Thursday, 23 June 2011

Registration of Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises

Church of England press release:

The Church of England has today submitted its response to the Government’s consultation on Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises.

A Church of England spokesman said: “Given the decision that Parliament has already taken to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in the Equality Act 2010, the response focuses on the need to assure that the forthcoming regulations continue to provide unfettered freedom for each religious tradition to resolve these matters in accordance with its own convictions and its own internal procedures of governance.

“That means that there needs to be an ‘opting in’ mechanism of the kind that the Government has proposed. In the case of the Church of England that would mean that its churches would not be able to become approved premises for the registration of civil partnerships until and unless the General Synod had first decided as a matter of policy that that should be possible.”

The full text of the submission that addresses the specific questions raised by the consultation is set out below.

Go here to read it.

Some key passages relating to whether the Church of England will allow its premises to be so used are copied below the fold (emphasis added).

Q2 and Q3: who will be required to give consent?

5. We agree that because governance structures in faith groups are complex and varied, the Regulations should reflect that diversity.

6. In the case of the Church of England the relevant national decision-making body is the General Synod. The two Archbishops are its presidents, and it comprises a House of Bishops whose membership includes all the diocesan and some suffragan bishops, and Houses of Clergy and Laity whose elected members represent, respectively, the clergy and laity of each diocese. The statutory functions of the General Synod include legislating in respect of matters concerning the Church of England (under legislative powers devolved by Parliament) and considering and expressing its opinion on other matters of religious or public interest.

7. The specified body for the Church of England should, therefore, be the General Synod and it should be named for that purpose in the Regulations.

———

Q 21: Other issues

The faculty jurisdiction

35. In English law, all parish churches of the Church of England and a number of other ecclesiastical buildings are subject to the jurisdiction of the consistory court of the diocese. This aspect of the court’s jurisdiction is called “the faculty jurisdiction”. It extends to controlling not only the making of physical alterations to a church building and to the introduction or removal of articles to or from the building, but also the uses to which a church building may lawfully be put with the consent of the bishop through his chancellor.

36. Any non-sacred use of a church building which is subject to the jurisdiction of the consistory court (other than a use which is expressly authorised by legislation) requires the authority of a formal permission - called a ‘faculty’ - from the consistory court in order for that use to be lawful.

37. The registration of civil partnerships in a church building would, as a matter of law, amount to a non-sacred use of that building. It would, accordingly, require the authority of a faculty. The regulations need therefore to be drafted in a way that leave no doubt that that they are without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the consistory court of the diocese.

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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

Honestly, when you read these endlessly mean-spririted unpastoral miserable documents emanating from the C of E high-ups, you would naturally assume that Anglican parents never produce any gay children, such is their tone, as if trying to keep dirty aliens out of their nice pure little spaces.

Wake up, C of E: if anyone wants to come into your churches and ask to be blessed - for any reason - this is an opportunity, not a grievous assault!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 12:40pm BST

Paragraph 37 says:

"The registration of civil partnerships in a church building would, as a matter of law, amount to a non-sacred use of that building. It would, accordingly, require the authority of a faculty."

Is that right?

I don't think so.

Posted by: badman on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 1:02pm BST

Not surprising that the CofE, having lost the battle to prevent others from authorising civil partnerships in Church is now desperate to ensure that no autonomous local action is possible. Everything regarding this has to be reserved to General Synod and it wants this written into the new regulations. I wonder whether this is possible. The new regulations will apply to all Churches and denominations and I don't see how they can tailored to include specific details for each and every one. At the very least this sounds to me like special pleading. At it's worst it is another attempt to fix the NO situation for the foreseable future (just like the 'legal advice' on the appointment of LGBT bishops).

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 4:26pm BST

More sh-te from high level of C of E.

Very nasty blocking tactics - but so transparent.

And yet so many churches are like gay clubs especially the high ones.

I have no respect for Williams and his bishops. Nor for the Synod which sits back and gets sh-fted by them.;

Go on sliding into further irrelevance, moral vapidity and numerical decline.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 4:42pm BST

It is now clear that when the C of E authorised same sex relationships for laity, in Issues in Human Sexuality, it was insincere and duplicitous.

