Comments: more state control of church?

Quite right too

If the Church wants autonomy - then it must forgo the benefits of establishment.

And the Church realised this when they accepted these rules -which, in the case of something as profound as a new legal status equivalent to marriage, they would be obliged to do under law, as the established church.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 10:42am GMT

Either someone took their eye off the ball, or they knowingly accepted and entered this new modified situation. It certainly made for a quieter life when the Archbishops, Bishops and Archbishops' Council were wanting, quietly, to let the Civil Partnerships arrangments through, for clergy (pensions, and widow/ widowers pensions, etc).

But as the Church of England has been more (or less) Erastian since Tudor times, there is, surely no great need for concern, let alone hysteria, and wounded invinsible ignorance ?

The Church's leaders have given ample evidence to Governement and to the public, that they cannot be trusted with our human and civil rights. They simply could not be trusted with the Clergy Civil Partnerships and pensions. Or those of other stipendiary church workers. It is rather shocking.
With what can the Archbishops, Bishops ;and Archbishops' Council be trusted ?

Posted by laurence at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 10:45am GMT

From the article: "Section 259, however, is much more widely drafted. It empowers a Minister by order to make “such further provision as he considers appropriate for the general purposes, or any particular purpose, of the Civil Partnership Act, or for giving full effect to the Act or any provision of it”."

Who can have caused this, but the ChofE herself?

Late the sinner awaketh...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 11:29am GMT

"If the Church wants autonomy - then it must forgo the benefits of establishment."
Amen! I would go further: if the Church wants CREDIBILITY it must forgo establishment. We can't be "in the World, not of the World" when we suck up to the state, and certainly not when we exercise such Worldly power.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 1:18pm GMT

Sorry for the double post, but am I the only one who blew coffee all over his monitor at the shall we say irony of this? The Anglican Church has preserved the ancient tradition of the Church being an arm of government very well, being more like the Byzantine church than the Roman in Her willingness to hitch her wagon to the Imperial horse. It was vigorously defended when it served the Church politically, socially, and financially. Now, however, it suddenly seems a Bad Thing? Normal up. It always was a Bad Thing. For Anglicans in the C of E, of all people, to be suddenly afraid of state control when for 500 years they have allowed the state to appoint their leaders and first to kill, then merely to curtail the liberties of, their opponenets is just laughable.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 4:50pm GMT

I think this article is making a lot of fuss about nothing. A careful reading makes this clear.

Only PROPOSED church Measures cannot be amended or varied by Parliament. Parliament has ALWAYS had power to amend or vary enacted church Measures and, in practice, it never wants or chooses to do so.

The section the writer objects to does not make Parliament sovereign where it was not previously sovereign. It has always been sovereign.

Move on, please, nothing to see here.

Posted by badman at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 7:11pm GMT

Ford Elms, I agree. I would argue that it's very, very bad when Christianity turns into a religion of empire, as it did with the Romans and the Nazis. I admit the CoE is pretty far away from that stage (++Rowan did condemn the Iraq war, after all), but it isn't a good thing for Church to be too cozy with State.

disclaimer: I'm in the US, which has a constitutional separation of C and S.

Posted by Weiwen at Friday, 2 February 2007 at 10:04pm GMT

The Tablet comments:

"Many were taken aback by the supportive intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Some Anglican sources felt this was very "un-Rowan", and speculated that he was "bounced" into the move after the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, made it clear he was going public. This claim is denied by Lambeth Palace. Dr Williams' letter was a powerful intervention, and played heavily on the concept of liberty, declaring: "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning." "

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 1:54am GMT

Despite all the clear warnings at the time, the Church of England was failed by its liberal bishops when it allowed the Trojan horse of civil partnerships into the clergy. If the General Synod had been allowed to debate the matter - instead of a stitch-up by the bench of bishops - and had declared - as a matter of clergy discipline - that no clergy shall enter a civil partnership (just as it once declared that divorced persons would not be ordained), then the current mess would have been obviated. The C of E was again betrayed by its liberal obfuscating bishops. It is becoming like the virtually extinct Church of Sweden.

Posted by Steve Watson. at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 8:41am GMT

Williams is simply wrong.

There is no 'right of conscience' for the 'right to discriminate'. That is why we have anti-discrimination law.

Now, if you wish to line up with the far right fringe and call for their removal, please do so, but expect some opposition.

This nonsense about 'conscience' is just a way of excusing personal and institutional homophobia. Personal conscience should not be allowed to affect the way that people behave in the delivery of goods and services in the public sphere.

In response to Steve Watson: of course, the CofE sought advice on this and were told that such a proposal would not be lawful. Not only that, they were once again hoist by their own petard. The Government created a new status which is essentially civil gay marriage, called another name. There are no substantive differences. The Church didn't want to acknowledge this, so they pretended that the two things were totally different, even though civil marriage has absolutely nothing to do with them....so if that is their argument, then they have no moral case for preventing anyone entering a civil partnership, as they are saying that it isn't marriage!

