Thinking Anglicans

Affirming Catholicism publishes CP booklet

Affirming Catholicism is publishing a booklet about Civil Partnerships. The press release is reproduced below. The full text of the Foreword to the booklet is below the fold.


Affirming Catholicism welcomes civil partnerships as pastoral opportunity for Church

The Anglican organisation Affirming Catholicism will publish today, 27 January 2006, a booklet calling on the Church to welcome civil partnerships as a pastoral opportunity and a means of listening to the experience of lesbian and gay Christians.

In a foreword to the booklet, the Very Rev’d Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, thanks God for the legislation which came into effect in England and Wales on 21 December 2005. He says that same-sex couples who commit their lives to each other ‘are expressing the deepest and most godlike instinct in human nature’. Acknowledging that many in the Church have yet to recognise this, he nonetheless believes that civil partnerships will help to change attitudes:

‘We know that the road to full and equal acceptance of gay relationships throughout the world will be long and hard, but we can rejoice that in this country the partnership law is a very big step along it.’

The booklet, written by the Rev’d Jonathan Sedgwick, an Anglican priest, argues that civil partnerships will provide a way out of the ‘catch 22’ which faces many gay Christians whose relationships are criticised for being unstable while – at the same time – the Church fails to offer any support which might help couples stay together. The argument is backed up by real-life case studies of lesbian and gay christian couples. Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, the Chair of Trustees said:

‘The period of listening and reception to which Anglicans are committed can’t happen on a purely theoretical level. It must also be about the lived experience of lesbian and gay Christians who need to feel safe enough to tell their stories. We believe that civil partnership can help give that security and that local clergy should offer prayer and support for couples.’

The policy of the Church of England, as stated by the House of Bishops is that, while there could be no authorised liturgy to bless same-sex couples until there was consensus on Church teaching, parish priests should nonetheless respond sensitively and pastorally to gay couples seeking blessings.

The publication calls for an end to the double standard at the heart of current Church teaching which accepts gay relationships between lay people but bans sexually active homosexual women and men from the priesthood.

Copies of Civil Partnership: A Guide for Christians, by Jonathan Sedgwick, foreword by Jeffrey John, (Affirming Catholicism, London) are available by mail order: tel 020 7222 5166 or email priced £3.


Notes for editors

  • Dr Jeffrey John’s booklet ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-Sex partnerships’ was published by Affirming Catholicism in 1993 and updated in 2001. It placed biblical teaching on homosexuality in its historical context and called for contemporary Church practice to develop and accord loving, committed and sexually faithful same-sex relationships the same value and significance as Christian marriage.
  • For further information contact: The Rev’d Richard Jenkins Director Affirming Catholicism Tel 020 7233 0235 Mob 07725 341 025

Update See mention of this in Ruth Gledhill’s blog today


From the end of 2005 same-sex partnerships will be legally recognised and protected in the United Kingdom. Although the legislation carefully avoids the term, it will, as opponents and proponents alike have recognised, provide a form of same-sex marriage in all but name. The partnership law will in practice give gay couples exactly the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples. Thank God.

Thank God, because this is God’s doing. God made all of us, gay or straight, in his own image, to reflect his kind of love. Whenever two people love each other enough to commit their lives to each other, ‘for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part’, they are expressing the deepest and most godlike instinct in human nature.

That the Church as a whole cannot yet see and acknowledge that this is God’s work is a tragedy. In this very lucid, balanced and helpful booklet Jonathan Sedgwick shows how we can continue to reflect on and gather in the views of all sides in this debate at the same time as embracing a more positive approach to lesbian and gay couples. Jonathan argues that every priest and parish needs to be aware of the provisions of civil partnership and urges them to seize this opportunity to welcome civil partners and offer them whatever pastoral support they may need and want.

We know that the road to full and equal acceptance of gay relationships throughout the world will be long and hard, but we can rejoice that in this country the partnership law is a very big step along it. Perhaps the greatest gain will be the increased visibility of lifelong, faithful same-sex relationships in society and in the Church. This is crucial, because knowing an ordinary gay couple is far more likely to change hostile hearts and minds than any amount of argument. Certainly there is still a long way to travel and a lot of prejudice to overcome, but even in the Church there is no doubt about the outcome. Love will win in the end; God guarantees it. As Kenneth Boulding, the Quaker poet and economist wrote,

Although hate rises in enfolding flame
at each renewed oppression, soon it dies;
it sinks as quickly as we saw it rise,
while love’s small constant light burns still the same.
Know this: though love is weak and hate is strong,
yet hate is short, and love is very long.

Jeffrey John

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Peter O
18 years ago

I thought the Dean of St Albans gave Christopher Herbert assurances he wasn’t going to use his position to promote the cause of same-sex unions?

My mistake obviously.

18 years ago

Why shouldn’t he? Or are only views you approve of permissible?

18 years ago

How do you see this as Dr John “using his position”?

Or are you suggesting that he said he would be silenced if he became Dean of St Albans? I would be very surprised if that was ever suggested.

Peter O
18 years ago

No – I’m not saying he can’t have his say. I think everybody should have their say. I just thought that he said he wouldn’t be making public statements on the issue, that’s all.

I could be wrong.

18 years ago

Given that he had written a book on the issue, it’s hardly likely. I think he argues his case very cogently.

Göran Koch-Swahne
18 years ago

Freedom of speech, anyone?

Nigeria has got a solution to this.

Peter Bergman
Peter Bergman
18 years ago

So has Sweden – but you’d better be ready for a long, expensive fight in the courts:

Göran Koch-Swahne
18 years ago

Peter Bergman wrote: “So has Sweden” Correction: the European Convention on Human Rights does. The Swedish law, killed by the Highest Court in November, came into being due to the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. So it was deferred for 10 years… So the outcome in the Highest Court was no surprise ;=) The Highest Court first declared that the poor pastor indeed had broken the Swedish law, and proceeded by claiming that the European Court at Strassbourg (improbably) would set the fellow free on appeal, having protected the human rights of persecuted Greek pentecostals and Kurds… Read more »

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