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Saturday, December 15, 2012

UK Government confusion over Church in Wales

Today's Western Mail underlines many of the points I made a few days ago about the confusion at the heart of the UK Government concerning the status of the Church in Wales. It is not for me of course to say whether that church should conduct gay marriages, that is a matter for them. But Government should not seek to handicap a legitimate decision by putting legal obstacles in their way.

The paper quotes the Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan as saying that the move to outlaw gay marriage in the Church of England and Church in Wales came as a “total shock” when it was announced by equalities minister Maria Miller on Tuesday:

Dr Morgan said that his church did not want the protection, which has put it in an “enormously difficult position” by threatening to “severely curtail” its freedom to make future decisions on whether it wanted to host same-sex weddings.

Under the proposed measure, any decision to allow gay marriage in Anglican churches in England or Wales would require not only a change in canon law, but also an amendment to legislation in Parliament. Other religious organisations would be able to “opt in” to hosting same-sex weddings, as Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism have indicated they will.

Government sources today said that the Church of England was informed “at a very senior level” ahead of Mrs Miller’s statement of the specific details of the measures she was planning. But Dr Morgan said that the Church in Wales - which unlike the CofE was disestablished in 1914 – was not consulted.

It seems that Government officials met the Church of England at a very senior level but even then did not reveal the fine details of what was being proposed. As the Archbishop points out this was considered to be sufficient for the Church in Wales, whom they did not meet and that for all intents and purposes the Department for Culture, Media and Sport seem to have regarded the Church in Wales, which has been separate from the CoE for almost a century, as a “tag-on” to the established church, rather than a separate body which it needed to consult.

That is a fail on a major scale, made worse by the fact that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was born and brought up in Wales. 

Elsewhere in the paper, Rhodri Morgan uses his column to throw some fresh light on Maria Miller's confusion about the status of the Church in Wales. He reports that she is on record as saying she was married in the Church of England in Wales, a misnomer if ever there was one.

If a UK politician of Welsh upbringing cannot understand the disestablished status of the Church in Wales then we are in a very poor position indeed. What did they teach them in school in those days?
There are Church of England parishes in wales, mainly in the Diocese of Hereford. At disestablishment they could chooseto be in the CofE or the Church in Wales - most chose to stay in England (disestablishment was forced on the church, and most parishes did not see it as an advantage).

Also, after nearly 100 years, many members of the church in wales do think of themselves as CofE. I'm not just talking about english incomers, but native welsh. The number of times i hear, "Dan ni'n CofE" (we are CofE) is remarkable, for a priest working in rural conwy.

So whilst the minister may be wrong in what shes says, it is not a surprise, even the devout church goers can get this wrong.

That said, government should ask its lawyers about this, as they are the ones who produce stuff for clegy, and it is made very clear what we can and can't do as the diestablished Church in Wales, with the legal responsibilities of the CofE, when it comes to marriage.
Maybe she's a closet antidisestablishmentarianismist
Anon 10:51

Refer to the Welsh Church Act 1914, Part I, Section 9, Provisions as to border parishes.

Section 9(1) was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1927 (c. 42) (this Act is not yet available on the web). The 1914 Act was also modified by the Welsh Church (Temporalities) Act 1919 (c. 65) Section 6 of which refers to "Saving provisions as to marriages in churches".

The parishes which are partly situated in Wales but form part of the Diocese of Hereford are part of the CoE, and therefore weren't disestablished, so your comment isn't particularly relevant to the issue at hand, as to whether or not the CiW should be treated in the same way as the CoE for the purposes of same sex marriage.

I agree with Peter that the Anglican Church should be disestablished (I'm not an Anglican or a member of the CiW) from a purely democratic point of view. Its unelected representatives should play no part in legislating in a democratic country. Neither should it be favoured over any other denomination or faith body in that respect. The link with the head of state is also undesirable, especially considering that the CoE has no relevance outside England.

I must admit to having doubts about 'gay' marriage, but not from a religious standpoint.

Although there are competing definitions of the word 'marriage', by and large most dictionaries refer to it as the union of a man and a woman, which throughout history has been the overwhelming practice in most societies and cultures.

To me, the existence of civil unions makes the difference largely semantic, and I can't understand what all the fuss is about, but then I'm not gay. Is it a case of 'equality at all costs'? After all, men and women are different from a functional standpoint, and no amount of wishing that it were not so, or legislation, will change that fact.
Most people in Wales are ignorant about what manner of creature the Church in Wales is many people I have heard have said they are "Church of England" I am sure that Maria Miller is no exception
The Church in Wales is part of the Anglican Communion but so is the Scottish Episcopal Church. Why include Wales but exclude other anglican churches?
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