Friday, 12 March 2010

Equality Bill: CofE Statement

The Church of England has published a note entitled Lord Alli’s amendment - civil partnerships. I am told that this was published on 5 March.

Key points regarding Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill:

  • the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament so may not yet be in its final form
  • even once Royal Assent is achieved Ministers have to decide when each of its provisions are brought into force
  • and in this case there will also have to be fresh amending regulations before there is the possibility of places of worship becoming locations for civil partnerships
  • so, there is much that remains unclear for the moment and will remain so for quite some time yet.

Lord Alli’s amendment inserts a new clause into the Equality Bill that would remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships. It does not, however, mean that anyone who wishes to do so will now be able to register a civil partnership in church - the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament.

First, the Government need to consider whether the amendment, as drafted, is adequate or whether further amendments are needed to achieve what it intends; including the intention that it should not place “an obligation on religious organisation to host civil partnerships”.

Secondly, the new provision, if contained in the Bill as enacted, would not have effect until it was brought into force by order made by the Secretary of State. Given that existing Regulations make it impossible for religious premises to be approved for civil partnership registration, those Regulations would have to be amended before the new provisions could be brought into force. Amending those Regulations will, itself, require careful consideration.

As matters currently stand it remains the case that civil partnerships cannot be registered on religious premises. Precisely how that position may change remains to be seen.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 8:21am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
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"First, the Government need(s) to consider whether the amendment, as drafted, is adequate or whether further amendments are needed to achieve what it intends; including the intention that it should not place 'an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships'"
- Equality Bill - C.of E. Statement -

Do I scent a whiff of panic in the air? Is there a tiny bit of paranoia going on here? Or is this a serious comment on what the amendment set out to do? As has been very clearly stated - by Lord Alli, the Mover of The Amendment - there is absolutely no intention of 'forcing' any religious organisation to do anything it does not want to do. Clearly, though, someone in the C.of E. back-room bureaucracy is terrified that somehow the Government might sneak up behind them and present a fait'accompli - Voila! Gay Marriage in Church!.

Not so. Read again carefully the wording of the amendment - and report back! Really, I thought these Church hierarchs were university-educated.

"By their fruits you shall know them."

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 9:46am GMT

Civil partnerships are now a fact of living in this century. Many couples now rejoice in the acceptance of them in a legal relationship.

Many of these couples are Christians, and would have wished to have a form of Blessing of their relationship in their church. It now appears they must be content to be disabused of that rite of passage in the church of England/Roman Catholic church. For many this is a continued hurt that they have experienced all their lives by churches that speak with a forked tongue.

Reading the gospels and listening to the words of Our Lord about love, and loving relationship with God and our neighbour, again the Cof E/RC churches appear to be lacking in that very matter. Only if you are heterosexual, and having loads of babies are you welcome to have a Blessing

Is love only connected with sex? I think not.

We see in the old testament and the new of many loving relationships. i.e David and Jonathan, the beloved disciple, Barnabas and Paul.

We pray that the Holy Spirit will awake these churches to the true meaning of the inclusive gospel of love.

It appears the liberal jews,and quakers for long have listened to Gods word.

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 12:30pm GMT

Ron
I don't think the CoE panic has anything to do with the Government's intentions but with the fact that many of its own priests now seem to think they are allowed to celebrate civil partnerships in church. With that rises the fear that many will do so regardless of the official policy of their church or their Bishop.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 12:37pm GMT

including the intention that it should not place “an obligation on religious organisation to host civil partnerships”.

No the obligation on churches to hold or host them, to be hospitable comes from the kingdom of heaven, not the will of Man and certainly no the say so of bishops of all things.
Though deeply, profoundly compromised by its ignoring of Jesus' messsage, and of the kingdom of heaven --- have no doubts-- the C of E could still do good.

Can still at every level from national to parish, to each individual -- can still do acts of good.

It can work wonders, can't it !

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 12:45pm GMT

The official C of E statement (no-one consulted me !) had a feel of Gilbert & Sullivan about it.

Is there a lord high CP Premises authorizer ? etc!
They ve got a Long List then -- not a little list. An L L of Obfuscation , Flannel and waffle.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 12:49pm GMT

I am not sure that this statement, which it turns out is now a week old, should be viewed as an expression of panic. Could it perhaps be viewed as an attempt to gently rebut the scare-mongering claims of the Bishop of Winchester?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 1:07pm GMT

Simon
I think it could possibly be both.
I was quite surprised by the number of priests who seem to think they're now free to celebrate civil partnerships. One said that as soon as it's been legalised by the Queen, who is also the head of the church, there is nothing to stop any priest from conducting CPs whatever the bishops might think.
I wonder whether the church hierarchy was also a little taken aback by this kind of response. They must have thought the danger came from without, not from within, but it looks as though there are some from within who could pose the next real problem.
In that context, it's not bad policy to affirm that the legislation does not have to have any implications for the CoE.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 2:59pm GMT

Nothing to stop?
I knew that standards of intellect among the clergy were dropping, but has it really come to this?
Let's try it again:The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005, Regulation 11, Clause 2(b):

(2) In particular, the proceedings shall not—
(b) be led by a minister of religion or other religious leader;

What part of "shall not" do they not understand?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 3:18pm GMT

Simon we do understand the law as it stands, but as caring priests, we wish it to be changed, and permission,given to Bless such couples who wish to be Bleesed in church.

Like women Bishops , an inclusive church is to some Bishops an anathema. Not all Bishops, and we must thank them and Thank God for them in speaking out for change and inclusive understanding

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 3:49pm GMT

Simon
Maybe these people believe that the amendment does away with this clause?

