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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Call to abolish legal marriages
Wedding rings
Ekklesia says the role of church and state should be separated
Legal marriages should be scrapped and replaced with a range of civil partnerships, according to a progressive religious think-tank.

Christian group Ekklesia said there should be a separation of the role of the Church and State in weddings.

Under its proposals, couples could specify the kind of legal commitment they wanted to make to each other.

They would still be able to register their partnership in law under a separate process.


Ekklesia said that the current situation was "confused" by attempts to fuse the Christian and civil concepts of marriage onto a "one size fits all" arrangement.

It said its proposed framework would make a clearer distinction between religious marriage and those defined in law.

Religious communities are entitled to have their own ideal of marriage which they offer to the wider society. But requiring others to accept this definition by law benefits no one
Jonathan Bartley
Director, Ekklesia

This would also give more clarity to the situation created by civil partnerships, which give gay and lesbian couples similar rights to heterosexual couples who marry, but does not convey the same legal status.


Director of the think-tank Jonathan Bartley said the plans were a response to the failure of marriage.

"Legal marriage clearly isn't working. A divorce rate of around 40% is surely evidence enough of this," he said.

"At the moment there is only one form of marriage defined under law, which everyone has to take or leave.

"It does not reflect Christian ideas of marriage, which are based on a covenant before God, rather than a legal contract and agreement between individuals.

"And it does not properly acknowledge the reality of the existence of other, secular viewpoints, either.

He added: "Religious communities are entitled to have their own ideal of marriage which they offer to the wider society. But requiring others to accept this definition by law benefits no one. It is confusing and counter-productive."

The Church of England has argued that granting legal rights to couples who co-habit undermines marriage.

Mr Bartley said: "If the Church wants to argue that Christian marriage, rooted in the grace of God, is preferable to civil cohabitation, it is free to do so.

"But there must surely be something wrong when the Church's defence of holy matrimony involves perpetuating what many will see as an unholy injustice against established live-in couples."

What do you think of Ekklesia's ideas? Do you think that the proposals undermine marriage? Do you agree the concept of marriage should change as society changes?

Your comments:

I am saddened that an organization that professes to hold Christian values seems to have given up on traditional marriage. However imperfect, this is God's ideal whatever the forces of secular humanism say and so called Christian Liberals say.

Mr Bartley should spend more time studying how successful marriages work and promoting God's ideal rather than trying to destroy it.
Jeremy Thompson, Lansdale, USA

Why would someone need to have a wedding if they do not believe in Holy Matrimony? Marriage is fundamentally a religious sacrament and the legal protections and privileges are only a recognition of this. With the advent of civil partnerships it is entirely appropriate that marriage is reserved for those who believe in it. Let those who wish to live in sin do so.
Vincent Murphy, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (ex UK)

The abolishment of the legal marriage is just another way of eroding what is left of society. This so called over paid think tank would be better employed sorting out the immigration and law and order problems in this country because it is blatantly obvious the government can't. The fabric of society has already been substantially destroyed by idiots who think. Stop thinking up stupid schemes and lets have some action on the more important issues which are worsening by the minute.
Mr J Gumery, Coventry, England

Even if 40% of marriages fail (including my own) 60% do not.

However marriage as we all know is not primarily about romance but the cold day to day living of two people and their children. I suggest that a wedding should be split into two parts, one with the couple binding themselves to each other, much like a registry office ceremony but also with a compulsory written part dealing with finances especially pre nuptial agreements, possibly arrangements as to division of labour in the household etc. If wished a separate religious wedding could then FOLLOW.

This would surely be in line with the teaching of the Church and when there are split ups might help prevent a lot of the anger generated when the lawyers haggle and create even more problems
David Lindsay, Richmond UK

Q&A: Civil partnership
05 Dec 05 |  UK Politics


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