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civil partnerships: more on the amendment

There was a letter in the Guardian this morning from the three denominations seeking this change: Church partnerships.

Richard Harries has written an article, now available at Cif belief Commitment we should encourage. Here is part of what he says:

…Some Church of England bishops, who were hardly enthusiastic about civil partnerships in the first place, fear that if this is allowed it would blur the distinction [between] them and marriage. But this is a fundamental issue of religious freedom. On what grounds can any body claim religious freedom for itself but deny it to others? The bishops may or may not approve of what Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians want, but that is beside the point. What these bodies want would harm no one, and it accords with their deepest religious convictions. Religious freedom is indivisible. The only reason for denying it must be that of John Stuart Mill, namely if some public harm would result.

The harm to be taken into account need not be only physical, as race relations legislation shows. So it could be argued that allowing some faith communities to perform civil ceremonies on their premises was harmful in the sense that it undermines the institution of marriage in our society. But just the opposite is true. If we accept the argument that we need to retain both the term marriage and the term civil partnership, and that they are not identical, it seems to me clear from a Christian point of view that a ceremony in which two people commit themselves to a faithful, lifelong relationship before witnesses, partakes of the nature of a marriage. As such, from a Christian point of view, it can also express the biblical truth that such a relationship reflects the undeviating faithfulness of God towards us and which, according to St Paul, has its prototype in the relationship of christ to his church…

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Father Ron SmithchoirboyfromhellFr MarkSimon SarmientoKelvin Holdsworth Recent comment authors
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Pluralist
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I used to have interesting discussions with Jeff Gould. I don’t know what his position is now, but in the very late 80s he tried to impress on me the idea that great Christian music was inspired and great because the Trinity was true, and he was worried about a Unitarian orthodoxy, but I used to agree with him that he had just as much right of expression as anyone else in the creedless denomination (still would – though all who take services must relate to who is in a congregation), and I said such a principle of toleration should… Read more »

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

We must be grateful to Bishop Richard, here as elsewhere, for articulating that intelligent and humane liberal catholicism which 30 years ago attracted me to ordination.How sad that what was once so pervasive is now so patchy, lost in the clamour of other..and to my mind deeply unattractive.. voices.

JCF
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JCF

So much ink spilled by Bishop Harries, over a subject about which to say “Duh!” seems an overstatement!

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

This seems like such a no-brainer. Three religious organizations – not part of the established church – wish to be able to celebrate the fact of civil unions entered into by their own people, presumably after the couples had gotten the legal civil partnership witnessed at the court house, or whatever the English equivalent is. Those bishops of the established church who have tried to block this must feel that their position is indeed precarious if the only way that can hold to it is to interfere with the internal decisions of other religious bodies. It just boggles the mind… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“The bishops may or may not approve of what Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians want, but that is beside the point. What these bodies want would harm no one, and it accords with their deepest religious convictions.” Bp.Richard Harries But not, obviously, with the ‘deepest religious convictions’ of cartain Anglican Bishops – whose horror of offending religious convention falls desperately short of their fear of being thought too liberal, or charitable, in the Gospel. However, whatever their own contextual fears of what might ensue after allowing the Church of England to offer blessings to committed, legal, Civil Partnerships; they must… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
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Spirit of Vatican II

A No-Brainer perhaps, but how few bishops have the lucidity, common sense, courage and human decency of Richard Harries! In the RCC there is not a single bishop who can say what he says, and if they said it their head would be on the chopping-block! But the tsunami of normalization is continuing apace and the stonewalling cannot last much longer.

Erp
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Erp

Actually they want to be able to handle civil unions in the same way they can handle civil marriage, as part of a religious ceremony. Quakers, Liberal Jews, and Unitarians as well as many/most other religious groups can have the official paperwork for a marriage (between a man and a woman), the civil bit, integrated into a religious ceremony. They cannot do the same for a civil union even though their theology may treat civil unions and marriages as the same. In fact the officiant of the civil bit in a civil union cannot allow any religious symbolism nor can… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Cynthia
“Three religious organizations – not part of the established church – wish to be able to celebrate the fact of civil unions entered into by their own people, presumably after the couples had gotten the legal civil partnership witnessed at the court house, or whatever the English equivalent is.”

No, they can already do that. What they want to be able to offer is for their ministers to act as registrar just like he or she can at a conventional marriage, so that the religious and the civil ceremony become one.

Simon Sarmiento
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Not quite.
What the amendment is offering them is the opportunity to hold the civil registration part on the premises of the religious organisation.
That may or may not involve a civil registrar coming to those premises, because their own clergy are not/are authorised as civil registrars.
Quakers are so authorised, same as CofE. Other denominations involved in this matter not so authorised as far as I am aware. But the amendment is not about changing who is authorised, it is about the locations allowed.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon,
sorry, I forgot about registrars coming to the religous premises, thank you for the clarification.

What does this now mean in the light of the revised amendment?
Is Adrian right in suggesting the priest/minister might have to leave the premises during the actual signing of the register, or does it mean no church music must be played and no psalm recited during that time?
Or could it even mean that the register has to be signed quickly before any religious act takes place? How restrictive could this be?

Ed Tomlinson
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Before you all get too mushy and high on the public words of a like minded soul you might consider what damage such a one dimensional and ignorant view of Roman Catholicism might do to ecumenical relations…

….or just carry on – if you like- with the childish mindset RC= outdated and bad Liberalism = progressive and good

Oh how easy that must be….why on earth then is the Anglican church in such an almighty mess I wonder?

Pluralist
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I don’t think the minister would be required to leave! My objection is that the signing becomes a freezing of the religious ceremony. At the moment for marriage, say where a Unitarian minister is not a registrar, the arrangement is made for a registrar to sit within earshot and hears the magic words within the marriage ceremony. Then he or she is satisfied that the marriage is proper and the marriage becomes that thing recognised by everyone. In a Civil Partnership, there are no magic words, but just the signing. Now I don’t know how this can be done. I… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
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In Scotland, Registrars don’t come onto religious premises. A couple wanting to get married go to the Registrar and apply for a Marriage Schedule. They have to produce this before the wedding. The person conducting the wedding must then ensure it is filled in correctly by the couple and their witnesses. She or he then signs it and the couple take it back to the Registrar’s office. It is not difficult to see that a similar system could be used here for Civil Partnership registration. What I’ve lost track of is whether Lord Alli’s amendment would change the law in… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

As currently worded, Lord Alli’s amendment would only apply to England and Wales. The decision to avoid devolution-related issues was, I believe, intentional.

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

Fr Ed Tomlinson: “why on earth then is the Anglican church in such an almighty mess I wonder?”

And do you really think the RC Church isn’t in an “almighty mess” then?

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Before you all get too mushy and high on the public words of a like minded soul you might consider what damage such a one dimensional and ignorant view of Roman Catholicism might do to ecumenical relations…” – Ed.Tomlinson – Well, Ed, would it be any more damaging than the recent offer by the Pope to dissident Anglicans like yourself to join one of his ‘Ordinariates’? I think not. It will take a long time before most loyal Anglicans will think of listening to Pope Benedict XVI on matters of Faith and morals – especially in the current climate of… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

“….or just carry on – if you like- with the childish mindset RC= outdated and bad Liberalism = progressive and good”

Sour grapes saith the fox…..

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

It’s really good to know that anti-liberal, conservative clergy within the Church of England are still allowed to criticise their own Church (their employer) without fear of retiribution. The same critical spirit (against the Roman Magisterium) will not be able to be enunciated when they enter into their newly-erected (greener) ordinariates – even though they may not be stipendiary employess therein.