Thinking Anglicans

two more views on civil partnerships

Tim Jones, who is English although working in the USA, has written this comment about the bishops’ statement, Strangers in a Strange Land:

…To many outside the UK it seems bizarre that Christian bishops could vote for something that seems to them so, well, un-Christian. The powerful Anglican archbishop of Nigeria is furious, and reports are circulating that he is contemplating proposals for the Anglican Communion to discipline the Church of England, its historical ‘mother-church’. It is part of a wider debate about sexuality and church order that the Anglican Communion, the world’s third largest Christian denomination, may not survive intact…

And Pete Broadbent who is an English suffragan bishop, wrote about the statement in the Usenet newsgroup uk.religion.christian. His remarks are copied in full below the fold.

“I think a little clarity might be in order here.

1. Civil Partnerships are part of the law of the land. If two persons decide to enter into a Civil Partnership, there is nothing the Church of England can do to stop them.

2. The Church clearly teaches that marriage is the only lifelong commitment sanctioned by God. Our view of civil partnerships is that they cannot be held to be marriage, and cannot be recognised by the CofE as marriage.

3. Many (though not all) bishops would say that civil partnerships are a non-category; a nonsense category invented by Government as a way of fudging the issue on gay marriage.

4. We are therefore living in two realms; in the Church, a civil partnership has no meaning, beyond a commitment two people have to each other. In the State, such partnerships have meaning, and bring with them legal rights and responsibilities (which will impinge on all churches, not just the CofE).

5. We cannot therefore prohibit clergy from declaring a civil partnership. They have that right under civil law. We can only take action against them in so far as they contravene the teachings of scripture and the Church. The dilemma (which is not about fudge or compromise, but about reality) is that there is nothing per se wrong from scripture in entering a covenant of friendship and lifelong commitment to another person (indeed, during the drawing up of the legislation, it was argued quite sensibly that if Government was inventing this foolish category, then it ought to apply to brother and sister who wished to make the same kind of commitment to each other). If we were to take action against people for contracting a civil partnership we would be contravening their human rights, and would face legal challenge and inevitable costs. Perhaps Reform would like to put up the money if they want to see us go that route?

6. We are therefore left with this ridiculous and unsolvable pastoral conundrum, in that we have no grounds to prohibit civil partnerships, because they are not homosexual “marriage”. They are not therefore by their nature contrary to the teaching of the Church. However, we all know that the majority of people wishing to contract civil partnerships are going to be gay couples. Hence we are into the scenario of having to interrogate clergy about their bedroom habits, which is plainly sordid and intrusive. The legislation has us over a barrel. Those of us who have to operate the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement see it as very far from a fudge, because we have the uncomfortable responsibility of operating the pastoral discipline which it entails.

Pete Broadbent”

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Merseymike
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Merseymike

Pete Broadbent and the other bishops need to get real. Civil partnerships are gay marriage – the only difference is their name, which means that legally, they fall into a different category. The content of the relationships in terms of legal rights and responsibilities are identical. You would think to read Broadbent’s article that he had no idea of similar arrangements in many European countries, but no doubt if he casts his mind back to when he was a Labour councillor in Islington, before he emerged as a conservative, I’m sure this may come to mind. He is right in… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Just a PS. I’d like Broadbent to explain exactly how civil partnerships differ from CIVIL marriage, other than the gender of the participants? It seems illogical that he should give civil marriage ‘meaning’ within the Church either, given that the legal rights and responsibilities are essentially the same.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“3. Many (though not all) bishops would say that civil partnerships are a non-category; a nonsense category invented by Government as a way of fudging the issue on gay marriage.” This is very disingenuous, when the Church(es, not just the CofE) has been so heavily involved in “cooking the fudge.” “Civil partnerships” wouldn’t exist as a legal category, if the Church (et al) would just *let* the State open marriage to same-sex couples (on an equal basis w/ opposite-sex couples). The State’s law is “fudging” . . . because the Church’s policy (denying the holiness of marital love between persons… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

To be fair, though, JC, in my experience, most gay people are concerned about the benefits, rights and responsibilities which flow from civil partnership – rather than wanting marriage per se. In terms of practical politics, it may be seen as more realistic.

In time I’m sure the status will become a single civil marriage, for gay and straight alike.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Civil Partnerships differ from civil marriage in the nature of the contract. The promises (vows) declarations are the point of contract in a civil (and religious) contract. The signing of the document is a secondary formula, if one of the couple were to die immediately after the declarations the marriage is still valid as the registrar and witnesses could testify. The registration of a civil partnership has no declaration, promises or vows, it is – to some degree – precisely what this bishop declares it to be, a deliberate non-category. As Ms Fisher says above, this is in no small… Read more »

Jim Pratt
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Jim Pratt

What I haven’t seen in this whole debate from England is any distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony.

