Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Frustratingly Daft Response From Church Of England

You know I'm no fan of the Government's plans for religious civil partnerships. But the reaction from the Church of England to the proposals is complete nonsense.

The Government plans to open up the ability for those entering into a civil partnership to have religious readings, texts, etc at their wedding and perhaps even hold it in a religious setting (such a Liberal Synagogue). It is not forcing religions to change their beliefs or coercing them to perform civil partnerships. Yet the reaction from the Church of England would appear to suggest otherwise.

Here's the latest:

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Bishop Nicholas Reade, says his churches will not be used for same-sex ceremonies.

And he has criticised proposals for a change in the law, believed to have been drawn up by Liberal Democrat equality minister Lynne Featherstone.

No problems there, each to their own and all that.

Bishop Nicholas said: I find it quite hard to understand why the government should think it can interfere with the teachings of the church.

Sorry, come again???

Church and state are not the same thing, and I am very surprised that without any consultation with the church the government is making such a sweeping statement.

Erm... failing to see the point here. The Government should have consulted with the Church before allowing OTHER RELIGIONS to have the choice to perform civil partnerships? It makes no sense!

But Bishop Nicholas, whose diocese covers the whole of East Lancashire, said it was not the governments role to make the change.

Bishop Nicholas views echo an official statement from the Church of England, which said it would not allow its churches to be used.

It's not the Governments role to make something that is illegal legal?? Then whose role is it?? The Church of England does not have the authority to create legislation that's binding on other religions and the non-religious does it?

Bishop Nicholas is a fool. And I mean that in the sense that he is obviously stupid. And when I say that I mean he is so intellectually deficient that I find it quite bizarre that he has reached the position that he has. But then again he is in an organisation that believes in Virgin Birth.


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Richard Gadsden said...

Much more likely than being a complete idiot, the bishop is an establishmentarian who believes that as the established church, the Church of England is obligated to obey the moral dictates of the state.

It might seem silly, but there are people in the Church of England who take the view that the established church is not entitled to take its own view on moral questions, but must abide by the state's view, as it is part of the state.

Dan Hassett said...

As far as I am concerned, the government should have no say in who gets married - that is a private matter for consenting adults. However, I don't think it's fair to call the Bishop a fool or intellectually deficient. Given other legislation already on the statutes, he has a legitimate concern.

Existing anti-discrimination laws make it illegal to deny service on the grounds of sexuality. There is already precedent to this applying to religious organisations - the Catholic Church's adoption service has closed as a result. It is hard to see how these two pieces of legislation in combination would not force churches to offer gay marriage services unless they stop offering weddings.

No matter how daft you may think the Bible, Freedom of Religion was a hard won right, which saw countless deaths over many centuries of struggle. It forms the basis for modern rights including the Freedom of Expression, which underpins democracy itself.

I am concerned that this policy which, viewed alongside existing legislation, could force the church to act against its principles. Lynne Featherstone needs to listen very carefully to what this Bishop is saying, and be prepared to compromise as necessary to avoid compromising important rights.

Jae said...

Two points Dan

1) How likely is it that anyone would take a church to court to force it to marry them against it's will? What sort of marriage would that be? The Church has denied blessings to same sex blessings for some time. This denial of service has not been legally challenged under current laws.

2) Given that this is the number one concern of just about every Parliamentarian (for or against) that has been asked about their position on religious civil partnerships it is almost certain any legislation will ensure an "opt out" for those religions that wish to do so. Although given the legislation itself is ill-conceived (I'm with you in thinking the Government should get out of the marriage business), perhaps I am making too many assumptions.

But I don't think so.

The Bishop's remarks do not address this at all, and lack even a jot of measured criticism and instead suggest the Government's agenda is to FORCE the Church of England to civilly partner same sex couples. This is either

1) a complete lie/political distortion to back up his position
2) an example of his stupidity.

I simply chose the less insulting option.

Jae said...

And further to this, here's what the Government says:

Section 202 makes clear the voluntary nature of the provision, stating: "For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnership registrations if they do not wish to do so."

Richard Gadsden said...

@Jae, if you accept the extreme establismentarian position, then the Church of England is the state's church; that which the state permits in a church is therefore permitted in the Church of England. The Church of England does not have the option to refuse to host civil partnership registrations if it does not wish to do so because it has no wishes of its own; it wills what the state wills; it has no view, no doctrine, no existence without the state.

Now, it's an odd position, but if you think that the Church of England is the religion department of HMG, then it's a perfectly rational position.

What I suspect the bishop is really on about is that he doesn't want a secular state and doesn't accept that we have one. He wants the state to abide by the Church's moral code because the Church is part of HMG.

Frankly, I want to disestablish the Church of England and put it on exactly the same status as all other religions, as do many secularists inside the Church; but that battle is still on-going. Much of the Church wants to continue to be special.

Richard Gadsden said...

In particular, the 39 Articles (the doctrinal foundation of the Church of England) were passed by Act of Parliament, not by Synod.

It's not completely mad to believe that the Church of England's doctrine is being changed by the non-secular state.

Paul Brownsey said...

Dan Hassett says:

"There is already precedent to this applying to religious organisations - the Catholic Church's adoption service has closed as a result. It is hard to see how these two pieces of legislation in combination would not force churches to offer gay marriage services unless they stop offering weddings."

He overlooks a very significant difference between the two cases. The Roman Catholic Church's adoption service involved the disposal of persons who are not consent adults freely agreeing to subscribe to the teachings of that church, namely, children. It is quite right that the state should not leave the fate of the children to be determined entirely by aprivate organization, namely, the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, children were being denied placing with gay or lesbian couples precisely because doing so would involve a recognition of those couples which the RC Church was determined to deny: the interests of children in having a loving home and being taken out of the insecurities of the care system were thus sacrificed to the Moloch of dogma. The state was justified in intervening.

The handing out of marriage blessings, on the other hand, involves nothing but the delivery of purely religious goods, and the giving or withholding of such blessings operates purely among those who, as consenting adults, voluntarily opt to submit to the Roman Catholic Church. It is thus not for the state to intervene.