Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop of York's response on Marriage and Civil Partnerships

The Archbishop of York has issued a lengthy statement: A response on Marriage and Civil Partnerships.

Following reports of my interview, in Jamaica, with Martin Beckford of the Daily Telegraph, I have received a number of letters and emails relating to the views which I shared in that interview, including an open letter from students in the JCR of my beloved college, Selwyn, Cambridge.

Media reports of long interviews are inevitably selective, and the full transcript is available here for clarification: (http://www.archbishopofyork.org/articles.php/2338/archbishops-interview-with-the- daily-telegraph).

A number of letters endorsed the points I made in that interview. Others challenged my views, raising a number of points on which my arguments differ from theirs.

I am therefore writing a general open reply to all the issues raised in these letters.

Let me start by setting out the areas where I believe there is agreement.

First, there is no question about the equality of all human beings, “heterosexual” or “homosexual”. None of us is of greater value than anyone else in the eyes of the God who made us and loves us. ‘At the deepest ontological level, therefore, there is no such thing as “a” homosexual or “a” heterosexual; there are human beings, male and female, called to redeemed humanity in Christ, endowed with a complex variety of emotional potentialities and threatened by a complex variety of forms of alienation.’

Second, I have pastorally supported people in same sex relationships even before Civil Partnerships came into being. And it is important to note one aspect of the remarks I made to the Telegraph. The interview took place in Jamaica, a country where homosexual relationships are still criminal acts. It was in this context that I said same sex relationships must not be diminished, condemned, criticised, or patronised in any sort of way.

Some people have expressed surprise that for me it is another thing entirely to say that there is no difference between civil partnerships and marriage. Explaining that difference is not a matter of simple, knock-down arguments or slogans, so I will try to set out my case clearly…

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Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

” The issue is not the implication for any existing marriage but the implication for people in future when the social meaning of marriage has been changed and, in my view, diminished.” And despite all the pretty earlier words, this is what it really boils down to. Gay couples whose lives are precisely the same as those of straight couples diminish something straights have if they are allowed to participate. Straights and gays can lead lives without children – that does not make them equal. Straights and gays can lead lives with children – that does not make them equal.… Read more »

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
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Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

Not running for office, or anything like that, are we? To me, has the hallmarks of a carefully, professionally-crafted document.

Stuart
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Stuart

I see that ++Sentamu describes the Canons of the CofE as part of the Statue law of England. Presumably that would be legislation to determine where sculpture may be placed.

sjh
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sjh

“I will be the first to accept that homosexual people have suffered discrimination and sometimes worse through the decades and that the churches have, at times, been complicit in this. There is much penance to be done before we can look our homosexual brothers and sisters in the eye. But that baleful history does not diminish the need to speak the truth in love.” Perhaps he has in mind his own recent speech in the House of Lords defending the right of the church to discriminate in employment against gay and lesbian people who are in relationships. i would be… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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Tobias Haller

Is there such a thing, at a deeply ontological level, as “a” Christian?

I would be happy to see the Archbishop state for the public that he is not “a heterosexual.” He has the right to speak for himself, but must allow others to differ when it comes to their sense of identity and personhood.

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

He appears to totally misunderstand what happens when two men or two women marry, calling it ‘individualistic’ and failing to recognise that it affects the whole family – when my son married his partner, I gained a much-loved son-in-law. The thing is – actually the ABY wants to narrow the family to the nuclear family. A huge mistake.

Scot Peterson
Guest

I hope I’m not being too polemical and one-sided (or too long-winded) about this statement by the archbishop, but… 1. There’s a contradiction in his argument. He admits, ‘Parliament has been concerned with matters of process and procedure, dealing with who may or may not enter into marriage’, yet he claims that readjusting who may enter into a marriage is a change in the fundamentals when gender is involved (as distinguished from being able to marry one’s deceased wife’s sister, which was morally objectionable to a majority in the House of Lords for decades). I’m pretty sure there is no… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

Nice to know that Britney Spears’ 55 hour marriage is more sacred than my 9, going on 10 years, with my partner in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.

Feh!

