Comments: Bishop of Liverpool speaks about blessing civil partnerships

“I believe that there is a difference between heterosexual union and same gender intimacy and that it is appropriate to maintain that difference in the language we use.”

Only, it is not up to him, or to any individual, to insist on how language should be used. Language changes organically, not because a bishop allows it to or agrees with it.
In popular parlance gay people have been getting married ever since the first civil partnership. That, precisely, is the driver behind the Government moves to introduce same sex marriage - to most of us, there is no difference any longer.

And I still want to ask how many civil partnerships will be left to be blessed by the church after marriage equality becomes legal.

It's nice to see more and more church people coming round to affirmative answers to yesterday's questions - but that's all the are: yesterday's questions.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 3:24pm GMT

Yes, very well done Bishop.

As Justin ewlby and others are so very, very keen on Civil Partnerships, this is the only logical, honest and BS-free (relatively) option.

Over to YOU Archbishop.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 3:33pm GMT

James Jones doesn't go as far as some of us want, but he's thoroughly decent.

Posted by john at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 4:02pm GMT

Too little. Too late. Too half-hearted.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 4:28pm GMT

It's a beautiful letter in many ways. I love the bit about "God hates nothing he [s/he] has made."

I know this is a huge step forward for a CoE bishop, advocating to bless Civil Partnerships. However, it is unfortunate that he would still withhold the Sacrament of Marriage from LGBT Christians, and oppose legal marriage equality. He's right on in many ways and just can't take that last step, even though he brilliantly observed that prejudice is an original sin.

The example he used of Jesus rebuking men for trying to stop a woman from ministering to him is awesome. While there's no specific example for gays, there is the fact that Jesus constantly rebuked the establishment for using the law to exclude and demean people.

Those of us seeking the Sacrament of Marriage are simply seeking the appropriate liturgical action to match the amazing blessing and grace the God has already bestowed on us.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 5:15pm GMT

He is a good man who has changed and developed his ideas during his ministry and is quite capable of moving further. I would like him to have been Archbishop for five years and put off his retirement until 70.He would have sorted out a lot of things

Posted by Jean Mayland at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 5:49pm GMT

I'm not even understanding how this is a huge step forward.

Of those who participated in the Government Consultation process on same sex marriage and who were currently civil partnered, 87% said they would convert their CPs into marriage, 6% said they would not and 8% did not know. (Page 43)

I would assume that Christians with their sacramental understanding of marriage would be highly likely to convert their CPs the minute they are allowed to.

So the church is about to set out a new policy on a type of relationship that will have all but disappeared within the next 24 months and it is still opposing the relationship those people will be having by then.
How is this progress?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 6:45pm GMT

'Too little. Too late. Too half-hearted.'

Kelvin, This is sincere from the Bishop of Liverpool, after much thought and some significant interaction from one of his past Chaplain's and others. A well publicised story. We are all searching for truth in God's good time and it doesn't help to have our heads in progressive Kairos time without allowing others to to catch up. All supposing we are in Kingdom time at any point - which is always open to debate. We should try not murder other's positive thoughts before they have had a chance to surface and be widely read and heard. He is a pilgrim like the rest of us and the 'grim' aspect is not dismissed by this Bishop.

Posted by Rosie Bates at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 7:06pm GMT

The Church of England is caught in a contradiction.

It has been banging on about how supportive of civil partnerships they are. Yet now a bishop about to retire makes a statement supporting civil partnerships and it creates a stir. The two simply don't add up on any level.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 7:37pm GMT

“... if the Church now recognises Civil Partnerships to be a just response to the needs of gay people then surely the Church now has to ask the question whether or not it can deny the blessing of God to that which is just...”

Jesus described for us the reign of God. We chose the Church instead. Since before the end of the 2nd Century that body has claimed for its clerics authority in a great many areas, frequently ignoring Dominical injunctions.

I would suggest that the Church has not the power to "deny the blessing of God." God will bless whom she chooses.

Posted by Pepper Marts at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 9:10pm GMT

I have no doubt that the Bishop of Liverpool is sincere. So is Justin Welby.
I'm very pleased for them as they make their personal journey towards understanding what equality for all is about. And I'm pleased for the church if it, as an institution, is also taking another step on that path.

But I'm not grateful or about to dance in the aisles. It's a great step forward for them, it's not a great step forward for me.
They are still not seeing me as truly equal, they are still not welcoming us on the same terms as they welcome their own kind.

"We're considering to discriminate a little less against you" is good news for the ones whose awareness is growing.
They still have to walk a long walk to complete that journey.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 9:34pm GMT

Remarkable and courageous.

However, if another prominent evangelical, namely the new Archbishop of Canterbury, can describe the election of the new Pope as 'amazing', I'm afraid that James Jones will remain something of a lone voice.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 10:55pm GMT

Erika, I was trying to be generous, for once. My understanding, which could be flawed, was that the CoE originally opposed Civil Partnerships. So this recent support would be progress. Perhaps I'm mistaken?

