The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to recent advances by the British government to incorporate church buildings and liturgies into the weddings of same-gender couples. The move throws into sharp relief a number of restless questions.
Yesterday brought Telegraph reportage on a high-level meeting (set up by MP Tony Baldry of the Church of England's Second Church Estates Commissioner office) in which it was said that Rowan Williams, despite refusals to offer public commentary, had spoken out firmly against the government's advances. This morning, after overnight ruminations about whether any of this was true, @churchstate retweeted the item, which we now take as confirmation of its authenticity.
... has broken his silence to tell MPs he is not prepared for the Coalition to tell the Church how to behave.
He told a private meeting of influential politicians that the Church of England would not bow to public pressure to allow its buildings to be used to conduct same-sex civil partnerships.
The comments are the first time he has spoken since the Coalition unveiled plans to allow religious buildings to be used to conduct homosexual partnership ceremonies.
This account also produces a number of unaddressed questions pertaining to both the definition of marriage and the effects of establishment, as well as to the Archbishop of Canterbury's authority to speak unilaterally for each and every parish within the Church of England.
In short, we're left wondering about statements like this:
Dr Williams told MPs that the Church of England would not host same-sex unions
[Williams] said [the Church of England holds] a clear position that marriage is between a man and a woman and would not consider changing this stance
[Williams] stressed that [the Church of England] would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage and said that it would not be dictated to by the Government.
In the face of such bald talk, perhaps we might just want to start with the basic facts and ask for a clear answer to a straightforward question: Just what does the Archbishop of Canterbury mean when he proposes resistance?
So long as we're at it, In a country where Anglican churches are required by law to hold any marriage requested within their geographic parish, Is this the first step to disestablishment? In light of Archbishop of York John Sentamu's recent warning salvo in the matter of marriage, it'd be a difficult question to dismiss.
‘Nor do I want somebody to tell me, “But the Church of England must do it, but the Roman Catholic Church must do it”, because actually that’s not what equality is about.
‘You mustn’t have rights that trump other rights.’