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Civil Partnerships & Marriage: more comment

The Economist has published I thee bless.

BRITAIN took a small step this week towards eroding the legal distinction between gays and straights in the matter of matrimony. The civil partnerships that came into force in 2005 grant same-sex couples essentially the same legal rights (over property, pensions, inheritance and parenting) as opposite-sex marrieds; but the law stipulates that the ceremonies must be secular. Last year, after fierce opposition, Parliament voted to remove the prohibition on civil partners tying the knot in churches, synagogues and other religious settings. On February 17th the government said it would begin consultations on implementing that decision—with a view to changing the regulations this year…

Fulcrum has published a statement: On the Use of Religious Buildings for Registration of Civil Partnerships.

The Evangelical Alliance has this statement: Religious liberty must be guaranteed – Alliance responds to proposals to enact section 202 of Equality Act 2010 and also Government proposes allowing civil partnerships in religious settings.

The Tablet has this editorial: Marriage a La Mode.

Throughout the West, the issue of gay marriage has been used as the spearhead of a secularising agenda, propelled by those who want to rid modern civilisation of all traces of its Christian roots. Paradoxically, within the gay community itself the most vociferous supporters of gay marriage have been gay Christians, who want to be given an equal place in the life of Christian institutions rather than to overthrow them. Both these views are reflected in church reactions to government proposals in response to gay pressure, for instance for allowing a religious element in civil partnership ceremonies – at present forbidden by law – and even allowing a partnership or marriage ceremony in a church or synagogue. The Quakers, some liberal synagogues and the Unitarian Church would welcome that permission…

Austen Ivereigh has written in America The Church will have to fight this attempt to redefine marriage.

It’s hard so far to see the tempest behind the first clouds and hastening winds. But an announcement yesterday by the UK government that it intends to lift the ban on civil partnerships being celebrated in places of worship is set to unleash a storm which could well redefine the relationship between Church and state; and have profound long-term consequences — especially for Anglicanism…

The Plymouth Herald printed Will gay church marriages end up in the courtroom?

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Pluralist
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The Fulcrum bland statement easily turned on its head:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/02/turning-fulcrum-statement-around.html

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

The Tablet editorial seems to think Catholic attitudes to gay marriage are set in stone. I argue the opposite in a French article: http://www.cairn.info/revue-cites-2010-4-p-27.htm

Malcolm French+
Guest

Let the critics who claim that their religious freedom is “threatened” point to a single example of a religious body being forced to solemnize a marriage which would be legal under the civil statutes but uncanonical according to the doctrines and canons of that religious body. There are plenty of areas where secular and canon law diverge. The most obvious example is the Roman prohibition of remarriage after divorce while the former party or parties still live. Let the critics point to a single example in the past 50 years of the state compelling a Roman Catholic priest to solemnize… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest

What gets me is the conservatives not seeing how their desire for a blanket ban on same sex marriage seriously impinges on the the religious liberty of those who want to offer same sex marriage in a religious context.

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

It seems ridiculous to discuss the amendment of a previous civil restriction to now include religious venues and then assume that the current Equality Act exemption for religious or belief organisations will never be lifted. Yes, Malcolm, you’re right. There are no examples of the church being forced against canon law to solemnize a marriage. However, there are examples of the church being sued for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1557748/Gay-man-wins-Church-discrimination-case.html Prospective civil partners who want a church ceremony will expect equal treatment (i.e. the full marriage rite) from any Anglican minister (registrar). It would also be considered… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Although not directly pertinent to this post I thought the following was worth sharing:-

With “heterosexual people we talk about relationships. Homosexual people, we talk about sex. Heterosexual people have lives. Homosexual people have lifestyles. Heterosexual people have a moral vision. Homosexual people have an agenda.”

Read more: http://www.queerty.com/why-im-loving-dr-john-corvinos-complete-annihilation-of-nearly-every-anti-gay-argument-ever-20110217/#ixzz1EUUIRZU5

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Richard Ashby thank you for this

With “heterosexual people we talk about relationships. Homosexual people, we talk about sex. Heterosexual people have lives. Homosexual people have lifestyles. Heterosexual people have a moral vision. Homosexual people have an agenda.”

It is spot on.

I write from the agenda of my sex-fuelled
life-style -even pensioners are not excempt from such objectifying terminology.

You have nailed it !

