THINKING ANGLICANS

civil partnerships: a college dean writes

In the Guardian today, Stephen Bates writes that: Dean considers blessing gay couples in civil partnerships.

The letter to which he refers is reproduced below the fold.

Text of letter from the Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge The Revd Jeremy Caddick

6th February 2006
The Rt Revd Dr Anthony Russell
Bishop of Ely

Civil Partnerships

The Chapel Committee here recently met and considered, among other things, what should be the response to requests for services following the registering of Civil Partnerships. The Committee looked at the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement issued last July.

I am conscious that the Colleges do not see themselves as falling within the formal jurisdiction of the Diocese of Ely, but I thought it important to write to you as the nearest member of the House of Bishops to tell you about the outcome of those discussions, and also to put on record my own dismay at the damage that is being done to the Church’s standing by the handling of this question. I am aware that your ear will also be being bent by those who take a very different view from my own!

The advice of members of the Chapel Committee and of the College Council, who also considered the matter, was that we would not wish to close the door to having services for members of the College community who requested them. They left it to the Dean to judge what form of service would be appropriate. (I recognise that there will be complex issues to be talked through in relation to each request that is received. None have been so far.)

The House of Bishops statement came in for considerable criticism. In particular people were not convinced by the distinction between not offering a blessing on one hand and encouraging clergy to respond sensitively to requests for services of prayer on the other.

In a community such as this one people know that there is considerable diversity in human sexual relationships, and, in general, see the importance of affirming and celebrating those that are faithful and life affirming. People look to college chapels as offering resources and support in doing that, and this is part of the ministry here that I continue to find rewarding and encouraging.

I appreciate the political considerations that propel the House of Bishops to begin the statement with quite such a vehement reaffirmation of the teaching that, “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (emphasis added). However such a starting point would seem to fly in the face of pastoral experience. To put it bluntly, what planet is the House of Bishops on? I cannot recall the last time I presided over the marriage of a couple who were not already sleeping together. I have no intention of turning such couples away and rather than taxing them on the subject of their sleeping arrangements, I find it much more productive to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to draw their attention to the grace-charged and God revealing aspects of the relationship that they are in the process of making.

I am concerned that in setting its face so publicly against gay relationships the Church imperils, perhaps terminally, its standing to speak authoritatively on the subject of relationships generally. There is no shortage of people who wish to portray the Church as reactionary and irrelevant. To be blunt again, I am dismayed that the House of Bishops statement plays into their hands.

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RMF
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RMF

Well this is happening much sooner than I believed.

And there are already civil partnered clergy in the Church of England.

How long before one of them becomes candidate for bishop?

There is only one direction this matter is moving towards and it appears that we will see a convergence of Episcopal Church and CoE rules on this matter before too long.

Neil B
Guest
Neil B

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

It seems the House of Bishops’ statement is increasingly not worth very much. 🙁

Merseymike
Guest

So encouraging to see that courage and principle still exists in the Church.

Tim
Guest

Neil B quotes `”In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”‘

Notably this quote is in the OT where God’s chosen people seemed to operate better under 1 leader. We live in (post-)NT times where we have 1 Lord and a leadership model with several apostles.

Prior Aelred
Guest

What are the odds on Tony Blair (i.e., “The Crown”) actually interfering with a Royal Peculiar in a matter like this? (a trick question, I suppose, since nothing quite like this has ever come up before).

Like RMF, I expect a convergence between the British & North American churches on these questions — it appears that it may be sooner rather than later.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Brilliant! Huzzah for the dean! 😀

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

Too bad we are so much focused on gays and lebians in today’s Anglican Communion. Gays have always been part of the Church of God, openly and less openly so. In earlier times the issues dividing Christians were different. As Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch tells us in his scholarly and readable History of the Reformation (2003), Archbishop William Laud, whose saint’s day the Anglican Communion observes on January 10, was a gay man phantasizing about his male lover in his diary. He loved cats rather than dogs, and insisted that English gentlemen attend church unaccompanied by their dogs. Many grew irrate… Read more »

Augustus Meriwether
Guest

“there are already civil partnered clergy in the Church of England”

