Comments: Civil partnerships and the clergy

Interesting - clause 3:3:2 would seem to imply that the C of E doesn't have to give same-sex partner rights to civil partnerships if it could show that it's doctrine was against such partnerships. I guess the current situation is that the HoB's "Issues" report says that two people can be in a non-sexual relationship, so not allowing clergy in those situations to have a civil partneship would be, implictly, changing that stance.

It does of course raise two issues:

i) The report seems to imply that some diocesans may now be a bit stricter in their judgement, and response to, some clergy's living arrangements.

ii) If the CofE were ever to move to a more conservative position then "Issues" (which may yet happen in the next decade), where would that leave those clergy who have entered into civil partnership?

Posted by Peter O at Sunday, 29 May 2005 at 2:00pm BST

What about simply letting the clergy in question marry? Or is the Church of England no longer in favor of marriage?

Posted by Thomas Bushnell, BSG at Sunday, 29 May 2005 at 4:22pm BST

Thomas, to permit "marriage" would change the official line of the C of E. This arrangement holds the official status quo (clergy *can't* be in a sexual relationship outside of hetero marriage).

Posted by Peter O at Sunday, 29 May 2005 at 5:15pm BST

Peter wrote: "This arrangement holds the official status quo (clergy *can't* be in a sexual relationship outside of hetero marriage)."

Civil Partnerships were partly argued for on the basis of justice for people in partnerships who could not marry. But the New Labour government, though never quite abandoning the arguement, narrowed it further to only homosexual partnerships (excluding for instance cohabiting siblings or other blood relatives). The government are now making it in every sense, other than certain words in the ceremony, equivalent to marriage.

I fully support close, loving, supportive, dedicated relationships between people of both sexes. We all need more of them!

However, entering into a Civil Partnership would give the "appearance of sin" which St Paul said that we should all avoid !

So much more the clergy...

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 29 May 2005 at 7:00pm BST

Would it be overly blunt to suggest this policy is simply nuts? (And, shockingly, might we not *all* agree on this point? Laodicea anyone?)

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 8:30am BST

J.C. I agree. But we live in a world that is "nuts". And the Anglican bit of it may be nuttier than others. We are in a major state of tension/disagreement/falling out over same-sex relationships (and their physical expression, whatever that means). In the C of E moves towards proper protection of tenure (the "Common Tenure" proposals going through synodical process) could well have a bearing on clergy rights in this area. How else could the House of Bishops try to hold it together on this one?

Posted by Paul at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 10:11am BST

J. C. Fisher. Must be a significant moment, agreeing with you!
I don't think there's any chance, now, of the Church of England not splitting. That may be what the Holy Spirit is moving us towards.

Posted by Ian at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 10:21am BST

Simon, thanks for providing so many helpful links and context for this. It is head-spinningly confusing to have this raised right now in the lead up to Nottingham.

I was going to comment about the "avoid the appearance of evil" command but Dave beat me to it. (1Thes 5: 21-22, KJV, 21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22Abstain from all appearance of evil. (More revent versions, however, generally translate this as abstain from every form of evil, but I think the principle of avoiding the appearance of evil, especially among leaders, holds based on passages re: the importance of one's reputation, like 1 Tim 3:7)

So, anyway, I'll go back to pondering and praying instead of commenting.

Posted by Karen B. at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 3:29pm BST

Thomas Bushnell's comment is an interesting piece of doublethink: opposing gay marriage = opposing marriage. Hmm.

Let's think up some others. Church of England refuses to ordain practising Muslims = Church of England opposes ordination. Church of England opposes third-world debt = Church of England opposes debt, including people taking out mortgages to buy a house. Church of England declines to baptise outspoken atheist = Church of England opposes baptism.

For some reason this calls to mind the movie, Spinal Tap, and the protestations of the band when told that their album cover is sexist: "Sexy? What's the matter with being sexy?"

Posted by John H at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 4:24pm BST

Karen, re the use of "form" vs. "appearance" in 1 Thess. Ch. 5, I think "appearance" is the more accurate translation of the original Greek. I say this not as one who knows Greek (I don't!) but from hearing teaching from those who do know Greek and have translated from the original. If I remember right, the Greek word is "schema", which means the physical, visible form or shape of something. This would more accurately, then, translate into English as "appearance". Translating it into English as "form" would probably give to most people the idea of "kind" or "type", making the passage mean "avoid every kind of sin". That is also good advice! But the intent of the passage seems to be that we should avoid anything that even looks like sin, similar to Paul's advice in Romans not to eat meat sacrificed to idols if it will harm a pagan convert's faith, even though the idol itself is no god, only an object, and the meat sacrificed to it is just like any other meat if not eaten in an idol worship ceremony.

Posted by Milton at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 4:34pm BST

When push comes to shove, our primary instrument of "unity" is an employee of a radically secular government.
What are we thinking?

Posted by Marion R. at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 5:52pm BST

It just looks to me like the way all things British are steeped in history. The Church is the remnant of a long gone theocracy but still halfway plays the game and has found itself between a rock and a hard place, solving the problem in typical fashion. Rather innovative, yet impossible. :)

Posted by Annie at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 7:45pm BST

May I strongly suggest that, before anyone comments anymore on this proposal by the bishops of the C of E, they go to
and read the comments from #49 to the end? Maybe folks will stop hypeventilating . . .

Posted by I'd rather not say at Monday, 30 May 2005 at 7:47pm BST

I made sure the bottle of antacid tablets was handy and visited TitusOneNine where I discovered that "I'd rather not say" has made a great suggestion here. Esp. his/her comments numbered 61 and 62 on that article.

Well worth everyone's time here, and surely our "orthodox" friends wouldn't object to visiting +Harmon's blog ;)

Posted by David Huff at Tuesday, 31 May 2005 at 2:51pm BST

The law is the law. No-one can be prevented from entering into a civil partnership, and short of CCTV in the bedroom, noone can prove whether a relationship is sexual or not.

I hope that those involved lie, because that gives the position of the Church the respect and credibility it deserves.

In the meantime, the rest of us will get on with the introduction of civil partnerships, which are, of course, same sex civil marriage contracts. That is how everyone will refer to them and how they will eventually be referred to in law. Watch this space! And watch the church continue to writhe and wriggle, impaled on that fence, becoming ever more irrelevant.

Pathetic, isn't it?

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 31 May 2005 at 10:15pm BST
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