They have brought it on themselves, and appear ever more irrelevant and marginal - outside the Church this is really not an issue at all. Gay civil partnership is here and here to stay, gay and lesbian equality is here to stay. The Church can remain on the outside, rightly despised, attracting only those with bigoted and homophobic views. Its already happening - the Church is becoming the laager of the siege-mentality social conservative.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 10:46am GMT

Merseymike: I disagree with your view of the law. The *licensing* of clergy is entirely up to the church, so while clergy could not be prevented entering a CP, there is no obligation to issue a license - just as sex discrimination legislation does not bind the church in clergy appointments.
As I said, in the past the civil right to divorce and remarriage applied to everyone, clergy included, but no bishop was required (or even allowed) to license a divorced man. It's a matter of church discipline, not civil law.
To give a parallel example of what I mean: suppose a priest had joined a private sex club or joined the Mormons or such like. None of these would be grounds for dismissal in secular jobs, where religious belief is irrelevant, but they be evidently inconsistent with the clerical state. Similarly, CPs are inconsistent with authentic Christian living.

Posted by Steve Watson. at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 12:32pm GMT

What a flimsy story!

Whatever arguments might be adduced in favour of the view that the C of E has been rendered supine by establishment, this is not one of them.

Parliament has legislative authority over all denominations, and the enactment of the CP legislation will have automatically created effective changes in way in which pension, accommodation and other rights apply to Baptists, Methodists etc. But because the C of E works by Measure, which has the same force as any other Act of Parliament, the changes have to be specifically enacted.

Whatever civil rights now apply to the CP's of C of E clergy or layworkers apply, (mutatis mutandis) to the CP's of their Assemblies of God or Roman Catholic counterparts.

As badman wrote: let's move on, nothing to see here.

Posted by David Walker at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 3:03pm GMT

Then you disagree with the CofE view, Steve. I don't know what advice they were given as it has never been revealed, but it was made clear enough that they had been advised that they could not avoid the application of civil partnership to their staff, nor could ban their staff from entering into civil partnership

Because the CofE argued that CP's don't HAVE to include sex, they had no grounds for refusal to allow their clergy to partake (and they have no means of enforcing anything on the laity in any case, as an established church with a responsibility to the entire nation)

Doing so would , in any case, have meant them admitting that civil partnership is gay marriage - and they don't want to do that.

We celebrate our first anniversary of being official civil partners next month : and if the Church doesn't like it, tough - if 'authentic christian living' means what the conservatives have to offer me - then they can go and get stuffed. Its not worth having.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 4:54pm GMT

'joined a private sex club'

'To give a parallel example of what I mean: suppose a priest had joined a private sex club or joined the Mormons or such like. None of these would be grounds for dismissal in secular jobs, where religious belief is irrelevant, but they be evidently inconsistent with the clerical state. Similarly, CPs are inconsistent with authentic Christian living.' Steve Watson

I had no idea that one had to subscribe to a statement of belief to join ' a private sex club'. I must have led a sheltered life.

I bow to your superior knowldge Steve ! What a lot of speicalises knowledge and experience is to be found here.

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 5:41pm GMT

'The Church can remain on the outside, rightly despised, attracting only those with bigoted and homophobic views. Its already happening - the Church is becoming the laager of the siege-mentality social conservative.' merseymike

Mike I usually tend to be in agreement with your measured tones and anlyses. However, in this instance --are you telling me that leading anglo-catholic churches are no longer centres of gay aesthetic and social life ? I hope you are wrong on this one. I should hate to see the eclipse of unconscious high camp and the joie de vivre it brings to those of xexualities and none -- from grey onwards !

I usually find the Papalist and FiF parishes the campest and a hoot to boot ! Mind you, as a teen, I loved Liverpool Male Voice Praise ( in the '60s) --and that was largely PB (Plymouth Brethren) !

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 5:50pm GMT

'Because the CofE argued that CP's don't HAVE to include sex,..' merseymike

I think merseymike has put his -- finger, on something important here. I love the idea that sex is optional --only the C of E could have devised that one ! While they dream on in their ivory towers, the parishoners of the C of E are opting in droves. I have trouble NOT 'opting' for cream teas, chip butties and second hand books --so when it comes to opting for sex ..........

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 6:00pm GMT

The Civil Partnership Act not only fails to mention sexual acts, it even fails to mention sexual orientation. I therefore find it hard to understand the logic of Steve Watson's position.

I also think badman and David Walker may have missed Mark Hill's point. At any rate I am fairly confident that Chancellor Hill was well aware of the existing legal position. The point I thought he was making was that both the Archbishops' Council and the House of Bishops were acting unwisely when each told the government it was OK to bypass the General Synod.

