Thinking Anglicans

More on the civil partnerships decision

On Thursday, before the press announcement of Friday, Fulcrum published a long article by Andrew Goddard titled Church of England Bishops and Civil Partnerships.

Tucked away within a wider press release just before Christmas it has been announced that at their December meeting the Church of England’s House of Bishops decided that “the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships” and that “the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate”. The announcement is already beginning to gain attention and speculation as to its significance including at Changing Attitude and Thinking Anglicans but its full import remains largely unconsidered. What follows seeks to set this decision in context and highlight important questions that remain unanswered and issues that need addressing…

This evening, Anglican Mainstream has issued this statement:

As made clear in the Ordinal, Bishops of the Church of England promise both to fashion their own life and that of their household according to the way of Christ and to be guardians of the Church’s doctrine. Given the ambiguous nature of civil partnerships, it would not be credible for a person in such a partnership to make such promises. Most people assume that civil partnerships are sexual relationships. It is casuistical to claim that they are not. This is presumably why many clergy in such partnerships refuse to “give assurances” to their bishops that theirs is a “non-sexual” relationship. Since a decision to move from the current position would be a grave departure from the Church’s doctrine and discipline it should be made by Bishops in Synod not by Bishops alone. Otherwise it looks too much like salami-slicing away at the Church’s teaching. A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church. Such an appointment would be a very divisive move both within the Church of England and in the wider Anglican Communion.

Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor)
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Secretary)
Anglican Mainstream

The Chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council has issued this statement:

PRESS RELEASE from the Chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council

At the very least, the House of Bishops’ “Statement Regarding Clergy in a Civil Partnership as Candidates for the Episcopate”, will spread confusion and at worst will be taken as an effort to conform to the spirit of the age. By its timing, the Bishops appear stung by the national reaction of outrage to the rejection by General Synod of legislation to legalise the consecration of women as Bishops. If by this statement they are trying to mend fences with the general populace, showing they are truly in touch with the mind of the nation, they are profoundly out of touch with the reality of civil partnerships, most of which are seen as a focus for sexual activity, not simply an arrangement for tax purposes.

Some bishops are known to be lax about questioning civil-partnership clergy about their sex lives. Yet the Bishop of Norwich has reported that the House of Bishops believes it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. As an argument, it has some merit. But the fact is this is not a justice issue, it is an issue of example setting to the nation. It is no surprise the BBC reported the statement as “Church removes bar to gay bishops”. That’s all most people will hear, even though under the media breath there is reference to the requirement of celibacy and traditional teaching.

The church has a poor record already on that kind of discipline. And while some Bishops are known to duck the question, the watching world may well conclude that same sex relationships are simply OK for followers of Jesus Christ. What will happen if same sex marriage is finally approved? Will the House of Bishops have another meeting to approve the next step: bishops married into same sex partnerships? Will anybody then believe there can be gay marriage without gay sex. Christians are supposed to be different and follow the teaching of Christ. The House of Bishops knows that, but on the face of the present statement they appear more concerned to avoid criticism from the watching world than to be faithful to scripture, and wise in the timing and content of its public pronouncements.

ENDS

Venerable Michael Lawson Chairman, the Church of England Evangelical Council

Update

Anglican Mainstream has also reproduced its 2005 letter to the House of Bishops.

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Lapinbizarre/Roger MortimerDavid WIlsonJCFMartin ReynoldsFather David Recent comment authors
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Cynthia
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Cynthia

Both of the statements refer to “church teachings” without reference. Do the CoE teachings include bigotry toward LGBT persons? Do the teachings say that LGBT persons are not created in the image of God? Please inform me on this aspect of CoE’s teachings. Are they referring to the Bible? Surely we all know how problematic Leviticus is, having to stone adulterers and people who work on the Sabbath, and all that… Haven’t we figured out that Sodom was about justice and not sex? That’s what Ezekiel says, and if we’re going to use the Bible, how can we discount Ezekiel… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

“Given the ambiguous nature of civil partnerships” say Anglican Mainstream. Ambiguous? No, they aren’t. They are the first step in giving proper legal social recognition to the commitments that same sex couples make to each other for life. The rather cautious nature of the introduction of this arrangement by the Labour government in 2004 makes it possible for them to be contracted as a kind of business arrangement in their most minimal expression. But then marriages can be contracted that way. Popular imagination (as AM rightly observe) considers CPs to be a quasi-marraige. But what they are about (more often… Read more »

