Friday, 1 July 2011

House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships and same-sex relationships

Press release from the Church of England

Civil partnerships and same-sex relationships - a statement by the House of Bishops of the Church of England

The House of Bishops today issued a statement about the continuing debate within the Church of England about same-sex relationships. Speaking on behalf of the House, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said:

“Contrary to popular perception the House of Bishops has spent very little time over recent years discussing homosexuality. The last substantive engagement with the issue was in 2005 when the House agreed to issue a pastoral statement prepared by a group under my chairmanship on the implications of the introduction of civil partnerships. The House has now agreed that the time has come to commission two new pieces of work.

“First it has asked for a review of the 2005 statement in the light of subsequent developments. The review will include examination of whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops. The 2005 statement was silent on this issue and, while the relevant legal background was analysed in a recently published Legal Office note, the House acknowledges its responsibility to address the policy issue. To avoid pre-empting the outcome of the review the House has concluded that clergy in civil partnerships should not, at present, be nominated for episcopal appointment. The review will be completed in 2012.

“Secondly, the House has committed itself to a wider look at the Church of England’s approach to same-sex relationships more generally in the light of the listening process launched by the Lambeth Conference in 1998. The Bishops will produce a consultation document in 2013. The House’s decision is motivated by a desire to help shape the continuing debate constructively and not by any view about what the outcome should be.”

The statement follows:

A Statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England

“It is now nearly six years since the House issued its Pastoral Statement prior to the introduction of civil partnerships in December 2005. The preparation of that document was the last occasion when the House devoted substantial time to the issue of same sex relationships. We undertook to keep that Pastoral Statement under review. We have decided that the time has come for a review to take place.

“Over the past five and half years there have been several developments. Consistent with the guidelines in the Pastoral Statement a number of clergy are now in civil partnerships. The General Synod decided to amend the clergy pension scheme to improve the provision for the surviving civil partners of clergy who have died. More recently Parliament has decided that civil partnerships may be registered on religious premises where the relevant religious authority has consented (the necessary regulations are expected this autumn).

“The review will need to take account of this changing scene. The Pastoral Statement was not concerned with clergy alone but with the whole people of God. We recognise that bishops and clergy have found ways of engaging pastorally with those in civil partnerships, both at the time of registration and subsequently. Within the Anglican tradition our theological thinking is formed by a reasoned interpretation of Scripture, within the living tradition of the Church informed by pastoral experience. The House believes there is a theological task to be done to clarify further our understanding of the nature and status of these partnerships.

“These are the background issues for a review of the 2005 Statement. It will be undertaken in the context of the Church of England’s teaching on same sex relations as set out in the General Synod motion of November 1987 and Issues in Human Sexuality (a teaching statement from the House of Bishops in 1991). It will also be consistent with the approach taken by the Anglican Communion in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998 and subsequently.

“Among the matters to be considered in the review of the 2005 Statement there is one of some importance which the House did not address in advance of any experience of civil partnerships. This is whether clergy who have registered civil partnerships should be eligible for nomination to the episcopate. The House has concluded that it would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the review and that clergy in civil partnerships should not at present, therefore, be nominated for episcopal appointment. The House’s intention is to complete the review, which will need to take account of the legal analysis set out in GS MISC 992 (Choosing Bishops - the Equality Act) during 2012.

“The House has also decided that more work is now needed on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality more generally. In February 2007, the General Synod passed a motion commending ‘continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.’

“Alongside the review of the 2005 Pastoral Statement, the House intends, therefore, to draw together material from the listening process which has been undertaken within the Church of England over the recent years in the light of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution. The House wishes to offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. Our intention is to produce a further consultation document in 2013.”

The statement has been issued to General Synod members today, as GS Misc 997E. It is available on the Church of England website at

TA Footnote: the 2005 pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 11:32am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Let's see - the Lambeth Resolution asking for study was in 1998. NOW - 2011 -your bishops think it's time to do this study? And the report is to be issued in 2013? Now don't act too hastily. What's a year or so among friends, after all? Were your bishops waiting for gay people to disappear? Or maybe they think the Mayan Calander Disaster in 2012 will let them off the hook? Sheesh.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 1:08pm BST

"Jesus and his lawyer are coming back"

Posted by: Ex Revd on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 1:37pm BST

From the TA report, I infer that the House of Bishops has had enough of the stupidity, and that Canterbury is about to be rolled.

