Thinking Anglicans

Women bishops and the recognition of Orders

The recent decision of the Church in Wales to allow women to be consecrated as bishops, and the election of a woman bishop in the Church of Ireland have prompted an article, Women bishops and the recognition of Orders, by Will Adam, editor of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, in Law and Religion UK about the implications for the Church of England.

… This is bound to bring up again the question of the recognition in a Church which does not permit the ordination of women as bishop of episcopal acts performed by a bishop who is a woman …

However, the consecration of a woman as a bishop in the Church of Ireland changes the situation. Deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of Ireland, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church are not considered as “overseas” clergy by the law applying to the Church of England. This is significant, because the permission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is not required for such ministers to be invited to exercise the ministry of their orders in England …

The article refers to this 2004 opinion from the Legal Advisory Commission of the Church of England: The Effect of Acts by women Bishops of Churches in Communion with the Church of England.

Kelvin Holdswoth writes about the same topic in Taint. He concludes with

What I’m interested in is that with respect of our current bishops in Scotland, all of them have either had a female co-consecrator present at their consecration, joined in consecrating someone with a female co-consecrator present or have been consecrated by someone who has had a female co-consecrator present at their own consecration.

What I wonder is whether those who apply the theology of taint believe that anyone at all (bishops, priests or deacons) now ordained in Scotland is legit.

Oh, and by the way an English bishop was present and joining in when this situation began. I was there – I saw it with my own eyes.

Where does this leave the Scottish Episcopal Church in relation to those who would deny the legitimacy of women to act as bishops? …

Do we, or do we not, remain in full communion with [all of] the Church of England?

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Church in Wales – Statement by Forward in Faith

THE CHURCH IN WALESDECISION ON WOMEN BISHOPS: STATEMENT BY FORWARD IN FAITH

Forward in Faith regrets the decision of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to authorize the ordination of women as bishops without first agreeing arrangements for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive episcopal ministry from them.

We cannot see how a female bishop could be what a diocesan bishop should be – a Father in God and a focus of unity for all within his diocese. This vote therefore makes the question of the provision of episcopal ministry for those who continue to uphold catholic faith and order in the Church in Wales even more pressing.

Experience in Wales and elsewhere does not give us confidence that the promised ‘code of practice’ could offer the level of assurance that would encourage growth and flourishing – so sorely needed in Wales – or the degree of certainty that would remove the possibility of damaging and distracting disputes.

Our brothers and sisters in Credo Cymru will seek to enter into dialogue with the Welsh bishops. We can only hope that their representations will be met with the generosity of spirit that ought to be the hallmark of Christian episcopacy. Meanwhile, we continue to pray for and with our Welsh sisters and brothers, encouraging them to follow St David in being joyful and keeping the faith.

+JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
Chairman
13 September 2013

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WATCH: Church in Wales says ‘Yes’ to women bishops

Women and the Church has issued this press release:

WATCH is delighted at the result of the vote on allowing women to become bishops passed by the Governing Body of the Church in Wales. In the end the vote was a straightforward one, either yes or no to allowing women to join the episcopate. The House of Laity voted For, 57, Against, 14, Abstentions, 2, in the House of Clergy For, 37, Against, 10 and Abstentions, 0 and in the House of Bishops For 6, Against, 0 and Abstentions, 0. The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan said before the vote that if it was a yes vote, the Bishops would consult widely on a code of practice and that there would be discussions about it at the Governing Body in April 2014.

The vote in Wales provides much encouragement to those praying and campaigning to see women take their rightful place alongside men at every level , including the episcopate, in the Church of England.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said “This is fantastic news and we are delighted that the Church in Wales has opted for simple legislation enabling women to become bishops. The vote will provide a welcome boost to the morale of female clergy well beyond the welsh borders and help to set a positive context for our own ongoing legislative process in the Church of England”

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Church in Wales votes in favour of women bishops

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales this afternoon voted in favour of the consecration of women as bishops. Here is the official press release.

Church votes to ordain women as bishops

A Bill to enable women to be consecrated as bishops was passed by members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales meeting at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Lampeter today.

