Parliament 'less likely to listen to Church over gay marriage after decision over women bishops'

 

Parliament is now less likely to listen to the Church of England on same sex marriage following its failure to pass legislation approving women bishops, church insiders and MPs have warned.

Number 10 had been bracing itself for a showdown with the religious right and Tory back benchers over its commitment to grant equal marriage rights to gay men and women. But some have warned that the church’s credibility to speak about equality issues has now been fatally undermined by its failure earlier this week to embrace female headship.

The warnings came amid growing signs that David Cameron wants to fast track gay marriage legislation and put it before Parliament as early as the New Year. Previously the government had only committed itself to introducing legislation before the next General Election in 2015.

Speeding up the decision making process is seen as an attempt to cap the head of steam that the religious right has built up in challenging the plans. Officially the Church of England opposes plans for gay marriage although there is nonetheless support for it among some lay members and clergy.

Many on the liberal wing of the Church of England say their more socially reactionary colleagues have temporarily won the battle against women bishops but could lose the wider war on human sexuality.

“The Church’s position has been fatally undermined by our incompetence in broaching what should have been a no brainer in terms of equality,” George Pitcher, a clergyman and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s former spin doctor, told The Independent. “We have allowed ourselves to be pushed into a corner of irrelevance where it will be hard for the Church to have any sort of voice on the gay marriage debate because it will be coming from an organisation that couldn’t even deal with the issue of women bishops.”

Savi Hensman, from the liberal Christian think-tank Ekklesia, which supports gay marriage, added: “The women bishops vote has undermined the credibility of the leadership of the Church of England because it doesn’t appear to speak for large numbers of people in the pews. That applies not just to women bishops but also the issue of same sex partnerships.”

In Parliament yesterday MPs rounded on the Church for failing to counter institutional and theological sexism.

In a particularly stinging rebuke, Tony Baldry, a Conservative MP and a parliamentary representative in synod, said MPs will simply ignore the Church’s concerns about gay marriage following the women bishops vote. "If the Church of England thinks that Parliament is going to listen to them on issues such as same-sex marriage and so forth with considerable attention, when the Church of England seems to be so out of step on other issues of concern to Parliament, then they are simply deluding themselves," he said.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they support the Government plans to bring in gay marriage meaning any bill in Parliament would likely receive little opposition in the Commons if it was tabled in the New Year.

But Alex Thompson, from the non-denominational Coalition for Marriage, a pressure group which opposes gay marriage, said they were not concerned by plans to fast track legislation.

“It shows that the government is increasingly admitting that it is losing the argument and is planning to introduce legislation in a rushed way,” he said. “Rushed legislation is easier to defeat.”

The Coalition 4 Equal Marriage, which supports the government, welcomed plans to fast track a gay marriage bill.

“Churches, whether they agree or not, will remain unaffected by the current proposals for civil ceremonies, therefore we see no reason at all to delay their introduction,” a spokesperson said. “Those opposed have had their say, and their concerns have been well noted. They are free to arrange their own organisations as they see fit, as we have seen with women bishops, but they must not be allowed to dictate the rules for the whole of our tolerant society.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea