Comments: Civil partnerships in churches: legal analysis

"…In the meantime, it is possible that some religious institutions are really more worried about the ever closer prospect of full marriage equality for homosexuals, than of the risk of being sued."

Well, Duh!

[It's like they say about Puritans "...who live in deathly fear that somebody, somewhere, may be {Horrors!} Happy."]

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 10:08am GMT

God is (still) calling the Church of England to embrace its lesbian + gay parishners + worshippers.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 12:33pm GMT

Laurence,

As you well know, there are many, many churches within the C of E which do so embrace. I am proud to go to one of them.

John.

Posted by john at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 9:17pm GMT

All those 'Christians' who are fearful ought to really take note of the Scriptures that they profess to love, which give us this assurance:
"Perfect Love casts out Fear". Therefore, if the Church teachees that Love is paramount in our relationship one to another, then the fear would evaporate.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 9:32pm GMT

Love does not equal unconditional acceptance. It is entirely possible to have love for someone and not accept everything they do. God makes it clear that He loves us all but He does not accept us living our lives in a way that goes against His Word.

If marriage has everything to do with love and nothing at all to do with gender, why does God waste his time pointing out "man and woman" not only once but on several occasions throughout the Bible? Why did He not just make general statements about love between consenting individuals? On a subject as important as marriage, which is also a commitment to God, why did He not make it abundantly clear that the union between any two individuals is acceptable, regardless of gender? Acceptable as long as it makes them happy and it doesn't hurt anyone directly.

Posted by Danielle at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 10:03am GMT

My concern is the "spin" and outright lies the RCC and certain newspapers are willing to broadcast in their attempt to attack gay families and defend their historic and traditional right to publicly denigrate us.

The RCC were effective in raising fear over gay fostering and adoption by waving a "Holy Family - every child deserves a mummy and daddy" flag despite the fact their own services served single people. It was deplorable, listening to their spokesmen saying that families without husband and wife parents were, at best, second rate - including families they had helped establish!

Now we can expect again to see deceit as their chief weapon as they attack our partnerships.

Sadly even the Tablet has been sucked in.

Their editorial claims a secular plot to redefine marriage, but as Ian and other have shown the facts here in the UK show this to be untrue.

During the consultations that led to CPs secular agencies were happy to see the birth of the concept of Civil Partnership, many did not want to touch the "bankrupt, failed and male dominated institution of marriage". Indeed there was much talk at the highest levels of Civil Partnerships for all - leaving marriage as a religious add on.

Had the changes to the Registration Service gone ahead as planned - we would have already seen a new relationship between the State and the way its citizens contract their partnerships with the state having a much more passive "recording" role.


Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 11:56am GMT

It was the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement alone who were pressing against all - including the secular Stonewall and their allies - in the House of Lords as the Bill was debated. At that stage the Quakers had not come to a common mind and others were keeping their heads down.

We had some small success and the Bishop of Oxford's speech captures the moment well:
"Those clauses would statutorily prevent registration taking place in any premises designed or mainly used for religious purposes or, in Scotland, regarded as a "place of reverence".

That is unsatisfactory for two reasons. First, it infringes the proper freedom of religious authorities to control such premises. As a matter of principle, it is for those authorities and not for the state to decide whether or not their premises should be available to be used for registration purposes—unless there is some overriding national interest, which is very difficult to identify on this issue. Secondly, the ban would deny 400 some couples the possibility of a religious celebration in close proximity to a civil registration, which they may see as a commitment with a religious dimension. For example, they may want to have a civil registration in a church hall and then to move on afterwards to a religious ceremony in a church. Of course, that is not allowed in the Church of England and some other Christian denominations. But there may very well be religious bodies which would not only permit but welcome such a development, and it would be quite wrong to preclude them from having such a ceremony in proximity to a church hall, for example."

