Thinking Anglicans

civil partnerships: individual bishops views

Updated Thursday

First, John Hind Bishop of Chichester delivered a pastoral letter at his recent diocesan synod. The full text is on the diocesan website here: Civil Partnerships — A Pastoral Letter.

Second, Tom Wright Bishop of Durham issued an Ad Clerum letter to diocesan clergy yesterday. You can’t read that, or anything much, on the Durham diocesan website which is being refurbished, but it is available here.

The Bishop of Worcester’s views were reported earlier.

Update
The Bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt has issued this statement.

Changing Attitude has issued a Rough Guide to the Civil Partnership Law which mentions that:

There are two bishops, one Northern, one Southern Province, with whom we haven’t talked because their views are predictable and dangerous for gay clergy. You will know who they are and you would be advised not to register a partnership if you serve in either of their dioceses.

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J. C. Fisher
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Knowing +Tom Wright’s rep as the most moderate (even liberal) of the “antis”, I felt obliged to read his ‘Ad Clerum.’ There I found “1987, when Synod clearly and unambiguously reaffirmed the biblical and traditional teaching of not only the Anglican Communion but almost all Christians worldwide, namely that sexual relations are to be celebrated within, and only within, the marriage of a man and a woman” … the same ol’, same ol’ *duplicitous blather*, and everything went downhill from there. [“biblical and traditional” being oh . . . around 40 years old or so? Except maybe the phrase “a… Read more »

RMF
Guest
RMF

I bet the parties to a civil partnership will enter it without a whit of regard for the position of the CoE which interestingly is still wringing its hands over women bishops and what to do, what to do! I think I will just cite the report on human sexuality from the Diocese of Milwaukee to summarize my own position on this matter. (Available at http://calendar.diomil.org/news/61.asp ) ” 10.3a The Classic View To be faithful sexual beings means to live out the human sexual relationship in the context of the male-female covenant of marriage as governed by the commandments of… Read more »

nathan
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nathan

“Sexuality is fundamental to one’s bodily existence and sense of self.” This statement needs extensive qualification and discussion of the nuances. We should be willing to question the assumptions of our culture in this area. Is it fair to say that sexual expression in specific ways is a “need”, in the same way that air, food, and shelter are “needs”? Who gets to decide? Only the person experiencing the “need”? “Therefore, to be a faithful sexual being involves personal relationship, commitment, and fidelity to the other person. For heterosexual persons, this is undertaken through the covenant of marriage.” It is… Read more »

Peter O
Guest

Fisher; Perhaps you’d like to explain how Durham has shown a lack of integrity?

Simon Dawson
Guest

Interesting double standards in Bishop Hind’s letter: “In accordance with traditional practice, I do not intend that in this diocese there should be unreasonable questioning of either clergy or lay people about their personal attitudes or behaviour.” . . . . . “Furthermore, I will expect those who advise me and the area bishops to assure us that candidates for holy orders in the diocese understand and accept what it means to “model their life and that of their household according to the mind of Christ.”” It seems to me that if you are already ordained then British politeness rules… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

In defence of Tom Wright (who is wrong) I would say that his position translates into “don’t ask, don’t tell”, which is not by any means the same as “exterminate the pooves”. I believe, too, that he would be just as hard on clergy trying to contract second, or third marriages. I think that he is unrealistic about sexuality, but there is a difference between being conservative by temperament and upbringing and being actively bigoted. There may of course be a back story here which will prove me entirely wrong. That would depend on what he knows about the intentions… Read more »

k1eranc
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k1eranc

So we’re finally getting towards a clear idea of what this debate is really about. It’s not about people’s bits, but rather, what one is expected to feel towards one’s own and opposite gender. On the one side, we have the biblical argument that marriage is between ONE man and ONE woman (which could have more to do with abrogating polygamy); what is important is that it is two individuals of different plumbings being joined up. Add in the deterministic idea of what one is destined to – and these people seem to have a dead certainty as to who… Read more »

Sean Doherty
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Sean Doherty

From the Changing Attitude rough guide: “We suggest that as Anglicans who are used to words meaning what we want them to mean, it is possible to hold a service in church following the registration of a Civil Partnership.” Not sure whether to be amused or worried by the first half of the sentence…! It is hard to tell to what extent Colin’s tongue is in his cheek. JCF I am pretty surprised at your vitriolic attack on Tom Wright. Clearly you have every right to disagree with his views but how precisely has he demonstrated a serious lack of… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

