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.
Some Christian MPs strongly support marriage equality while others are strongly against it. In the UK and beyond, parliamentary debates on celebrating same-sex partnerships have revealed that – whatever top clerics or elders say – opinion within the churches is divided, says Savitri Hensman, reporting and commenting on the religious and theological views being expressed in parliament.
I blogged earlier this week about statements from the socially conservative lobby group Christian Concern ahead of the local elections. They encouraged people to vote for candidates opposed to same-sex marriage.
The “Christian Right” in Britain – inasmuch as it exists – is not like the Christian Right in the US. Over there, conservatism on issues such as marriage and abortion seems to go hand in hand with right-wing views on economics and foreign policy. Over here, we have conservative Christian lobby groups with a far more narrow focus. Organisations such as the Christian Institute, Christian Concern/Christian Legal Centre and so-called Anglican Mainstream focus largely on attacking LGBT rights. They also speak out against abortion, Islam and the supposed marginalisation of Christians in Britain.