I take it the C of E prefers lots of uncommitted relationships and free love to committed monogamous ones ?

As it DECLINES to support the latter.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 4:48pm BST

The Church of England as an institution is an embarrassment! I am ashamed to be associated with it. It's high time for the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe to have a presence in England.

Posted by: Paul David Dean on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 5:34pm BST

If the church is worried about government initiatives being arbitrarily imposed upon itself, then the church should disestablish itself from government positions.

In saying that, there are general principles that any and all religions are bound to honour e.g. no blood sacrifices of children.

It is healthy to have discusssion about what is or is not permissible or beneficial. It is not healthy to unfairly use a position of power to thwart others' access to justice and mercy. It is duplicitious to claim that deprivation is an act of love. It's not. It's selfishness and complacency at its worst.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 5:37pm BST

The CofE's position that only the General Synod can decide if registration of civil partenrships in parish churches will be allowed, at first, seems unexceptional for a hierarchical Church.

However, using the portion of CofE law regarding "non-sacred" uses of parish churches, as the rubric under which this decision should be taken, as a matter of law, amount to a non-sacred use of that building", is profoundly insulting and unconscionably dismissive towards the love between LBGT persons. What an amazing thing for the CofE to state in its official response to the government! This Church has committed to the "Listening Process", but it seems precious little listening is going on.

TEC has spent forty years listening carefully to the experience of LGBT persons and couples. We have, in that process, developed a nascent theology of committed and married love with shared virtues which are to be our standards and way of life in same and opposite sex relationships. That the love between two Christians is sacred is axiomatic for such a theology.

What is more important to a couple than the circumstances of their marriage and the support of their families, and those they love, including their Church or parish families?

Parliament has listened to the needs of LGBT persons to register their partnerships in church buildings, to use hymns and readings from Scripture at the time of registration, and, thereafter, to receive the blessing of those Churches willing to offer it. Still, the CofE, which has the cure of souls as its mission, takes refuge in "a matter of law", describing the registration of civil partnerships as a non-sacred use of church buildings in order to continue its morally unacceptable discrimination against LGBT persons. Evidently, the persons authorizing this response have no idea how this statement will be received by LGBT persons and their families and friends, especially by those still willing to work within the CofE for equality and basic decency in the treatment of its members. I say "basic decency" because it seems to me that asking the episcopal leaders of the CofE for moral leadership in this matter is unrealistic, at best.

"Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est."

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 5:59pm BST

It will be interesting to see whether denominations like the Methodists and the URC take a similar line. Maybe it will be like the old days with divorcees..."Sorry we cant help you, try the Methodist Church down the road". I always thought this equality legislation was going to cause a considerable cause of friction between the C of E and the government.Disestablishment is a process, and I am sure long term these sorts of issues will accelerate it, especially if numerical decline further accelerates.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 6:05pm BST

Karen McQueen says:'The CofE's position that only the General Synod can decide if registration of civil partenrships in parish churches will be allowed, at first, seems unexceptional for a hierarchical Church.'

Actually, General Synod is not just hierarchical, but also democratic, in that 2 of its 3 houses are elected, not appointed. I suppose the House of Bishops could block any appproval, but a point would be made about hirarchy and democracy. Bit of a pious hope, of course, but General Synod is not just a rubber stamping body for the Bishops or their legal advisers, as events have sometimes shown.

Posted by: peter kettle on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 6:41pm BST

As someone once said "There is so little love around that when you see it you want to bless it!"

Posted by: Robert Ellis on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 7:02pm BST

Fr Mark
"Wake up, C of E: if anyone wants to come into your churches and ask to be blessed - for any reason - this is an opportunity, not a grievous assault!"

The way things are going, it will soon not be an opportunity but a miracle!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 9:32pm BST

The church recognises lifelong sexual exclusivity as a worthy ideal. However, given the call for the church to perform civil partnerships in a religious setting, does the State, in turn, intend to reciprocate by allowing an added religious flavour to the contracting words used in the civil part of the ceremony?

