Thinking Anglicans

Inclusive Church response to government consultation

The response of Inclusive Church to the government’s consultation on equal civil marriage follows the format of the consultation questions, which are reproduced within the response, copied in full below the fold. Also available on the IC website in the latest Newsletter.



Anglican Mainstream response to government consultation

From Anglican Mainstream

The article linked above contains (scroll down) the full text of the Anglican Mainstream response, which is also copied below the fold.



Methodist Church response to government consultation on equal civil marriage

The Response from the Methodist Church in Britain to the consultation on “Equal Civil Marriage” can be found on their website as a PDF file, here.


  • The Methodist Church, in line with scripture and traditional teaching, believes that
    “marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman”.
  • Our Church governance means that we would not be able to revise this position, even if we wished to, without an extended period of reflection and consultation.
  • Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of beliefs about human sexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognised, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men.
  • We do not believe that a distinction between “civil” and “religious” marriage is a helpful or correct one. Marriage does not have a different definition for religious groups, as against the state. Marriage is a single legal and social entity. Nor do we believe that the Government should determine what is religious.

Not In My Name

From Inclusive Church:

If you were as angry and disillusioned as were many of us with the Church of England Response to the Government Consultation on Same Sex Marriage please join this campaign by personally disowning the content of the Response.

Pick up a pen.

Write a plain card/ post card/ short note or email to your Diocesan Bishop/ One of the Archbishops / Your General Synod Representatives/ Anyone you know well who represent the “hierarchy of the C of E”

And say simply:

Dear …


What on earth is happening to the Church of England , the Church to which I belong?

Why were amendments added to the draft legislation regarding women Bishops when 42 out of the 44 Dioceses had voted for the unamended proposals? Why was the careful work of so many years overturned in a few days? In whose name? These new amendments are NOT IN MY NAME

And who wrote the so called “Church of England” Government Equalities Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage Response? It is NOT IN MY NAME and I dissociate myself from the out of date, intolerant views contained therein. The Government at least consulted gay and lesbian people about their hopes for the future of their relationships , which is more than the Church of England ever does. In this the Government shows a democratic spirit which is the spirit of the times, but which seems to be lost altogether from the present Church of England hierarchy which appears to act as an increasingly clumsy, backward looking “Magisterium” in matters of the utmost human sensitivity and seriousness. In whose name does it act like this?



Yours in Christ

Baptised and Confirmed Member of the Church of England/ Regularly worshipping member of the Church of England

This task is not meant to be onerous but to register with the Bishops and other members of the hierarchy our distrust and anger over recent moves and statements made by them as if they carry the authority of the whole church.

If you are very busy just write one card or contact one Bishop.

If you are less busy please write to as many hierarchs as you can.

Put anything you like on the card but include the words NOT IN MY NAME so that they get the message. The more humorous and distinctive the card the better, without of course being rude, or simple plain little while card will do.

Please try to get friends/ members of your groups/ other congregation members to do the same.

Flood them………..we have to show we care!

See also the online petition Church of England? Not in our name


other legal views of the CofE response to government

See text of response, and some initial press coverage here. Subsequent coverage here, and then here.

Several articles disagreeing with the legal views expressed in the CofE document:

Adam Wagner Will the European Court force churches to perform gay marriages?

Paul Johnson Church of England’s argument against gay marriage is without foundation

…The CoE’s argument regarding canon law is without any foundation. Canon law, under the Government’s proposals, will be left untouched. The CoE could even, should it wish to, strengthen the heterosexual exclusivity of its canon law on marriage through the introduction of new Measures prohibiting same-sex marriage on its religious premises in the future; the proposed statutory legislation on same-sex civil marriage would provide no bar to it doing this. Like others, I believe that this would be regarded as acceptable by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In light of this, the focus on canon law in the CoE’s response to the consultation must be seen as a cynical strategy designed to stall this important development in civil marriage law. It is a tactic that attempts to obscure and mystify the relationship between canon and statutory law in order to convince of the CoE’s legal authority in marriage. Yet neither canon law nor the CoE has any legal influence in respect of civil marriage which remains regulated solely by common and statutory law.