See above re “duplicitous blather” How can any Christian (nevermind bishop) *seriously* think that the Bible 1) considers the concept of *same-sex marriage* (of two *homosexual persons*), but 2) rejects it? (It’s debateable whether even the NT considers *opposite-sex marriage* in a healthy, partnership-of-equals we value today) It’s because I recognize +Wright’s *intelligence*, that I don’t believe that he believes the above. Ergo, he is claiming the Bible is saying something that he knows it doesn’t. Ergo, he lacks integrity. Period. [However, he is still a bishop—and a priest—in the Anglican Communion: one from whom I would gladly receive Christ’s… Read more »

Sean Doherty
Guest
Sean Doherty

JCF: Despite the multiple ergos I am still not following you. How does Wright’s position follow from the syllogism you set out? I am not aware that it needs to, since his argument is based on two separate presuppositions, namely: 1) A claim about the teaching of the Bible and tradition: “sexual relations are to be celebrated within, and only within, the marriage of a man and a woman” NB this does NOT require that the Bible explicitly note and reject the concept of same-sex marriage but simply it’s teaching on sex. The Bible nowhere condemns the use of nuclear… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

JCF-
Why not read Wright’s Romans commentary? It is quite tightly argued.

Sean-
Don’t you think the words of Basil Fawlty are funny precisely because people are always likening everything they don’t like to ‘the way Nazi Germany started’?

Andrew-
A scholar in thrall to his temperament and upbringing is not a scholar at all. The whole point about scholarship is the ability to question presuppositions.

Matthew Duckett
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Matthew Duckett

More on Tom Wright. He says: “We have voted as a Communion and a Church to have women priests, to admit children to Communion before Confirmation, and so on. Change can and does happen. But it can’t happen by people creating ‘facts on the ground’, deliberately flouting the church’s well-known teaching, and then requiring that the teaching be adjusted to fit.” Some “Communion” that exists only in Tom Wright’s head might have voted to have women priests before people locally created facts on the ground which prompted the debate, but the Anglican Communion certainly didn’t. Nor has it even yet… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Sean, you’re missing the point: Assertions that the Bible teaches “one man, one woman marriage” EXIST *only* in REACTION TO homosexual couples’ (legitimate) claim to marriage for their relationships (w/ the possible polygamy exception I noted). To say “the teaching of the Bible and tradition: ‘sexual relations are to be celebrated within, and only within, the marriage of a man and a woman'” puts the cart before the horse. To *knowingly* argue such sophistry (NOT a mere “disagreement”)—ergo—lacks integrity. I really think I’m being perfectly clear about this (“let the reader understand”). To disagree w/ me, because your particular ox… Read more »

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

James DG Dunn in his The Theology of St. Paul the Apostle (1998)argues along very traditional lines, especially in his chapter “Ethics in Practice: How Should Believers Live?” However, Dr. Dunn shares some interesting information in a footnote (p.692): “Much quoted is the statement of Apollodorus (mid-4th century BCE): ‘We have courtesans for pleasure, concubines for the day-to-day care of the body, and wives to bear legitimate children and to maintain faithful guardianship of household affairs'” – Pseudo-Demosthenes, Orations 59.122). Another ancient writer might have added MALAKOI (Gk.)/MOLLES (Lat.), ‘Lustknaben’ (Ger.), ‘toy boys’to the list of sexual venues for pleasure.… Read more »

Sean Doherty
Guest
Sean Doherty

JCF: firstly, I really think you’ll struggle to prove that assertions of the heterosexuality of marriage are made only against homosexual claims and in fact I find it faintly hilarious, given Genesis 2 and Jesus’s pronouncements upon it. I think you’ll also struggle to maintain it in view of the church fathers, where AFAIK there was no concept of same-sex marriage in question. Have I followed your argument correctly?! Whether this is even so or not, doesn’t my own struggle to understand where you are coming from on this point indicate that it is a potentially intelligently and sincerely held… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Given the lack of knowledge and understanding of gay sexual orientation at the time when the people who wrote the Bible lived, its hardly surprising. Its only when you stop making ludicrous claims for what is a book – no more, no less, that we can hope to gain any sort of rational perspective on the subject. Traditional Christianity will always be incapable of doing so – thats why revision is needed, and ECUSA are showing us the way. if that leads to a breakup of the Anglican ‘Communion’, then all well and good – it will be a relief… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear John Henry, I think that you are making a mistake by assuming that St Paul ONLY had in mind the mores of the ancient world. He would also have had in mind the moral teachings of the Jewish Law regarding forbidden sexual behaviours.. (Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not to do away with it). Furthermore the Romans passage, among others, does not suggest that one person is using the other, but implies mutuality!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Mike, that book contains the sayings and writings of Christ, His Apostles and the Prophets. It is not just “a book – no more, no less”.

I do not understand what the definition of Christian or Anglican would be if we were to decide that these saying and writings are only of equal, or less, value than anyone else’s opinions or theories.

Doesn’t such liberalism just lose any distinctively Christian identity?

