Norwich bishops have their say on gay marriage
The Bishops of Norwich, Thetford and Lynn, say that they are sympathetic to the full inclusion of gay people in our society but that the Government’s current same-sex marriage proposals raise other important issues and are liable to generate more problems that they will solve. Keith Morris reports.
In a open letter to Diocese of Norwich clergy, the three Diocesan bishops spelt out their thoughts on the current Government consultation on the introduction of same sex marriage, which ends on June 14.
“We believe it important to avoid ill-considered and bellicose reactions to the Government’s proposals and to think through how such reactions are heard by gay people themselves,” they said. “It is surely to the benefit of the whole of our society if gay people live in faithful, stable and publicly recognised relationships. Indeed, some gay relationships are a model of faithfulness compared with the serial monogamy so prevalent among heterosexual people.
“Civil partnerships were introduced less than six years ago and seem to have won rapid acceptance in wider society. They are frequently referred to as ‘marriage’ but there is a significant distinction since the registration of a civil partnership is not accompanied by any formal promises as in marriage.
“The Government proposes retaining civil partnerships (but not extending them beyond same sex relationships) as well as introducing same sex marriage. The rapidity of these developments makes us wonder how well considered they are.
“We are sympathetic to the full inclusion of gay people in our society and the provision of appropriate means to enable them to maintain stable and lasting relationships,” they conclude.
“We believe, however, that the redefinition of marriage itself in the law of the land raises other important issues about the nature of marriage itself. The way in which the Government is going about it appears to create a new and ill-defined phenomenon called religious marriage, a novelty liable to generate more problems than the present legislation will solve.
The Norwich Diocese public statement comes a week after the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Graham Smith joined other prominent figures in the Anglican church in writing to the Times to say: "We believe the Church has nothing to fear from... civil marriage for same-sex couples. It will be for the churches to then decide how they respond pastorally."
It went on to say that marriage is a "robust institution which has adapted much over the centuries" and has "moved beyond the polygamy of the Old Testament and preoccupation with social status and property in pre-Enlightenment times".
Mr Smith went on to tell the Evening News: “To my simple mind we are talking about how we recognise and acknowledge relationships between people who love each other and want to commit to a lifelong sacramental union.”
The government's consultation ends on June 14, have your say by clicking here. Religious organisations are among those specifically invited to respond
Click here to read our previous story on this topic.
Pictured above is the Bishop of Norwich.