Comments: civil partnerships: more on the amendment

I used to have interesting discussions with Jeff Gould. I don't know what his position is now, but in the very late 80s he tried to impress on me the idea that great Christian music was inspired and great because the Trinity was true, and he was worried about a Unitarian orthodoxy, but I used to agree with him that he had just as much right of expression as anyone else in the creedless denomination (still would - though all who take services must relate to who is in a congregation), and I said such a principle of toleration should also include me... Back then he could be with his partner in Liverpool, and was able to do this, but it must still be easier now, even in this denomination, that wants to offer these partnership services to others - a one registered ceremony with religious language. And a thanks to Richard Harries.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 1 March 2010 at 5:41pm GMT

We must be grateful to Bishop Richard, here as elsewhere, for articulating that intelligent and humane liberal catholicism which 30 years ago attracted me to ordination.How sad that what was once so pervasive is now so patchy, lost in the clamour of other..and to my mind deeply unattractive.. voices.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 1 March 2010 at 5:44pm GMT

So much ink spilled by Bishop Harries, over a subject about which to say "Duh!" seems an overstatement!

Posted by JCF at Monday, 1 March 2010 at 8:05pm GMT

This seems like such a no-brainer. Three religious organizations - not part of the established church - wish to be able to celebrate the fact of civil unions entered into by their own people, presumably after the couples had gotten the legal civil partnership witnessed at the court house, or whatever the English equivalent is. Those bishops of the established church who have tried to block this must feel that their position is indeed precarious if the only way that can hold to it is to interfere with the internal decisions of other religious bodies. It just boggles the mind that they should (a) be so scared and (b) dare to intrude on the other bodies. Next time there's a royal wedding, I hope these three bodies offer copious advice about the ceremony.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 1 March 2010 at 9:21pm GMT

"The bishops may or may not approve of what Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians want, but that is beside the point. What these bodies want would harm no one, and it accords with their deepest religious convictions." Bp.Richard Harries

But not, obviously, with the 'deepest religious convictions' of cartain Anglican Bishops - whose horror of offending religious convention falls desperately short of their fear of being thought too liberal, or charitable, in the Gospel.

However, whatever their own contextual fears of what might ensue after allowing the Church of England to offer blessings to committed, legal, Civil Partnerships; they must surely allow the different understanding of other faith communities, which might allow them the chance to offer a religious blessing in their own context.

It would be quite improper for the Church of England to officially influence the denial of religious marriage rites to other religiuos communities. How could they jusitfy such a thing 'in God's Name'?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 12:38am GMT

A No-Brainer perhaps, but how few bishops have the lucidity, common sense, courage and human decency of Richard Harries! In the RCC there is not a single bishop who can say what he says, and if they said it their head would be on the chopping-block! But the tsunami of normalization is continuing apace and the stonewalling cannot last much longer.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 1:46am GMT

Actually they want to be able to handle civil unions in the same way they can handle civil marriage, as part of a religious ceremony. Quakers, Liberal Jews, and Unitarians as well as many/most other religious groups can have the official paperwork for a marriage (between a man and a woman), the civil bit, integrated into a religious ceremony. They cannot do the same for a civil union even though their theology may treat civil unions and marriages as the same. In fact the officiant of the civil bit in a civil union cannot allow any religious symbolism nor can he or she remain if a religious ceremony follows the civil bit.

Now one could go the other way and require the civil bit for all marriages and unions to take place in a registry office.

Posted by Erp at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 6:35am GMT

Cynthia
“Three religious organizations - not part of the established church - wish to be able to celebrate the fact of civil unions entered into by their own people, presumably after the couples had gotten the legal civil partnership witnessed at the court house, or whatever the English equivalent is.”

No, they can already do that. What they want to be able to offer is for their ministers to act as registrar just like he or she can at a conventional marriage, so that the religious and the civil ceremony become one.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 7:35am GMT

Not quite.
What the amendment is offering them is the opportunity to hold the civil registration part on the premises of the religious organisation.
That may or may not involve a civil registrar coming to those premises, because their own clergy are not/are authorised as civil registrars.
Quakers are so authorised, same as CofE. Other denominations involved in this matter not so authorised as far as I am aware. But the amendment is not about changing who is authorised, it is about the locations allowed.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 8:40am GMT

Simon,
sorry, I forgot about registrars coming to the religous premises, thank you for the clarification.

