C. of E. Bishops challenged re Church Rules on Marriage

More about historical error in the House of Bishops statement

Following the publication here of Linda Woodhead’s article titled An error in the House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage some further discussion continued at Law and Religion UK where Frank Cranmer wrote An error in the House of Bishops’ Guidance on Same Sex Marriage? – perhaps not.

Now, Scot Peterson has published Generalizations, Just-So Stories and Marriage Law and Doctrine. He reviews the discussion so far, explaining that:

..As Iain McLean and I have written in our recent book, Legally Married, the law of marriage in the UK has changed frequently. Here, the question is whether the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 is ‘the first time’ there has been a divergence between

the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.

After laying out the facts he is in no doubt about the outcome, finishing with:

…Conclusion: Woodhead’s argument is correct, and Arora and Cranmer are mistaken. The House of Bishops’ statement is in error. The civil law in England and Wales (and elsewhere) has frequently diverged from religious rules about marriage. Social norms about marriage have moved ahead, public policy about marriage, expressed in laws, has evolved, and so has church doctrine, but not always at the same rate. It would be honest of the Church of England, and its bishops, to admit that fact and get on with it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento (Thinking Anglicans) Mon. 24 Feb.


Thanks to Simon Sarmiento (T.A.) for this up-to-date report on the errors contained in the recent response by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality.

Their expressed premise that Same-Sex Marriage would be an unprecedented departure from Anglican Church Doctrine on Christian Marriage has been found to be not strictly true.

Civil Law on Civil Marriage has been changed more than once, and it has taken time for the Church of England to react, but it has usually – after a time of reflection – adapted to the changes in the law of the land. The most notable change having been that of Divorce and Re-Marriage, which is now allowed by the Church.

For the Church of England Bishops to protest that the new law permitting the Marriage of Same-Sex couples would be an unprecedented movement, on the part of the government, which the Church – by dint of the need to preserve Church Law – would be bound to resist; would neither be true, nor an acceptable excuse for denying monogamously-partnered same-sex couples the right to be married in England and Wales. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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