On 24th January 2023 the Speaker of the House of Commons granted an urgent question to Ben Bradshaw MP, to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP. A rare event, this was only the second time such an urgent question to the Church Commissioners had been granted in the House of Commons, the first being in November 2012.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) (Urgent Question): To ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting of Church of England bishops on equal marriage in the Church of England.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous) Mr Speaker, as you know, I offered to make a statement to the House yesterday but was advised that a response to an urgent question would be preferable.
Last Friday, the bishops of the Church of England published a pastoral letter and draft resources that will enable same-sex couples to come to a Church of England church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership, and to have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and blessing for the couple. The bishops also apologised for the rejection, exclusion and hostility that LGBTQI+ people have faced in some of our churches. The bishops are united in condemning homophobia, and urged churches to welcome same-sex couples “unreservedly and joyfully”. I am pleased to speak for a Church that has the humility to apologise and admit when it has behaved badly.
On 1st March 2019 the House of Lords considered the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill at its Report Stage. Lord Faulkner of Worcester tabled an amendment to the Bill similar to that which he had tabled in Committee on the process by which the Church of England and Church in Wales might opt-in to conduct same-sex marriages. The Bishop of Oxford responded to the amendment, explaining that it was not necessary as there were already legal mechanisms in place for both Churches to opt-in should they choose to. The Minister also emphasised these points in her response and the amendment was not put to a vote. The Bishop’s speech is below, and the whole debate on the amendment is reproduced underneath.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, those were extremely moving speeches. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Collins and Lord Cashman, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for the contributions they have made in the Chamber today and the moving way in which they have spoken. I thank them for sharing their personal experiences so movingly, and for the important and necessary articulation of the views they have heard within the broader Church of England in favour of movement and inclusion. I deeply regret the language used in writing to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others; it has no place in the contemporary Church.
The Church is committed to listening carefully to the wisdom of the nation, to the wisdom in our continued debate in this Chamber and to the voices of LGBTI people at all levels in the life of the church. We are committed in our public statements to the inclusion and welcome of all.
On 30th July 2014, Conservative Peer Lord Fowler asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they are satisfied with the enactment and operation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.”
In his follow up question, Lord Fowler raised the situation of clergy who are married to someone of the same sex. A number of other Peers also asked questions relating to the situation in the Church of England.
The Bishop of Wakefield spoke during the debate on the statutory instruments relating to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. He drew the attention of Peers to the recently published statement by the Church of England’s House of Bishops, which set out the Church’s position on this subject. He noted the wide range of views on the subject, both in the Church of England, and in the wider Anglican Communion, and noted the on-going discussions taking place between the Anglican Church in different parts of the world on the subject of human sexuality. He also highlighted the Church of England’s commitment to tackling homophobia.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: It would seem odd to me if I were to just sit here silently after people, particularly the noble Baroness, have said what they have. First, I am sure that no one in the House of Bishops would have approached with anything other than irony the fact that the statement was issued on 14 February. Secondly, I entirely associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Alli, about Uganda and other countries where such repressive measures have been taken. I am fairly certain that no one in the House of Bishops would want to say anything different.
The next thing to say is that, without any sense of disloyalty to the college to which I belong, there was a variety of opinion on how we approach the problem. It is a problem because we are dealing with a very long tradition, set out in the Book of Common Prayer. For a church that has a tradition that now goes back 450 years in what it has been saying about marriage, to move in a significantly different direction is a significant shift. There will be a variety of opinions, but that is an issue. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield speaks in debate on secondary legislation for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act”
On 15th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, took part in the Third Reading debate on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Bishop spoke in support of a group of amendments seeking to remove inequalities in relation to survivor benefits under occupational pension schemes and thanked the Minister and the Government for accommodating the needs of the Church of England and other faith traditions within the Bill. As the Third Reading is the final opportunity for debate in the legislative process, Baroness Stowell of Beeston noted the work of the Bishop of Leicester during the passage of the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments. A review of the benefits accruing to all survivors under occupational pension schemes is both desirable and necessary. The principle of equity under the law for those whom the law holds to have the same status in relation to the deceased is a sound one. Hard-pressed pension schemes must be tempted to limit benefits, and the complexity of some schemes may hide inequity, so this principle is clear and just and I support it. Indeed, the Church of England pension scheme already treats surviving civil partners in precisely the same way as widows and widowers.