The Bill was amended, following a lengthy and passionate debate, to become a one-stage vote to enable the consecration of women as bishops, with a “code of practice” to be written by the Bishops for those who in conscience could not accept the authority of women bishops. The amendment had been tabled by the Archdeacon of Llandaff, Peggy Jackson, and Revd Canon Jenny Wigley.

The Bill was proposed by the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, and seconded by the Bishop of Bangor, Andy John.

Addressing members, the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, said, “Thank you for the way in which the debate has been conducted and I hope you will trust us as Bishops to prepare a code of practice.”

Result:
House of Laity – 57 yes 14 no 2 absentions
House of Clergy – 37 yes, 10 no
House of Bishops – unanimous.

A two thirds majority was required in each house.

Update

ACNS reports Wales says ‘yes’ to women bishops.

One year from today, women priests can become bishops in the Church in Wales.

The historic decision to allow women bishops was made at today’s meeting of the Church’s Governing Body in Lampeter, Ceredigion.

The Bill that came before today’s meeting was a modified version of the one that was narrowly voted down in 2008.

The modification proposed that, were the Church to vote ‘yes’ to women bishops, a second Bill dealing with provision for those opposed to women bishops would be considered before any women were elected to the episcopate.

This would have delayed the election of women bishops in the Province for several years.

The Bill was amended, following a lengthy and passionate debate, to become a one-stage vote to enable the consecration of women as bishops, with a “code of practice” to be written by the bishops for those who in conscience could not accept the authority of women bishops. The amendment had been tabled by the Archdeacon of Llandaff, Peggy Jackson, and Revd Canon Jenny Wigley.

Wales now joins the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland, both of which allow women bishops, though which have not appointed any to date.

The members of the Governing Body meeting spent several hours in debate. Around 3pm it looked as if they were going to vote on whether to pass the amended bill. However, the group voted instead to continue the debate.

People around the world were able to follow the highlights of the debate on the Social Media microblogging site Twitter using #govbody. Comments came from people inside and outside the meeting in English and also in Welsh.

When the Church finally voted on the amended bill at 4.50pm, the following votes were cast:

Laity – For 57 Against 14 Abstentions 2.
Clergy – For 37 Against 10 Abstentions 0.
Bishops – Unanimously For.

To date there have been 33 women bishops in the Anglican Communion. Twenty-four are either in post or are bishop-elect.

The latest election of a woman to the episcopate is Helen-Ann Hartley, an English priest who will become a bishop the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia in early 2014.

With today’s decision, Wales joins Bangladesh, Brazil, Central America, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, North India, Philippines, Scotland, Sudan and Uganda as Provinces that permit women bishops but have not yet appointed any.

Those Provinces or ‘extra provincial’ churches or diocese with women bishops include Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia; Australia; Canada; Southern Africa; United States and Cuba (an extra-provincial diocese).

Press reports

BBC Church in Wales backs women bishops
Gavin Drake in the Church Times Church in Wales votes for women bishops
Wales Online Church in Wales votes to ordain women as bishops
Steven Morris in The Guardian Female bishops voted in by Church in Wales
John Bingham in The Telegraph Women bishops given go-ahead in Wales

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Church in Wales – Governing Body meeting

Updated Thursday morning

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales is meeting today (Wednesday) and tomorrow. The agenda, with links to the papers, is online here.

There are already two press releases

Be inspired by two great Welsh clerics, Archbishop tells Church
Archbishop calls on parishioners to invest in credit unions

with links to speeches by the Archbishop of Wales.

The main item of business tomorrow is the Bill to Enable Women to be Consecrated as Bishop. The meeting is scheduled to continue into Thursday afternoon.

Wales Online yesterday previewed the debate with Women bishops vote could be derailed again.

The chair of WATCH has sent this Message to the Church in Wales.

Update

BBC Church in Wales to vote on women bishops

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Women Bishops in Wales

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales will be meeting next month. On the agenda is a bill to allow women to be bishops. The Church has issued this press release today.

Church to vote on women bishops

The Church in Wales will decide next month whether or not to allow women priests to be ordained as bishops.

