Equal marriage in the Church of England

New campaign launched for recognition of same sex marriage

On Friday 12 April, a new campaign was launched with aim of changing the teaching and practice of the Church of England to allow all couples to marry in church, regardless of their gender, sex or sexuality.

Equal, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England, seeks to ensure that the official policy of the Church properly respects and protects the conscience of all its members on these matters of deep human importance. It is not a membership organization; there are no membership fees, no complicated structure, no committee to join and no local groups to support. It states: 

“The Church of England’s current official position is that only opposite-sex couples can marry in its churches. Same-gender couples cannot marry in church. They cannot even officially receive a blessing after a civil marriage. Christians who have married their same-gender partner are discriminated against in the ministry of the church, both lay and ordained”,

and lists its aims as belief that:

  • same-gender couples should be able to be married in Church of England parishes.
  • people in such marriages should have the same opportunities for lay and ordained ministry in the Church of England as anyone else.
  • the consciences of everyone should be protected – no member of the clergy should be forced to conduct a marriage they disagree with. No member of the clergy should be prevented from celebrating a marriage involving a same-gender couple.

It is seeking signatures to an Open Letter to the House of Bishops, and free resources are available to download and print. Those with IT, publicity, media or campaigning skills, or are willing to join a demonstration or to write letters are may contact the campaign.


The campaign was launched on Friday 12 April, the fifth anniversary of the marriage of the Revd Jeremy Pemberton to Laurence Cunnington. Readers will be aware that Jeremy was the first priest of the Church of England to marry a same-gender partner and as a result was denied permission to take up a new post in an NHS Trust. Our post Same-sex marriage and C of E clergy: Pemberton v Inwood reviews the judgment of the Court of Appeal which considered the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and the earlier Employment Tribunal.

The Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who is one of the team leading the new Campaign, said

“We congratulate Jeremy and Laurence on their wedding anniversary, and rejoice with the many same- gender couples who have made lifelong, faithful commitments to each other in marriage in recent years.

“The Church of England has spent too many years saying that it is sorry for the way that it treats LGBT+ people and condemning discrimination and prejudice, whilst at the same time continuing its own injustice towards us in marriage and ministry. It is time for what is done to match what is said, and for the Church of England to respect the conscience of the majority who are warmly supportive of same-gender relationships.

“The Campaign is formed of faithful Anglicans who want to see change, and we will continue to work and pray for the day when any couple, gay or straight, can walk down the aisle of their local church to make their vows.”

Earlier this week, it was announced that Andrew Foreshew-Cain had been appointed as Chaplain to Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford. Andrew married his long-term partner Stephen Foreshew-Cain in July 2014. Alan Rusbridger, Principal of LMH, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Andrew back to LMH. During the term he spent at the college as sabbatical cover he won many friends with his energy, commitment and empathy. He will be a marvellous Chaplain in succession to Allan Doig, who has served us with such dedication over many years.”

In a post last year, we noted the appointment of Andrew when he was providing sabbatical cover at LMH during Michaelmas term, and commented that as a non-parochial unit, the College does not fall within the Licensing requirements of the CofE. Moore’s Introduction to English Canon Law, 4th edition, Ed Timothy Briden (2013 Bloomsbury), states

“Though [college chapels] are not usually called peculiars, the colleges in the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge claim to be outside the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Oxford and Ely respectively and to have each its own ordinary, usually the Governing Body of the college…nor is it in any way clear whether the ordinary is, in respect to the chapel, visitable by the Visitor of the college, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or both, or neither”.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Equal marriage in the Church of England" in Law & Religion UK, 12 April 2019, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/04/12/equal-marriage-in-the-church-of-england/


6 thoughts on “Equal marriage in the Church of England

  1. Pingback: Equal marriage in the Church of England- Law & Religion UK | Fulcrum Anglican

  2. Pingback: (Law+ Religion UK) New campaign launched for recognition of same sex marriage in the Church of England | TitusOneNine

  3. I am confused by the language used here. Is ‘gender’ to be taken to be synonymous with ‘sex’ (the attribute, not the activity)? Since the law has introduced Same-Sex Marriage, the use of the word ‘sex’ alone would seem appropriate. It might offend the prudish, of course.

    • Whilst sex and gender are often used interchangeably, I suspect that this is not the case here, and the distinction is perhaps that suggested in Wikipedia, i.e.
      “sex” is used to denote a person’s biological sex, whereas gender refers to either social roles based on the sex of the person (gender role) or personal identification of one’s own gender based on an internal awareness (gender identity).

  4. concern has been expressed that no definition of consummation is available for same-sex/same-gender unions nor of adultery rendering the term “equal marriage” nebulous

    • On the second day of the House of Lords Committee stage consideration of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, [HL Hansard, 19 June 2013 Vol 746 Col 326] concern was expressed at the issue of consummation and adultery. However, the Bill was passed despite these concerns, and it is unlikely that parliament would now revisit this issue.

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