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C of E response to the Prime Minister’s statement on same-sex marriage

by
14 December 2012

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From Canon Robert Cotton

Sir, - When the Church of England first published its response to the Government's consultation on same-sex marriage, there was widespread dismay. Although the official statement reiterated previous teaching, it did not capture the range of opinion that exists within the Church on this subject, especially at a time when views are being reappraised. Therefore, many objected to the statement, saying "Not in my name."

This dismay will be reinforced as people read a new statement (issued on 7 December) responding to the Prime Minister's words on the same subject. Once again, the statement claims to be a response from the Church of England, and yet it neither names the author nor respects the range of views that are held with passion and conviction within the Church.

What is worse is that it bases much of its argument on the notion of complementarity, a word that caused serious friction in the recent debate on women bishops. Then, "complementarity" became a buzz-word for telling women that they were subordinate to men, as though gender difference settled all moral and relational questions.

The statement claims that support for same-sex marriage is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. This claim is simplistic, naïve, and untrue. The author would do well to avoid contentious terms and articulate arguments more clearly.

But the worse part of the statement comes when the author warns the Government from moving forward with legislation without an overwhelming mandate from the people. Is this irony intentional, or does the author not know that the Church is, at the moment, hardly in a position to offer such advice?

ROBERT COTTON
Holy Trinity Rectory
9 Eastgate Gardens
Guildford, Surrey GU1 4AZ

 

From Mr Colin Setchfield

Sir, - The Church of England has admitted in its statement made on 7 December that "to change the nature of marriage for everyone will . . . deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships": that is, in terms of what the ceremonies symbolise and the rights that that subsequently confers, there is no difference between marriage and civil partnerships.

This is my reading of the situation as well: we don't need legislation for gay marriage, because it already exists, except we call it something different for those who - either through personal prejudice or adherence to a prejudiced God or scripture - cannot face or accept that reality. All we need is some honesty, and either to acknowledge civil partnerships as marriages or vice versa.

The rest of the Church's statement simply makes sweeping claims with no argument or detail to back them up.

Heterosexual marriage contributes to the common good, but we are not told how; neither does it explain how gay marriage would work against the common good. It claims that excluding gay people from marriage is for "the good of all in society", though again doesn't explain how - particularly for gay people themselves.

How can a body that holds that "there is no longer male or female" in its own sphere, "as all are one in Christ" (Galatians 3.28), nevertheless hold that sexual difference is important for what it acknowledges as a "social institution"?

Sadly, the lack of logic and argument in the statement seems to suggest that this is exactly what it claims it isn't: knee-jerk resistance to change. The worry is that, in being faithful to the social and familial tradition of its roots, the Church is increasingly seen as more inconsequential, and removed from the generation where it is now called to witness and serve.

COLIN SETCHFIELD
85 York Road, London E4 8LA

 

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