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Paul Perkin on civil partnerships

Paul Perkin who is Vicar of St.Mark’s, St.Peter’s & St.Paul’s Battersea in the Diocese of Southwark, has written An Open Letter to English Bishops. Mr Perkin is on the council of Reform.

He raises two issues, one about blessings of such partnerships and one about baptism of children. The key questions:

Blessings

The bishops said:

18. It will be important, however, to bear in mind that registered partnerships do allow for a range of different situations- including those where the relationship is simply one of friendship. Hence, clergy need to have regard to the teaching of the church on sexual morality, celibacy, and the positive value of committed friendships in the Christian tradition. Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.

Paul Perkin asks:

…I intend always pastorally and sensitively to decline politely any request for such a prayer affirming a same-sex union. Can you clarify for me ‘the light of the circumstances’ in which you would feel it necessary to discipline me for such a refusal, before I go any further? You might well receive complaints from my parishioners, and it is only fair that the House of Bishops spell out now on what grounds you would be sympathetic to such a complaint.

Baptism

The bishops said about baptism:

23. The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. Issues in Human Sexuality made it clear that, while the same standards apply to all, the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship….

Paul Perkin asks:

…It is our practice [at St Mark’s] to delay the baptism of heterosexual adults known to be cohabiting outside marriage, giving time for progress in discipleship. Is the House suggesting that this practice is wrong? If I intend pastorally and sensitively to decline politely any request for such a baptism, can you clarify for me the light of the circumstances in which you would feel it necessary to discipline me for such a refusal, before I go any further? Or is the House suggesting that clergy may enquire of heterosexual relationships outside marriage, but may not enquire of homosexual relationships? Or perhaps neither – is the House suggesting that relationships in general fall outside the scope of enquiry of candidates’ genuine repenting and turning to Christ? You might well receive complaints from my parishioners, and it is only fair that the House of Bishops spell out now on what grounds they would be sympathetic to such a complaint.

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Good for Paul Perkin, and what a good successful church! I read “Issues in Human Sexuality” and remember it stating that (homo)sexual abstinence was required of clergy of gay or lesbian orientation, and that it accepted that there are laity in the church who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship…. BUT I don’t remember it saying that this was good and sinless! All this clergy / laity differentiation started, I think with an amendment to the 1987 Synod resolution that… Read more »