Indeed, I would go further and ask by what authority either body was acting in this matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 6:20pm GMT

Laurence - I think that young gay men just don;t need the Anglo-Cath closet any longer - I tend to think its a somewhat unhealthy environment, to be frank

Much better to be out and to drop the misogyny.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 8:53pm GMT

Simon, I would have thought the logic of my position was quite clear. Marriage laws in England don't (explicitly) mention sexual acts or 'sexual orientation' either (a term and concept that didn't exist until the 1960s), but failure to consummate and sexual infidelity have always been grounds for annulment or dissolution. A civil partnership can also be terminated for the same reasons, so they do clearly imply and expect that they are sexual in character. Furthermore, the facts that members of the opposite sex and persons who are already married or within 'the prohibited degrees' are prohibited from entering CPs shows that they ARE intended to be sexual in character. PLEASE NOTE: there is NO other contract in civil society where such conditions or expectations apply. As a married man you can enter ANY OTHER contract you like except a CP. Please ask yourself; why is this? Why this discrimination against married people?

Laurence; your comment about my condensed writing style is rather frivolous and adds nothing to Christian debate. I meant of course that 'an individual's private consensual sexual behaviour or his religious beliefs' should have no bearing on his sexual employment. I grieve over the Church of England and the destruction that has been wrought upon it by sexual revisionism. You no doubt consider yourself to be a victim of injustice. All of us, in any case, will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. I know what my conscience (a feeble thing at best - not the infallible voice you are fortunate to possess), the divinely inspired Bible given by Christ to his Church, and 2000 years of consistent Spirit-led church teaching require - and even if I wasn't a married man with children, I'd still believe the same. I find your comments often engaging but self-contradictory when taken together, like a stream of consiousness that fails to stop and take stock.
I stand by my assertion that the bishops could have refused to license clergy with CPs.
Pete Broadbent or any other bishops who lurk on this site: if you are reading this, please tell me if I am wrong about this!
Inquiring minds want to know....

Posted by Steve Watson. at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 11:05pm GMT

merseymike youre right of course. I was enjoying being a bit tongue in cheek !

Posted by laurence at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 12:22am GMT

"As a married man you can enter ANY OTHER contract you like except a CP. Please ask yourself; why is this? Why this discrimination against married people?"

It's because of this illogic, Steven, that I prefer to dispense w/ the "separate but equal" of CP (or CU, or DP, or whatever you want to call it), and just open up the ONE AND ONLY "MARRIAGE" to couples of the same-sex (and then---contra that abominably antiquated "failure to consummate" language---whatever physical intimacy DOES *or* DOESN'T happen in a marriage, is NOBODY'S business, except the couple themselves')

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 2:21am GMT

There is yet another way to view the CoE attempting to accommodate the new CP laws without necessarily conforming all believers in the process. It seems patently clear that a variety of views exist, from extreme pro to extreme con and all through the mixed and middle ranges of thinking about CP laws - and of thinking about the ways same sex couples decide to care for each other, for that matter. By straddling the fences the CoE attempts to leave some room for all people of various views. Whether that room can be allowed by the conservative believers who feel called to deny everybody else any church space, well that continues to be one of our vexed questions, doesn't it? From the upset expressed, you would think that CP laws announce that everybody has to be queer and get partnered up, pronto. Or that queer couples get something which will now be denied to straight couples. Not.

Meanwhile, the legacy foundations for all manner of traditional barriers and unequal treatments have eroded - sometimes slowly, sometimes piece by piece by piece, and sometimes rather more quickly than anybody counting on those sure foundations would have confidently predicted.

As empirical research goes, the shifts happened fairly quickly. Inside fifty to sixty years of by and large careful methodological studies - a whole empirical data trend in various crucial human sciences, not a single study mind you - we have had the almost total disconfirmation of every single queer incompetency claim that could be mustered in derivation from the negative legacy views of queer folks.

In terms of caring for others, we have no innate demonstration in any viable empirical research study that queer folks are not, by and large, as good or as bad in caring for others as anybody else.

So what is the empirical basis for alleging and for acting otherwise?

The loud, repeated answer from conservative believers? We have always believed queer folks to be so, and defined them so, and carried out this or that set of sanctions against them based on them being nothing but just how we have defined them. Oh, well, now I see. Yes.

Burn that research, quickly, and never ever mention it to an orthodox believer, ever again. Why not? Because they believe otherwise, and a flat earth is a flat earth is a flat earth, all for God.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 2:34am GMT

But even evangelical believers are not unanimous in holding to the flat earth status quo about queer folks. See: http://cbs5.com/local/local_story_034161531.html

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 2:35am GMT

I meant 'secular employment', of course - writing late at night...

Posted by Steve Watson. at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 7:23am GMT

Then its the CofE's position which is illogical, Steve.

Basically, I don't think they wished to have a full-scale debate on CP's, because it would have been very divisive, and because they would have been shown as homophobic on a very profound level - discouraging gay people from being allowed to form lasting and committed relationships would do the trick nicely.

Anyway, CP's are here to stay, and no doubt in time the colloquial term used - marriage - will become the actual name in law.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 11:11am GMT

Well, it looks as if the GS may well have a debate on the CP policy of the HoB if not on the public policy issue. See new item on TA above.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 6:08pm GMT
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