Thinking Anglicans

more on the civil partnerships story

Updated further on Thursday morning

Back on 5 February, Iain McLean who is Professor of Politics at Oxford University, wrote An open letter to the Bishop of Winchester at the Open Democracy website.

Stuart White wrote a follow-up to this What about my freedom of religion? at Next Left.

This led to today’s letter which you can find via here.

Today, Ruth Gledhill reports all this, and a lot more, on her blog at Gays could soon ‘marry’ in churches, synagogues.

See also the two articles in The Times

Anglican bishops back end to ban on gay civil partnerships in church by Ruth Gledhill and Rosemary Bennett

Civil partnerships have made gay couples just like everyone else by Rosemary Bennett

Ekklesia also has a roundup of these events, which notes that:

Hardline religious activists opposed to any extension of rights for LGBT people are already lobbying vocally against the change.

Updates

Other media have repeated the story, see
BBC Clerics call for gay ceremonies at religious venues
Daily Mail Steve Doughty Liberal bishops call for gay couples to be allowed to marry in church
Telegraph Heidi Blake Senior bishops want gay weddings in churches

CIf belief has an article by Andrew Pakula Bishops shouldn’t block equality.

And Diarmaid MacCulloch has also written there, see Bishops act the bully in parliament.

Aaron Goldstein Why equality matters to us

From the other end of the spectrum, ex-CofE minister Charles Raven writes about this, When will Gay Couples be able to take vows in the Church of England?

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Bill Dilworth (BillyD)
Guest

The bishops’ actions, as reported by Stuart White, made me quite cross.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Iain McLean makes a gracious and flattering statement on our constitution’s amendment, but if truth be told, we Americans have been terrible hypocrites in letting religion here also dictate what government allows and disallows. One only had to look at the infamous California Proposition 8 and see that organized religion pulls the strings here as well. Perhaps in the country we once rebelled against can we see a true distinction and challenge for justice.

rick allen
Guest

“One only had to look at the infamous California Proposition 8 and see that organized religion pulls the strings here as well.” Strangely enough, I was under the impression that it was the citizens of California who voted on Proposition 8, and the California Supreme Court that passed on it thereafter, and a federal court now entertaining another challenge. This still being a free country, churches and secular interest groups and individuals are all free to weigh in on matters of public law. Somehow I doubt that the citizens and the Courts were cowed and coerced by the Mormons. It… Read more »

rick allen
Guest
choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“Somehow I doubt that the citizens and the Courts were cowed and coerced by the Mormons.”

Follow the money. The the word “duped” enter your lexicon?

Robert Ian williams
Guest
Robert Ian williams

The Mormons have bankrolled the anti-gays will millions…yet Mormon doctrine teaches that in the afterlife marriage will be polygamous and a man may have up to 999 wives… the Moslems only allow 4!

Four of the present Mormon Apostlers are widowers who have been sealed to more than one wife for eternity Although they only live with one in this life.

The Mormon Church abandoned polygamy in 1890, but the leadership practiced it until 1904. Marriage is essential to Mormon exaltattion..the unmarried are servants for all eternity.

The mormon Church is the wealthiest financial institution west of the Misssisssipi river.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“Somehow I doubt that the citizens and the Courts were cowed and coerced by the Mormons”

Certainly not the courts, but the Mormons spent a lot of money in an effort to influence the vote, in which endeavor they were successful.

That said, you are right about the cacaphony of freedoms – would not have it any other way. More spech, not less, more religeous freedom, not less, more press, not less.

Henry Austin
Guest
Henry Austin

Still, I have to agree with the Quakers. England has a long and checkered history of religious discrimination. It was the direct result of the persecution of many religious groups that our American founding fathers insisted upon the separation of church and state. And, while religious views still compete in the marketplace of ideas, and may have an inordinate influence in the minds of some, it is not a case of the government preferring a particular denomination over another, or forcing particular religious views down everyone’s throats–as seems to be the case here. As an Episcopalian, I believe that the… Read more »

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Rick, when the iron hand of demographic change gives voters in multiple states an opportunity to undo these bigoted restrictions on marriage by a simple majority I trust that you will defend the results of those elections with as much support for the will of the people. Because no matter how hard you try to fight it justice and mercy will prevail. Just please remember to defend those election results, too.

Doxy
Guest

Forgive my ignorance, but I haven’t seen this spelled out in any of the linked articles I’ve read…

Just what would happen if a religious group conducted a ceremony for a same-sex couple on its premises? I see that it is illegal to do so (and to use “religious language”!!!), but what would happen if someone did it anyway?

Do they still throw people in the Tower of London? Chop off their heads? Hang them? Inquiring minds want to know…

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“The Government has yet to decide whether to back the amendment. It wants to avoid another confrontation with church leaders, having had to back down recently over the employment of gay staff in religious organisations after an intervention by the Pope.” – Times on Line – So, then; an intervention by the Bishop of Rome has inhibited the British Government from implementing what is seen by certain Christian religous bodies in the U.K. as the more charitable action of tolerance towards faithful same-sex couples, by allowing them to seek the blessing of their Churches? Thank God there are some Bishops… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Proposition 8 is a little off-topic, but … as far as I’m concerned, just because “we the people” voted for something doesn’t automatically make it right. “We the people” approved laws discriminating against blacks and women. It took the Supreme Court to start changing those laws. Back on topic, I admit I’m a Yank, and therefore don’t understand the complexities of British law and custom. But am I right in thinking that Tuesday’s and Monday’s articles state that, as of now, Quaker, Unitarian, Liberal Jewish, and other religious institutions can’t hold wedding or other ceremonies for gay or lesbian couples… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

“I trust that you will defend the results of those elections with as much support for the will of the people.” “just because “we the people” voted for something doesn’t automatically make it right.” My intention was neither to defend the Prop 8 results nor claim that garnering a majority makes anything right. It was simply to point out that a successful job of persuasion by a religious minority hardly amounts to that religious group “pulling the strings” of governance. On the main topic of discussion, I would agree that the British government has no more right to dictate Quaker… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Any church can conduct any ceremony it likes, but from the point of view of the State it is just a piece of fancy. What is being asked for is the registrar to be present at a one and only Partnership ceremony so that it takes place in a church, meeting house or synagogue or possibly elsewhere with religious words and personnel. When I married in a Unitarian church, a registrar came out. We used all sorts of words (I wrote the ceremony) but certain legal words had to be said. The registrar heard them, and the marriage was legal.… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Churches have every right to sway votes, as long as they also accept the responsibilities of taxation, etc.

They don’t. They shouldn’t. Let’s make it so they can’t.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Quakers in England have a long history, and it includes public acts of disruption and protest. I hope they go back to their roots.

BillyD/Bill Dilworth
Guest

“If a rabbi, priest, minister, shaman, or whomever grants wedding rites to a civilly-partnered couple, of what concern is it to Her Majesty’s government?”

It matters to state governments sometimes, too. I was once told by an Episcopal priest in Texas that he could not conduct a wedding without a marriage license.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rick I have read the link you posted here and I would like to say that I don’t think the main argument supposedly made by liberals “what is left to religious institutions and religious reasons is a private area of contemplation and worship, an area that can be safely and properly ignored when there are “real” decisions to be made” is actually what we’re saying. What we are saying is that the state has to make decisions that apply to everyone and therefore have to be accepted and lived by everyone. Religion cannot claim to be universal. Leaving aside the… Read more »

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

I hope to live to see the day when couples of the same sex can marry in church, not least because I think it will be a wonderful day of revelation for the Church. It will be too late for my partner and I but we have been fortunate to be able to celebrate our partnership not once but twice in very blessed circumstances. Many, many years ago when we reached our twentieth anniversary, we were invited to hold a service of thanksgiving in one of our ancient cathedrals. For logistical reasons, it eventually took place in a royal chapel!… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

“Religion cannot claim to be universal.” If that is so, then Christianity can no longer claim to be Christianity. “A democratically elected government that has to represent all the citizens of a country simply cannot prefer one group of citizens over another.” But recognition of religion freedom does not prefer one group of citizens over another. It simply recognizes, across the board, that there are areas into which the democratically elected government will not intrude. “As Simple Massing Priest puts so succinctly: “Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, has written an article for The Guardian in which he explains that… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Terence,
thank you for your very moving and affirming story.
It is true that God is with us wherever we celebrate our loves however much people may rant and rave against it. Thankfully, he isn’t tied down by their certainties and attempts to place obstructions in our paths.

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

BillyD, if a Texas TEC priest married a same-sex couple, that couple’s marriage would not be recognized by the state of Texas, but the state of Texas can not bar the priest from performing such a ceremony — although, depending on the bishop, the bishop might be very upset. In which case, the priest might be in hot water, but the hot water would come from the TEC bishop. To use another example: Reform Judaism has decided that Reform Jewish rabbis, if they wish to do so, can perform full religious marriage ceremonies for Jewish gay and lesbian couples. Those… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Thank you Terence Dear for sharing that wonderful experience that most of us aspire. It is indeed surprising in how and when God makes His/Her way into our lives. That is s a “successful job of persuasion” on behalf of God if I ever did see one.