Nat
Guest
Nat

“Throughout the West, the issue of gay marriage has been used as the spearhead of a secularising agenda, propelled by those who want to rid modern civilisation of all traces of its Christian roots.” How odd, that excluding the full participation gay people in the life of the church is seen as a way to combat secularism! Just as in America, the way to preserve marriage is to exclude people from it, who wish to commit to it. And how terrible that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, or that James baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch. Bringing the outsider in, is… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” Canon Law declared marriage’s primary purpose to be “the procreation and nurture of children?” That would suggest that the case for same sex-unions aspiring to be marriages falls at the first fence, theologically at least.” – Article from ‘The Plymouth Herald’ – Then one might suggest that this ‘Canon Law’ is no longer de rigeur – in view of the fact that there are marriages legally contracted within the church that have no prospect of the production of children – old people, or the physically unable, for instance, are not barred from marrying in the Church because of their… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

I think this is all rather silly and verging on the mendacious or at the very least ill-informed (and refusing to allow oneself to be informed). It is quite clear that churches will not be sued for declining to carry out a rite that is against the position they have taken according to thier own beliefs or their own internal discipline. There is no power to do so anywhere in the world and there never will be because religions are autonomous in such matters and that is assured under human rights law. Some people like playing the martyr even when… Read more »

Bill Moorhead
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Bill Moorhead

David Shepherd writes, “However, there are examples of the church being sued for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.” Well, yes. (1) People can and do sue each other for all kinds of things. Much of the time, the courts have the good sense to say, “Oh, don’t be silly, just go away.” Occasionally, alas, the courts demonstrate that Mr. Bumble was right. And (2) The case that Mr. Shepherd cites was not about marriage, but about employment discrimination. If a church wants to set particular moral prerequisites for employment, I think they can do so, as long as… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Are these editorialists all breathing the same “vapors” (as in “a case of the…”)? The *hysteria* here, that because SOME people of faith (LGBT and allied) want to have CPs in a religious context, that means EVERY faith group (“The Church”) will have to host 2 men or 2 women, is completely Over-The-Top! Yes, the situation of the CofE, “by law established”, has some unique challenges—which only begs the question of why these two *RC* publications think the issue has the slightest thing to do w/ themselves (much less, “America”, in the USA). [And blaming the state for UK RC… Read more »

Nat
Guest
Nat

There are almost 7 billion people in the world now, and “Current projections show a continued increase of population (but a steady decline in the population growth rate) with the population expected to reach between 7.5 and 10.5 billion in the year 2050”. (Wikipedia)

And yet “” Canon Law declared marriage’s primary purpose to be “the procreation and nurture of children?”?

The numbers speak for themselves – even though something much more basic is being ignored: the mirror that marriage provides of unconditional love and growth. To say that marriage is about nothing but producing more children is in itself childish.

William
Guest
William

Are “conservative” Christian commentators devoid of intellectual honesty? Surely “religious freedom” is all about *freedom* – enabling denominations which are ready, willing and able to marry same sex couples to get on with the job? If “conservative” Christians are incapable of intellectual honesty on these topics, how “honest” are they being about other things: If “they” assert the resurrection, do they not make it a dubious claim? If “they” assert the virgin birth, are we entitled to question it? How can your faith – how can mine? – remain unruffled in the face of such dishonesty? I am beginning to… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Having seen articles about ministers in both Canada and England being arrested for hate speech when saying homosexuality is a sin, are conservatives who expect lawsuits etc. for refusing to solemnize gay marriage really playing the martyr? As an American I admit I may be way off base in my understanding that since it is the state church, CoE priests can’t really refuse to marry people for any reason like American priests do, or can they? If the Church of England as a whole or the government allows same sex marriage, won’t individual conservative priests be expected to perform marriages… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” If the Church of England as a whole or the government allows same sex marriage, won’t individual conservative priests be expected to perform marriages for anyone in their parish? Wouldn’t descrimination lawsuits be flying fast and furious if they refuse?” —

– Chris H, on Monday –

Chris, you obviously have not been reading many of the comments on this thread, or you would already have guessed that there is no intention of legislating against any church body that finds itself unable to offer same-sex blessings.

The short answer to your question is NO, NO, NO!

