Pastoral Statement on the Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill
As you will be aware, last week saw the publication of the same sex marriage Bill.
There is no doubt that every national government is at liberty to legislate on how marriage is celebrated in a particular country and as to its legal consequences there. However, no government anywhere has the right to re-define or change the essential nature of marriage itself. This is because marriage both comes from God, as revealed through the Scriptures, and is equally a fundamental part of universal natural law.
We have all heard that exemptions are being promised for religious bodies unable to accept this proposed change in the Law. But there are serious questions as to how effective these exemptions would be in the long term since they could be challenged in the Courts or indeed changed by Parliament itself in the future. As a result, there is genuine doubt as to whether there will actually be freedom of conscience and of teaching for all those ? of any religious creed or none ? who are unable to accept this arbitrary re-interpretation of the married state. Above all, it is of real concern that a change of this magnitude is being introduced in such unnecessary hast and, indeed, with no electoral mandate.
For all these reasons, I would urge you ? if you have not already done so ? to fill in the postcard prepared by the Bishops? Conference and to send it immediately to your local MP. Furthermore, it is important that we should all deepen our knowledge as to the understanding of marriage and of the issues now involved. And so I would very much encourage you to attend the sessions which we have organised for the diocese and which are being held in seven different venues. More details have been sent to your Parish Priest.
Whilst responding to this serious situation ? which is certainly not of the Church?s making ? it is crucial not to lose sight of the overall needs of persons of a same-sex attraction, of the Church?s warm and committed pastoral care to them and their families, as well as our dedicated and on-going responsibility and duty towards them.
In the meantime, I would earnestly ask you to keep very much in your prayers those who, on behalf of both Church and State, are engaged in addressing the important questions raised by this Bill as well as very much remembering those who will be affected by it.
Bishop of Brentwood