings in January.
Once draft legislation is ready for introduction to the Synod there will be a separate decision, in the usual way, about the membership of a new Steering Committee. That Committee will have the responsibility for the management of the legislation through Synod. Steering Committees are always composed of members of Synod who support the legislation.
The membership of the Revision Committee is settled after first consideration of the legislation.21 Comments
Andrew Brown at the Guardian has written Church of England traditionalists are running out of hiding places.
A backlash against the female bishops vote and gay marriage ruling has put church conservatives on the back foot.
On the face of it, this autumn has seen two resounding defeats for the liberals in the church of England, over female bishops and gay marriage. But it may be just as true that these have been two really pyrrhic victories for the traditionalists.
On female bishops it looks already clear that the best the traditionalists can hope for is an orderly retreat. I don’t think they had any idea how angry their opponents would be, nor how numerous. It really has been something like a revolution, in that the old power structures are quite inadequate to contain the real power of the laity. You can see that from the way that the supposed representatives of the laity in the General Synod, the house of laity, were the people who most diverged from sentiment in the pews.
Even in the house of laity the opponents were a minority, but they were a significant minority. That significance may now be over…
And he concludes with this:
…Where gay marriage is concerned the position is not nearly so stark. Fear of a wider evangelical backlash (for all I know, quite justified) led the bishops into their “quadruple lock” jail where now a liberal Anglican who wants to marry a gay couple is breaking the law in the way that no other minister of religion would be. It seems to me inevitable that some vicar nearing retirement will carry out a gay wedding in his church once these are legal and then wait for martyrdom. The resulting kerfuffle will only dramatise the difference between legal establishment, where the church’s bureaucracy is bound into the state, and what one might call emotional or effective establishment, where the church is a natural theatre of society’s self-understanding – a way to think about who we are, both as individuals and as a country. That’s not a distinction to which a wise archbishop would want to draw attention, but it’s going to be hard to avoid.
Following Frank Cranmer’s article Church and State – an idiot’s guide at Law & Religion UK the site now has this follow-up about primary and secondary Church legislation.
Here’s a brief extract:
It [the recent debate in the House of Commons] also exposed a number of common misconceptions and gaps in understanding of the relationship between Parliament and the Church of England, which are unlikely to be restricted to the Lower House. Indeed, Stephen Slack, the Registrar and Chief Legal Adviser to the General Synod, notes, [(2012) 14 Ecc LJ 54-55]:
“in the case of the draft legislation relating to women in the episcopate, members of Synod can wrongly assume that preliminary debates of this kind have conclusively settled the Synod’s position in relation to issues that have been debated, when in fact they remain open for subsequent further debate and decision in the course of the legislative process itself.”
But do read it all.3 Comments
Frank Cranmer has analysed the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Read all about it at Same-sex marriage in Scotland – the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
Two extracts from his article which may be of particular interest to English or Welsh readers:
The [consultation] document begins with a list of “proposed protections” at para 1.06 (which is not on all fours with the recent English proposals):
- religious bodies that wish to solemnise same-sex marriage or register civil partnerships will have to opt in to do so;
- there will be no obligation on religious bodies and celebrants to opt in to solemnise same-sex marriage and register civil partnerships;
- religious celebrants will only be able to solemnise same-sex marriages or register civil partnerships if their organisation has decided to opt in;
- if a religious body decides to opt in, there will be no obligation on individual celebrants to solemnise same-sex marriages or to register civil partnerships.
And there is this:
In addition, it has concluded that an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 is required – which would need to be made by the United Kingdom Parliament rather than by the Scottish Parliament. A draft of the proposed amendment to the 2010 Act is at Annex N.
Possibly with Ladele in mind, the Government has decided that the legislation should not include a conscientious opt-out for civil registrars.
Updated yet again 7 pm
Father Philip North, who earlier this year was appointed to be the new Bishop of Whitby in the Diocese of York, has announced he is withdrawing from the role. He has notified the Archbishop of York and his current bishop, the Bishop of London, of his decision. He will now remain as Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras in North London.
Philip North commented, “It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position. However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity. I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.
“I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to refocusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my Parish.”
The Bishop of London added, “I can understand the reasons for Philip’s decision. He is a gifted and energetic priest and I am glad that he remains in this Diocese to continue his outstanding work in Camden Town.”
The original news of his appointment was (rather belatedly) reported in this news item with a headline about a quite different appointment.
Ed Thornton at the Church Times has a report of what is meant by “the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland” see “I would not be a focus for unity”: Philip North withdraws from Bishop of Whitby post.
