CLERICS have spoken out in favour of same-sex marriage, as a petition that opposes a change in the law reached 100,000 signatures.
Asked about their views on same-sex marriage this week, nine signatories of a letter sent to the London representatives of the General Synod calling for the freedom to bless civil partnerships in church said that they would support the Government’s proposals to legalise same-sex marriage. Other clergy oppose such a change.
“A change in the definition of marriage to include two men or two women would seem to me to be an appropriate step in the redefinition of marriage for our particular contemporary society,” said the Lead Chaplain of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, the Revd Robert Thompson.
The Vicar of St Lawrence’s, Eastcote, in Pinner, the Revd Stephen Dando, said that same-sex marriage should be “both allowed and celebrated”. “The Church should be in the forefront of showing love to all, but sadly it limps slowly behind,” he said.
The Chaplain of North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, the Revd Dominic Fenton, said that the Church did not have the right to veto the Government’s proposals. “The Church needs to stop getting its knickers in a twist over same-sex everything and actually start rejoicing whenever people declare their love for one another,” he said.
“Part of the problem is that people are getting worked up about marriage because there is no language for same-sex relationships,” the Rector of St George’s, Bloomsbury, the Revd David Peebles, said. “People are seeking out the obvious example of marriage because there isn’t anything else, and the reason for that is that same-sex relationships have been ignored or suppressed. . . I can understand those who are against using language like marriage, but what else do you use?”
Others signatories of the letter, while supporting the blessing of civil partnerships in church, were not in favour of extending marriage to same-sex couples.
The Priest-in-Charge of St John the Apostle, Whetstone, the Revd Cindy Kent, said that she “firmly” believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. She said that she hoped that the Government “thinks twice” about its plans.
The Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, the Revd Dr Martin Dudley, said that, although he blessed a gay couple in 2008, he declined to call it a marriage.
“I don’t think recognising the validity of same-sex partnerships is the same as saying they are the equivalent of marriage,” he said. “Marriage is not a fixed concept in social terms, but it does seem to me that we are going to do serious damage to the word if we allow it to embrace same-sex relationships.”
The Rector of St Mary Magdalene’s, Littleton, and St Nicholas’s, Shepperton, the Revd Chris Swift, was one of a number of clerics who cited the capacity for procreation as an important element of marriage.
“Marriage historically has been for mutual support, sexual expresssion of love, but also for procreation,” he said. “I think, while not saying that gay people cannot bring up children beautifully, procreation cannot be part of that package; so therefore by definition it is something different.”
This Sunday, Roman Catholic congregations across the country will hear a letter from the President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, and the Vice-President, Archbishop Peter Smith, read which sets out the “Catholic vision of marriage”.
“A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage,” it reads. “It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the com-plementarity of male and female, or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.”
The letter follows the publication of an article by the leader of the RC Church in Scotland, Cardinal O’Brien, in The Daily Telegraph last Sunday, in which he described the Government’s proposal as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.
The petition organised by the Coalition for Marriage, opposing the Government’s plans, has collected 100,000 signatures since its launch on 20 February.