A Bill, proposed by the six diocesan bishops of the Church, will be voted on by the 144 members of the Church’s legislative arm, the Governing Body, at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, at Lampeter, on Thursday, September 12.

The Bill will need a two-thirds majority in each of the three sections of the Governing Body in order to be passed – the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. However, if it is passed, it will not come into effect until a second Bill, outlining a scheme of provision for those who cannot accept women bishops, is written and passed.

The process will start with a vote on three proposed amendments to the Bill.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, says, “Since we ordain women as deacons and priests it makes no theological sense not to ordain them as bishops since we believe in the three fold order of ministry. That is why I and my fellow bishops will be asking members of the Governing Body to vote in favour of the Bill. It would not be able to come into effect immediately but at least we would have established the principle to which I believe most people in the Church assent.”

This will be the Bishops’ second attempt to pass a Bill to ordain women as bishops. Their first Bill was defeated in April 2008 when it failed, by three votes, to secure a two-thirds majority in the House of Clergy.

The two-day Governing Body meeting begins on Wednesday at 1.30pm with an address by the President, the Archbishop of Wales. The Bill to enable the Consecration of Women as Bishops will be introduced on Thursday at 9.30am.

Also on the Agenda are:

  • Church in Wales Review – a progress report on the Review which will include a motion to support a framework for setting up “Ministry Areas” across Wales. A Ministry Area is a large group of churches led by a team of clergy and lay people. They are designed to replace the traditional parish system as a more effective structure for ministry for today’s society.
  • Schools – the launch of a bond to strengthen the relationship between church schools in Wales and the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. The Revd Janina Ainsworth, the General Secretary of the National Society, will address the Governing Body, before she joins the Archbishop to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the NS and the Church in Wales. The Memorandum marks a restatement of common purpose and shared commitment to the 25,000 pupils, staff and communities of the 165 Church in Wales schools.

The Bill and its proposed amendments, as well as the full Agenda of the Governing Body meeting, will be on the Church in Wales website after August 28 here.

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Welsh disestablishment

Although the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920, disestablishment was not complete (for example in the area of marriage law). The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the National Assembly for Wales has been inquiring into Law-making and the Church in Wales and their report was published yesterday. It recommends “that the Church in Wales should be fully disestablished”.

There are links to the report of the inquiry and to the evidence given to it by Professor Norman Doe, Professor Thomas Glyn Watkin, and the Archbishop of Wales here.

Frank Cranmer of Law & Religion UK explains it all in Disestablishing the Church in Wales – at last?

The Church in Wales has responded with this: Church responds to National Assembly law report.

Press reports inlcude

BBC Calls to cut Church in Wales’ ties with Parliament
Wales Online The Church in Wales should be granted fully disestablished status to solve ‘legislative limbo’, says Assembly committee

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Church leaders call on Government ministers to apologise

Press release from Methodist Church House

07 June 2013

Bishops and Church leaders call on Government ministers to apologise

  • 1 Churches, 4 nations, 1 message

An alliance of Churches representing Christians from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland has written to the Prime Minister asking for an apology on behalf of the Government for misrepresenting the poor.

Church leaders, including the Right Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, and the Right Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford, pointed out that in recent weeks senior members of the Government have given out misleading and inaccurate information about people on benefits. Outlining the inaccuracies, they asked for them to be corrected and for an apology to be offered to those who were misrepresented.

“We are concerned that these inaccuracies paint some of the most vulnerable in our society in an unfavourable light, stigmatising those who need the support of the benefits system,” the letter states. “No political or financial imperative can be given to make this acceptable.”

April saw some of the most controversial and wide ranging changes to the benefit system in a generation. In their letter, Church leaders, including the leaders of the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church, said that while they hold no common view on welfare reform, they all share the belief that that those in receipt of benefits are loved and valuable.

“What unites us is the belief that the debate around these reforms should be based on truthful information,” they write. “We ask you, as Prime Minister and as leader of the Conservative Party, to ensure that the record is put straight, and that statistics are no longer manipulated in a way which stigmatises the poorest in our society.”

ENDS

Notes:

The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Appendix one to the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Appendix two to the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

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First female Dean of Llandaff Cathedral quits after two months

Wales Online reports tonight that First female Dean of Llandaff Cathedral quits after two months.