More “Jesus loves you, and so we have to love you, now go stand behind the potted palm and keep quiet.”

David Shepherd
Guest

Crucially, the main distinction held by the Archbishop and other evangelicals is that ‘unless one believes that every difference between the sexes is a mere social construct, the question of equality between the sexes cannot be completely addressed by the paradigm of racial equality.’ Clearly, many who post to TA reduce sexual distinctions to variable social constructs and attributes that don’t affect the essence of our sexual relations and marriage. They will even isolate Galatians 3:28 as a supportive bible text, without due regard to its focus on justification, rather than gender-indiscriminate sexual coupling. Even after Christ has specifically identified… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

Yawn. Dr Sentamu does not count concision as one of his friends. As for his acceptance of civil partnership – is this a direct lie – I missed the C of E agreeing to CPs being conducted in church, so some relationships are more equal than others.

JCF
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JCF

“We must not torture the English language. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and that’s marriage.” He’s in Jamaica, where LGBTs are *regularly tortured*, and Sentamu is worried about the health of the LANGUAGE? “We supported Civil Partnerships (the bishops in the House of Lords), because we believe that friendships are good for everybody.” We’re not talking about “friendships”, we’re talking about SPOUSES. “But then to turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that’s not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting. I don’t think it is the role of the state… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Despite His Grace’s protestation that the Church does not discriminate against Gay Partnerships; this is not the case, nor ever has been. Employment of such persons is just one area of discrimination.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“Is there such a thing, at a deeply ontological level, as “a” Christian?”

You are not your own. Your life is hid with God in Christ. So goes the NT declaration.

But of course, we are now in a fully new modality. Communion without Baptism in TEC.

And at the same time, the cruciality of the TEC Baptismal Covenant.

On it goes…

‘Everyone did what was right in his/her own eyes’.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“So, by all means, let’s abandon the normal tools of logic on TA in furtherance of empty self-excusing rhetoric.”

There is no logic in denying one group of people something another group of people takes for granted, other than the logic of power and an irrational feeling of moral superiority that cannot be backed up by any logic or factual observation.

Self-excusing rhetoric comes from those who insist on being intrinsically superior, special pleading comes from those who insist on being seen as so special that they cannot possibly be expected to treat others as equal.

By all means – let’s stop it!!

Laurence C.
Guest
Laurence C.

“let’s abandon the normal tools of logic on TA” David Shepherd

The normal tools of logic would also question the premise of the existence of a god or gods and whether the Bible has any more authority than a telephone directory.

Iain McLean
Guest
Iain McLean

Dr Sentamu has been badly let down by his speechwriters. For a start they might have spelt the names Wollstonecraft and Millett correctly (the former silently corrected by the Guardian’s subs when they reposted the article). The piece is bad history, bad law, and bad argument. To add to the bad law and bad argument listed by Scot and others above, the speechwriters totally misrepresent the Ghaidan case. Lord Millett was in a minority of one. the majority of the court rejected his argument. The speechwriters must have known this. Archbishops should not deliver speeches that are deliberately misleading. As… Read more »

sally Barnes
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sally Barnes

I read this article three times trying to understand the contortions/distortions of meaning in it. There are so many holes in his argument I wouldn’t know where to start or frankly want to spend the time on it after so many fruitless debates already. His interpretation of what it means to be “equal” is his own and those of others who are discriminating against women, gays – and blacks too. You are right JCF and others – he just doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to!

MarkBrunson
Guest

“. . I have pastorally supported people in same sex relationships. . . “

Indicating what a really sad state the availability of pastoral support in CofE is.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“There are so many holes in his argument I wouldn’t know where to start or frankly want to spend the time on it ….” sally Barnes My thoughts exactly! I was so confused by his poor thinking and alarmed that this guy was even being considered for Canterbury ….. Thanks to Scot for his piece …. but really! The letter from the gay man reminded me of the black slaves writing to MP’s pleading to be allowed to remain slaves as this was their proper station……. I see I am not to marry because I do not need or deserve… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest

His Grace of York visited LGBT bloodrenched Jamaica (which happens to have a brand new Prime Minister and she wants to repeal the old English ¨buggery¨ Laws)…Archbishop John said nothing about equality for LGBT people but did remark on how certain churches/leaders must be held accountable for their actions (Gay and Lesbian Bishops elections?) of course that was shortly before the diocese of York voted in favor of the punitive Anglican Covenant when he returned home…ah yes, such a trustworthy guy who ¨pastorally supports¨ the Gay? For me, I trust him not…not at all…I don´t want this potential ¨first amongst… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

I think all this pious antagonism towards gays and lesbians has nothing to do with either religion or morality. In the end, it is all just so much supremacism tricked out in religious drag. It is all about who gets to decide what’s “normal” and who gets to speak for God.

Rob
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Rob

I read the comments here hoping that the TA people would actually engage his arguments. No one addressed his comments that before the law in England those in marriage and those in civil partnership have equal rights. Is this not true? (Some comments here equated it with remaining in slavery, really??? Equal rights before the law is like a slave wishing to remain a slave? Is that rational?) Or is it simply that this difference in terminology *feels* like apartheid (even though it isn’t because both have the same rights)? Or is it simply that his acknowledging the difference between… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Actually, the special pleading is to maintain that the mere attempt at outward semblance creates equivalence. Especially when, in essence, it isn’t! A pronouncement of non-equivalence is no more a declaration of superiority than the rejection of other claims for State support, validation and benefits demanded by those who have not met the required conditions for validity. For example, the denial of maternity leave to men is not because women are superior to men. Neither is it a special pleading to do so. Paternity leave is the appropriate parallel entitlement. Liberty rights (freedom from hindrance in private actions) and claim… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Dr. Seitz, I’m at a loss to understand the relevance, or even the meaning, of most of your comment, but would remind you that no one is born a Christian. The Christian life is something into which one is adopted, by the grace of God and through the ministry of the church, in the sacrament of baptism.

Sexual orientation may not be “ontological” but it is at least evidently not something, for most people if not all, consciously adopted or deliberately conferred upon one in infancy.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rob my Civil Partnership is not recognised when I travel to countries that accept same sex marriage, but straight marriages are. This is not being legally equal, this is my own Government giving my relationship a lesser status than those of married people. The “slave” metaphor arises because I am completely powerless to determine my own fate. In civil discussion about my rights at least includes me, yet it is still largely straight people who get to decide for me what value my relationship has and what I’m allowed to call it. In the church it’s even worse because those… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“…people here demand that the only true equality means that we must all pretend that the union of two people of the same sex is identical to the union of two people of the opposite sex?…Or is it just plain easier and more fun in a mean sort of way to discard him as hateful?” Rob, how are we to, together, “engage arguments” on a “rational” basis, when you’re as tendentious as above? I’m not pretending, and I don’t believe I am being “mean” to Sentamu. He is just speaking from a position of not inconsiderable power-over, saying “NO—not while… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

As matter of fact Rob I did engage with one of the arguments (see above) but a they are arguments we have heard too often, debated too frequently,and to which we have answers we consider more than sufficient. b it is as self-apparent and axiomatic to me that the marriage of two persons of the same sex is the same thing in its essentials as a different sex marriage, as it is apparent and axiomatic to you that it is not. All I can do is to produce anecdotal evidence that it is so – I am not sure it… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

David: “empty self-excusing rhetoric” David, many contributors here at ‘Thinking Anglicans’ support Christian endorsement of gay and lesbian love, not because of rhetorical statements, but because real men and real women, in loving, caring relationships as deep as heterosexual relationships, deserve Christian acceptance and recognition for their fidelity, their shared lives, their tender intimacy, and their commitment to one another in good times and in bad times. There is no need for “self-excusing” because there is nothing to be ‘excused’. Love and care and tenderness and faithfulness do not need to be ‘excused’. Rhetoric is not the issue when around… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Susannah: By ‘self-excusing rhetoric’, I mean the use of parallels that might arouse a sympathetic response, but which, on closer inspection, apply a subjective exemption (self-excuse) from the normal tools of logic. I would invite everyone hear to read Leif Wenar’s seminal work on rights entitled the nature of the claim: http://wenar.info/WenarQuaText1-12.pdf He first establishes that claim-rights are predicated upon a system of norms in which persons in a particular capacity owe a duty towards those in another capacity. His focus is not on marriage, but he sheds considerable light on the notion of a right to marry. It’s the… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

