THERE is no united view within the Church of England on the issue of same-sex marriages according to the Bishop of Grantham, Tim Ellis.
Mr Ellis spoke out on the subject in his blog recently in response to statements released by other senior bishops, which were made after a Government consultation on the issue and purported to speak on behalf of the religious body.
He said: “I am forced to say that those of my colleagues who have spoken out on same-sex marriage do not speak for me and neither, I dare to say, do they speak for the Church of England - they are rehearsing their own opinions.”
Under the Government proposals, religious organisations would not have to conduct same-sex marriages but couples could marry in a register office or civil ceremony. Since 2005 same-sex couples have been able to have civil partnerships, which give the couple the same rights as in a marriage, but legally these unions are not referred to as marriages.
Some members of the Church of England were reported as saying that legalising same-sex marriage would undermine its status and alter the intrinsic nature of marriage.
But Mr Ellis said these statements have put the Church in a position which is likely to cause resentment or anger. They are trying to support gay people in their relationships and not to appear homophobic whilst seeking to uphold a traditional view of marriage as being exclusive to a man and woman, according to the Bishop.
He said that he may feel pressure to ‘toe the line’ but the Church does not have a ‘party line’. Unlike the Catholic faith, which has a central Magisterium, or a political party with a manifesto that needs to be followed regardless of private belief.
He said: “The religious life within the Church of England should not be about conformity to centrally created opinions at all costs - as the ‘voice of the institution’- but more ‘pilgrimaging’ together within the complexities and dilemmas of life under the refreshing and renewing guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Through history Mr Ellis believes that the Church’s ability to see things differently and honour diversity was a hard won freedom.
He said: “It is this freedom of interpretation and of the need for structural adjustment to changing circumstances that has allowed our Church to leave many things to the individual’s conscience but also to make serious advancements such as the ordination of women to the priesthood.
“When we have veered from this freedom we have, for instance, caused ourselves the embarrassment of condemning Darwin. At the heart of this very attractive aspect of the Church of England’s life is the knowledge that we are a diverse and highly inclusive Church from which there can be no unified voice or opinion in these matters, and it is this aspect of our Church that has kept me faithful to Anglicanism all my life.”