Thinking Anglicans

Civil Partnerships for opposite-sex couples

Updated on Thursday and Friday to add press reports

The Church of England has issued this press release today.

Following the recent change in the law to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, the House of Bishops has agreed a pastoral statement.

I have copied the text of the statement below the fold.

Update

Church Times No blessing for straight civil partnerships, say Bishops

The Guardian Sex is for married heterosexual couples only, says Church of England

The Telegraph Civil partnerships should be no more than ‘sexually abstinent friendships’, Church of England Bishops rule

Pink News Church of England emphatically declares that sex is only for married, heterosexual couples

Independent Only heterosexual married people should have sex, Church of England says

Huffington Post Church Of England Ridiculed For ‘Sex Is Only For Married Heterosexual Couples’ Guidance

Christian Today Sex is for male-female marriage only, Church of England confirms

MailOnline Sex is for straight married couples only says Church of England as it calls on gay or straight civil partnerships to be abstinent

Press Association (via MailOnline) Civil partnerships no more than `sexually abstinent friendships´, says CofE

Sky News Civil partnerships should be ‘sexually abstinent friendships’, says Church of England

i News Only people in heterosexual marriages can have sex, Church of England says in new advice

Evening Standard Church of England declares sex is only for married heterosexual couples

Metro Sex should be only for husbands and wives, rules Church of England

The Living Church Church of England Bishops Say No to Blessing Civil Partnerships

Civil Partnerships – for same sex and opposite sex and opposite sex couples.
A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England

1. In December 2005 the Civil Partnership Act came into force. For the first time it created a new institution that was not marriage, enabling two people of the same sex to acquire a new legal status by registering a civil partnership with each other. The House of Bishops prepared a statement in July 2005 to help the Church as it addressed the pastoral and other implications of the new legislation.

2. At the time, Civil Partnerships were possible only for couples of the same sex. The government of the day had no intention of introducing same sex marriage, and so civil partnerships were offered as a complementary but distinct institution: marriage for opposite sex couples and civil partnerships for same sex couples.

3. However, things changed with the introduction of same sex marriage by the Coalition government in 2013. This, for the first time, meant that a substantive gap emerged between the Church’s understanding of marriage and that of the State. The House of Bishops has issued separate guidance on same sex marriage (2014).

4. In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the retention in law of Civil Partnerships solely for same-sex couples was incompatible with the Human Rights Convention. HMG has chosen to respond to this by making provision for Civil Partnerships to be opened to opposite sex couples.

5. HMG supported a Private Member’s Bill which included provision for the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to be amended by regulations to allow opposite sex couples to enter Civil Partnerships. The Bill received Royal Assent on 26th March 2019, becoming the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019.

6. The House of Bishops is therefore issuing this new Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships to reflect the fact that Civil Partnerships are now open to both same- sex and opposite-sex couples. It also addresses other changes in marriage law since 2005.

The Church’s Teaching on Marriage

7. It has always been the position of the Church of England that marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace. Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman making a public commitment to each other, is central to the stability and health of human society. We believe that it continues to provide the best context for the raising of children, although it is not the only context that can be of benefit to children, especially where the alternative may be long periods in institutional care.

8. The Church of England’s teaching is classically summarised in The Book of Common Prayer, where the marriage service lists the causes for which marriage was ordained, namely: ‘for the procreation of children, …for a remedy against sin [and]…. for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other.’

9. In the light of this understanding the Church of England teaches that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (Marriage: a teaching document of the House of Bishops, 1999). Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.

10. The introduction of same sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships. A major study of this and other areas of human sexuality is underway (the Living in Love and Faith project). This work, which is expected to be completed in 2020, will then inform further deliberations of the House of Bishops. In the context, however, of the introduction of opposite sex as well as same sex civil partnerships, the teaching of the church on marriage remains unchanged.

The effect of legislation introducing civil partnerships

11. Two people may form a civil partnership by signing a civil partnership document in the presence of each other, a civil partnership registrar, and two witnesses. The legislation underlines the civil nature of the registration by providing that it may not take place on religious premises nor include a religious ceremony.

12. Many of the provisions in the legislation on civil partnerships are, however, similar to, or identical with, those in marriage law. In particular, couples may not register if they are under 16 (or under 18 and do not have parental consent), are within one of the prohibited degrees of relationship, or already have a civil partnership or are married.

