People want churches to “keep up with modern attitudes” and carry out same-sex weddings, Justine Greening has claimed.
The Education Secretary and equalities minister said she did not want to “prescribe” how faith groups deal with the issue, but that “it is important that the church in a way keeps up and is part of a modern country”.
But commentator Melanie McDonagh challenged the comments, saying they were evidence of the “authoritarian aspect of modern liberalism”.
And The Christian Institute said the role of the church was to follow God – not the world.
Speaking to Sky News as proposals to liberalise the law on transsexualism were revealed, Greening acknowledged the “massive debate” around introducing same-sex marriage.
She highlighted the fact that many churches, including the Church of England, did not want to hold same-sex marriages.
But claiming the same-sex marriage Act was a big step forward, Greening – who is in a lesbian relationship herself – said attitudes have now changed.
“For me”, she explained, “I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country.”
However, writing on the Spectator’s website, McDonagh said Greening should not interfere at all with churches’ decisions on same-sex marriage.
She warned that it is only a “short step” from the minister’s assertion to “enabling the church to conduct those marriages and then obliging them to do so”.
“It’s the authoritarian aspect of modern liberalism, outside the church and in it.”
Giving another example, McDonagh noted that it was said same-sex marriages would not follow on from civil partnerships – but in later years the change did take place.
It’s the authoritarian aspect of modern liberalism, outside the church and in it.
She added: “That’s the inevitable progression in liberalism: first toleration, within strict limits, followed swiftly by the marginalisation or proscription of the opposition.”
The Christian Institute said: “What Justine Greening fails to understand is that the church is not called to follow the world but to follow Jesus Christ.
“When the church starts dispensing with the truth in order to keep up with ‘modern attitudes’ it has ceased to be the church and is just an inconsequential social club.”
At the weekend, Greening announced Government plans to make it easier to ‘change sex’.
Both Prime Minister Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have spoken out in favour of such plans in recent days – with the Labour leader saying he wanted people to be able to ‘self-identify’ their sex.
However, critics warned of a threat to privacy with men being allowed access to women-only spaces.