Parliament must not attempt to dictate the Church of England’s (CofE) doctrine by pushing it to allow same-sex weddings, an MP has said.
Andrew Selous was speaking on behalf of the CofE in his role as Second Church Estates Commissioner. He told Ben Bradshaw MP that his motion to permit rogue CofE clergy to conduct same-sex weddings sought “to usurp the role of the democratically elected General Synod of the Church of England as well as to remove the freedom of the Church of England to decide its own doctrine”.
Selous highlighted that although the General Synod did recently vote to welcome plans for churches to bless individuals in same-sex partnerships, “a clear majority” rejected proposals to allow churches to conduct same-sex weddings.
Bradshaw claimed his proposed Bill would not compel clergy to conduct same-sex weddings against their conscience, but Selous told him “it is just not possible to leave it to individual clergy to choose to do things which are clearly contrary to the doctrine of the church”.
“Directing the Church of England on doctrine is not the job of Parliament, it would infringe on settled principles of religious freedom which we argue for our sisters and brothers overseas and it would call into question the rights and protections of conscience for other denominations and faiths.”
Bradshaw admitted his motion has “no chance of becoming law”, claiming his preference would be for the CofE to make the change itself.
But he attacked “conservative evangelicals” and “a small minority in the Church of England” who he claimed were “holding the majority back”.
Under the 2013 same-sex marriage legislation, no denomination or church or minister can be forced to conduct same-sex weddings. This is because of four legal safeguards, often called the ‘quadruple lock’.
Maria Miller, the minister originally responsible for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, said at the time that protections afforded to churches by the legislation were “iron clad”. Bradshaw himself acknowledged at the time that it was the “prerogative” of the CofE not to conduct same-sex weddings.
Responding to Bradshaw’s motion, The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart said it “flagrantly interferes with Church doctrine and must be decisively rejected”.
“If successful, this brazen attack on religious liberty undermines, and could ultimately wreck, the whole package of protections for churches.”
‘True Christian unity’
Earlier this month, the leader of one of the largest Anglican churches in England encouraged Archbishop Welby and the House of Bishops to submit to the authority of the Bible on sexual ethics.
Revd William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate in the City of London, told Premier Christian News “the Bible is very clear. Submit and surrender to the teachings of the Scripture and then we will have true Christian unity.”
St Helen’s is among a number of churches which have paused financial contributions to the Church of England. In his speech, Bradshaw referred to such parishes as “homophobic”.
Last month, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GFSA), which says it represents 75 per cent of Anglicans worldwide, said it could no longer “walk together” with the Church of England after they voted to bless same-sex partners.