Wednesday, 28 February 2007

GS: Civil Partnerships

This afternoon Synod moved onto a debate about Civil Partnerships and passed this motion.

That this Synod
(a) acknowledge the diversity of views within the Church of England on whether Parliament might better have addressed the injustices affecting persons of the same sex wishing to share a common life had it done so in a way that avoided creating a legal framework with many similarities to marriage; and
(b) note the intention of the House to keep their Pastoral Statement under review.

The final motion was very different from the original below proposed by the Revd Paul Perkin.

That this Synod, deeply concerned that
(a) in an understandable desire to remedy injustice and remove unjust discrimination, the Government’s Civil Partnership Act undermines the distinctiveness and fundamental importance to society of the relationship of marriage;
(b) the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement, while reiterating the Church’s basic teaching on marriage, has produced a recipe for confusion by not stating clearly that civil partnerships entered into under the CP Act would be inconsistent with Christian teaching;
(c) the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement has given to bishops the task of ensuring that clergy who enter into these partnerships adhere to church teaching in the area of sexuality without giving the bishops the clear means to do so; and
(d) by declaring that lay people who enter into such partnerships should not be asked about the nature of their relationship, in the context of preparation for baptism and confirmation, as well as for the purposes of receiving Holy Communion, the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement has compromised pastoral discipline at the local level:
declare its support for bishops, clergy and other ministers who continue to minister the godly discipline required by the scriptures and the canons and request the House of Bishops to set up a study of the ways in which that discipline is being applied and the implications thereof for future pastoral guidance and bring a report to Synod by the July 2007 Group of Sessions.

The House of Bishops were not happy with this and, on their behalf, the Bishop of Liverpool proposed this amendment.

Leave out all words after “this Synod” and insert the words:
(a) acknowledge the diversity of views within the Church of England on whether Parliament might better have addressed the injustices affecting persons of the same sex wishing to share a common life had it done so in a way that avoided creating a legal framework with many similarities to marriage;
(b) recognise the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement as a balanced and sensitive attempt faithfully to apply the Church’s teaching to civil partnerships; and
(c) note the intention of the House to keep the matter under review.”

Not wishing to accept the implied endorsement of the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement the Revd Paul Collier successful proposed the following amendment to the Bishop’s amendment..

Leave out paragraphs (b) and (c) and insert:
“(b) note the intention of the House to keep their Pastoral Statement under review.”

The Bishop’s amended amendment was then carried to produce the final version of the motion at the top.

There was another amendment to the Bishop’s amendment, but as it referred to a section of text removed by Paul Collier’s motion it lapsed. We give it below for the record.

In paragraph (b) after the words “civil partnerships” insert the words “, in the light of legal advice given to the House of Bishops, which this Synod urge the House to make available to it”.

The background papers to this debate are available online: GS Misc 843A from Paul Perkin and GS Misc 843B from the House of Bishops.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 6:07pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: General Synod

Well done that man ! (Paul Collier)

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 6:33pm GMT

This is encouraging for what it rejects, as well as for what it affirms.

It is significant that Paul Perkins anti-gay strictures were unacceptable to the Synod, and failed to ennunciate where the majority of the Synod stand on this human rights and gospel issue.

i would jsut like to thank Mr Perkins for affording the Synod the opportunity to make its position clear, by rejecting his attempts to denigrate an entire section of the public, to whom the Church is called to give pastoral care, through its parishes, and sacramental life.

I welcome this clarification.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 6:43pm GMT

I hear the debate is worth listening to:

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 9:26pm GMT


Did any of their motions cover the issue of caring for disabled dependents? For example: brother and sister where the intellectually impaired sister has lived with parents and brother all her life (brother taking over nurturing role from parents when they died)? I remember there being a concern that the sister would not be covered by the inheritance laws if her brother died first.

How has that been addressed?

Or are we still dealing with the idea that the only "real" relationships are those that have sex in them (with the purpose of having children). Therefore gay relationships are bad because that would be admitting that gays have sex.

And stuff all those people who don't fit into nice boxes or are barren. Too bad that you can't actualise the holy marriage...