The first woman Dean of Llandaff Cathedral has resigned just two months after she was installed in the post.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said he had accepted Janet Henderson’s resignation “with enormous sadness”.

Church in Wales sources have told WalesOnline that Dean Henderson had had “a “difficult time” since her appointment, with some clergy resenting the appointment of a woman…

The press release from the Church in Wales has nothing to say about the reasons for the Dean’s resignation, and neither does this report from the BBC.

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Profile of Anglicans

Updated Saturday evening

Yesterday’s Church Times has an article by Linda Woodhead about a survey that “suggests that non-churchgoing Anglicans may be much more important to the Church and its future than the dismissive word “nominals” implies.”

The article is only available to Church Times subscribers, but British Religion in Numbers (BRIN) has a summary in Profile of Anglicans and Other News. The survey shows that self-identifying Anglicans divide into four categories.

Godfearing Churchgoers (5% of Anglicans)
Mainstream Churchgoers (12% of Anglicans)
Non-Churchgoing Believers (50% of Anglicans)
Non-Churchgoing Doubters (33% of Anglicans)

The BRIN article also reports on surveys on St George’s Day and Student faith.

Update
Jonathan Clatworthy has written about the survey of Anglicans for Modern Church: On not going to church.

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Church in Wales Governing Body: report of meeting

See our earlier report here.

There is now a “Highlights” report of the meeting available as a PDF file.

There is further detail about the church’s position in respect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the (bi-lingual) report of the Standing Committee.

There are some interesting Ministry Statistics in this report.

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Church in Wales Governing Body meets

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales is meeting today and tomorrow in Lampeter.

The agenda documents can be found here.

This press release: Ministry is for everyone, not just vicars – Archbishop of Wales was accompanied by the full text of Presidential Address by Archbishop Barry Morgan.

Media reports:

BBC Gay marriage report ordered by Church in Wales and Archbishop of Wales on same sex marriage changes

Wales Online Church in Wales to look again at gay marriage under radical changes proposed by Archbishop of Wales

Daily Post Archbishop Barry Morgan present vision for Church in Wales

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Women Bishops in Wales

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales will be meeting on 10 and 11 April 2013. The agenda includes group discussion on women bishops, as this extract from a press release describes.

The ordination of women as bishops will be discussed by clergy and lay people from all over Wales at a key Church meeting next week.

Theological arguments for and against women bishops will be presented to members of the Church in Wales’ Governing Body during its two-day meeting at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, in Lampeter, on April 10-11.

The 144 members will be put into seven groups, each facilitated by a bishop, to consider two papers – one outlining the case for the ordination of women and one setting out the case against.

The discussions are being held ahead of the introduction of a two-stage Bill to the Governing Body in September to ordain women as bishops. That legislation, however, will not be addressed by the groups next week.

The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, says, “It is now five years since the last time that Governing Body considered the question of the ordination of women to the episcopate, and many of its members will have changed. The bishops feel it is important that Governing Body has the opportunity to explore the theological questions behind these issues, and understand the conscientious reasons why those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate would not be able to accept the sacramental ministry of a woman bishop as well as the theological reasons why those in favour believe that the time is right for such as a step.”

The discussions will take place on Thursday morning from 9.30am.

The full agenda is available online.

The Governing Body previously considered a bill to allow women to be bishops in April 2008. It was defeated then as it failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the House of Clergy.

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House of Commons scrutinises Marriage bill

Updated finally on Friday morning

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is now being scrutinised by a Public Bill Committee.

Today was the first day of taking evidence, and those appearing included representatives of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church in Wales. The second day will be on Thursday.

A timetable of those appearing this week is at the bottom of this page. The same page lists the amendments filed to date. A PDF copy is also available here.

The evidence sessions can be watched via Parliament TV, at the following locations

Hansard written record of proceedings:

Tuesday’s notice of new amendments is here. The programme of future dates for the committee to meet is here.

The committee has started to publish memoranda submitted in written evidence. Of particular interest may be this memo from Lord Pannick QC.

Follow this link, and scroll down for others.

