Wednesday, 10 August 2005

civil partnerships: Winchester speaks

Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, has written this article about the Civil Partnership Act in the August issue of New Directions.

He refers to the Pastoral Statement, of which he is a signatory, thus:

The House of Bishops is on the point of publishing (I write in mid-July) a carefully considered, orthodox Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships; but on 29 May a substantially inaccurate preview of a draft of this Statement appeared in the Sunday Times – and caused consternation as it was circulated around the Anglican Communion among people many of whom can have no understanding of the cultural and legislative world through which we in the UK are now living. (But many of our own people have not woken up to its character either!)

In fact, the article covers several other pieces of legislation, and says only the following about the CPA:

The Civil Partnerships [sic] Act 2004 was designed to meet the needs of ‘same-sex couples in supportive relationships (who) cannot marry but deserve the opportunity of legal recognition.’ It provides for such couples who are not within the ‘prohibited degrees of relationship’ to register their relationship in a Register Office as a Civil Partnership (CP). The Act closely and exhaustively replicates for CPs virtually every provision in law that relates to marriage.

In June 2004, members of the House of Lords, myself among them, sought by amendment to extend the provisions of the (then) Bill to couples (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who are within the ‘prohibited degrees’ (e.g. two sisters, or a father and daughter) and who have lived under the same roof for twelve years. The amendment was carried in the face of government and Liberal Democrat opposition; but the government announced the same day that the amendment so radically altered the Bill’s concept of a CP that it could not proceed with the Bill while the amendment stood part of it – effectively admitting that after all the Bill was drawn up only in the interest of those in same-sex, and sexual, relationships. In due course the Commons removed our amendment and the Lords refused to allow its return.

I recognize that people in same-sex relationships can face some significant disadvantages and injustices which it is right that the government should seek to legislate to rectify – but not by replicating virtually every provision that relates to marriage. To me the CP Act undermines the distinctiveness and fundamental importance to society of marriage by effectively equating same-sex relationships with it, notwithstanding the government’s repeated assertions that this was not its intention.

It is, I judge, this dishonesty at the heart of the CP Act 2004 which will render the Church of England so wide open to mischievous misrepresentation when the Act comes into force in December.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 10 August 2005 at 11:47pm BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

I wonder if the Bishop read any of the consultation material distributed in advance of the Bill being debated? It does not appear so.

If he had, he would realise that the legislation wa always desigened to provide for same sex couples, and they alone, as an alternative to simply extending the provisions of civil marriage.

What differs between Civil Partnership and marriage is not so much legal standing, for the Government wanted to create parallel equivalence - but simply the name and legal definition. There was no aim to claim superiority for marriage, just that it is different - and the difference? Quite simply, it can be entered into by opposite sex couples, and civil partnership by same sex couples. The content is essentially identical.

I also wonder why the Bishop, if so keen on preserving the family, was the prime mover in the HoB to liberalise attitudes towards divorce and remarriage in church?

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 11 August 2005 at 7:39pm BST

Merseymike, the answer to your question is simple: it's because he's compassionate even though he's orthodox.

(And I say that as someone who wishes personally he hadn't come up with the proposals he did - because I have severe reservations about them.)

Posted by: Neil on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 9:30am BST

Selectively so, Neil.

But he clearly didn't brief himself properly on the civil partnership regulations - or else he did and now he's simply wriggling.

Mind you, the Church really can't have it both ways. Whining on about not being homophobic, although the best current example of institutionalised homophobia in existence, then voting down any reform which treats gay people equally really isn't very convincing.

Anyway, lets hope this sorts it out and allows the conservatives to go off with that fount of enlightened sensitivity, Akinola. Unlike some liberals, I won't pretend I will miss them.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 10:50am BST

Well, this apparently secularly minded couple, are taking the gov to court because they think marriage and civil partnerships are different, dispite saying they are 'not practically disadvantaged by the law as it stood':

'Gay couple go to court over marriage rights' - Hugh Muir, Guardian. Friday August 12, 2005.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1547573,00.html

If apparently non-religious people can see the difference, how much more ought Christians, who are supposed to think there is a real spiritual dimension to marriage.

In the minds of Christians, does an atheist, heterosexual civil marriage have the same SPIRITUAL significance, meaning, consequences, responsibilities, nature as a Christian heterosexual Church/Civil marriage? I don't know.

