Back in the days when the Church of England did not ordain men who had remarried whilst a former spouse was still alive it still accepted that couples legally married outside of the church were really married. They had to as they are an established church and as such could hardly claim that the secular legal system was not effective in such matters. Mrs MP and myself were married in a registry office and when I was being encouraged to seek ordination there were concerns about my divorce from my first wife but nothing was ever said about the fact that my second wedding did not take place in a church. We were not told that we had to go through it all again in church after General Synod voted to allow divorced people to marry in church.

So the question is this, will the Church of England recognise that a same sex couple who marry in an English registry office are really married? If yes, then why not marry such couples in church? If no, will the Church of England be claiming that they are no longer, in practice, an established church?



  1. Hate the sin, love the sinner. We all sin. My sin is sin just as their sin is sin. But to endorse sin and to love the sinner, are two different things. Same sex marriage is sin, there is no arguing that. We shouldn’t marry same sex couples in our churches because it says “We are okay with this and are in full agreement with so” But Jesus is not and neither should we. We don’t kick them out of our churches or treat them badly. We treat them with love. But if I was a Pastor addicted to cocaine would you listen to anything I said? Nope. We can’t stand up for the Word of God and live lives that speak out against it. We make a stand on what the Word of God says we stick with it. Like how Martin Luther took a stand against indulgences. Should he have stood down and just accepted it?

  2. The Word of God said nothing about same sex marriages, Crystal. His only major comment on marriages of any sort was to tell us not to divorce. Yet most denominations ignore this commandment.

  3. I would encourage you, and yes, even more so because you are a priest, to read the Bible and study it out as if indeed you were wrong. Sometimes we can miss what is actually being said because we already have a strong opinion of what it does not. Whether you like John Piper or not here is an article on this issue. Just take the time to think about what he says and more importantly what the Bible says.

  4. For all I fight for lgbt equality, I’m really quite relaxed about whether the church will marry same sex couples or not.
    According to Anglican theology marriage is made by the couple and only confirmed by the priest.

    So in the eyes of God, civil partnered or civilly married same sex couples are already married. All the church can do is withhold the ceremony.

    That’s shameful but not the end of the world.

  5. Be very careful, Crystal. To claim that the words of human beings are the words of God is a great blasphemy. Only the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ are the words of God, because he is God.

  6. Erika, when all this started the gay community, on the whole, just wanted the same legal status as married couples (so they could visit each other in hospital and the like). If religious they wanted to be able to ploth their troth in their place of worship. By being so nasty in their attempt to stop such sensible rights the homophobes have compelled the gay community to go for broke. I have been reading articles recently by evangelicals saying that gay people should be given the same rights as married people but it should not be called marriage. It’s too late. They should have been more magnanimous and less spiteful to begin with. They only have themselves to blame.

  7. MP,
    I agree. And I’ll continue to campaign for same sex marriages in church. They are right, they are important and a church that claims to represent Christ must conduct them to be credible.

    But as a person of faith I know that I’m right with God, that my marriage is a marriage and that there’s nothing the church can do about it.

    I don’t feel that same helpless anger that I feel when they challenge my civil rights that would actually diminish my status.

    The battle for equality in the civic sphere and for lgbt priests and bishops is a genuine battle for something wrongfully withheld.

    The battle for same sex marriage in church is not on the same scale because the church has no real power there.

  8. I understand, Erika. Me and Mrs MP weren’t married in church and I am 100% convinced that or faithfulness and our continuing love for each other is far more pleasing to God than promises made in church that are later casually broken.

  9. Crystal, feel free — show us the place where Jesus says one word about lesbians or gays. When you figure out he didn’t, you can look at Judges where David and Jonathon are a wee bit involved. God does not seem to mind. And then, oh never mind, you don’t read the thing, you parrot the fundy preachers who simply make it up don’t you?


  10. Jonathan, as you know I’m personally rather conflicted over this one, so please don’t read this as a hostile question. I just want to clarify. Are you really saying that an Established Church can never disagree with the prevailing morality of the country as enshrined in the law of the land?

