Thinking Anglicans

Legislation on Women Bishops Becomes Law at General Synod

York signs

The Archbishop of York signs the Instrument of Enanactment.

Press release from Church House

Legislation on Women Bishops Becomes Law at General Synod
17 November 2014

The General Synod has today enacted the measure enabling women to be ordained as Bishops in the Church of England.

The formal enactment of the legislation – Amending Canon 33 – followed the vote on final approval by the Synod at its meeting in July of this year. Since that time the legislation has been approved in Parliament and received Royal Assent.

The final legislative requirements took place during a session chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, on the first day of the Synod’s meeting in London.

With the Instrument of Enactment having been read to Synod the motion was put without debate, with only a simple majority required for approval. Following the item being passed the legislation was signed into law by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York before the whole Synod.

Following the vote Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said:

“Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together. We will also continue to seek the flourishing of the church of those who disagree.”


The text of the amending canon and instrument of enactment can be seen here

The following dioceses are currently vacant and are waiting to appoint a diocesan bishop:

Southwell & Nottingham
The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich were the last diocese to select a Bishop under the former rules.

The following suffragan (assistant) bishop posts are currently Vacant and are awaiting appointment:

Any of the above vacant posts may now be filled by a male or female priest.

After the vote the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed that the CNC for Southwell & Nottingham (which has had its first, but not second meeting) had been allowed to consider women.


Amending Canon No 33

The General Synod of the Church of England has today, by clear show of hands, passed a motion enacting Amending Canon No 33. The effect of the amendment is to enact that:

A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of Bishop.


Oxford Faith Debates discuss People and Diversity

The Oxford Faith Debates are continuing every fortnight and there are two more to go. Full details of the programme are here.

Debate 3 titled People – how can Anglicans of all kinds be engaged in the Church of the future? included contributions from four panelists and another four “provocateurs” including one of the editors of this website. Recordings of the entire proceedings are available here. (My bit is close to the end at minute 41 of the discussion.)

Lorraine Cavanagh another of the Provocateurs last week has written this article: The Church of England must remain credible as well as viable also available over here.

Both she and I will be returning for Debate 4 this coming Thursday when the subject is Diversity – what kind of unity is appropriate nationally and internationally, how can diversity become a strength?



updated Saturday night

Frederick Schmidt What is a seminary faculty?

These three articles look at the Church of England statistics issued on Monday.

David Keen New CofE stats: we did better than UKIP, but still not well enough
Norman Ivison The clock is ticking
Bev Botting New Stats, New Findings
Giles Fraser The Guardian The Church of England is actually holding up pretty well in an adverse market

Angela Denker Sojourners 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

Leading article in The Spectator Thank heavens for Justin Welby!


David Keen has also published Latest CofE stats: Attendance by Diocese 2009-13.


Statistics For Mission 2013

The Church of England has published its Statistics For Mission 2013 today, along with the following press release.

New statistics for 2013 show average of one million people attend services each week
10 November 2014

New Church of England statistics for 2013 published today show that an average of one million people attend services each week, down about 1% on the previous year.

The one million figure relates to regular weekly parish and cathedral services and does not include other core services carried out by the Church of England on a regular basis. With some 2,000 baptisms, 1,000 weddings and 3,000 funerals conducted every week it is estimated that a further half a million people attend a service conducted by a Church of England minister every week. In addition the count (which takes place in October) does not include the many carol and nativity services during Advent and many other regular services responding to community need. The services carried out by the Church of England’s chaplains in hospitals, prisons, schools, universities and military bases are also excluded from the attendance totals. Figures for Christmas attendance show a stable trend, with 2.4 million people attending services on Christmas Eve and Day – where figures have hovered around the 2.5 million mark over the past decade.

Speaking on the publication of the statistics, the Bishop of Sheffield, The Rt. Revd. Steven Croft, said:

“These figures show the Church of England continues to serve the nation with a core of 1 million activist members who worship faithfully each week.

“At a time when membership of political parties is at an historic low and in a society which feels increasingly time squeezed, it is conspicuous that the Church of England’s committed weekly base of parish worshippers remains a million strong with the last Census showing many millions more identifying with the Church.

