Bishop Tim, aka the Lord Bishop of Leicester and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, yesterday threw in the towel with this statement on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill:
“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape. The concerns of many in the Church, and in the other denominations and faiths, about the wisdom of such a move have been expressed clearly and consistently in the Parliamentary debate. For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned. The Bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children. If this Bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace. Our focus during Committee and Report stages in the coming weeks and months will be to address those points in a spirit of constructive engagement.”
In this victory for pragmatism over principle the Lords Spiritual may have safeguarded their reserved seats in the House of Lords but at what cost? The recently published analysis of the 2011 census figures suggest that only a minority of people will describe themselves as Christians within the next decade. On that basis the Church of England may as well shut up shop now and defer to Islam in matters of 'faith', indeed, many already have. Modeled on his successors, if the Apostle 'Pete' had looked around noting the prevailing fashions of the time after being handed the keys, he may as well have handed them to the Romans while expressing some reservations about the worship of idols.