13. As with marriage, civil partnerships embody the concept of committed fidelity between two persons, mutually consenting to their relationship.

14. The legislation does, however, leave entirely open the nature of the commitment that members of a couple choose to make to each other when forming a civil partnership. In particular, it is not predicated on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship. Thus, there is no equivalent of the marriage law provision either for annulment on grounds of non- consummation or for its dissolution on the grounds of sexual infidelity.

15. Behaviour such that one party ‘cannot reasonably be expected to live with’ the other can trigger the dissolution of a civil partnership. Whether sexual conduct was relevant would depend on the circumstances of each case and the nature of the understandings reached between the couple when entering into the partnership. There is likely to be a range of circumstances in which people of the same sex or opposite sex choose to register a partnership, including some where there is no intention for the relationship to be expressed through sexual activity.

16. The principles underlying the pastoral guidance which the House of Bishops issued following the Civil Partnership Act 2003 therefore apply also to opposite sex civil partnerships.

The blessing of civil partnerships

17. It is likely that some who register civil partnerships – whether same sex or opposite sex — will seek some recognition of their new situation and pastoral support by asking members of the clergy to provide a blessing for them in the context of an act of worship.

18. The House advised in 2005 that the practice of the Church of England needs to reflect the pastoral letter from the Primates of the Anglican Communion at Pentecost 2003 which said: ‘The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites’.

19. Because of the ambiguity about the place of sexual activity within civil partnerships of both sorts, and the church’s teaching that marriage between a man and a woman is the proper context for sexual intercourse, we do not believe that it is possible for the church unconditionally to accept civil partnerships as unequivocally reflecting the teaching of the church.

20. One consequence of the ambiguity contained within the civil partnerships legislation is that people in a variety of relationships will be eligible to register as civil partners, some living consistently with the teaching of the Church, others not. In these circumstances, the House continues to believe that it would not be right to produce an authorised public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships. In addition, the House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.

21. It will be important, however, to bear in mind that registered partnerships do allow for a range of different situations – including those where the relationship is simply one of friendship. Hence, clergy need to have regard to the teaching of the church on sexual morality, celibacy, and the positive value of committed friendships in the Christian tradition. Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.

Those wishing to be in ordained ministry and to register a civil partnership

22. The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship – whether same sex or opposite sex – is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality. The wording of the Act means that civil partnerships will be likely to include some whose relationships are faithful to the declared position of the Church on sexual relationships.

23. The Church should not collude with the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity. The House of Bishops considers it would be a matter of social injustice to exclude from ministry those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church, and who decide to register a civil partnership. There can be no grounds for terminating the ministry of those who are loyal to the discipline of the Church.

24. Nevertheless, it would be inconsistent with the teaching of the Church for the public character of the commitment expressed in a civil partnership to be regarded as of no consequence in relation to someone in – or seeking to enter – the ordained ministry. Members of the clergy and candidates for ordination who decide to enter into civil partnerships must expect to be asked for assurances that their relationship will be consistent with the teaching set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.

25. While clergy are fully entitled to argue, in the Living in Love and Faith process and elsewhere, for a change in that teaching, they are not entitled to claim the liberty to set it aside. Because of the ambiguities surrounding the character and public nature of civil partnerships, the House of Bishops advise clergy to weigh carefully the perceptions and assumptions which would inevitably accompany a decision to register such a relationship.

26. Although there is nothing in the legislation for Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships which determines their social meaning, the arguments advanced in the Supreme Court included the desire for a publicly authorised institution which explicitly rejected the perceived religious connotations of marriage. Given this ambiguity, clergy and candidates for ordination wishing to enter an Opposite Sex Civil Partnership should expect to be asked to explain their understanding of the theological and social meanings of their decision.

27. Once opposite sex civil partnerships have been available for some time, the situation may arise where a candidate for ordination (or consecration) has been in a civil partnership that has ended and is now married. The question then arises whether the provisions of Canon C4, seeking to establish the circumstances in which the previous relationship broke up, apply.

28. As a civil partnership is not entered into through vows, the question of broken vows does not arise in the case of a former civil partnership. As Canon C4 is primarily concerned to give assurance that the candidate fully understands the nature of vows and the spiritual implications of breaking them, Canon C4 does not apply in the case of a broken civil partnership. However, civil partnerships do involve commitment to another person and the discernment process for ordination or consecration involves seeking assurances about the whole character of a candidate as revealed in the history of their relationships of different kinds. If a candidate has a broken civil partnership in their history, they should expect to be asked to give an account of the causes of the breakdown of this relationship.

