A number of questions were asked about matters relating to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and other Employment Equality legislation. The full text of these Questions and Answers is below the fold.
Only the first of these questions was answered in tonight’s session, and no supplementary question was put. The other answers are available only in written form.
News reports specifically about this matter:
Yorkshire Post Bishop signals church pensions for gay clergy’s partners
Telegraph Gay priests’ lovers to get pensions
Q 27 The Revd Paul Collier (Southwark) to ask the Chairman of the Ministry Division:
Will the Church of England follow the example of the Scottish Episcopal Church and commit itself to giving pension rights to registered same-sex partners of clergy equal to those enjoyed by clergy spouses when the new law comes into effect in November of this year?
Answer by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds (Chairman of the Deployment, Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee)
The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 imposes obligations on all pensions schemes to provide a certain level of benefits to Registered Civil Partners of scheme members. The Church of England’s pensions schemes are affected by this legislation in the same way as any other scheme. The Government has still to make detailed regulations under the new Act, and we shall not be able to provide a comprehensive statement on the implications of the new legislation until we have had the opportunity to study those and work through the implications.
Q68 The Revd Stephen Coles (London) to ask the Chairman of the Archbishops’ Council:
Given that the Church of England seems gradually to be bringing the position of the clergy into closer line with that of other comparable professions and secular legislation in general, how are we to justify continuing to demand different procedures when there are issues regarding termination of office and discrimination on the grounds of sexuality?
Answer by the Bishop of Chelmsford on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council:
Acceptance of many of the features of secular legislation does not mean that the Church should cease to have its own arrangements for clergy discipline. Indeed this Synod and Parliament have only recently approved the new system of clergy discipline which is to come into operation at the end of this year. All that the Church has sought in relation to the sexual conduct of its clergy is that it should, like other denominations and faiths, remain free to debate and set its own requirements rather than have them externally imposed by the secular authorities.
Q70 The Revd Paul Collier (Southwark) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
In order to enable the Church to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay clergy and church members, will the House of Bishops make a declaration that no-one will face reprisals for speaking honestly about their experience?
Answer by the Bishop of Chelmsford as Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ministry
Introducing the language of ‘reprisals’ into this sensitive area is not helpful. Let us instead be agreed that it behoves all with pastoral responsibilities in the Church to enable its members to ‘speak the truth in love’ [Ephesians 4:15]. All the Churches of the Anglican Communion are bound to take seriously the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (c) which specifically called for such listening in respect of homosexual persons.
Let us also be agreed, as the draft Ordinal reminds us, that clergy of the Church of England are expected to ‘fashion their lives according to the way of Christ’ and to ‘accept the discipline of the Church’ [p.29 of GS 1535A].
Q78 The Revd Stephen Coles (London) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
If a member of the clergy decides to contract a civil partnership with a member of the same gender once this becomes possible in the foreseeable future, how will this affect their office within the Church of England?
Q79 The Revd Anthony Braddick-Southgate (Southwark) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
What advice has the House received regarding how the registration of civil partnerships will compel the Church of England to recognize same-sex relationships for the purposes of employment practices and occasional offices such as funerals?
Q80 The Revd Anthony Braddick-Southgate (Southwark) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
Has the House of Bishops come to a mind or given any guidance on whether clergy who register a civil partnership will be subject to any disciplinary proceedings?
Answer by the Bishop of Norwich as Chairman of the House’s Civil Partnerships Sub-Group
With permission, I should like to answer the question from Mr Coles and the two questions from Mr Braddick-Southgate together.
The group which I chair is considering the issues raised in these questions. We shared our initial thinking with the House in January and are aiming to complete our report for its meeting in May. The intention is to issue a Pastoral Statement for the guidance of clergy and others well before the first civil partnerships become possible when the Civil Partnerships Act comes into force at the end of this year or early next.