Whilst the CoE’s response to the Government’s consultation demonstrates its trenchant ideological opposition to the social evolution of marriage, its reliance on canon law reveals how threadbare its arguments have become. In place of robust and rational argument, the CoE have resorted to incoherent and flawed legal claims which, once subjected to scrutiny, fail to provide any justification for preventing gay men and lesbians in loving, permanent and life-long relationships from contracting civil marriage.

Karen Monaghan Leading QC contradicts equal marriage critics – proposals will not force Church to marry gay couples

“…the protection afforded by Article 9 to religious organisations is strong…I consider that requiring a faith group or a member of its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages contrary to its doctrine or the religious convictions of its members would violate Article 9. Any challenge brought on human rights grounds seeking to establish a same-sex couple’s right to marry in church would inevitably fail for that reason. In balancing the rights of a same-sex couple and a religious organisation’s rights under Article 9 (in particular, in relation to a matter such as marriage, so closely touching upon a religious organisation’s beliefs) the courts would be bound to give priority to the religious organisation’s Article 9 rights.”

And Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said:

The debate around same-sex marriage becomes hysterical when people don’t understand relevant law and principle. As this country’s national Human Rights organisation, we have a long tradition both of promoting equal treatment and defending the rights of those whose opinions we do not share.

We are not religious experts – but frankly- neither are the Bishops human rights lawyers. The Church of England should have greater confidence in the strength of freedom of conscience protection under Article 9. As our leading QC’s opinion clearly demonstrates, provision for gay marriage in the UK could never result in religious denominations opposed to it being ordered to conduct such ceremonies.”


General Synod and women bishops

Updated Tuesday

Two press reports look at what might happen to the women bishops legislation at next month’s General Synod.

Gavin Drake has written in Church Times that Women-bishops supporters might send Measure back.

John Bingham has written in the Telegraph that Church of England: new row could set women bishops plan back five years.

Opinions on the bishops’ amendments include these three.

Modern Church has published this paper by Jonathan Clatworthy: When is a bishop not a bishop (also available as a pdf).

Jeremy Fletcher has blogged Women Bishops – What I think I think.

Michael Sadgrove (the Dean of Durham) has blogged Where are we now on Women as Bishops?

And looking further ahead, last Friday’s edition of Today in Parliament on BBC Radio 4 included an interview with Ben Bradshaw MP about what might happen if the women bishops legislation as amended by the bishops reaches the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. The programme can be downloaded as a 12 MB mp3 podcast, or listened to on the BBC iPlayer. The interview starts with an introduction at 6 min 41 sec.
Update WATCH has provided a transcript of this interview.



Joe Lycett writes for The Huffington Post that The Church of England is a Drunk Bloke in a Wetherspoon.

Nelson Jones writes for New Statesman about God’s Peculiar People.

In The Guardian Sarah Ditum asks What do you do when you find cash in the street?

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about The bodily God of Thomas Hobbes.


Agenda for July 2012 General Synod

The usual pre-synod press release has been issued by the Church of England today, and is copied below. It provides a summary of the business to be transacted, and one item not on the agenda.

I have listed in a separate article the available online papers.

For those interested in the legislation to allow women to be bishops, I draw particular attention to the paper background Q & As which inter alia lists the possible outcomes at the July Synod.

Agenda for July 2012 General Synod
15 June 2012

General Synod meets in July for final stages of women bishops legislation, with an agenda that also includes world mission, church growth, the August 2011 riots, manifesting faith in public life, church schools, Palestine and Israel.

The General Synod will meet at York University from 5.15 p.m. on Friday 6 July until lunchtime on Tuesday 10 July. The meeting will be preceded by meetings of the House of Laity and the Convocations (provincial synods) of Canterbury and York at 2 p.m. on Friday 6 July.

The Agenda provides for the Synod to deal with the final stages of the major legislative process designed to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of England while also making some provision for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive their ministry. If the legislation is approved, by simple majorities, by the House of Laity and the Convocations, the way will be clear for it to be presented for final approval on Monday 9 July. As with the women priests legislation in 1992, the whole of the morning and afternoon sittings has been allocated to the Final Approval debates. (See background Q & As).

As in July 2011, part of the Saturday morning has been structured in such a way as to foster a culture of listening and reflection in the Synod. The groups that met last year, each comprising twelve members and led by a bishop, will reflect, in the context of worship, on a Bible passage and on the Church’s contemporary mission.

