Cameron treats the Church of England with contempt
The revelation that neither the Church of England nor the Church of Wales were informed in advance of the Government's decision to outlaw their officiation over same-sex weddings is absolutely astonishing. Lambeth Palace might expect such terse treatment from the Bishop of Rome, but not from the British Government, especially when it is led by a Conservative prime minister.
Heeding the pleas of the Unitarians, Quakers and Liberal Jews, we are now in the absurd situation where the law will permit each religion and every denomination to opt-in to hosting same-sex weddings, but Anglicans will be specifically prohibited by legal statute. It will require an amendment to Canon Law and further primary legislation to permit Anglican clerics to preside over a gay nuptial mass.
There are some who might say that the Church of England has brought this upon itself: in its response to the Government's 'consultation' on gay marriage in June, they stressed that 'the canons of the Church of England define marriage, in accordance with Christ's teaching and the doctrine of the Church, as being between a man and a woman'. Since Canon Law and the Prayer Book are also acts of parliament, we would have been in the situation of Parliament enacting and sustaining two mutually-exclusive acts with conflicting definitions of marriage.
And so we have the ‘quadruple lock’, intended to ensure that religions or specific denominations that remain opposed to same-sex marriage on theological grounds cannot be compelled to host gay weddings against their consciences and traditions. But the Anglican lock is one that invites allegations of 'bigotry' and 'homophobia'; indeed, it specifically limits its ability to 'get with the programme'. There are those who might say that Parliament is also limiting by statute the Church's mission to love its gay neighbour, and that impinges upon Article 9 of European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought conscience and religion.
It is not now the Church of England (or Wales) which is vulnerable to legal challenge, but the British Government. For any cleric in either church who decides to preside over a gay wedding will be in breach not only of Canon Law but Statute Law, and his or her only remedy will be through the ECtHR. If secular law recognises same-sex civil marriages, it is difficult to see how a law specifically prohibiting Anglicans to recognise and conduct same-sex weddings can be sustained.
We are no longer talking about compulsion: there is no question of (say) the Roman Catholic Church being forced against its theological traditions to host or bless such unions. The Equality Act 2010 is to be amended to ensure that religious organisations are not vulnerable to discrimination claims for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose). But the Church of England is established, and so legally obliged to bury the dead and conduct weddings for anyone in the parish who makes the request (subject, of course, to Canon Law). The personal religious beliefs of those parishioners are irelevant: if a Muslim and a Moonie wish to marry under the aegis of and in accordance with the rites of the Church of England, the Church is obliged by statute to perform the ceremony (the only exemption being certain grounds of divorce).
So, the Government found itself between a rock and a hard place, and the Church of England hoist by its own petard: either Parliament legislated for a specific exemption for the Established Church in accordance with Canon Law (ie Statute Law upholds that it remains unlawful for ministers of the Church of England to preside over same-sex union), or it must amend the Constitution by repealing the legal requirement upon the Church of England to marry any heterosexual couple who makes the request.
This would have constituted ten bold steps along the path of disestablishment: the easier political option by far (though in many respects the least satisfactory), was to 'lock' Canon Law into the proposed legislation for same-sex marriage.
It is somewhat ironic that Cameron has effectively averted Anglican schism by reinforcing Canon Law on marriage, and not even having the courtesy to inform the Archbishop of Canterbury (or the Archbishop designate) of his decision. This isn't merely rudeness; it is constitutional ignorance and political crassness. Cameron is all for gender equality when it comes to women bishops, but his commitment to the 'fundamental human right' of gay marriage is nothing but superficial posturing. Noting how long it has taken (..is taking...) the Church of England to 'get with the programme' on gender equality, we must be looking at 50 years or so before the General Synod is likely to amend Canon Law to redefine marriage.
His Grace prophesied earlier this year that gay marriage would turn out to be Cameron's Poll Tax. He was wrong: it is the Poll Tax, hunting ban, Clause IV and the Iraq War all rolled into one. It is a disaster for both the country and the Conservative Party: Cameron has pitched the State against the Church and started a culture war of which there will be no end, there will be no end, there will be no end.