Does a loving, lifelong, monogomous commitment between two christians of the same sex have the same spiritual nature as the Christian heterosexual Church/Civil marriage? I don't really know. In the same way that the physical and behavioural and consequential natures of the two relationships are slightly different, I imagine the spiritual nature of the relationships is slightly different. But that's not an educated guess, just a guess.

These are the two questions, I think, that need to be thoughtfully answered before Christians say whether the Gov's Civil Partnership is 'Marriage in all but name'.

Posted by: matt on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 11:21am BST

I think it's clear that, despite their denials, the government think they are the same in all but name - and fully intended that.
However it is equally clear that God does not think they are the same - and approves of the one (He invented) and disapproves of the other (which is sinful in His eyes).
As to the "spiritual nature", thinking aloud, the two cannot be comparable: marriage is a creation ordinance for man and woman regardless of whether Christ is allowed in.
Civil partnerships are a human construct which look like marriage externally, and are meant to, but Christ cannot be in if God does not approve them.

Posted by: Neil on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 11:45am BST

Do you really take on board all that stuff about church weddings, though? I certainly don't.

I think its purely about the relationship between two people - and as for the spiritual paraphernalia the Church has placed upon it, it hardly reflects marriage in biblical times. I wonder how many of the minority who had church weddings took on board that spiritual explanation, or just wanted somewhere pretty to have a nice day?

I think civil partnership is CIVIL marriage in all but name. Thats all anyone has ever claimed to be. I'm sceptical about claims for Christian marriage being anything more, in reality.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 11:52am BST

matt asks: 'In the minds of Christians, does an atheist, heterosexual civil marriage have the same SPIRITUAL significance, meaning, consequences, responsibilities, nature as a Christian heterosexual Church/Civil marriage? I don't know.'
Depends who you ask, matt. I'd have thought it was fundamental to liberal theology that there is no final authority to determine matters of truth, 'to travel hopefully is better than to arrive' etc. There's a great piece on this in Lewis's 'The Great Divorce', the conversation with the bishop in hell.

matt asks: 'Does a loving, lifelong, monogomous commitment between two christians of the same sex have the same spiritual nature as the Christian heterosexual Church/Civil marriage? I don't really know.'

'Monogamy' means marriage, matt - from 'monos' and 'gamos' (think of gametes uniting). A same-sex relationship is not and cannot be marriage, whatever the govts of Canada, Belgium, Netherlands or Spain say - any more than the SCOTUS could, in the Dredd Scott case, define African-Americans as non-persons. Governments and courts do dumbass things, but they can't change nature and creation (only deform them).

Posted by: Martin Hambrook on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 11:59am BST

I must say that nothing could have made me more sure that our Liberal government was right not to put forward a civic partnership act, but a new marriage act, than to see the difficulties that are arising from the CPA in Britain! At least here both church and state know exactly what they are dealing with.

Posted by: Dr Abigail Ann Young on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 2:08pm BST

The traditional teaching of the Church has been that it is the couple that makes the marriage "sacramental" (didn't the Protestant heritage deny the application of the term "sacrament" to marriage? When did that change? I have no doubt that the reason was to bash gays.)

In any case, a "church wedding" is irrelevant to the question of the spirituality or sacramental nature of the relationship.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 2:57pm BST

Prior Aelred says : 'In any case, a "church wedding" is irrelevant to the question of the spirituality or sacramental nature of the relationship.'

I have to agree. What's that saying about a pig in lipstick?

Abigail: 'the difficulties that arising from the CPA in Britain' are simply the persecutions that will come upon traditional Christians, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox for opposing homosexuality. Canada is well advanced in doing that and will no doubt teach the Brits a thing.
BTW, what did you think of my (and Hagner's & Wright's) exegesis of Matt 25.31-146, the parable of the sheep and the goats?

[Simon adds: that exegesis was unfortunately lost in the recent service disruption.]

Posted by: Martin Hambrook on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 4:57pm BST

"Prioer Aelred" said "In any case, a "church wedding" is irrelevant to the question of the spirituality or sacramental nature of the relationship."

That is a rather bizarre statement for someone whose moniker suggests someone acquainted with at least a little formal study of the Christian religion.