This will be followed by a debate on the role of mission agencies and on partnership between the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The mission theme will continue on the Saturday evening with a debate on the ‘fresh expressions’ movement, which encourages new ways of being the Church within the contemporary context, in the light of a joint Anglican-Methodist report which considers how these initiatives relate to the doctrinal understanding of what it is to be a church.

Further aspects of the Church of England’s engagement with society – corporately and individually – will be considered on the Sunday and on the Monday. The Synod will debate a report on the Church’s role in local communities in the context of the August 2011 riots and a Private Member’s Motion expressing the conviction that it is the calling of Christians to manifest their faith in public life as well as in private. It will also receive a presentation on the report ‘The Church School of the Future’, which looks at ways in which the Church of England could extend its role in the education system, in the context of the current changes to that system.

On the Sunday afternoon the Synod will be invited to authorize new Eucharistic Prayers for use from 1 September at services at which there are significant numbers of children present – at a Communion service in a church school, for example.

The Synod will also debate a Private Member’s Motion affirming support for the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, for agencies working for justice and peace in the region, and for Palestinian Christians and organizations that work to ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.

Other items of legislative business will be taken on the Saturday afternoon. These include the final approval of a draft Measure amending aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and of a draft Measure giving the Church Commissioners power to make financial provision for the mission of the growing Diocese in Europe.

The Synod will also receive presentations on the annual reports of the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners, and will be invited to approve the Council’s budget for 2013. It will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion relating to the size of the committees that elect diocesan representatives to participate in the choosing of diocesan bishops.

If the Synod completes its consideration of the women bishops legislation in July, there will be no need for a third group of sessions in November, and this will therefore be final occasion at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside, with the Archbishop of York, at a meeting of the General Synod. Dr Williams will preach at the Eucharist in York Minster on the Sunday morning. The final business for the group of sessions will be a motion, to be moved by the Archbishop of York, expressing the Synod’s gratitude to Dr Williams and offering him and Mrs Williams its best wishes for the future.

One item not on the Agenda for July is the Anglican Communion Covenant. The Business Committee publishes today its report on the voting in the diocesan synods on the draft Act of Synod adopting the Covenant. 18 diocesan synods voted in favour and 26 against, so this draft Act of Synod cannot be presented to the General Synod for final approval. As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July.

Communicating Synod
Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website ( ahead of the General Synod sessions.

A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page, and audio files of debates, along with updates on each day’s proceedings, will be posted during the sessions.


General Synod – July 2012 – online papers

Online copies of the papers for the July 2012 meeting of General Synod are starting to appear online; they are listed below, with links and a note of the day they are scheduled for debate. I will update the list as more papers become available.

Updated Tuesday 19 June to add link to GS 1878 (Business Committee report on diocesan synod voting on the Anglican Communion Covenant)
Updated Friday 22 June to add more papers

Update Wednesday 27 June A zip file of all papers is available. As well as papers listed below it includes the first five notice papers and a list of recent appointments.

The Report of the Business Committee (GS 1864) includes a forecast of future business, and I have copied this below the fold.

The Church of England’s own list of papers is presented in agenda order.

GS 1863 Full Agenda

GS 1864 Report by the Business Committee [Friday]

Women Bishops legislation

GS 1708C Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [Monday]
GS 1709C Draft Amending Canon No.30 [Monday]
GS 1709D Draft Petition for Her Majesty’s Royal Assent and Licence for Adoption [Monday]
GS 1708-1709ZZ Report from the House of Bishops on Article 7 reference

Other papers for debate

GS 1814B Draft Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure [Saturday]
GS 1814Z Report by the Steering Committee

GS 1822A Additional Eucharistic Prayers [Sunday]
GS 1822B Report by the House of Bishops

GS 1853A Draft Diocese in Europe Measure [Saturday]

GS 1859A and GA 1859B Private Member’s Motion: Manifestation of Faith in Public Life [Sunday]

GS 1862 Annual Report of the Archbishops’ Council [Sunday]

GS 1865 World Shaped Mission [Saturday]