Sean Doherty
Guest
Sean Doherty

Mike It is ignorant to claim that there was no evidence of awareness of homosexual orientation in ancient times – a look through classical literature would swiftly disabuse you of that notion. However even if it were the case its hermenutical relevance would be extremely dubious given the positive teaching of Scripture (not simply its negative prohibitions) on sexual identity as male and female. Obviously you have rejected trad. Christianity’s understanding of the Bible, as you freely admit and as you have every right to do. I have no problem with that and you are welcome to do so although… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

No, Sean, not true. Awareness of same-sex acts, certainly, but not orientation as identity in the way we would understand it now.

You forget, though, that I regard the Bible as both a human creation and a product of its time, and that I believe the Church does need to revise some of its teachings. thats why I am a liberal and happy to be a revisionist, although that term is usually used as an insult.

Sean Doherty
Guest
Sean Doherty

1) In fact, there is awareness of orientation (i.e. that some people are almost exclusively sexually attracted to members of their own sex) not just acts. I don’t have the references handy but am happy to dig them out.

2) Sexual orientation in the way “we would understand it now” is itself a fluid concept over which there is even today some disagreement which makes the simplistic judgements of essentialism untenable anyway.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I’ve read them , Sean, and I remain unconvinced, as do almost all sociologists working in this area.

I would agree that there is fluidity and that we should not be frightened of that. But that is no excuse for retaining adherence to past beliefs.

The problem is, I think, that I don’t believe in revealed religious truth in the way you do, and so we speak from very different starting points.

Sean Doherty
Guest
Sean Doherty

Of course. My point is much more that because of the completely different starting points, it’s hardly reasonable of you to expect anyone else in the church to come round to your point of view without difficulty. My response was much more to do with your “ludicrous claims” point.

I am surprised that sociologists have anything to do with the interpretation of classical texts which classical scholars seem pretty clear about. Please could you explain more as this would seem to be a potentially fruitful area of dialogue.

Dave
Guest
Dave

It would be interesting and probably revealing to have an article or two, and a debate, on “what is religious truth” !

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Sean ; this is a question of understanding the meaning of social construction and how we might interpret it. For example, can an act be thought to mean the same thing in a very different cultural context. Classical scholars do not themselves hold to a single interpretation, of course, but if one holds the view that contemporary ‘homosexuality’ is a relatively recent concept in terms of a distinct orientation and personal identity, as opposed to simply an activity, then it takes on a very different tack. Have you read Jeffrey Weeks, David Greenberg, David Halperin? I would class myself as… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Mike, To begin to convince people like me (and most people who believe and trust in a personal God and His self-revelation) you would have to show that homosexuality was a new phenomenon, or that the new understanding was so different that the previous revelations wouldn’t apply in that case. A revised understanding of human sexuality isn’t enough. But the Biblical passages (especially in the NT) don’t just address “heteros” doing homosexual acts for kicks, and the basis isn’t just hetero-right homo-wrong, as most other options are also prohibited, and even hetero-sexuality is strictly lomoted (eg Jesus saying that… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

And to do that, Dave, you would have to stop looking at the Bible in the way you do!

I don’t think either of us are going to be convinced. There’s simply no common ground. For me, the problem is essentially your religion – its that, not your attitude to gays and lesbians, which has to go.

Sean Doherty
Guest
Sean Doherty

I think that is very helpful in terms of my understanding you in particular Mike but unrepresentative in that most Christians who identify themselves as gay etc. do not wish to jettison the religion itself. That makes our classical/sociological point much less important, since even if one could show that Paul had homosexual orientation and identity in some sense as a target in Romans 1, that would not be relevant to you since you would have no qualms about rejecting the idea that what he wrote was inspired by God. However, the majority of Christians I have come across who… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

No, it isn’t, Sean, as I have already stated. I would say that. I am a moderate on the essentialist/constructionist debate. I do believe there is such a thing as an essential ‘homosexuality’ in the sense of orientation. I also think it would be quite impossible for Paul to understand that orientation as there wasn’t the social construction of gay identity available to do so. His vision was by necessary partial and hindered by that lack of knowledge. So, whilst he was probably referring to pederasty given that was the common pattern then, it has no connection at all to… Read more »

James
Guest
James

Bishop David Jenkins’ sermon at the blessing of the Civil Partnership of an anglican vicar and his partner is available online at:
http://archive.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/2005/12/22/214499.html

Dave
Guest
Dave

Merry Christmas Mike (and All), You mentioned ” homosexual orientation as a hard-wired and fixed disposition”.. but I don’t think that this is borne out in all cases. Have you seen the experiences from Canadian clergy and laity in their testimony to the Canadian HoB on http://www.zacchaeus.ca/HOB.HTML?