“In addition to the regular worshipping core the Church continues to serve all those who look to us to mark the most important events of their life journey through weddings, baptisms and funerals. Through these services alone we estimate that a further half a million people attend Church every week of the year, many of whom will be only fringe or occasional visitors.”

A new part of the 2013 research reveal that nearly half of the 67,000 new joiners to churches are coming for the first time rather than from another church. This was the first time a split was introduced in the joiners and leavers section to measure those moving to or from other local churches.

There was also new research on attendance at advent services including nativity and carol services – outside of usual Sunday services. Although not every church gave figures, attendance at special services during advent is estimated to be around 5 million.

A change in baptism trends shows that adult baptisms are on the increase over the past decade – from 8,000 per year to 11,000 per year, an increase of 32% over the last 10 years.

The statistics are available at:

Earlier statistics are available here.


Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships

book cover
Anglican Social Theology: Renewing the Vision Today London: SCM Press, 2014 ISBN 978-0-3340-5188-6. pp. xvii + 111. £16.99 pbk.

Jeremy Fletcher reviews ‘Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships’

Robert Song is Professor of Theological Ethics at Durham University. He was an adviser to the Church of England House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, chaired by Joe Pilling, and therefore had a role in that group’s report, which he signed. Song says that the group ‘provided the context in which the thoughts in this book germinated’.

Covenant and Calling is fully aware of the wider context: that the Pilling Report contained its own ‘Dissenting Statement’ from the Bishop of Birkenhead; that it could only outline an indication of the processes to come, and could not make clear and unambiguous statements about same-sex relationships; that different views on same-sex relationships choose very different foundations on which to construct their arguments; and that such varying views rarely contain the tools for reconciliation to be achieved.

Others will be able to review Covenant and Calling using their expertise in biblical interpretation, in theological ethics, in systematic theology and in the study of eschatology. All of these are required fully to engage with what is a deceptively slim volume. My starting point is as a jobbing vicar who exercises a pastoral ministry recognisable to most Anglican parish clergy. My practical engagement with theological ethics is at the level of the remarriage of the divorced and what to do with the faithful Christian same-sex couple for whom the most natural thing in the world is to come to church following their civil partnership.

From this perspective, Covenant and Calling offers very little specific help, and it does not pretend to. It does not offer a magic bullet which will instantly transform what will be dreadfully painful ‘facilitated conversations’, soon to begin. Neither will it unite the Primates of the Anglican Communion joyfully around a solution to the intractable problem that in one province not to bless same-sex unions is an offence to the gospel, and in another province to bless them gives the same offence.

But … it does offer a starting point which may offer some common ground to those who are in disagreement. Song does not begin with the battleground of Scriptural texts, nor the claims of contemporary culture, nor an anthropological analysis of the role of marriage in society, but with eschatology. If, as Luke 20, Matthew 22 and Mark 12 state, there is no marriage or giving in marriage in the age to come, then how is our status as those ‘in Christ’ affected by the present experience of our future hope? As Song puts it “a created world of which marriage and the birth of children are crucial defining features will be fulfilled in a resurrected world in which neither is present” (p. 16). “The coming of Christ resituates marriage” (p. 23)

Song deliberately takes a conservative view on the temporal ‘goods’ of marriage, notably that, as a creation ordinance, marriage is defined by, or at least ‘open to’ procreation, and therefore has an inextricable relationship with differentiation of gender. He also recognises celibacy as an eschatological calling for some. What he proposes is a third possibility, equal in status to both marriage and celibacy: ‘covenant partnership’ which echoes the ‘goods’ of marriage insofar as they express the values of or future calling, but does not require procreation, since in the realm where there is no death there needs to be no birth. Song’s contention is that, just as most recognise that not every marriage requires procreation for its validity, so there can be a new set of faithful covenanted relationships which do not need to be defined as marriage in order to express our future calling and our present experience of the Trinity.

Crucially this does not need the situation of same-sex couples to be its starting point, in that deliberately childless marriages are of the same category. But it is clearly a framework which can see the faithful and permanent love of a non-procreating couple as an expression of the love of God, and that sexual expression not leading to procreation can be a physical expression of that covenant relationship. This would apply as much to same-sex as to heterosexual couples.