And finally Austen Ivereigh's piece referred to below is factually wrong at the most basic level.
Contrary to what he says - there are no vows required for Civil Partnership. In fact this has led to the confusion about what CPs are. The bishop of Oxford again during the debate on the Bill:

"My other concern with the Bill is the fact that when the partnership is registered there is no indication of what it is that the couple are committing themselves to. There is no specified wording. There is also no definition of a "civil partnership" contained within the Bill."

So much for this journalist getting key facts right.


Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 11:57am GMT

This post raises some interesting questions.

One is that the primary issue of concern is not about supposed coercion but of internal discipline because the Cof E believes it will not be able to prevent individual clergy and parishes from providing such ceremonies. Internal discipline is however a matter for the church itself not the state.

As to litigation itself the Equality Act explicitly exempts churches both in terms of goods and services and in terms of 'religious civil partnerships'.

Any claim under the ECHR would, even if found to have some basis under discrimination as a public body, have to be balanced by the freedom of religion provisions and the concept of 'margin of appreciation'. The scenario itself is rather far fetched as the ECHR covers states not religions or other voluntary or private organisations.

As it happens in no country where marriage equality pertains is any religion coerced into marrying same sex couples. Of Anglican and Lutheran churches in Europe only Sweden's church provides for same sex marriages, though others provide for civil partnerships.

I would expect any future marriage equality legislation to be quite specific in this regard as is the case in those jurisdictions that have marriage equality (as UK statute already does as regards CP's).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 12:44pm GMT

"why does God waste his time pointing out "man and woman" not only once but on several occasions throughout the Bible? Why did He not just make general statements about love between consenting individuals?"

Come now, Danielle. Surely your faith can't be so naive as to believe everything "God...points out" has NOTHING to do w/ the patriarchal culture of Ancient Israel? "Consenting individuals"?? Hello?! The ancient world knew NO such concepts! It was a world of Divine Right of Kings/Pharoahs/Emperors, and *slavery*. Women had ZERO "consent" in marriage.

The Holy Spirit has led us BEYOND the world the Bible was written in (THANK GOD!!!).

If you're writing to justify denying the blessings of marriage to loving, faithful and CHRISTIAN same-sex couples, you're going to have to do so with arguments based in The Year of Our Lord 2011, not 500 BCE.

Bible: Words of God. Jesus: WORD of God. The Church (prayerfully) studies the Bible, but we FOLLOW Christ!

Posted by JCF at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 6:43pm GMT

"If marriage has everything to do with love and nothing at all to do with gender, why does God waste his time pointing out "man and woman" not only once but on several occasions throughout the Bible?" - Danielle, on Friday -

That's the problem with biblical fundamentalism. To believe that God dictated every word of the Bible through the modern process of the teleprinter or computer is to betray an abysmal misunderstanding of what the scriptures are really all about.

Until Christians begin to realise that the Bible is a guide-book and not the equivalent of the RC Papal Bull, there can be little understanding of its place within the discipline of the Church.

The modern hermeneutical process is vital in order to gain any proper understanding of what God might be 'saying to us' in this day and age. This was a problem in the middle Ages, and still seems to be a problem for biblical literalists today. Creation actually began millennia before the prescribed 3 to 5.000 years ago. When will the absolutists let go of their paranoia?

In any case 'The Word became flesh' in Jesus Christ. It did not rmeain static, in a book.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 25 February 2011 at 11:39pm GMT

God has limitless foresight and wisdom, it is not bound by time like ours is, therefore He must have always known of homosexual love even if the people of that time didn’t. The Ancient World also could not fathom the concept of Jesus Christ being the Son of God but that did not stop God from sending Him. If God had to wait on us to understand everything before He carried out His plans, nothing would get done. Therefore if homosexual unions were looked upon favourably by God, even if it wasn’t pointed out in the Old Testament, it should have been mentioned in the New Testament where even divorce is said to be permitted in certain instances - something that God had previously never allowed because of His hatred for it. Love has always existed and I have been told on many occasions that homosexuality is a natural tendency. That must mean that the love between two men and two women must have been occurring since the earliest times. So why weren't provisions made for homosexual unions as well? If you are not living by God's Word, you are working off your own limited understanding, something God tells Christians not to do. True, we do have to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, but we also have to be grounded in the teachings of the Bible.