In Canada, proponents of gay marriage have been quick to point out that no church is required to solemnize marriages which don’t conform to their rules, and this was written right into the legislation.

Is establishment so entrenched in England that there is no distinction between church and civil marriage, and should not the church have tried to act along those lines, rather than come up with this ridiculous fudge?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Jim ; I think the truth is that given that only 22% of marriages took place within an Anglican church last year, the established church is somewhat reluctant to point out the difference. For some reason, they then want to try and distance the actual content and status of civil partnership from civil marriage, since in terms of heterosexuals, they appear unable to differentiate between civil marriage and ‘Christian marriage’ Martin ; many local authorities already offered partnership ceremonies before the legislation, and already they are being used as good practice and ‘standard’ ceremonies. They are very similar to civil… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Jim Pratt, The differences between a civil ceremony and a wedding service in the Church of England are not only the legal consequences, but the intention of the proceedings. The state has devised a civil partnership which is virtually identical to a civil marriage in its legal aspects, but at a civil ceremony no explicitly religious content is permitted either in the form of words used or in the accompanying celebratory readings/music. The critical difference is the content of the marriage service used in church, which sets the commitment in an explicitly Christian context and explains what is happening in… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Bp Broadbent might also like to explain how the Roman Catholic Bishops can ban their priests from marrying, but the Church of England’s Bishops see it as impossible to ban priests from entering Gay Marriage (oops I mean Civil Partnership).

If one ban is an unacceptable breach of human rights then so is the other (the UN Human Right to be able to marry and have a family) !

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Because the CofE is an established church, so has a different relationship with the State than the RC’s. Also, all priests have to be celibate irrespective of sexual orientation….oh, except if they’re making a political conversion from Anglicanism!

Tim Jones
Guest
Tim Jones

Bishop Pete writes: “which is plainly sordid and intrusive.”
It need not be. The simple question could be “Do you abide by the Church’s discipline that you should be celibate or in Christian marriage.”
That requires simply a yes or no answer, without details. It assumes the honesty of the priest.

The Bishop also wrote: “it was argued quite sensibly that if Government was inventing this foolish category, then it ought to apply to brother and sister who wished to make the same kind of commitment to each other”
That sensible argument was made, but was rejected in the final legislation.

simon dawson
Guest

Vincent Coles writes that, legally speaking, the first of the causes for which marriage was ordained is the procreation of children. Vincent quotes froma document written in 1662 however, and things have changed since then. The preface to the service used today says “Marriage is intended by God to be a creative relationship, as his blessing enables husband and wife to love and support each other in good times and in bad, and to share in the care and upbringing of children. For Christians, marriage is also an invitation to share life together in the spirit of Jesus Christ. It… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Merseymike suggests that “Because the CofE is an established church, so has a different relationship with the State than the RC’s.” is an explanation for the putative difference of response by the RC bishops.

Two comments:
first, we do not yet know the response of the RC bishops, I have twice requested an answer to this point from their press office;
second, I do not believe that anything about the CofE response is related to establishment. Merseymike can you substantiate this comment, please.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Simon ; clearly its just my opinion, but I think the response of the CofE to ANY issue is set within the context of it being an established church. Many people have said, in response to the pastoral statement (which appears to be equally unsatisfactory to both ‘sides’) that the church should simply ignore the law and ban their priests from entering into civil partnership. Given that its legal advisers have deemed this at least legally questionable, as Bp Broadbent’s comments suggest, this would not be a valid option for a church which has links with the State. Secondly, the… Read more »

James
Guest

Is it possible for the CofE to be ejected from the worldwide Anglican communion?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I can’t see how – although it is possible that some who no longer wish to be in communion with the CofE move away and claim to be a continuing ‘Anglican’ communion.

Simeon
Guest
Simeon

James,

I don’t see HOW. The main “instrument of unity” of the AC is the Abp. of Canterbury – who is also the Primate of All England. To be in the AC assumes that the church in question is in communion with the CoE. Suggesting that the CoE be suspended from the Anglican Communion is like suggesting that the Vatican be suspended from the Roman Catholic Church, i.e. a non sequitur.

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archbishop_of_Canterbury
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Communion

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I do hope so James!