And some clergy are not likely to respond with the same openness, acceptance and affirmation as Revd Jeremy Caddick. How might they proceed when it comes to the crunch? –

http://pinchcolt.blogspot.com/2006/02/casefile-vichomocp-001.html

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Emmanuel College was, of course, the place where the atheist priest Don Cuppitt was chaplain for many years. Since they swallowed that camel, will they now strain at this gnat? As any visitor to Cambridge knows, almost nobody ‘worships’ in these college chapels; Christian students have a good selection of churches and pastors to lead them in the Gospel.

peter w
Guest
peter w

I am uneasy about all of this. Having posted previously in firm support of the civil partnership legislation – and indeed of revision of church teaching on homosexuality – I am uneasy about the idea of a service of blessing on a civil partnership. Let me explain why. Fundamentally, this seems to me a classic case of the ‘weaker brother’ argument. I happen to think that one can be a perfectly good Christian and be in a loving, monogamous, sexually active homosexual relationship. On the other hand, lots of my fellow Christians – probably most of my fellow Christians –… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

The Church will not be damaged. Spliting the church is not damage, but a reflection of reality, and the only possibility of change.

There is far too much pussyfooting around. I have precisely nothing in common with evangelicals and conservatives, and a church without their malign presence would be infinitely preferable.

Excuse of discrimination is no longer acceptable to me on any grounds. The more disruption and disharmony created, the better – for that is the way to ensure honesty and a much needed separation of progressives from conservatives.

Christopher Calderhead
Guest
Christopher Calderhead

Peter, You pose an honest question. I want to answer (gently!). It really is that important. Just put yourself in a gay person’s shoes. Imagine the world turned upside down– having to decide when to reveal to people that you’re, um, seeing a woman, and preparing yourself to respond if that news goes down badly. Imagine doing that over and over again at school, at college, at work, with your parents. Then imagine choosing very carefully if you’ll take her hand in public– is it the right neighborhood? Will we be stared at, shouted at, beaten up? And then imagine… Read more »

peter w
Guest
peter w

Um. I’m still not convinced. Mike, the comment that you have nothing in common with conservatives and evangelicals, and that the sooner we split the better, goes to the heart of it for me. I can’t say that. They are still my fellow Christians, no matter how much I disagree with them. They’re not just ‘a malign presence’ – no matter how much Peter Akinola tries to prove me wrong – they are the stranger in whom I am challenged to see something of Christ. Just as the decent conservative – and they do exist – has to try and… Read more »

David Walker
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David Walker

Sometimes it’s as important to refute the sideswipes as much as to comment on the main thrust of debate. When Peter B speaks of nobody worshipping in college chapels,he attempts to pass off as established fact what is neither accepted nor true. And when he writes of “pastors” in churches elsewhere in the city I guess he betrays more than a little that he comes from a point on the spectrum well away from those who chapels can reach – at least (in my experience) until they mature somewhat in their faith. David Who has heard the voice of God… Read more »

RMF
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RMF

In many instances I think it the case that lbg are abstractions to most, as other minorities might be, and unless we have direct experience, some may find it hard to see Christ in them or in how they live out their lives. But a good sign of Christ in them is that they seek the outward symbol of His grace and comfort; they head directly to His church. Now why would people who some would refuse entry to, keep coming? If we are not calling them, then someone else is, and I have a good idea who. So it… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

peter w, my (hopefully gentle) response is this: It’s easy to get lost, in the Big Show of an (archtypically expensive) wedding, that this is primarily is an event—a covenant—*between the couple and God*. The Church—and everything thing else around the wedding—is (ideally!) just there *for the couple, to strengthen their covenant, with God and each other*. It’s not about the Show. Now, seen in *that* light, reconsider blessing same-sex unions. It’s not about “what others will think”—for celebration, for scandal, for politics, for profit (e.g. the caterers). It’s about the couple and God—the Church is there to facilitate and… Read more »