I can't quite reconcile the considerably higher religious tone and demand of the vow before God and His minister 'to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony..,for better for worse...till death us do part' with dull, secular contracting words like: 'I … take you … to be my civil partner under law. I make this pledge freely, with honesty and sincerity and with a commitment that will grow deeper and stronger as the years pass.'

Is there any chance that the civil registrar might tart up those relatively uninspiring words in religious settings? How about substituting 'God's holy ordinance' for 'under law' or 'till death us do part' for 'as the years pass'? Unlikely to budge on that?

At the very least, the benefit of canon law is that it provides members of the entire church with a common historically and biblically developed framework of mutual God-given expectations in relationships that are blessed within the body of Christ. It is only within this common framework that a church blessing should be invoked. What two people agree in a public secular setting is open to wider range of secular interpretations.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 11:36pm BST

It is my experience, but it feels weird and rather disloyal, to be a priest of the Church and to be glad that the voice of the church is deemed increasingly irrelevant by so many. It can't be long before synod members are the only active church members left and they'll be able to meet in sucessively smaller venues. Meanwhile God's rainbow people will continue to find places to worship and to ask for God's blessing on all that is life giving without needing or seeking the established church's approval. GLBT people know that we are considered to be quite expendable by even the more liberal members of the episcopate, however history is on our side even if every step forward has to be hard fought. If the Bishops want to ensure that they are a homophobic or impotent tortured liberal (I'm not sure which is worse) group of people talking to themselves they are going the right way about it. Canute yelled at the sea in order to show the limit of his powers, not because he believed the sea would obey him.

Posted by: Jonathan Kirkpatrick on Thursday, 23 June 2011 at 11:53pm BST

"Paragraph 37 says:

"The registration of civil partnerships in a church building would, as a matter of law, amount to a non-sacred use of that building. It would, accordingly, require the authority of a faculty."

Does that mean that, for instance, an organ recital in a church building would require the authority of a faculty?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 12:45am BST

For many years I have been a regular communicant in various C of E churches, when visiting the UK. But about a year ago I decided to boycott services there - this sort of thing just seems to go on an on, and it is intolerable. It is doubly painful as a very dear friend in the UK is a priest who is appalled as I am - but the church is the church, and I want none of it. Thank God for the Episcopal Church.

Do the Powers That be EVER consider how many people they are chasing away with these unseemly goings-on? How many regard the C of E as utterly irrelevant, if not downright wrong?

Posted by: Nat on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 1:34am BST

Jonathan Kirkpatrick -

Thank you for a brilliant contribution!

(It is also exemplary for being informed by head and heart rather than spleen.)

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 7:37am BST

Robert Ellis writes: "As someone once said "There is so little love around that when you see it you want to bless it!"

Charming but rather huberistic. Which of us has a blessing to impart? Surely we can only impart God's blessing....and there is the rub given scripture and the tradition of the church on matters sexual. By what authority could we do this?

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 7:50am BST

David
The reason the State doesn't permit any religious flavour to civil ceremonies is because the churches lobbied strongly against it in order to retain their position. If you want religion, you go to church, they argued at the time, and the Government responded by accepting this view.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 8:12am BST

We know Ed has ceded his authority to Rome(so he says, when it suits him).

But without that clutter anyone may access the spiritual authority within their heart. Indeed, many of us know BS when we encounter it, whether from Canterbury or Rome.

the Peruvian lilies
shining in the morning sun
in a suburban garden

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 9:07am BST

Do the Powers That be EVER consider how many people they are chasing away with these unseemly goings-on? How many regard the C of E as utterly irrelevant, if not downright wrong?

Nat, this is a point which I, and no doubt many others, continually make where ever possible. The extraordinary things is that it is a point which in their response is never, ever, addressed. Purity seems to be more important than people and the CofE is becoming, has become, a club to which you can only belong if you sign up to its rules. Nothing to do with the gospel at all.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 9:39am BST

Hi Erika,

That's a valid point. However, it's clear that the proposals accept that there is no longer that unified stance on civil ceremonies for all churches. The State wants to permit civil ceremonies to take place in a religious setting for those churches that embrace the validity of civil partnerships.

