Comments: Civil Partnerships: CofE statement

Thats about the most ostrich-like comment I have ever heard, even from the CEN.
Wake up, Bishops! Civil partnership is same sex marriage. Get used to it. In a few years time it will be commonly referred to as marriage, and eventually thats exactly what it will be called, legally.
And no doubt the church will still be wringing its hands on the sidelines, as it gasps its dying breath and dreams of premodern Africa and how much better it would be without critical thinking....

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 2 June 2005 at 4:44pm BST

"Civil partnership is same sex marriage."
Ah, Humpty-Dumpty theology: "I can make words mean anything I like."

Posted by Sean at Thursday, 2 June 2005 at 5:36pm BST

I'm afraid , from your point of view, that its true, Sean. Taks a look at the legal framework- its the same as civil marriage (and thats the primary sort of marriage people have these days, unless they want that pretty white wedding in a 'nice' church! How many of those who marry in church actually share, say, the view of marriage of the average conservative evangelical?)
Of course, some conservatives recognised that this was the case, that the civil partnership act introduced same sex marriage and called it civil partnership, and thats why they were so furious when so many Bishops voted for it in the Lords.
Anyway, its here to stay, and if the Church wants to pretend that the priests going through them will remain celibate, then they are welcome to stay in their fantasy world. Personally, I don't think any self-respecting gay man should do anything within the church other than work for change within it - certainmly not back it financially or serve within it, justifying its bigotry.
Roll on the split, and then we can have a church worth being part of. The CofE at the moment doesn't fall into that category.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 2 June 2005 at 9:20pm BST

"The Church’s approach to civil partnerships will reflect the fact that they will not be marriages, nor based on the presumption of sexual relations between the two people making the legal agreement."
Does this mean that, in the case of an (opposite-sex . . . in this case!) MARRIAGE the Church *automatically presumes* "sexual relations"?
Because in my queer little mind, invading *heterosexual* bedrooms is no more the business of the Church, than invading same-sex bedrooms is.
From my (ECUSA, 1979) BCP, the Marital raison d'etre: "The union [of two persons] in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity"
That, to me, doesn't say it MUST include sex---only that it CAN include sex (even the following *conditional* "procreation of children" part, as we know in our day and age, might not arise from sexual relations).
The Church's monomaniacal focus on sex is Very Curious. :-/

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Friday, 3 June 2005 at 6:19am BST

Oh, I think the Church's ability to partake in 'doublethink' is like no other...

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 3 June 2005 at 11:11am BST

When Clergy in "Civil Partnerships" tell the media that they ARE having homosexual sex, I wonder what the local Bishop will do ?

1a. Say the church's legal position is unclear and push it upstairs to the HOB.
1b. Say the church's legal position is unclear and push it upstairs saying General Synod should resolve church law (risky!).
2. Appeal for the clergy to respect the "current" position of the church and do nothing except get shirty with conservatives for not respecting their Bishop's authority.
3. Call for repentence and instigate a church court process to defrock them (assuming there is no public repentance and demonstrable change of behaviour).
4. Sack them on the spot for defying church discipline and face down the legal threat.

Posted by Dave at Friday, 3 June 2005 at 5:51pm BST

I very much doubt whether any clergy will do that, Dave. I don't blame them, either. Given that the Church's position is, im my view, morally indefensible, I think it quite acceptable for those involved not to incriminate themselves.
At the same time, I don't know why any gay man would wish to give their lives to such an institution, unless it is to work for change. Too many sit on their hands and fail to speak out.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 3 June 2005 at 11:11pm BST

