The text of the lecture has been published by Theos, and can be found here: Does Establishment have a Future?
The same page has links to recordings of the lecture itself, and the following Q&A session.
Last week, The Tablet carried an (unsigned) editorial comment about the impact of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on the establishment of the Church of England. The full text of this article is, with the express permission of the Editor of The Tablet, reproduced below the fold.
Editorial from The Tablet issue dated 25 May 2013
The Church of England’s position as “the Church by law established” has been weakened by the progress of the legislation to permit the marriage of same-sex couples. Not only is the law on marriage under review, but so is the nature of the Church-State relationship.
What is surprising is how few in the Conservative Party, trad itionally the party of throne and altar, seem to be aware of this. It is as if the nation is taking a significant step towards disestablishment in a fit of absent-mindedness. Perhaps not so absent-minded on the part of the more vociferous secularists, however, who have been aware all along of the potential for the gay-marriage issue to further their own agenda. They needed the Church to do its best to stop the legislation, and fail. Although the battle is not yet finished, events do appear to be going their way.
The clergy of the Church of England solemnise about a quarter of all marriages in England, and so far the law of marriage they administer has been the law of the land. This is unlike the case of the Catholic, Jewish or Muslim communities, who have their own marriage laws, customs and courts where their own doctrines of marriage take precedence. Thus the law of the land can say two people are married, but the internal regulations of each faith community can still maintain that they are not. They can ignore the civil recognition of gay marriages if they want to, in a way the Church of England cannot. At least until the gay-marriage legislation becomes law, those that the common law of England says are married are those the Established Church says are married, and vice versa, with no distinction. In a briefing note to MPs, the Church of England explained that “the assertion that ‘religious marriage’ will be unaffected by the proposals” was misleading, as “at present there is one single institution and legal definition of marriage, entered into via a civil or religious ceremony. Talk of ‘civil’ and ‘religious’ marriage is erroneous…”
Henceforth, if and when gay marriage becomes law, the Church of England will be like the Catholic, Muslim and most Jewish communities in having a definition of marriage that excludes same-sex couples. The Government has drafted legal protection for the Church of England that in effect bans it from marrying gay couples. But that will put in place the very distinction between “civil and religious marriage” which the briefing document rejected, the absence of which has until now been one of the defining characteristics of the Church of England’s unique status.
So the Church is being forced to move towards becoming a private self-governing institution with its own internal rules, alongside other institutions in civil society – in other words, towards disestablishment. Some inside the Church of England will welcome that as good for the Church. But the larger question for the rest of society, including other faith communities, is whether that is good for everyone else. Indeed, some outside will hail it as a further step towards the exclusion of religion from the public square, where faith becomes a purely private matter. That is precisely how the victory for gay marriage has been greeted in France. At least the French have had a better idea of what is at stake.