Song approaches this from various angles, including a view of Scripture which does not shy away from a ‘conventional’ reading of the six or so main texts, but allows for a recognition of a ‘direction of travel’ in the Bible which might allow for a reframing of relationships in the way he proposes. In that regard his treatment of Biblical interpretation and the issues of slavery and just war theory were very instructive to this ethical amateur.

Covenant and Calling has no direct answers to aid the Vicar responding to a same-sex couple who would like to marry. Rather, stepping back, it asks for a “major reimagination of the churches’ relations to the culture”, and guards against both an “endorsement of current trends” and a “reactionary response which condemns the sexual revolution out of hand” (p. 97). Robert Song offers some tools for engaging in this debate which I have not been offered before, and does so in a way which takes Scripture, tradition and contemporary society seriously, while seeking to transcend them all in an eschatological perspective I had not seen articulated in quite this way.

Song himself says that much of the approach is “tentative”, not least how to relate covenant partnerships to existing modes of civil partnership and marriage, and whether these can be expressed legally and liturgically. But there is enough here for those at the sharp edge of the debates to gather around, and at least to express their common understandings of the nature of their disagreements. And there is a future hope around which to gather too, for in the end all our understandings based in the experience of the created order will be taken up into the new age, and everything will be transformed.

Stanley Hauerwas’s blurb for the book talks about Robert Song opening up “a new space for discussions and questions”. It was certainly new for me, and was a welcome relief from the Prime Minister’s Question Time nature of much of the current debate. For that I’m grateful. Whether it will help in the next two years of facilitated conversations remains to be seen. And I’ll be fascinated to read what those coming from a conservative position make of it all.

Should you read it? Yes.

Jeremy Fletcher is the Vicar of Beverley Minster in the diocese of York.



Rachel Harden, the Church of England’s Deputy Director of Communications, writes about Blogging Faith.

Alex Willmott If you can’t lead a church, don’t lead a church

Kevin P Emmert Christianity Today New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies

Kelvin Holdsworth Becoming a Welcoming Cathedral

Pat Henking “Priestly Formation” is a Term that Really Bugs Me!


suffragan Bishop of Burnley


It has been announced from 10 Downing Street this morning that the Revd Philip North is to be the next Bishop of Burnley in the diocese of Blackburn:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Philip John North, MA, Team Rector of the Parish of Old Saint Pancras, in the Diocese of London, to the Suffragan See of Burnley, in the Diocese of Blackburn, in succession to the Right Reverend John William Goddard, BA, on his resignation on 31 August 2014.

A press release from Forwad in Faith comments:

Forward in Faith is delighted at the news that Fr Philip North is to be the next Bishop of Burnley, in succession to Bishop John Goddard.

Fr North is well known for his pastoral gifts, his zeal for mission and evangelization, and his commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel, especially amongst the poor.

We are proud to welcome a new episcopal member of Forward in Faith, and we pray for Fr North as he prepares for his move, and for the whole people of God in the Diocese of Blackburn.

Update (Friday afternoon)
Blackburn diocese is now also carrying this news: next Bishop of Burnley to be the Reverend Philip North and quoting the bishop-designate:

“Some of you might be aware that I withdrew from an appointment as Bishop of Whitby. The fact that I have been invited and have agreed to serve as a Bishop again is testimony to the very different mood across the Church of England since the understandable disappointment that followed the failure in 2012 of the legislation to enable women to be bishops.

“The Church has stated afresh its commitment to enabling all traditions to flourish within its life and structures, and I hope that my appointment will be seen as evidence of that pledge.”

And the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, is quoted:

“I want to make it clear that I see Philip’s appointment as a clear sign the Anglican Church in Lancashire is living out these five guiding principles.

“I wanted to have an episcopal colleague who is from the traditionalist catholic constituency and Philip fulfils that role well. He comes to serve the whole Diocese. He will also have particular care for those people who cannot accept the ministry of women as Bishops and Priests in the Church — and he will have my wholehearted support in carrying out this important work.”


Future composition of the Lords Spiritual

David Pocklington has written for Law & Religion UK about the Future composition of the Lords Spiritual.

