THINKING ANGLICANS

Equality Bill: CofE Statement

The Church of England has published a note entitled Lord Alli’s amendment – civil partnerships. I am told that this was published on 5 March.

Key points regarding Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill:

  • the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament so may not yet be in its final form
  • even once Royal Assent is achieved Ministers have to decide when each of its provisions are brought into force
  • and in this case there will also have to be fresh amending regulations before there is the possibility of places of worship becoming locations for civil partnerships
  • so, there is much that remains unclear for the moment and will remain so for quite some time yet.

Lord Alli’s amendment inserts a new clause into the Equality Bill that would remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships. It does not, however, mean that anyone who wishes to do so will now be able to register a civil partnership in church – the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament.

First, the Government need to consider whether the amendment, as drafted, is adequate or whether further amendments are needed to achieve what it intends; including the intention that it should not place “an obligation on religious organisation to host civil partnerships”.

Secondly, the new provision, if contained in the Bill as enacted, would not have effect until it was brought into force by order made by the Secretary of State. Given that existing Regulations make it impossible for religious premises to be approved for civil partnership registration, those Regulations would have to be amended before the new provisions could be brought into force. Amending those Regulations will, itself, require careful consideration.

As matters currently stand it remains the case that civil partnerships cannot be registered on religious premises. Precisely how that position may change remains to be seen.

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Erika BakerMartin ReynoldsSimon SarmientoRev L RobertsFr Mark Recent comment authors
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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“First, the Government need(s) to consider whether the amendment, as drafted, is adequate or whether further amendments are needed to achieve what it intends; including the intention that it should not place ‘an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships'” – Equality Bill – C.of E. Statement – Do I scent a whiff of panic in the air? Is there a tiny bit of paranoia going on here? Or is this a serious comment on what the amendment set out to do? As has been very clearly stated – by Lord Alli, the Mover of The Amendment – there… Read more »

Fr John E. Harris-White
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Fr John E. Harris-White

Civil partnerships are now a fact of living in this century. Many couples now rejoice in the acceptance of them in a legal relationship. Many of these couples are Christians, and would have wished to have a form of Blessing of their relationship in their church. It now appears they must be content to be disabused of that rite of passage in the church of England/Roman Catholic church. For many this is a continued hurt that they have experienced all their lives by churches that speak with a forked tongue. Reading the gospels and listening to the words of Our… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ron
I don’t think the CoE panic has anything to do with the Government’s intentions but with the fact that many of its own priests now seem to think they are allowed to celebrate civil partnerships in church. With that rises the fear that many will do so regardless of the official policy of their church or their Bishop.

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

including the intention that it should not place “an obligation on religious organisation to host civil partnerships”. No the obligation on churches to hold or host them, to be hospitable comes from the kingdom of heaven, not the will of Man and certainly no the say so of bishops of all things. Though deeply, profoundly compromised by its ignoring of Jesus’ messsage, and of the kingdom of heaven — have no doubts– the C of E could still do good. Can still at every level from national to parish, to each individual — can still do acts of good. It… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

The official C of E statement (no-one consulted me !) had a feel of Gilbert & Sullivan about it.

Is there a lord high CP Premises authorizer ? etc!
They ve got a Long List then — not a little list. An L L of Obfuscation , Flannel and waffle.

Simon Sarmiento
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I am not sure that this statement, which it turns out is now a week old, should be viewed as an expression of panic. Could it perhaps be viewed as an attempt to gently rebut the scare-mongering claims of the Bishop of Winchester?

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon I think it could possibly be both. I was quite surprised by the number of priests who seem to think they’re now free to celebrate civil partnerships. One said that as soon as it’s been legalised by the Queen, who is also the head of the church, there is nothing to stop any priest from conducting CPs whatever the bishops might think. I wonder whether the church hierarchy was also a little taken aback by this kind of response. They must have thought the danger came from without, not from within, but it looks as though there are some… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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Nothing to stop?
I knew that standards of intellect among the clergy were dropping, but has it really come to this?
Let’s try it again:The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005, Regulation 11, Clause 2(b):

(2) In particular, the proceedings shall not—
(b) be led by a minister of religion or other religious leader;

What part of “shall not” do they not understand?