A great deal has to do with the intention of the partners, and the words of the marriage service at a church wedding make explicit what the church understands by the right intentions.

Not so in a civil ceremony, and certainly not so in parts of the world where the relationship is simply a temporary legal state, until the next such ceremony, or the one after that.

Unless the marriage service - in which the couple freely participate - makes plain what is happening, it is anyone's guess what the alternative, purely legal alternatives amount to.

That's why a church wedding is precisely relevant to the question.

Posted by: Vincent Coles on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 5:59pm BST

Abigail: in case you didn't see it, the gist of my piece on Matt 25:31-46 is that the parable does NOT teach a kind of works-righteousness; instead 'the least of the brethren' doesn't mean anyone in need but Christians and more specifically Christian missionaries sent into the world. The way they and their message are received (with hospitality or with hostility, even imprisonment) will determine how the Lord will judge them at the parousia. See Don Hagner's commentary (Word Bib. Comm, Matthew 13-28).

Posted by: Martin Hambrook on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 9:33pm BST

Glad you think a God like that worth bothering with, Martin.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 11:45pm BST

Merseymike wrote: "Mind you, the Church really can't have it both ways. Whining on about not being homophobic, although the best current example of institutionalised homophobia in existence, then voting down any reform which treats gay people equally really isn't very convincing."

Dear Mike, as you know, the christian bible and traditions teach consistently that same-sex sexuality is sinful (along with many other sexual behaviours and desires) AND they also teach "love for all sinners".

If you define "homophobia" as calling homosexuality sinful, then we they are homophobic. But in that case homophobia means little more than benign disapproval (in this world) !

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 12:02am BST

The church should get out of the wedding business and get back to the blessing business. I don't know how it works in the UK and the rest of Europe, but in the US, the church performs both the state and church piece in the same marriage ceremony. I think the church should stop doing the state's piece of witnessing vows and focus on blessing relationships that have been sanctioned in the civil setting: heterosexual or homosexual. The US BCP has a "Blessing of a Civil Marriage." Why not a "Blessing of a Civil Union" that has been performed in a civil setting?

Posted by: Peter on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 2:18am BST

"the church should stop doing the state's piece of witnessing vows"

This comment precisely illustrates the point I made above: we need as Anglicans to remind ourselves what exactly Christian marriage is. And that includes making a commitment to faithful, lifelong matrimony, "Till death us do part". It is not a contract or a pre-nuptial agreement about property: it is a vow, taken in a religious ceremony.

The Church's role is far, far more than simply acknowledging a relationship by blessing it. Relationships exist in all kinds of contexts. Businesses have relationships and so do countries.

Where marriage is concerned the Church has an important witness to Christian teaching about marriage, which is demonstrated in the words and actions of the service, both to the couple and to the congregation, and thence to society at large.

The state in England (as elsewhere in the world)provides an alternative, civil ceremony and a secular understanding of the relationship which it defines, in terms of taxation, inheritance rights, custody of children.

Just because a secular alternative exists and people use it does not mean that the Church should surrender its own understanding of marriage or cease to provide for Christians a service of holy marriage - marriage as Christians understand it, a vowed, holy estate according to the Christian understanding of scripture.

For Anglicans this understanding is set out first of all in the introductory words to the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer.

Posted by: Vincent Coles on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 12:08pm BST

Glad you have admitted your homophobia, Dave. I wish others were as honest.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 3:22pm BST

Mike writes: 'Glad you think a God like that worth bothering with, Martin.'

It's all about grace, Mike - how guilt sinners like you and me can receive the pardon of God through the blood of Christ, something proclaimed in every eucharist and something you must have heard about 20 years ago. Abigail suggested the NT taught two ways of salvation: justification by faith; or a kind of works-righteousness, based on a common (but erroneous) understanding of Matt 25:31-46.
More to the point, Mike, is that God thinks me worth bothering about.
Every blessing in Christ Jesus to you.

Posted by: Martin Hambrook on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 4:09pm BST

Oh, I haven't believed in penal atonement theories for years, Martin! But, still, if it makes you happy...

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 4:43pm BST

Dear Mike, my "homophobia", as you define it, is a belief that homosexuality is sinful in God's eyes (along with many other sexual behaviours and practices) and that, like Him, I must love sinners while not affirming the sin.