Father M
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Father M

Mike says that a church without the presence of evangelicals and conservatives would be infinitely preferable. If he really believes in such a vision why does he not go away and form such a perfect church? Many bigoted conservatives are leaving the church of England and setting up on their own – and getting enough support to be financially sustainable. I don’t notice any sensitive culturally relevant liberals taking the same risks – they would rather take the bigots’ money and use it to finance their own parishes… It is quite clear that General Synod appears to be moving in… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Peter W ; I would have agreed with you a couple of years back, but I don’t now. If being ‘catholic’ means tolerating hatred and discrimination, then I’d rather be part of a liberal sect – indeed, thats why, until there is a split, I shall not be returning to worship with the Church of England

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

David W, I’ve visited a number of universities in England and have numerous contacts over there (including Cambridge) and I’ve rarely heard of more than a handful of students supporting their college chapels, other than choir members (some of whom are paid ‘choral scholars’). As far as I can tell, English college students are even more deeply unchurched than the population at large, and of those students who do go to church, the vast majority will be found in ‘student churches’, some Anglican, others free charismatic. My choice of ‘pastor’ was deliberate and generic. As an Anglican, I would hope… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Peter I would be rather surprised if about half of the small proportion of British university students who attend church were not attending Roman Catholic services, whether in local RC parishes or as provided by RC university chaplaincies etc. The large number of flourishing CofE parish churches – of all flavours of Anglicanism – in both Oxford and Cambridge, not to mention the additional Anglican places of worship, such as Pusey House at Oxford, means that Oxbridge students really are spoiled for choice on a Sunday morning. College chaplains are well aware of this, and indeed schedule their services accordingly.… Read more »

peter w
Guest
peter w

Two quick reflections: JC, I’m not quite sure that it is just about the couple and God, and that no other considerations matter. I couldn’t agree more that all the hype around weddings is ridiculous, and I’m sure our feelings about the whole wedding industry are not too far apart. But I do think that weddings are in some a way a statement on the part of the whole church, a statement that says ‘this way of living is one that we recognise and bless as showing Christ in the world’. The Church isn’t able to say this about all… Read more »

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Simon: yes, my impressions and conversations would agree with your view here. Even so, I understand that support for ‘official’ chapel worship, on whatever evening, is pretty low and is often mainly the choir. I am told that outside Oxbridge there is practically no chapel worship provided in British universities. No bad thing, of course, if there’s no demand for it. But what may be reinforcing this is the fact that few chaplains (AFAIK) are on the same spiritual wavelength of (non-Catholic) Christian students, the great majority of whom seem to come now from evangelical churches, especially new charismatic fellowships.… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

I think there is a lot of truth in the assertion that college’s chaplaincies are often unpopular, and students usually prefer the CU (=UCCF/UVF) and/or lively local churches. When I was chair of our Ang Soc (in the 70’s) we had maybe 5-10 regular student attendees whereas the CU had well over 100. I’m sure that our chaplain would have done blessings of same-sex partnerships nowadays… it wouldn’t surprise me if he did then – he certainly introduce me to [a rather younger] Richard Kirker when LGCM was starting up! I think that my experience of Ang.Soc’s affiliation to the… Read more »

John Simmons
Guest
John Simmons

Purely anecdotally I am not sure Simon’s comments about the popularity of weekday chapel services are correct. Recently I went to the main weekly Eucharist in one well-known, central Cambridge college chapel with a renown liberal tradition (because my daughter was in the choir) and I was usually the only person in the congregation with no formal role in the service. At the same time I was giving a series of biblical addresses to a lunchtime meeting of the evangelical Christian Union in a different college with a congregation/audience a hundred or more times larger. And another daughter was attending… Read more »

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Further to what Dave and John Simmons have said, I’m told that the once relatively common Student Christian Movement has largely disappeared from British universities. I’ve checked its UK website and can find little evidence of its activities. Has it folded?

