THINKING ANGLICANS

Cohabitation: the CofE statement

Two weeks ago, the Archbishops’ Council issued a response to the Law Commission’s consultation Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown. The consultation closed on 30 September, but the documents are still available here. Main PDF document (warning: is 2.6 Mbytes).

The CofE press release about it is here. The full text of the Church of England response is here (PDF).

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Cheryl CloughChristopher ShellMerseymikeJohn M FotheringhamMark Bennet Recent comment authors
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Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Good. So why are DLT publishing a worldly, compromised and ill-argued book like ‘Just Cohabiting’ by Duncan Dormor?

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Do laws in England regarding domestic violence Currently include couples who are not married? That is, may a woman whose live-in boyfriend beats her apply for a restrianing order on the same basis that a wife might? How about same-sex couples? I ask, because my state will vote in two weeks on an amendment to the Virginia Bill of Rights that will bar gay marriages [already barred by statute law] but also will forbid legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that seek to approximate the design qulaities, or effects of marriage – that’s not exact language, but close enough.… Read more »

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

I’m not a lawyer, Cynthia, and I’m not sure if this reply is really what you’re after, but here goes… In criminal law, any act of domestic violence is just as much a crime as a similar act between two acquaintances or strangers. So, depending on the severity of the violence, the violent partner could be charged with anything from common assault, through actual or grievous bodily harm, to murder. Historically, the police have been less interested in “domestics” than they should have been, partly because of a rather sexist “canteen culture” and partly because of frustration when the assaulted… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Thanks for your reply. In Ohio, which passed a simliar amendment 2 years ago [coinciding with the presidential election … which Ohio tipped to Dubya .. what a coINcidence!], there have been challenges to the state’s laws on domestic violence involving unmarried straights. There is considerable concern among those who work with domestic violence law about this. Currently, VA law on domestic violence does cover straight unmarried couples, straight couples who do not live together but have a child, and in some localities, same sex couples. The fear is that if the amendment passes, only straight married couples would be… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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Cynthia Gilliatt asked: ”Do laws in England regarding domestic violence currently include couples who are not married? That is, may a woman whose live-in boyfriend beats her apply for a restraining order on the same basis that a wife might?” Herstory: Before the Renaissance/Tridentine State, supervised Moment, marriage form was introduced by Statute, marriage was Civil (or “common”) law in all Europe. The Consensus of the Parties (the Families/Clans) was s o l e legal ground, with or without spoken or written contracts regulating property. From the 13th century Mass was used to seal the marriage. The 1296 Upland law… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
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I thought this would be about Anglicans learning to cohabit despite differences, and discovered that it was a complicated discussion of cohabitation in civil law — the sort of thing an Established Church has to have a standpoint on, I suppose. But I doubt if any church can now hope to influence the development of law and practice in this area. Gays entering civil unions have become a major headache for both Rome and the Anglicans — an articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae no less — and one is astonished to see bishops ferrying hither and thither, as in the… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

The thing the Church can’t handle is that it may be a problem for them – but for the rest of us in the UK, civil partnership isn’t a problem, nor cohabitation. The question is how to ensure that cohabiting couples do not end up with nothing whilst retaining incentive for marriage and civil partnership as signs of commitment. What the Church has to say about that is, in my view, irrelevant, given that their view of marriage is far from that of the majority. Most people positively decide not to marry in church. Civil partners have no choice but… Read more »

IT
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IT

Virginia’s law, as I understand it, would explicitly render civil contracts such as powers of attorney invalid for same sex couples. If it passes, I am sure there is an “equal protection” suit on that front. How can you say that my private civil contract in any way is invalid if they guy next door can have the same civil contract? But indeed, in Ohio, the law against same sex marriage has been used to remove protections from anyone who is not married. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s Supreme Court is about to rule on gay marriage. THe likely next Governor in… Read more »

badman
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badman

The key to the Church response is this sentence: “It has always been the teaching of the Church of England that marriage – that is, faithful, committed, loving, permanent and legally sanctioned relationships between a man and a woman – is central to the stability and health of human society.” (para 5). However, this is wrong on a number of counts. First, marriage has never been permanent. Divorce existed in biblical times (although specifically condemned by Jesus) and has always been possible in ecclesiastical and English law (although it did not become widely available until the establishment of the Divorce… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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May I remind would-be commenters that we have a policy limiting comments to 400 words. So if your comment doesn’t appear, this could be the reason.

