Archbishop of Canterbury nails Same Sex Marriage Bill
His (present) Grace gave the following speech yesterday during the Peers' debate on government proposals to allow same sex marriages. Before the Telegraph puts its tediously predictable anti-Anglican spin on it, His (former) Grace would like to fisk it affirmatively:
My Lords, this Bill has arrived in your Lordship's House at great speed.You can say that again – from nowhere in the Conservative Party Manifesto to fully-fledged Bill faster than Your Grace's ascent to Lambeth.
The initial Proposals, when published at the end of the autumn, have needed much work to get them into today's form.Not to mention a hell of a lot of manipulation.
Much of that work has been done through detailed legal effort and discussion,And as sham consultation.
and I am deeply grateful to the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) teams – and especially to the Secretary of State for the thoughtful way in which she has listened and the degree to which she has been willing to make changes in order to arrive at the stage we’ve reached today.Listened? Maria Miller listened? No, Your Grace, her ears inclined to hear but were swiftly closed to all reason and entreaty. She has evaded and obfuscated ever since.
We all know, and it’s been said, that this is a divisive issue.Uh-huh.
In general the majority of faith groups remain very strongly against the Bill, and have expressed that view in a large number of public statements.Uh-huh.
The House of Bishops of the Church of England has also expressed a very clear majority view – although not unanimous, as has been seen by the strong and welcome contribution by the Bishop of Salisbury.Strong and welcome? Did we read the same statement? His Grace welcomes debate and diverse expressions of opinion (it is why he blogs), but the Bishop of Salisbury’s contribution was weak, and for its theological and historical inadequacy it was most unwelcome as it contributed so little.
The so-called Quadruple Lock may have some chance of withstanding legal scrutiny in Europe, and we are grateful for it, although other faith groups and Christian denominations who’ve written to me remain very hesitant.Uh-huh.
There have been useful discussions about the position of schools with a religious character and issues of freedom of conscience. And I’ve noted the undertaking of the Noble Baroness the Minister on those subjects, and I’m grateful for what she has said. The Noble Baroness the Minister has also put forward all her views today with great courtesy and persuasive effect, and I join in the remarks of the Noble Baroness, Baroness Royall, in appreciation of that.It’s nice to be pleasant and polite: it is the Christian thing to be. But these ‘useful discussions’ about freedom of religion and issues of freedom of conscience were guillotined in the House of Commons. That was disgraceful and disreputable. It does no harm occasionally to call people ‘whited sepulchres’. In love, of course.
And I have to say that personally I regret the necessity of having to deal with the possibility of a division at this stage, on a bill passed by a free vote in the other place.Notwithstanding that this ‘free vote’ was whipped, if not by the party machinery, by the ‘remorseless prism of equality’ and the natural fear that arises from unorthodox utterances against the zeitgeist. It is the constitutional function of the House of Lords to scrutinise legislation. It is entirely the Government’s fault that a division has to be dealt with at this stage.
I was particularly grateful to hear the speech of the Noble Baroness, Baroness Royall, and agreed with the proud record that was established by the last government during the years in which it held office in this area. I also, if I may, will pass on her comments with gratitude to my colleague the Most Revd Prelate the Archbishop of York.Proud record? Of equality? Presumably Your Grace means the introduction of civil partnerships rather than the forced closure of Roman Catholic adoption agencies; or the prosecution of Christian hoteliers and B&B owners; or the compulsion upon Christian printers to propagate gay pornography. By the way, do please pass on His Grace's best wishes to the Archbishop of York following his surgery.
It is clearly essential that stable and faithful same sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage.No problem at all with that: dignity is intrinsic to love; legal effects are the purview of the state.
Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the whole passage of the Civil Partnerships Act through your Lordships' House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should.Quite so.
I must express my sadness and sorrow for that considerable failure. There have been notable exceptions, such as my predecessor Archbishop Ramsey who vigorously supported decriminalisation in the 1960s.And was variously reviled and pilloried for doing so: it seems to be the vocation of all archbishops of Canterbury to be suspended somewhere between the religio-political extremes.