Lay people who register civil partnerships

29. The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion.

30. In relation to infant baptism, Canon B 22.4 makes it clear that, while baptism can be delayed for the purposes of instruction (including on marriage and the family), it cannot be refused. The responsibility for taking vows on behalf of the infant rests with the parents and godparents. Provided there is a willingness, following a period of instruction, to give those vows, priests cannot refuse to baptise simply because those caring for the infant are not, in their view, living in accordance with the Church’s teaching.

Converting Marriages to Civil Partnerships

31. The legislation on Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships has not, to date, made provision for those who are currently married to convert their marriage into a civil partnership. This question is expected to be considered, and possibly legislated for, later in 2020. If provision for conversion from a marriage to a civil partnership is made possible, it may be for a limited period only. If such provision is made, the following considerations should shape to the church’s pastoral practice.

32. A key difference between a marriage and a civil partnership is that marriages are solemnised with vows and civil partnerships are not. Converting a marriage into a civil partnership thus implies the repudiation of a couple’s marriage vows.

33. If a couple decides to convert their marriage to a civil partnership and seeks to discuss this in a church context, good pastoral practice requires that their reasons are carefully attended to. But the implication that they are repudiating their marriage vows should be carefully pointed out to them.

34. In the case of clergy or ordinands who seek to convert a marriage into a civil partnership, it should be made clear to them that their decision involves the repudiation of their marriage vows and that the same discipline will apply to them as to those who have broken their marriage vows in other circumstances.

Conclusion

35. With opposite sex civil partnerships, and with those for same sex couples, the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged. For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity. In its approach to civil partnerships the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.

House of Bishops
December 2019

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Shamus
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Shamus

Compare and contrast paragraphs 20 and 21 of the statement. Perhaps clergy will need a definition of pastoral sensitivity?

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Paragraph 19 which starts commenting on the ambiguity of civil partnerships takes several readings to get the sense of it – drafting with a sense of irony?

Tom Downs
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Tom Downs

“the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged.” Perhaps they might better have said “this Church’s teaching.” They can hardly speak for Christianity generally.

JBE
Guest
JBE

Yep. Church of England members sick of this – the Scottish Episcopal Church welcomes you 🙂

Fr. Dean Henley
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Fr. Dean Henley

Yes I understand the Church in Wales is making much of welcoming their first lesbian bishop – Cherry Vann and her partner Wendy. It would be impertinent to enquire any further but I think I’m right in saying that if they are intimate as a couple that’s not a problem anyway in the Church in Wales. So English Anglicanism is out of step with Scotland, Wales, the USA and Canada.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Yet more opportunity for prurient sex obsessed bishops to pry into the nature of committed, loving and stable relationships. They just cannot keep out of other people’s bedrooms.

Fr. Dean Henley
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Fr. Dean Henley

Richard, I think recent events would suggest that we all should lock our bedroom doors; in fact to be on the safe side, best wedge a chair under the door handle too!

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I won’t have a “committed, sexually abstinent friendship”, thank you.

My marriage is woman to woman, devoted, committed, tenderly intimate and that Church statement does not speak for me, or very many others in the Church of England.

How dare these interfering ninnies suggest that our sacred, devoted, deeply caring marriage is improper? This statement from the House of Bishops demeans our marriage, and theologically vilifies our decency and deep-flowing servant love to each other.

Ralph
Guest
Ralph

“sacred, devoted, deeply caring marriage…deep-flowing servant love” These are precious words, Susannah, but they don’t apply to your kind of relationship. Scripture gives us a different teaching. That’s what the House of Bishops are teaching. I am reminded of Isaiah 5:20.

kennedy
Guest
kennedy

>>“sacred, devoted, deeply caring marriage…deep-flowing servant love” These are precious words, Susannah, but they don’t apply to your kind of relationship.

Ralph, how would you know?

Kate
Guest
Kate

There is a YouTube channel called Foxes Afloat. It is the adventures of a married male couple who cruise the canals of England and Wales. They are obviously in love, obviously devoted. The younger one suffers with his mental health – they took to the waterways to give him more peace than he would get in a city. Without his devoted, deeply caring husband and his deep flowing servant love, Colin’s life would be bleak.

Simply put, Ralph, you are wrong: same sex relationships very definitely can and do exhibit the qualities Susannah described.

Kate
Guest
Kate

A Pharisee statement How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Pharisees were a complex group of people, Kate, and modern Judaism, in all of its forms, is directly descended from them. Some of the portrayals of Pharisees in the Gospels — whether allegedly uttered by Jesus of Nazareth or by the writer — are caricatures meant to contrast Jesus of Nazareth against the Jewish establishment of the day. The Gospel writers and other Christian Scriptures writers say Jesus of Nazareth was Jewish. He wasn’t an Essene, he wasn’t a Sadducee. He himself came from the Pharisee branch of the Judaism of the day. He wanted to reform Pharisaical teachings, in… Read more »

Keith Daniels
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Keith Daniels

The question to ask, always, when these statement appear from the House of Bishops is “Who were the theologians in the room”? And please, please don’t tell us ‘the Bishop of X, Y or Z.’ It’s obvious that there were plenty of lawyers in the room!

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

Amongst many bad things in this statement, I think the most pernicious is this – “registered partnerships do allow for a range of different situations – including those where the relationship is simply one of friendship.”

I think this denigrates friendship in a most unhealthy way.

If only the church catholic had recognised and emphasised a sacrament of friendship rather than the sacrament of marriage, the whole world would be a considerably more wholesome place.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Kevin, I think the most odious part is that a statement ostensibly about the change in the law affecting only opposite sex couples, the House of Bishops takes an unnecessary and gratuitous swipe at same sex couples. It is quite simply homophobic.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

I imagine the text was finalised at their most recent meeting of Nobody’s Friends, their exclusive secret dining club. Perhaps as they had cheese and crackers with an indulgent spoonful of Branston pickle on the side. I would imagine a paucity of friends will encourage a great deal of theological reflection on the nature of friendship itself.

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

It is also worth noting that there are significant problems with this line: “For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.” Firstly, it is surprising that the Church of England should publish that definition of marriage right now. It seems to render marriage in the Orthodox churches, where vows are not exchanged, null and void. This seems a surprisingly cack-handed thing to do in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is surprising on another level too though… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

It’s good to know that the HoB issues detailed statements about such critically important things, while ignoring issues of usury, justice and compassion.
I look forward to the installation of CCTV in all parsonages so that diocesan pleasure police can monitor incipient hanky-panky, enabling Gestapo-style raids at critical moments. Private Eye, anyone?

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

“8. The Church of England’s teaching is classically summarised in The Book of Common Prayer.” Really? What are they doing appealing back to the BCP when successive revisions of the marriage service have rightly moved away from it and the Archbishop himself has been calling for ‘a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual’? ‘Procreation’ does not come first in the Church of England’s understanding of marriage. It now finds more nuanced expression further down the summary in the modern service – ‘Marriage given as the foundation of family life in which children are [born and]… Read more »

Penelope Cowell Doe
Guest
Penelope Cowell Doe

Exactly David. Which is an argument I keep getting into on a certain blog where it has been maintained that the BCP definition of marriage is CoE doctrine and unchanging and cannot be changed by Common Worship. But, of course, it isn’t, and it has been.

Marise Hargreaves
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Marise Hargreaves

Is anyone still expecting the so called Living in Love and Faith will do anything other than affirm the status quo? I find this a very mean spirited document. Thankfully most people will not give a monkey about anything this group have to say. They moved on long ago and do not need any affirmation by this organisation. Just as well really.

Fr. Dean Henley
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Fr. Dean Henley

The sad thing Marise is that the majority of bishops have this fantasy that the English people actually give a hoot what they think. This dispiriting document was issued for the benefit of the conservative evangelicals. I attended a confirmation service a couple of years ago and a suffragan bishop preached all about spending the weekend moving his daughter and her boyfriend from one flat to another. He didn’t seem at all concerned that she was ‘living in sin’ according to this moribund statement.

Ann Reddecliffe
Guest

It is interesting to compare this document with the original 2005 House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships, available at https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/House%20of%20Bishops%20Statement%20on%20Civil%20Partnerships%202005.pdf
Some of it is just copy and paste.
For example, paragraph 14 of the new statement is identical to paragraph 11 of the original except that one word has now been underlined.