IT
Guest

I think it is worthwhile to quote from the NExt Left article to which Simon linked, to answer RickAllen’s PoV: “I don’t want a ‘secular society’ any more than the Bishops do. But I do want a secular state. This is because there is no such thing as ‘religion’ – there are, rather, religious viewpoints, plural and frequently conflicting. So when the state bases its laws on the precepts of a religious viewpoint, it thereby, inevitably, takes sides between different religious viewpoints. It plays favourites between citizens with different religious (or anti-religious) beliefs. The demand for a secular state –… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Peter, I think you might have misunderstood slightly. For clarity, marriage and civil partnership law in the UK stands as follows (in my understanding): There are two types of (heterosexual) marriage ceremony in the UK: religious, and civil. Marriages in an Anglican church require only that the priest be present and the register signed, because Anglican priests are automatically also marriage registrars – one of the privileges of Establishment. Other churches, and synagogues, can legally marry people, but the local (civil) registrar has to be present to hear the vows and watch the signing of the certificate. I always thought… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rick I think we agree about the conclusion that churches should be free to govern their own internal affairs, so we don’t really have a big argument here, although I suspect we might have different definitions for where the internal ends and the public starts. So just to respond to your comment that Christianity can no longer claim to be Christianity if it isn’t universal, I think we have to separate out two different things. One is that Christians believe that the claims of their faith are universal, and we are all free to believe that. But we must not… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Thankyou Terence, for your testimony of God’s presence with you in your partnership. This is quite in accordance with the Maundy Thursday antiphon:

“Where Charity and Love are, there is God”

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Peterpi That civil partnership or marriage ceremonies must not contain any religious component was the State’s way of accommodating the wishes of the churches which wanted to make sure that if you wanted religion you got it from the church and nowhere else. As Pluralist explained, any church is free to perform religious marriage or civil partnership ceremonies, provided their own internal regulations allow it. This has nothing to do with the state. But unlike in countries like Germany, where the church cannot “marry” you until you have already been legally married in a register office, priests are empowered to… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

Erica, I don’t think we disagree on broader principles (though not everyone on this thread would agree with even those). But “where the internal ends and the public starts” is indeed the $64,000 question. “[I]f some religious groups are asking the state to be allowed to have registrars present at the religious service for Civil Partnerships, then other religious groups do not have the right to try and stop them.” I would say, rather, that, yes, anyone, religious organization or not, has a right to advocate about any particular matter of public interest. But religious organizations in particular need to… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Thank you for the clarification, Olivia & Erika. The German model is fine by me.
But, this being English law, I think what the Liberal Jews, Unitarians, and Quakers are asking for is only fair. If conservative religious ministers don’t want to perform such rites, they can have the backbone to say “No!” It also sounds like the CofE (or at least some of its Lords not-very-Spritual) like throwing their weight around.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Recognition, not prohibition peterpi, for the individual denominations under HM Government.

Robert Ian williams
Guest
Robert Ian williams

Charles Raven states; “There are courageous bishops like Michael Scott Joynt in the Church of England, but they are very much the exception than the rule.”

How ironic…Scott Joynt introduced divorce and re-marriage to the Cof E.

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Erika – my understanding is that’s not quite correct – there would still need to be a civil registrar present at a Quaker, Unitarian or Liberal Jewish wedding for it to be a legal partnership ceremony. But currently even this isn’t allowed.

I could be wrong …

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“… there are areas into which the democratically elected government will not intrude.”

This is not the issue. But that some sects want to intrude on civil laws and good government.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“But religious organizations in particular need to take a hard look at whether their advocacy on shrinking the area of “internal religious affairs” for others might set an unfortunate precedent for themselves.”

Doesn’t seem like it.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Olivia
yes, that’s what I thought I had said.
Anyone can perform a religious blessing, but for it to be a legal marriage/Civil Partnership you need a registrar to be present.

That’s what the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews are asking for and that’s what the 7 English Bishops have blocked in the House of Lords because they fear that it would open to doors to intolerable pressure on them to do the same!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rick I don’t remember whether you are in Britain or in the US? In Britain, it does not seem fair that every citizen has one vote, but those who find their views represented by the conservative spectrum of the CoE have much more political clout because Bishops have the right to vote in the House of Lords. As we’ve just seen, this represents some considerable political power. Either all religions have the same right, and all other organizations too, in which case your upper chamber would be composed of special interest groups according to some mathematically relevant key, or no… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Let’s just be clear about the House of Lords voting.
First it was eight serving bishops (i.e.ignoring the two retired bishops who are also life peers) who voted en bloc in the Lords recently.
Second, they weren’t voting on the Civil Partnerships matter. No vote on that was taken, yet.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Simon
sorry I must have misunderstood.
I read Ian MacLean’s sentence “On 25 January, you were one of the bishops who helped to defeat the Government in the House of Lords on the Equality bill. At the heart of the debate were three amendments which sought to make religious organisations’ exemptions from anti-discrimination law as wide as possible.” to say that there had been three amendments that were debated and voted on in the same process.