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Simon Dawson thinks that the 1662 service does not apply any longer “as things have changed since then.” It is still the standard of doctrine for the Church of England (see the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974). Actually, the 1980 ASB and the newer Common Worship rites also speak in terms of marriage as a procreative union, and he is forced to substitute words which actually deny the purpose of the words chosen by the compilers of the modern rites. Human biology has not changed since 1662. Same sex couples can not procreate, and can not offer children the experience… Read more »

DGus
Guest
DGus

Let’s keep in mind the etymology of “matrimony”. The Latin root is none other than MATER, “mother”. Matrimony is the relationship by which a woman legitimately becomes a mother; it is the nursery of humanity.

Male-male relationships may have some qualities in common with marriage, but they are not and cannot be “matrimony”. A female-female relationship, while it may happen to include a mother (or even two), is not the relationship by which women become mothers.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Vincent ; I think you will find that many heterosexual partnerships are equally lacking in analogy, particularly if reproductivity is your stated aim – up to a third of married couples are now opting not to procreate.

I think the factors which lead people towards any sort of commitment with one another are often not centred around reproduction. I wonder how many couples who marry in church would fulfil your criteria?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But Gus, this is all in the past, and many heterosexual couples marry with no iontention of having children. We live in a modern, diverse society, not locked in to past definitions.

Nadine Kwong
Guest
Nadine Kwong

DGus: Latin-rooted etymologies aside, it is simply not true that “[a] female-female relationship, while it may happen to include a mother (or even two), is not the relationship by which women become mothers”; true motherhood arises not from “matrimony” — and not even from carrying a fetus to term or providing the egg for that fetus — but from love and nurture. To state otherwise is (while I imagine you do not intend it this way) to insult all adoptive mothers (and their children), whether married or single. Same for being a father; it’s not who deposited the sperm —… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

MM, I think you will find that 100% of same-sex partners are unable to procreate, whatever they think their commitment might mean. I suggest you read the words of the marriage service again. It is here that the Church’s intention in the rite is to be found, not in the understanding (or lack of it) of the bride and groom at any particular wedding service. While you persist in trying to reduce the discussion to the personal views of any particular individual or married couple you fail to address the issues at stake so far as the Christian faith is… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Vincent and DGus, you’re providing a lot of extraneous stuff here (particularly in the context of a *civil* partnership). The essence of *marriage* isn’t in the “mater” of matrimony, or in procreation (which can be accomplished just as easily without the authorization of State and/or Church). It’s in the *promise* that two make to each other. [NB: “Same sex couples can not procreate” “A female-female relationship . . . is not the relationship by which women become mothers.” This is, arguably, not even true *now* (I personally know a female couple where one woman is carrying her partner’s fertilized ovum)… Read more »

Mark Beaton
Guest
Mark Beaton

Well, this discussion of what a ‘partnership’ is and how and whether marriage is related to child-bearing is very interesting. I found this letter by a gay man (July 21) on ‘Independent Gay Forum’ which resonates with a lot of the issues mentioned above and developing sexual mores in their relation to the given Christian tradition. I would be grateful for comment: “Once you establish that one part of the Christian tradition can be radically revised to meet your current sexual needs, it becomes that much easier to do it again and again and again. Watching porn at home? A… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Guest

Vincent – please do not put words into my mouth that I did not say. You said “Simon Dawson thinks that the 1662 service does not apply any longer”. I did not say that, I said “things have changed since then”. I am only an amateur theologian, but I do know that when looking at text one should look at the whole text, and also look at how the teaching on the particular topic referred to in the text differs in other parts of the Bible. For example when looking at Old Testament views of matriminy it would be important… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Nadine Kwong (who appears to rely on Zen more than Christian theology still manages to ask, “What would Jesus do?” I have no doubt that he would quote the Scriptures in response. Simon Dawson argues that “things have changed since then [1662]” (and presumably he means that the theological statement made in the 1662 Marriage Service does therefore no longer apply, otherwise why say that things have changed?) Most Christians believe that nothing has changed in God’s design for Creation, that marriage is for a man and a woman, and that it is in turn the means of procreation which… Read more »

DGus
Guest
DGus

Dear Nadine, This is some mighty big question-begging: “And if parenthood arises through actions alone, surely you can see that it is the *being* a mother or father that makes it so, and not any state of ‘matrimony’ between the two parents.” In fact, the normative and healthy condition of being a child DOES depend on a relationship between the child’s parents. I am an adoptive father myself, so I know full well the joys and beauties of the parent-child relationship that can arise even in other-than-biological circumstances. (This day, by the way, is my adopted daughter’s first day of… Read more »

