Thinking Anglicans

Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England is launched

PRESS RELEASE Embargoed until 00.01 Friday 12 April 2019
A new campaign, Equal, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England, is being launched to push for change in the official teaching and practice of the Church of England, so as to allow same-gender couples to marry in Church of England churches.

The Campaign has a simple three-point agenda:

  • Same-gender couples should be able to be married in Church of England parishes.
  • People in such marriages should have the same opportunities for lay and ordained ministry in the Church of England as anyone else.
  • The consciences of everyone should be protected – no member of the clergy should be forced to conduct a marriage they disagree with, but also no member of the clergy should be prevented from celebrating a marriage involving a same-gender couple.

We are launching this campaign on Friday 12 April, the fifth anniversary of the marriage of the Revd Jeremy Pemberton to Laurence Cunnington. Jeremy was the first priest of the Church of England to marry a same-gender partner and as a result was denied permission to take up a new post in an NHS Trust.The Church of England officially discriminates against LGBT+ people, in refusing to allow same-gender marriages in its buildings, or by its clergy in any building, and by excluding from its ministry both lay and ordained people who have so married. The Campaign believes that it is time for this to change. The Church of England should end this injustice and respect the consciences of the increasing majority of its members, who are supportive of gay and lesbian relationships (http://www.brin.ac.uk/figures/attitudes-towards-gay-rights/).

The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who is one of the team leading the new Campaign, said ‘We congratulate Jeremy and Laurence on their wedding anniversary, and rejoice with the many same- gender couples who have made lifelong, faithful commitments to each other in marriage in recent years.
‘The Church of England has spent too many years saying that it is sorry for the way that it treats LGBT+ people and condemning discrimination and prejudice, whilst at the same time continuing its own injustice towards us in marriage and ministry. It is time for what is done to match what is said, and for the Church of England to respect the conscience of the majority who are warmly supportive of same-gender relationships.
‘The Campaign is formed of faithful Anglicans who want to see change, and we will continue to work and pray for the day when any couple, gay or straight, can walk down the aisle of their local church to make their vows.’

Press enquiries to: info@cofe-equal-marriage.org.uk or Fr Andrew Foreshew-Cain on 07812 453230

Website: https://www.cofe-equal-marriage.org.uk/

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Erika BakerAnthony ArcherT PottKennedy Fraserpeterpi - Peter Gross Recent comment authors
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Kate
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Kate

It is impossible to respect everyone’s consciences. Priest: I won’t marry same sex couples Parishioner: I can’t accept sacraments from a priest who chooses to discriminate The circle cannot be squared. These proposals – by a minister – place the consciences of ministers above their lay parishioners. What a surprise. But very, very wrong. It is not just about marriage equality, it is about removing discrimination from the Bride of Christ. It is about ensuring that no couple approaches minister and is told, “marriage is between a man and a woman so a) I won’t marry you and b) if… Read more »

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

Kate I think the ‘ministers’ focus of this is a red herring. The way the marriage legalities in the Church of England are constituted, as the person registering the marriage, rightly or wrongly it’s clergy who are responsible. If the laity of a parish had the responsibility instead they could still exercise their ‘conscience’ to discriminate. The problem is not clergy being given a conscience opt out to discriminate in this area, it’s anyone, lay or ordained, being given one.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

That approach would never have changed my mind. And by the way, my heart was not cold.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
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Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Thank God for Fr Andrew, and every Blessing on this campaign. ‘Many waters cannot quench love; neither can floods drown it’ Song of Solomon.

Fr John Emlyn and Robert

Susannah Clark
Guest

I disagree with Kate. I believe we absolutely should respect the right of conscience on the matter of gay and lesbian marriages. To do otherwise is to dominate other people’s sincerely held faith, conviction, and consciences. Therefore I think this new campaign has pitched it absolutely right. If a Church PCC or priest believe in all conscience that they owe it to their local community and LGBT people to let gay marriages take place, then their right of conscience should be respected. If a Church PCC or priest believe in all conscience that LGBT marriage is contrary to their sincere… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“I disagree with Kate. I believe we absolutely should respect the right of conscience on the matter of gay and lesbian marriages. To do otherwise is to dominate other people’s sincerely held faith, conviction, and consciences.” But that is saying that the purpose of the Church is to promote the interests of the clergy. It isn’t. It is one thing that GAFCON has right: the purpose of the Church is to be God’s ambassador on earth. (I know it is somewhat broader than one word, but ‘ambassador’ is enough for this purpose.) GAFCON believes that marriage can only be between… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Well written, Susannah. I believe strongly that, as the established church, the CofE should allow priests to conduct same-sex religious marriage rites, the CofE should value all of its congregation the same. But I also believe forcing priests to do so puts the pro-marriage side in a position similar to GAFCON: Believe our way — or else! But I do have a question: In the CofE, if a heterosexual couple approaches their local parish priest, and the couple is not encumbered by obstacles such as bigamy or a divorce with dubious documentation, etc., does the priest have to marry that… Read more »

T Pott
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T Pott

In most cases, yes, the priest does have to arrange for the couple to be married in the parish church, although not necessarily by the priest in person. He/she can arrange for another minister to officiate, or of course if there is a curate he or she might. The usual reason for using a minister from outside the parish would be because the parish priest was away or otherwise occupied, or the officiating minister is known to the couple. The priest does not need to give a reason and so could if he disapproved of a Muslim and Hindu couple… Read more »

Kennedy Fraser
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Kennedy Fraser

As someone not resident in England-shire, how would the proposed arrangement be different from the current arrangements for marrying divorced persons?