Rosalind
Guest
Rosalind

re Chris H’s question: At the moment the C of E permits the re-marriage of divorcees in church. However, it is also quite clear that no minister is obliged to do so if it is against his/her conscience. There are ambiguities as ever when dealing with people, but no great difficulty of principle about two approaches co-existing. But the current proposed legislation is one step further back than this – it would be like the 1950s and 1960s when sympathetic Anglican clergy sent divorcees down the road to the Methodist church. The pressure will come from clergy within the church… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest

As I understand it, in the UK you are allowed to say homosexuality is a sin. You are not allowed to advocate acts of violence against LGBT people, that is you are not allowed to advocate their being put to death. (You can advocate any kind of sexual act being made illegal, but it is totally clear there is no public will for this). If the law is that no church or individual representative of a church will be compelled to marry same sex couples, that should stand. A similar exclusion relates to abortion, which is legal and provided by… Read more »

Nat
Guest
Nat

On a different, somewhat off-topic issue, Rosemary’s excellent post, above, brings to mind a subject that bothers me, and which I believe is fundamental. Nowhere does the Bible say that homosexuality is a sin. It says that certain acts were regarded as sinful (something not limited to sexual acts, but including many things we no longer regard as in any way sinful), but never does it say that homosexuality itself – that is, *being* homosexual – is in itself a sin. If that were the case, there would be no hope of salvation, and no point in changing orientation (as… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

“Having seen articles about ministers in both Canada and England being arrested for hate speech when saying homosexuality is a sin, are conservatives who expect lawsuits etc. for refusing to solemnize gay marriage really playing the martyr?” I do not know where you saw such articles, but they would not have been in any reputable news source, as there is simply no history of such arrests in the Dominion of Canada. The Criminal Code prohibits propaganda that “advocates or promotes genocide” against an identifiable group – one would have to be going well far afield of one’s ministerial or homiletical… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

Nat, In order to be more objective towards all sexual orientations, can you say why infidelity is any different from any other propensity from scientific standpoint? Yes, I know the arguments for a moral distinction, but scientists have discovered that there is a correlation between a variant of the gene DRD4 and the propensity to cheat. The gene affects levels of dopamine and as a result ‘it is possible to feel committed to a partner, but still feel the need to cheat on them’. So if a spouse’s eye begins to wander, I think they should immediately get tested for… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“In order to be more objective towards all sexual orientations, can you say why infidelity is any different from any other propensity from scientific standpoint?”

Well, for beginners, infidelity is not a sexual orientation. You are attempting to compare apples and bowling balls.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“So what’s your advice? Try to be good? Get gene therapy? Are these parts of scripture rendered obsolete by modern science? In which case, we may as well accept all genetic pre-dispositions and be damned.” – David Sepherd – “Try to be good?” – Yes. Certainly! But as we all know, ‘The spirit is willing but trhe flesh is weak!’ Our pilgrim life on earth is full of fallings and risings – this is why the General Confession is so important at every act of receiving Holy Communion – Confession and Absolution is a regular ritual within the Church Catholic… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest

The difference David is simple.

Same sex marriage=growth, maturity, love, giving and steps towards life in all its fullness.
Cheating = selfishness, harm, misery for others and a slow death.

By their fruits you shall know them.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Does anyone who (in your terms, David) “cheats” ASK that their cheating be *blessed*?

Until I see evidence that they do, I see your questions, David, as nothing more than Slippery-Slope Concern-Trolling.

Nat
Guest
Nat

David, with all respect, I simply do not understand your question. I was not speaking for one moment of infidelity or adultery. I was speaking of the natural attraction that some people feel toward persons of their own gender. We may certainly condemn infidelity, cheating, harming the other person, and we all are set about, all through life, with a propensity to sin. But this is not parallel in the slightest. I believe even heterosexuals have been tempted to cheat? Sexual orientation is not a propensity to cheat – it is a God-given opportunity to love, to grow in joy,… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

@Bill: I’m clearly comparing what many claim are both genetic propensities, not sexual orientations. On that basis, the comparison stands. @Ron and Rosemary: I did stress that ‘I know the arguments for a moral distinction’ and yet you proceed to repeat them to me. Your references to scripture fail to address the scientific discovery of the DRD4 variant in any way. Once the roles are switched and we look at any other claimed genetic pre-disposition, you answer like any ‘dyed-in-the-wool conservative’: brusquely quoting scriptures that ignore the science that many homosexuals cherish as proof that certain parts of the Bible… Read more »