Posted by Danielle at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 12:56am GMT

Laurence,

As you well know, there are many, many churches within the C of E which do so embrace. I am proud to go to one of them.

John.
Posted by: john on Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 9

Though that is lovely John, it is not enough is it ! The lovely gay atmosphere of anglo-catholic churches isnt quite enough to suffice ! The General Synod, the bishops, the law need to embody that embrace to lgbt people. Need to embrace + reflect that God loves -or as you put it embraces us all.

Those of us who have been honest about our lives + loves have been given a hard time by the offical CofE nationally - and no amount of (luke)warm words / platitudes will meet the case.

That is why, I am not prepared to be a member of a C of E congregation, that is why I returned my PTO.

But I'm glad you re doing what works for you / your leading - as do I in my own way.(I do often listen to Evensong on the radio 3, the morning service on R4 + Sundah half hour on R2 led by an RC. Also, I am surrounded by mosques and temples as well as churches.

(Most of the public care nothing for denominational differences - I have been asked to be with ; or pray for people of all denominations + faiths, and none)


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:19am GMT

The Bible is more of a collage really.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:25am GMT

Danielle, it might be worth pointing out that the Bible also says that women should be silent, and be instructed by their husbands.

Posted by Nat at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:45am GMT

Father Ron Smith - the problem with Christian Liberals is that they use the Bible like a Self-Help Pick ‘n’ Mix - its only purpose to affirm the things we are doing right, but never to condemn what we are doing wrong. Christianity is more than just “Jesus loves me”, it’s also about personal sacrifice and sometimes it even requires us to give up the one thing we desire most in order to put God first in our lives. Christians are also to use the Bible as a weapon to fight against the principalities and powers of this world. How can we stand up for the same thing when we’re all taking what we want from the Word and using it only to make our lives more comfortable? How are we to minister to non-believers and convince them to place God above their earthly desires if we can’t even do it ourselves? There are plenty of rules that were in place under Old Testament law that became null and void once Jesus was crucified, but the rules that continued to be affirmed in the New Testament we are still supposed to follow.

Posted by Danielle at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 3:15am GMT

Women are *not* to teach men, Danielle. You females are simply property, as the story of Jacob and Laban shows us.

Don't blame me. God said it!

Right?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 5:20am GMT

"Therefore if homosexual unions were looked upon favourably by God, even if it wasn’t pointed out in the Old Testament, it should have been mentioned in the New Testament where even divorce is said to be permitted in certain instances - something that God had previously never allowed because of His hatred for it."

When someone claiming Biblical literalism gets something as basic as this completely backwards, well, I figure they don't know what they're talking about. The Old Testament quite explicitly allows for divorce (although only initiated by the male side of the equation); in the New Testament, Jesus specifically speaks against it: "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 12:07pm GMT

I purposely didn't come on here saying homosexuality is wrong. I pointed out what I have read about marriage, an important topic in the Bible, and I asked where it says homosexual unions are something we should engage in and I find it interesting that no one has been able to give me an answer. You're going on to other topics, presumably to avoid answering the question.

In response to your statements regarding the relationship between a husband and wife, the New Testament actually affirms that a wife is to submit to her husband. Ephesians 5: 23-24 says, 'For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.'

The New Testament also says the husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). I am not yet married but if I am to marry, I have faith that God will lead me to a husband who also follows the Word of God and therefore will not take advantage of his role as the leader, the same way Christ never took advantage of his role as the head of the Church. If the wife does not trust her husband to lead the household in the right direction, she also does not trust Christ.

Sometimes we are required to do things the worldly person in us may not enjoy but we do it because it is what God says we should do and we trust Him to give us the strength and desire for it and to never lead us astray.

Posted by Danielle at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 12:54pm GMT

This thread appears to have been hijacked for the purpose of debating moral theology. The article is about the UK civil law on civil partnerships. All further comments must be related to the latter subject.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 2:27pm GMT
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