Gracious restraint for a year or two. But then what?

If the C of E were in 2013 to announce that as a matter of "policy," no gay person can ever become a bishop, surely that would be the point at which the press would report the names of those who already have.

One suspects that this "review" can have only one result--a public, official recognition that gay people may, and indeed have, become bishops in the Church of England.

Relational consequences?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 2:28pm BST

Hello! Is anyone there? Hello, Hello!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:26pm BST

Re: "Jesus and his lawyer are coming back"

It reminds me of a certain joke. St. Peter, in his capacity as gatekeeper, is surveying the boundaries of Heaven. He sees a construction project in progess and goes to see just what is going on. Apparently Satan is building a fence around Hell, and St. Peter notices that the fence is encroaching several feet onto Heavenly property.

Incensed, St. Peter contacts Satan and demands that the fence be moved. Satan refuses, at which point St. Peter informs of his intention to sue.

Satan laughs and says mockingly: "And where are you going to find a lawyer?"

Posted by: Deacon CHarlie Perrin on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:51pm BST

Tardiness seems the hall mark of the Church of England. Why must we wait until 2013 for a report? Do they hope that the matter will go away. The report should be within the next six months at the most. Who is to advise and instruct the bishops on the facts, and real life situation of folk called to the priesthood or episcopy who are happily at one with their sexuality, and in a stable relationship.Hopefully not some closet gay who still in 2011 is afraid of the way God created them. Neither some anti homophobe of the 'religiouis right' But wait a moment havnt they been listening to us since the last Lambeth conference? Thats what they tell us, but who have they been listening to....that is the question. Its time those active bishop had a Holy Synod, got on their knees and prayed for the Holy Spirits guidance. Trouble is this would frighten too many of them, they might not like what they were told.
For Gods sake, I mean it, get your act together and let the church we love move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit being inclusive according to the Gospel, and words of Christ

Posted by: Fr John on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:52pm BST

One is tempted to ask 'what listening process? I was not aware of much 'listening' in many Dioceses.

In that case surely when the House of Bishops debates these issues they should have representatives of the GLBT Community present and listen to them - as well of course as the 'closet gay people' already members of the House of Bishops.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 4:08pm BST

We have a very different crew of bishops from those in 2005.

I'd like to hope that this might be the opportunity for the C of E to move forward on this matter. It is now abundantly clear that none of the 'anti' brigade is going to be kept onboard whatever girations the Church attempts to that end.
It is also clear that gay clergy are not going away and are not going to keep quiet for ever.

It's time the sympathetic bishops spoke to the gay bishops and got their act together to come up with some sort of strategy. The continuing silence from them is grotesque.

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 4:49pm BST

But y'know, no rush or anything. Eh, they'll get to it eventually...

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 10:19pm BST

"The House" (of Bishops) "has concluded that ... clergy in civil partnerships should not at present, therefore, be nominated for episcopal appointment".

+Rowan must be greatly relieved that he will no longer have to bark at and humiliate members of the CNC in order to keep Jeffrey John and others of his ilk from receiving episcopal appointment. Such obviously second class priests cannot even be nominated anymore. Evidently leaking the names was not what derailed Jeffrey's nomination to Southwark. That seems to have been just a cover story.

Actually, according to your bishops there are two classes of priests in England: one class (the upper class) who include: heterosexual priests who are single; gay priests who are in the closet and have no recognized relationship (about whom one might wonder but no one knows); married or divorced and remarried (some might say in direct contravention to the teaching of Jesus); all of whom are eligible for nomination to the CNC; and a second class:(lower class) which is especially for gay clergy who are in civil partnerships. These second class priests are simply not to be nominated for episcopal appointment until the bishops decide, on their own evidently, that such a thing might be possible. It seems unlikley that with the Kenyans at the door and the fundamentalist way in which your bishops seem to regard reports and resolutions of Lambeth, such a day will be a very long time in coming.

In spite of the declaration of a priest in a cvil partnership that his/her relationship is nonsexual, perhaps the bishops are concerned that one might take refuge in the bed of the other, clinging together against a night storm or the coldness in the minds and hearts of their bishops.

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 11:54pm BST

Yes Jean -

In my former diocese, Ely, there had been nothing at all that could be said to pass for a listening process up to 2007. I have not heard that anything has happened since.