Hector_St_Clare
Guest
Hector_St_Clare

Re: the moment the C of E permits the re-marriage of divorcees in church. However, it is also quite clear that no minister is obliged to do so if it is against his/her conscience Rosalind, How common would you say it was for Anglican priests to refuse to marry divorcees in church? Personally, I’d be happy if it was common for priests to refuse (and even happier if our church returned to the ‘tell them to go to the Methodists’ option). I believe that we need to tolerate and accept the presence of remarried couples in church, but I don’t… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Geoff, I went back and checked; you’re half right. The Canadian minister was not arrested, only fined and ordered never to speak,write, etc. against homosexuality again. I’m not enough of a technophile to place the link, but search “Darren Lund” or “Stephen Boissoin” at the website for Alberta’s Human Rights Commission for the pdf. As for arrests in England, try searching “Dale Mcalpine” or “Harry Hammond” on the Telegraph site and The BBC news site. The Telegraph article from May 2,2010 includes mention of other preachers’ arrests. Yesterday I was working off memory of the Telegraph story and I hadn’t… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

JCF: My argument was not that the blessing of same-sex unions is an automatic concomitant of infidelity. It was a challenge to consider how should we interpret or embrace scientific evidence that contradicts our biblical tradition. Evidently, the majority have simply favoured conservative biblical tradition, once it doesn’t apply to their specific situation. There are whole societies, e.g. Nigeria, where many, for a myriad of reasons, consider the idea of life-long monogamy impossible to accept, based on a Western interpretation of scripture and indeed would want their current polygamous unions ‘blessed’, rather than rejected as a form of *being* unfaithful… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“@Bill: I’m clearly comparing what many claim are both genetic propensities, not sexual orientations. On that basis, the comparison stands.”

The problem is that you phrase the question in terms of treating all sexual orientations equally, and then proceed under the assumption that the two (homosexual behavior and infidelity) are comparable. It’s question begging, it seems to me.

David Wilson
Guest
David Wilson

Nat

I do not understand why you as a Christian wish to be defined by your desires, however they may arise. What is defined as a sexual orientation is but a societal rather than biblical term to describe a set of desires experienced by people. We are exorted not to follow our natural desires but the Spirit. Surely your identity is In Christ rather than in your desires.

Geoff
Guest

Chris, the Boisson case was not a criminal case, but a human rights tribunal ruling. The “pastor” in question (from some Baptist outfit IIRC) penned a letter to the editor likening gays to paedophiles and drug dealers, days before a gay teenager was assaulted in Calgary. The Canadian Human Rights Act bars speech that “is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” I don’t know what country you live in, but Canada does not… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

“We are exorted not to follow our natural desires but the Spirit.” Such double-talk and false dichotomy! For a heterosexual, of course, the “natural desire” to form a pair-bond, share a household, and begin a family, and the “Spirit’s movement” are one and the same. It turns out your pious exhortation to resist desire only applies to other people: families whose composition happens not to resemble your own, at least in one, superficial (genital) way. “I’ve got mine” indeed. The suddenness with which we can shift our language from “mutual help, society, and comfort” to mere sexual outlet depending on… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David So you are saying that straight people can be guided by their God-given desires and fall in love, get married, have children and lead fulfilling and normal lives. But gay people have to deny their God-given desires and root their identity in Christ alone? All this straight special pleading is really a bit sickening, don’t you think? To demand a level of religious abandon from one group of people that you’re not prepared to give yourself or to demand from anyone is supposed to be Christian? I suggest every time you have an attack of specialness coming on you… Read more »

Nat
Guest
Nat

David, Thank you for your response, but again, I believe you have missed the point entirely. If you reduce marriage to “desires”, you miss two of the three aspects that the Prayer Book used to define marriage: the procreation of children, monogamy, and the help and support “that the one ought to have of the other”. My partnership with Chris was not “about desire”. Yes, there was desire, as there is in any marriage, but it was more, much more, about two people who found in eachother a pathway to selflessness, who found deeper meanings in love, and who came… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest

@ David. We already know that humans have a propensity to sin. There are many biological factors which increase this or push it in one direction or the other. You quote one of them, but the XX chromosome would be another, as would genes indicating addictive personalities. The list goes on. What we see is, in one sense, the mechanics underlying the captive will. However, some underlying desires are harmless or positive. Human altruism for one, or a gift for music, another. So we cannot say that biology will always produce good or bad effects. We can say certain things… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I so agree with Erika!