Now, do you "love" me that much ?

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 5:15pm BST

Mike, you know it's all about framing the debate, choosing the vocabulary, slanting the issues, scoring points (in the eyes of the religiously indifferent world). Is 'homophobia' a recognized pathology, like agoraphobia or archnophobia? Is it in a Diagnostic Manual somewhere? Or is it a political coinage with no medical significance? In which case, should a Christian or anyone concerend about the truth use such a hazy term? And when you have won your battle against Christianity, how will you fare in your post-Christian, Islamicizing nation?

Posted by: Martin Hambrook on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 5:28pm BST

Dave, I saw through bogus so-called 'love' many years ago. I prefer affirmation, and I don't get that from conservative religionists. Hence .I'm rather more wise to your claims of 'love' than you may imagine, in that I reject them as false.

As for that point.Martin. I think you are reading those conservative American columnists a little too frequently. My battle isn't against Christianity, simply conservative fundamentalism - and we are winning over here, because what you have to offer simply doesn't hold water.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 7:18pm BST

Martin (and Dave)
There is a good discussion of the term homophobia at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophobia
but I would hazard a guess that Mike is following the usage found at
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_phob.htm

No commenter here intends to attack Christianity.

Comments attacking the good faith of other individuals will no longer be tolerated here.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 7:26am BST

Homophobia? Not a problem to define if you're homosexual, rather difficult to define if you are something else.

Here is a fine example for all those "christian" reasserters to glory in: http://scottmaui.dailykos.com/story/2004/10/25/5445/1320

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 4:57pm BST

Hi Simon, I guess you are right about the definition of "homophobia" being used. The trouble is that the "homophobic" accusation feels to me like a blunt political instrument to try to beat people like me with.

If you define homophobia as per "Religious Tolerance"'s: "engaging in a behavior aimed at restricting the human rights of persons who have a homosexual orientation and/or who engages in homosexual behavior" then anyone who takes the bible as souvereign for faith and living could be accused of falling into the "homophobic" category if human rights were to include homosexual activity. However, I might point out that sexual orientation is NOT a category that is recognised in the United Nations Charter of Human Rights! (though it was recently incorporated in some more liberal charters).

But anyway that definition is far from the clinical category "fear of homosexuals or of homosexual behavior."

The central bone of contention, in my mind, is the claimed "human rights" since, to anyone basing their Christianity on the teachings of Christ and the Apostles as recorded in the Bible, the ultimate measure of Rights and Wrongs is God's revealed Order, not human beings' perceptions.

The "rights" that human beings grant each other can never trump God's revealed Order.

Posted by: Dave on Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 10:25pm BST

The clinical category simply isn't how the term is used colloquially, in general conversation, and I think conservatives are more than aware of this.

Personally, I tend to prefer the term 'anti-gay' ie regarding gay people and their relationships, which I do not separate, in line with the law, as inferior to those of heterosexuals.

Amnesty International, an excellent organisation, certainly incorporate gay and lesbian people and the persecution they face in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria, from fundamentalist Christian and Islam alike, within the human rights category, and people have been given asylum because of the threat of violence being used against them in their own country. The teachings of the conservative religions help to lead to this sort of attitude and approach, and it is no coincidence that countries which have least influence from fundamentalist relaigion atre also the most open and egalitarian towards gay and lesbian people.

This is another reason why the conservatives are concerned about measures like the CPA, as it inevitably means that gay people will become seen as more and more part of the mainstream, hence making their point of view look even more antiquated and, frankly, ridiculous. Which is why I am optimistic about the future.

After all, it is not up to minorities of religious conservatives in liberal democratic countries to impose their definition of 'rights' according to their religion, which barely more than 3% of the country observe.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 11:08pm BST

Who said:
"...The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us..."?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 11:30pm BST

I like Mark Steyn's definition of homophobia---(Steyn is a conservative opinion journalist--primarly in the Telegraph and National Review). Steyn wrote in The Western Standard, July 19th 2004:

By the way, lest you think my nipple-clamp crack was “homophobic”, you’re right: I am a homophobe. To us classicist pedants, homophobia means fear (phobia) of the same (homo-). I have a terrible fear of the same – the same old party, the same old hacks, the same old platitudes, the same old sacred cows, all digging the Dominion deeper and deeper into the same old hole. --- (a screed on Canadian politics then follows)

During the 1998 Lambeth Conference the drafters of Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality discussed this term. One draft of the resolution prepared condemned 'homophobia'. American conservatives responded that while they agreed with the intent, they were uncomfortable with the word, as in the American context any deviation from the bien pensant view of human sexuality was homophobia. Hence the resulting condemnation of irrational fears of homosexuality, which does beg the question of what rational fears might be.