Merseymike wrote: "I don't know why any gay man would wish to give their lives to such an institution, unless it is to work for change."
Mike, I think that most people on both sides of this debate would agree that it is a dishonest and unsustainable position to take.
Either homosexuality is fundamentally disordered and, like all other sinful desires, the church should (whatever law the government makes) clearly call upon everyone to repent of it and rejected it in themselves (the Christian view up 'til recently) OR homosexuality has no moral connatations, it is a "God-given" inversion of the usual sexual orientation, and the church should bless it, whatever scripture and tradition might say.
The proclaimed compromise seems to me to be yet another "slicing up" of Christian morality to fit in with the liberal spirit of the age (and avoid several legal threats hanging over us) while allowing conservatives to pretend that "nothing has changed" if they want to.
There seem to me to be still too many "liberal" people within the church's structures who's main motivation is to try to make Christians conform more to the spirit of the age, rather than to help people believe in Christ and follow His teachings. That's one reason I think that if the western liberal wing (eg ECUSA, ACoC) rejects the rest of us it will quickly reject most christian distinctives and become humanist universalist (except perhaps the pretty robes these Affirming Catholics like to wear!)
It wouldn't at all surprise me is several other very senior liberals, if they were being honest, admitted (like ex-ABp Holloway) that they have ceased to believe, or to be Christian.

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 4 June 2005 at 1:14am BST

There's one thing that can't be sustained in Merseymike's position, and that is his 'Wake up and smell the roses'.
His implication is that traditional Christians have no idea what is going on in society. But he must know this is not the case. They know very well what is going on in society - otherwise why would they spend time denouncing some of it (not to mention affirming other parts of it)?
The fact that something is going on in society does not make that thing right. That would be to make the confusion between morals and mores that even an eight-year-old would not make.
In any case, social morals do not progress in straight lines. There was an increase in gin-drinking in the eighteenth century, which later became a decrease. There is a temptation to impose our own agendas on the future (or assume that the future will be in continuity with the past and present) which is not borne out by the facts of history.
The present level of Christian commitment is not what was predicted by doom-mongers in the 1960s. Rather, massive explosions of growth were seen thereafter in South East Asia, Africa, Latin America. Nor is the current growth in 'spirituality' what was predicted by the secularists. Who would dare to be a prophet? Best, therefore, not to assume that the future will take a certain shape. We don't know.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 4 June 2005 at 11:58am BST

Dave: I think many liberals do not believe the same as you. Thats because they are theologically liberal. It does not however, mean they have ceased being christian, simply that they are not conservative. I find that most conservatives do not view liberal Christianity as Christian within their terms, but frankly, that is their problem.
The difficulty is that the Church of England contains people of such widely differing theologies that the organisation is simply unsustainable and thus enters into these sort of compromises which really don;t please anyone. Thats why I think a civilised split may make the most sense. You may agree with me on that. However, there are too many on both sides of the fence who regard organisational unity as uppermost in importance.

Christopher: true, no-one can predict the future, but I think I can safely predict that gay people will continue to become more part of the mainstream, simply because there is no sensible reason why they should not.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 4 June 2005 at 5:54pm BST

"Either homosexuality is fundamentally disordered and, like all other sinful desires, the church should (whatever law the government makes) clearly call upon everyone to repent of it and rejected it in themselves (the Christian view up 'til recently) OR homosexuality has no moral connatations, it is a "God-given" inversion of the usual sexual orientation, and the church should bless it, whatever scripture and tradition might say."


I actually find your above summation quite helpful Dave . . . EXCEPT for "whatever scripture . . . might say" (clearly implying that scripture condemns homosexuality---which as *everybody* around here should know by now, I don't believe it does).


"the Christian view up 'til recently" and "tradition" are a stickier wicket, admittedly (from my POV).

I wouldn't say that the Church, pre-20th century, ever taught that there were some same-sex sexual activities that WERE acceptable (or holy), from a Christian perspective. But the absence of a conception of homosexual orientation, means that Church simply couldn't have a clear understanding of just WHO the persons were, who were engaging in these same-sex sex acts (nor, incidentally, necessarily could the persons engaging in the acts themselves).

An analogy: "the believer worships the god s/he sees, not the idol (icon, statue, crucifix, 2-ton granite "Ten Commandments"!) that the outsider sees."

Ergo, the Church was "seeing" a couple of oversexed/weak/perverse/abusive/just-plain-BAD *heterosexuals*---who were neglecting their proper marital OR celibate relationship(s), to engage in same-sex sexual activities.

Is that the Real Picture? (Certainly those of us who reverence the Cross, or venerate icons, wouldn't agree that we're idol-worshippers!)

