The Church of England joins the fight.

From The Guardian:

The church’s submission warns that despite ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, it would be “very doubtful” whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European court of human rights. This could make it impossible for the CofE to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it warned.

Many people on Twitter are noting the belief-defying irony here: a Church which was created for the purpose of redefining marriage now claims such an act would destroy it.

Matthew Parris, in the comments section on The Times‘ website, develops (£) upon that theme:

It’s true that for hundreds of years the Church (and the rest of us) have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman; but equally true that for hundreds of years the Church has defined marriage as being largely indissoluble, except by death or by God. The divorce reform laws of the last century smashed straight through that definition, but churches were allowed to keep to it if they wished, and marry or refuse to marry as they chose. I’d argue that it was divorce reform that really broke the mould. What is the Anglican position on the State’s right to make an indissoluble union a dissoluble one?

Another commenter on The Times‘ website wonders what the Church’s attitude to the following are:

Allowing Quakers and Jews to get married (Marriage Act 1753)?

Allowing Catholics and other non-Anglicans to get married (Marriage Act 1836)?

Allowing married women to own their own property (Married Women’s Property Acts 1870, 1882, 1893)?

Banning marital rape (R v R [1992] 1 A.C. 599)?

Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association asks some even tougher questions. Read his whole post. A snippet:

If the Church thinks introduction of same-sex civil marriage means their disestablishment … how long after the introduction of equal civil marriage does the Church intend to remove its state-funded chaplains from prisons, hospitals and the armed forces?

There’s little for me to add to all of this. The absurdity is clear for anyone to see. But I would bring attention to one telling passage from the Church’s submission:

Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

Emphasis mine. So even in their official document explaining to the government why this is such a destructive, undesirable reform, they take the time to acknowledge that marriage is about cementing and strengthening and recognising a bond between two persons for the sake of their reciprocal love and intense, unparalleled friendship. But they add on what marriages also often have, which gays could never have, and which nowadays seems a mere coincidental, wholly unnecessary characteristic of the union: procreation. That’s their get-out card through which their prejudices can be rationalised. They know the grounds upon which marriage reform should be embraced. They even mention them! But even when penning those arguments themselves, they’re incapable of drawing the proper conclusions.

Ultimately, I’m with George Eaton in welcoming the potentially gorgeous side-effect of marriage reform that would be the Church’s disestablishment. But for the reasons Copson outlines, we should remain skeptical that this is anything but a bluff. They have little interest in losing the prestige and power that the state’s platform gives them at a time when their influence would otherwise be on the decline. Conservatives have often argued that a reason to support the Church’s preservation is because its being tied to the state ensures it remains quiet and apolitical, leaving the bigotry to the Catholics. So much for that theory, which the front pages of the papers dismantle today.

Eaton quotes Rowan Williams from a 2008 interview:

I can see that it’s by no means the end of the world if the establishment disappears. The strength of it is that the last vestiges of state sanction disappeared, so when you took a vote at the Welsh synod, it didn’t have to be nodded through by parliament afterwards. There is a certain integrity to that.

And comments:

In an increasingly atheistic and multi-faith society, a secular state, which protects all religions and privileges none, is a model to embrace. If David Cameron wants a real legacy, he could do no better than to bring home Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation“.

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One thought on “The Church of England joins the fight.

  1. Pingback: The CofE – addiction to homophobia? « Jon Robinson

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