    If that is the case, then surely an Established Church has forfeited its right to be called the Church of Jesus Christ, who told his disciples over and over again ‘Do not be like them’.

    Jim – David and Jonathan don’t appear anywhere in Judges. And I think that if you think they were a gay couple, you’ll think the same thing of half the male friendships in Homer and Virgil.

  11. I think an established church should disagree with politicians but I can’t think of an occasion in my lifetime where the Church of England has refused to accept the authority of one of our offices of law. Personally, I do believe this makes establishment untenable. As to whether this would be a bad or good thing I have no definite opinion.

  12. MP,
    I’m not so sure.
    The churches are already permitted to disregard civil marriage after divorce and it took the CoE a long time to consent to allow priests to bless such unions.

    I don’t really see why the same exemption couldn’t apply to same sex marriages too.

  13. No. The Church of England does not dispute that civil marriage is real and never has (read the post). It simply didn’t ordain the remarried and they didn’t need permission from the legislature to do that.

  14. The Church of England will be able to refuse to marry same sex couples. My point is that the refusal to recognise civil registration of same sex marriage will be an innovation which makes establishment problematical to say the least.

  15. But the Catholics do dispute that these marriages are real and they get round it by saying that they;re real in the civil sphere but not real in the eyes of God.

    There’s no reason the CoE couldn’t do the same

  16. As yet, the Roman Catholic Church is not established.

    And another thing, if the Church of England had not accepted that remarriage in a registry office was real then they could have ordained people who gone through the ceremony. Which is, of course, the attitude of the Roman Catholic church to a great extent.

  17. But many in the CoE still hold the same position on this as Catholics.

    I don’t know what the situation was like when civil divorce first became an option but I don’t think the church accepted it then in any capacity other than in the civil sphere.

    It got away with this right until it permitted the blessing of marriages after divorce and merged civil law with its own theology.

  18. You are wrong, Erika. The Church of England always accepted that all marriages are real – even Roman Catholic ones. The difference here will be that the Church will not be recognising the fact that civilly married same sex couples are really married.

  19. I don’t get it.

    The church did not used to accept that marriages after divorce were real in a religious sense. It merely accepted their validity in the civic sphere.

    Are you sure the CoE won’t do the same with same sex marriages?

  20. It does not matter how many times you repeat it, Erika, and how convincing you try to sound, you are wrong. The Church of England accepted that civil marriages were real marriages. If you tried to marry someone else in church whilst still being married to someone you got hitched to in a registry office you would have been accused of bigamy by the Church as readily as the civil authorities would have. The Church of England has never had a theology, unlike the Roman Catholics, of religious marriages being different to civil marriages.

    Of course, I will eat my words if you can produce the Synodical references to prove me wrong.

  21. MP,
    my last question was different, though.
    What will stop the church from recognising same sex marriages as real but still not conduct them in church?

    Has anyone actually said that they will not recognise them as legally valid?

  22. Your question was:
    “So the question is this, will the Church of England recognise that a same sex couple who marry in an English registry office are really married? If yes, then why not marry such couples in church?”

    My answer to that would be that there’s no way the church will not recognise same sex marriages. And if its own priests get same sex married, they’ll honour all the legal obligations that come with that just like they already do for civil partnerships.

    But like with civil partnerships and like it used to be with divorced couples, they will not conduct those marriages in church.

  23. I suppose my question would be what “recognizing” a civil marriage of gays or lesbians might mean?

    Is the issue that a candidate for holy orders might say she/he is “married” even though the church won’t marry lesbian / gay couples? Then while they will look stupid (led by Rowan how else?) they have only the options of deciding the candidate is “living in sin” and therefor presumably unacceptable; or accepting the candidate’s claimed status.

    I think the (Williams led) church is good at holding several incompatible ideas at the same time. It is not about some sort of intellectual dynamic tension, it is simply institutional hypocrisy. But certainly that would not be a problem for the CoE!


