Gay marriage is not a threat to the ‘mischievous, sexual morality obsessed’ Church of England claimed a Manchester reverend.
The Church are declaring the Government’s ideas of changing the definition of marriage – in order to allow same-sex couples to wed – would be an unprecedented, and unnecessary, change.
But Rev Jane Barraclough of Manchester’s Unitarian Cross Street Chapel said they are pursuing an obsession with same-sex marriage despite overwhelming public support.
Rev Barraclough said: “I don’t believe it at all. [The Church of England] are mischievous by trying to stop something happening.
“It breaks my heart when couples are nervous about coming to our church to get married even though we fully support the LGBT community.
“It’s absolute nonsense that marriage hasn’t changed over the years – but the important parts remain. Marriage is about commitment, about making promises to someone and about supporting your loved one in sickness and health until death do us part.”
Ministers are currently in consultation about gay marriage and said they are ‘very doubtful’ whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would survive a contest at the European Court of Human Rights.
The Rt Reverend Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said the Church of England was supportive of civil partnerships and has been since it was introduced eight years ago.
“We continue to be supportive of the gay community and want to see that inclusion in our society increased and developed,” he said.
“I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is to say that there can be no distinction at all between men and women.”
Currently anyone who lives in England has the legal right to marry in a CoE church, regardless of religion and the parish minister is legally obliged to conduct the marriage.
Weddings across England in CoE churches rose in 2010 by 4% to 54,700 compared to 52,730 in 2009.
Rev Barraclough added: “We have no interest in compelling churches to do something they do want to do but the last place a couple will get married is somewhere where they are not welcome.”
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, which campaigns for gay rights, said: “There’s manifestly no evidence that the recognition of long-term same-sex relationships has any impact on the institution of marriage for heterosexuals.
“It seems odd that the Church of England should be obsessing about a few thousand gay couples once again when there are currently three million children in Britain living in single-parent households.”
And human rights supporter Peter Tatchell accused the Church of England of ‘scaremongering, exaggerating the effects of same-sex marriage and advocating legal discrimination’, and claimed that public opinion is in favour of same-sex marriage.
Mr Tatchell, co-ordinator of the Equal Love, said: “The Government’s proposals concern only civil marriages in register offices.
“They will have no impact on faith organisations or places of worship. Senior churchmen are protesting against a law change that will not affect them.
“They have no right to demand that gay couples should be banned from civil marriage ceremonies.
“It is absurd to suggest that allowing same-sex civil marriages would lead to legal challenges that could force churches to marry gay couples.
“Civil divorces are legal, yet there has never been a successful legal challenge to religious organisations that ban divorce. The courts recognise a distinction between civil and religious institutions.”