Saturday, 13 February 2010

more on the civil partners pensions debate

The text of the speeches by Giles Goddard and by Simon Baynes are both published below the fold.

Colin Coward has commented about the debate: General Synod approves pension parity for Civil Partnerships.

Andrew Brown commented about it at Cif:belief in Recoiling from nastiness.

According to Christian Today in its news story

One Synod member, who asked to remain anonymous, said conservative Synod members had deliberately withheld from taking to the floor to speak against the motion for fear of reprisals.

“They didn’t dare to. There would have been screams of homophobia if anyone had dared oppose it,” he said.

Anglican Mainstream has already issued two memoranda:

AM comments on private member motion on pensions for civil partners

and a few hours later: Clergy Pension Scheme – what was and wasn’t decided at General Synod

And AM has also published “A briefing paper by Clive Scowen prepared for the Synod debate”, dated 18 January: Should civil partners be treated like spouses?

Speech to the C of E’s General Synod 11th Feb - Giles Goddard, Chair, Inclusive Church and member of General Synod

I support this motion. But to explain why, I would like to talk first about the wider context in which we find ourselves. Coming to the end of my first Synod I’ve been honoured and humbled to be part of such a wide range of debates. But it does, nevertheless, seem to me that there’s a sort of cancer affecting the Church of England, something which is running through our life and debilitating all that we try to do. It’s not the presence of lesbian and gay people in loving relationships throughout the church, nor is it the opposition to that - no, it’s the argument around all this. It’s been going on for thirty years now, and it comes out in all sorts of different and unhelpful ways. It comes out, for instance, in the agitation in the House of Lords about the Equalities Bill. Whatever the bishops may have intended , and I acknowledge the very real concerns about religious freedom, the result of their activities was to reconfirm in the public mind the connection between Christianity and homophobia – not surprisingly, because the churches do have a history in this area. It comes out in tensions within the Anglican Communion. It was clearly the elephant in the room in our debate yesterday about ACNA, and we might have had a more realistic debate if we’d been able to acknowledge that. It comes out again and again in the lives of those of us trying to do good work in local parishes – I’m based just across the river in Waterloo, and we struggle to engage with institutions like the National Theatre and the South Bank Centre largely because of the church’s attitudes to human sexuality.

We are forfeiting our right to speak on any moral question or question of justice, as anything we say is undermined by the public perception of the church’s attitude on these matters. To be clear- the perception of homophobia in the church is deeply impeding our mission.

This motion gives us a chance to make a fresh start; to act with generosity, and to begin to undo the damage which has been done. We’re all getting tired of this discussion, and I honour the Archbishop’s words on Tuesday. But it’s not going to go away until we find a way of making progress. At the moment we’re locked in an uneasy stalemate, for which we must all bear some responsibility. So we need to find a new way – a way based on much deeper respect for one another’s views, for acknowledgement of their Biblical and faithful roots and the sincerity and deeply known Christianity across the spectrum.

We certainly need, now, leadership from the House of Bishops, reflecting the various views which I know are there but which we hear very little. Above all, we need to rediscover, in this area, the notion that Anglicanism is a community of civilised disagreement.

It’s a question, in the end, of mission. About the face we present to the world. There’s nothing clever or countercultural about resisting the love of God – and that’s how it comes across.

So, now, turning to the motion - I know that there are people in this room for whom civil partnerships are an anathema. There are others whose lives have been transformed by the ceremony, and who are deeply regretful that the church does not yet offer a way to celebrate that before God. This motion isn’t about approval or disapproval of civil partnerships - it’s about justice, generosity and care. If we pass it, we won’t be giving approval to these relationships, but we’ll be reflecting and celebrating the Anglican way for the sake of mission.

On so many other issues – the remarriage of divorced people, for example, or the admission of children to communion, or worship, or the wording of the Lord’s Prayer – over and over again we’ve learnt how to live alongside each other, as I hope we will over women bishops. It’s the parable of the wheat and the tares – both grow until we know the truth. We in Inclusive Church, of which I’m chair, are deeply committed to making that happen. One of my delights is speaking to some- distressingly few but some - evangelical and conservative brothers and sisters, and acknowledging the depth of our mutual attachment within the same church.