GS 1866 Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure [Saturday]
GS 1877 Draft Amending Canon No. 31 [Saturday]
GS 1866X/1877X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1867 The Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (Amendment) Rules 2012 [Saturday]
GS 1867X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1868 The Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2012
GS 1869 The Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2012
GS 1868X/1869X Explanatory Memorandum
[items only to be debated if a synod member requests this]

GS 1870 Fresh Expressions and Church Growth: Report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council [Saturday]
GS 1871 Fresh Expressions in the Mission of the Church

GS 1872 The Archbishops’ Council’s Draft Budget and Proposals for Apportionment for 2013 [Sunday]

GS 1873 Testing the Bridges: Understanding the Role of the Church amidst Riots, Disturbances and Disorder [Sunday]

GS 1874A and GS 1874B Private Member’s Motion: Palestine and Israel [Tuesday]
GS 1875A and GS 1875B Diocesan Synod Motion: Vacancy in See Committees [Tuesday]
GS 1876A and GS 1876B Private Member’s Motion: Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956 [Contingency Business]

GS 1878 Anglican Communion Covenant: Draft Act of Synod – Report by the Business Committee on the reference to the dioceses.

Church Commissioners’ annual report 2011 [Saturday]
The Church School of the Future Review [Monday]

Other Papers

GS Misc 1020 Membership of Boards, Councils and Committees

GS Misc 1023 Dioceses Commission Annual Report

GS Misc 1024 Activities of the Archbishops’ Council

GS Misc 1025 Pursuing the three Quinquennium Goals

GS Misc 1026 The Report of the Meissen Commission 2007-2011

GS Misc 1027 A response from the Church of England on the Government Consultation on Same-Sex Marriage

GS Misc 1028 Background Press Questions and Answers re: Women in the Episcopate

GS Misc 1029 Clergy Discipline Annual Report

GS Misc 1030 Analysis of Mission Funds and Appendix A and Appendix B

GS Misc 1031 Higher Education Validation Partnership

HB (12) M1 House of Bishops: Summary of Decisions



Church Times on the CofE response to government

Madeleine Davies has this news report: ‘C of E’ gives an opinion on same-sex marriage

GOVERNMENT plans to legalise same-sex marriage threaten to “cut one of the threads of the Establish­ment”, senior church officials have said.

On Tuesday, the officials sub­mitted a response, purportedly from the Church of England, to the Government’s consultation, which closed yesterday. The response, which is unattributed, was accom­panied by a covering letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Within 24 hours, a petition ob­jecting to the views in the response paper had attracted more than 1000 signatures.

The paper argues that to permit same-sex marriage would “dilute” marriage for everybody. It criticises the “fallacious assumption” that religious marriage differs from civil marriage. And it warns that the Government’s promise to limit same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would face the “serious prospect” of a successful challenge in the European Court of Human Rights…

…The claim that the response represents the official view of the Church of England has already been challenged. On Tuesday, the Revd Ian Stubbs, Priest-in-Charge of All Saints’, Glossop, posted a petition dissociating himself from the official submission. “I am bitterly dis­appointed by the Church’s shameful and outdated response to the pro­posals for gay marriage.” When the Church Times went to press, it had attracted 1076 signatures.

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition criticised the “scandalous lack of con­sultation” in the preparation of the response. The failure to recognise that same-sex couples seeking mar­riage wanted “something deeply spiritual which strengthens both the couple and society” had “impover­ished” the Church’s teaching on marriage.

On Tuesday, Stonewall published a poll of of 2074 adults suggesting that 71 per cent of people, and 58 per cent of “people of faith”, in their sample supported the proposals to legalise same-sex mar­riage. The char­ity argues that the “vitriol” seen in statements by “some senior clerics” in relation to the proposals is evidence of a “deeply worrying pre­judice toward gay people”. It argues that extending the right to marry to gay people is an “appropriate remedy” to discrimina­tion.

There is also a leader: Gay marriage: whose views are these?

MANY churchgoers woke on Tuesday morning to learn about their adamant opposition to same-sex marriage. Whether they agree with its position or not, they will find the paper submitted to the Government’s consultation on their behalf to be tendentious and poorly argued. In brief, it says that the government consultation on same-sex marriage is flawed (it is); that marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman (it has); that matters such as consummation will be hard to work into a new definition (they will); and that there is a false distinction being made between civil and religious marriage (there is, although this is the Government’s clumsy attempt to preserve the Church’s right to discriminate).