I'm still trying to work out what Iain McLean means when he says that the Quakers can now celebrate CPs, because according to the regulations you quote, they can't, all they can do is invite a Registrar to their Meeting.

At the least, it has to be true to say that there's a lot of confusion about what the amendment allows and what it replaces.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 4:58pm GMT

Simon & Erika: the confusion, though, is not necessarily attributable to weakness of clerical intellect. Surely it is a highly illogical position that clergy may act as state-recognised registrars for partnership ceremonies (aka marriages) between heterosexuals, but not for ceremonies between partners of the same sex?

The absurdity of the whole situation grows daily, as more and more of the faithful in the pews themselves contract or witness ceremonies affirming love and commitment whilst the hierarchy merely scowls and disdains to even notice that there might be an urgent need for appropriate pastoral provision for them.

One cannot help but contrast the viciousness of this drawn-out debate in the C of E which the very calm and inoffensive debate which has been and is going on at the same time in the Scandinavian monarchies. At the moment in Denmark, a same-sex state and church marriage provision is being debated in Parliament. While there is a great deal of discussion in the Danish media about it at the moment (and 60% of both the bishops and the public are in favour of it), there is none of the visceral animosity towards gay people that is really at the root of the issue in the UK and US contexts.

The difference in the tenor of the debate is striking: no-one in Denmark is raising the spectre of doomsday scenarios for the Church/the Family/Society if gay marriage is allowed; quite unlike the burgeoning industry of certain English churchpeople working round the clock for years at little else than trying to scapegoat, scaremonger and frustrate progress towards decent treatment for gay Christians.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 5:03pm GMT

I would be happy to break this Law for the sake of heaven.

The couples aleady have heaven's blessing but it is natural some of want prayer and maybe praise with our friens and family. Isn't blessing a form of praise really ? Wwe bles God, God blesses us .....
... a viruous in best sense of word circle.

I sometimes wonder wonder the church be better off without bishops (as we have them now) --all manner of oversight and caring and encouragement are possible ! 'Episcope' is, as Wesley pointed out excercied by many. Many gifts, one Spirit. One Seed of Xt. People come to Christ without bishops and having come they keep on

( Btw Typing without glasses with aid of magnifing glass and old toych type skills now rusty.(


Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 6:31pm GMT

The UK civil law is quite clear and quite specific, and also quite different, in the matter of who can act as a marriage registrar on the one hand, or as a civil partnership registrar on the other hand.

Nothing in Lord Alli's amendment as passed by the HoL changes any of that.

Notice that I did not say that the civil law is logical or consistent. But surely it is clear?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 7:03pm GMT

Simon
So when Iain McLean says that the Quakers can now conduct CPs, that really has to mean that they have to invite a registrar to their Meeting and that specific words will have to be said to make the partnership legal?
Which is quite a departure from how the Quakers conduct marriages and, I gather, not what Iain thinks will happen.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 8:38pm GMT

Erika

I understand that Quaker representatives are in active discussion with government officials at the moment about how this might work for them, and we should all wait to see what gets agreed about CP registrars attending Quaker meeting houses (or not).

But in any case the legality of a CP at present does not depend on any particular words being uttered, it is strictly a matter of signing written documents. That is quite different from the marriage formalities which do require spoken words.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 10:47pm GMT

On February 15, 1576 the couple...

maryed; and because the sayde Thomas was and is naturally deafe, and also dumbe, so that the order of the form of marriage used usually amongst others, which can heare and speake, could not for his parte be observed. After the approbation had from Thomas, the Bishoppe of Lincolne, John Chippendale, doctor in law, and commissarye, as also of Mr. Richd. Davye, then Mayor of the town of Leicester, with others of his brethren, with the rest of the parishe, the said Thomas, for the expressing of his mind instead of words, of his own accord used these signs :
First, he embraced her with his arms, and took her by the hand, putt a ring upon her finger, and layde his hande upon his hearte, and then upon her hearte, and held up his handes toward heaven. And to show his continuance to dwell with her to his lyves ende, he did it by closing of his eyes with his handes, and digginge out of the earth with his foote, and pullinge as though he would ring a bell, with diverse other signes.
(Cox, 1910; 84)
And then there is this:
another wedding was held on the 7th of November 1618, between Sarah Earle and the deaf-mute Thomas Speller.

...the said Thomas Speller the dumb parties willingness to have the same performed, appeared, by taking the Book of Common Prayer and his licence in one hand and his bride in the other, and coming to Mr. John Briggs, our minister and preacher, and made the best signs he could to show that he was willing to be married, which was then performed accordinglie.
And also the said Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, as Mr. Briggs was informed, was made acquainted with the said marriage before it was solemnized, and allowed to be lawful. This marriage is set down at large, because we never had the like before.
(Dyer, 1898 141)

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 13 March 2010 at 12:25am GMT

Simon
"But in any case the legality of a CP at present does not depend on any particular words being uttered, it is strictly a matter of signing written documents. That is quite different from the marriage formalities which do require spoken words."

That's interesting, because our register office (and the form they sent us) insisted on a set of particular words that had to be fitted in and around the service we wrote for ourselves.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 13 March 2010 at 10:05am GMT

Erika
The point I am making is this: there is NO legal requirement to hold any ceremony at all; but there is a legal requirement to sign the document.

The decision to hold a ceremony is entirely up to the two partners.

How a particular register office then organises to supply a (non-religious) ceremony is, broadly speaking, up to them. But, as I understand it, they are in turn under no legal obligation to provide one.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 13 March 2010 at 4:58pm GMT

That IS interesting Erika.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 13 March 2010 at 5:47pm GMT

Thanks, Simon!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 13 March 2010 at 6:02pm GMT
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