Surely, churches that accept the proposals won't now have any such objection to an added religious flavour, in which case, the State should now allow them to vary the contracting words accordingly.

At the very least, 'Till death us do part' is a commitment that can be owned by any seriously devoted couple.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 10:14am BST

Ed
You're absolutely right, you only pronounce God's blessing.

The beauty of this is that God may well not bless what you pronounce blessed and that he may well bless where you refuse the rite.

It is precisely trusting in God's love, grace and mercy and in the visible fruits of our lives, that we lgbt couples know ourselves to be truly blessed by him.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 10:30am BST

Ed Tomlinson "Which of us has a blessing to impart? Surely we can only impart God's blessing....and there is the rub given scripture and the tradition of the church on matters sexual. By what authority could we do this?"

Ed, you really need to decide whether you are writing as an RC priest on here, or are still an Anglican. If the former, then you are obliged to hold that none of the rest of us, as Anglican clergy, has a blessing to impart.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 12:28pm BST

David
I believe you are allowed to say "Til death do us part" because that is not an intrinsically religious statement.

At our civil partnership I was surprised at what could be said and what couldn't, and I found the rules to be much more flexible than I had imagined.
As long as you don't mention any religious concepts nor make reference to God, you are fairly free to say or recite what you like. That also goes for music.

The ridiculous extreme, and I believe that's down to worried Registrars not wanting to put a foot wrong, is the story of a registry office refusing the couple to use Robbie Williams' song Angels.
But that may be an urban myth.

Apart from that, I agree with you!
Especially as a civil partnered woman I would have liked the opporunity to be more overtly religious during our ceremony, especially since the church did not give the option of a religious one.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 1:15pm BST

For heterosexual couples, the church publishes banns with the phrase 'cause or just impediment'. These are canonical impediments that go beyond the secular framework of legislation.

Are there any possible canonical, rather than mere secular impediments to a civil partnerships taking place in a religious setting?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 1:32pm BST

'Angels' is on the banned list - as is anything by John Donne - my daughter got round that one - she submitted the words of the 'Good Morrow' but attributed them to 'Anon'. They passed.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 4:22pm BST

>

One is almost tempted to ask what fascist country this is going on in. How deeply, distressingly sad.

Posted by: Nat on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 4:56pm BST

@David Shepherd

The modern form of words for Banns ends


This is the first / second / third time of asking. If any of you know any reason in law why they may not marry each other you are to declare it


The legality of this form was dealt with at last November's Group of Sessions of the General synod

Posted by: John Roch on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 8:09pm BST

@John:
You are absolutely right. I will read up and find out whether 'reason in law' excludes earlier prohibitions in canon law.

Also, how canon law might apply to civil partnerships, if, in future, they were solemnised in an Anglican church setting.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 10:00pm BST

'We judge that the approach taken in the consultation paper should be capable of delivering the opt-in approach that we support, given the decision Parliament has already taken."

- C.of E. response to prospect of 'Blessings' -

It's a good thing that God does not 'judge' in the same way that the church judges - otherwise, there would be no-one in the Kingdom of Heaven.

What Mr. Fittall probably means, is that the Church of England chooses to OPT OUT, rather then opt-in. I disagree with Ed Tomlinson who says that only God can bless. The Church has been given the unique opportunity to offer blessings and is, in this case, choosing to opt out. (OR - is this a new way of saying, really, we'll think about it?)

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 26 June 2011 at 1:44am BST

If the Cof E bishops don't discipline the new AMIE , how can they hope to keep this out of their churches.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Tuesday, 28 June 2011 at 7:29am BST

"If the Cof E bishops don't discipline..." - RIW

I don't think they will be in any hurry to invoke disciplinary procedure after Southwark.

Posted by: A J Barford on Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 3:55pm BST
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