Divorce Over Marriage Proposal – The CoE’s Passive Threat

Posted on 2012/06/12


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Consider the insipid nature of the Church of England, and it is unsurprising to find that when they do decide to make threats, they are always cloaked in passivity.

“Then, you leave us no choice,” is the ominous soundbite of a fanatic with a victim-mentality – a disposition endemic amongst clerics. And this is essentially the form of their recent 13-page document that responds to a recent government “equal civil marriage consultation“.

The threat is a serious one, and signifies that the church has finally recognised the implications of gay-marriage legislation for their ‘of England‘ status as the state-approved religion.

Near the end of their 13 page document, they write:

Were legislation to be enacted by Parliament that changed the definition of marriage for the purposes of the law of England, the status and effect of the canonical provisions that set out the Church’s doctrine of marriage as being between one man and one woman would be called into question. In this way too the consultation overlooks the implications of what is proposed for the position of the established Church.

[Annex remark 25, page 10]

In other words, if we mean ‘marriage’ as a state-approved union, then it seems impossible for the state-approved religion to deny it in any form.

And their relentless opposition to a soon-to-be legal gay marriage perhaps marks the twilight of this special endorsement.


As with most opposition to gay marriage, this church wraps up their suppression of civil rights into a carefully crafted ‘definition’ of marriage, with – unsurprisingly – a series of supporting documentation from their favourite two books: the King James Bible, and Book of Common Prayer.

The argument moves to a realm of absurdity when they write:

The language of a “ban” has been promoted by certain pressure groups and it is disappointing to see the GEO adopt this polemical language uncritically. To speak of a “ban” implies an act of human will to prevent same sex couples marrying and therefore excludes the alternative view that heterosexual marriage is an ages-old social institution which, by definition, can only be entered into by a man and a woman. Serious and widely-held views are therefore rejected in advance by the way the “problem” is defined.

[remark 25, page 6]

Substitute ‘marriage’ for ‘vote’; ‘heterosexual’ for ‘white’, and, with few further modifications, the above passage is patently immoral.

Perhaps there’s also a divinely authorised definition of ‘ban’. Either way, most of us know what they are really saying. “We don’t want gay couples to marry because it says so in this book.”


Marriage has from the beginning of history been the way in which societies have worked
out and handled issues of sexual difference. To remove from the definition of marriage this
essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is
explicitly acknowledged.

[remark 11, page 4]

Well, if this is so, how does god suggest we work out and handle these ‘issues of sexual difference?

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:22-25

Seems like ‘marriage’ has been in need of redefinition for some time.


In law, there is one social institution called marriage, which can be entered into through either a religious or a civil ceremony. To suggest that this involves two kinds of marriage is to make the category error of mistaking the ceremony for the institution itself.

[remark 18, page 4]

If the status of being married (they say ‘institution‘) is distinct from the ceremony, then why is there so much instruction in the religious ceremony? Indeed, ‘ceremony’ might be too grand a word for those who wish to just sign the papers, without any secular or religious preamble.

No, the ceremony is a cleric’s opportunity to propagate their favourite bronze-age moral commandments. They define what constitutes a ‘good marriage’ in these rituals.

And once again, centuries after it was first asked, we must question why the Church of England thinks it has a monopoly on moral truth.


Questions 6 and 8 refer to the proposal to retain the category of civil partnerships solely for
same-sex couples, following the introduction of same-sex marriage. No rationale is given.
In the absence of a clear rationale it is unlikely that the provisions of a bill that gave effect
to this aspect of the proposal would survive the Parliamentary legislative process.

[remark 20, page 5]

Although I agree that this seems somewhat hypocritical, it is ironic to see it being pointed out by an institution that is simultaneously upholding the same view for ‘marriage’.


Now, all of this wouldn’t be of any interest, if the Church was not state approved and passively funded.

They would be entirely at their liberty to deny marriage to gay couples, if they didn’t have bishops in the House of Lords.

But they do have these things. And it is shameful that we have allowed them these concessions for so long.

I welcome any attempt to accelerate this dispute, from either Church or State. And the outcome seems inevitable: a long-overdue separation.

Posted in: Gay Rights, Religion