Fr John E. Harris-White
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Fr John E. Harris-White

Simon we do understand the law as it stands, but as caring priests, we wish it to be changed, and permission,given to Bless such couples who wish to be Bleesed in church.

Like women Bishops , an inclusive church is to some Bishops an anathema. Not all Bishops, and we must thank them and Thank God for them in speaking out for change and inclusive understanding

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon
Maybe these people believe that the amendment does away with this clause?

I’m still trying to work out what Iain McLean means when he says that the Quakers can now celebrate CPs, because according to the regulations you quote, they can’t, all they can do is invite a Registrar to their Meeting.

At the least, it has to be true to say that there’s a lot of confusion about what the amendment allows and what it replaces.

Fr Mark
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Simon & Erika: the confusion, though, is not necessarily attributable to weakness of clerical intellect. Surely it is a highly illogical position that clergy may act as state-recognised registrars for partnership ceremonies (aka marriages) between heterosexuals, but not for ceremonies between partners of the same sex? The absurdity of the whole situation grows daily, as more and more of the faithful in the pews themselves contract or witness ceremonies affirming love and commitment whilst the hierarchy merely scowls and disdains to even notice that there might be an urgent need for appropriate pastoral provision for them. One cannot help but… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

I would be happy to break this Law for the sake of heaven. The couples aleady have heaven’s blessing but it is natural some of want prayer and maybe praise with our friens and family. Isn’t blessing a form of praise really ? Wwe bles God, God blesses us ….. … a viruous in best sense of word circle. I sometimes wonder wonder the church be better off without bishops (as we have them now) –all manner of oversight and caring and encouragement are possible ! ‘Episcope’ is, as Wesley pointed out excercied by many. Many gifts, one Spirit. One… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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The UK civil law is quite clear and quite specific, and also quite different, in the matter of who can act as a marriage registrar on the one hand, or as a civil partnership registrar on the other hand.

Nothing in Lord Alli’s amendment as passed by the HoL changes any of that.

Notice that I did not say that the civil law is logical or consistent. But surely it is clear?

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon
So when Iain McLean says that the Quakers can now conduct CPs, that really has to mean that they have to invite a registrar to their Meeting and that specific words will have to be said to make the partnership legal?
Which is quite a departure from how the Quakers conduct marriages and, I gather, not what Iain thinks will happen.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Erika

I understand that Quaker representatives are in active discussion with government officials at the moment about how this might work for them, and we should all wait to see what gets agreed about CP registrars attending Quaker meeting houses (or not).

But in any case the legality of a CP at present does not depend on any particular words being uttered, it is strictly a matter of signing written documents. That is quite different from the marriage formalities which do require spoken words.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

On February 15, 1576 the couple… maryed; and because the sayde Thomas was and is naturally deafe, and also dumbe, so that the order of the form of marriage used usually amongst others, which can heare and speake, could not for his parte be observed. After the approbation had from Thomas, the Bishoppe of Lincolne, John Chippendale, doctor in law, and commissarye, as also of Mr. Richd. Davye, then Mayor of the town of Leicester, with others of his brethren, with the rest of the parishe, the said Thomas, for the expressing of his mind instead of words, of his… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon
“But in any case the legality of a CP at present does not depend on any particular words being uttered, it is strictly a matter of signing written documents. That is quite different from the marriage formalities which do require spoken words.”

That’s interesting, because our register office (and the form they sent us) insisted on a set of particular words that had to be fitted in and around the service we wrote for ourselves.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Erika
The point I am making is this: there is NO legal requirement to hold any ceremony at all; but there is a legal requirement to sign the document.

The decision to hold a ceremony is entirely up to the two partners.

How a particular register office then organises to supply a (non-religious) ceremony is, broadly speaking, up to them. But, as I understand it, they are in turn under no legal obligation to provide one.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

That IS interesting Erika.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Thanks, Simon!