Besides these points, however, the paper makes a number of unsupported claims. In just one example, it states that the view of marriage as “a lifelong union of one man with one woman” is “derived from the teaching of Christ himself”, first without citing which teaching, and second without any apparent embarrassment over the use of the word “lifelong”. The impression that Church and state have walked hitherto arm in arm up and down the aisle can be sustained only by ignoring the huge chasm over divorce that opened in the 19th century. Much is made of the Church’s supposed susceptibility to legal challenge; but again, this has not been its experience when clerics have refused second marriages in church. Hardest to follow are the paper’s arguments that the benefits society derives from heterosexual marriage will somehow be absent if marriage is extended to same-sex couples.

Whether its legal arguments hold water, the paper is right to suppose that pressure will increase on the Church to comply. Had the Church been as welcoming of civil partnerships as this paper implies, this crisis might have been averted. By declining to bless them, the Church contributed to the impression that civil partnerships were mere legal arrangements, and not declarations of love and commit­ment. It is patronising to dismiss the desire to emphasise this as merely answering an “emotional need”.

There are many in the C of E, and in the country at large, who hold traditional views of marriage. These ought to be respected. But so, too, should the views of those who, in conscience, see gay partnerships as comparable with marriage to the extent that the use of the same word now seems right. It is astonishing that the unnamed authors of the submission refer to themselves as “the Church of England” on a subject so contentious that two reviews are in progress to discover what people in the Church of England actually think.


CofE Bishops and Civil Partnership Legislation

There has been considerable discussion lately about whether or not the Lords Spiritual supported the Civil Partnership legislation.

Richard Chapman, Secretary for Parliamentary Affairs for the Church of England has compiled a memorandum, which can be found in its original form here, and which we have transcribed as a web page.

His introduction:

The Lords Spiritual and Civil Partnerships Legislation

The following is a timeline that summarises the speeches and votes of bishops in the House of Lords on civil partnership legislation from 2002 – when a Private Member’s Bill was first brought before the House by Lord Lester of Herne Hill – to the passing of the Government’s Civil Partnership Act in November 2004.

The bishops, consistent with their place as independent and non-whipped members neither spoke nor voted as a bloc on these issues when they were before the House. The Government’s 2004 legislation that resulted in the introduction of civil partnerships was welcomed at Second Reading by the Bishop of Oxford and with more qualification, by the Bishop of Peterborough. More critical speeches followed from the Bishops’ Bench during the Bill’s subsequent stages. Six bishops voted in favour of (and one against) what was widely considered to be a ‘wrecking amendment’ to the Bill at Report stage; however when the Commons removed the amendment and returned the Bill to the Lords in November 2004, eight bishops voted in support of the decision taken by the Commons (two voted against). Extracts from speeches by the Lords Spiritual and links to the parliamentary record of the speeches and votes are below.

Our transcription is here.


Bishops support Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala: Bishops want shelved anti-gay Bill dusted

Top religious leaders from across the country have asked Parliament to speed-up the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality law to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage”.

Speaking after their recent annual conference organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the bishops resolved that the parliamentary committee on Gender should be tasked to engage the House on the Bill which is now at committee level.

“We also ask the Education committee to engage the Ministry of Education on the issue of incorporating a topic on human sexuality in the curricula of our schools and institutions of learning,” the resolutions signed by archbishops Henry Luke Orombi, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, indicated.

The clerics also appealed to all the churches in the country “to remain steadfast in opposing the phenomena of homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex union”.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was proposed by Ndorwa West PM David Bahati and has become a subject of international discussion with most Western powers describing the Bill as barbaric… has Ugandan Catholics Want “Kill the Gays” Bill Revived

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) was effectively shelved last year by the government, following sustained pressure from international donor countries. Despite repeated claims to the contrary, including some unfortunate mainstream reporting, the last version of the bill contained the death penalty in some circumstances.

The Catholic Church had previously been the sole major religion in Uganda in opposition to the bill. But according to the Daily Monitor, at the annual conference of the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the Bishops resolved that it should be retrieved from the long grass.

The UJCC said that the bill was needed to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage.”

