The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, has responded to Labour MP Ben Bradshaw’s motion asking parliament to intervene to see same-sex weddings in the Church of England.
On Tuesday, the MP for Exeter introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill intending to “nudge” the Church of England to enable clergy to conduct same-sex marriages in the denomination’s churches in certain circumstances whilst protecting conscious objection.
His proposal follows the Church of England decision to bless same-sex couples in long committed relationships rather than allowing same-sex marriage in the denomination.
Responding to the motion, Selous said: “The Bill proposes that the decision of the Synod, arrived at prayerfully and democratically, should simply be set aside.”
He continued: “Directing the Church of England on doctrine is not the job of Parliament. It would infringe on settled principles of religious freedom, which we argue for our sisters and brothers overseas, and it would call into question the rights and protections of conscience for other denominations and faiths as well.
“Several Catholic members of this House came up to me after the Urgent Question on the 24th of January and told me how grateful they were that Parliament was not telling their church what to do.”
The Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire also addressed Bradshaw’s proposals to make conducting same-sex marriages an “opt-in” option rather than a general requirement for all clergy.
He said his proposals were “unworkable” as clergy cannot decide “to do things that are clearly contrary to the doctrine of the church”.
“Doctrine is not determined by local decision, varying by parish or diocese, but is decided centrally, not by a small group of bishops, but through the prayerful deliberation and decision of the democratically elected Synod. “
The church’s legislative body is due to meet in July to decide the way in which its decision to bless same-sex couples will be implemented across the country.
Selous concluded: “I know that the General Synod will continue to listen carefully and respectfully to the views of this House, just as I would ask Parliament to be respectful to the views of the Synod.”