Friday, 29 September 2006

civil partnerships: Richard Chartres writes

A letter, written by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has been published at Anglican Mainstream. It appears that the letter was sent only to a select set of parishes in that diocese.

Ruth Gledhill has written about this on her blog: Church of England expected to revise Civil Partnership Guidelines.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 6:19pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Once again, gay people who choose to make their relationship permanent and official are treated worse than those who say nothing.

This will simply mean that even fewer gay people will be interested in the CofE. I am certainly not in the least tempted to return to active worship in such an environment.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 8:29pm BST

If the bishop's letter to a "select few" is a communal letter in response to correspondence from those people, he is merely being polite.

I noted the comment about context: "The Statement was of course drafted at a time when the Government was officially giving assurances that they did not intend to introduce same sex marriage by another name..."

This recent article expresses some Catholics' concerns about validating diverse family models

It seems some souls have forgotten why diverse "family" models are fostered. It reflects the reality that souls do not get to live the "ideal", often by circumstances that are imposed upon them e.g. disabled child dependent on siblings; single mothers from rape who would not abort because that would be murder; wars destroying husbands and/or communities.

What is also forgotten is stigma and financial apartheid that was imposed upon these families. Especially by those "blessed" to be living the "ideal".

Diversity did not start as an ends in itself, it started in response to cruelty and injustice. Further, it has only been an issue since we fragmented families into the smallest economic units to maximise businesses' markets in which to make profits. Extended families and support networks were once the norm.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 29 September 2006 at 10:16pm BST

"The Church of England has not always been clear about the relative weight and authority of the documents it produces and the contexts in which they should be construed. Under the leadership of the present Archbishop I believe that we should be able to clarify the situation."

Some primates issue a communiqué challenging another primate (elect) and the ecclesiastical structure of the communion. What is the response of Dr. Williams?

Some English bishops have challenged the Church of England's guidelines to civil partnerships. What is the response of Dr. Williams?

To what "leadership" of Dr. Williams might the Right Honorable Richard Chartres be referring?

His use of the pluralis majestatis (the papal we) is curious. While a leader may speak for his or her people, who exactly does the subordinate refer to when he says "we"? Perhaps he refers to a nascent Anglican Curia?

Posted by: Ley Druid on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 12:44am BST

How clever of the Bishop of London who has to respond to people trying to catch him out. Read between the lines and see that this is by no means the anti-gay stance it might appear, and I smile that Anglican Mainstream presumably took it as such! There are huge slaps on their wrists for politicising this issue and losing the bigger picture...

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 12:50am BST

It's disappointing to see that the Bishop of London, Anglican leader of one of the most sophisticated cities in the world and a place of great spiritual power, is also an "orthodox" homophobe. Forced "singleness" as the only option for gay men and women is cruel - and sham unnatural marriages to opposite sex partners is both anachronistic and unfair to both parties. Gay (and straight) Christians in London deserve better.

Posted by: Byron on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 3:59am BST

As I said over at RG's (not holding my breath to see whether it shows up or not!), +Chartre is, proverbially, trying to double the guard on the tomb door (but the resurrection has ALREADY happened!).

LGBTs, too, now are "Easter People", Bishop Chartre.

They're not going back. Alleluia! :-)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 5:10am BST

Few clergy with families wish to work in the less desirable inner city areas of London, and as a result many of these positions end up being filled by gay clergy.

Anecdotally, Richard Chartres probably oversees more gay clergy than any other bishop in the UK, and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is pretty high on the agenda - gay clergy know to keep their heads below the parapet to avoid getting taken out.

I'm afraid Chartres' ambiguity, as with Williams', whilst perhaps trying to calm matters, just ends up fudging the issues - something the CofE seems rather too good at.

Posted by: Jimbo on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 8:51am BST

Ruth Gledhill writes: "Chartres is hesitant to create an impression of "disunity" among the bishops, fearing this would further fuel the revisionist agenda. But his own views are clear: "The Church assists all its members to a life of faithful witness in chastity and holiness, recognising two forms or vocations in which that life can be lived: marriage and singleness [Gen II:24; Matt XIX: 4-6; I Cor. VII passim.] There is no place for the Church to confer legitimacy upon alternatives to these.""

