Church of England does the best it can on gay marriage

The Church of England has been opposing gay marriage, but votes in Parliament demonstrate that they can’t stop it.  So the state church is dropping its attempts to kill the gay marriage bill and is concentrating instead on improving it; that is, making gay marriage more like regular marriage.  For example, under the current bill, adultery is not a grounds for divorce for homosexual couples!  And lesbian spouses do not have parental responsibilities if one partner is a mother!

So adultery doesn’t violate marriage vows for gay married couples?  And parental obligations are different in same-sex marriages?  I’m curious if such differences in what marriage entails are part of the gay marriage movement overall.  If there are different rules for the two kinds of marriage, the slogan “marriage equality” is bogus.  Gay marriage would, in fact, change the institution as a whole.

From John Bingham, in the London Telegraph:

In a short statement, the established Church said that the scale of the majorities in both the Commons and Lords made clear that it is the will of Parliament that same sex couples “should” be allowed to marry.

The Bishop of Leicester, who leads the bishops in the House of Lords, said they would now concentrate their efforts on “improving” rather than halting an historic redefinition of marriage.

It represents a dramatic change of tack in the year since the Church insisted that gay marriage posed one of the biggest threats of disestablishment of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII.

And it comes despite a warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, that the redefinition of marriage would undermine the “cornerstone” of society . . . .

Peers voted by 390 to 148 against a motion which would have struck down the Government’s same-sex marriage bill on Tuesday.

It will now be scrutinised by peers who are likely to add a series of amendments to add extra protections for teachers or other workers who object on grounds of conscience.

In a statement, Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, said bishops would now “join” with politicians to strengthen parts of the bill rather than resisting it.

“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales,” he said.

“It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape.”

And he made clear that the bishops would look not only at strengthening opt-outs for those who oppose a new definition of marriage but at the future practicalities for people in same-sex unions.

He signalled that bishops would seek to introduce a notion of adultery into the bill and extend parental rights for same-sex partners.

Under the current bill people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce for adultery after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between gay or lesbian couples.

The bishops are also seeking to change a provision which says that when a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage has a baby her spouse is not also classed as the baby’s parent.

The result is that in some cases children would be classed as having only one parent.

Bishop Stevens said: “The concerns of many in the Church, and in the other denominations and faiths, about the wisdom of such a move have been expressed clearly and consistently in the Parliamentary debate.

“For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned.

“The bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children.

“If this bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace.

“Our focus during committee and report stages in the coming weeks and months will be to address those points in a spirit of constructive engagement.”

Can you envision American churches coming to this point?  If gay marriage is established by law, should the effort shift to making it as much like heterosexual marriage as possible?  Or emphasizing and allowing for its intrinsic differences, so as to differentiate the newly-constructed institution from historical marriage?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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