‘Equal but different’ – oh, as in women, who are equal to men but must have no authority. Or as in apartheid. Nah – not buying it

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Dear David, The fact remains that heterosexual marriage is not threatened by gay and lesbian couples getting married as well. The threat to heterosexual marriage comes from people who are heterosexual. The Church can quite rightly be ignored on this issue, because so much of the Church continues to vilify these relationships of love. The Church can believe what it likes about gay and lesbian sex, but other people really don’t need to listen, because the Church’s views are irrelevant to them, except that they encourage homophobic people, and therefore contribute to harm. If marriage supports the fidelity and commitment… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Susannah: Your dichotomy is false. Marriage is harmed by any who fail to live up to its high calling, whether gay or straight. Nevertheless, there are relationships that, by their manner of constitution, negate a crucial benefit that marriage delivers to society. Marriage holds forth a pattern to each generation of respect for the primacy of the mutually surrendered rights of sexual union, first as rights over each other and from which all ensuing genetic family rights are given priority over non-genetic claims. Gay relationships may deliver a lasting bond of interpersonal commitment. It is still not the exemplar and… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

David. Do you actually know any homosexual people whom you can accord a degree of human respect? If such people are outside of your own narrow area of human relationships, then it could be difficult for you to understand their basic human need of warm, loving relationships. If you are a priest, you need to get off your very high horse, and try to find some common humanity with these minority sharers in our common human condition; doing your very best to find some ground on which to engage in meaningfully humane conversation with them. Otherwise, I fear you are… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“The recent case in the US in which, after the break-up of a civil union, a birth mother was given custody, rather than the genetic mother amply demonstrates the moral quandary that has ensued.”

Most people who use IVF and surrogacy are straight infertile couples.

If this worries you we ought to debate the morals of using assisted conception not same sex relationships.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

David:

First of all, please explain the difference between “birth mother” and “genetic mother”.

Second, you actually make our point for us–if the relationship in question had been a *marriage*, as opposed to a civil union, in most states of the US there would have been no question of custody, as the spouse in a marriage would always be presumed to have custody of any children.

Laurence C.
Guest
Laurence C.

‘First of all, please explain the difference between “birth mother” and “genetic mother”.’ Pat O’Neill

The birth mother is the woman who physically gives birth to the baby. The baby could be the result of implanting another woman’s fertilised egg in the birth mother. That second woman would be the baby’s genetic mother but not its birth mother.

David Shepherd
Guest

Pat, The genetic mother donated the egg to be fertilized, while her partner was implanted and carried the child to full term, hence she was the birth mother. Since Florida law considered the egg-donation to relinquishment of maternal rights automatically, custody was initially awarded to the birth mother. This decision was overturned on appeal. Access to marriage would not have changed the reading of Section 742.14 of the Florida legal code to demand relinquishing maternal rights as a means of preventing a later donor custody claim (even if classing the genetic mother as a donor was too restrictive). It doesn’t… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

David: “Your dichotomy is false. Marriage is harmed by any who fail to live up to its high calling, whether gay or straight.” Dear David, Gay and lesbian couples have as much right to the “high calling” of marriage as anyone else. Otherwise they are relegated to second-class citizens. It’s not a dichotomy to point out, as I did, that it is heterosexual participants in marriage who actually damage marriage through their human failings, their fallible lives, or through life changes, or through infidelity. The breakdown of marriage in modern society has NOTHING to do with gay and lesbian couples,… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

