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Bishops’ letter over government’s gay marriage consultation

PUBLISHED: 15:45 27 April 2012 | UPDATED: 16:19 27 April 2012

Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, during a rededication of St Andrews church, Lowestoft.

Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, during a rededication of St Andrews church, Lowestoft.

Archant © 2011

Three Anglican bishops have written to their congregations about their views on the issue of gay marriage.

The letter was sent from the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford, and the Rt Rev Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn.

It was written on behalf of the Diocese of Norwich to its clergy on Thursday.

The government launched its 12-week consultation on allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry in a register office or other civil ceremony last month. It will close on June 14.

Part of the letter from the bishops said: “The consultation document says very little about marriage itself and does not seek to define it.

“Nevertheless, it does speak of civil marriage and religious marriage as if these are two entirely separate concepts.”

It went on to say that “an unhealthy and damaging division” between civil and religious marriages could be created because of the Church of England’s lack of provision to marry same sex couples.

On Monday, the EDP reported that the Dean of Norwich had urged the Church of England not block its ears and close its eyes over the government’s proposal.

The Very Rev Graham Smith was among clergy who signed a letter in a national newspaper on Saturday which said the Church should “rejoice” at the prospect of gay marriage.

The bishops’ letter added: “We believe this consultation is too narrowly focused and too predetermined to animate the sort of public debate about the nature of marriage which our society needs.”

But it said there seemed to be a good deal of confusion surrounding marriage itself.

The bishops believed it was important to avoid “ill-considered reactions” to the government’s proposals.

“It is surely to the benefit of the whole of our society if gay people live in faithful, stable and publicly recognised relationships. Indeed, some gay relationships are a model of faithfulness compared with the serial monogamy so prevalent among hetrosexual people,” the letter said.

To view the full letter from the three bishops visit www.edp24.co.uk

The government’s consultation document can be viewed by visiting www.homeoffice.gov.uk/equal-civil-marriage

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