Preserving marriage as a union between one man and one woman is in the interests of the “wider good of society”, the former Bishop of Rochester has said.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali also affirmed the Church’s right to defend marriage, warning that the issue is a matter of significance.
“The Church is not in this to protect its own interest, it is in this discussion for the sake of wider society in this country generally,” he said.
“On this issue the church is not just talking about themselves and their rights, they are talking about the wider good of society and therefore must be listened to.”
The Bishop also questioned assurances by the Government on the effect of changing the current definition of marriage.
He said: “Given the direction that legislation has taken recently where conscience has not been legally recognised, how can we be sure that any assurances given to the church at this time will not later be overtaken first by an amendment which allows such marriages to take place in religious premises and later on a case is brought by someone which rules that it is discriminatory not to do so?”
The Westminster Government is expected to launch a controversial consultation on how, not whether, marriage should be redefined later this month.
Earlier this week it emerged that five million Roman Catholics are to be urged by Church leaders to resist the Government’s plans.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols – the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales – has written a letter to be read out in 2,500 churches this weekend.
The letter, co-signed by the Archbishop of Southwark, says redefining marriage would be a “profoundly radical step” that would “transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage.”
Last week Ann Widdecombe, the former Conservative MP, called for the contentious issue to be put to a public vote.
She insisted that Mr Cameron must put the matter to the people saying: “If he insists on pushing ahead then I challenge him to hold a referendum.”