What does this now mean in the light of the revised amendment?
Is Adrian right in suggesting the priest/minister might have to leave the premises during the actual signing of the register, or does it mean no church music must be played and no psalm recited during that time?
Or could it even mean that the register has to be signed quickly before any religious act takes place? How restrictive could this be?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 10:08am GMT

Before you all get too mushy and high on the public words of a like minded soul you might consider what damage such a one dimensional and ignorant view of Roman Catholicism might do to ecumenical relations...

....or just carry on - if you like- with the childish mindset RC= outdated and bad Liberalism = progressive and good

Oh how easy that must be....why on earth then is the Anglican church in such an almighty mess I wonder?

Posted by Ed Tomlinson at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 10:38am GMT

I don't think the minister would be required to leave! My objection is that the signing becomes a freezing of the religious ceremony.

At the moment for marriage, say where a Unitarian minister is not a registrar, the arrangement is made for a registrar to sit within earshot and hears the magic words within the marriage ceremony. Then he or she is satisfied that the marriage is proper and the marriage becomes that thing recognised by everyone.

In a Civil Partnership, there are no magic words, but just the signing. Now I don't know how this can be done. I can imagine the registrar sat in a car, called in, and the papers signed, and then go off again with them. During the signing, people shut up, and then sing a hymn afterwards or whatever. Or perhaps the registrar can sit in the warm church (I call the Unitarian church I attend the 'coat off' church, the Anglican one is the 'coat on' church) and then can take fingers out of ears when gestured over regarding the signing.

It sounds like yet another messy compromise (and that's the reply to Andrew Goddard: the complexity is typical British muddle).

In the end, what will sort this out is a provision of marriage based on saying the words for both or same sex, and a civil registration for both or same sex based on signing where for that time people can shut up regarding religion. Do it that way, and happiness is restored. Oh and churches don't have to marry people or register them if they don't want to, on the principle that it involves their sacred activities.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 1:34pm GMT

In Scotland, Registrars don't come onto religious premises. A couple wanting to get married go to the Registrar and apply for a Marriage Schedule. They have to produce this before the wedding. The person conducting the wedding must then ensure it is filled in correctly by the couple and their witnesses. She or he then signs it and the couple take it back to the Registrar's office.

It is not difficult to see that a similar system could be used here for Civil Partnership registration.

What I've lost track of is whether Lord Alli's amendment would change the law in Scotland or whether it is just English law that is being debated at the moment.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 4:28pm GMT

As currently worded, Lord Alli's amendment would only apply to England and Wales. The decision to avoid devolution-related issues was, I believe, intentional.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 5:23pm GMT

Fr Ed Tomlinson: "why on earth then is the Anglican church in such an almighty mess I wonder?"

And do you really think the RC Church isn't in an "almighty mess" then?

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 6:09pm GMT

"Before you all get too mushy and high on the public words of a like minded soul you might consider what damage such a one dimensional and ignorant view of Roman Catholicism might do to ecumenical relations..." - Ed.Tomlinson -

Well, Ed, would it be any more damaging than the recent offer by the Pope to dissident Anglicans like yourself to join one of his 'Ordinariates'? I think not. It will take a long time before most loyal Anglicans will think of listening to Pope Benedict XVI on matters of Faith and morals - especially in the current climate of the Vatican's revisionism of Good Pope John XXIII's attempts at reform of the Roman Church at V.II.

If the slim harvest of Anglicans and ex-Anglicans (the majority) who respond to the Pope's initiative is any indication of what is likely to happen, it does not seem as if Rome is destined to benefit by much in the way of proselytisation anyway. So much for ARCIC and Rome's pretence at ecumenism.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 March 2010 at 11:59pm GMT

"....or just carry on - if you like- with the childish mindset RC= outdated and bad Liberalism = progressive and good"

Sour grapes saith the fox.....

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 3 March 2010 at 1:13pm GMT

It's really good to know that anti-liberal, conservative clergy within the Church of England are still allowed to criticise their own Church (their employer) without fear of retiribution. The same critical spirit (against the Roman Magisterium) will not be able to be enunciated when they enter into their newly-erected (greener) ordinariates - even though they may not be stipendiary employess therein.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 3 March 2010 at 11:05pm GMT
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