Discrimination against clergy in civil partnerships

Included in the statement issued just now by the House of Bishops is the following paragraph (emphasis added):

“Among the matters to be considered in the review of the 2005 Statement there is one of some importance which the House did not address in advance of any experience of civil partnerships. This is whether clergy who have registered civil partnerships should be eligible for nomination to the episcopate. The House has concluded that it would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the review and that clergy in civil partnerships should not at present, therefore, be nominated for episcopal appointment. The House’s intention is to complete the review, which will need to take account of the legal analysis set out in GS MISC 992 (Choosing Bishops – the Equality Act) during 2012.

As regular TA readers will be aware, the Church of England recently issued “a note on the Equality Act prepared by the Legal Office in connection with episcopal appointments for members of Crown Nominations Commissions and diocesan bishops and their Advisory Groups”. This is the document numbered GS Misc 992.

In connection with this, I wrote last week to Church House to ask some questions about GS Misc 992. One question was this:

Third, there is the issue of being in a civil partnership as a specific item to be taken into account. See paragraph 29, second bullet, and also see paragraph 20, where this is distinguished ( by the conjunction “or”) from “a requirement related to sexual orientation”.

These wordings suggest that the authors of the opinion believe it is permissible to discriminate against a person who is in a civil partnership even if none of the other items listed in the document are applicable. I am at a loss to understand the legal basis for such a position, unless all married candidates are to be similarly discriminated against.

I received this in reply:

This was a piece of legal advice and the Legal Office stand by it as an accurate piece of analysis of the Equality Act and its application to the Church. It was produced to help those appointing bishops understand what they are and are not entitled to take into account within the law. In particular the Equality Act is quite explicit in making it clear that religious organisations can, in certain carefully defined circumstances, discriminate on the grounds of someone being in a civil partnership. The note offers no policy or operational advice on what appointment panel should do.

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John RochA J BarfordLaurence RobertsJeremyLister Tonge Recent comment authors
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Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

So much for Issues in Human Sexuality ! At least the pretence at liberality is over.

May I suggest either

ONLY ministers in civil partnerships be bishops or

maybe it is time to discontinue the corrupt, unedifying and unfit for purpose order of bishop.

What an unedifying and unGodly sham.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

‘Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of England’. Is there life after death?

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Laurence, there is another way to ensure symbolic acknowledgement of the Equalities Act. Require that from, henceforth, all priests and bishops must take a holy vow of celibacy. After all, look at how well that has worked for other churches!

Tobias Haller
Guest

“Oh what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive…”

Not wanting to “pre-empt” is fine, but why not continue with the status quo, then, instead of making a decision beforehand one way or the other? Isn’t that just pre-emption on the other side? Let all candidates be chosen not for spurious reasons (“as a focus of unity”) but for real competence and charisms for the spread of the reign of God?

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

It would be very helpful to all concerned if the Bishops would issue a list of all posts, clerical and lay, which are to be denied to LGTB people. Now where shall we start? All Diocesan post holders, parish secretaries and administrators, organists, choir members, caretakers, churchwardens, servers, those licensed to administer the chalice, pastoral visitors etc, etc. Do not all these too have a ‘represenational role’ which according to William Fittall (in 2009 but quoted in today’s Church Times) is the reason why the post of Communications Director at Church House cannot be a ‘campaiging member for gay rights… Read more »

perry Butler
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perry Butler

As I said in a previous post…Deans in civil partnerships but not Bishops…and closeted bishops… and now presumably a celibate partnered bishop who hasnt entered a civil partnership…but may perhaps do so on retirement!No wonder Andrew Brown talked about the House of Bishops tying themselves in knots.I do foresee legal and political problems with all this eventually.

JPM
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JPM

You gotta hand it to the Church of England–their leaders can always come up with new ways to be hateful.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Is the schismatic Bishop of Lewes a ‘focus for unity’? I only ask.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Interesting that this report gets worked up as a Anglican Communion News Service story, put out through all the communion by the ACO.

Peter Ould
Guest

Martin, I was thinking the very same thing.

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

It doesn’t seem to me to be ethically correct, nor in a secular context certainly legally correct, to make a ruling (however temporary it may be) ex post facto. In 2005 priests were allowed to enter civil partnerships and now the HoB is saying that, by the way, that means you can’t be a bishop (for the time being, if not longer).

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Laurence, there is another way to ensure symbolic acknowledgement of the Equalities Act. Require that from, henceforth, all priests and bishops must take a holy vow of celibacy. After all, look at how well that has worked for other churches!

Posted by: peterpi – Peter Gross on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:51pm BST

Peter, you know, you’re right ! Why didnt i think of that. It has to be the best solution of all.

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Where do ministers who have divorced their civil partners stand I wonder ?

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Laurance Roberts, I suspect they stand outside.

Bishop Alan Wilson
Guest

Well, of course, if this was any other appointment and not covered by Crown privilege, discriminating against a candidate on the grounds of the fact of their being in a civil partnership would be unlawful. A candidate so discriminated against could certainly claim their right to private and family life was being infringed. Any organisation that so discriminates is plainly behaving questionably by just about any external standard. The kinder way of putting it is that it’s tying itself in knots, that are probably unnecessary. If its bishops really believed civil partnerships were immoral in themselves, they shouldn’t have voted… Read more »

Lister Tonge
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Lister Tonge

‘Just confused bunnies caught in the headlights, scared of angering the bullies, who don’t actually know what they believe.’ Coming from a serving bishop these are powerful words, Bishop Alan. Thank you for them. This is a question, not a challenge: but might we begin to see signs that you and others are moving toward some sort of open statement of support for gays, especially clergy? I do rather expect that the forthcoming review and report will move us in that direction but some straight talking (pardon the pun) from supportive bishops would be so encouraging in the meantime.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

If the bishops truly think “it would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the review” of human sexuality, and so think it appropriate to put the ordination of openly gay bishops on hold, one wonders what else might “pre-empt the outcome of the review,” and whether that should be put on hold as well. For example, would acceding to the draft Covenant “pre-empt the outcome of the review”? The draft Covenant, after all, does threaten “relational consequences” for provinces that take “controversial actions” in the absence of a “shared mind” throughout the Anglican Communion. If the Church of England… Read more »

A J Barford
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A J Barford

Yes, Lister, pro-gay bishops need to end this tyranny of silence

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Protestantism is not amenable to ‘international magisterium’ especially a denomination covering England only.

A J Barford
Guest
A J Barford

‘international magisterium’

… and we don’t want a repeat of the Spanish Inquisition, do we?

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

[JARRING CHORD]
[The cardinals burst in]

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

🙂