And so I will vote for the motion. First, because it’s right. There is no justification for our treating the permanent, stable and faithful partners of clergy any differently to how we treat their spouses, and it’s important to acknowledge that.
And, second, because this gives us an opportunity to be generous, and to send a message to those we serve. We are, as I say, undermining our mission at the moment – we need to demonstrate that we do want to live and work alongside one another for the Reign of God and in the name of justice and love. We’re not talking about very much money; and the symbolism of this would far outweigh the monetary value. So I urge you to support the motion.

General Synod: 11th February 2009: Civil Partners Pensions Debate SpeechSimon Baynes, 394, St Albans

Mr Chairman,
I am the new boy on the Pensions Board. I was elected at the tail end of last year and look forward to my first meeting later this month. After this week’s debates I can see that I shall be very busy! I’m deeply grateful to those who voted for me… and humbled by the size of the vote that came my way.

And, what I say in this speech is a personal view that I shall be taking to the Board when we meet. A personal view of someone who works as an Independent Pensions Trustee.

We all know there are two issues which are certain to fill the press gallery here at Church House. One is the issue of Women Bishops and the other is anything to do with Gay Clergy.

I am sorry to disappoint the ladies and gentlemen up there - there is no debate on Women Bishops in this group of sessions and there is no debate on Gay Clergy either. This is not a debate about Gay Clergy. It is a debate about pensions and the unfairness that we have allowed to be built into our system.

I have been struck by the case of Jeffrey John, who is Dean of the Cathedral where I regularly worship. On realising how he and his partner are treated under the present rules, compared to married clergy, my wife and I were simply appalled.

If Jeffrey died, then his partner for over 30 years would receive £3,370 per annum.
But… if instead of being in partnership for 30 years, had Jeffrey been married for just a few days before he died then his widow would receive £7,550 per annum. That’s more than double!

I commend Mark Bratton for his motion. If there was ever a case of treating one group of clergy unfairly compared to another, this is it.

Mr Chairman, let’s cast our minds forward 38 years. This debate would not be necessary because 43 years would have passed from the Civil Partnership Act becoming law. The discrimination that clergy in civil partnerships face today would have gone away, simply because the clock has ticked forward. We have already accepted the principle of equality. It exists today, except we’re saying it can’t happen fully for 38 years.

Put another way…. How would we feel if slavery had been abolished but existing slaves had to carry on being slaves for another 38 years? The analogy is exactly the same…. and remember, some Christians were against the abolition of slavery even when it happened.

To continue as we are, is tantamount to saying the Church of England will pay “as little as it can get away with”, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong. Employers who pay as little as they can get away with are, in my experience, some of the nastiest employers around and the Church should not be amongst them.

And, we’re not talking about much money in the greater scheme of things. This is not a debate about whether we can afford it. It is a debate about fairness and whether we wish to be in the pursuit of justice.

To vote this motion down would make the Church look, at best very mean, and at worst a laughing stock – We really must avoid this. When I raised this issue with the Policy Director of the National Association of Pension Funds he wrote to me to say “We are in favour of common sense”.

Mr Chairman, I hope that Synod will vote to show that we are all in favour of common sense. I support the motion unamended.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 13 February 2010 at 12:12pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

AM response typically weaselly.

There seems to be a decided tension between the avowed intention of the Giddings amendment (to offer the same level of care to those who have been housekeepers, eg aunts uncles, etc) and the declaration of continuing hostility to the vote.

SURELY if AM were as concerned with 'justice' as the Giddings amendment suggests (\irony) they would applaud the progress made this week in that direction......

