On Friday, in the House of Lords, three Labour peers proposed an amendment to the Civil Partnership, Marriage and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill which would remove the clergy exemption in relation to same-sex marriage. This amendment was later withdrawn after the Government stated that it could not support it.
The exact wording of the amendment was as follows:
2: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause–
“Removal of exemption for clergy under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
(1) The Secretary of State must make regulations to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to remove the exemption for members of the clergy to solemnize the marriage of a same sex couple.(2) Regulations under this section must be in force by the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”
The episode was reported by both the Anglican Communion News Service and The Church of England in Parliament:
The latter reports at length the response of the Bishop of Chelmsford. This. is worth reading in full.
Readers may also care to read the compete text of the debate which can be found in Hansard. The relevant section starts here, and the whole record of the committee debate on the bill starts back here.26 Comments
The Ozanne Foundation has today announced this:
The 2018 Faith & Sexuality Survey is designed to explore the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and development of their sexual orientation and identity. It is as such not designed to understand in any depth people’s gender identity.
It is open to all individuals living in the UK who are over 16 and should take about 10 – 15 minutes to complete. Please be assured that your responses will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
To take the survey go here.
The research project is being managed by the Ozanne Foundation and is being overseen by an Advisory Board that consists of:
Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, Church of England
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
Martin Pollecoff, Chair of UK Council of Pyschotherapists
Teddy Prout, Director of Community Services Humanists UK
Khakan Qureshi, Founder of Birmingham South Asian LGBT+ – Finding a Voice
Professor Sir Bernard Silverman, Former President of the Royal Statistical Society
Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester
The survey will run until December 31st 2018 and the results will be presented at a fringe meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England in February 2019.
The December 9th 2018 Press Release is available here.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Comments
Modern Church has published an interview in which Professor Linda Woodhead interviews Professor Gillian Evans:
A PDF of the full text of the interview is also available via a link at the end of the above article.
Prof G.R. Evans is Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History in the University of Cambridge. She is author of The University of Oxford: a new history and writes regularly on higher education policy issues. She co-authored Managing the church?: Order and organization in a secular age with Martyn Percy in 2000. She lives in Oxford.
Linda Woodhead MBE is Professor of the Sociology or Religion at Lancaster University. She has been President of Modern Church since 2014. She is author with Andrew Brown of That Was the Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People. She is currently a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, USA.
You are invited to the launch of a book that addresses the role of the church (past, present and future) in the criminalization of consensual same-gender intimacy across the Commonwealth. This event is scheduled for Dec. 4.
This was the first-ever global event that discussed the role of the church (past, present and future) in the criminalization of private consensual same-gender intimacy. The event was live-streamed and there were presentations by international agencies and Christian leaders from all over the Commonwealth, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Archbishop of the West Indies and the Bishop of Buckingham.
An edited volume of some of the presentations is now ready and will be launched in London on 4 December. Attendance is free but booking is required.
Details here: Intimate Conviction Book Launch.
School of Advanced Study
Room 349 Senate House-South Block
London WC1E 7HU
Date: Dec. 4
Time: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Refreshments will be provided.
Updated Sunday evening
When we reported on this case in 2015 we used the headline: Ashers Bakery judgement generates controversy.
This week the UK Supreme Court issued its judgment. The full text is available here.
The Church of Ireland has published: Statement on Ashers bakery case judgment.
The Rt Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon, Chair of the Church of Ireland’s Church and Society Commission, made the following statement regarding the UK Supreme Court’s judgment in the case involving Ashers bakery on Wednesday, 10th October.
‘We welcome the affirmation of religious freedom and expression in this particular case. This is a complex issue which does involve the balancing of rights. The decision by the Supreme Court in this case affirms the rights of the business and does not significantly impact on the freedom of choice for the customer.’
The case is analysed in various places, including:
Disagreement with the decision has been expressed here:
Agreement with it came from:
Many more links here.
The Bishops of the Church in Wales have been given the go-ahead to explore formal provision for same-sex couples in church.
Members of the Church’s Governing Body agreed with the bishops that the current situation of no formal provision was “pastorally unsustainable”. They voted with a clear majority in favour of the bishops looking at new approaches which could be brought back to the Governing Body for approval at a later date.
The private ballot followed a presentation to the meeting from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop Mark Strange, on the process that church went through before it decided to accept same-sex marriage. There was then a question session with Bishop Mark and an open discussion on the bishops’ request.
The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, said, “The bishops are united in the belief that it is pastorally unsustainable and unjust for the Church to continue to make no formal provision for those in committed same-sex relationships. Although today’s outcome does not change the present doctrine or practice of the Church in Wales on marriage, I am pleased that it provides an important steer to the bishops in exercising our ministry of pastoral care and spiritual leadership.”