The Vatican came out strongly and publicly against the bill and, Wikileaks revealed, even lobbied against it. Uganda watchers say that the change by the Ugandan Catholic church is “very serious” and that the UJCC resolution was pushed by an Anglican Bishop…

Religion Dispatches has Ugandan Bishops Push Notorious Anti-Gay Bill

… The reported support for the bill from the Uganda Joint Christian Council is especially noteworthy since Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as contrary to “a Christian caring approach to this issue,” though he also said “We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.”

And The Africa Report has Uganda: Religious leaders seek return of anti-gay bill.


women bishops: some views from Fulcrum

Fulcrum has recently published several articles about the women bishops legislation. Two in particular are worth noting:

Stephen Kuhrt Women Bishops Legislation

Women bishops will, I hope, turn the Church of England completely upside down. My prayer is that its dramatic empowerment of the skills, gifts and insights of women will revitalise the church and change it forever.

As I write this, I can feel waves of anxiety increasing, not just from it opponents but many of those who claim to be its supporters. ‘No, that’s an unhelpful point’, many will say, ‘things will carry on much as they have before but with women simply able to exercise a full ministry alongside that of the men’.

But I maintain the point. My experience, in the church of which I am vicar, is that when women’s ministry is allowed to flourish to the full, the entire atmosphere of a church is transformed. Preaching, pastoral care, sacramental ministry, the occasional offices, the nature of services and, above all, the strategy and direction of the local church are all enriched beyond measure. Various practical reasons can be advanced for this. But at a theological level it is because the male and female both being allowed their full role, is bringing about a much deeper reflection of the image of God and a much greater anticipation in our worship of the new creation. It is this that has brought about the transformation within many local churches that have experienced the full ministry of women.

Where such transformation is now most badly needed is within the higher leadership and structures of the Church of England. I am extremely excited about the impact that women bishops will have upon the leadership of Areas and Dioceses where the gifts and talents of women, at last able to have a more strategic impact, will undoubtedly bring a greater humanity and relevance to the face of the church and care of the clergy.

But the change I expect to be most transforming of all is to that of the nature of the House of Bishops. Reinforced by its representation of only one gender, many within this body are hopelessly out of touch with both parishes and clergy and increasingly characterised by what has been accurately termed ‘delusions of adequacy’.

Hence my distraught response to the fact that it is the greatest symptom of the problem that women bishops will address, that has seen fit to amend the legislation in the way that it has. It is bad enough that the amendments have been made at the eleventh hour and fly in the face of the clear will of the elected General Synod. But where the real problem lies is in this group of men deciding to use their power to ensure that women do not become bishops on the same footing as them.

My strong suspicion is that there are factors at work here that go beyond the desire to safeguard the most obvious opponents of the measure. Those in possession of power are usually very intuitive to danger, and the current set of bishops know that there will be far less places for them to hide if women are allowed to join them as equals. Better to allow women in but with areas of vulnerability preserved to keep them beholden to their male colleagues. From this perspective the amendments are less to do with protecting the minority who oppose women bishops (who would be quite adequately covered by a Code of Practice), than trying to ensure that the impact of this development is kept ‘safe’ and away from changing any more than it has to about the status quo…

Elaine Storkey Women Bishops Legislation

I am on the horns of a considerable dilemma. We are now at the point where it should be possible to admit women to the office of Bishop, and thus to full participation in the ministry of the Church of England. Like so many others, I have become convinced, over the years, that this is the outworking of biblical vision for the church, something I have written, worked and prayed for, hoping that we would know the unity of the Holy Spirit as we moved on together. Each time the issue has come before the General Synod I feel we have moved closer to understanding the key issues. We have discussed them from the standpoint of theology, ecclesiology, pastoral care and mission. We have looked carefully at ways in which we can make provisions for those in the church who remain opposed to women’s full inclusion. We have sent the Measure around the dioceses for their scrutiny and approval. And we have done all this under the bemused gaze of the media, who wonder why on earth it takes us so long and why we don’t get on with it; when generations of convinced but bewildered parliamentarians, eager to ratify this change constitutionally, have been and gone. And now, after two decades of debate, six years of consultation, two years of careful scrutiny of submissions by the revision committee, twelve months of painstaking drafting, more months of discussion in deaneries and parish councils, with diocesan approval finally signed and sealed, and the day of decision fast approaching, I feel I cannot support the Measure in the amended form that it now comes before us.

