THE Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, asserted on
Tuesday that "marriage is a union of one man and one woman".
Bishop Stevens' comments, made in the House of Lords, were
published by Church House on Tuesday afternoon, after the
Government published details of its forthcoming same-sex marriage
Bishop Stevens said that the Church's interest was not
"primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church
of England's position, but rather a more fundamental concern for
He sought reassurances from the Government that, if the
same-sex-marriage legislation was passed, teachers would "not be
disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings", and
that "proper time . . . will be given for adequate consultation
with the Church of England's canon lawyers on the legislative
drafting" of the Bill.
The Government and Opposition, in proceeding with plans to
introduce same-sex marriage, had caused division in the country at
large, he said, and among "the vast majority of practising
religious people. What plans does the Government have for working
towards a degree of consensus on this matter?"
The former Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Lord Harries, told the
Lords, however, that, "notwithstanding the official position of the
Church of England on this, a good number of its members warmly
welcome the Government's position on gay marriage. . .
"Privately, a fair number of individual bishops in the Church of
England also support it, but are not able to say so publicly at the
moment because of the political situation in which the Church of
England now finds itself."
Church House, Westminster
issued a statement last Friday, after the Prime Minister indicated
that legislation was forthcoming, under the heading "the Church of
England". No details were given about who had composed the
It reiterated the earlier
response to the Government's consultation on same-sex marriage (
News, 15 June), saying that "the uniqueness of marriage is
that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of
men and women."
It continued: "To remove
from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is
to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is
explicitly acknowledged. . . To change the nature of marriage
for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains
given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships."
The Archbishop of Wales,
Dr Barry Morgan, told BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday that it was "a
great pity" that the Church in Wales would "not even have the
possibility" to conduct same-sex marriages.
"There are those of us
who think it ought to be a free choice, and this increases the
hurdles for people to pass," Dr Morgan said. "It will have to get
the legislation changed in Parliament, and change its canon law -
and it might be harder to change the law of the land than canon
The director of Changing
Attitude, the Revd Colin Coward, told the BBC News Channel on
Tuesday: "I really don't understand why the Church of England, as
the national Church of this country, is not being given at least
the opportunity to say 'yes' or 'no' to the proposals. . . People
are so angry about this in our network; they really were hoping
for something that was going to begin to transform the place of
LGBT people in the C of E."
The general secretary of
the Methodist Church, the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, said that
protections in the proposed legislation for churches that did not
want to marry same-sex couples were "important"; but, while the
Methodist Church "may or may not choose to affirm same-sex
marriage" in the future, "it would be unwarranted interference for
the state to make that decision for us."
The director of advocacy
for the Evangelical Alliance, Dr David Landrum, described the
Government's assurances about legal protections for religious
groups as "illusory". He said that "mainstream religions" would be
"subject to manifold legal challenges if they dissent from a new
social orthodoxy", and called for "a national referendum".
The Quakers were one of
the few religious groups to welcome the Government's announcement
without reservation. Paul Parker, the recording clerk for the
Quakers, said: "Quakers greet the news we can 'opt in' to equal
marriage with enthusiasm, but await details of how this will work
Peter Tatchell, the
human-rights activist, said that the Government's proposal to
exclude the C of E and the Church in Wales, was "a disappointing
fudge that perpetuates inequality. . . There is no reason why
these Churches should be treated differently from other
Mr Tatchell said that "faith-based discrimination could be open
to legal challenge. The Government is treating two Churches
differently from all other religions. Discriminating between
faith groups is probably illegal under the Human Rights Act and the
European Convention on Human Rights."