IT
Guest
IT

Sigh. So many of the same, tired arguments. First. Let us consider and dismiss the slippery slope argument. How many times have we heard “if you let them do (X), pretty soon they’ll want to do (Y)”? It was said when people married across tribes, and across races. Somehow those were considered “unnatural” and chapter and verse were quoted to keep them that way. (the history of inter-racial marriage is always illuminating in this regard; particularly the fact that in the US, it took till the 90s for the majority of people to agree it was okay even though it… Read more »

Keith Kimber
Guest

Follow links to Simon and David’s ‘Ceremony of Commitment and Blessing’, and you see care and thoughtful preparation, witnessing to their desire to share their lives together. The bottom line for me is: ‘How does anything translate into prayer and worship of God?’ (Lex orandi,lex credendi) This is the Ultimate Reality’ test – not frail human logic, promoting different positions, concealing vested interests in preserving some status quo or other. How many decisions and commitments we make are honestly expressable in prayer? If it can be well prayed, if it takes participants deeper on their journey into God, then it… Read more »

Nadine Kwong
Guest
Nadine Kwong

Vincent Coles, you write: “Nadine Kwong (who appears to rely on Zen more than Christian theology still manages to ask, “What would Jesus do?” I have no doubt that he would quote the Scriptures in response.” Vincent, you fail to address any of my actual points, and as I noted, the Zen metaphor is not inherently or essentially Zen, and it in no way violates any Christian theology. Yet you address this strawman instead of my actual points. David/DGus did, so let me move on to dialoguing with him. But first I’ll respond that the Jesus I love, know and… Read more »

Nadine Kwong
Guest
Nadine Kwong

David/DGus, congratulations on your daughter entering college! May she flourish there, and make you proud. I too have had adoption within my family, and speak from that place, and I suspect that if you and I spoke further, we’d see each other not so far apart as to what makes someone a parent, and what makes someone a *good* parent. Reading your response, I had two consistent reactions that I would hope you would consider: 1. Real humans do not live in a world of abstracted norms. Whatever the norm or ideal, and without you and I needing to agree… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“Everyone who knows about the birds and the bees — and even a child who doesn’t know about that yet — knows that mommy and daddy and baby go together”

Dgus, I think Rodgers & Hammerstein covered that one pretty well back in “South Pacific” (1949):

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear:
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

[“hate and fear” gay people in *civil partnerships*, in this case Simon S: just to stay on topic! *g*]

Simon Dawson
Guest

Keith Kimber Thanks for your kind words (above) about our “Service of Blessing and Covenant”. A lot of people have found it on the web and sent us nice comments. The one I like best is as follows: “Dear Simon and David, Many thanks for putting your blessing service on the internet. I’m a liturgist working at ******** ********* and will be using your service with a group of students this coming Friday (they are all training to be priests). My hope is that they will be inspired, in their ministries, to offer services of this kind and approach them… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Nadine Kwong, I rather think that since the discussion is about the specific question of marriage, Jesus would have quoted (as he does in debating marriage in Matt.19.4-5) “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” And so, you may conclude that I regard it as an immoral use of science to cause children to be born to same-sex couples, or to be cloned. Just… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Keith ;yes, the established churches have lost the plot, and I think in, say, 10 years, when civil partnerships are no longer at all remarkable, and may even be officially called gay marriage, as well as colloquially, the Church will simply look even more ridiculous and archaic.

Or – and we can only hope – the conservatives will all be following Akinola and Co, and we may even have a church worth being part of, which respects all loving, committed relationships irrespective of the gender of those involved.

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Keith Kimber, I have followed the links as you suggest, and what I found there included (among many things profoundly unrelated to the Gospel) appeals to the “goddess” Gaia. This illustrates very exactly what happens when people go their own way, rather than God’s. And no, secular society is not showing us the way. Secular society’s promotion of a world in which children are a commodity, equally available to to married couples, unmarried mothers, gay women and now gay men, children given sex instruction as young as 12 or 13 and sent out from the classroom to go forth and… Read more »

Annie
Guest
Annie

Vincent more or less attacks Nadine with a weak left hook as he says, “I have no doubt that he would quote the Scriptures in response.” I ask, IS THIS WHAT HE WOULD DO? A great deal of what he taught flew in the face of what had previously been held to be true and the practice of law without considering justice, mercy and good faith. He said, “Why do you break God’s commandment in the interest of your tradition?” And, when his disciples were caught picking corn on the Sabbath, he said, “I require mercy, not sacrifice.” And, he… Read more »