The announcement to both Houses of the Royal Assent to the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure completed the parliamentary stages of the legislation and brought to the fore the issue of “fast tracking” women in the episcopate to the Lords Spiritual…

The issues that remain, therefore, are: how this is to be accomplished; and what form this fast-tracking/positive discrimination will take…

He goes on to explain why this will require an Act of Parliament rather than a Church Measure. He then looks at what might replace the present “Buggins’ turn” method of appointing the most senior diocesan bishops and allow women more quickly to join the Lords Spiritual.



Michael Sadgrove Extraverts and Introverts: a plea for understanding

David Keen Vicars – A Great Resource Squandered?

Brother Ivo Defending Lord Hope -different times, different understandings

Kelvin Holdsworth Beware of the Celibate

Giles Fraser The Guardian Superstition can’t be exorcised just by simply turning off the God switch


Progress in Jeremy Pemberton's tribunal case

This action was first reported here.

The following announcement was issued today:

“Following a preliminary hearing held on 30th October 2014, the Employment Tribunal case between the Revd Canon Jeremy Pemberton (Claimant), the Right Revd Richard Inwood, the Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham (1st Respondent) and the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York (2nd Respondent) will be proceeding to a full hearing and has been listed for June 2015. Neither Jeremy Pemberton nor his husband, Laurence Cunnington, will be making any comments on the case at this stage.”


Seal of the Confessional

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK wrote this last month: CofE to axe seal of confessional? Today he published this update: Seal of confessional: its future in the CofE. Together these clearly describe the current position.

Do read both articles, but I draw attention to part of what the Archbishop of York said in his statement on the Waddington Enquiry:

… one of those who reported abuse to the Inquiry has since asked me specifically to raise the question of The Confessional. His view is that disclosures made in the context of a formal Confession which give rise to safeguarding concerns should not enjoy absolute confidentiality.

I have every sympathy with this view, and therefore welcome the fact that the Archbishops’ Council has decided to commission theological and legal work with a view to exploring whether the current position in relation to admissions of abuse in the context of a formal Confession should be changed. That work and any recommendations arising from it will need to be discussed with the House of Bishops before any proposals for change are brought before the General Synod.

This matter will undoubtedly be raised during a take-note debate on draft revised Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy (GS 1970) at General Synod next month. There is an accompanying paper specifically on the ministry of absolution (GS Misc 1085) which confirms the Archbishop’s statement that the Archbishops’ Council is to commission a review of the seal of the confessional.


Archbishop's lobby speech

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave this speech at the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch in the House of Commons yesterday. He also answered questions. Amongst other topics he spoke about child abuse within the Church of England.

Michael White and Rajeev Syal The Guardian Church of England to examine 1950s records in child abuse investigation

Georgia Graham and John Bingham The Telegraph Justin Welby: I broke down in tears at horror of Church child abuse

He also spoke about immigration.

John Bingham and Georgia Graham The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury condemns politicians who view immigration as a ‘deep menace’

Nigel Morris The Independent Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby: There is no immigrant ‘menace’

BBC Immigration needed in UK, Archbishop of Canterbury says



Ian Paul How to save a diocese
Gillan Scott How to prevent the extinction of the Church of England
Jonathan Clatworthy Does the Church still need parishes?

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Women in the Episcopate Bill gains Royal Assent

Sarah and Lindsey blogs at A Queer Calling When the Church’s “Welcome” to LGBT People Hurts

Neil Hodgson of the Liverpool Echo has been talking to Andrew Ware of church suppliers Hayes & Finch.


Online General Synod papers

The papers for next month’s meeting of General Synod on 17 and 18 November are now all online here in agenda order. Here is a list in numerical order, with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration.

GS 1919B – Draft Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure [Monday]
GS 1919Z – Report of the Steering Committee

GS 1921B – Draft Ecclesiastical Property Measure [Monday]
GS 1921Z – Report of the Steering Committee

GS 1926D – Amending Canon No.33 [Monday]

GS 1935A – Draft Naming of Dioceses Measure [Monday]
GS 1935Y – Report of the Revision Committee

GS 1964A – Draft Amending Canon No.35 [Monday]
[see notice paper 2]

GS 1965A and GS 1965B – Diocesan Synod Motion on spare room subsidy [Tuesday]