Susannah
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Susannah

Anglican Mainstream: “A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church.” How are bishops who vilify gay and lesbian sexuality, a subject many church members in the pews now accept, “a bishop for the whole church”? How are they bishops for gay and lesbian lay couples, gay and lesbian priests, and all those who are Christians who believe a more accepting theology and way or handling the bible? What – in the context of Anglican Mainstream’s statement – is “the whole church”? And does that… Read more »

Commentator
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Commentator

Both the Anglican Mainstream & Fulcrum responses would have more credibility if they stated that heterosexuals who seek to be married should be questioned about previous sexual activity. If they were ‘guilty’ of this, there should then be an act of repentance similar to that which they expect of homosexuals. Indeed, should not a relationship founded on such sinful practice be denied the blessing of the Church and admission to the sacrament of matrimony? I only ask this question in order to offer these two bodies an opportunity to be logical, consistent, and true to their ‘biblical witness’ to all… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Wow – this received top billing on the BBC News programmes last night but I can’t recall this being debated at the General Synod and receiving a 2/3rds majority in all three Houses? Does this mean that after daringly appointing the first female Dean of York Minster Archbishop Sentamu will now have no hesitation in recommending Jeffrey John for the soon to be vacant See of Durham? Go on Archbishop – I dare you – after all Durham has a fine tradition of scholar bishops and the Dean of St. Albans is one of the finest scholars currently in the… Read more »

Alastair Newman
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Ven Michael Lawson “Christians are supposed to be different”.

Different from what darling?

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

The Andrew Goddard piece is unusually short and ill judged. This is a matter concocted entirely by the bishops who now have nobody to blame but themselves for creating yet another “gay crisis” that will make them and our faith look daft. Up until John Rees wrote that very dreadful, so called legal opinion which led to the moratorium on civilly partnered men being considered for bishoprics, men in civil partnerships were being considered as bishops. Jeffrey was careful to get Rowan’s nihil obstat before allowing his name to go forward for Southwark. Nobody I know, at that time, thought… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Fr David the sudden introduction of the requirement in 2011 wasn’t debated in General Synod either. It was cobbled together to make sure Jeffrey John did not become Bishop of Southwark. Jeffrey John would still not stand a chance because of the remaining requirements that have not been removed: “• whether the candidate had always complied with the Church’s teachings on same-sex sexual activity; • whether he was in a civil partnership; • whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex sexual relationship; • whether he had expressed repentance… Read more »

Scot Peterson
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Scot Peterson

Alternative, speculative hypotheses: 1. The bishops are trying to re-focus attention on their new-found support for civil partnership in anticipation of the debate on SSM (seems entirely plausible, given its clumsiness); 2. The bishops were advised that their previous position was vulnerable as direct discrimination under the ECHR (I think that’s a loser in reality given the ECtHR’s reluctance to wade into this kind of thing, but who knows?); 3. Lawson: The bishops are trying to look good after the women bishops debacle (I have a hard time with this, too); 4. There’s material in one or both of the… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

The obsession with the sexual nature of civil partnerships shows that these people either regard gay people as liars, or that they ARE HAVING SEX, something they would rather not contemplate but, sine they have, shows how screwed up they are.

As some one posted in a previous blog, it’ s all about sex and the (un) Christian obsession with it.

Graeme Buttery
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Graeme Buttery

Father David,
no we don’t like a controversial bishop! We want a bishop who will put our diocese first, won’t like travel or too much writing, doesn’t go off to others jobs when this one is just starting or one who believes such “controversial” things that the story is all about him and not about his diocese. I hope the CNC is listening!

Graeme Buttery

Susan Cooper
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Susan Cooper

It would take the heat out of future appointments if a bishop in post announced that he was going to enter a civil partnership. He would probably be wiser to make the announcement after the partnership ceremony had taken place to avoid unwelcome attention to what should be a joyful occasion for family and friends. He would need to have a fairly robust personality because they would attract of unfriendly attention from within the church. They may be pleasantly surprised by the number of greetings of goodwill that they receive.

