A Brighton MP has questioned the Archbishop of Canterbury about the refusal of the Church of England to allow same-sex weddings.
Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, was quoted on the Telegraph website saying: “Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.”
He questioned the archbishop – Dr Rowan Williams – at a private meeting with politicians set up former Sussex University law graduate Tony Baldry, the MP for North Oxfordshire.
Mr Baldry is a Church Estates Commissioner, effectively a spokesman for the Church in the House of Commons.
Mr Kirby asked the archbishop what he would say to a same-sex couple wanting a church union.
The archbishop said that the Church was welcoming to homosexuals and permitted its clergy to enter civil partnerships.
But he said that it would not weaken its teaching on marriage and would not be dictated to by the government.
Mr Kirby said that the archbishop’s comments threatened to alienate homosexual churchgoers and would give rise to accusations that the Church was out of touch with society.
“I hoped he might be more measured in his response and reflect on the cases for both sides of the argument more evenly, but he was very one sided,” Mr Kirby said.
“Obviously it is a difficult issue for the Church, but it has many gay men and women who want to be treated the same way as everyone else.”
The archbishop’s comments follow the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition announcement of plans to allow religious buildings to be allowed for same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
It is the first time that he has spoken on the subject since the plans were announced.
A consultation on marriage laws is due to begin in April and is expected to lead to civil partnership ceremonies being permitted in religious buildings.
The Telegraph said that under the proposals being considered, religious faiths would be given the chance to “opt in” to the reform but would not be forced to host the ceremonies.
It also quoted a Lambeth Palace spokesman saying: “The Church still believes on the basis of Bible and tradition that marriage is between a man and a woman and does not accept that this needs to change.
“Civil partnerships now provide legal securities for same-sex couples, but this does not, in itself, alter what we believe to be unique about marriage.
“The Church of England is opposed to all forms of homophobia and would want to defend the civil liberties of homosexual people and to welcome them into our churches.”