Much of this played out in TEC a decade ago, but we're still not totally agreed on the Sacrament of Marriage (some Dioceses are doing it where there is legal marriage). Even though Same Sex Blessings are resolved at the national level, they are not necessarily settled in every diocese. If our Supreme Court rules in favor of federal marriage equality, then TEC is going to be challenged to respond, and would for once be on the less progressive side of it.

It's kind of messy in TEC, allowing regional differences. But once the liberation begins, it's unstoppable.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 11:05pm GMT

I think that Bishop James Jones has gone "just about as far as he can go" - as the old song has it- considering the circumstances.

Within the strictures of the Church of England, we are still 'stuck' with the idea of heterosexual-only Marriage: Until, and unless, that is changed by General Synod, I guess not too many bishops (or even potential bishops) are going to be willing to put their heads above the parapet.

Government has promised that it will not try to force the C. of e. to change its doctrinal status.
Therefore, we are in a situation where, though the Church of England did nothing to promote Civil Unions for LGBT persons; it is now seen as KEEN to promote them - rather than offering the prospect of Same-Sex Marriage. The people involved in these Same-Sex monogamous relationships have NOT changed, but seemingly the Church's attitude has (OR HAS IT?)

I, personally, would like the Church to be open to the blessing of a Same-Sex relationship based on the desire to live together in faithful love and monogamy. And if that's the best the Church can offer - in lieu of Marriage - that may be a step forward, but surely not the magnanimity that God's children who are Gay or Lesbian really deserve.

God is Love! Those who live together in love are ikons of God as Love.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 11:54pm GMT

Anyone else notice the pattern? With each step toward full equality, the Church 1) fights the new step and 2) declares the *previous* step (which they had fought, when it was new) to now be acceptable---and sufficient.

It's a pattern which relies on the observing world's amnesia.

And, in its maudlin muddling, it does not boldly proclaim the Gospel.

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 4:25am GMT

Erica, I'm grateful, but I'll sit the dancing bit out with you any day of the week until the rest enlarge their vision.

Posted by Rosie Bates at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 11:30am GMT

I suppose I have heard the "you're welcome here but only on our terms" message for so long that I cannot help but hear it still.

And I'm in no frame of mind to accept that any longer. I'm an adult Christian and I do not need a bishop to decide, on my behalf, what kind of relationship he may or may not allow me to have or what he personally may or may not approve of.

I'll be glad for them if they are taking their first steps towards full acceptance. I will be glad for myself once they've completed their journey.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 1:15pm GMT

I think Erica has nailed it - good for them, personally. Nothing for justice.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 2:24pm GMT

"I will be glad for myself once they've completed their journey."

This reminds of the choir director of a black Episcopal parish who'd been asked one time too many if she could bring the church choir to some larger church event so that blacks and "black music" could be represented. She said: A. They can learn to sing the songs themselves; and B. racism is a white problem, they need to work it out themselves.

While I clearly believe in the power of Witness, both Erika and this choir director are on to something in saying that "they need to complete their journey." Unfortunately, the CoE leadership is all elderly men, all straight or closeted, and almost all white, that is a limiting perspective.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 4:06pm GMT

I'd be interested in hearing from any gay clergy or readers in relationships or Civil Partnerships from the diocese of Liverpool who might tell us how things have changed in that diocese in recent years.

Presumably they feel more supported by their bishop now. Yes?

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 11:21pm GMT

By asking the question he puts the onus onto others to say why the church cannot bless civil partnerships when it supports them. Hence come up with the arguments why not if you have any. I actually think this is a very potent way of putting it (after some reflection).

On a more personal note I have no doubt Bishop Jones is a person of deep integrity who has both changed his position and spoken out about it.

I don't feel grateful to him for it (it is after all only half the journey, though probably the most important half) but I recognise both his sincerity and the value for the church of laying it on the line in open view for all to see that this evolution has taken place).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 11:22pm GMT

Come on give the poor man a chance....he can't win. Not everybody moves at the same speed and we don't always get it right.....but he is slowly getting there.
Anyway haven't some of us already been blessing Civil Partnerships for quite a while? It's surprising how much you can make it look like a Marriage with a bit of of gifts (rings) and solemn vows and a public announcement. Can thoroughly recommend "The Service of my Love" by Jim Cotter for anyone wanting to bite the bullet and start doing Civil Partnership blessings.

Posted by Robert Ellis at Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 4:15pm GMT

I frequently hear "not everyone moves at the same speed," but, in the case of churches worldwide and across the denominational spectrum, what it reminds me of is *Futurama* with Dr. Zoidberg telling Leela, "Go on! Leave me! Save yourself!" and it pulls back to show him clinging to her ankle to be dragged along and saying, "Save yourself quicker!"

Not moving at the same speed is one thing - expecting everyone else to stay behind and hold your hand, another.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 21 March 2013 at 3:42am GMT
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