Cheryl Clough
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Badman, thanks for those valid points. There was an excellent book I read back in the 1980s called “The World Moves Slowly”, and it covered women’s rights in early colonised Australia. The legal inequalities were similar and just as recent. Then there is the question of polygamy. Then there is the reality that the law might have changed but that has not ended abuse within relationships (nor churches for that matter), as the United Nations recent reports on the abuse of women and children demonstrate. I still find it bizarre that we should be discouraging souls from attempting life long… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

I think badman has a point here. I don’t think anyway that it has ever been a civil certificate which has made a marriage ‘Christian’, or from a Christian point of view, which has made a marriage. All sorts of relationship exist, or have existed, in law, some of them exclusive (master and slave, apprenticeships), some potentially between male and female (guardianship, trusteeship). etc etc (look at the law of undue influence, for example). And there are uncertified relationships recognised by law (for example cohabiting may affect benefit entitlement) – it is interesting that when there is money in it,… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
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A few hours later, I can understand why God would turn a deaf ear to the prayers of concern for the suffering or mistreatment of Christians when they are in the minority in other nations. Why would the prayers have any credibility, when Christians bend over backwards to systemise inequality and justify denying rights to minorities within their own nations?

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

hi Merseymike-
What is your opinion based on? If it is not based on statistics regarding stability (or otherwise) of cohabiting relationships (with all the side-effects of that) then how can your opinion claim to be a real world opinion at all? What is your view on the children who (statistically) get such a raw deal from such relationships?

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Christopher: your remarks have nothing at all to do with my previous comments. I am in favour of both marriage and civil partnerships, but do not wish to see people left with nothing in the light of the breakdown of a cohabitation. Hence, my last post. As for stability, the problem is that the statistics are not comparing like with like. If the most committed couples marry, then it is clear that their breakup rates will be lower ( and they are high enough!) I do not believe that forcing anyone into marriage would decrease the relationship breakdown rate, any… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
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Well handled Merseymike.

What is bizarre is that eveyone agrees that committed relationships are more viable, and then some proceed to try to deny others access to the possibility of succeeding in a committed relationship. It’s a bit like saying nutrition is good for you, but I won’t give you enough food because you are not worthy enough, and then gloating that you are showing symptoms consistent with malnourishment!

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

To be deprived of food is one thing. But how many cohabitees are deprived of marriage? Rather they are often keeping their options open, and keeping their ‘freedom’. The way your answer read, no-one would guess that (a) promiscuity levels are increasing in our society, so that people will take the attitude ‘I will because I can’; while (b) expectations that people will marry are decreasing. Both of these two factors militate against commitment. Neither of these two factors is mentioned by you as being related to the present situation. Yet both are intimately related to it. The publications of… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Christopher: most of what you say makes the same mistake as before – that you assume that marriage itself will alter behaviour and strengthen commitment. There is simply no evidence for that. Cohabiting couples are not as they are because they cohabit, but their position does not lead them to look towards marriage. Your analysis is the typical right-wing individualist approach which looks not for social, but individual determinants of social action. ‘Promoting strong families’ does not have to include negativity – but we can look towards how stronger families of all varieties can be supported and thus promoted. I… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
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The AIDS pandemic clearly demonstrates that men who are away from their wives are still sexually active (how many towns can cite that their first HIV/AIDS victims were infected by US soldiers on R&R?). Plus we see that men living in cities engage in sex and then return to their wives in their rural communities with the HIV “gift”, and that itinerate workers (e.g. truckies) also partake in sex. Remember Abraham used to take Sarah with him, and we know from the oral tradition that Friday nights were special. Abraham was righteous because he understood his limitations and did not… Read more »

John M Fotheringham
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John M Fotheringham

The comments I have seen on this site represent English law. In Scotland since 4th May 2006 cohabitants have a full range of financial rights and obligations which arise at the end of the cohabitation,whether they simply separate, or one of them dies, and a) whether the couple like it or not, and b)whether they even know about it or not. English law is likely to change along the same approximate lines in two or three years. The impetus for the change comes from ECHR which will ensure that same-sex cohabitation is given precisely the same status as heterosexual cohabitation.… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Some good points. Luke 6.17 does speak of a level place, but not sure why this has to be given a spiritual rather than practical meaning. Anyway, contrast Matt 5.1-2 sermon on the mount was much the same sermon, and not said to be in a level place. One error- Sometimes you are writing as though there were only two alternatives, total faithfulness and unfaithfulness. On the contrary, though this is true as far as it goes, there is a sliding scale of degrees of unfaithfulness. My point was only that there is on average appreciably more stability and faithfulness… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Christopher: I don’t think you can artificially create stigma. It is also really quite a pointless exercise as there is bound to be resistance to it.

I am all in favour of committed relationships, as I have already said.However, I think your way of achieving them hasn’t worked – we live in postmodern times and people are not going to be told what to do any longer, least of all by the Church or Christians.