So how has this sea-change come about? The process must seem odd in the extreme to anyone outside the procedures of Synod. At the end of the final drafting stage, the House of Bishops – an all-male assembly – has met behind closed doors, and brought forward new proposals in the shape of amendments, which cannot now be further amended by Synod. In my twenty-five years on Synod, I have never known this to happen – it is constitutional but unprecedented. It has been left to a group of six people, representing the convocations of clergy, bishops and the house of laity to decide, by majority, whether the amendments changed the Measure presented to the dioceses. It was hardly a representative group, since it included the two Archbishops who were party to the amendments, so the outcome was inevitable. Yet the groundswell of opinion outside that group is that Clause 5 now does change the Measure substantially, however subtly it is worded…


Roman Catholic response to equal civil marriage consultation

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Responds to the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has responded to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage.

In his accompanying letter to the Home Secretary, the Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith says:

“In the interest of upholding the uniqueness of marriage as a civil institution for the common good of society, we strongly urge the Government not to proceed with legislative proposals which will ‘enable all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony’”.

Equal Civil Marriage Consultation: Archbishop Smith’s Cover Letter

Equal Civil Marriage Consultation: CBCEW Response


Welsh bishops respond to equal civil marriage consultation

The bishops of the Church in Wales have responded to the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation. The full statement is available here and is copied below.

The Church in Wales
Response to:
(Government Equalities Office, March 2012)


This is a response from the Bishops of the Church in Wales.

We note that at no point in the consultation document is the Church in Wales mentioned: paragraph 2.10, for example, refers exclusively to the Church of England. The Church in Wales is in an almost identical position to the Church of England with regard to the solemnisation of marriages. The Church in Wales’ concerns about the legal implications are therefore the same as those of the Church of England. We have taken note of these, and would seek assurances that the Government would specifically include the Church in Wales in any provisions for the Church of England under the proposed legislation.



more coverage of CofE statement on equal civil marriage

There has been a deluge of coverage in the media since yesterday morning.

On Channel 4 News last night, The Bishop of Leicester and The Revd Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Archbishops’ Council, were among those interviewed. The several reports are all linked from this page.

This morning the Telegraph reports Ministers signal gay marriage could take place in church.

And the Independent reports We do… MPs to give strong show of support to same-sex marriage.

The Daily Mail has Cameron CANNOT protect Church against gay marriage laws (says his own Justice minister)

The Guardian has this editorial today: Gay marriage: progress v the pulpit

The Independent has this leading article: Nothing but hyperbole on same-sex marriage

Yesterday the Guardian reported Church of England accused of scaremongering over gay marriage.

Simon Jenkins wrote The marriage of church and state is anything but gay.

Adam Wagner wrote Gay marriage: the Church of England’s argument dissected.

Giles Fraser wrote The Church of England says it is against gay marriage. Not in my name.

In the Telegraph George Carey wrote Gay marriage is a threat to the bonds of Church and state.

Steve Doughty wrote in Mail Online Is it any wonder that the Church doesn’t trust the Government on gay marriage?


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Church of England responds to government on Equal Civil Marriage

The Church of England has published its response to the Home Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage.

The full text of its response can be read as a PDF file here. The response starts with this:

A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation – “Equal Civil Marriage” – from the Church of England


The Church of England cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

The consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious”. This is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage. The assertion that “religious” marriage will be unaffected by the proposals is therefore untrue, since fundamentally changing the state‘s understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed.

To remove the concept of gender from marriage while leaving it in place for civil partnerships is unlikely to prove legally sustainable. It is unlikely to prove politically sustainable to prevent same sex weddings in places of worship given that civil partnerships can already be registered there where the relevant religious authority consents. And there have to be serious doubts whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. For each of these reasons we believe, therefore, this consultation exercise to be flawed, conceptually and legally.

Our arguments are set out in greater detail below…

The previous background statement is still available here.

