THINKING ANGLICANS

perspectives on civil partnerships

Recently the Quakers made news on this topic. See for example, this report in The Times by Ruth Gledhill Quakers back gay marriage and call for reform:

The Quakers sanctioned gay marriages yesterday and called on the Government to give same-sex couples who marry in their ceremonies the same standing as heterosexual people.

Other Christian churches and religious denominations have approved blessings for same-sex civil partnerships but the Quakers are Britain’s first mainstream religious group to approve marriages for homosexuals…

Some background to this decision may be found in one of the papers from The Interfaith Legal Advisers Network meeting in June 2008:

At the second meeting, Network Members shared their experiences on how their own religious traditions interact with the law on marriage, including divorce, re-marriage, interfaith marriages and civil partnerships.

The papers are available as PDF files:

The concluding paragraphs of Mark Hill’s paper make interesting reading:

Thus we find ourselves in the curious position whereby Church of England clergy (i) are under a legally enforceable duty to solemnise the matrimony of atheists, non-believers and adherents of other faiths; (ii) have a statutory discretion to refuse to marry divorcées, transgendered and certain others exercisable in accordance with their conscience irrespective of the religious beliefs and affiliations of the couple; and (iii) are canonically prohibited from conducting a service of blessing following the registration of a civil partnership. Ironically, devout Christians in the latter category are denied the ministrations of the Church by way of a blessing whereas Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and non-believer couples can compel the use Church of England rites and liturgy and the ministrations of its clergy. The pastoral damage which might result from this mixed message cannot be adequately explained away as an anomaly of the historic accident of establishment in a plural society.

CONCLUSION
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is one of a number of pieces of legislation that have had an impact upon religious communities and individuals. The Act creates a newly recognised legal relationship which cannot be entered into on religious premises, at which no religious service can be used, and the blessing of which is expressly forbidden by the Church of England. Moreover despite political and judicial rhetoric that civil partnerships are different and distinct from marriage, the exact differences have yet to be fully explored and clearly articulated by the domestic judiciary or by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Although the Act defines the relationship a being for two individuals of the same gender, physical intimacy, still less sexual fidelity, do not feature in the provisions of the Act. This means that the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement is wholly consistent with the letter of the legislation; whether it accords with popular perceptions of the legislation is another matter. Future judicial interpretation of the Act may pose challenges for the clergy of the Established Church. The implications for Church of England clergy who are commonly understood to be under a legal duty to solemnise the marriage of parishioners creates what can at best be styled a pastoral anomaly. Whether promoted by accident or design, the effects of the Civil Partnership Act on the nature of Establishment in times of changing social mores are far from insignificant and not yet fully understood.

(See PDF for omitted footnotes.)

11
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
11 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
11 Comment authors
Ford ElmsSam NortonJCFdrdanfeeGöran Koch-Swahne Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Rev L Roberts
Guest
Rev L Roberts

I am only too delighted to Bless couples after their civil partnership ceremony at the town hall. And along with my colleagues in the C of E such blessings and acts of worship ‘are Church of England’ without doubt. – officaldom will, doubtless, catch up later….

the spirit bloweth where it listeth

Brian
Guest

Curiouser and curiouser. The joys of establishment.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Sacramental marriages in religious ceremonies had – and continue to have – direct legal
effect in English secular law.”

Is this true?
Isn’t it the signing of the register that makes the marriage legal, not the religious ceremony around it?
Just because the priest has two functions at a wedding, that of priest and that of registrar, does not mean the two are not legally separate.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

No Erica.
If one of the parties should fall dead after the vows but before the signing of the register the marriage would be deemed perfectly valid in law.

Registration for civil purposes was forced upon the Church – but marriages that are unregistered and performed by a duly authorised person in a duly authorised building and are witnessed are (I believe) valid in Canon Law although they are irregular and the minister has committed in offence in not telling the State. I think the civil courts would also recognise the marriage.

Tim
Guest

Hallelujah for good news 🙂

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

“Moreover despite political and judicial rhetoric that civil partnerships are different and distinct from marriage ….. “

I think I’m right that the British High Court of Justice (Family Division) ruled very early on that “a Civil Partnership is marriage in all but name”.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

The historically important point seem to be the fact that it’s Public and Witnessed.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

This discussion makes very clear what convoluted thinking we use, an up/down status arrangement has to be legally (and also, theologically/ethically?) founded and refined. Lest? Lest we just conclude that our committed queer folks as neighbors have anywhere near as much to offer their children, their family members, their friends, and the general community – as those high and abundant gifts or blessings said to be innate for all straight couples. One lingering dominant impression that just will not quite go away is an impression of fragility – of straight marriage, parenting, and gasp, being straight in the first place.… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“devout Christians in the latter category [being in same-sex civil partnerships] are denied the ministrations of the Church by way of a blessing whereas Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and non-believer couples can compel the use Church of England rites and liturgy and the ministrations of its clergy. The pastoral damage which might result from this mixed message…”

MIGHT result??? >:-0

Oy vey: lie down w/ dogs (hypocrisy), wake up w/ fleas (“pastoral damage”, not to mention the loss of the CofE’s integrity). No offense to dogs OR fleas! ;-/

Sam Norton
Guest

@Martin Reynolds, I believe the phrase is “irregular but not invalid”.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“If one of the parties should fall dead after the vows but before the signing of the register the marriage would be deemed perfectly valid in law.”

I was unaware that any prayer book, traditional or modern, had a Rite for the Consummation of a Marriage. I would have thought it to be rather…..unseemly for Anglicans. Is it so that no monarch will cause the stink Henry did by claiming his first wife actually HAD been married to his brother after having claimed she hadn’t been for all those years? Or do we even care about such things any more?