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Erica @ 4:57pm GMT 22 February, your last sentence is spot on and delicious! For the Davids of the world, if we argue that same-sex attraction is found in nature, they will respond that humans are above animals. If we argue that we seek stable formal relationships, they will argue we violate natural law. Short of us seeking celibacy, no matter what we argue, they will always be able to counter-argue. Their problem is fundamentally with the very concept of homosexuality, in and of itself. The “ick” factor, as we say on the American side of the Pond. Religion, per… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

@David Wilson: ‘however they may arise’. Rightly said, whatever our sexual orientation, we all have the challenge of overcoming our various natural tendencies, once we uncover them.

I interpreted this phrase to make the challenge applicable to all Christians, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Strangely, it’s been interpreted as a covert appeal for special treatment. At least, according to your most hostile critics on this comment thread. A pity really.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“we all have the challenge of overcoming our various natural tendencies”

Just how are you coming along in overcoming your heterosexuality, David S.?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Strangely, it’s been interpreted as a covert appeal for special treatment. At least, according to your most hostile critics on this comment thread. A pity really.” – David Shepherd – No, No, David! All we want is level playing field – not ‘special treatment’ – just equality for every God-given sexual-expression. Some are so used (obviously) to seeing everything from an exclusively heterosexual viewpoint (most common position) that they seem congenitally incapable of seeing these matters from the very oppisite stand point – that of a homosexual or trans-gendered person. There are heterosexuals who are capable of seeing issues of… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Perhaps the two Davids could overcome their “desires” to insist they understand God’s will for each of us better than we?

Or the “desires” they have to dictate what is and is not Christian?

Or the “desires” to insinuate themselves into others emotional and spiritual lives?

Or the “desires” to place their own understanding of marriage as licensed animal husbandry?

I find their “desires” as offensive as they find my orientation, and would be glad if they’d step down from the judgment seat, thank you very much.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David Shepherd
if gay and straight had exactly the same rights and responsibilities in the church, David Wilson’s statement would indeed have been interpreted as a challenge to all Christians.

But when the appeal to overcome our desires is used by straight people to stop gay people from having what they already claim as their natural right, then it is indeed special pleading. Of the most appallingly selfish sort and actually completely inexplicable because granting gay people the same rights costs straight absolutely nothing and doesn’t affect their lives one bit.

I look forward to you commenting on what Nat said.

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

First, a warm welcome back to Mark. You hardly arouse offense. I’d have to know more about you for that to happen. Pretty unlikely in the comment threads. If the gold standard is Christ’s love for the church, I’m probably not doing too well, but thanks for your prayers, bro! There seems to so little agreement among you. If matrimony is an exclusive lifelong commitment to one person, let’s move forward from there…Sorry, permanent doesn’t work, since that’s not particularly inclusive of bisexuality. Can somebody explain how lifelong bisexual monogamy works. Okay, let’s write a new blessing for that too.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, David, David It’s time you did some proper reading. Really, you cannot keep pontificating about things you plainly have not the slightest comprehension. Being bisexual means being physically and emotionally capable of loving people from both sexes. The idea that it means threesomes is exclusive to the porn industry. I am bisexual and I was married to a man with the full expectation that I would be married for the rest of my life. When that marriage ended I fell in love again, this time with a woman, and I am now happily married to her. Should she die… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

David Shepherd:

“Bisexual” denotes an ABILITY to love a member of either sex; it does not denote a NECESSITY to love members of both sexes simultaneously.

Analogy: I have a preference for women with red hair and women with brown hair, equally. It does not mean I need to have one of each.

MarkBrunson
Guest

David Shepherd, I fail to see in what we are in such disagreement about amongst ourselves. I don’t know how lifelong monogamy works with bisexuals from a personal stance – nor hetero- or homosexuals, for that matter, as I have no interest in either sexual entanglements nor allowing another human to take the entirety of my focus – but, I would imagine they would do it the same way, finding one person whom they wish to spend their life and committing to that – unless, of course, you’re trying to imply that they just *have* to rut like wild animals… Read more »

David Wilson
Guest
David Wilson

But no where in the bible does it affirm same-sex acts. So how can I therefore say I am following God’s ways. Likewise with anger – which comes with from what I read an even greater heriditary component. I can no more say that exposive expressions of anger are God given desires or emotions than same sex desires. I have been celibate for 10 years and know other people in this position. After the first six months it was not a struggle, thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit. I know it is not always this easy. It has… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“Can somebody explain how lifelong bisexual monogamy works. “

I’m not bisexual, but I’ve always assumed bisexuals might make a commitment to a person of either sex, but that once that commitment was made the relationship was like any other monogamous one. I’m sure if I’m wrong someone will correct me.