Friday, 18 February 2011

Civil Partnerships & Marriage: Church Times report

The Church Times website has a report by Ed Beavan and me, Civil partnerships will not be forced on Church, says May.

This expands the earlier report by Ed which appears in the paper edition, to include an interview with Lynne Featherstone which I conducted on Thursday. The portion of the report containing the interview is copied below the fold.

Speaking on Thursday to the Church Times, the Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, confirmed that there would be two separate streams of action.

Neither of these, she said, constituted government approval of “gay marriages in churches”, as some religious commentators had suggested.

One stream would implement Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Act 2010 by bringing forward, in the late Spring, draft amendments to Clause 11 of the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.

There would then be a formal public consultation on this draft, before a text was laid before Parliament for approval. The regulations currently prohibit not only the use of religious premises for civil partnerships, but also the use (in any venue) of religious texts, such as Bible readings or hymns, or the participation of a minister of religion.

Ms Featherstone confirmed that the consultation would address all of these aspects. She stressed, however, that the key issue was to ensure religious freedom, both for those who wished to take advantage of these changes, and those who did not want to do so.

There was no question that any organisation, or any individual member of the clergy, would be under any Government compulsion to do anything.

Asked whether the Church of England would be able, under the new regulations, to opt out en bloc from the new provisions, the Minister said that this had yet to be decided, and would depend on the outcome of the consultation.

As a separate stream of activity, the Government was committing to a review of further possible changes to the law to bring civil partnerships and civil marriage more closely in line with each other.

Ms Featherstone emphasised that this was a matter of “early days and baby steps”. There was as yet no defined plan of activity, but the Government would consult very broadly and very carefully before proceeding further.

There would be detailed consultations with representatives of all the religious faiths, as well as with all other interested parties. If suggested changes to the civil arrangements impinged on the law relating to marriage in the Church of England, that would have to be taken into account.

This announcement, said the Minister, was simply a commitment to look further at the relevant issues, which were complex. The consultations were not working to any deadline, and would be allowed to take “whatever time it takes”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 12:09am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Unlike the Church Times, the Sydney Diocese website reports that gay marriage is to be 'forced' on the churches in England (with a link to the Daily Telegraph's report of the plea from the Archbishop of York). Since the Minister responsible and the relevant legislation specifically exclude any form of compulsion this can only be regarded as deliberate mischief making to say the least.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 10:14am GMT

The Church of England at a national level is going to try to force and bully the people :

I think the C of E at a national level is going to try to force people NOT to have the holy rites they seek in church.

And will seek to force ministers not to give the holy ministry they long to give to loving couples and their families and friends.

What a witness.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 6:31pm GMT

Yes, don't worry. No one will force the Church to do the right thing.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 9:41pm GMT

>> the Sydney Diocese website reports

Is this the site you mean?

The brain trust that has a link to their homepage -- at the top of their home page?

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 9:46pm GMT

What else would one expect from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney - committed as it is to the homophobia of GAFCON. Sydney is in no way typical of the Australian Province, to which it is scarcely related in any redemptive initiative of the Inclusive Gospel outreach to LGBTs.

One wonders what will happen to the Sydney Archdiocese when GAFCON makes it move towards a separate puritanical faux-Anglicanism.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 11:26pm GMT

Richard wrote "Unlike the Church Times, the Sydney Diocese website reports that gay marriage is to be 'forced' on the churches in England"

We all assume that the 'forcing' is going to come from the Government. In my own opinion however, any forcing will come from inside the Church of England.

At present if a minister, congregation and gay couple are all in favour of a certain church hosting a civil partnership ceremony, then the powers that be can simply say it is against the law. But if the law changes it will be much harder to argue that such a thing must not be done, and the pressure for change from inside the church will be much harder to resist. I think this is what the Bishops were afraid of when they voted against this in the Lords last year.


Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 18 February 2011 at 11:57pm GMT

Randal the direct link is here

Simon, I think that you may be right and I for one look forward to such actions. Interesting too that the Act of Synod was designed to accomodate those who wished not to accept the majority view about women's ordination while the Bishops will allow no deviation from their dictat on this issue.

I think that the whole issue also relates to the postings elsewhere here about the lack of involvement of the laity in the ordering of church life. The Covenant practicaly ignores us and, as I have said before, the synodical governance of the Church of England dis-enfranchises the person in the pew through the system of indirect election. It seems to me that here as elsewhere we have an effort to keep the actions of the Holy Spirit within the control of the Bishops and thus the mission of the Church is hobbled by the very people who ought to facilitate it.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 19 February 2011 at 9:25am GMT

I've just looked in on the Diocese of Sydney's web-site. It looks more like a Body Corporate than anything at connected to the Body of Christ. There are so many individuals thrusting for power. One wonders whether spirituality ever gets a look in - Oh, the Archbishop (Jensen), in civvies, does happen to give a plug for the joys of heterosexual marriage - but whether his opinion on this or any other human relationship issue could be considered particularly mainline *Christian* might be open to opinion.

The 'corporate image', by the way - since the global meltdown - may not be so appropriate. I believe Mr Jensen may now be hard put to finance further travel for his visits to GAFCON meetings around the Global South. Money is tight.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 20 February 2011 at 10:20pm GMT
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