Now, is this responsible reporting or irresponsible journalism?

We know tha ++Akinola "reads" the mind of God, now Ruth Gledhill "reads" the mind of +Charters, by way of a passage from Professor Donovan in the St Andrew's Day Statement.

2 different persons, I believe ;=)

And Ruthie dear, +Charters did not call anybody "revisionist" of Davin Irvin fame, he said that some are trying to revise the traditional teaching of the Church.

Not quite the same thing.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 8:58am BST

JCF - what a lovely image...I like it! Given he was repsonding to reactionary forces trying to trap him I'm not sure what else the Bishop of London could have said. The main point is that on the ground he has not politicised the issue with regard to his clergy and indeed does not ask intrusive questions. His behaviour in no way would mark him out as anti-gay and even his careful words - when selected and nuanced as I do below - should not be interpreted as music to keep the other guards on the tomb door happy.

"The first time in Holy Scripture when God declares that something is “not good” is the spectacle of a human being living alone. Human beings were not created for isolation and the Church has always taught that we should honour life in community and that our identity as Christians is derived from our life together in Christ...Pastoral care however needs a certain flexibility taking note of the circumstances which make each individual case different from every other and discerning ways in which the Gospel touches people in different situations. The Church then will give constant encouragement in following Christ not only to those who conform to one of these two vocations (i.e. single or married) but to all who seriously intend discipleship in fellowship with the body of the church.” It should be possible to set out the church’s teaching clearly and to guide those for whom we have pastoral care into the ways of holiness and compassion without setting ourselves up as their judges."

Just like the Catholic Church and contraception, and just like the Archbishop of C and Bishop of London (and other bishops) the Church's teaching is one thing, but informed conscience and practise is another. Rowan and Richard will surely not allow being forced to restate to the Church's position to colour their personal pro gay views and pastoral practise?

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 10:05am BST

Certainly CP's are here to stay, and if the CofE seriously thought they were anything other than an application of the civil marriage template to gay couples, they were being naive.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 10:09am BST

+Richard's letter is an interesting statement when read against the recent Inclusive Church statement, and I quote:

"We believe it is important in this context for the Church of England to be clear on its current practice. Namely, that hundreds if not thousands of same-gender partnerships have been celebrated over the past thirty years, in churches, by priests and deacons. Further, that there have been, and in the future no doubt will be homosexual bishops in relationships within our church."

+Richard can make the statement quoted here, but when my partner David and I were preparing our covenant service in 2001 at St James's Piccadilly (see we sought guidance from that very same diocese and were told that this is exactly the sort of thing that St James's should be doing.

At least the Americans and Canadians are honest and transparent about what they are doing. We in the CofE propbably have more gay Bishops and more gay blessings than across the Atlantic, but we keep it publicly unacknowledged.

Simon Dawson

Posted by: simon dawson on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 10:16am BST

The remarks about the government and the Civil Partnership Bill/Act are strange.
The Lord’s amendment opening Civil Partnerships to siblings and others “undermined the official line”, it was a wrecking amendment mounted by those opposed to the principle of the Bill – it is at least disingenuous for those involved in the consultations that produced the Bill to pretend otherwise or that they intended no mischief by it.
All through the Parliamentary process Ministers were clear that the rights enjoyed by those entering a CP should mirror those in a civil marriage. If the English bishops’ who drafted their response were unaware of this then they had not done their homework.
The British government did produce an Act that put “clear water” between Civil Partnership and Marriage as the recent judgment of the High Court (Family Division) points out – I find it odd the bishop fails to mention this.
As to the break up of a Civil Partnership it is reasonable to assume that the Courts will accept the failure of a sexual relationship as grounds for its dissolution – not, I accept, as a sole ground for its annulment as with marriage.
I see that Chartres is following the archaeological trend set by Rowan Williams who excavated the St Andrew’s Day Statement from Oliver O’Donovan’s long buried closet – it seems they find it a useful tool to beat the Calvinists with …. Something tells me they will rue the day!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 10:24am BST

I too follow Jesus of Nazareth as risen Lord.