In my present diocese of residence, Southwell, quiet, discreet and very careful moves are just starting now to set something up. But what and when is currently completely unknown.

And in Lincoln, where I am licensed, I have not heard of any such thing - though I am new there, so it may be that there is a full and thorough listening process that has taken place - though I can discern no trace of it on the diocesan website.

York diocese produced a rather interesting video to accompany their work - but interestingly no gay clergy could be persuaded to take part - did they perhaps not feel safe?

But if these examples are anything to go by it strikes me that our diocesan bishops (and their suffragans and area bishops) will not have done the groundwork that could possibly inform a review of everything from "Issues" forward.

Their statement describes "Issues" as a 'teaching document'. This is disingenuous, it is not a phrase that "Issues" uses of itself, but in a way accurately reflects the fixed status that "Issues", quite wrongly, has been accorded over the last 20 years. In the preface to "Issues", George Carey writes this "It is our hope that this statement - which we do not pretend to be the last word on the subject - will do 'someting to help forward a general process, marked by greater trust and openness, of Christian reflection on the subject of human sexuality' (para 1.9).

In fact it has done nothing of the sort. And the present review can inspire no confidence that any openness or listening will take place if the HoB insists on talking to itself and a few carefully chosen (not to frighten the horses) "experts". LGBT members of the Church of England are ready and willing to talk and be open - are the bishops?

Posted by: Jeremy P on Saturday, 2 July 2011 at 11:41am BST

Speaking on behalf of the H of B's the bp of Norwich said..

Poor Graham James! he is meant to be one of the "good guys"! Does he believe it himself I wonder? and the others we know... I suppose the liberal / liberal catholic bishops are keeping quiet out of loyalty to +Rowan who they probably feel has enough on his plate.But I wonder how long this will continue? Had Nazir Ali gone to Canterbury we might at least have had the inevitable "punch up" sooner...who knows that might have been better.

Posted by: perry Butler on Sunday, 3 July 2011 at 8:50am BST

"But I wonder how long this will continue?" - Perry

I guess it depends to what extent they value their pension pot above truth.

Posted by: A J Barford on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 9:32pm BST

A slightly breath-taking fact is that gay clergy feel massively less safe now, under St Rowan, than they did under George Carey.

What have we come to, O Fathers-in-God?

And what are you going to do about it?

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 11:00pm BST

"massively less safe now"

But who

Posted by: A J Barford on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 1:44am BST


I was honoured to serve in the Canterbury diocese under George Carey. I counted him as my Father in God, and a friend. Some few years later, about 3 yrs, I met George in London with his wife; and introduced him to my partner. He was so supportive and as my partner said afterwards, his ribs ached with the wonderful hug he gave him. Yes George was a good man, and I felt safe in his care. But sadly the present Archbishop seems to be a house divided against himself. God Bless him, and give him courage to speak as he often spoke before becoming Archbishop with Christian love and understanding

Posted by: Fr John on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 10:28am BST

Fr John
So this fatherly man, did one thing in private and the opposite in public ? I don't find that too impressive really. (I wish I might).

( Fr John on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 10:28am)

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 2:29pm BST

"But sadly the present Archbishop seems to be a house divided against himself" - John

He's sitting tight, waiting for the whole shebang to implode: ecclesiastical revolution precedes the other one...

Posted by: A J Barford on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 at 3:15pm BST

I share your views, but in my whole ministry have grown accustomed to Bishops who speak with forked tongue. Yes say one thing in private, another in public.

Must say I find more open honesty north of the border.

Posted by: Fr John on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 at 9:14am BST

Ah John. Let me regale you with this:

at my ACCM selection conference, the bishop chairing it took me aside, unsolicited, and a propos of nothing, more than my wonderful shoulder length hair, ~ those were the days ~ said to me,

"Look, we know you're not a homo..." !

That came as news to my young self !

Subsequently, this has proved not to be the case !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 at 3:33pm BST


Takes me back to my selection conference, many moons ago. The sweet young priest smiled and said, I see you are a gay young man, God needs you as a priest in his church.

I had delayed offering myself, because I knew I was gay, but had found strength in the fellowship of our interchurch fellowship, which had many gay folk, and gave us much joy!!!!

At college I was not alone, but once a deacon in a parish it was a different picture.

Laurence we share much.

Posted by: Fr John on Thursday, 7 July 2011 at 8:51am BST
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