It is precisely where Scripture and Tradition are either ambivalent (and/or no help at all), that I am so *thankful* that the Anglican seat-of-wisdom has that third leg: sweet *Reason*.

For it is by way of Reason---and testing the fruits of the Spirit---that we may determine that homosexuality IS "a 'God-given' inversion [FWIW, I prefer "variation"] of the usual sexual orientation, and the church should bless it" . . . IF and ONLY IF *under the same conditions* as the church blesses heterosexuals and *their* (monogamous, life-long, Christ-committed) relationships.

[NB to Dave and Christopher: "the age" has MANY "spirits" and there is MUCH "going on in society." It would be as wrong to blanketly *condemn* it all, as to blanketly *bless* it. We MUST test it, and find out. "Entertaining angels unawares", "good Samaritans", "the stone that the builders rejected": Salvation History is *full* of examples wherein God worked God's purpose out in unexpected (even contempt-provoking) ways!]

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Sunday, 5 June 2005 at 4:37am BST

Hi Mike
You write 'most conservatives do not view liberal Christianity as Christian within their terms, but frankly, that is their problem'.

A lot of issues are raised here:
(1) Is the church really just like politics, with lefties and righties? My view is that the church is not just like politics, and if it were then it would cease to have a raison d'etre.

(It was so inappropriate, for example, when people expressed surprise at the election of a 'conservative' pope - as though there were any other options. The whole bang shoot of them are bound to be conservative by secular standards. But what is so special about secular standards anyway?)

(2) Even if the church were just like politics, it can hardly be that honest people would congregate at the two poles (the right pole and the left pole). Ideological people might, but honest people would surely have more nuanced ways of thinking, and be able to see different sides of an issue. In any case, plenty of ppl would be 'right' on one issue and left on another. Whole masses of Christians are 'right' on family morals and 'left' on egalitarianism and poverty, indeed on war. Doesnt that put the whole 'right'/'left' model in question?

(3) Let's suppose for the sake of argument that there is a 'conservative' who sees liberals as not being Christian - emphatically not by his or her own terms but (for example) by his or her honest reading of the New Testament, or of Jesus. The liberal however sees himself or herself as being Christian. So far, it is one against one: purely on head-count, the two are equally likely to be right. One would have no grounds on liberal presuppositions (seeing everyone's point of view) for thinking that position A ('The liberal is a Christian') held any more (or less) water than position B ('The liberal is not a Christian').
The way to solve this question would not be by head-counts anyway. It would be by argument & debate, by examining of presuppositions, by clear definition of terms etc etc.. In advance of the debate taking place, ppl would have to commit to going wherever the evidence & logic led them (rather than simply where they might wish to go) - otherwise it would not be a proper debate.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Sunday, 5 June 2005 at 11:37am BST

Mike - the legal framework is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that marriage is between a man and a woman. You can caterwaul about that all you like but you can't change reality. Therefore a civil partnership will not be a same-sex marriage, because there is no such thing.

Posted by Sean Doherty at Sunday, 5 June 2005 at 7:18pm BST

No, Sean, full marriage already exists between same sex partners in at least three European countries. The legal provisions for civil partnerships are essentially the same as for civil marriage, which is what I am concerned about. Whether you define it as marriage or not is totally irrelevant. The fact is that the legal framework of the country will undoubtedly affect attitudes and expectations, and the church will either come to terms with these or become an irrelevant frings sect. Then those left can bleat about being persecuted and quote from their bible about how all these terrible things are going to happen in the last days. The rest of us will simply get on with life, for me with my partner who I am marrying next year.

Christopher - 'honest reading of the New Testament' is something we all do, but we come to different conclusions. Thats why your views are 'on your terms'. I was making no point about most of what you raise, purely that in my experience, many conservatives do not view liberals as legitimately Christian. That is their preropgative, but it is of precisely no concern to me what conservatives think, as I don;t share their beliefs. Unfortunately, I have to share a denomination with them, which makes no logical sense, but until the priority of organisational unity takes second place that will no doubt continue to be the case.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 5 June 2005 at 11:55pm BST

JC Fisher writes:
"Does this mean that, in the case of an (opposite-sex . . . in this case!) MARRIAGE the Church *automatically presumes* "sexual relations"?
Because in my queer little mind, invading *heterosexual* bedrooms is no more the business of the Church, than invading same-sex bedrooms is."