  24. I suggest you go back and read my post, Erika. At the moment you are doing what you often do – trying to alter the post to fit in with the argument you want to have.

  25. That is the point I am making in my original post, Jim. But, although I agree that the Church of England is capable of such hypocrisy, I also maintain that this will be a novel break between the established church and the established legislature because the Church will be insisting that civilly married same sex couples are not married, which they never did in respect of civilly married heterosexual couples.

  26. “Same sex marriage is sin, there is no arguing that.”

    WHY OH WHY didn’t someone tell me that sooner?!?!

    That cold night I spent in the rain in Michigan, November Election 2004, when people were stealing my “No Marriage Ban” signs in front of my face? All the blog posts and pleading, working to craft arguments from Scripture, Tradition and Reason? The awkward conversations w/ my 90 y.o. dad over Prop8? The comforting LGBT friends who were crushed by Prop8 etc? The attempts to begin same-sex relationships, wondering If She Could Be The One, with whom *I* could walk down the aisle?

    ***ALL*** of that could have done away with, if Crystal had just clued me in sooner: D’oh!


    [wv, “s(c)hism”: that which Crystal’s GeezUz-idolatry is in, from my Episcopal Christianity. Kyrie eleison.]

  27. if you think [David&Jonathan] were a gay couple, you’ll think the same thing of half the male friendships in Homer and Virgil.


    [No, not “gay couples”, ala two grooms in 2012—no doubt they went home to their wives, to perpetuate their patriarchal lines. Just 90% of the time, away on military campaigns, da boyz were boinking each other like crazed weasels!

    …or perhaps, Tim, you believe Achilles and Patroclus were just “cousins”? O_o]

  28. I’m not altering any post.

    I’ve quoted your question and answered it.

    Your headline was “A refusal to conduct same sex weddings must lead to disestablishment”.

    I don’t think so, because even if the church accepts and recognises same sex marriage, it doesn’t have to conduct any.

    And Jim’s point is already answered: the church accepts that people are civil partnered, although it doesn’t recognise it and anyone civil partnered won’t have their relationship blessed in the church and they won’t be promoted. And a new ordinand won’t get ordained.
    That’s already happening and calling a civil partnership a marriage isn’t going to change that.

    There is actually no difference between marriage and civil partnership.
    CPs already exist. The church recognises them. And it then has subtle ways of punishing those who are in one.

    Same sex marriage will be 100% the same. The church will recognise it, it will fulfil its legal obligations, and it will then find subtle ways of punishing those who have married.

    I know what you’re saying. There will be 2 classes of marriage and the church will fully recognise one but not the other.

    But that really really is what it’s already done with divorced couples. Only that they were both straight whether now the demarcation will be between straight and gay.

    The principle will be the same.
    Some marriages will be recognisedas legal and valid in law, others will on top of that be considered valid within the church as approved by God.

    You don;t have to agree with my conclusions, but please don’t patronise me by stating that I haven;t understood your post just because I don’t agree with it.

    I’ve had a few hours on a FB post today where Catholics and Ordinariate people kept telling me that I wouldn’t be so stupid if only I understood what they were saying.
    We just think differnt about this, ok?

  29. What are your objections to Disestablishment? Churches are disestablished everywhere else: Wales, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Jamaica, France..
    What are your arguments for keeping Establishment in England?

  30. Anon,
    I don’t think many people here would have a proble with diestablishment.

    I would love the church to stay out of equality legislation, it has an appalling record in that respect!
    Having said that, the way the bishops influenced the benefits bill in the House of Lords the other week was wonderful.

    But in principle – no, the church should not be established.

  31. I try to keep my posts short and my arguments tight. I obviously failed to achieve this in this post. I will therefore try one more attempt to make my point as simple as possible.

    The Church of England never said that people married in registry offices were not married, no matter how much they discriminated against such people within the church.

    The Church of England intends, if Sentamu gets his way, to say that same sex couples married in a registry office are not married.