There is a wider reason for supporting these amendments. It is no secret that the majority of Christian churches and other world faiths do not believe that same-sex marriage accords with their understanding of marriage itself. However, many of us, including on these Benches, welcome the social and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and believe that our society is a better and healthier one for such recognition. That is why I support this group of amendments. This point has sometimes been obscured in public commentary on what has been taking place here, but not in the debates in your Lordships’ House. The courtesy and clarity with which your Lordships have listened to each other represent our very best traditions, and I echo all that has already been said in this brief debate. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich debates pension provisions in Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”
On 4th June 2013, nine bishops took part in a division during the Second Reading debate of the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Crossbench Peer Lord Dear moved, as an amendment to the motion that the bill be now read a second time, to leave out from “that” to the end and insert “this House declines to give the bill a second reading”.
Nine bishops voted “content” with Lord Dear’s amendment. They were: the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops of Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Coventry, Exeter, Hereford, London and Winchester. A further five bishops attended but abstained from the vote. No bishops voted “not content.”
There were: Contents: 148 | Not Contents: 390 | Result: Government Win
On 3rd & 4th June 2013 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Exeter, Rt Revd Michael Langrish, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below, with extracts from speeches made by Peers where reference is made.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, observed that, from a Christian perspective, God can be present in every true love. I absolutely agree. But marriage is about more than love. Then we are told that the issues at stake here are equal rights, justice and social inclusion. Certainly, these are things about which Governments may legislate. Indeed, if they wish to support particular kinds of relationship by according them tax and pension benefits, that must be a matter for normal political debate. However, in this Bill the Government have chosen to proceed not by addressing real, material or legal inequalities but by redefining the key concept of marriage and its meaning. Continue reading “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – Bishop of Exeter’s speech in the Lords”
On 3rd & 4th June 2013 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below, with extracts from speeches made by Peers where reference is made.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I associate myself closely with the previous speeches from these Benches but want to develop the discussion in a slightly different direction. I should emphasise that I am speaking in my personal capacity as a bishop and not, in any formal sense, on behalf of the wider Church of England.
I want to focus on the potential impact on the relationship between the Church of England and the state. As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Dear, with his great list of implications for Argentina, I wanted to leap up and say, “And we have the Church of England to think about as well, on top of all that lot”. It was an issue that did not receive much attention in the debate in the other place—hardly any at all. I say at the outset that the Church of England has no right simply to maintain the status quo in our relationship with the state; nor do we necessarily wish to do so. However, the argument that there has been change, as there has been, in church-state relationships is no argument for any particular change. The weakness in the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was that all the changes in marriage that he listed were, in themselves, no argument for the particular change that we are discussing now. Continue reading “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – Bishop of Chester’s speech in the Lords”
On 3rd June 2013 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Leicester, Rt Revd Tim Stevens, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below, with extracts from speeches made by Peers where reference is made.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, having conducted some 400 weddings as a parish priest, making the journey with couples as they anticipate a lifelong commitment has been one of the great privileges of the ordained life. I have witnessed personally the stability, fulfilment and anchor for life for so many, which has been transformational. However, I have also observed that the open and public recognition of gay relationships that civil partnerships now provide displays many of the very qualities for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. I speak as one whose respect for and appreciation of gay clergy is deep and who recognises in them sacrificial lives and fruitful ministries. I also recognise the need for some humility at this moment in speaking on matters of equality from these Benches. I add my appreciation to that of the most reverend Primate for the way in which the Secretary of State and her colleagues have tried to accommodate the Church of England’s concerns at every point in this process. I entirely endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and others have said about the need to continue to make progress on the inclusion of gay people in our society, and I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has said about change and development in our understanding of the institution of marriage. Continue reading “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – Bishop of Leicester’s speech in the Lords”