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Dr John book slams C of E 'hard line' on same-sex marriage

17 August 2012

THE opposition of bishops to same-sex marriage is "institutionally expedient, but . . . morally contemptible", the Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, has written in a new preface to his book Permanent, Faithful, Stable (DLT).

Dr John (above) describes bishops' opposition to the "Government's proposals to extend civil marriage to include same-sex couples" ( News, 15 June) as "a public and politicalstance intended to maintain ecclesiastical unity, particularly within the Anglican Communion". Such a policy "may be institutionally expedient, but it is morally contemptible. It betrays the truly heroic gay Christians of Africa who stand up for justice and truth at risk of their lives. For the mission of the C of E the present policy is a disaster."

Last month, Dr John said that the Church did not "deserve to be listened to" on the subject of same-sex marriage ( News, 27 July).

In the preface, Dr John writes that the Archbishop of Canterbury "changed his public position" on same-sex relationships "as soon as he reached the throne of St Augustine. Since then the Church's line on homosexuality has continued to harden."

Dr John predicts that "when civil gay marriage becomes possible the Church will initially continue to refuse to accept it, but will call for the continued availability of civil partnerships so that it can offer gay people a second best while reserv- ing the term marriage for hetero-sexuals. . .

"It will take a long time for the Church to come round to solemnising same-sex marriage. But it will. The question is only how long it will take, and how much more damage we shall have to suffer on the way. The sadness is that the Church will . . . only get there reluctantly, following the state."

The new edition of Permanent, Faithful, Stable, which was first published in 1994, is reissued this month with a new foreword by the Treasurer of St Paul's, Canon Mark Oakley, and a new preface and postscript.

In the preface, Dr John says that Dr Williams, when he was Archbishop of Wales, said the book represented his view "that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex . . . might reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if, it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness".

On Tuesday, the Government published a paper clarifying its position on same-sex marriage and civil partnerships in England and Wales. A statement accompanying the paper says that "a change in the law, which came into effect on 5 December 2011, now enables civil partnerships to be registered on religious premises where religious organisations permit this, and the premises have been approved for the purpose. The new law also states, for the avoidance of doubt, that religious organisations will not be obliged to host civil partnership registrations if they do not wish to do so."

The statement also says that the Government consultation on same-sex marriage ( News, 24 February, 15 June), which ended on 14 June, "has received a mixed reaction from interested parties. The Church of England, which opposes the proposals, has raised concerns that there might be a successful legal challenge to the plan to limit same-sex marriage to non-religious forms and ceremonies. Some consider that religious organisations which want to solemnize same-sex marriage should be allowed to do so."

The Independent reported on Saturday that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had responded to a letter from the Quakers, Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, and Liberal Judaism, which urged him to "stand firm and show moral leadership" on the issue of same-sex marriage. Mr Clegg's letter said: "It is Liberal Democrat party policy, and my personal view, that those [religious] organisations who do wish to conduct same-sex marriages should be free to do so."

Permanent, Faithful, Stable can be ordered from Church House Bookshop here

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