Coffee House

On the road to disestablishment

12 June 2012

12 June 2012

There’s an inevitability about the Times’s big splash (£) this morning: Gay Marriage Plan Could Divorce Church From State. The Church of England’s historic role as ‘religious registrar’ for the State would have to be severed, we are told, if government plans to legalise gay marriage go ahead. That would not, apparently, mean ‘total dis-establishment … but it would be a significant step in that direction.’ The CofE, for all its liberalism, says it will not support a legal attempt to redefine ‘the objective distinctiveness of men and women.’
So that — if this report is to be believed — is that. Unless the government relents or the Anglican Communion decides that God does intend marriage to be a union of man and man, the Church of England will move away from its position as the established church of this country. England will no longer be officially Christian. And maybe that’s as it should be. The British are not Christian anymore. We are for the most part secular and/or multi-faith. Sad but true, perhaps.
It does, however, put paid to David Cameron’s glib claim that he supports gay marriage ‘because he is a conservative’. Legal gay marriage may be right. But if reform involves cutting the tie between church and state, changing the constitution, and further undermining the (admittedly almost redundant) idea of marriage as a social institution that connects family, church and state, why should we pretend it is conservative?

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