I’ve been reading the Church of England’s official response to the government’s equal marriage consultation, and I’m puzzled. It’s this paragraph near the start that is the problem:
In common with almost all other Churches, the Church of England holds, as a matter of doctrine and derived from the teaching of Christ himself, that marriage in general – and not just the marriage of Christians – is, in its nature, a lifelong union of one man with one woman.
“One man with one woman”, yes. But also “lifelong”. Now the Church of England has some history when it comes to divorce. Indeed, it was founded to allow one man to divorce…
We recognise that some marriages do fail for all sorts of sad and painful reasons… The Church of England agreed in 2002 that divorced people could remarry in church under certain circumstances. However, because the Church views marriage to be lifelong, there is no automatic right to do so and it is left to the discretion of the Priest.
So my puzzlement is simply this: if the Church of England accepts that “lifelong” is not a permanent feature of marriage, but instead embraces the change that was the introduction of divorce, why does it say that the “one man with one woman” part must be immutable? Why, moreover, does it see so little connection between the two issues that its arguments that “one man with one woman” is immutable start up front with a description of marriage as being “lifelong” when in fact it accepts that part has changed?