Same-sex Marriage

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter 12:00 am, 26th October 2017

What recent discussions Church of England bishops have had on allowing parishes to hold ceremonies to celebrate same-sex marriages.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church’s doctrine, as set out in canon law and as explicitly recognised by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, is that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. As hon. Members will be aware, a resolution was passed over the weekend by the synod in Hereford. That motion will go to the General Synod and will be considered by its business committee for debate.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Given that many Anglican churches, including my wonderful cathedral in Exeter, already perform ceremonies to celebrate same-sex marriages, would it not be better for the Church just to get on with it and for bishops to make an announcement, rather than carrying on with what is in effect an institutionalised hypocrisy?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Obviously it is open to the right hon. Gentleman’s diocese to follow the same process that the Hereford diocese has just undertaken, but the Church is active in this area with two initiatives. A pastoral advisory group has been set up—led by the Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman—to work on the development of pastoral practice within the Church’s existing teaching, and a major teaching document is being produced on marriage and sexuality.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

When so many gay people are being persecuted throughout the world, particularly in Commonwealth countries, does my right hon. Friend not believe that allowing gay people to marry in churches in this country would send the right signal?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

An important step forward was made by the worldwide Anglican Church in accepting a new doctrine against homophobia, which is part of trying to stamp out such persecution across the wider Anglican communion.