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Discussion continues on the Marriage bill

Updated again Tuesday morning

The House of Commons committee hearings will commence on 12 February.

The committee is inviting the public to submit written evidence. The closing date is 12 March, but earlier submissions are encouraged.

Amendments are being filed by MPs and updated lists of them will be published regularly. The first set of them is here.
Update 11 February A few more amendments are now here.
Update 12 February Further amendments and a list of witnesses for this week here.

Just before the Second Reading, ResPublica published this “Green Paper” by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond: Marriage: Union for the future or contract for the present (PDF).

A shorter version of this paper is published at ABC Religion and Ethics under the title Marriage equality or the destruction of difference?

The speech made in the Second Reading debate by Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, can be found here.

David Pocklington has written at Law & Religion UK an article titled Tenuous European links to same-sex marriage, which deals with claims made elsewhere that recognition of same-sex marriages will become a “European requirement”.

The Guardian has a detailed analysis of the Second Reading vote.

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Some Initial Comments on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Government Equalities Office has published a range of supplementary materials here: these include a FactSheet, a Mythbuster and a Short Guide.

Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK has published a very helpful summary of the bill in Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: the published text.

Adam Wagner at the UK Human Rights Blog has written Equal marriage on the way as Bill published.

The Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have issued this statement opposing the bill.

Maria Miller, the Secretary of State responsible for the bill, appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today on Friday morning, and the full interview is available here: Maria Miller: Churches ‘free to choose’ on gay marriage.

Colin Coward has commented at Changing Attitude on the CofE’s official statement in Church of England’s attitude to civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.

Ed Thornton reported for the Church Times that Stevens holds line as Government publishes same-sex marriage Bill.

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Anglican responses to Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Church in Wales has issued this: Marriage (Same Sex Couples ) Bill – A statement:

PRESS RELEASE
Marriage (Same Sex Couples ) Bill – A statement
25 January 2013

Since the Statement to Parliament by the Minister for Women and Equalities on 11 December 2012, the Government has worked to understand and accommodate the position of the Church in Wales in its equal marriage Bill. As a disestablished church with a legal duty to marry the Church in Wales is uniquely placed. The Bill provides protection for the Church whilst still enabling it to make its own decision on same-sex marriage.

Under the Bill, the duty of Church in Wales ministers to marry will not be extended to same-sex couples. However, should the Church’s Governing Body decide in the future that the Church wishes to conduct such marriages, there is provision in the Bill for the law to be altered without the need for further primary legislation by Parliament. Instead, a resolution from the Church’s Governing Body would trigger an order by the Lord Chancellor for the necessary legal changes to be made.

The Church of England has issued this: Bishop of Leicester responds to Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill:

(more…)

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Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Updated

Hansard reports:

Bill Presented
Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Maria Miller, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Theresa May, Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary Eric Pickles, Hugh Robertson, Lynne Featherstone, Mrs Helen Grant and Jo Swinson, presented a Bill to make provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the marriage of armed forces personnel overseas, and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 126) with explanatory notes (Bill 126-EN).

The Leader of the House of Commons announced that the Second Reading (first stage of actual debate) of the bill will take place on 5 February.

The text of the bill, and an explanatory note, are available here.

The impact assessment is also linked from that page.

Meanwhile, some news reports and comment:

BBC Gay marriage: MPs set to vote on proposals for the first time and Gay marriage support growing says Tory MP Nick Herbert

Changing Attitude Same-sex marriage bill introduced in House of Commons and earlier The legal status of marriage and equal marriage in the Church of England

Ekklesia Religious groups welcome draft Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill

Yesterday was also one of the days for Questions to be asked of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry. In relation to this topic, and on the related topic of Civil Partnerships, here is what he said:

(more…)

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Some legal analyses of the same-sex marriage proposals

Paul Johnson has written an article for the Jurist titled Same-Sex Marriage To Be ‘Illegal’ in the Church of England and Church in Wales. He argues that the effect of an on-going human rights debate in the British Isles and the European Court of Human Rights may have a detrimental effect on the same-sex marriage debate in the UK…

I found this paragraph particularly interesting:

…On the basis of a growing moral panic about human rights in the UK, the government has announced deeply problematic legislation. Whilst they will extend marriage to same-sex couples in England and Wales, they will also amend the Equality Act 2010 to establish a form of legal discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation. They will also write legislation to make same-sex marriage in a Church of England or Church in Wales church “illegal.” The UK government will, therefore, follow a number of other states, such as those African states like Nigeria, that are regularly held up in the UK as the embodiment of homophobia, and introduce legislation designed to prohibit same-sex marriage in a particular context…

Paul also wrote this article last June: Same-Sex Civil Marriage Gives Deference to Church of England Canon Laws

Scot Peterson has written an article, now republished at Law and Religion UK titled Same-sex marriage, National Churches and the quadruple lock.

On 11 December the government announced its response to the consultation on same-sex marriage that took place from 15 March to 14 June 2012. The initial consultation concerned how (not whether) to proceed with same-sex civil marriage. In its response to the initial consultation, the Church of England failed to respond to the question that the government had asked. It took the position that all marriage (civil or religious) was the same and that same-sex marriage should not be offered by the state. The church failed entirely to say how it could be offered, arguing that same-sex marriage should not be offered at all, even by the government in non-religious ceremonies…

And he concludes:

It seems clear that the constitutional, political and legal complexities of the law of marriage in Wales surprised the government. But good, sensible argument, not a generalized attack on the government’s competence is needed. And extending the omnishambles argument to the Church of England is entirely unfair given that Church’s general, public refusal to cooperate with the consultation in the first place.

The Church of Wales may have received a temporary scare, which will make it think twice in the future about trying to ride on the coat-tails of its established equivalent in the east. The Church of England may have received its just deserts for being obstinate. But the government should not be the target of general criticism for an honest mistake on an obscure point of law, which was unforeseeable when the Church in Wales did not address this point, or any other, in its response to the consultation.

The problems in this bill can easily be corrected. This is a cross-party question of policy that addresses a felt need by LGBT people and religious freedom for minorities like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews as well as for those, like the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, who disagree. It should not be turned into a political football.

Anya Palmer has written in the Solicitor’s Journal_ One step forward, two steps back.
The government’s decision to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct 
same-sex marriages leaves Anya Palmer questioning its position in society.

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Church "shocked" to get what it lobbied for

Anya Palmer has written Church “shocked” to get what it lobbied for

Suggestions that CoE never asked for gay marriage ban need to be taken with a pinch of salt

The Guardian reported on Friday (14 December 2012) that the Church of England and Church of Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at proposals to ban them from conducting marriages for same sex couples. The piece ends with Ben Bradshaw MP quoting the Bishop of Leicester as saying the CoE was very upset about this “because it gave the impression that the Church of England were unfriendly towards gays.”

But is the Church of England really unhappy with the proposed ban?

…The only on-the-record statement from the Church of England in the Guardian report is from “a spokesman” claiming that the CoE was not consulted on the proposed “quadruple lock”. The spokesman does not confirm that the CoE does not want a ban – all he or she confirms is that the CoE claims it was not consulted.

Personally I find it difficult to believe the CoE was not consulted.

Firstly, because when the government’s proposals were outlined, on Tuesday 11 December, the Church of Wales immediately stated it did not agree, whereas the Church of England neither disagreed nor made any claim that it had not been consulted. Here is the statement the CoE put out on Wednesday 12 December:

Equal Same-Sex Marriage and the Church of England – an Explanatory Note

Far from suggesting the CoE has not been consulted, the statement asserts that it has been listened to:

“This is not a question of the Government and Parliament imposing a prohibition or ‘ban’ on what the Church of England can do. It is instead the Government responding to the Church’s wish to see the status quo for the Church of England preserved.” [Emphasis added]

The statement clearly approves of the proposal that the CoE not be given a right to opt in:

“For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.”

If that doesn’t say “we don’t want an opt-in, thank you” I am not sure what would.

This statement was presumably approved at a high level. It has not been retracted. At no point has the Church of England stated on the record that it does not want the additional bar.

And secondly, I don’t believe the CoE was not consulted because the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has now put out a statement expressly denying that the CoE was not consulted…

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