Church, not Parliament, has the decisive say
MP Warns that Parliamentary Patience is not Infinite
Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner reminded Synod and parliamentarians that it is for the Church of England, not Parliament, to determine the doctrine of the Church.
Speaking during the General Synod’s Living in Love and Faith debate, the Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire explained, “For nearly fifty years, since Parliament approved the 1974 Worship and Doctrine Measure, it has been settled understanding that the Church, not Parliament, has the decisive say on matters of doctrine. It is not the job of Parliament to decide what the doctrine of the Church of England should be, but I am conscious that Parliament’s patience may not be infinite and indeed there have already been cross-party meetings of MPs to look at a private member’s bill to require the church to go further.”
He advised synod that several fellow MPs had contacted him, expressing “a hope that the Synod would change doctrine to enable same-sex couples to be married by the Church.”
But he advised that those who were threatening legal moves against the Church on the matter could be violating basic rights of conscience and freedom of worship. He stated that those who wished to “remove the rights of conscience from equality law, should be extremely careful what they wish for. It would infringe on settled principles of religious freedom, overturn a century of measured devolution from Parliament to this Synod, and be likely to call into question the rights and protections of conscience for other denominations and faiths as well as the Church of England. The principle of religious freedom, which we champion for our brothers and sisters in other countries, needs to apply equally at home.”
Tellingly, he also mentioned other MPs who had contacted him “in private, for fear of retribution, to support traditional doctrine and several said that it is for Synod, not for Parliament, to reach its own prayerful decision on this issue.”