Wales

Calls to cut Church in Wales' ties with Parliament

  • 14 June 2013
  • From the section Wales
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Image caption The Church in Wales was disestablished nearly a century ago

Calls for the Church in Wales' remaining ties with the UK's Parliament to be cut have been made after it emerged it would need permission to allow gay marriage.

The Church's links with the state were cut in 1920 - called disestablishment - but several loopholes remain.

In the case of gay marriage, it means the Church would need Parliament's Lord Chancellor to steer the change.

A Welsh assembly committee said the loopholes needed to be closed.

The Church in Wales admitted the situation was "unusual" but had not considered whether it should seek to change its status in relation to the marriage law.

The assembly's constitutional and legislative affairs committee recommended that the Church in Wales' remaining ties be cut by an Act of Parliament, or as a longer-term solution, control of marriage policy be devolved to Wales.

Problems came to light when legislation to allow same-sex marriage got under way. Ministers at first suggested an opt-out given to the Church of England also applied to Wales.

That was later altered, but even if the Church in Wales decided to allow same-sex marriage in future, the Lord Chancellor would still need to introduce the change.

A further anomaly relates to burials.

The Church in Wales cannot close disused burial grounds, a power enjoyed by the Church of England.

The committee said this discouraged the Church in Wales from opening much-needed new cemeteries.

David Melding, the Conservative AM who chairs the committee, said: "I was astonished that an Act of Parliament from the Edwardian era had come back to haunt us.

"I certainly had assumed that the Church in Wales was disestablished - that's an axiom of modern Welsh history.

"But apparently not. In two important areas - there may be more that we don't know about - disestablishment is far from complete in Wales, in marriage policy and also in the law in relation to burial."

'Easing the burden'

The Church in Wales said it was invited to participate in the committee's discussions on its legal status.

It said the Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan was pleased to give evidence during a "constructive and interesting exploration of the issues involved".

"The Church in Wales has not considered the issue of whether it should seek to change its status in relation to the marriage law," it said in a statement.

"However, it would welcome any assistance the Welsh government is able to provide in easing the burden on our parishes of maintaining our burial grounds, which are open to all in the community, and to disused burial grounds which cannot be handed over to local authorities as in England."

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