Like many other church assemblies around this time, the Church of England General Synod in July 2013 faces several controversial and challenging issues. As Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recognised, both openness and boldness are needed.
As if there weren’t enough groups already campaigning against same-sex marriage – such as the Coalition for Marriage and Keep Marriage Special – today (17 June) sees the launch of another one. It’s called “Gay Marriage, No Thanks” (yes, really; that’s the organisation’s name).
As a law to allow equal marriage in England and Wales reaches committee stage in the House of Lords, those most strongly opposed are still trying to weaken or block it. Despite large majorities for the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill in the Lords and earlier House of Commons, some peers have put forward amendments which would delay or undermine marriage equality.
Some people may be understandably confused about the Church of England’s position on same-sex partnerships and equal marriage. Official statements, the publicly-voiced views of senior clergy and broader opinions among church members point in different directions. Part of this is to do with realism, but shifts in understanding also play a part.
Church of England bishops have given up trying to block equal marriage in England and Wales. Though several spoke and voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Lords, this bid was heavily defeated. Many church members, including some bishops, support marriage equality, though others are strongly opposed.
The House of Lords has backed a Bill to allow same-sex couples in England and Wales to marry, by 390 votes to 148. After a long debate in which Christians argued for and against the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, a bid by opponents to block a second reading was heavily defeated.