A BILL that seeks to allow non-Anglican marriages to be solemnised in Church of England buildings could allow “new religious movements” to use churches, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, has warned.
The House of Lords debated Lord Deben’s Ecumenical Marriage Bill at its second reading, last Friday. It is a Private Member’s Bill that seeks to allow C of E churches and chapels to host marriages according to the rites and ceremonies of other Christian denominations.
Bishop Dakin said, however, that the Bill also “affords potential legal rights to the use of churches to new religious movements with which the Church of England does not have any existing formal ecumenical relationship. . .
“We are returned to addressing questions of doctrine, creed, and ecumenical dialogue, all of which ought properly to sit with the Churches themselves.”
He questioned the Bill’s nature, as it would change the legislation of the C of E, and said that the Church would not support the Bill. He also reported that the Roman Catholic Church in the UK and the Church in Wales were not in favour of it, either.
Bishop Dakin told peers: “There is a long-standing constitutional convention, with which noble Lords will be very familiar, that the Church of England makes its own legislation by synodical process. . . This Bill represents a departure from that convention.”
In response, Lord Deben said: “This Bill prescribes nothing; it permits. Earlier he [Bishop Dakin] said that, in this House, we have a long tradition of leaving law to the Church of England. That is what this Bill does. It removes the power of this House to stop the Church of England doing something. It is the removal of an impediment: it is not a prescription.”
Baroness Vere of Norbiton, a Government whip in the Lords, said that the Government could not give its support to the Bill because the C of E had not given its consent to the changing of the law. She also said that the Government had not received “sufficient” evidence to persuade it that this was a matter worth legislating on.
The Bill passed its second reading without a vote, as is usual in the House of Lords, and will now move on to committee stage. It passed its first reading last July (News, 14 July 2017).
A C of E spokesperson said: “We see no need for Lord Deben’s Bill, and believe that the current arrangements give sufficient pastoral flexibility for weddings which are conducted in Anglican churches and chapels, involving ministers of different denominations.”