Sexual relations must be presumed as a part of marriage, since non-consummation invalidates the marriage in both civil and ecllesiastical law. So, I suppose that if one partner claims non-consummation, some sort of "invasion" might be necessary as part of the case for annulment.

Posted by Alan Harrison at Monday, 6 June 2005 at 5:55pm BST

"Non-consummation", Alan?!

Gack: brings to mind images of people holding up a *bloody sheet*! (Saw *recent* TV footage of a Roma [nee "Gypsy"] procession, doing exactly that {cringe})

OK, for once (;-p) let me be blunt:

the concept of "consummation" of a marriage is BARBARIC, and should be (if it hasn't already) be *dropped* ASAP!!!!

[I shudder to think that such concept-ions of marriage ARE what shapes the "One Man/One Woman" argument: "You can't have a marriage, without a bloody sheet!"]

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Tuesday, 7 June 2005 at 8:33am BST

Hi Mike-
Surely your interpretation of the NT is as irrelevant as my interpretation of car mechanics.

This is an area where there are experts, so all we need to do (or: the best we can do) is turn to them. Many people have devoted years of their life to writing commentaries on Romans or 1 Corinthians. To my knowledge, none of them would see your position as a serious option.

Saying that there must be various different points of view worthy of respect - and possibly (Im not sure) also implying that all these points of view are to be regarded equally: this is nothing but an ideological position which has its roots in the age and societies in which we live. It has no rational backing.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 7 June 2005 at 10:39am BST

JC Fisher wrote:
"the concept of "consummation" of a marriage is BARBARIC, and should be (if it hasn't already) be *dropped* ASAP!"

Barbaric or not, it is a basic ground for annulment in just about every legal system I can think of, including English common law and Roman Catholic canon law.

Posted by Alan Harrison at Tuesday, 7 June 2005 at 12:01pm BST

Mike, I'm sorry you feel you have to share a denomination with people like me. I'm not aware that anyone is forcing you to be an Anglican though. If at any time being in a church with people who are actually dumb enough to believe in historic Christianity becomes too inconvenient and irksome for you, feel free to stop being in it. Equally, feel free to 'marry' your partner - I wouldn't try to stop you even if I could. Just as long as you don't pretend you are doing anything other than making up your own morality to suit yourself.

I will not bleat about persecution because the fact that society has a more permissive view of sexual morality than me is no surprise to me nor should it be. It's when the church uncritically adopts that view because it exalts the experience and autonomy of individuals above its historic beliefs that the problems start to arise. Your opinion that we all basically just make up our own interpretations of the Bible however we like is pretty unconvincing. I don't pretend that I can intepret your posts any way I want, because the fact is that they have an objective meaning. It's not rocket science.

Posted by Sean Doherty at Tuesday, 7 June 2005 at 5:30pm BST

Oh, whilst we remain in the saim denomination, Sean,which no doubt we will do unless you are planning to walk or I get thrown out, I can cope with it.

But stamping your foot and wishing that the CofE consisted entirely of conservatives won't do you any good. Historic beliefs need to change to take account of new konowledge and understanding. Otherwise you have an ossified, rigid, set of superstitions, not a living faith. If you want to believe in that,feel free, but I won'tbe joining you.

Sometimes 'society' gets things right before the church. Shame, but true none the less.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 8 June 2005 at 12:52am BST

"Historic beliefs need to change to take account of new konowledge and understanding."

1) Why?

2) which knowledge and understanding? The scientific consensus which doesn't exist (and even if it did exist would be totally unable to pronounce on moral questions)? The hegemony of experience which simply becomes its own absolutised fundamentalism? Or just the opinions of Merseymike?

Posted by Sean Doherty at Wednesday, 8 June 2005 at 9:34am BST
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