MEASURES in the Marriage
(Same Sex Couples) Bill, which would bar Church of England clergy
from marrying same-sex couples, were "highly regrettable", the Dean
of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, said last week.
The Bill, which passed
its Second Reading in the House of Commons, earlier this month (
News, 8 February), contains a "quadruple lock" of measures
intended to "protect religious freedom". These specify that it
would be illegal for any Church of England cleric to conduct a
Giving evidence to MPs
during the Committee Stage of the Bill, on Thursday of last week,
Dr John said that it was "highly regrettable that the Church feels
the need to have these triple or quadruple locks.
"My main worry about it,
frankly, is the image of the Church that it puts to ordinary
people. . . I can understand why that lock has been demanded, but I
am very fearful that the Church is forgetting its own gospel in
making that demand."
Dr John, who has publicly
endorsed same-sex marriage (
Comment, 31 August), went on to say that he "would not want to
amend the Bill to force it [same-sex marriage] on the Church. . .
It is up to people like me, within the Church, to argue with the
Church and to try to help it move along to a more Christian
Dr John said that he
thought it would be "more genuinely Anglican" if individual
parishes were allowed to decide whether to marry same-sex
The Secretary General to
the General Synod, William Fittall, and the Bishop of Norwich, the
Rt Revd Graham James, gave evidence to the committee on Tuesday of
last week (
News, 15 February). Mr Fittall said that he did "not detect a
strong debate among our bishops around moving to same-sex
Christians for Equal
Marriage UK, a lobby group set up last year, wrote to the
Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Culture Secretary and Minister
for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, this week, calling for the
C of E's exemptions to be reconsidered.
Nathan Hartley, the
group's founder, said: "Many Anglican churches have the freedom to
set their own church policy with regard to whether they marry
divorcees or not. I think they should also have the freedom to set
policy around marrying two people of the same sex in their
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission issued a briefing
earlier this month on the legislation. It argued that, were the
Bill to be passed, "a legal challenge by a couple who wanted to be
married by a religious organisation which did not wish to solemnise
same-sex marriages is very likely to fail."