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Saturday, 13 February 2010 at 3:25pm GMT

Mr. Giddings' unsubtle attempt to undermine the Bill seems singularly lacking in Christian Charity. Perhaps he should be ordered by his Bishop to enter fully into the uncoming Lenten Fast - preferably with sackcloth and ashes and only the minimum of food and water. But (thinks), who is his Bishop? Not Winchester?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 14 February 2010 at 5:01am GMT

Oxford, and more exactly, the Reading area.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 14 February 2010 at 9:08am GMT

"The conservative case against Rowan Williams, then and now, is exactly the same as the liberal case in his favour: he argues that the question of how well two people love each other is much more important than what they do with their bits, naughtily or otherwise. - Andrew Brown, Guardian -

This is a very nice way of putting the whole dilemma of the outcome of G.S.'s vote to allow generous pension rights to same-sex clergy partnership survivors. I'm glad that Jeffrey John's partner will now at least benefit from his supportive relationship with the Dean of St. Albans. It's about time he was given a similar privilege allowed to heterosexual partners of clergy who, for the most part, have been a source of love and support to their long term beloveds.

Having agreed that same-sex partnerships might well be within the perquisites of the clergy, perhaps the Church will begin to understand the further ramifications of a different standard of accommodation of their sexual relationships. To pretend that all same-sex partnerships are - or even should be - celibate, is a form of subtle hypocrisy that the Church could well cease to insist upon.

After all, heterosexual relationships are given by God to enable a couple to enter into a deeper more loving partnership than is otherwise possible - quite apart from their capacity to reproduce. Should same-sex couples be denied this share in God's provision? Or is the gift of sexuality only given by God to heterosexual and married couples?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 at 1:42am GMT

"Screams of homophobia . . . "

Wow. That's some reprisal.

I'd much prefer losing my job, having no pension, no support for my spouse, being pilloried at every turn, and possibly physically assaulted.

We gays just don't understand the pain and sacrifice of these strong, brave orthodites.

Seriously, are any of them above the age of 15? That's what all of their complaining, self-pity, and delusions of martyrdom sound like. And, honestly, most adolescents I've ever known were far stronger, more self-giving, and nowhere near as self-pitying as these great "orthodox defenders of the faith." I just imagine these "martyrs" during the reign of Domitian or Nero -

"Colosseum?! Why no sir! I'm not one of them stinkin' Christians! I can tell you who *is*, though!"

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 at 5:23am GMT

'"Screams of homophobia . . . "

Wow. That's some reprisal.'

It doesn't usually stop 'em - does it ?
Truth to tell Synod has been too restrained for that, so far. That is so isn't it ?

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 at 9:36pm GMT

"Truth to tell Synod has been too restrained for that, so far. That is so isn't it ?"

The weakness of progressives - and I speak of one - is our confusion of "tolerance" and "indulgence." We've seen that line blurred and then destroyed by conservative rationalizing, and so fear putting a firm foot down. It looks as indecision, but it's really a terror that we may be "doing what *they* do."

The truth is, boundaries are a good thing, a healthy thing, and boundaries have to be drawn by liberals, as well. One of the boundaries we've failed to draw is what constitutes rational and compassionate behavior. Another is how far we'll bend to accomodate those who feel uncomfortable with change and experimentation.

God is limitless, but we are not, and when we talk about infinite tolerance on our part, we are trying to take God's role, and the result is not tolerance but indulgence and nourishment of bad behavior. In this, the conservatives are right, but are wrong in where - and why - they wish to set the boundary.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 17 February 2010 at 6:43am GMT

Truth to tell Synod has been too restrained for that, so far. That is so isn't it ?"

The weakness of progressives - and I speak of one - is our confusion of "tolerance" and "indulgence." We've seen that line blurred and then destroyed by conservative rationalizing, and so fear putting a firm foot down. It looks as indecision, but it's really a terror that we may be "doing what *they* do."

I think this is very true. Thank you. And I know I struggle with it, personally, myself.

My openness inter-personally and spiritually may be the undoing of me, but I tend to think that in my own idiom, it is 'the doing of me' or the making of me.

I am finding that I believe more and more, in less and less. And this brings me a good deal of joy now, but it does me being prepared to go on dying --or at least going out with the tides towards death or life ... no guarnatees.

Does'nt mean, as you rightly imply, always letting the fearful sh-t on me. Only sometimes ...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 19 February 2010 at 5:22pm GMT
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