Church of England Opposes Same-Sex Marriage in Response to UK Gov't Push

(Photo: Church of England)Members of the Church of England celebrate the Eucharist in at the 2012 General Synod

The Church of England issued a statement on Tuesday opposing same-sex marriage in response to a government consultation on whether to allow same-sex couples to have marriage through a civil ceremony.

In its statement, the Church states that civil partnerships in the UK already offer the same legal rights while adding that adding new meaning to the term marriage "would be deeply unwise."

The UK Home Secretary Theresa May, whose governmental body, the Home Office, is conducting the consultation, issued a statement on Twitter in response.

The consultation period is set to end on June 14 and comes as the government intends to introduce same-sex civil marriage by the next general election in 2015.

"We are not proposing to make religious groups do anything that goes against their conscience," May wrote.

"We are not proposing to make religious groups do anything that goes against their conscience," she wrote.

The Church statement, issued in an unsigned document, says the move "would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history."

"Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation," the Church stated.

The Church said it has previously supported moves to remove "unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed."

The Church argues that a government "consultation paper" "wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, 'civil' and religious.'"

"The assertion that 'religious marriage' will be unaffected by the proposals is therefore untrue, since fundamentally changing the state's understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed."

"To remove the concept of gender from marriage while leaving it in place for civil partnerships is unlikely to prove legally sustainable. It is unlikely to prove politically sustainable to prevent same sex weddings in places of worship given that civil partnerships can already be registered there where the relevant religious authority consents," the Church said.

It also weighed in on possible discrimination claims against Churches.

"And there have to be serious doubts whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. For each of these reasons we believe, therefore, this consultation exercise to be flawed, conceptually and legally," the Church added.

Rev. Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, a network of gay, lesbian, bisexual trangender and heterosexual members in the Church of England, says the Church drew up the document "with no consultation with or input by any lesbian or gay members of the Church of England or the organizations representing LGB&T Anglicans."

He says there is a "wide spectrum of opinions" about the matter in the church and asked how it could "produce such a one-sided statement."

"There are faithful, spiritual lesbian and gay Christians, committed to their parish church, who want more than legal equality and recognition for their relationships. We want our relationships blessed and consecrated in church the same way as our straight friends get married in the church," he wrote.

On its website, the Church cited previous statements by high ranking church officials in support of keeping the definition of marriage as it currently stands.

Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a lecture in February to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, highlighted tensions around the discussions of rights, faith and culture.

"If it is said, for example, that a failure to legalize assisted suicide – or indeed same-sex marriage - perpetuates stigma or marginalization for some people, the reply must be, I believe, that issues like stigma and marginalization have to be addressed at the level of culture rather than law, the gradual evolving of fresh attitudes in a spirit of what has been called 'strategic patience' by some legal thinkers," he wrote.

The Rev. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, was also quoted on his views in January in an interview with the Telegraph on possible changes to marriage. He expressed a clear opposition by calling it a redefinition of the word.

"We must not torture the English language. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's marriage. We supported Civil Partnerships [the bishops in the House of Lords], because we believe that friendships are good for everybody. But then to turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that's not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting," Rev. Sentamu said.

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