These deep new conservative religious yearnings for power - and especially for policing powers to make the worldwide communion into something more uniform than relationships of inquiry, discussion, and affection will sustain - are probably doomed to a certain success, to a certain extent.

Queer folks, progressives, and people of other world religions/spiritual paths will still be among us all. We will be working in the productive teams at your company, hospital, school, or research institutes. We will be falling in love with other men or women and mature enough to take the relationship seriously as an adult commitment. We will be parenting the children in our care, some of whom we will have adopted from biological straight parents who could not care for them for many trenchant (and often tragic) reasons.

The most this new conserved push for force and for new punishment can achieve is to shove away differences inside its own spiritual communities, and compel a vigorous new outward conformity. That will be thrilling to some observors no doubt.

But God looks on the heart and knows what is what, no matter how outwardly conformed you make the church/believers look. Empirical inquiry will continue apace, too.

Thank God as we celebrate another important milestone in the recent wonderful complete mapping of the mouse /mammalian brain - a first, among many more yet to come. Our empirically based understanding of human nature is changing, so fast and so deeply, as to really be akin to the changes when we disconfirmed the Ptolemaic Cosmology. Loud, punitive religion cannot gainsay these facts in the long run by insisting blindly upon its received negative legacy flat earth theories.

So the queer folks are just down the global street, then, and aiming with God's help to keep on doing just fine in their love, their work, their parenting, and of course, in their following of Jesus of Nazareth.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 2:04pm BST

Remember that in 2002 Chartes was pretty-well ruled out of consideration for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury because, although the head of the most populous diocese in the Anglican communion and a "natural" candidate for the position, he had (has?) yet to ordain a woman to the priesthood. Also consider that Gledhil, though generally maintaining a front of journalistic impartiality, pretty consistently highlights and supports the agenda or the theology, of those working to split ECUSA.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 3:21pm BST

Tend to agree with Neil on this: the radical revision of orthodox teaching lot is surely the GS mafia, and the call to repentance across the entire Church for making this a big thing and the wish no longer to be distracted from getting on with serious issues is a direct two fingers to the homophobes, but done so cleverly that they can't say a thing.

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 4:40pm BST

I don't think that Richard Chartres is homophobic, but anyone who knows the Diocese of London knows how silly it is for him to take the "orthodox" line in such a public way. He has ordained more gay people, I think, than any bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Andrew on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 7:20pm BST

It's all about returning to the divinely-ordered Western society of the 1950s. At that time women earned their salvation by being submissive to their husbands, bearing them 2+ children. The gays were content to live in the closet, mostly married pretending that they were part of a 'happy' family. People of color - in the U.S. - were mostly barred from the professions, content to be janitors and domestic servants.
Of course, women weren't eligible to serve on vestries, parish councils, let alone gain admission to theological schools, which, for the most part, were 'all male clubs'.

As late as the 1970s, in the U.S.A., women couldn't event take out car loans without their husbands' signatures.

What is the real problem? Many Christians suffer from nostalgia, idealizing the past as we face uncertainty in an era of global change.

Posted by: John Henry on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 9:28pm BST

Ambassador Isaac Sagay, Former Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See has written an interesting article on Abp. Peter Akinola entitled, ‘Peter Akinola: From Carpenter to Primate. It was published in Nigeria’s The Guardian (1st October 2006).
“Indeed, for those familiar with his ways, his spiritually inspired principled stand against the might of revisionist gospellers in the Christian Churches of the Northern hemisphere, was as predictable as it was inevitable. But what gives his opposition validity and integrity, is that he regards the fight for the soul and sanctity of the Church, against the depredation of deviant homosexual Priests, as the Lord's -and not as some say -a personal ego trip.” ( Excerpts from the essay)

Posted by: Emeka Peters on Sunday, 1 October 2006 at 9:28am BST

No. He may not be homophobic, but this makes clear the kind of arbitrariness our gay and lesbian priests live with, and it makes clear the hypocrisy of English bishops who will drain these people of all their worth and leave them trembling before constant rule changes.