…The churchwarden of St Oswald’s Church, Lythe, in Whitby, John Secker, wrote a letter to the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, dated 28 November, which gathered a number of signatories.
The letter said: “We are puzzled, dismayed and very disappointed that for the third time running we have been assigned a Bishop of Whitby who does not accept the ordination of women priests. . .
“We are aware that some parishes, some clergy, and some of the laity in the Whitby bishopric do not accept the validity of women priests but, as in the rest of the country, a substantial majority of us do. So why should we have to have a bishop who does not accept them? We assume that there must be some sort of rationale behind the decision, but you should be aware that many of us feel aggrieved and overlooked.”
In a reply, dated 6 December, Dr Sentamu wrote: “Whatever fears there may be about Revd North’s ability to work with all in the Archdeaconry [of Cleveland], I am confident that he will not only live up to Bishop Martin’s example, but also go beyond it in his valuing of the ministry of his female colleagues.
“Clearly the appointment of Revd North has also been made as part of our accommodation for our petitioning parishes in this diocese. The fact is that the vast majority of our petitioning parishes are in the Cleveland Archdeaconry and so the see of Whitby is the obvious choice for such episcopal provision where the diocesan bishop is an outspoken advocate of women’s ministry. . .
“I deeply regret that this appointment should be seen as in any way indicating a lack of respect and value for women’s ministry in this Diocese and in the Church as a whole. I would hope that my words and actions elsewhere would be ample proof to the contrary.”
The Evening Standard has Clergyman says he will not take up bishop job, as Church of England crisis deepens
The Diocese of York has now issued this announcement: Fr Philip North withdraws from Bishop of Whitby post
…Yesterday, Archbishop Sentamu wrote to all clergy and Readers in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland to say, “It is with sadness that I have heard from Revd Philip North of his decision to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Whitby.
“This has come as a great disappointment to me personally and I am sure to many in the wider church, the Diocese and the Archdeaconry of Cleveland.
“Philip North is not a single-issue priest. As a gifted pastor-teacher he is deeply committed to the flourishing of the diverse ministries of all God’s people – lay and ordained. His dynamic vision for making Christ visible in mission and ministry, as well as serving the poor, would have been a great asset to us all.
“I am returning to the Diocese later tomorrow, having been in Uganda to attend the Installation of the new Archbishop.
“The question of the appointment of a new bishop will be first referred to the Dioceses Commission. As many of you may know, the Dioceses Commission will be reviewing our Diocese, its structures, boundaries and delivery of mission. As to the timing of when this will happen, the Dioceses Commission will let us know.
“Please pray for Philip and all those in the Cleveland Archdeaconry at this time.”
John Bingham at the Telegraph has Priest forced to stand aside as bishop over traditionalist view on women.118 Comments
Anya Palmer has written Church “shocked” to get what it lobbied for
Suggestions that CoE never asked for gay marriage ban need to be taken with a pinch of salt
The Guardian reported on Friday (14 December 2012) that the Church of England and Church of Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at proposals to ban them from conducting marriages for same sex couples. The piece ends with Ben Bradshaw MP quoting the Bishop of Leicester as saying the CoE was very upset about this “because it gave the impression that the Church of England were unfriendly towards gays.”
But is the Church of England really unhappy with the proposed ban?
…The only on-the-record statement from the Church of England in the Guardian report is from “a spokesman” claiming that the CoE was not consulted on the proposed “quadruple lock”. The spokesman does not confirm that the CoE does not want a ban – all he or she confirms is that the CoE claims it was not consulted.
Personally I find it difficult to believe the CoE was not consulted.
Firstly, because when the government’s proposals were outlined, on Tuesday 11 December, the Church of Wales immediately stated it did not agree, whereas the Church of England neither disagreed nor made any claim that it had not been consulted. Here is the statement the CoE put out on Wednesday 12 December:
Far from suggesting the CoE has not been consulted, the statement asserts that it has been listened to:
“This is not a question of the Government and Parliament imposing a prohibition or ‘ban’ on what the Church of England can do. It is instead the Government responding to the Church’s wish to see the status quo for the Church of England preserved.” [Emphasis added]
The statement clearly approves of the proposal that the CoE not be given a right to opt in:
“For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.”
If that doesn’t say “we don’t want an opt-in, thank you” I am not sure what would.
This statement was presumably approved at a high level. It has not been retracted. At no point has the Church of England stated on the record that it does not want the additional bar.
And secondly, I don’t believe the CoE was not consulted because the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has now put out a statement expressly denying that the CoE was not consulted…
Sam Jones at the Guardian had Government’s gay marriage plan a mess, says Labour
Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has Equal marriage confusion: owning up.
