A month ago, we reported that House of Lords considers removal of clergy exemption on same-sex marriage. Another attempt occurred on 1 March. There is a report in the Church Times Bishop of Oxford resists gay-marriage amendment.
This time the exact text of the amendment was longer:
1: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause–
“Removal of exemption for clergy under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument make such provision as is necessary to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to enable the Church of England and the Church in Wales to opt in to the provisions of that Act allowing the solemnization of the marriage of a same sex couple.
(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless it has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(3) Subject to subsection (2), regulations under this section must be in force by the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(4) Regulations under subsection (1) may not amend–(a) section 1(3) of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013,(b) section 1(4) of that Act, or(c) section 2(5) or (6) of that Act.”
The Church of England in Parliament reported on the debate: Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill – Bishop of Oxford responds to amendment on same-sex marriage.
This includes first the full text of the Bishop of Oxford’s interventions, followed by a transcript of the entire debate. The latter is well worth reading to see the arguments being put forward by peers in favour of this change.
Here is an extract from the Bishop of Oxford:
As noble Lords are aware, together with other Churches and faith communities across the world, the Church of England is exploring these issues in depth–and, I accept, at length. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle chairs our pastoral advisory group, and last week brought a helpful series of pastoral guidelines to the General Synod. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry chairs a process of exploration under the title Living in Love and Faith, which was referred to by noble Lords. Both processes are due to report to the General Synod in 2020. It is true that these proposals will contain resources for reflection. They may not contain recommendations for action but they will be followed by further work, debate and proposals to be tested by the General Synod in due course–as soon as possible, I hope.
Recently, I issued a pastoral letter with my fellow bishops to our own diocese of Oxford under the title, Clothed with Love. We are taking pastoral steps in the diocese to encourage greater inclusion and support within the Church’s existing guidelines. That letter has been warmly welcomed by many LGBTI clergy and laity, and more widely across the Church by those who want to see further change. It has led to many fruitful conversations. However, it is also a sign of where the Church is, and of the deep views held in good conscience on the issue, that the same letter has dismayed and unsettled some others who fear that the Church will change what is regarded as essential and core doctrine. The correspondence illustrates the need for further deep and respectful dialogue within the Church, and I remain committed to that.
My response to the amendment is that, as a Church, we need more time for deeper reflection and prayer; for listening, recognising the urgency of the situation; for listening to those outside and within the Church; and for developing our responses. I am grateful for the intention behind this amendment and the opportunity to air these issues in this Chamber. Nevertheless, I need to resist the amendment on two grounds, both of which have been referred to.
First, the legal powers already exist to enable the Church of England and the Church in Wales to begin to solemnise same-sex marriages should they choose to do so. That change will be registered through a change in the doctrine of marriage and therefore in canon law. It is important for the overall process that the Church is seen to make its own decisions first, and only then for those decisions to be taken through Parliament.
Secondly, the Church itself must continue its conversation and debate, and reach conclusions through the careful process of listening, exploration and discernment about the right way forward and the right time for such a move. While I am grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment and deeply grateful for the speeches that have been made, and will gladly commit to passing on to my colleagues all the views expressed here, I hope the Government and the House will resist the amendment, as on previous occasions in this Chamber.