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 9:28pm GMT

Read it and your mind goes into "unravel it" mode and then realise there is nothing but about nothing much there. It's just diversity of views about a position the Church has taken that is under review anyway. That'll be one to send to the government to tell it that it has a clearer ethical position than this Church.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 9:49pm GMT

Laurence Roberts wrote: (on Paul Perkins' PM) "rejecting his attempts to denigrate an entire section of the public"

Dear Laurence, Morality applies to everyone (and we *all* fail morally) but we don't all feel denigrated, because morality is not negative, as ++Williams said recently. Moral challenge of people's attitudes and behaviour is actually recognising that their lives have meaning!

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 10:16pm GMT


There were one or two passing references in the debate to close relatives being excluded from civil partnerships, but it was basically about what, if anything, bishops could and should do about those in non-celibate partnerships.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 10:45pm GMT

Sorry, but I cannot see that Synod "clarified" anything at all. They neither accepted the motion as true nor rejected it as false.

Fudge, wideopen to abuse.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 5:13am GMT

Dear brother Dave, yes my queer daily life has wonderful vitality and hope and meaning, now that Jesus has delivered me for real from, and now that some believers have accepted my deliverance from, mistaken and false legacy negative views. (I have about the same negative/positive prospects as I would have, ethically and morally and spiritually, as if I were straight. No more, but certainly no less.) I call that progress, and hope to grow further along these new paths of mind, body, and spirit. In global community with many others. Why this new opening should be happening in our times, I cannot say for sure, but I am very, very, very, very grateful to everybone who has helped to make this new and rewardingly honest life possible.

Many, many, many, many thanks to all.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 5:15am GMT

Thanks Peter

So this discussion has failed to deal with the issue of dependent disabled siblings? Either those who have been completely unable to provide for themselves at any level due to severe (intellectual or other) disability, or those who have been able to contribute in a non-financial manner (e.g. limited abilities which make it hard to work but with a well designed house make it possible to clean and do the laundry)?

If that is the case, the trap has been sprung. These people are anti-GLBTs and not concerned about real justice.

The other thought over the last day about the purpose of marriage being to conceive and raise children, is that explains why so many women are being dumped when they approach menopause (often traded in for a younger model).

I wonder if God has a first wives club? God knows, it is not short of possible consitutents.

And if barren women were such a problem, how come there are so many passages devoted to Rachel and hardly any devoted to Leah? Is that God's way of telling us not to ignore the barren or worthless woman?

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 8:17am GMT

I can't see that the debate and motion has clarified anything at all, or helped. Either a more acceptable statement from the bishops is needed or there needs to be some pause on this issue - it is all starting to look a bit silly - a group of people saying 'We don't agree' 'We don't agree' let's pass a motion saying 'We don't agree.'

Posted by: Etheldreda Ely on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 11:13am GMT

Unfortunetely, those who raise the matter of sibs and other family members or dear close friends do not seem genuinely to care about them. Alas. They only seem to use it as an anti-gay stick. Evidence : they do not pursue this matter over time. They raise it only in the context of 'secular' marriage of lesbian and gay people --either trying to prevent it--or post eventu limit, denigrate or devalue it.

It has been the same in the House of Lords,the Bishops there; and the same with the Christian Institute.

They do not seem pursue this for its own sake, but opportunistically, in pursuit of a covert aim -- which still shocks me. As one who has cared for vulnerable family and friends, my interest is much more than academic. And the whole thing is too important to the many many carers to be used as a political football by people who say they are christians, but have a covert anti-gay agenda. And who never follow through on the needs of carers, sibs and those needing relief.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 12:05pm GMT

Goran is right. All that is clear is the lack of agreement, and of unity. Deferring the day of reckoning is no answer.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 12:47pm GMT

I think the way forward could be on the basis of Two Integrities.

Rather than trying to banish those of another viewpoint, we can say each say to the other:-

"You have integrity" "Your view has integrity" --bit like the mutual recognition of orders or ministries.

This was effectively, done in England in rsponse to two views of the ordination of women. It ended the stalemate, and we all moved on. I don't suggest separate provincial structures, or more flying bishops necessarily --wouldn't want to clog the air !

