Following the statement of the Second Church Estates Commissioner to the Commons on Thursday 6th December, here, issues of concern to the Church of England have been scheduled on an almost daily basis.
On Monday 10th December the Rt Hon Edward Leigh, (Gainsborough)(Con), tabled an urgent question for the Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, asking whether she would give a statement on same-sex marriage in churches, Responding on behalf of the government, the Minister stated that following the Government’s consultation on the marriage of same-sex couples to marry, the plans on how it intended to legislate would be put before the House on Tuesday 11th December. Expressing an uncommon level of certainty that lawyers might question, she stated:
“[t]he case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the rights as set out in the European convention on human rights put protection of religious belief in that matter beyond doubt. The Government’s legal position confirmed that, with appropriate legislative drafting, the chance of a successful legal challenge through domestic or European courts is negligible. I have therefore asked the Government’s lawyers to ensure that that is the case here.” [emphasis added]
On Wednesday 12th December there will be a general backbench debate “on the Church of England Synod vote on women bishops” sponsored by Ben Bradshaw, (Exeter)(Lab), although there is no substantive motion before the House. The uncorrected transcript of his representations to the Backbench Committee, here, indicates that the debate was sought on grounds of urgency rather than a well-considered consideration of the issue. Mr Bradshaw acknowledged that
“[t]he Prime Minister in PMQs last week made quite clear that he did not see this as a Government issue, but it is an issue for Parliament, given the established status. That is why I thought a Back-Bench debate would be the perfect forum for it.”
This debate will be followed on Thursday 13th December with the meeting arranged by Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, between parliamentarians and the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the current Bishop of Durham.
This week also saw the confirmation of 18th January 2013 as the date for the meeting of the House of Laity to debate a motion of no confidence in its chair, Dr Philip Giddings.
This post is to provide an aide-mémoire of the schedule of events concerning the Church of England. We will cover each issue in more detail as it arises.