James Byron
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James Byron

Any dissent from the “liberal” bishops? Nah, thought not. We can safely say that if they ever were liberals, they now aren’t.

Ball’s in the court of allegedly affirming parishes. What will it take to vote to withhold parish share until the bishops stop churning out this expedient episcopal gay-bashing? ‘Cause until they’re seriously challenged, they’ll never stop.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Indeed. And that flows down to the individual, too. I worship in a very affirming parish, and would happily give to support its ministry. But as a gay man, I don’t think the Church of England really wants me, so I don’t really want any share of my giving to flow to the parish share. That leads me to be unwilling to give – whilst recognising that this unfairly denies funds to the parish.

James
Guest
James

You can give a restricted gift that has to be used for a particular purpose – the choir, the Sunday School, flowers, cleaning, whatever. Then, it will not support the Parish Share.

Kate
Guest
Kate

My giving these days is to the local food bank. I don’t think I ever again want to abdicate my responsibility to decide how my giving should be directed.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

It’s easy enough to find theological flaws with the theology of marriage and of Civil Partnerships in this statement, that even contradicts what the church has previously said it believes about marriage.

It’s therefore important to be aware that this document is not about a theology for Civil Partnerships.

It’s really important to understand that the baseline was “no blessings of same sex CPs in church”. Everything follows from there.
It’s back to front, and that is intentional.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Yup. It’s pure realpolitik in a Geneva gown, and worse, they know that we all know, and plain don’t care. I treat this incoherent ramble with the same contempt that it treats me, and so should everyone else.

Charles Clapham
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Charles Clapham

This seems to be issued by “The House of Bishops”. But does that mean all bishops have agreed it? Where are the bishops prepared to say publicly they disagree?

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

No. Only the Diocesans.

Dan Barnes-Davies
Guest

Plus 9 suffragans and Dover. (Yes, Rose!)

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Charles they only (sometimes) get brave when they retire! The current cohort are an homogeneous group, chosen for their ability to sit on the fence.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Indeed, which is why parish shares should be withheld (and episcopal authority flouted in any other lawful way) until English bishops submit themselves to election, as bishops do in other Anglican provinces. What authority do they possibly have to act as they do when they don’t even pretend to hold office with the consent of their flock?

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

Maybe, James, but it’s a dangerous, if brave, path to follow. It would logically lead to incumbents being elected by their congregations, and that would only encourage the view, prevalent in all too many parishes, including my own, that the Vicar is an employee of the PCC, paid to serve them up with exactly what they specify. That view recently led to the premature departure of a very good young Vicar, who thought (correctly) that he was a priest appointed by the Bishop to *lead* his flock, not to follow their every whim.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Rectors are routinely elected in other provinces, including Scotland and America, and it hasn’t led to them slavishly following every whim of their congregations. If relations break down catastrophically, they have to go, whatever their means of appointment (it’s certainly happened in England!). If not, they should in any case be making decisions by broad consent. If by contrast a P.C.C. views ’em as an employee, sounds like a move to a new congregation’s a good idea!

Kate
Guest
Kate

If he thought he was to lead his flock, it is a good thing that he left. His office is to minister to them which categorically is not to lead. He should teach and support, encourage and occasionally chide. But he is not their leader.

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

I disagree, Kate. Of course the incumbent is expected to do the things you list but, if those things are not already part of the leadership role, as you imply, then they need to lead as well. Someone needs to lead, or chaos and anarchy will prevail. A cursory glance at the adverts in the current Church Times shows that almost all of them call for leadership, and hardly any for ministry, so I think that your view is a minority one. It is often said, and widely accepted, that the CofE is ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’. So the… Read more »

David Lamming
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David Lamming

Charles: see my comment below, replying to one by Kate.

Judith Maltby
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Judith Maltby

Exactly, David R. And does that mean that wives are to obey – ‘classically’ or otherwise? No doubt some people would say yes but I suspect most CofE Anglicans would say no. Two rings is a 20th c development, as I understand it, no doubt coming out of a desire to express the view that marriage is a union of equals. THAT is NOT ‘classically’ BCP either. And (one feels a broken record here), there is simply no engagement with the fact that many, many marriages in the CofE are of divorced and remarried people, but we still talk in… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Excellent point. This traditionalism is conveniently selective (especially when it comes to bishops’ own domestic arrangements!).

