Comments: civil partnerships: HoB replies to AM

This statement is very helpful and clears up the questions I had. I do not think it will be at all helpful in quieting the concerns of +Akinola and others; after all, extending entitlements formerly reserved to married couples to same-sex partners is, I take it, a major part of the problem for them: it creates a "marriage-like" status that should be reserved to a mixed-sex couple.
It remains to be seen if this letter will smooth or roughen +Rowan's way in Egypt, or even back in England.

Posted by Tobias S Haller BSG at Friday, 21 October 2005 at 8:25pm BST

"....civil partnerships do not necessarily involve activity contrary to the teaching of the Church of England...... The bishops did not, therefore think it warranted to seek to impose a prohibition."

Do they mean that because there may be a possibility that a civil partnership may not be sexual, they didn't relish the prospect of the battle with the gay lobby?....

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 22 October 2005 at 7:53am BST

Neil suggests that the HoB didn't rule against all civil partnerships because it didn't want a battle with what he calls the "gay lobby".

The statement makes it clear that it is not fear of a fight that has deterred the House but the understanding that some partnerships will be entirely consistent with Church of England teaching and tradition.

It has long been the case that some persons have chosen to live with a friend of the same sex without any desire or intention that the relationship involve anything we would call sexual activity. This was particularly common among unmarried professional women in the earlier years of the 20th century.

The Civil Partnerships legislation gets rid of some gross inequalities regarding such mundane but important things as inheritance and pension rights in such cases. It does not presume upon there being a sexual dimension to the relationship nor make the lack of one a basis for any form of annulment.

Whilst one might just make out a case for a Christian couple choosing not to avail themselves of the legislation because the "weaker brethren" might be offended (using Paul's argument about meat sacrificed to idols) the scripture is clear that this has to be the choice of the individual couple concerned, not imposed lest that be a reversal into salvation by law. The House of Bishops could not demand it.

The "gay lobby" or more accurately those who attack the C of E for its lack of inclusion on these issues, will hardly be satisfied by the HoB position, which makes it clear that the House will not authorise any rites for the blessing of civil partnerships.

Posted by David Walker at Saturday, 22 October 2005 at 10:56am BST

David, I wonder if the HoB are really as naive as you imagine?

"The statement makes it clear that it is not fear of a fight that has deterred the House but the understanding that some partnerships will be entirely consistent with Church of England teaching and tradition."

That can only be true for a very small minority of relationships which qualify as civil partnerships.

The HoB concede that they have deliberately chosen not to handle the issue as they could have done on grounds of doctrine and religious conviction, as per the approach of the RC Church.

Instead, they have chosen to officially muddle things up. And most people with eyes to see can recognise that the HoB's approach simply serves to blur the church's teaching and makes it more difficult to uphold the church's teaching in practice.

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 22 October 2005 at 11:45am BST

We know that the HoB (except for Lincoln) will not be authorising such rites, but that was not the question.

Will they take action against members of the clergy for inappropriate conduct when it is apparent that they are living in a partnership which is both civil and sexual?

And if not, will they allow clergy to share a house with a member of the opposite sex, on the strict understanding that this is an entirely innocent arrangement?

Posted by Alan Marsh at Saturday, 22 October 2005 at 11:13pm BST

"when it is apparent that they are living in a partnership which is both civil and sexual?"

Apparently sexual HOW, Alan?

Unless the bishops are planning some kind of inquiry (inquisition) into the exact nature of civil relationships, I would suggest that the living relationships of any particular set of partners is, apparently, no one's business but theirs.

[Or will establishing the nature of a relationship devolve into more of the *gnosis* we've seen so much of around this board lately? "Oh, you just *know* that those two are Going At It!"]

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Sunday, 23 October 2005 at 8:26pm BST

JCF, yes the Bishops' pastoral statement SAYS that the Bishops *WILL* enquire of those entering into CPs as to whether they are "going at it".

CPs are allowable for clergy IF the Bishop is assured its participants are not "going at it".

That aspect is a recipe for deception and hypocrisy...

Posted by Neil at Monday, 24 October 2005 at 8:19am BST

Civil partnerships are gay marriage. Thats something that both gay activists of which I am one, and conservatives, fully recognise.

I wonder if the Church are going to dig up two old buffers who are 'Just Good Friends' to prove their rather pathetic point?

As it stands, I shall be having my wedding next year, and I definitely don't want the Church involved!

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 24 October 2005 at 6:43pm BST

Well, to judge by these comments and others elsewhere, it appears I was correct that this 'explanation' would do little to soothe. What seems strange to me is the supposition that the same-sex clergy couples who are living together without benefit CP are already "breaking the rules" -- yet little fuss is made. I think I am seeing that the real concern for at least some, as with J John and V G Robinson, is not that they are gay clergy (even in the latter case sexually active gay clergy) but that anyone should know about it. But people do know about it.
Rather than a "recipe for deception and hypocrisy" it seems to me that this is more of a dessert menu for further deception and hypocrisy, with a coffee of your choice.

Posted by Tobias S Haller BSG at Monday, 24 October 2005 at 6:47pm BST

It is PRECISELY a recipe for deception and hypocrisy. Clergy are not permitted in the Church of England to share a house with a partner of the opposite sex unless they are married. The same principle should apply to a couple who have entered a civil partnership (which the bishops assure us is NOT marriage). The cleric(s) involved should be disciplined in precisely the same way as a heterosexual couple would be.

The whole world (apart from the house of bishops) knows what civil partnerships are intended to be. The bishops might wish to be a laughing-stock but the rest of us are perfectly well aware of the dissembling which is going on. It is time they subjected their actions to scrutiny by the General Synod. Or are the views of the laity not worth hearing?

Posted by Alan Marsh at Tuesday, 25 October 2005 at 1:25pm BST

So, Alan, it isn't actually sexual relationships you lot are bothered about, is it?

Unless you are suggesting that sharing a house with someone of the same sex without civil partnership would be OK...? Or is it simply that you don't like gays full stop?

If only you lot would admit to your bigotry and homophobia - for that is what it is - inbuilt and integral to your religion.....

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 25 October 2005 at 5:43pm BST

No, merseymike, you have misunderstood completely. I would not want to see any cleric living with a partner to whom he/she is not married. But I guess Christian sexual morality has come to mean in your own mind whatever you want it to mean, nothing more and nothing less?

If civil partnerships are NOT marriage (as the bishops are claiming) then they should not tolerate any cleric publicly moving their civil partner into the Vicarage as if this were a marriage.

Equally, if civil partnerships ARE a form of secular marriage, as you have repeatedly stated, it is not a relationship sanctioned by the great majority of Christian interpreters of scripture, in any age, including the present age. Again, the bishops must take action to discipline clergy engaging in such relationships.

We all face choices. Heterosexual christians are not at liberty to engage in sexual relationships outside or additional to marriage. Clerics who do so are usually made to choose between their illicit activity or their ministry. The same rule should apply to anyone who wishes to live outside the moral discipline of the church.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Tuesday, 25 October 2005 at 6:53pm BST

Alternately, we recognise that the Church has got it wrong, and needs to change.

If the Church wishes to try and throw me out after our civil partnership ceremony next year, I'd be interested to see them try.

Of course, they know this is a non-starter with the laity, so you'll have to carry on fulminating!

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 25 October 2005 at 10:16pm BST
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