(…continued) But really, it seems to me that denying that ‘high calling’ to committed people “because I don’t like your orientation” is all to do with dogma and rigidity, and seeks to deny the very real benefits both for the people themselves and society at large, that can spring from the example of marriage lived out by couples, who seek God’s blessing and their Church’s blessing on the “high calling” to love with fidelity and care and sacrifice through thick and thin, and who endorse marriage, and who can be exemplars of marriage in a modern, diverse and tolerant society… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Dear Susannah: Your last posts passionately insist that marriage is only predicated upon desire, but not capacity. I don’t have the capacity to qualify for maternal leave. I still love my children. The exemplar is not hampered by the need for a universal capacity or even desire to procreate. The natural-historical judgement is true because it defines the kind-norm of marriage. The exemplar is that spouses (qua spouses) have a reason to want *and* capacity to surrender genetic rights mutually as a basis for shared genetic rights in the future. On that basis, the State attributes the desire to surrender… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Any impediment established by the lack of genuine consent, or lack of capacity to surrender genetic rights to each other in sexual union means the marriage is void.

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

“Any impediment established by the lack of genuine consent, or lack of capacity to surrender genetic rights to each other in sexual union means the marriage is void.”

So “marriages of convenience” that produce no offspring are void as well?

What a crock.

And by the way, who or what are you quoting?

David Shepherd
Guest

evensongjunkie: Alleged Crock 1: Lack of Consent or Non-consummation = Voidable: Matrimonial Causes Act 1973: Grounds on which a marriage is voidable. A marriage celebrated after 31st July 1971 shall be voidable on the following grounds only, that is to say— (a) that the marriage has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of either party to consummate it; (b) that the marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the respondent to consummate it; (c) that either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

Surrender genetic rights? Is this, to use the language of David and evensonjunkie, a crock? Even if it is, I’m not sure I can grasp the logic.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

David – the way law works is this. Human beings decide (to the best of their ability)what is just and right. They then cause their representatives to make laws which embody this. In the past, this included the firm belief that marriage was between a man and a woman. It included the firm belief that it ought to be consummated by sexual intercourse. It is not beyond the wit of lawyers, working for humankind, to redefine marriage so that it is open to same sex couples, and to amend the physical element. Law can change and it does that all… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Unbelievably, while editing I pressed post –

This should include

Moreover, no marriage has ever been voidable on the grounds of the infertility of one or both parties.

David Shepherd
Guest

Craig:

1. If it was a crock, it wouldn’t be supported, as shown, by MCA 1973.
2. If it was crock, it wouldn’t be supported by ECHR. In the case of the recent ECHR judgement against French civil partners, Gas and Dubois vs France, the mutual surrender of genetic rights between marriage partners is assumed to be shared only in marriage, not civil partnerships. That was why Ms. Gas could not surrender her parental rights to her civil partner, Ms.Dubois. Opposite sex civil partners would have been equally affected.

David Shepherd
Guest

Rosemary: Show me where I suggested that infertility made a marriage voidable? I did say that ‘The exemplar is that spouses (qua spouses) have a reason to want *and* capacity to surrender genetic rights mutually’. That reason is not based on fertility. That is why the French government was supported by the ECHR in allowing a parent to surrender their parental rights to an adoptive spouse, but not to a civil partner. BTW, thanks for update on the political process. Before ‘human beings (to the best of their ability) decide on what is just and right’, they normally debate the… Read more »

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

Fascinating David. You go to extraordinary lengths to quote via civil law where an existing marriage can be declared voided. In what way does this apply to people to whom marriage is denied to begin with?

Yes, we know the heterosexual community has created elaborate labyrinths of law to get themselves out of a sacred vow both in secular and canon law. Other than proving what a expensive farce marriage/matrimony is, how again does this disprove the expansion of (at least civil) law to the LGBT community?

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

To be honest, David, all your technical arguments have lost me. They’re passing through my brain like a wall of jargon. They’re not registering emotionally. Two people who love each other, want to get married. They should be able to. It harms nobody. It is their decision, their self-determination. They love one another. They want to be married. The emotional argument of true love and decent fidelity pwns the dogma, the legal technicalities, and the prejudice of the past. I believe in true love. I believe in everyone having a right to be married. I’m not talking “desire” as you… Read more »