…The government would appear to have blundered in its attempts to head off the more alarmist opponents of equal marriage. But it cannot be blamed for the perception that the C of E is “unfriendly to gays”.
Church leaders have openly and persistently discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, to the extent of asking lawyers to come up with excuses for blocking even celibate gays who seek full inclusion from being considered as bishops.
They have also criticised other Anglican provinces for treating LGBT people equally, and sought to give greater power to anti-inclusive churches to hinder progress in other countries.
The official consultation response on equal civil marriage was not only heavily negative but also raised alarms about human rights law and the position of the Church of England as an established church.
Exaggeration and misinterpretation of these warnings was not properly addressed by church authorities unwilling to admit in public that many at all levels of the Church of England want greater inclusion…
Fraser Nelson writes in the Sunday Telegraph that Britain is getting a glimpse of the crazy world of culture wars.
…But the news, in recent days, has started to sound a little more American. MPs have been quoting the Bible in just the same way, and getting themselves just as wound up. David Cameron’s plans for gay marriage, which were controversial enough in the first place, have been made even more so by his decision to let such unions take place in churches. After two years of trying to discuss this rationally, tribal battle has now broken out. A group of liberal Tories calling themselves the “Freedom to Marry” alliance are up against a group of less organised, lesser known and less telegenic Conservatives who are popping up on TV to denounce the Government. The ordinary viewer may conclude that the Tory party is going through one of its periodic bouts of madness.
I suspect that, by now, even Cameron is wondering if this has not all spun out of control. It’s perfectly easy to see his original logic. As a matter of principle, he believes in marriage and would like it to be accessible to everyone. If the Unitarian Church and certain strands of Judaism want to marry gay couples on their premises, then why should government stand in their way? For the record, I quite agree. Religious freedom in Britain ought to be universal, extended to the handful of churches or synagogues who want same-sex marriage. To lift the ban ought to be a technical issue, an amendment to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 requiring no fanfare…
Ed Malnick has a report in the Sunday Telegraph inaccurately headlined Anglican vicars threaten to defy gay marriage ban.
Leading Anglican campaigners have warned that Government plans to exempt the Church from the new legislation will lead to hundreds of homosexual clergy and worshippers marrying in Quaker and Unitarian services and then returning to the Church.
In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, dozens of clergy, including Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, today urge homosexual Anglicans to follow this course of action.
“Until the Church of England allows us to solemnise same-sex marriages in our churches, as a matter of pastoral expediency we will counsel lesbian and gay members of our congregations to marry in those churches willing to celebrate faithful same-sex relationships,” the letter, which is also signed by scores of lay members of the Church, states.
The 150 signatories warn: “If the bill is enacted in its present form, in 2014 married lesbian and gay Anglicans, lay and ordained, will be worshipping and ministering in parishes of the Church of England.”
The presence of married homosexual couples, including clergy, in the Church will force its leaders to confront the growing debate over sexuality, the letter suggests…
The letter itself, with signatories, appears here (scroll down).
Vicky Allan in the Sunday Herald writes that Love will burst through any lock.
When it comes to keeping intruding gay couples out of the premises of the institution of marriage, there is only one security measure up to the job – the Westminster quadruple lock.
Like many aspects around last week’s launch of the bill to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales, this term used to describe the multiple layers of protection that will be afforded the clergy to allow them to act as their beliefs dictate – measures which include a ban on same-sex marriages being conducted by the Church of England and Church of Wales – comes edged with hysteria. Only the paranoid, fearful and homophobic, surely, would seek more than, say, a standard basic lock. Yet two archbishops in the Church of England declared they still wanted to see the “shambolic” gay marriage bill stopped. For them, even the Westminster quadruple lock was not enough.
So, it was a relief when, on Wednesday, the Scottish Government published its draft legislation for our own bill, and there were no strange multi-layered locks and no ban for the Church of Scotland, only talk of allowing churches to opt in or opt out, and protecting both churches and individual celebrants through changes to the Equalities Act…
…The results of a Mail on Sunday poll, conducted by Survation, suggest strong support for gay rights across a wide range of issues among most voters, but with sharp differences between the young and old.
Overall, six out of ten support the gay marriage plan. Among the under-35s, it soars to 73 per cent; by contrast, 56 per cent of over-55s are against…
David Gibson writes in the Huffington Post about Mary Breastfeeding Jesus: Christmas’ Missing Icon.
This article by Philip Jones for Ecclesiastical Law was published several months ago, but may be particularly relevant now: The Two Structures of the Church of England: Pyramids with Grass Roots.
Lizzy Davies of The Observer has been talking to Philippa Boardman: ‘Every day I wear purple’.4 Comments