Comments: Civil partnerships on religious premises: A consultation

"It would also be unlawful for a civil partnership to be registered on a religious premises that had not been approved for the purpose by the local authority. That approval will be given only with the approval of the faith group concerned."

"Then the local authority in whose area the premises is located will have to approve the premises"

Oy vey: how is "the local authority" to be determined in all the *different* religious groups?

"minimise the risk of successful legal challenges": maybe it's just the litigious Yank talking here, but good luck w/ that! ;-/

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 6:22pm BST

"The registration of civil partnerships would remain secular, despite taking place on religious premises,"

I wonder how you police that, and what restrictions will be in place to ensure that this is the case.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 7:05pm BST

JCF In England the term "local authority" means the unit of civil government, e.g. St Albans District Council or the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or Northumberland County Council or whatever.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 10:21pm BST

Would a priest who has the freehold of a parish be able to seek the permission of the local authority? If, for example, they had the vestry or parish council approval, would they be able to indicate to the local authority that the faith group had consented? I sincerely hope so.

What about a Royal Peculiar such as Westminster Abbey? It doesn't belong to a diocese or a province. While it is nominally under the monarch, it has some independence. Or what about extra-diocesan churches such as Temple Church, London? Surely there will be a gay barrister or two who would like to use their right to have their service in Temple Church. Would the ABC or a diocesan bishop be able to stop them? I would hope not.

I suppose that Parliament itself or the Speaker could give permission for an MP who wished to have a service at St Mary Undercroft.

The reason that I am asking is that you could actually wind up with some of the more prominent and well known churches and chapels in the C of E being able to celebrate civil unions.

Wouldn't that just toast Rowan's hide?

Posted by Dennis at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 11:02pm BST

So now we only have to bridge the Credibility Gap - between the Church of England allowing its clergy to embark on Same-Sex Unions - while not allowing them (or any other same-sex Anglican couples) to make their commitment in the sight of God on Church premises and with God's Blessing!

How disconnected can we get?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 11:22pm BST

I think it is very likely that some grouping of CofE bigshots, House of Bishops, Archbishops' Council, or whatever, will declare themselves the "authority" in this matter and will announce that they do not consent to any such thing happening in any parish church or diocesan cathedral in the land.
That does still leave a number of non-parochial locations, such as Royal or other Peculiars and many College chapels, to be dealt with separately.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 11:52pm BST

It's clear that the religious symbols, decorations and setting invest the registration with a sense of lawfulness in the sight of God and the church's endorsement and blessing. What is unclear here is whether consent (general, or specific) to use premises is a blanket acceptance of its use for any civil partnership to be registered therein.

Even though you believe that the church should endorse civil parnerships with a religious setting and ceremony, is that consent also a 'carte-blanche' abdication of any church discretion towards all such unions, even those that show a scant regard for former spouses and the children of past relationships?

Does the faith group representative have the power to refuse the use of its premises for the registration of a specific partnership, when, for instance, a couple of divorcees (with their former partners still alive) asks for it? Could that person enquire further as is the case for re-marriage in church.

Probably not, because it's a secular arrangement. As such, the registration does not need to meet the same criteria as re-marriage in church. It can be conducted on church premises by a secular representative of a council that is (some would say, thankfully) liberated from those narrow Christian views on divorce and re-marriage.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 1 April 2011 at 6:20am BST

Fr Ron...'So now we only have to bridge the Credibility Gap - between the Church of England allowing its clergy to EMBARK on Same-Sex Unions.
Fr you forgot to include after the words 'same-sex unions' 'whilst NOT allowing them to enjoy the fullness of such a relationship'.
Let's not forget that in their 'generosity' allowing clergy to enter civil partnerships the Church was trying to avoid being taken to court (with all the associated expense and publicity) for breaching the human rights of gay clergy. And that in the Bishops' Guidelines re Civil Partnerships their Bishop is supposed to make sure no 'hanky-panky' is going on in the bedroom department.
‘19. The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.’
Apparently John Lewis (a large quality department store chain in the UK much frequented by clergy, for non-UK readers) has sold out all stock of bolster-pillows. They have been bought up by CofE clergy in Civil Partnerships wanting to prove to their Bishops beyond doubt that no 'hanky-panky' is going on in the matrimonial bed with a six-foot pillow down the middle!
When oh when are we going to tear up Issues in Human Sexuality? It was out of date in 1991, it is WAY out of date now! Society in the UK has moved on when it comes to accepting LGBT people. Why does the Church continue to treat its LGBT members and clergy in particular like children needing parental guidance? Perpetuating 'Issues', treating LGBT folk as second class members of the body of Christ is perhaps the most debilitating factor for the mission of the church today.

Posted by Rosa Mystica at Friday, 1 April 2011 at 8:49am BST

"The registration of civil partnerships would remain secular, despite taking place on religious premises,"

What does that actually mean?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 April 2011 at 9:13am BST

David Shepherd: the Quakers, one of the three faith groups behind the Equality Act amendment, would say absolutely no to your first question. Conditions for a Quaker marriage have been laid down over 350 years and that does not change when we encompass same-sex weddings. Like other faith communities, we see marriage as a serious life long commitment needing prayerful preparation. Our pamphlet "We are but witnesses" explains:

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 1 April 2011 at 9:36am BST

A civil partnership is not a marriage,...yet. There is a specific form of declaration by which this is solemnized in church as lawful.