Tim
Guest

I still come back to a simple approach to this. The reality is that members of homo sapiens come in all shapes and sizes and orientations etc, and it is the Church’s job to deal with all that variety – see what material you’ve got and then work with it, not the other way around. Peter’s vision tells us to call nothing (by which it means no-one) unclean that God has made. Paul gives a list of appropriate cultural differences that don’t apply in Christ. Why, then, is there any scope for discrimination against anyone either freshly approaching, or working… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Martin Reynolds,
I have never really understood the second Jeffrey John crisis.
You say he was careful to get Rowan Williams’ nihil obstat before and yet it was Rowan and Sentamu who then blocked him.
What happened there?

Father David
Guest
Father David

Graeme – I think I used the word “love” not “like” and I seem to recall that there was a great deal of love within the diocese for Bishop David Jenkins. Durham being such an important see has for many past years taken pride in sharing its bishop with the wider Church and nation. Within my lifetime two Bishops of Durham have been translated to York (Ramsey and Habgood) and this has been a good thing. Surely the one thing currently needed in the Established Church is a good deal more Christian “love”.

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

Durham needs another Bishop Welby, but this time one that will stay. The diocese is historically important and bats #4 in the arcanery of precedence of bishops in the House of Lords, but apart from that it is a diocese desperate for some stable and consistent leadership. It needs someone who can encourage and equip what has been a financially failing enterprise. It was fortunate to have, for an all too brief time, a bishop with more business and financial experience that either the Prime Minister or Chancellor of the Exchequer. The only consequence of the House of Bishops announcement… Read more »

Graeme Buttery
Guest
Graeme Buttery

Father David, sorry if I misunderstand you. But in any connotation of “love” we have had too many bishops who for one reason or another have not been able to give of their all or their best for our diocese. We deliberately wrote a warts and all depiction of our diocese and asked for just such a Bishop Justin figure, because in our diocese we need him. Our position is not great and the future is uncertain without a bishop whose time and energies, however selfish this may seem, are primarily tasked with saving never mind growing the kingdom in… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Erica, Grandmere Mimi has put something together from a previous exchange here
http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/still-more-on-jeffrey-john.html?m=1
Perhaps it helps.
But the answer to the question What Happened?

Betrayal and deceit cover it, I think.

David Shepherd
Guest

Scot, As I mentioned on the comment thread of the preceding post, I read it similarly. A ‘Pretend To Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy will ensue for admitting civil-partnered clergy to the episcopate. The theology of sex-free same-sex soul-mating will need a poster-child. Cue the next bishop. What about an uncontroversial unpartnered clergyman (who can challenge conservative and liberal orthodoxy by ‘coming out’ about his homosexual orientation and celibacy at the same time)? The liturgical meaning of blessing will be re-vamped to claim it signifies no more than the invocation of divine influence for good, rather than divine approval of the… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Graeme, I would agree wholeheartedly with your view that the current financial and spiritual position of the great diocese of Durham is currently pretty dire. One of Justin Welby’s great strengths was not that he spent his formative years in the oil industry but that he has been a parish priest (Southam in the diocese of Coventry) and fully understands the pressures and difficulties of parochial ministry. In the few short months he has been at Durham he has radically transformed the approach to collecting the Parish Quota – not telling the parishes what they must pay but asking them… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Ah, Erika! I see now, you were commenting there at the time.

I am sorry then if you are still in the dark.

Perhaps if you contact Simon he will give you my contact details and we can clear up some facts.

JCF
Guest
JCF

As I read the excerpted portions of the two statements (by Anglican Mainstream and the Church of England Evangelical Council), my jaw kept hitting the floor. No, not because they have these thoughts and opinions. I, too, am a fallen sinner, having bigoted thoughts about This Group, That Group, Them Other Group. Kyrie eleison! …but that they can say (print) them out loud, in 2013??? As Our Father “sees in secret” our virtues, so ought not our vices be contained there also? Go into your {ahem} closets, turn out the lights, and have a good rant against “Them” (whatever your… Read more »

David WIlson
Guest
David WIlson

Cynthia Perhaps Ezekiel is merely being euphemistic – in referring to “lack of hospitality” for what was in Genesis clearly attempted violent rape of God’s angels (perhaps even the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus – the Angel of the Lord), and in Jude it refers to the sexual immorality of Sodom. Personally I think the man shall not lie with man as man lies with woman does speak negatively of an act, in a clear way, when they did not have a word for homosexuality – concerned with the act rather than the (fallen) nature. There is nothing in the bible to… Read more »

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

“Anglican Mainstreams” can reissue, with a straight face, a 2005 statement on sexuality whose principal signer is Wallace Benn?