The Church of England has also issued a press release, the text of which can be read here, and which is copied below the fold. Note the quotation marks in the headline: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation – “Equal Civil Marriage” – from the Church of England

Press coverage of this is extensive, with front page stories in many cases:

Independent Gay marriage is one of the worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England

Telegraph Gay marriage raises prospect of disestablishment, says Church of England and
Editorial comment: Church and state collide over same-sex marriage

Guardian Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

The Times is not available online except by subscription but you can see its front page here. As you can see, the headline is Gay Marriage plan could divorce Church from State

BBC Church of England warning on gay marriage

Daily Mail Plans to allow gay marriages ‘could force Church to split from the state’ for first time in 500 years



Women bishops legislation: WATCH Statement of Concerns

The National WATCH Committee has released a paper setting out its position on the House of Bishops’ amendments to the draft legislation on female bishops: A Statement of our Concerns.

The paper is quite long, but here are the conclusions (from page 7).

WATCH’s conclusions

The bishops have argued that they have not changed the substance or intention of the Measure, and hope that when looked at dispassionately and carefully everyone will agree with them.

Our conclusions, after consultation and careful and dispassionate consideration, are these:

1. The House of Bishops has made changes that are significant in how the draft legislation might work in practice. In so doing, it has de-stabilised the legislative process: there is no clear way forward towards July’s General Synod.

2. The amended draft legislation comes to General Synod for approval this July. It is not possible for Synod to amend the legislation further at this stage – though it could be referred back to the House of Bishops for reconsideration.

3. WATCH consistently supported the unamended Measure that was supported by 42/44 dioceses, as an act of generosity to those opposed and a compromise from our preferred route of the simplest possible legislation.

4. The bishops were repeatedly informed by those supporting the Measure that any amendment along these lines would put the Measure at greatly increased risk of defeat in July. They are now expressing surprise at our reaction. We wonder what it is that stops the House of Bishops hearing and taking seriously the voices of ordained women and all who support their ministry.

5. Our principal concerns about Clause 5(1)c are:
i) It legitimates negative theologies about women and expects women to live with permanent institutional uncertainty about their orders. This is bad for women and bad for the Church.
ii) It opens the way for parishes to require a bishop and priest in accordance with their theological convictions. This is a new and unwelcome departure for our Church that will lead to conflict and increasing fragmentation.

6. The amendment to clause 5 means that the legislation no longer meets the objective of the Manchester Report (2008) that legislation should ‘avoid any flavour of discrimination or half-heartedness by the Church towards women priests and bishops.’

7. WATCH has grave concerns about the amendment to Clause 5 and the WATCH committee cannot support the Measure as it now stands. However, it will fall to General Synod members, to make up their own minds and decide whether, in good conscience, they can support the legislation as amended.

8. Our consultation suggests that the amended Measure is at grave risk of being voted down by the very Synod members who most strongly support women becoming bishops. It is a tragedy that after so much work and so much compromise, this should be the situation a month before the final vote.

9. Despite our disappointment, WATCH remains committed to working constructively with others to find a way forward that does not further institutionalise discrimination and create a Church divided in law.

National WATCH Committee
11 June 2012


Denmark: Same-Sex Marriages in Church

From Homosexuals get church weddings

The Danish Folketing has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a full ecclesiastical marriage service in the national Evangelical-Lutheran church for homosexual couples, to be instituted as a full, official marriage equal to that of heterosexual couples.

After a lengthy and sometimes heated debate, which ran some three hours over its expected time, 85 members voted in favour of the law, 24 against and with two abstentions.

Homosexuals in Denmark have not hitherto been able to enter into marriage, but only into registered partnerships. The new law means that homosexual couples can choose whether to be married in church or at a town hall.

Both the Liberal and Conservative parties removed their party whips for Thursday’s vote due to internal differences, leaving the decision to their individual members’ convictions.

Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs Manu Sareen (SocLib), who has used much of his ministerial tenure to develop and defend the proposal, says the parliamentary decision is historic.

“This is along the lines of when we got women priests. I am really happy. It is something all three government parties have wanted for many years,” Sareen says…

and in the Telegraph: Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.
Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, called the vote “historic”.

“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples.”

Under the law, individual priests can refuse to carry out the ceremony, but the local bishop must arrange a replacement for their church.

The far-Right Danish People’s Party mounted a strong campaign against the new law, which nonetheless passed with the support of 85 of the country’s 111 MPs…