**Gay marriage raises prospect of disestablishment, says Church of England **
Same-sex marriage would be one of the biggest threats to the established role of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII, the Church warns today
The Church’s formal response dismisses the Coalition’s same-sex marriage plans “divisive”, “legally flawed” and “essentially ideological”.
Senior figures believe the plans could allow Strasbourg to strip the Church of England of its unique power to act as an 'agent of the state’ by conducting marriages for anyone living within a parish, regardless of religious beliefs. This would, in effect, be a step towards splitting the Church from the State.
The distinction would become “politically unsustainable”,…
More fundamentally, it argues, the new distinction would call into question the Church of England’s place as part of the state both nationally and locally.
Nationally, they argue, it would open up a clear distinction between canon law – which is part of the law of England – and civil law by having two definitions of marriage
“The canons of the Church of England are part of the law of England and have been continuously since the reformation of Henry VIII,” said one senior figure.
“Is it possible to have the law of the Church of England saying something different to the law of England? The question is how long we can sustain that.
“It raises the sort of problems that no one has had to address before.”
He added: “I do believe that the European Court could make it impossible for Church of England to go on having the role that it has got at the moment in relation to conducting marriage on behalf of the state.”
Another spoke of “snipping the threads” which link Church and state.
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said: “If the civil law of the state redefines [marriage] you have got a situation in which civil law and canon law are at odds.
"That would need to be resolved – presumably in due course by changing the law of the Church because there are statutory provisions which provide that the canon law of the state cannot be contradictory to the statutes of the realm.”