The provisions and entitlement to undertake a civil partnership remain completely under state authority. The registration is currently conducted by a civil partnership registrar, although ministers of religion may apply for this designation.

At first sight, the proposal is for the church to consider granting consent to the use of certified places of worship for civil partnership, for those places to 'retain their religious symbols, decorations and objects in situ' for registration, but to have no say in the eligibility of specific couples that wish to use these premises for civil partnership registration.

Of course, the accompanying, but separate religious service is under church jurisdiction and, even with the proposed consent, its nature would be established by agreement between the religious leader and the couple themselves.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 1 April 2011 at 12:37pm BST

After the concept of Christian marriage was first introduced in the 11th C. there were several hundred years of confusion, contradiction and loopholes as the Church tried to seize control of marriage and convert it from a civil contract into a religious one. Ironic now that the same confusion, etc is developing as (some parts of) the Church try to distance themselves from civil partnerships.

The only type of pair-bonding recognised by the State should be "civil union". Remove from ministers of Faith the role of civil registrar acting for the State. Couples would be free to go on subsequently to have their relationship blessed in a place of worship by their particular Faith group, if they wanted it and if their Faith recognised the union.

Posted by Terence Dear at Friday, 1 April 2011 at 3:42pm BST

Thankyou, Rosa Mystica, for the reminder that the Church of England, while allowing clergy to undertake a Civil Partnership (though not allowing them the benefit of a Church Blessing); yet demands an undertaking of 'no sex' within such a partnership.

Then why not, for goodness' sake, allow them to have a Church Blessing? After all, there is no transgression (at least, formally) of the demand for a 'celibate' lifestyle. Sounds hypocritical!

Or is it really that - despite the para-legal demand for sex-abstention, the Church is afraid that the couple might do something in their bedrooms that could frighten the horses?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 2 April 2011 at 12:22am BST

David Shepherd I have little doubt that most people seeking civil partnerships in church will be as virginal and blameless* as everyone else that seeks the Blessing of God on their life and love.

* Why introduce notions of blame into such beautiful proceedings ?

Been listening to too much Archers by any chance?

Btw Gay people tend not to leave trails of abandoned or disconsolate children - by and large.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 2 April 2011 at 6:18am BST

The Church of England leadership need not have dragged their feet so shamefully. It could all have been so different -- it could yet.

Meanwhile the parish churches continue as gay as ever (slightly down perhaps, due to folks catching Coeti-bus to Rome / roam).

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 2 April 2011 at 6:21am BST

Registrars already spoil the 'beautiful proceedings' by conducting pre-ceremony interviews for civil marriages and partnerships. It is already mandatory for civil marriage/partnership venues to make a room available for pre-marriage questioning.

Surprisingly, this current practice of vigilance hardly attracts the accusations of trying to introduce notions of blame.

As intimated by a proponent of gay marriage on this comment thread, the church should be able to apply its principles regarding holy matrimony to ALL who seek the 'Blessing of God on their life and love', instead of just providing 'carte-blanche' use of its premises for anyone wanting a religious setting for their civil wedding.

As for your last comment, I didn't think the purpose of equality was to contrast the intrinsically superior parental responsibility that you indicate gay people have towards children.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 2 April 2011 at 11:17am BST

David, I said we tend not to leave trails of abandoned children. Fact.

Pre-ceremony interviews are not inquisitions, but address taking, form filling and the like. I know about it having had one, myself.

You have already made abundantly clear your cynicism, and that you care nothing for the quality of relationships, but have your own antique 'rules'.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 2 April 2011 at 7:04pm BST

Fact: in spite of surrogacy and advances in reproductive science, reduced fecundity affects every statistic relating to offspring, even the number abandoned. Hardly proof of virtue.

I guess, for now, we'll have to get by on those antique 'rules' we call canon law, because, at least, you can and do demand that they be applied to everyone equally.

And here was I, thinking that you were demanding no more than for LGBT couples to participate equally in the sacrament of holy matrimony (replete with those pesky antique 'rules' regarding the quality of relationships that also apply to heterosexual couples).

How much else would you want the church to jettison?

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 3 April 2011 at 3:29am BST

David Shepherd: Am I right in assuming, from your use of language, and that particularly harsh tone towards perceived "liberals," that you are American? If so, why would it be right for you to be so vexed and combative about British law and society?

Posted by Fr Mark at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 11:26am BST

Hi Fr.Mark,

Although prone to use the American adjectives like 'pesky' and to even refer, at times, to certain debating opponents as 'them there varmints', I am born, bred and resident in the UK.

Equality is the remedy for past wrongs, not the relinquishment of church authority to the State on church premises. Even if you feel that the current proposals are perfectly adequate, I can't see how you can equate my dissatisfaction with a specific part of these proposals to a more general vexation and combative attitude towards British law and society,

Please explain.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 4 April 2011 at 3:17pm BST

David: sorry for my misattribution. Wording questions such as that above "How much else would you want the church to jettison?" put me in mind of the comments one reads on US right-wing sites, where there often seems to be a much harsher rhetoric of perceived programmatic destruction of all that conservatives hold dear by those "pesky" liberals. I generally find that amongst British people, there is less "culture wars" rhetoric - that was all I was thinking of.

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 8:29am BST
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