It is also necessary to express, as has been done already, total rejection of homophobic language, which is wrong – and more than that, sickening.Quite so.
However, I and many of my colleagues remain with considerable hesitations about this Bill. My predecessor Lord Williams of Oystermouth showed clearly last summer, in evidence during the consultation period, that it has within it a series of category errors.Uh-huh.
It confuses marriage and weddings.Uh-huh.
It assumes that the rightful desire for equality – to which I’ve referred supportively – must mean uniformity, failing to understand that two things may be equal but different.Uh-huh.
And as a result it does not do what it sets out to do, my Lords.Uh-huh.
Schedule 4 distinguishes clearly between same gender and opposite gender marriage, thus not achieving true equality.Uh-huh.
The result is confusion.Which rather nullifies your earlier assertion that the Secretary of State listened to any degree.
Marriage is abolished, redefined and recreated, being different and unequal for different categories.Quite so.
The new marriage of the Bill is an awkward shape with same gender and different gender categories scrunched into it, neither fitting well.Indeed: it ceases to be dimorphic and becomes essentially genderless.
The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost.Indeed, it abolishes the only institution which sustains gender complementarity for the primary purpose of procreation (Mt 19:4f). Marriage is the attraction of two adults of the opposite-sex and of different parents, followed by the setting up of a home distinct from the parental home, and the uniting of their lives in a shared life which forms a pattern of fulfilment which serves the wider end of enabling procreation to occur in a context of affection and loyalty.
The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished.Quite so. God told Hosea (3:1): “Go, love a woman”; not “Go, love a partner.” Faithlessness to the marriage covenant and faithlessness to the covenant with God are bracketed together by Malachi (2:10-12). One reflects and symbolises the other. Marriage is being reduced to a state contract of convenience; it ceases to be a sacrament; it is voided of holy matrimony, for two no longer need to become one flesh.
The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society – as we’ve already heard – is weakened.Normal? That is brave, Your Grace. So often now, to talk of ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ is to invite allegations of bigotry and discrimination. But this ‘normal’ is heterosexual and procreative: it predates any social contract for it seen to exist in nature.
These points will be expanded on by others in the debate, I’m sure, including those from these benches.Or not.
For these and many other reasons, those of us in the churches and faith groups who are extremely hesitant about the Bill in many cases hold that view because we think that traditional marriage is a corner stone of society, and rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this Bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective.Hear, hear. Marriage is a gift of creation, common to all humanity irrespective of belief.
This is not a faith issue, although we are grateful for the attention that government and the other place have paid to issues of religious freedom – deeply grateful. But it is not, at heart, a faith issue; it is about the general social good.Of course it isn’t a faith issue, and it is absurd of Christians to argue with His (present) Grace or His (former) Grace on this point to insist that it is. According to Scripture, faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Heb 11:1). It is imagined and eschatological, while marriage is immanent, seen and known. It is natural law and present reality; not a future hope, but the Creator’s design for this world. Marriage is not at heart a faith issue, but about the realisation of the common good for the ordering of society.
And so with much regret but entire conviction, I cannot support the Bill as it stands.Well done, Your Grace. There will some of your colleagues on the Episcopal Bench who will despair. Some have already blogged and tweeted that you are deluded, misguided or mistaken. Others will nit-pick over minutiae which they know nothing about; still others will cast you to the Gadarene Swine. But you have spoken clearly for the Church of England on this matter, and also for other Christian denominations and those of other faiths. When the Church contributes to public debate on matters of concern to secular society at large, it should address society on terms common to all participants. The attempt to be distinctly Christian belongs only to the pursuit of internal discipline among the faithful. Christians must distinguish between those dictates of the law of nature which are apparent to all men of good will and those which seem clear to themselves but not to others. Marriage is natural law. It is appropriate for the ‘hard heart’ of Parliament to be sceptical of metaphysics. It is not for Parliament to redefine the integrity of the created order.