Posted by: George Conger on Monday, 15 August 2005 at 2:45am BST

Simon wrote "Who said: ...The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us..."?

Hi Simon, again, I agree that victimisation and diminishment of someone because they experience same-sex affections is completely wrong.. I have nothing against my several friends who are attracted to people of their own sex - even the ones who are living together - I just think that they need to repent to God.

What ABp Williams doesn't explicitely address in that quote is whether same-sex affection are sinful if acted upon. Which, of course, is where "liberals" and "conservatives" disagree.

I must say that, on reflection, he was giving a nod in the liberal direction by using the phrase "people whose affections happen to be ordered" since the main justification for saying that homosexual sex is sinful is that it is against God's order for mankind (a man and a woman leave their parents and become one flesh).

However he did use the words "happen to be ordered" (ie chance/circumstance) rather than saying "created by God to be ordered" which would have clearly affirmed the basis of the liberal view (which JCF asserts regularly). The man must be an intellectual...

And "victimisation and diminishment" are not the opposites of "approval and sanctification".

Posted by: Dave on Monday, 15 August 2005 at 9:05pm BST

Merseymike wrote "Dave, I saw through bogus so-called 'love' many years ago. I prefer affirmation.."

Dear Mike, I thought that the main liberal christian claim to superiority over "conservatives" was they just apply the great truth Jesus taught (to love God and love people) rather than "getting legalistic" about the other teachings in the NT. If you eliminate "love" and change it to "affirm", you have lost even that!

Merseymike wrote: "My battle isn't against Christianity, simply conservative fundamentalism - and we are winning over here, because what you have to offer simply doesn't hold water."

Err, I must, dear Mike, disagree on this one too. Even if politicking in the CofE manages to push out orthodox Christians I'm not sure that you will have "won".

The big and growing churches (1000+ members) in the CofE are all evangelical, charismatic evangelical or conservative evangelical as far as I'm aware; the liberal CofE churches are mostly empty of worshippers!

Posted by: Dave on Monday, 15 August 2005 at 9:29pm BST

The quotation is not from Rowan Williams, but from paragraph 6 of the Primates' Dromantine Statement. See
http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/39/00/acns3948.cfm

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 August 2005 at 10:13pm BST

But your 'several friends' don't agree with you, Dave, and neither do I. You may say you have 'nothing against' them, but you seem to be unable to treat them or their relationships with any genuine respect. I'd be interested to talk to them, because its odd how just about every conservative reels off the same old cliches about their gay friends (its almost the 'some of my best friends are....' syndrome again!) yet most of my gay friends rather prefer friends who show them genuine respect and affirmation, eschewing religions which institutionalise discriminatory beliefs.

Victimisation and diminishment seem quite appropriate ways of describing institutionalised discrimination.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 15 August 2005 at 10:45pm BST

Simon wrote: "Comments attacking the good faith of other individuals will no longer be tolerated here."

Thank you! That sort of thing has made the comment sections at TA quite poisonous lately, so please be stern about this.

To get back on a topic thread, I've found some comments by the Rev. Bill Carroll and others on the meaning of "homophobia" recently at Fr. Jake's blog quite thoughtful. See the comments section of:
http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2005/08/elca-rejects-proposal-on-clergy-in.html

Posted by: David Huff on Tuesday, 16 August 2005 at 2:59pm BST

Simon wrote "The quotation is ..... from paragraph 6 of the Primates' Dromantine Statement."

Dooh! What gave me the impression it was drafted by a western intellectual ? Anyway, I'm glad that it was the Primates because I think that my position on homosexuality is more-or-less the same as their (joint) position.

Here's another quote from the Dromantine statement: "we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public Rites of Blessing for Same-sex unions and on the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage".

Merseymike, hopefully this will help answer your question about how someone can love homosexual people and yet believe that homosexuality is sinful !?

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 12:25pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.