From: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/MarriageAFTERdivorceFORM.pdf

Some priests may be willing to take such a marriage, others may not be prepared to do so,
on grounds of conscience, and may not allow the use of their church either. The law of the
land permits them this choice.

Erika Baker
Guest

That’s an interesting question. It would depend on how the law is changed. Because divorce is not covered by the Equality Act, and so there is no right to equal treatment. Also, a priest who does not marry divorced people does not marry *any* divorced people.
What they would not be able to do is to marry only white divorced people and not black ones.
You cannot discriminate on the grounds of protected criteria, and sexuality is one of those.

I would think, though, that it should be possible to change the law so that individual opt-outs are possible.

Kennedy Fraser
Guest
Kennedy Fraser

I take your point on the the fact that being divorced is not a ‘protected’ characteristic. Also, a priest who does not marry divorced people does not marry *any* divorced people. I am sure that some priests distinguish between different circumstances surrounding the divorce(s) in determining whether to marry people. I have heard whether the person presenting was the ‘guilty’ party or whether the former spouse is still alive can have a bearing on their decision. It seemed to me to be a similar situation where the priest’s conscience is already taken into account. But, at least England has a… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest

The difficulty in terms of the law is that sexuality is a protected criterion under the Equality Act. You are simply not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of someone’s sexuality. The removal of the quadruple lock would have to happen in a way that made it legally possible for clergy to continue to discriminate. Unlike women priests, marriage is not something that comes under the sole responsibility of the church and that is therefore subject to its own theology only. Because the CoE is the established church, everyone has the legal right to be married in their parish. So… Read more »

T Pott
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T Pott

Although the situation regarding remarriage of divorcees does in practice allow priests to refuse on grounds of conscience, that is not really where it is coming from. In principle, divorcees can remarry in church only in exceptional circumstances. The priest is supposed to make a quasi-judicial decision as to whether a particular case is sufficiently exceptional. In practice discretion is so wide as to be arbitrary, effectively a postcode lottery. In my view, this is unsatisfactory. However, the mere fact a priest refuses to marry a couple, does not imply he has a conscientious objection to doing so; or would… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest

I suppose, in terms of law, there is precedent for a registrar being permitted to refuse to marry a gay couple (https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/5-september/news/uk/appeal-won-by-registrar-who-refused-to-conduct-same-sex-weddings), so priests would be given that same opt-out.
It would be harder for parish churches to refuse to be venues for same sex marriages, but a legal solution might be found there too.

Equal wants marriage equality in the Church of England while respecting everyone’s conscience. That would leave options 2 and 3.

William
Guest
William

Kate states that ‘it is impossible to respect everyone’s consciences’ and then a few lines later asserts ‘it is about removing discrimination from the bride of Christ.’
Not respecting people’s consciences is discrimination- pure and simple. You can’t have it both ways.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

‘Not respecting people’s consciences is discrimination’.

Really? Sounds like false equivalence raising it’s head again to me. Discrimination isn’t just treating two sides differently, it’s unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice. So you’d want to show that the person opposing equal marriage is being treated unfairly as a result of prejudice, which is like arguing that not allowing employers to refuse to employ people of colour is discrimination against racists.

William
Guest
William

Comparing marriage restriction to racism is a classic example of false equivalence. There are many instances where restriction with respect to marriage is right. There are no instances where racism is right.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

Is that what we’re calling homophobia now, ‘marriage restriction’? Very Orwellian. Homophobia certainly has functional equivalence to racism. There are no instances where homophobia is right. Denying marriage to same sex couples is homophobia, pure and simple.

Rich
Guest
Rich

Link doesn’t seem to work.

Fr. Dean
Guest
Fr. Dean

Allowing clergy and PCCs to opt in or out of same sex marriage will create a postcode lottery as to who can get married. If a couple’s parish priest will not allow same sex marriage they will be unable to get married in church at all unless they have a qualifying connection to a parish that does allow same sex marriage. I suppose bishops could issue Common Licences or the archbishops Special Licences but my hunch is they won’t want to offend their conservative evangelical parishes and risk losing their financial contributions to the parish share. Much better if clergy… Read more »

John Wall
Guest
John Wall

Some folks here may be interested in visiting the website of an organization calle All Sacraments for All People (https://asaptn.org/), which was set up several years ago to advocate (successfully, it turns out) for Marriage Equality in the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee. The video included on the site is especially effective in setting forth the value of marraige equality and the personal cost of exclusion.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I think contributors to this post (and others) are rather getting ahead of the themselves. This is the Church of England remember! While ‘equal marriage’, however defined, is the destination of this vexed journey, we have barely set out. Words of ‘radical inclusion’, though welcome, don’t equate to measurable progress. Authorised liturgy for the blessing of SSM is likely to come first, not least as there is so much unauthorised DIY liturgy doing the rounds (which I approve of, but which is inevitably unhelpful in ecclesiological terms). Down the road a conscience clause will be a mandatory requirement, which is… Read more »