The Government’s plan to introduce same-sex marriage is one of the most serious threats to the Church of England in its 500-year history, senior clergy claim.
The Church today outlines its opposition to the Government’s proposals in scathing terms. Anxiety among Church leaders is so acute that they raise the spectre of disestablishment, warning that any attempt to alter the definition of marriage could fatally undermine the Church’s privileged position.
Ever since the reign of Henry VIII the Church of England has been the country’s official religion, facing down threats to its establishment as severe and varied as the Spanish Armada and the English Civil War. That senior clergy have raised concerns about same-sex marriage in a similar context indicates how seriously they view the Government’s attempt to redefine marriage – as a potential attack on the role of the Church itself.
Critics have dismissed the Church’s stance as overly dramatic and called on bishops to follow the lead of established religious bodies in Iceland, Sweden and Denmark who largely embraced gay marriage.
The Church’s position, which was drawn up by senior bishops and lawyers, is confirmation that despite supporting civil partnerships eight years ago, the Church believes extending marriage rights to same sex couples is simply a step too far. The clerics say that the plans for same-sex marriage “have not been thought-through properly and are not legally sound”.
Downing Street has insisted that its plans to bring in equal marriage laws will go ahead. In March the Government launched a three-month consultation process calling on supporters and opponents to put forward their views with the deadline for submissions closing later this week.
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