Background paper signed by the Archbishop of Wales
An extract from this: (more…)15 Comments
One of these action points has attracted a lot of media attention. It’s on page 15 in the category of Safety. It reads:
We will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. These activities are wrong, and we are not willing to let them continue. Led by the Government Equalities Office, we will fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy. Our intent is protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith-based context. We are not trying to prevent LGBT people from seeking legitimate medical support or spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Church of England responded with this press release: Government pledge to eradicate conversion therapy
Following the publication of the Government’s LGBT Action Plan, a spokesperson for the Church of England said:
“We warmly welcome the Government commitment to eradicate gay conversion therapy in this country.
“As a motion endorsed overwhelmingly by the Church of England’s General Synod last summer concludes, the practice is unethical, potentially harmful and has no place in the modern world.
“Since then the Church of England has pressed the Government to consider outlawing the practice and the Second Church Estates Commissioner Dame Caroline Spelman has held a number of meetings with ministers to that end.
“As we await the detail of any proposals, we also welcome the recognition that any steps taken should not have the unintended consequence of preventing people seeking spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
House of Bishops 36 in favour, 1 against, 0 abstentions
House of Clergy 135 in favour, 25 against, 13 abstentions
House of Laity 127 in favour, 48 against, 13 abstentions
Further analysis was reported here.
Religion-based promoters of such practices have also issued press releases:
Christian Concern Ten Good Reasons not to restrict therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction.6 Comments
Updated to correct first sentence
The UK Supreme Court has ruled that restricting civil partnerships to same-sex couples is discriminatory.
UK Human Rights Blog published this beforehand: The ‘straight civil partnership’ challenge: All you need to know before the Supreme Court Judgment.
As yet it’s quite unknown how the UK government will respond to this decision. It had earlier embarked on a consultation, to which the Church of England has already responded. See our earlier article: Church of England opposes end to civil partnerships.
Some earlier articles on what the Church of England thought at the time:
OneBodyOneFaith published this on 5 June:
We’re delighted that this film, funded by our supporters and members and featuring John Bell and Nick Bundock, has now been completed and can be viewed on our YouTube channel. As you’ll probably recall, the film arose out of John hearing about Nick’s church’s response to Lizzie Lowe’s death, and the films are a conversation between the two of them, with ideas for reflection by church groups.
Please share the films and encourage others to do so too; we want them to reach the widest possible audience because we believe they have the potential to help people move on in their journey of understanding, and to make real change. If you need more resources for study and reflection, check out some of the books in our online shop – or get in touch and we can help you identify people to talk to, speakers and other sources of support, reflecting your particular context.
Today is Lizzie’s 18th birthday. Her parents Kevin and Hilary appear briefly in the film. Notwithstanding the remarkable transformation of their church following her death, would still give anything to have their daughter back. Please remember them, and Lizzie’s siblings and many friends, today.
And then consider this question: So – how’s the ‘radical Christian inclusion’ coming along then?5 Comments
The British government has reported that previous consultations on the future of civil partnerships were inconclusive. It has therefore issued this: The Future Operation of Civil Partnership: Gathering Further Information.
This raises the possibility of opening civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples or of abolishing civil partnerships for the future. Here’s how the document begins:
The Church Times reports (scroll down) that:
Support for civil partnerships. Civil partnerships should not be abolished, the Church’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown said this week, after the Government’s Equalities Office suggested that their future was uncertain.
In a paper published last week, the Office says that, if demand for civil partnerships remains low, “this might suggest that same-sex couples no longer see this as a relevant way of recognising their relationships, and that the Government should consider abolishing or phasing out civil partnerships entirely.”
There were 890 civil partnerships registered in 2016 in England and Wales, down from an average of 6305 from 2007 to 2013. The paper says that, by September 2019, a “proportionate amount of evidence” will have been gathered to enable the Office “to be confident in the ongoing level of demand”.
“We believe that Civil Partnerships still have a place, including for some Christian LGBTI couples who see them as a way of gaining legal recognition of their relationship,” Dr Brown said. “We hope [they] will remain an option.”
We recently published an article reporting on how civil partnerships had been viewed in 2007: Civil Partnerships: a look back at 2007.
Michael Sadgrove has drawn attention to an even earlier article we published, in 2006: civil partnerships: another bishop’s view.23 Comments
In his not-quite-so-recent letter to TEC, William Nye wrote:
… we [i.e. the Church of England] were nevertheless broadly able to accept, some dozen years ago, the Government’s proposals for Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples, which conferred all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, but did not treat sexual activity as intrinsic to the relationship…
It may be instructive to look at the documents from the period 2003 to 2007 to see if that is really how it was at the time.
When Mr Nye’s previous letter addressed to Andy Lines of GAFCON was published in November 2016, Professor Iain McLean commented here (scroll down from link) to correct him then:
The legislative history is more complicated than Mr Nye makes it sound. I may need more than one post to explain.
