In his not-quite-so-recent letter to TEC, William Nye wrote:
… we [i.e. the Church of England] were nevertheless broadly able to accept, some dozen years ago, the Government’s proposals for Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples, which conferred all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, but did not treat sexual activity as intrinsic to the relationship…
It may be instructive to look at the documents from the period 2003 to 2007 to see if that is really how it was at the time.
When Mr Nye’s previous letter addressed to Andy Lines of GAFCON was published in November 2016, Professor Iain McLean commented here (scroll down from link) to correct him then:
The legislative history is more complicated than Mr Nye makes it sound. I may need more than one post to explain.
First, 2004 and civil partnerships. I re-post something I wrote for the Guardian which has been posted here before:
“The main Lords debate on the civil partnership bill took place in June 2004. Richard Harries, then bishop of Oxford, did indeed signal Church of England support for civil partnerships. But his efforts were contradicted by the five conservative bishops who spoke on the other side. Going by the bishops’ contributions to debate, the score is 5/3 against. Going by the bishops’ votes, it is 6/1 against. Six bishops voted for a successful wrecking amendment in the name of Lady O’Cathain, which made the bill unworkable. Only the Commons’ insistence on rejecting the O’Cathain amendment made it possible to enact civil partnerships”
It is true, as posted in a later comment on that thread, that the bishops voted against the O’Cathain wrecking amendment when offered a second time. But if the Commons had not done what they did, there would have been no civil partnership act – not then anyhow.
The history of the CofE’s dealings with the government over civil partnerships is admirably summarised in a paper prepared on behalf of the House of Bishops for a General Synod debate in February 2007. As this document along with thousands of other archived items disappeared some months ago from the Church of England website, it is possible that Mr Nye wasn’t able to review it while preparing his letter. Fortunately I have found another source for it, and it is available here.
The occasion for its preparation was a synod private member’s motion, from a member who was clearly not supportive of Civil Partnerships- A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England that the bishops had issued in 2005. Here is a copy of the briefing paper he prepared (again from another archive).
The ensuing debate and its outcome was reported here at the time: GS: Civil Partnerships. The original wording of the PMM was roundly rejected but the bishops were unable to persuade the synod to vote to “recognise the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement as a balanced and sensitive attempt faithfully to apply the Church’s teaching to civil partnerships”.