Posted by: *Christopher on Sunday, 1 October 2006 at 4:07pm BST


It is true that it is possible to idealize the past when we suffer from nostalgia and fear. It is also easy to get people in pews when they are literally in fear of their lives. But being in church does not mean being in communion with God. And the problem with nostalgia is that we often overlook the costs of those periods. Your posting rightly points out what women couldn't do (it was the same in Australia). What needs to also be said (and I think you would agree?) is that made women extremely vulnerable to abusive men, and men took advantage of that situation. There are some men who are abusive, no matter the situation, but there are others who are opportunistic and are only abusive when they think they can get away with it. (And it is fair to say that the corollary for women applies too).

The solution is not to point the accusing finger at either gender, but to realise that what we are trying to do is reduce the amount of abuse overall. Some partners will only abuse when they think their spouse/partner has no way of escaping. Work on inverted narcissm and sociopaths indicates the first steps in preparing their victim is to disempower them and isolate them. Then one can move to the next level of abuse because the means of escape have been closed off, including people not listening to their pleas for help because they are "hypersensitive" or "paranoid".

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 9:10am BST

Well, I know how to interpret ++Frank Griswold, but I fear that +Richard Chartres is beyond me -- I'm sure he meant something -- or maybe not...

In any case, I found the link to the article about ++Akinola quite interesting -- not least the fact that the Scriptural figure to whom the author found it most apt to compare "the Lion of Ajuba," was Pontius Pilate (who thought nothing of sacrificing others to maintain his own power) -- apparently without the least sense of irony!

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 3:19pm BST

The strain in Bishop C.'s comments is obvious to anybody who is alive and trying to do common sense well in, say, queer life or progressive citizenship in modern London.

Sexual orientation and gender variances are part of the complicated ranges of deep shapes that exist, more or less influentially, at that same inner bedrock level where we find and experience the persistent truth that none of us live or die alone.

So the bishop's comments offer lots of wiggle room for people who have to live and love and work, outside the two commanding categories of either exclusively straight marriage or official-institutional singleness/celibacy.

The problem comes from having to make wiggle room for real, live people inside legal and penal frameworks which otherwise claim to know and discern and - gasp, love - those people who do not, cannot, and probably will not ever fit the legacy categories for a variety of empirical reasons.

Probably, the more highly conservative institutional-established nature of CoE ways makes wiggle room the preferred means of dealing with all the ways that real variant human nature does not fit in well with some received aspects of our legacy frames, but it is a transitional strategy - and as such points way beyond itself, from closet to survival to open and glorious thriving as part of the human rainbow.

Still, it would be nice if bishops could actually lead for a change during these changes, instead of hemming and hawing and having to put their influence at the service of letting condemned citizens breathe oxygen bubbles escaping the officially tight institutional lids being left slightly ajar.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 3:47pm BST

Thank you, Cheryl, for your gracious comment. As you affirm, people do weird things 'out of fear': "It is also easy to get people in pews when they are literally in fear of their lives. But being in church does not mean being in communion with God."

God may be more inclusive than that, working on our transformation from 'fear' to 'love' of those who are different from us, including our 'enemies', inasmuch as "perfect love (of God) casts out fear."

It's not only fear-mongering churches that attract people, as Karl Rove, the godly U.S. President's traditionalist Episcopalian minister of propaganda, demonstrated during the 2004 presidential election. The Republican Party was able to turn out the numbers on election day because the godly President plays the 'fear card'. As he keeps shouting at the crowds, the opposition party, the Democrats, are the "cut and run party". Only George can keep the U.S. - and the world - safe from terrorist attacks. Anyone suggesting an exit strategy, given the developing civil war in Iraq, no matter how intelligent and well-advised such a plan may be, is a "cut and run", disloyal American citizen. And, of course, godly George is pro-marriage and anti-gay civil unions!

Posted by: John Henry on Monday, 2 October 2006 at 7:56pm BST

Civil partnerships are being celebrated with great nobility and joy by many in London now, with priests blessing them (see a sermon given on one such occasion by Enda McDonagh in this month's Furrow). The Bishop of London seems to be locked in some musty boudoir.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 11:26am BST
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