Thursday, 24 February 2011

Times: Same-sex unions in church face Christian opposition
Thursday, 17th February 2011

Controversial plans to allow same-sex couples to "marry" in church face furious opposition from leading Christian groups.

UK government proposals to lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies being held in places of worship will bring it into conflict with thousands of evangelical churches, the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, religious groups said.

"Christians will need a great deal of reassurance that the Government is not about to do something that will make their situation even worse," they added.

"We reiterate our long-held opposition to allowing civil partnerships to be registered in churches.
"It is a breach of undertakings made by government ministers during debates on the Civil Partnership Bill.

"Parliament was persuaded to pass that Bill, in part, because it was made clear that civil partnership was a civil rather than a religious institution and would not take place in religious premises." The groups, which include Affinity, The Christian Institute, Christian Concern, Reform and the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, went on: "In any legislation, churches must be protected against the possibility, now and in the future, of any kind of legal action being brought against churches which conscientiously disagree with civil partnerships.

"When it comes to equality legislation, permission often turns rapidly into coercion.

"In a country where faith-based adoption agencies have been forced to close or cut their religious ties by equality law, where Christian marriage registrars can be dismissed for their religious views on marriage and where Christian B&B owners are forced to pay compensation to same-sex couples, Christians will need a great deal of reassurance that the Government is not about to do something that will make their situation even worse."

The Church of England has already said that it will not allow any of its churches to be used for civil partnership ceremonies.

But the Rev. Stephen Coles, a gay vicar from St Thomas' Finsbury Park in north London, welcomed the move, saying it would put pressure on the denominations reluctant to hold the ceremonies and encourage them to think about the issues.

"That could go either way in the short term," he admitted.

"Those who are at the moment finding all this very difficult, it just might mean that they become more stubborn. But that does remain to be seen.

"I also think the number in the Church who are opposed is smaller than people think – but they are very noisy."

Mr Coles went on: "It's up to each denomination to decide for itself. I don't think the Government should force anybody to do it.

"The consequences will be to put a bit more pressure on those denominations that are reluctant at the moment and that would be a good thing.

"Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Jews will be able to do what they want to do. For everyone else, it may cause them to think about it a bit more."

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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