Anglican Perspectives

Update from the Church of England: Parliament to debate Same-sex Couples bill

chris sugden

Source:  AAC International Update

January 29, 2013

The following article by Canon Chris Sugden first appeared in the January 29, 2013 edition of the AAC’s International Update. Sign up for this free email here.

On Tuesday, February 5, the Government will bring to Parliament for debate and vote the Same-sex Couples Bill which provides for “marriage” for those of the same gender. It is important that as many MPs as possible vote “no” at this stage.

The bill provides for “protection” for the Church of England since the law requires that Church of England clergy have a duty to marry anyone in their parish.

The bill excludes the Church of England from that requirement.

This is a distraction from the main issue which is whether “equal marriage” is good for the whole of society.

The Campaign for Marriage (, launched by Lord Carey in January, 2011, is giving the lead to the broad coalition opposed to this development.  Ten reasons against gay marriage are available here.

C4M has asked for prayer across the nation on Sunday, February 3, that the bill will fail.

 Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the gift of marriage which you established at the dawn of time, to be a blessing for all generations throughout the earth, down through the ages.

We pray that you would fill each and every marriage with your love and grace, and that every husband and wife would know the joy that comes from sharing and giving.

We thank you for establishing marriage to be a secure and stable environment for raising children.

We pray for all those who do not enjoy those blessings, remembering that you are a father to the orphan and a husband to the widow.

We pray, as you have commanded us, for those in positions of civil authority.

We pray that our Government will act with wisdom and righteousness, upholding marriage as the voluntary union of one man to one woman for life, for the good of all people.

We pray for forgiveness for our nation, as our Government seeks to redefine marriage. We pray that these plans would fail.

And we pray for ourselves, that we would speak out in support of marriage with gentleness and kindness, but also with courage and confidence.

In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord we pray. Amen

The Roman Catholic church is making very strong responses.

Comment on behalf of the Bishops by Archbishop Peter Smith, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

The fundamental problem with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is that it will radically alter the meaning of marriage for everyone and therefore undermine the common good. This is what is at stake. The Bill also raises very serious questions especially about religious freedom and freedom of expression, the effect on teaching in schools, and the work of chaplains and others with religious convictions involved in the delivery of public services.

There is no electoral mandate for this Bill and last year’s consultation process was shambolic. (More here)

The Pope has commended a paper by France’s Chief Rabbi:

‘Equal marriage’ is an empty slogan

The idea that marriage should be made available to all who love each other is unsustainable. Loving a person does not give you the right to marry them: a man cannot marry a woman who is already married; a woman who loves two men cannot marry them both. We cannot, in the name of equality, allow to marry to all those who love each other; ‘marriage for all’ (‘equal marriage’) is therefore merely a slogan. The legalisation of same-sex marriage would continue to ‘discriminate’ against all those people who love each other but who are not allowed to marry.

The slogan ‘marriage for all’ (‘equal marriage’) conceals the fact that what is being proposed is a radical new vision of marriage to replace the existing one.

In the traditional, conjugal understanding of marriage, with which most people would agree, marriage is not simply the recognition of love; it is an institution which binds the union of a man and woman to the succeeding generations.

Marriage is the institution of a family, a cell which creates a direct relationship between its members through ties of blood. It creates descendants. And in doing so, it is a fundamental act in building the stability both of individuals and of society. (More here)

The “lead bishop” in the House of Lords has said:

I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position.  Many principled and practical concerns about legislating to redefine marriage were set out in the Church of England’s submission to the Government consultation in June 2012. For the Church of England, in common with other denominations and faiths, one central test of this Bill is whether it will preserve and guarantee religious practice and religious conscience. . the legislative process continues we shall wish to press serious questions about the implications for wider society, for the significance of procreation and upbringing of children as part of the purpose of marriage, the effect on teaching in schools, and the work of chaplains and others with religious convictions who are involved in public service delivery.

“We have also continued to raise questions about whether it is wise or appropriate to legislate at speed on a matter of such fundamental importance to society, when the proposal was not in any major party manifesto, the Coalition Agreement or the last Queen’s Speech. The lack of a clear mandate and the absence of an overwhelming public consensus for change ought at least to give pause for thought.” (More here)

It is being pointed out that because consummation and adultery cannot be defined for same-sex couples, this will be taken as discrimination against heterosexual couples and in time adultery would be removed in law in the name of equality.

Teachers could be sacked for refusing to endorse “same-sex marriage” and that children will be legally required to learn about gay marriage in sex education lessons.

The columnist Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times notes that the essence of the debate is that “either homosexual acts are sinful in the eyes of God, in which case it is clearly out of the question for any priest to bless or sanction a same-sex relationship; or they are not necessarily sinful in the eyes of God, in which case there can be no spiritual objection to the idea of legal recognition of such relationships in exactly the same way – marriage.”

He continues that David Cameron’s objective “is about gaining electoral market share” and quotes him in an interview for the gay magazine Attitude: “there are gay people who have conservative values – like wanting us to be supportive or business and enterprise, wanting to have strong defence – but in the past have been held back because the Conservative party was sending them a signal that we did not support them or their lifestyle.”

It is becoming clear that in so doing, David Cameron is losing support among Conservative party grassroots activists and voters in large numbers who are turning to the UK Independence Party who are against “gay marriage” or not going to vote at all.

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