What the Church of England is really saying about same-sex marriage

Guest post by Alan Renwick, Reader in Comparative Politics, University of Reading   @alanjrenwick

Confused about the Church of England’s arguments concerning same-sex marriage? Here is a brilliant executive summary which which knows how to read between the lines.

Alan Renwick posted his thoughts on Facebook this morning and has kindly agreed to share his observations on my blog in order to make them more widely available.

Alan Renwick writes:

Alan Renwick profile picture
Alan Renwick

I’ve just read the Church of England’s response to the government’s consultation on same-sex marriage. For those of you not inclined to trawl through the whole thing, here’s a summary:

1. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman.  But we are not opposed to change as such, just change that is damaging to society (paragraph 8).  So we acknowledge it’s not a good argument just to say that same-sex marriage goes against tradition.

2. There is a “fundamental complementarity” between men and women (e.g., paragraph 13).   The only concrete way we can find to justify this statement is that a man and a woman are needed for procreation (paragraph 10).  We somehow think that this means we can exclude same-sex couples from marriage but not opposite-sex couples that just as clearly cannot procreate.  We don’t think we need to justify this mysterious logical leap.

3. We are not horrible people, as can be seen from the fact that our bishops supported the Civil Partnerships Bill in the Lords in 2004.  At any rate, we will assert this and hope that no one notices that in fact six of the seven bishops present supported a wrecking amendment on 24 June 2004 designed to destroy that Bill.  We will maintain the claim even though Iain McLean pointed out its falsehood in the Guardian last month.

4. If this legislation is passed, the European Court of Human Rights might rule that the CofE and other religious institutions are obliged to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.  At least, we will write rather a lot (annex, paragraphs 26–44) that is likely to be reported by journalists as suggesting this danger.  But actually we acknowledge that there is no reason to think the Court would require any religious organization to solemnize same-sex marriages (annex paragraph 36).  All it might require is that religious organizations that want to solemnize such marriages should be able to do so (annex paragraph 37).  We actually believe in religious freedom only for ourselves, so this prospect sends us into a frightful tizzy.

Anyone wishing to submit their own views to the consultation has until Thursday 14th June to do so.

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4 Responses to What the Church of England is really saying about same-sex marriage

  1. I’d be interested to see comparable data on the divorce rate between same sex and mixed sex couple – I have a sneaking suspicion that the same sex divorce rate will be lower… I wonder what the CoE would say about that.

    P.S. If the link to the consultation above doesn’t work, remove the / on the end. 😎

  2. Having read the CofE submission myself, this is an excellent summary.

    Rachel, your suspicions are correct. Contact me at Alternative Family Law or via Twitter @AltFamLaw.

  3. Jeremy Smith says:

    Your precis is devastating – when we did essays at school we always had to give proof points and evidence for our propositions so this effort would have got a C- .

    The Chuch is on a very sticky wicket in trying to find reasons why non Christians should be legislated for using Christian guidelines. ‘Because we used to’ is not going to win the day!

  4. Jay Quine says:

    Before the age of television and radio, a charismatic minister, one who by the power of his own personality, ego and even his mental quirkiness or illnesses, tended to influence a relatively few people overall. Since these inventions, times have changed of course. Now we can be bombarded with the ideas, opinions, inspirations, knowings and outright stupidity of the sincerely misguided. The problem is that they reach millions and are supported by people who buy into their ideas, but never meet the man, attend his church or know what might be going on behind the scenes of the organization he has created. Such men build Mega-Churches in their local communities and the sheer size of the congregation seems to be proof enough that the pastor must be right, must be really speaking for God and must be doing God’s for sure, real, end time (again and still) work on earth. Surely something this big and with these many resources, which are mainly the tithes given to the man, who then decides just how to spend it with littler over site, has to be right and true.

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