Linda Colling: Wishy washy over gay marriage

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THE Church of England is not renowned for standing firm.

So often so wishy washy, it now faces a direct challenge to stand up for its beliefs and oppose conducting gay marriages within its portals.

Government plans to allow civil partnership ceremonies to be held in places of worship would compromise the Church.

This institution has a set of rules and principles. Nowhere does it provide for marrying same sex couples.

Elton John has attacked opponents of gay marriage. He had a civil partnership “wedding” to David Furnish in 2005, and says, “I could be with my partner for 17 years and have a son – yet my partner and I can’t get married.”

No, that’s because you are both men.

I don’t have a problem with civil partnerships, but gays marrying in church would be totally wrong.

Such a move would denegrate marriage – a union between a man and a woman.

First and foremost, Christian marriage was “ordained for the procreation of children.”

Any lifting of the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious buildings in England and Wales takes us into the dangerous arena of weakening and dividing the Church.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, a Lib Dem, wants to allow churches, synagogues and mosques to offer services for same-sex couples, but will not compel them to do so.

You can bet your bottom dollar, those who opt out will be discriminated against.

Where’s the equality in that in what is being seen as a victory for the Lib Dems’ equality agenda?

To allow gay marriages in church would indeed be the thin end of the wedge, more undermining of what the Church stands for, with vicars forced to go against their conscience to bless same-sex unions.

It is totally wrong that the government should be interfering in the affairs and running of the Church. It has no right.

Yet again it is the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu who has done the speaking out saying: “You must not have rights that trump other rights.” The rights of clerics would indeed be trumped if gay and lesbian couples were allowed to “marry” in church.

Civil partners have exactly the same rights as married couples.

Yet opinion polls suggest the British people are strongly in favour of allowing gay marriages, with 61 per cent in a recent poll agreeing with a change in the law to allow them and 33 per cent disagreeing.

The crux here is this is no longer a Christian country. The tenants of the Church are an irreleveancy in the majority of people’s lives.

So they should have no say in its affairs. They aren’t signed up members.

The trouble is the Church never speaks with one voice, and there are always misguided men and women.

Some senior Anglican clergy last year wrote a public letter demanding gay marriages.

The clerics, included the Bishop of Salisbury and the Dean of Southwark who said: “Straight couples have the choice between civil marriage and religious marriage. Gay couples are denied a similar choice.”

And that’s how it should stay. Sanctifing the union of gays in a House of God is an affront, in my opinion, and a view even some Christian gays share.

And what if gay marriage does go ahead? I can see it splitting churches clean down the middle, just as did the issue of women priests. And what would the dissenters, including clergy do then? Turn to the Catholic church in high dudgeon, dismay and disgust? All very dangerous ground.