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Church and State after the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act

by
02 August 2013

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From the Revd Dr Rob Kelsey

Sir, - Jonathan Chaplin argues (Comment, 26 July) that there is "now no reason to preserve the Church-State relationship", since the Church is no longer able to "influence state policy", and the Bishops who spoke on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill were "utterly overwhelmed" by those on the other side.

This is a flawed argument. Surely the main benefit of the establishment of the Church of England is that it enables the Church better to serve rather than influence. As a parish priest in the Church of England, it is my duty (and my joy) to minister, as best I can, to the whole parish, not just the congregation.

Mr Chaplin bemoans the fact that "many millions . . . still regard the Church as theirs, even though they [never] darken its doors." But this is an opportunity, not a problem. It was refreshing to read Canon John Binns's article on the facing page, in which he acknowledged that "83 per cent of Anglicans don't come to church" and encouraged us to "recognise churchgoers and non- churchgoers alike as full and equal parts of Christ's body".

It might not be his choice of words, but Mr Chaplin's article was headed, "Marriage Bill signals need for divorce". I would be promoting a poor view of marriage if I saw it, primarily, as a way to "influence" my partner, or if I sought a separation because I had been "utterly overwhelmed" in a particular argument.

The establishment of the C of E is not problem-free (and no marriage is perfect), but it remains a source of blessing to the Church, the State, and the country as a whole.

ROB KELSEY
The Vicarage, Church Lane, Norham
Northumberland TD15 2LF

From Mr Roger McFarland

Sir, - Jonathan Chaplin wants to sever the link between Church and State, on the grounds that Parliament has ignored the Church's views on same-sex marriage, and has threatened to impose its will on the Church in relation to women bishops.

But let us not forget that 42 out of 44 dioceses, and a substantial majority of Synod members, were in favour of the women-bishops legislation that, nevertheless, failed to gain approval last November. In reality, Parliament has not so much threatened to impose its will on the Church as to impose the will of the Church on the General Synod.

It is similarly far too simplistic to treat what the Bishops said about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Lords as the undisputed view of "the Church" on this question. It is a fact that many faithful church members wish the Church would honour and bless permanent, faithful, and stable gay relationships in the way that the state now intends to do, and it is a pity (to say the very least) that the Bishops' public pronouncements were so one-sided.

ROGER McFARLAND
79 Humber Road
Chelmsford CM1 7PF

From the Revd Paul S. Williamson

Sir, - The Queen has now signed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act (News, 19 July).

The Sovereign cannot err, but she has been (wrongly) advised by her ministers to sign the Act. Halsbury's Laws of England states that legal action can be taken against the ministers for wrong advice. They did not tell the Queen to refrain from signing this Act because her Coronation Oath prevented it.

Who will take up this challenge? Who will join together to assert the true nature of Christian marriage?

PAUL S. WILLIAMSON
The Rectory
7 Blakewood Close
Hanworth, Feltham
Middlesex TW13 7NL

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