Friday, 5 March 2010

Quakers respond to the Bishop of Winchester

Update

The Quaker position is admirably explained in a booklet, available starting here: We are but witnesses: same sex marriages (also there is a PDF version linked from there).

Ekklesia has two items:

Symon Hill writes about Scaremongering and religious liberty and he concludes:

…Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, has predicted (with no evidence whatsoever) that the Bill will lead to clergy being sued for refusing to carry out such ceremonies. It is frustrating that the media should pay so much attention to such an unfounded prediction, let alone that a national daily paper should lead with a headline wording this prediction as fact.

Since the vote in the Lords, those who are afraid of religious same-sex partnerships have latched on to Scott-Joynt’s wild warnings as an excuse for opposing the legislation. Knowing how mean it would appear to refuse religious liberty to others, they claim instead that it is their own religious liberty which is under threat.

It is sad that some seem to think that a thing must either be prohibited or compulsory, and cannot be optional. It says a great deal about their world view that they are unable to envisage a situation of real religious liberty, in which different groups can promote their views and values through dialogue and persuasion rather than coercion and the misuse of law.

Iain McLean A reply to Michael Scott-Joynt over religious civil partnerships and here is an extract:

…The issues which still divide us seem to be:

Does passing the Alli amendment send us down a slippery slope? The Times and Telegraph reports on what you say about this are, I think, rather uncritical. I am surprised that the Government Equalities Office has not commented on them, since, as you know, Lord Alli and the three denominations that sought his amendment all insist that it is designed to apply only to those denominations that request it, hence the ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ clause that he added in the version that was carried in the Lords.

Neither the Quakers nor the Church of England are congregationalist. Our Yearly Meeting decided to seek what is now the Alli amendment. It is, presumably, for your Synod to discuss the same subject and come to its own view. If it does not wish to offer civil partnerships in church, how might your (and/or Lord Tebbit’s) nightmare unfold?

Case 1: an incumbent conducts a civil partnership ceremony in defiance of his/her bishop. But the ceremony would have no legal standing unless the incumbent had applied to be a ‘religious organisation’. I am sure the regulations can be drafted so as to ensure that applications to conduct civil partnerships are only entertained from the highest judicatory of the denomination.

Case 2: a militant same-sex couple apply to a church for a partnership purely in order to sue the vicar after the application is refused. First, I deplore the efforts of Ben Summerskill, Peter Tatchell and others to use the Alli amendment as a wedge to drive civil partnership into an unwilling Church of England. Nor was the letter to The Times that some of your colleagues signed so intended. I drafted it to make clear that it was not about the Church of England.

Second, I cannot see how such an action would get anywhere in a UK court in the face of the clear wording of the Alli amendment. In recent discrimination cases, the courts have been unsympathetic towards politically motivated anti-discrimination claims.

Case 3: a loving same-sex couple do the same, in sorrow rather than anger. It would be very peculiar for them to put their litigiousness ahead of their love. If they are comfortable with the usage of Friends and willing to follow the (quite onerous) requirements laid down in Quaker Faith and Practice to test their commitment, then I hope they would choose that route. I am sure the Unitarians would also welcome them.

In none of those three cases do I see any road to Strasbourg.

Maintaining the distinction between civil partnership and marriage….

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 March 2010 at 6:36pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

I am glad to read that Michael Scott-Joynt's fears are being allayed.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 5 March 2010 at 7:45pm GMT

"It is sad that some seem to think that a thing must either be prohibited or compulsory, and cannot be optional."

It IS sad.

But many DO think (FEAR!) it.

[I believe that such fear-mongering is actually a long-held saying? Attributable to some Fundy or other? E.g., "Everything permissible eventually becomes mandatory"? My Googling efforts for same did not retrieve it, alas.]

