- (Photo: Reuters/Peter Macdiarmid)
British Prime Minister David Cameron has pleaded for Christians in the country to stick by him despite his attempts to legalize same sex marriage in the U.K., prompting the question how much support can he really enjoy from the Church?
Cameron, in his bid to repair and strengthen his relationship with Christians, has welcomed attempts by religious leaders to fight secular efforts to remove references of faith from public life. The British PM has also tried to assure Churches that they would not be forced to marry same-sex couples even if gay marriages were accepted by law.
The British government's current objective is to facilitate legal civil marriage for same-sex couples by 2015, though the nation's Catholic Church leaders have remained firm in their defense of the current definition of marriage, and have staunchly rejected any attempts to redefine it.
Scottish priest Cardinal Keith O'Brien has come out as saying the plan and its mission is a "grotesque subversion of a universally acknowledged human right." While a letter from Archbishops Peter Smith and Vincent Nichols supporting the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman was read recently in many church services across Britain.
During an Easter reception, however, where many church leaders were present, the Prime Minister insisted that the government is not looking to change how the church operates, but only the register office.
"I hope we won't fall out too much over gay marriage," Cameron said, according to the Telegraph. "There'll be some strong arguments and some strong words."
Despite angering many Christians with his stance on marriage, Cameron has tried to win over church members by saying: "The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need."
In another Easter message, the Prime Minister went further, saying that now is the time to "remember the life, sacrifice and living legacy of Christ."
"The New Testament tells us so much about the character of Jesus; a man of incomparable compassion, generosity, grace, humility and love," Cameron said.
"In the book of Luke, we are told that Jesus said, 'Do to others as you would have them do to you' - advice that when followed makes for a happier, and better society for everyone."
St Pancras Church in London is one Anglican church in favor of same-sex partnerships, although it attempts to make a clear distinction between them and marriage. Rev. Jenny Welsh from the church told The Christian Post that she agreed with Cameron's sentiment and hopes that the gay marriage controversy doesn't cause too much of a split between Christians and their government.
"There are other matters of justice and truth that are rather more pressing - to do with poverty (and greed) peace (and war), and human misuse and abuse of God's creation," Welsh said.
"If we accept the argument that we need to retain both the term marriage and the term civil partnership, and that they are not identical, it seems to me clear from a Christian point of view that a ceremony in which two people commit themselves to a faithful, lifelong relationship before witnesses, partakes of the nature of a marriage."
However, other more prominent and senior Anglican leaders, such as the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. Dr. John Sentamu, who is one of the prime candidates to take over as leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, have spoken out more firmly against the government's attempts to redefine marriage.
"I happen to believe that to change the law in the end would be forcing an unjustified change," Dr Sentamu said earlier last month.
The Church of England has released a recent statement addressing the government's plans to try and change the definition of marriage. It has said that while it supports civil partnerships for same-sex couples, it supports the traditional Christian view of marriage as between one man and one woman.
"It is God's primary intention for males and females to live together in that permanent relationship. We would be playing with fire in changing that definition." said the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Rev John Pritchard, on March 9, 2012.
The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who is set to retire before the end of the year, explained that changing the language of marriage through law is very dangerous: "If it is said, for example, that a failure to legalize assisted suicide - or indeed same-sex marriage - perpetuates stigma or marginalization for some people, the reply must be, I believe, that issues like stigma and marginalization have to be addressed at the level of culture rather than law, the gradual evolving of fresh attitudes in a spirit of what has been called 'strategic patience' by some legal thinkers."
The UK Evangelical Alliance has also firmly supported preserving the current definition marriage, which has stood for thousands of years.
"The proposals are not only unnecessary and unfair, they are also undemocratic. Redefining marriage was not mentioned in the party manifestos. As such, they lack a democratic mandate for introduction. They will give to a few what they want but take from very many what they deeply value. Marriage has served society well and will do in the future. At a time of huge social challenges, marriage needs to protected and promoted, not redefined and rebranded.," an official statement concluded, addressing the government's proposal to try and redefine marriage.