Same-Sex Marriage and Clergy

Gay Marriage Simpsons Style!Here’s the big unanswered question for the House of Bishops – will they permit clergy to enter same-sex marriages?

As was pointed out in a comment on yesterday’s post, the new law seems to suggest that the Church of England can if it so chooses decide that clergy may not enter same-sex marriages. As one member of the House of Bishops pointed out to me, the Church of England is very clearly opposed to even civil same-sex marriage so the idea of clergy entering into them is a non-starter.

Or is it? The real issue is whether the House of Bishops would agree to bring a charge under the Clergy Discipline Measure against any deacon or priest who entered a same-sex marriage. If they won’t, then the game is over because any such clergy-person could act in a manner completely contrary to the teaching of the Church of England with impunity. That would make the official position meaningless.

Over to the lawyers then…

4 Comments on “Same-Sex Marriage and Clergy

  1. I think that the CofE will only publicly address this issue, if the Bill becomes law. Until then, I believe that their overtures of possibly accommodating Civil Partnerships will cause the government to remove the Fourth Lock. This is an initial test of whether the government can, in principle, force through a diktat to the Church of England, applying additional civil restrictions to the conduct of religious services over and above the scope that Canon law provides.

    A further point regarding inter-faith cooperation is highlighted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in its response is the impact on denominations who share a church building (Point 5: THE PROPOSED ‘SAFEGUARDS’ ARE INADEQUATE (e) on Page 5).

    Anglicans and Methodists can and do participate in united congregations as Local Ecumenical partnerships. Let’s suppose that the Methodist Church decides to authorise same-sex marriages. The Sharing Agreement explicitly states: ‘the two Churches shall be regarded in principle as having equal rights to the use of the Church Building’.

    Even if a Methodist minister is only permitted to *assist* at Anglican weddings, there is clearly a significant possibility that conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony on shared premises will strain relations between denominations that have an established arrangement for sharing premises. The Bill assumes that dominations operate as entirely separate entities in separate buildings, which they don’t.

  2. Yes, this is a potentially interesting area… Will some brave Church of England Bishop defy the political establishment and defrock clergy for doing something that is promoted by the state but not approved by the canons? A completely novel ecclesiastical situation!!?

    Err, not exactly. We will just be like the Roman Catholics – sacking clergy who marry against the canons!

    • ps I’m looking forward to what happens when the first Bishop takes the risk of disciplining someone over a gay marriage. It’s been too long since Bishops were thrown into jail by the state (beware when everyone speaks well of you)!

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