Friday, 1 July 2011

Discrimination against clergy in civil partnerships

Included in the statement issued just now by the House of Bishops is the following paragraph (emphasis added):

“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.

As regular TA readers will be aware, the Church of England recently issued “a note on the Equality Act prepared by the Legal Office in connection with episcopal appointments for members of Crown Nominations Commissions and diocesan bishops and their Advisory Groups”. This is the document numbered GS Misc 992.

In connection with this, I wrote last week to Church House to ask some questions about GS Misc 992. One question was this:

Third, there is the issue of being in a civil partnership as a specific item to be taken into account. See paragraph 29, second bullet, and also see paragraph 20, where this is distinguished ( by the conjunction “or”) from “a requirement related to sexual orientation”.

These wordings suggest that the authors of the opinion believe it is permissible to discriminate against a person who is in a civil partnership even if none of the other items listed in the document are applicable. I am at a loss to understand the legal basis for such a position, unless all married candidates are to be similarly discriminated against.

I received this in reply:

This was a piece of legal advice and the Legal Office stand by it as an accurate piece of analysis of the Equality Act and its application to the Church. It was produced to help those appointing bishops understand what they are and are not entitled to take into account within the law. In particular the Equality Act is quite explicit in making it clear that religious organisations can, in certain carefully defined circumstances, discriminate on the grounds of someone being in a civil partnership. The note offers no policy or operational advice on what appointment panel should do.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 12:25pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

So much for Issues in Human Sexuality ! At least the pretence at liberality is over.

May I suggest either

ONLY ministers in civil partnerships be bishops or

maybe it is time to discontinue the corrupt, unedifying and unfit for purpose order of bishop.

What an unedifying and unGodly sham.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 1:39pm BST

'Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of England'. Is there life after death?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:21pm BST

Laurence, there is another way to ensure symbolic acknowledgement of the Equalities Act. Require that from, henceforth, all priests and bishops must take a holy vow of celibacy. After all, look at how well that has worked for other churches!

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:51pm BST

"Oh what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive..."

Not wanting to "pre-empt" is fine, but why not continue with the status quo, then, instead of making a decision beforehand one way or the other? Isn't that just pre-emption on the other side? Let all candidates be chosen not for spurious reasons ("as a focus of unity") but for real competence and charisms for the spread of the reign of God?

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 4:51pm BST

It would be very helpful to all concerned if the Bishops would issue a list of all posts, clerical and lay, which are to be denied to LGTB people.

Now where shall we start? All Diocesan post holders, parish secretaries and administrators, organists, choir members, caretakers, churchwardens, servers, those licensed to administer the chalice, pastoral visitors etc, etc. Do not all these too have a 'represenational role' which according to William Fittall (in 2009 but quoted in today's Church Times) is the reason why the post of Communications Director at Church House cannot be a 'campaiging member for gay rights and in a sexually active relationship'.

Perhaps the conditions laid down for the appojntment of bishops should just be extended to eveyone else and then we could see just what is what. Or perhaps they don't want a another challenge in the courts.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 5:12pm BST

As I said in a previous post...Deans in civil partnerships but not Bishops...and closeted bishops... and now presumably a celibate partnered bishop who hasnt entered a civil partnership...but may perhaps do so on retirement!No wonder Andrew Brown talked about the House of Bishops tying themselves in knots.I do foresee legal and political problems with all this eventually.

Posted by: perry Butler on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 5:42pm BST

You gotta hand it to the Church of England--their leaders can always come up with new ways to be hateful.

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 5:42pm BST

Is the schismatic Bishop of Lewes a 'focus for unity'? I only ask.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 6:59pm BST

Interesting that this report gets worked up as a Anglican Communion News Service story, put out through all the communion by the ACO.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 9:22pm BST

Martin, I was thinking the very same thing.

Posted by: Peter Ould on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 11:34pm BST

It doesn't seem to me to be ethically correct, nor in a secular context certainly legally correct, to make a ruling (however temporary it may be) ex post facto. In 2005 priests were allowed to enter civil partnerships and now the HoB is saying that, by the way, that means you can't be a bishop (for the time being, if not longer).

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Saturday, 2 July 2011 at 8:37am BST

Laurence, there is another way to ensure symbolic acknowledgement of the Equalities Act. Require that from, henceforth, all priests and bishops must take a holy vow of celibacy. After all, look at how well that has worked for other churches!

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:51pm BST

Peter, you know, you're right ! Why didnt i think of that. It has to be the best solution of all.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 2 July 2011 at 11:29am BST

Where do ministers who have divorced their civil partners stand I wonder ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 2 July 2011 at 11:32am BST

Laurance Roberts, I suspect they stand outside.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 2 July 2011 at 3:38pm BST

Well, of course, if this was any other appointment and not covered by Crown privilege, discriminating against a candidate on the grounds of the fact of their being in a civil partnership would be unlawful. A candidate so discriminated against could certainly claim their right to private and family life was being infringed. Any organisation that so discriminates is plainly behaving questionably by just about any external standard. The kinder way of putting it is that it's tying itself in knots, that are probably unnecessary. If its bishops really believed civil partnerships were immoral in themselves, they shouldn't have voted for them in parliament. Just confused bunnies caught in the headlights, scared of angering the bullies, who don't actually know what they believe.

Posted by: Bishop Alan Wilson on Sunday, 3 July 2011 at 10:12pm BST

'Just confused bunnies caught in the headlights, scared of angering the bullies, who don't actually know what they believe.'

Coming from a serving bishop these are powerful words, Bishop Alan. Thank you for them.

This is a question, not a challenge: but might we begin to see signs that you and others are moving toward some sort of open statement of support for gays, especially clergy? I do rather expect that the forthcoming review and report will move us in that direction but some straight talking (pardon the pun) from supportive bishops would be so encouraging in the meantime.

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 2:22pm BST

If the bishops truly think "it would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the review" of human sexuality, and so think it appropriate to put the ordination of openly gay bishops on hold, one wonders what else might "pre-empt the outcome of the review," and whether that should be put on hold as well.

For example, would acceding to the draft Covenant "pre-empt the outcome of the review"?

The draft Covenant, after all, does threaten "relational consequences" for provinces that take "controversial actions" in the absence of a "shared mind" throughout the Anglican Communion.

If the Church of England were to ordain openly gay bishops, this would be a "controversial action" and "relational consequences" could follow.

In order to prevent the Anglican Communion from pre-empting the "outcome of the review," shouldn't the Church of England put its consideration of the Covenant on hold as well?

Or is the concern to avoid pre-emption in one direction only?

What Canterbury wants, and what tends to create an international magisterium, may go forward and may pre-empt; but what it doesn't want, and what adapts Anglicanism to local circumstances, should be blocked?

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 3:09pm BST

Yes, Lister, pro-gay bishops need to end this tyranny of silence

Posted by: A J Barford on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 3:10pm BST

Protestantism is not amenable to 'international magisterium' especially a denomination covering England only.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 5:50pm BST

'international magisterium'

... and we don't want a repeat of the Spanish Inquisition, do we?

Posted by: A J Barford on Monday, 4 July 2011 at 7:38pm BST

Chapman: I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

[JARRING CHORD]
[The cardinals burst in]

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!


:-)

Posted by: John Roch on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 at 10:14pm BST
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