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 5 March 2010 at 8:17pm GMT

"As ye sew, so shall you reap"

The all-too-vocal opponents of the anti-discrimination Bill (especially conservative leaders in the Church of England like Bp. Michael Scott-Joynt) should really think about what they are doing on this issue of the propriety of offering religious input into the celebration of Christian same-sex partnerships.

As has been suggested, their denial of pastoral accommodation to the desire of a faithful same-sex couple to receive a Blessing on their union may just encourage faithful law-abiding Christian couples away from the Church of England, into one of the more graciously accepting Christian denominations which encourage committed, monogamous same-sex relationship Blessings.

However, as has been stated in the contributions to this thread, the Church of England is cartainly not being forced into giving same-sex Blessings by this particular regulation. So the dire warnings of the likes of the Bishop of Winchester are *jumping the gun* - as we say here in Australasia.

Such scare tactics are not a particularly Christian way of dealing with this important matter, and will not help the general public to understand "The ways in which God's mercy works" -one of the Gospel precepts!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 5 March 2010 at 9:40pm GMT

Will the Quakers and Unitarians confine their celebration of civil unions to their own members, or will they also welcome a host of Anglicans, Roman Catholics, etc., anxious to celebrate the union in a church?

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Saturday, 6 March 2010 at 9:51am GMT

I'm waiting to see how the government deals with the amendment back in the House of Commons.

If I was designing a service for a partnership, I'd want it to approach a highlight of the signing. At this point a registrar might come in from the office/ vestry or may have sat at the back. The service pauses while the registrar oversees and manages the signing, and then he goes back to sit down again. The service can conclude. After that there might be some fake signing photos and the rest and the registrar can leave.

If the registrar insists on a document signed at the beginning or signed at the end only then it makes the service more awkward.

It would also be wrong to have to 'clear' a service with a registrar. Once we know the rules, and anyway we know a registrar isn't involved in a service of marriage (beyond listening out for the legal words), the religious community should be able to get on with it and let the registrar just do the legal bit.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 6 March 2010 at 12:26pm GMT

"will they also welcome a host of Anglicans, Roman Catholics, etc., anxious to celebrate the union in a church?"

Bring it on. Turn up at the door and leave a request.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 6 March 2010 at 7:28pm GMT

"As ye sew, so shall you reap"

I thought the proverb was 'as ye sow?' or have I missed something about ecclesiastical embroidery in the discussion?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 6 March 2010 at 7:37pm GMT

"I thought the proverb was 'as ye sow?'"
- Richard Ashby -

Ah! Richard. You see, we still do have sinners amongst us. We pedants sometimes even make a slip ourselves. I revel in sackcloth and ashes for my so obvious departure from the standard of literary merit required on the blogs.

Yes, indeed! to sow, or not to sew, that is the question. and you have given me the answer. Thank you, Richard. Blessings for Lent.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 6 March 2010 at 8:29pm GMT

It is worth stating that human rights cases can only be taken against states so the Human Rights Act has no incidence on the Church of England.

The Equality Act will contain religious exemptions - equalities legislation always has done so and would never require a church to bless a union it didn't agree with (ironically the Human Rights Act would protect churches in such a circumstance).

Ben Summerskill's remarks in this respect were quite ignorant and unhelpful. But he is equally matched by the Bishop of Winchester's woeful ignorance of the basics of legislation in the area and yet he gets to sit in the legislature.

If we are to be burdened by an unelected legislature it should at least be a reasonably well informed one.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 6 March 2010 at 9:12pm GMT

The Bishop sounds dishearteningly like the right wing in the US, who claim that civil marriage equality infringes on their religious freedom.

I had always thought you Brits were smarter than that.

Posted by: IT on Sunday, 7 March 2010 at 10:25pm GMT

JCF, I think you are referring to the following, attributed to the late Fr. John Richard Neuhaus:

"I'll presume to call it Neuhaus' Law, or at least one of his several laws: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed. Some otherwise bright people have indicated their puzzlement with that axiom but it seems to me, well, axiomatic. Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy's good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others."

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 2:08am GMT
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