First, 2004 and civil partnerships. I re-post something I wrote for the Guardian which has been posted here before:
“The main Lords debate on the civil partnership bill took place in June 2004. Richard Harries, then bishop of Oxford, did indeed signal Church of England support for civil partnerships. But his efforts were contradicted by the five conservative bishops who spoke on the other side. Going by the bishops’ contributions to debate, the score is 5/3 against. Going by the bishops’ votes, it is 6/1 against. Six bishops voted for a successful wrecking amendment in the name of Lady O’Cathain, which made the bill unworkable. Only the Commons’ insistence on rejecting the O’Cathain amendment made it possible to enact civil partnerships”
It is true, as posted in a later comment on that thread, that the bishops voted against the O’Cathain wrecking amendment when offered a second time. But if the Commons had not done what they did, there would have been no civil partnership act – not then anyhow.
The history of the CofE’s dealings with the government over civil partnerships is admirably summarised in a paper prepared on behalf of the House of Bishops for a General Synod debate in February 2007. As this document along with thousands of other archived items disappeared some months ago from the Church of England website, it is possible that Mr Nye wasn’t able to review it while preparing his letter. Fortunately I have found another source for it, and it is available here.
The occasion for its preparation was a synod private member’s motion, from a member who was clearly not supportive of Civil Partnerships- A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England that the bishops had issued in 2005. Here is a copy of the briefing paper he prepared (again from another archive).
The ensuing debate and its outcome was reported here at the time: GS: Civil Partnerships. The original wording of the PMM was roundly rejected but the bishops were unable to persuade the synod to vote to “recognise the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement as a balanced and sensitive attempt faithfully to apply the Church’s teaching to civil partnerships”.8 Comments
The Ozanne Foundation, whose formation was announced last December, held a formal launch event on Monday.
This press release was issued: Ozanne Foundation Unveils Strategy to Combat Prejudice.
At the event, Bishop Paul Bayes, chair of the trustees, delivered this speech.
News reports of the event:40 Comments
Updated Thursday evening
The Court of Appeal has today dismissed the appeal by Jeremy Pemberton against the earlier judgement of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
There are numerous media reports:
Anglican Communion News Service Priest in same-sex marriage loses legal challenge to bishop’s “discriminatory” response
Press Association via Premier Gay priest denied job after marrying partner loses discrimination appeal
Newark Advertiser Jeremy Pemberton loses discrimination appeal
Jeremy Pemberton has issued a press release, which is copied below the fold.
Commenting on today’s judgment, a Southwell and Nottingham diocesan spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the court has upheld the decision made with regards to the employment tribunal. We recognise that this has been a long and difficult process for many of those concerned, and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers.”
OneBodyOneFaith has issued a statement: Disappointment and gratitude as Pemberton case concludes
“…The question now is less whether the bishop acted legally – that seems beyond doubt – but whether people want to continue to support this kind of discrimination against committed, loving couples as they seek to follow Christ. There is a real sense of the need for change, the will for change and the time for change.“
There is a press release today, which is copied in full below the fold.63 Comments
Researchers at the universities of York and Leeds have produced a study titled
Religious marriage of same-sex couples : A report on places of worship in England and Wales registered for the solemnization of same-sex marriage.
The Yorkshire Post reported it as: No takers at half of same-sex marriage venues, survey says
The full report can be downloaded from here.25 Comments
Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying tackled in new guidance for Church schools
13 November 2017
Guidance for the Church of England’s 4,700 schools published today aims to prevent pupils from having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
The report makes 12 recommendations for schools including ensuring schools’ Christian ethos statements offer “an inclusive vision for education” where “every child should be revered and respected as members of a community where all are known and loved by God. “
Clear anti-bullying policies should include HBT behaviours and language, policies on how to report incidences should be accessible, staff trained on recognising bullying, curriculum and collective worship should support the vision and the wider church ensure that schools are responding well to the guidance.
Commending the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide.
“Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God.
“This guidance helps schools to offer the Christian message of love, joy and celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion.”
The advice is an update on Valuing All God’s Children, guidance published in 2014 which tackled homophobic behaviour. This update covers a wider range of negative behaviours, incorporates the relevant legal and inspection frameworks and reflects the Church’s Vision for Education, whose four elements of wisdom, hope, community and dignity form the theological basis of the guidance.
Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely and lead bishop for education said: “Our vision for education speaks of living life in all its fullness. Our vision has a clear commitment to dignity and hope, both of which can be undermined by any form of bullying. This guidance will help to bring our vision into reality by equipping schools to remove these pernicious forms of bullying that strike at the heart of a child’s identity and formation.”
Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, Nigel Genders, said: “Providing an education to our 1 million children that will enable them to live life in all its fullness is a big responsibility.