GS 1966 – Agenda

GS 1967 – Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 1968 – Draft Scheme amending the Diocese in Europe Constitution 1995 [Monday]
GS 1968x – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1969 – Draft Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure [Monday]
GS 1969x – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1970 – Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy (draft edition) [Monday]

GS 1971 – The Anglican-Methodist Covenant: Report from the Council for Christian Unity [Tuesday]

GS 1972A and GS 1972B – Private Member’s Motion on Canon B 38 [contingency business]

Other Papers

GS Misc 1085 – Guidelines for the professional conduct of the clergy (The Ministry of Absolution)

GS Misc 1086 – A background note on Violence against Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria [Tuesday]

GS Misc 1088 – Representative of Pentecostal Churches of the General Synod

GS Misc 1089 – The Porvoo Declaration – New signatories

GS Misc 1090 – Women in the Episcopate – appointment of Independent Reviewer

GS Misc 1091 – Report on the Archbishops’ Council’s activities


General Synod agenda published

The final agenda and the papers for next month’s meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England are published today, along with this press release summarising the agenda.

Final agenda for General Synod published
24 October 2014

The General Synod of the Church of England meets in London in November for a two day meeting from 13.45 on Monday 17 November until 17.00 on Tuesday 18 November.

The Agenda for the meeting is published today. After the usual introductory material, including the debate on the report by the Business Committee the Synod will be invited to enact Amending Canon No. 33 to allow women to be bishops. This will be followed by a Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Various items of legislative business will follow. Some of these will run into the following day, when a further slot for legislative business has been allocated at 12 noon. The Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure and the Church of England (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure will both return to the Synod for their Final Drafting and Final Approval Stages. . Amending Canon No. 35 (relating to Canon B 12) and the Naming of Dioceses Measure will both undergo their Revision Stages. A new draft Measure allowing diocesan stipends funds to invest on a ‘total return’ basis will be introduced for First Consideration. Finally, the Synod will be asked to approve a Scheme amending the Diocese in Europe’s Constitution.

Following the legislative business, there will be a Take Note debate on the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy. This is a draft document prepared by the Convocations of York and Canterbury which updates the existing Guidelines dating from 2003 to take account of new developments in secular and Church legislation and pastoral practice, as well as liturgical developments. Following comment by General Synod, the draft Guidelines will return to the Convocations for further consideration. After a short period of worship, the day will conclude with Synod Questions.

Tuesday 18th November will start with Holy Communion which will lead into a presentation by a panel of speakers moderated by the Bishop of Coventry on Violence against Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria. The panel will include the Rt. Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Great Britain, who is one of our regular Ecumenical representatives on Synod and who is in close touch with churches in Iraq and Syria, Dr.Fuad Nahdi Executive Director of the Radical Middle Way and Founding Editor of the pioneering Q-News and the Revd Dr Rachel Carnegie, the Co-Director of the Anglican Alliance. There will be opportunities for Synod members to pose questions to the panel.

Any remaining legislative business will be taken at 12 noon. After lunch on Tuesday 18th November there will be a presentation followed by a debate on the Anglican Methodist Covenant. The Synod will be invited to endorse the recommendations in the Final Report of the Joint Implementation Commission which calls for both churches to take forward further work on the possibility of reconciling their ministries with a view to interchangeability.

There will be a debate on a Diocesan Synod Motion from the former Diocese of Bradford (now part of the Diocese of Leeds) regarding the Spare Room Subsidy. The motion reflects concern from the Diocese at the impact of the Spare Room Subsidy, also known as the “Bedroom Tax”.

Contingency business takes the form of a Private Member’s Motion by the Revd Canon Dr Michael Parsons (Gloucester) on Canon B38 (‘Of the burial of the dead’). The motion calls for the introduction of legislation so that the law would no longer make any distinction in the form of funeral service to be used when someone has taken their own life.


Synod papers, including the full agenda, can be found here.


Royal Assent for Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure 2014

From today’s Hansard:

House of Commons

Royal assent
Mr Speaker:

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Measure:

Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure 2014.

House of Lords

Royal Assent
11.18 am

The following Measure was given Royal Assent:

Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure.


Waddington Inquiry

Updated Wednesday evening, Thursday morning

The report of the Independent Inquiry, commissioned by the Archbishop of York and chaired by Judge Sally Cahill, into the Church of England’s handling of reports of alleged sexual abuse by the late Robert Waddington, formerly Dean of Manchester, was published today.