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Well – a little bit of stigma is 100 times less bad than the negative social consequences stemming from children being born in ‘cohabiting’ relationships. Assuming u r familiar with the statistics you will agree with that. There are 2 funny presuppositions behind what you write, which would need defending: (1) ‘We live in postmodern times’ – you think we are all the helpless victims of social trends? No we are not – that applies only to fashion victims. Nobody is under any obligation to be postmodern if they don’t wish to be. However, if anyone *does* wish to be,… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

No, Christopher – you still fail to grasp the point. The problems are relationships which lack commitment. Forcing people to marry will not aid commitment. I also think that social trends are important, but not that we are helpless victims. I’m afraid you still haven’t grasped that many people really don’t like the sound of your ideal world. Postmodernisty is here whether you like it or not. And the whole point is that postmodernity is diverse and pluralistic, incorporating people like you and those of radically differnt beliefs. As for your last point – the ususl Christian error. Which is… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
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One of the propositions I have heard about Jesus was that he “made manifest” many elements of the Old Testament. Life After Death, abundance of food. In Jewish tradition the use of some words has meaning, and when a word comes up repeatedly throughout the bible then the word takes on symbolic as well as a literal meaning. The thing about Luke 6:17 was not that Jesus started preaching from a level place, but that the disciples and early Christians felt it important to record that he started from a level place. Combined with the alluded to OT passages, there… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Hi Mike It is impossible to force people to marry. You rightly identify the problem as lack of commitment. This lack of commitment has only become endemic from the time when nonmarital relationships have become socially acceptable in some circles. So if you truly believe in commitment, why are you against the social structure that was designed to encourage it, and in favour of the looser social structure that does nothing to encourage it, but rather allows men to have their cake and eat it (and they don’t need to be asked twice)? Is the commitment you believe in something… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Hi Cheryl- It is equally true that Matthew puts the sermon on a mountain, which is more or less the opposite to a level place. You could have emphasised that, but didnt. Why? Because you preferred the idea of a level place. But the mountain is no less present in the gospel text. Where is the evidence that Luke had a spiritual meaning for this? It is practical (even when on a mountain) to congregate a crowd in a level place. There may be intertextuality here, even a reaction against Matthew’s mountain. Who knows? How much can innocuous simple words… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Exactly, Cheryl, which is why I am totally happy to have ‘civil partnership’ as the official term for same sex relationships in the UK

The rights and responsibilities offered are equal – whereas those who insist on a name as in the US, get nowhere. Here, the introduction of CP’s was hardly a controversy at all.

Cheryl Clough
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Christopher, your comment about presenting people with a wider range of options intrigues me. I wonder if we are not closer in our alignment than the correspondence might suggest? I think both you and I would like people to be seeking to living loving monogamous reverential life-long committed relationships? Both of us would discourage public acts of sex and sex with the immature or without genuine consent? In which case there is no disagreement. Unless you are suggesting that some souls should be precluded from being able to enter into reverential arrangements? (Which I don’t think you are based on… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Hi again Just for the record (in case you misunderstood) I was against the idea of a wider range of options. Choice is the idol of our age and I am not sure people always think out carefully the reasons why they idolise it. Children mature precisely through *not* being given the choice to go clubbing or pubbing rather than go to school. Reverence is one important factor, but far from the only one. One would first have to establish that homosexual practice was a good thing in itself. In the real world it is medically a greater risk factor… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
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Christopher Some of those choices that neither of us like don’t actually relate to marriage/civil partnerships. Some of those are choices that relate to young adults finding their sexuality and partners and how adventurous they are (homo or straight). Some of those choices relate to people being narcissic, hedonistic, or gaining rewards by “pimping” on others’ narcissm. The former is inevitable all we can do as parents is give good advice and pray that our children are sensible and do not get hurt in the process. (I do not agree with forcing marriage or killing children for curiosity). The latter… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

I would actually, which may sound harsh; but I believe that if two people love one another they want to be committed maximally, in every way possible. Thus their natural reatcion to marriage is ‘Great, the more commitment the better.’. I think it could be naive to suppose that cohabitees are not simply keeping their options open, and in many cases are only in love with themselves. But all such suspicions aside, the reason why cohabitation is so dangerous lies in the other things which statistically it is associated with (see the publications of Belmont House, Sutton; FYC Whitton; and… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
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I would offer marriage to all. I am not from the camp who is electing to withhold marriage from certain sectors. If there is a “fudge” that is what others are requiring. However, making it marriage or nothing is not tenable. What then happens is people marry, but are then abusive in the relationship. There are benefits to civil partnerships. For example, some men (e.g. my previous husband) are wonderful as de factos but become really nasty once they have a marriage certificate in place. Some souls are only nice when there is a risk that the person can and… Read more »