Mark Beaton
Guest
Mark Beaton

Could anyone please clarify these legal questions about civil partnerships:
1. Can a bishop or church council in the Church of England forbid a priest (rector, vicar or curate) who is presently employed from cohabitating in a church property (vicarage etc) with his/her civil partner?
2. Can a bishop or church council in the Church of England make it a condition of employment that a priest does NOT enter a civil partnership?
I am sure these are questions that many potential employers will be mulling over.
Thank you,
Mark Beaton

IT
Guest
IT

Vincent writes: And no, secular society is not showing us the way. Secular society’s promotion of a world in which children are a commodity, equally available to to married couples, unmarried mothers, gay women and now gay men, children given sex instruction as young as 12 or 13 and sent out from the classroom to go forth and multiply, all of this is causing society to break down as children grow up without the parents God intended them to have, sharing their upbringing and their lives. Right, and if we let them homosexuals MARRY and create stable households, we’ll end… Read more »

DGus
Guest
DGus

What would Jesus say about same-sex unions or same-sex “marriage”? He did address the subject of marriage, in a passage that has already been disregarded in this discussion: To reject a degraded view of marriage, He repeated that “at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female'” (Matthew 19:4-6). His theme was the unchanging continuity of God’s will from “the beginning”. It’s a reinvented hippie Jesus who smiles benignly on sexual perversion and teaches something like “I’m OK, you’re OK”, or “Rules are old school; just be nice,” or “That was then, this is now”. You can read what… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Oh, I don’t really class love without affirmation and ‘conditions’ as very genuine, DGus.

The world didnt stop in AD 33. Thats why trying to apply the Bible in such a literalist way is such a pointless exercise. After all, it was written by men of their age and time, who wouldn’t have even understood what sexual orientation was, let alone foresee faithful gay relationships, civil partnerships, or gay marriage!

DGus
Guest
DGus

Dear MM: You say, “I don’t really class love without affirmation and ‘conditions’ as very genuine”. I understand that that you might be rankled by professions of love from someone who disapproves of your conduct. But while you and I disagree on this particular subject (homosexuality), I’ll bet that, in fact, you DO love many sinners whose sin you cannot affirm. I have friends who are bigots; I love them genuinely but don’t “affirm” their bigotry; maybe you have similar relationships. Maybe you have even an extreme instance like the one I now face: I hope this weekend to visit… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Merseymike I don’t think that Jesus (or Pete Broadbent) hates people who experience homosexual attraction, or any other sinful attraction. Nor do I think that. And I would try to always follow them in loving the sinner too. But that does not mean that Civil Partnerships are righteous, or that I feel obliged to affirm such people by supporting legitimisation of their partnerships. Affirmation should only be given to a person as an individual, or as a member of a legitimate classification (gender, race, single, married, nationality, class, age, education, disability etc) not as a member of a class… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Actually the world of AD33 was very little different to modern UK in terms of decadence and immorality – a little worse if anything, but we are sure catching up fast on the emperor Tiberius and the culture of his empire. I often read assertions that today is so very different to the ancient world, but I can assure you as a classicist that it was not, nor was human nature, or the kind of liaisons which MM thinks are so new to this world. The world which Jesus urged to repent and believe the good news was remarkably like… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Mark Thanks for your two questions. It’s not easy to answer them thoroughly in the format of a comment here, so maybe I should have a separate article about this. But a few pointers: 1. In the CofE, Parochial Church Councils don’t have the kind of authority wrt clergy that your question implies. So any discipline that might be applicable would require the relevant bishop to take action. 2. Both questions are framed with reference to civil partnerships which can’t exist in England until 21 December this year, by which time it is widely believed that the Clergy Discipline Measure… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

Simon, I saw the legal opinion to which you refer at No. 3 and it has to be said that it is merely bluster. Even with the new Clergy Discipline Measure in force in 2006, how long would a charge of “conduct unbecoming” for committing a Civil Patrnership survive on appeal to the High Court, once it had been demonstrated that 80% of the bishops in the Lords that night voted FOR the Act, and that a similar number were turning a blind eye to it in their own dioceses? The only chance the bishops have of making any charge… Read more »

Mark Beaton
Guest
Mark Beaton

Thank you, Simon. If you know, could you please explain what changes this clergy discipline measure 2003 will bring in?
Wrt vicarages, as these are (I believe) usually parish or diocesan property in England (whereas in Ecusa priests often buy their own homes), can the title holder declare who may or may not domicile there?

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I agree with Vincent Coles on the legal opinion from Chancellor Behrens.
Our legal advice on his view is not yet for public release (I think it needs a little toning down!), but it leaves no doubt that there is no substance to the Chancellor’s “bluster”.
On a personal level as a gay priest in a partnership with a son, it is good to have some point of agreement with Mr Coles.