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 firstname.lastname@example.org priced £3.
Notes for editors
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.