Press Association report in The Guardian Archbishop of York ‘deeply ashamed’ by church’s handling of abuse allegations

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Abusive priest ‘avoided prosecution because of failure to act on allegations’

Caroline Wyatt BBC Archbishop of York ‘wholehearted’ apology to abuse victims

Statement from the Archbishop of York

Statement from the Bishop of Manchester

Statement from Lord Hope of Thornes

At the request of some of those interviewed by the inquiry the report will not be made available in an electronic format but in hard copy only. Copies are available from Church House Bookshop.


Caroline Davies The Guardian Archbishop of York ashamed over Church of England’s abuse case failures

Madeleine Davies Church Times York Inquiry finds ‘systematic failure’ over abuse


Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure

Updated Monday morning and afternoon
Updated Thursday

The Measure completed is progress through Parliament today when the House of Commons agreed that it should be sent for Royal Assent.

The Hansard report of the debate is here.

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has this summary of the debate, Commons debate women in the episcopate, which also includes “Next Steps”. [There is a correction to this, published on Thursday.]

General Synod members were this morning sent this note from the Secretary General.

I am pleased to report that the House of Commons approved the Measure to enable women to become bishops yesterday evening. Following the successful outcome in the House of Lords last Tuesday the way is now clear for Royal Assent, which is expected this Thursday.

The royal licence for the canon will be needed before the canon can be enacted by the Synod on 17 November. But there is every reason to believe that that will be forthcoming and we shall be therefore be putting the papers for the November Synod in the post this Thursday. They will be on-line at 2pm on Friday when the usual pre-Synod press conference is held at Church House. The way is now clear for members to proceed with train and hotel bookings for November.

William Fittall


Conversion of Civil Partnerships to Marriages

The government has issued this press release:

Conversion of civil partnerships into marriage
From:Government Equalities Office and Nick Boles MP First published:15 October 2014

Revised regulations set out the process for the conversion of civil partnerships into marriages, giving couples more choice.

Couples in a civil partnership will have the option to convert it into a marriage before Christmas once regulations laid before Parliament today (15 October 2014) are approved.

This landmark change means couples in existing civil partnerships will be able to convert them into a marriage from 10 December this year.

Campaigners have called for a simple conversion into a marriage in a local register office, or couples can have a conversion into a marriage with a ceremony at an approved venue of their choice, including religious premises registered for marriages of same-sex couples.

Couples will be issued with a marriage certificate, which will show the marriage should be treated as existing from the date of the original civil partnership.

Minister for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles said:
“I know how important it is for couples to have the option of marriage available to them. This is the final stage in ensuring every couple has the option to be married.”

“This puts couples in control. They have the choice of whether they would like a simple conversion or would prefer to celebrate the occasion with a ceremony.”

In July the government laid draft regulations before Parliament based on responses to a public consultation which called for a simple process for conversion. The regulations have now been revised, taking into account views expressed over the summer.

The revised regulations – once approved by Parliament – give couples greater choice and still provide the religious protections, for any ceremony following a conversion into marriage, which are enshrined in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

For the first year, all couples who formed their civil partnership before 29 March 2014 (when marriage was extended to same sex couples) will be able to receive a £45 fee reduction. This means there would be no cost for the 1-stage option.

Further information

Couples will have the choice of:

  • a simple process at a register office, which was outlined in the original regulations and now also includes a wider range of local authority offices where registrars have access to the necessary systems
  • the new option of a 2-stage process where a superintendent registrar or their deputy can complete the conversion at another venue – this will allow the couple’s family and friends to attend and a ceremony can follow immediately after

The conversion can take place at a wide range of approved premises such as hotels, stately homes and religious premises which have been registered for the marriage of same-sex couples.

For the first year, all couples who formed their civil partnership before 29 March 2014 (when marriage was extended to same sex couples) will be able to receive a £45 fee reduction. This means the 1-stage process will be free. The cost of providing the 2-stage process is higher as the procedure will take longer and the superintendent registrar will have to travel to the venue. People choosing the 2-stage process will have the same sum (£45) deducted from the total price.

The text of the draft regulations can be found here, and there is a PDF version here.