J. C. Fisher
Guest

[Peter W: I fear that if my response grows less gentle, it is only so it grow more *prophetic* (May only God’s word be spoken—Amen!)] The couple (whether opposite- or same-sex) ***NEED*** the public blessing/witness (to whatever level of “public” is involved: surely there are opposite-sex marriages ALL THE TIME, for which there is not unanimous public support? ;-/). To say that every same-sex couple must wait—literally starving-for-air in the Church—just because, by some measure or other, ” the Church just isn’t there yet” is an intolerable (AND *unjust*) BURDEN. Must these unblessed/unwitnessed-to couples be denied . . . and… Read more »

peter w
Guest
peter w

JC – I must clarify what I meant by bringing in 1 Cor 5. The point was not – emphatically not – to put homosexual unions on the same moral level as e.g incest. By saying that in my view they are quite capable of glorifying God, it should be clear that I don’t think that. All that I meant to establish was that in the Church, there is no such thing as a relationship that is just about the couple and God (as I think you implied in a previous post). Any relationship a Christian has involves the Church… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

PeterW: sorry if I sounded “dismissive”—that was not my intention. However, “The vast, vast weight of tradition is against us on this one.” I simply disagree about this (for the same reasons that I disagree w/ the argument “Scripture is against us” also). To the extent that “tradition” addresses the concept of same-sex sex at all, I venture to guess it only does so as “sodomy”: surely you understand, PW, how completely *irrelevant* such a misnomer/misapprehension is, to the current debate in the church? “And yes, that is very hard for gay and lesbian couples. But equally, I know that… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

My Oxbridge college chapel has been offering daily worship in accordance with its founder’s wishes for upwards of 600 years. My personal experience is that that the community and spiritual lives of these chapels is very rich. Like many English parish churches, they reach out to many who are repelled by more charismatic worship. I don’t accept that their contribution to the life of the Church is less valuable or will be less enduring than those of other contemporary congregations. I’m neither convinced nor impressed by arguments along the lines of “my congregation is bigger than your congregation”. All sorts… Read more »

Marshall
Guest

Speaking from the American perspective, and as one who has done campus chaplaincy: It has long been the case that there were fewer in official campus chapels than in either more evangelical student organizations or more evalgelical congregations. At the same time, there are important reasons to continue to see those as important. First, they touch those who will not be touched by those more evangelical congregations, either because they feel unacceptable there or because they want a more intellectual and less emotional experience. (I know that there are evangelical programs that seek to offer intellectual food, but most seem… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Peter, SCM’s annual conference is at the Hollowford Centre in Derbyshire. It can only accommodate 100 people according to their website… further evidence of the death of liberal Christianity!

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Thanks for the info, Dave. Someone who used to attend the SCM as a student about 30 years ago wrote: ‘The SCM, as part of the WSCF, was once a large, essentially evangelical organization committed to spreading the gospel in the university world. It turned away from classical concepts of evangelism and conversion (as it still had in the days of John R. Mott) toward more liberal political goals and theologizing in the liberal Protestant mould.’ I think we are seeing the fruits of that decision today. It seems to me that much university chaplaincy is a college- or church-subsidized… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I have been involved in a large number of same-sex blessings over the past 20 years. They were, as are all such celebrations, a pastoral opportunity to teach the faith and explore with the couple (and sometimes the extended family) their commitment to discipleship of Jesus and how their new family can be a sign of God’s love and His Kingdom. I have found this ministry both challenging and fruitful. Some couples returned with their children for baptism and once again we were able to come alongside these families as they sought to deepen their understanding of God to be… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Martin, Somehow I couldn’t imagine that it was really a “first” !

p.s. Can you say whether LGCM has more or less members than 20 years ago?

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I’m sorry Dave I don’t really understand your “first” sentence.

I do not have the figures to hand Dave, we certainly had a far larger membership in the very early 80’s before we supported women’s ministry, but I can confirm, as Andrew Carey suspects elsewhere, we have a surge of applications every time Peter Akinola makes a statement.

What I can tell you is that Jeremy Caddick is not registered as a member or a supporter – neither is Nicholas Henderson.

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Is there a list of members and supporters of LGCM? Is it public knowledge or known to parishes?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

And what I wonder is whilst conservatives crow about their supposed ‘successes’, they seem to have little appreciation of what the vast majority who remain outside any sort of church environmnet think of them ( try asking the average student – you won’t like what you hear) and as a result alienates those interested in spirituality but who would not even think about looking towards the church to fulfil it. Conservative religion appeals to the same small number it always has done – but those outside the church have become tired of the lukewarm fence-sitting of liberalism. A new Christian… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Is it that easy to wander off topic for you two boys?