Though could be fun though. Finding a name for the pro-gay province or flying bishop See ! Suggestions on a postcard. Alas, Ebbslfeet has already been taken. Could be named the gray,-- or rainbow province perhaps. And then the bishops themselves ! Rowan could have great fun selecting them. How do you road-test a gay, or lgbt-friendly bish ? (Must check it out in Ritual Notes).

However, two integrities might work as well, or better, by simple recognition and acceptance of each other without elaborate structures.

Any takers ? : -)

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 1:17pm GMT

There is Foulness on the Essex coast... with a noted bird population. Candidates for the Flying Bishop of Foulness anyone?

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 3:55pm GMT

Never thought I would write this....but Goran is absolutely right on this.

I think we can all agree to disagree and respect each other if we are not forced to stay in the same communion - this forced "unity" is not good for anybody and intensifies the disagreements and strife.

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 4:57pm GMT

I must admit I'm tempted David !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 8:13pm GMT


You are right, they opportunistically raise the issue of siblings when they think they can use it to harm GLBTs. But they are silent when there is no mileage to be made against GLBTs.

So, like with orphans, they say they care when it is convenient for them. But they will drop the bundle whenever they think that no one will notice or if they think can get away with emotional blackmail.

The word, opportunistic, seems very appropriate to this theology. Maybe we should call it opportunistic theology.

After all, the bottom line and state of bishops' accommodation matters much more than justice or caring for the outcastes and afflicted. Having good balance sheets for their accountants is more comfortable bed linen than caring for those who are abused by their church leaders. (That is why they have never cringed at being "busted" for removing the book of Susanna). That is why there are so many dioceses who have only dealt with abuse once it became clear there will viable litigation laws and lawsuits that would jeopardise the funds required to keep their accommodation up to standard. is one contemplation example of how the priorities are juggled.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 9:23pm GMT

Interestingly the latest Goddards exchange has Andrew Goddard explaining why there cannot be two integrities and won't allow for Giles Goddard's inclusve approach. Both are on Fulcrum as follows:
Giles Goddard 25 February
Andrew Goddard 27 February

Both write after the Tanzania meeting, and here is my comment:

I'm critical of both of them, in that the narrowness of Andrew Goddard's point is undermined by the relativity of the clobber passages in the Bible, but that relativity affects everything and Giles Goddard wants to play the orthodoxy game again. That game is institutionally dependent.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 11:31pm GMT

Luarence's challenge: "Finding a name for the pro-gay province or flying bishop See !"

David makes a good suggestion. I note also there is Dymchurch on the Kent coast, with an equally noted bird population, a rundown nuclear power station (a glowing reminder of the 60s and the white heat of technology) - and the shrine of Derek Jarman.

Candidates for the Flying Bishop of Dymchurch, anyone?

Posted by: Steve Watson. on Friday, 2 March 2007 at 6:59am GMT

It seems to me, Steve has made a convincing case for the See of Dymchurch. The birds and flying theme have salience. And his evocation of the Shrine of Derek Jarman is a clincher !

It does have a rather etheral, mystical feel to it, and the eerie winds of spirit.

Much better than being named after a sand-bank ! (though that strikes me as about right for those who want to pretend there are no women ministers!)

Enjoy your Lenten season of abstinence -as will we ! ...

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 3 March 2007 at 4:13pm GMT

Oh, yes, Dymchurch! Many fondly remembered church Sunday school outings with the kids - just the kind of progressive place we want! Sleepy, friendly, non judgemental.... Laurence, inaugural meeting.... when??

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 3 March 2007 at 9:38pm GMT

Lovely memories Erika. I enjoyed your brief evocation of the place. Something of a symbol, perhaps.

Yes, we shall have to arange for the inaugural meeting, shan't we ? What about the feast of Blessed Derek himself ? And / or the Octave of the Solemnity of the Stonewall Riots ?

The spirit of good Edward Carpenter comes to mind too with his utopian visions and energy ...

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 4 March 2007 at 1:49am GMT

Also, the Stonewall Riots combine the Feasts of Saint Irenée de Lyon and the Holy Apostles; Peter ever wrong, and Paul sometimes right ;=)

"Oh, let it, let it be a Festival..."

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 4 March 2007 at 5:20pm GMT
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