Thinking Anglicans

civil partnerships: changes to church law

Anglican Mainstream has a note about the changes to ecclesiastical law that are being made by the government in connection with the Civil Partnership Act. The item can be read in full here. The hyperlinks in the following extract may prove useful.

This is because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 contains provisions (sections 255 and 259) enabling the Government to amend and even repeal other legislation in order to give full effect to the purposes of the Act. This includes even amending and repealing church law. The power in relation to church law is exercised by statutory instrument approved by both Houses of Parliament.

At the time of writing there is one draft statutory instrument which deals with church law awaiting such approval, and one statutory instrument still being drafted by parliamentary draftsmen. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005 proposes to amend four pieces of church legislation: the Pluralities Act 1838, the Parsonages Measure 1938, the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986, and the Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994. The Civil Partnership Act (Judicial Pensions and Church Pensions, etc.) Order 2005 will, as its name suggests, amend the church’s pensions legislation to give protection to civil partners. It is intended that both these provisions will come into force on the same day as the Act itself, namely 5 December 2005.

The relevant portion of The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005 is reproduced below the fold.

The following Hansard extract shows what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) said in the House of Lords about this, on 19 July:

Schedule 3 to the order amends Church legislation to insert references to “civil partner” and “surviving civil partner” where there are existing references to “spouse” and “widow or widower”. Section 259 enables a Minister of the Crown to make amendments to Church legislation although, as the Committee will be aware, by convention the government do not legislate for the Church of England without its consent. I stress that the provisions in the order amending Church legislation have been drafted by Church lawyers, consulted on internally within the Church, and finally have been approved by the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops. The Church has asked that we include the amendments in the order, which we are content to do. The amendments in Schedule 3 do not cover Church pensions, as those will be dealt with in a separate instrument to be made under Section 255 of the Act.

Draft Statutory Instrument 2005 No.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005

Article 4(3)


Pluralities Act 1838

1. —(1) The Pluralities Act 1838 [footnote 10] shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 36 (widow of any spiritual person may continue in the house of residence for two months after his decease), for “widow or widower” substitute “surviving spouse or surviving civil partner”.

(3) In section 43 (bishop may grant licences for non-residence in certain enumerated cases), after “spouse” insert (in each place) “or civil partner”.

Parsonages Measure 1938

2. In section 1(6) of the Parsonages Measure 1938 [footnote11] (definition of “connected person”), after “spouse” insert “or civil partner”.

Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986

3. —(1) The Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 [footnote 12] shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 11(2)(a) (requirements as to meetings of parochial church council), after “spouse” insert “or civil partner”.

(3) In section 12(4) (joint meeting of parochial church council with bishop and patron), after “spouse” insert “or civil partner”.

Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994

4. In section 2(5) of the Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994 [footnote 13] (applications for legal aid), for “wife or husband” substitute “spouse or civil partner”.


[10] 1838 c. 106.

[11] 1938 1 & 2 Geo 6. No. 3. The definition of “connected person” in section 1(6) was substituted by section 1 of, and Schedule 1, paragraph 2(b) to, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2005.

[12] 1986 No. 3. The word “spouse” in sections 11(2)(a) and 12(4) was substituted by section 10 of, and paragraphs 10(b) and 11 of Schedule 3 to, the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993.

[13] 1994 No. 3.

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18 years ago

Nothing unusual here. The CofE is an established church, and it isn’t in the business of defying the law made by Parliament.

Martin Hambrook
Martin Hambrook
18 years ago

Jawohl, mein Gruppenoberfuehrer, ve are only following orders. /click heels

18 years ago

I don’t know what everyone is afraid of. No one is suggesting that the CofE be forced into anything. I also think it is about time the CofE looked to change its outdated ideas on a number of issues. Unless we still intend to take all of the bible litterally. In which case I’m off to chuck my cockles in the bin.

18 years ago

Er…no, Martin. We elected our Government. And the civil partnership Bill had the support of all three major party leaders.

It is not for the Church to defy democratic government. Thats not the way we work here.

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