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Martin, I meant that the Dean’s decision is reported as if it is some “first” for the blessing of homosexual partnerships… which, from what you said, it certainly isn’t.

Dave
Guest
Dave

ps Presumably, although the Chapel belongs to the College, the Dean will have taken vows of canonical obedience to the Bishop. I don’t think he has a leg to stand on; but will any member of the HoB act on such a sensitive topic? …

RMF
Guest
RMF

Well Dave, now for fun, you, and perhaps Bergman can go with you, as he has “contacts,” can be assigned this task:

why not canvass Oxbridge and find out exactly how many of these “firsts” have been done but not reported, so that in future when a book is written and the historian mentions them, you can answer claims that such things never happened because, don’t you know, there is no extant record?

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

In the late 1980s I was the rector of an Episcopal parish in a university town. On my day off I happened to be in the office to check my mail. I received a phone call from the local mortuary. Would I talk to the elderly parents of a homosexual man who had just died of HIV/AIDS? The parents were Missouri Synod Lutherans, but their pastor could not even talk to the parents because he would violate church teaching if he buried a deceased gay man. Of course, I made an appointment with the parents and the deceased person’s gay… Read more »

RMF
Guest
RMF

From the Church of Scotland: “In May 2006, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will be asked by the Kirk’s Legal Questions Committee to receive a report relating to civil partnerships….. The committee readily acknowledges that this is a controversial question but believes that it is important to recognise the existing freedom of pastoral conscience of ministers and deacons to guarantee that they do not face censure in the wake of providing this service. It is equally important to respect the rights of those who, in conscience, could not affirm same sex relationships, legally recognised by civil partnership.… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

John Henry’s personal experience of pastoral dereliction is sadly all to frequent. The story of the refusal of a RC bishop to host the funeral of a gay man in America http://www.365gay.com/newscon05/03/031905funeral.htm and his subsequent apology and attempts to make amends http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20050322-9999-1n22funeral.html make salutary reading. I see that I was not alone in feeling a chill running up my spine at Peter Bergman’s interest in the LGCM’s membership list! Dave’s remark about “firsts” reflects on how stories are reported in the press, they have a much better chance of publication if they are novel rather than more of the same.… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear John Henry, What a horrendous story ! On the other hand, friends of mine, from a *very* conservative / puritanical church, used to work on the “buddy” schemes for gay people dying of AIDs in London in the 1980’s…

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Martin Reynolds – my question was an expression of puzzlement. You stated above that neither Jeremy Caddick+ nor Nicholas Henderson+ is registered as a member or supporter of the British LGCM. However, I thought I had once read you on Titusonenine saying that membership was confidential and not known to you or anyone else. My apologies if my recollection is incorrect here. As for the San Diego funeral, I can’t see how anyone who claimed a church connection should be denied a church funeral, however they lived. Only God knows our hearts at the last, whether we have really believed… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Peter
That funeral did not take place in an Anglican cathedral. St Giles’ Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh is described on its own website as Presbyterianism’s Mother Church. It is part of the Church of Scotland, which in Scotland is the Established Church. Richard Holloway was a personal friend of Robin Cook.
It is customary in Britain for leading public figures to be given church funerals. You may find Magnus Linklater’s article from The Times of interest:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1733157,00.html

This has of course nothing to do with civil partnerships, but hey I am the blog owner.

Peter Owen
Admin

Dave commented “Presumably, although the Chapel belongs to the College, the Dean will have taken vows of canonical obedience to the Bishop.” I don’t know about the position of the Dean of Emmanuel, or any other particular dean or college chaplain for that matter, but I have made some enquiries about the general position, which appears to be as follows. Colleges in Cambridge and Oxford claim to be peculiar, ie not under the jurisdiction of the Bishop. This means that a dean or chaplain does not need a licence from the Bishop to take services in the college chapel. The… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Peter, Interesting background info. Thanks for looking it up.