“This practical and thoughtful advice is packed with templates and a comprehensive selection of resources for schools, teachers, families and young people. I hope that it will make a difference to our school communities and individual pupils too.”
The report acknowledges that it is likely that not all will agree on issues to do with human sexuality, marriage or gender identity. It goes on to say that: “However, there needs to be a faithful and loving commitment to remain in relationship with the other and honour the dignity of their humanity without ‘back turning’, dismissing the other person, or claiming superiority.”
The report can be found here.23 Comments
On 26 October, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden):
What recent discussions Church of England bishops have had on allowing parishes to hold ceremonies to celebrate same-sex marriages?
You can read the ensuing answers here. Perhaps the most intriguing answer was the last one:
An important step forward was made by the worldwide Anglican Church in accepting a new doctrine against homophobia, which is part of trying to stamp out such persecution across the wider Anglican communion.
A full transcript of all the questions and answers from that session with the Second Church Estates Commissioner can be found here.15 Comments
Independent Reviewer’s report on See of Sheffield published
15 September 2017
A report of the review of nomination to the See of Sheffield by the independent reviewer Sir Philip Mawer has been published today.
The report and appendices set out the findings of a review requested by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in March this year following the announcement that the Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, was to withdraw from nomination to the Diocese of Sheffield.
The 75-page report draws from meetings with and personal submissions from more than 100 people (including over 60 from the Sheffield diocese) over recent months seeking to learn lessons from the events surrounding Bishop North’s nomination to and subsequent withdrawal from the See.
Sir Philip was appointed in 2014 as Independent Reviewer to resolve disputes arising from the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration, which sets out the Five Guiding Principles behind the legislation which opened the way for women bishops. His report seeks to set out valuable lessons for the wider Church of England following events in Sheffield.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: “We are very grateful and deeply indebted to Sir Philip for this detailed, thoughtful and authoritative review.
“We will be reading it carefully and discussing the lessons with the House of Bishops when it meets later this year and will respond in greater detail in due course.
“We reaffirm our commitment to the vital principle of mutual flourishing as the Church and will endeavour to maintain the bond of peace and affection and live God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ, even amid difference on questions on which Christians may disagree Christianly.”
Concluding his report, Sir Philip remarks: “The story of what happened in respect of the Sheffield nomination is not populated by villains but by people who were simply seeking to do their best according to their own understanding of their responsibilities and in the light of their Christian convictions.
“There is, frankly, no merit, if those of differing convictions in the Church are to continue to live together, in anybody searching for scapegoats.”
He adds: “I have suggested in this report that further consideration under the auspices of the House of Bishops, of the theological and pastoral issues raised so far by the Church’s experience of living out the 2014 Settlement would be healthy.
“But at the end of the day of the day, the choice facing the Church is a simple one … whether to continue wrestling with the issues I have identified, for the sake of the Gospel, or whether to abandon the Settlement.
“If those who take the majority view in the Church are to retain credibility in the eyes of the minority, there is only one choice which I believe they can make.
“Equally if those in the minority wish to continue as honoured and full members of the Church of England, they need to ensure that they act and speak in ways which show understanding of the position of ordained women, which emphasise their commitment to the corporate life of the Church and which encourage the majority to remain unequivocally committed to the success of that Settlement, ‘that they may all be one ….. so that the world may believe’.”47 Comments
The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland has issued this press release: Assembly agrees apology to gay people and accepts same sex marriage report.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has approved an apology to gay people for the history of discrimination they have faced in the Church.
Commissioners also approved a report which could pave the way to allow some ministers to conduct same sex marriages in the future.
The text of this press release is copied in full below the fold.
Some press coverage of this:
Guardian Harriet Sherwood Church of Scotland in step towards conducting same-sex marriages
The Herald Kirk backs same sex marriage in church, and formal apology to LGBT people and a leader column: Kirk takes step in the right direction13 Comments
Paul Johnson and Robert M Vanderbeck have published a very lengthy article, entitled Sexual Orientation Equality and Religious Exceptionalism in the Law of the United Kingdom: The Role of the Church of England.
Here’s the abstract:
There is a growing literature that addresses the appropriateness and merits of including exceptions in law to accommodate faith-based objections to homosexuality. However, what has rarely been considered and, as a consequence, what is generally not understood, is how such religious exceptions come to exist in law. This article provides a detailed analysis of the contribution of the Church of England to ensuring the inclusion of religious exceptions in United Kingdom legislation designed to promote equality on the grounds of sexual orientation. The article adopts a case study approach that, following the life of one piece of anti-discrimination legislation, shows the approach of the Church of England in seeking to insert and shape religious exceptions in law. The analysis contributes to broader debates about the role of the Church of England in Parliament and the extent to which the United Kingdom, as a liberal democracy, should continue to accommodate the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality in statute law.
The full paper can be downloaded from here.4 Comments