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2012 and 2013: retrospect and prospect

By Frank Cranmer, Law & Religion UK

2012 in retrospect

2012 proved to be a very busy year for students of law and religion in the UK – busier, indeed, than we might have expected.

Same-sex marriage

The dominant issue was same-sex marriage, both in England and Wales and in Scotland – a proposal which provoked a reactions ranging from a warm welcome from the Unitarians and the Quakers to bitter opposition by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, who lambasted the proposal both in his Christmas sermon and in an interview with the BBC, in which he complained that

“There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen’s Speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation. From a democratic point of view it’s a shambles. George Orwell would be proud of that manoeuvre. I think the process is shambolic.”

Ministers also managed to upset the Church in Wales by including it in the “quadruple lock” proposals without, it appeared, having consulted it first.

Women as bishops in the C of E

The other dominant issue, at least for Anglicans, was the row over the General Synod vote on the legislation providing for consecration of women as bishops. It soon became more than merely a domestic issue for the Church of England, with a debate in the House of Commons and further consideration of the matter by the House of Bishops, which started from the premise that “the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions”.

Moreover, it became clear that at least some MPs and peers were beginning to have wider misgivings about Establishment in light of the Synod decision. The problem is that the average MP who is not closely interested in church affairs finds it difficult to understand arguments that would appear to proceed from the assumption on the part of some theologians that men and women are qualitatively different. “Different” in this context can very easily appear to mean “unequal” – and for the average politician, of whatever political persuasion, in the early years of the 21st century inequality is simply no longer to be contemplated.

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