Iain McLean
Guest

A few small points from one of those who started this: 1. Yes, a US court would certainly find the present law unconstitutional, as violating the First Amendment which forbids Congress from interfering in the free exercise of religion. We explained this in the letter to the Times. 2. Quakers in England are in a slightly different position because under the Marriage Act 1753 we were given the same privilege as Anglican priests, to conduct our own marriages according to our own procedures. This after 100 years of persecution. But our Yearly Meeting last year, which decided (prayerfully) that we… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“But when, like in America, the Roman Catholic church uses its considerable political clout and money to influence public opinion in order to influence laws that then also apply to people who do not share the same beliefs, we have crossed the line of what ought to be morally (and maybe legally) acceptable.” And when they LIE and DEMONIZE a group of people with multi-million dollar ads, they might as well have an extra seat in the national assembly, they have in effect had the same uneven power of distortion as the bishops in the house of Lords. Of course… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

“But when, like in America, the Roman Catholic church uses its considerable political clout and money to influence public opinion in order to influence laws that then also apply to people who do not share the same beliefs, we have crossed the line of what ought to be morally (and maybe legally) acceptable.” But Erika, here you’re back where we started, with the idea that democracy requires the suppression of religious advocacy on public issues. Why? Take an example. Here in America the vast majority of states still have capital punishment. The Catholic Church opposes it. Last year in New… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I took a wedding service on the green outside this house which was written by me according to Pagan views, which was apparently meaningful to the couple (I say this because it wasn’t that long after that he went and slept with a neighbour). The ceremony was nothing but fancy from the point of view of the State; however, they’d been to a register office first. When I was married at the Unitarian church it was different because it happened there and only there, with a registrar present. That is all that is wanted regarding Civil Partnerships – for he… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Erika
Yes, the three amendments on which votes were taken all related to the wording of Schedule 9 Clause 2, which deals with exemptions for religious organisations from the anti-discrimination clauses.

Pat ONeill
Guest
Pat ONeill

Rick:

I think the two examples are radically different in their effect. The church’s principled opposition to the death penalty and its public support therefore hurts no one, deprives no one of rights afforded to others.

OTOH, its opposition to same-sex marriage hurts anyone who loves another of the same sex, deprives them of the right to marry the person they love, a right enjoyed by anyone who is heterosexual.

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

I am one who, frankly, detests the influence of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church to influence USA public opinion in the area of civil marriage for same-sex couples. The LDS church, in particular, spends tens of millions of tax-exempt dollars on very effective advertising persuading the general public that allowing same-sex civil marriages will somehow force houses of worship to perform religious marriages, and lead to The End of Western Civilization. I have thoughts about Western Civilization’s survival if same-sex civil marriages will End It, but that’s another topic for another day. I rage… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Perhaps Rick has a point, anybody shouldn’t be deprived access to lobby their legislator (corporations and limited partnerships could be another matter). But where do we draw the line when it comes down to lying and defaming? And how much unequal lobbying should we allow in our societies?

I still stand on the fact that religion definitely had a privileged hand in getting laws passed in both lands that limit the rights of others to the benefit of nobody, including God.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Allowing civil partnerships to occur in places of worship will permit ministers of religion and congregations to show their support for loving unions.” – Aaron Goldstein, The Guardian – And is this not the real point at issue in the matter of allowing religious organisations to preside over the faithful, committed, monogamous relationships of their adherents? The Liberal Jewish community is obviously streets ahead of the Church of England in it’s acceptance of committed partnerships among its congregations. Why is the word ‘liberal’ so offensive to Church hierarchies, when the chief benefit of being a Christian is that we are… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“There are courageous bishops like Michael Scott Joynt in the Church of England, but they are very much the exception than the rule. Tied to a fiercely liberal establishment by bonds of legality and history, the Church of England would need extraordinarily courageous and clear minded leadership to reverse the current trend, but that seems to be an increasingly remote prospect. Nonetheless, we can thank God that as the dissolution of the historic centre represented by Canterbury gathers pace, in his providence the basis for a new and vital focus of global Anglicanism has emerged in the faith confessed afresh… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The standard conservative religious argument is that when something/anything in law or public policy can be used to (A) burden-penalize, (B) hinder, or (C) prevent some mutual aspect of committed adult same sex relationships; … then… 1. the queer folks so hindered are necessarily benefitted, according to the settled presuppositional religious views … burdened, hindered, prevented from the presupposed categorical wrong/evil that such closed conservative religious views simply declare the phenoms of queer folks to be no matter what … 2. the larger network of folks somehow related (six degrees of separation?) to those queer folks are benefitted, as some… Read more »