Amos
Guest
Amos

“Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.”
Luke 20: 34-36

I’ve always wondered why this statement of Jesus plays no apparrent role in the “churches teaching on marriage”…

Peter S
Guest
Peter S

Great contribution. Can you imagine if they’d called the document “Children of the Resurrection”, talked about the good news of eternal life in Christ, invited readers to consider the primacy of baptism, then moved on to saying marriage isn’t in the resurrection but is a way of ordering mortal life, followed by all the predictable nasty stuff (maybe in small print).

Justsayin
Guest
Justsayin

I don’t know who advises the House of Bishops on PR, but I suggest they start looking for their P45. Following the recent documentaries regarding the former Bishop of Gloucester and disclosure of the appalling behaviour of senior leadership in the Church of England one would have thought this was not the time to issue a proclamation such as this. In an age when, it seems to me, fewer and fewer people show any interest in being part of the Church of England in what way dos this statement encourage confidence? Yet another example of do as I say, not… Read more »

Susan Patterson
Guest
Susan Patterson

Don’t blame the comms people, who *if* consulted would have been well aware of how this would fall. Comms people are paid to advise and then manage the delivery; the people they advise are at liberty to ignore that advice.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Good point, Susan. I think the main problem is probably bullish top-down management style. This ‘Pastoral Statement’ was always going to crash and burn.

It’s a bit sub-optimal to try to steamroller the agenda like this. Uniformity isn’t the issue here. Diversity is. The Statement was no way to go about it. In fact it was no way to treat people at all.

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

So is the CofE now going to insist that wives must obey their husbands and that divorced people can’t marry in church? Of course not. The idea that church teaching on marriage is unchanging and has never previously come into conflict with the law is patently untrue. The bishops and those who have produced this document know that very well. But they are happy to sacrifice the truth for the sake of a more pressing concern: not blessing gay sex, ever. Usually people reason to a conclusion. In this case they have started with the conclusion and tried to find… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

My hunch is that the overlap of people who enter into opposite-sex civil partnerships and people who care what the House of Bishops of the Church of England has to say about opposite-sex civil partnerships will be vanishingly small to non-existent. So to whom is this ‘pastoral’ statement of interest?

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

“So to whom is this ‘pastoral’ statement of interest?” – I suspect it is of interest to ordained priests in same sex relationships who wish to obtain the legal safeguards for their partner normally given to married couples (around pensions for example) but who cannot get married and can only go for a civil partnership. I suspect this guidance has really been drafted with that single group of people in mind, u they can’t admit that openly.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Simon, but this is a statement about straight Civil Partnerships. The pastoral statement on same sex marriage 6 years ago already made clear that CPs (then only for gay people) would not be blessed.

Nicholas Henderson
Guest

I wonder if this extraordinary document has anything to do with the forthcoming Lambeth Conference?

ACI
Guest
ACI

Exactly. Which is why one finds it odd to point to ‘Lambeth Fathers’ and mean by that all the ‘sane Communion leaders’ once three conservative Gafcon archbishops are extracted. No doubt the recent gathering of Primates in Jordan was informed by the ABC of this line of reasoning by the CofE Bishops.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Exactly Laurence. As Erika said, its addressed to the clergy really….”dont step out of line”

Colin Coward
Guest

I was once in a civil partnership and am now married to my husband. I am ordained. I feel alienated from the Church of England at the age of 74 having attended faithfully from the age of 3 until 72. The House of Bishops’ statement is odious and alienating. It judges and condemns the majority of my friends, members of the Church of England as well as those who have never been Christian or no longer attend. It is hostile to everyone who enjoys the pleasures, joys and challenges of sex in the myriad ways that people enjoy themselves, mostly… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

This really is utter tosh. I should like to know who wrote it. The House of Bishops can’t possibly be ad idem. The obsession with ‘sexual activity’ is egregious. This ‘holding the line’ stuff is in the last chance saloon.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

The majority of bishops don’t even follow their own regulations. I know of a gay couple at theological college who put both beds together in one study for a double bedroom come sitting room, and the two desks and books etc. in the other study for a joint study. You’re not telling me the whole college, the DDO and the bishop weren’t aware of this arrangement. This moribund document is window dressing to keep the conservative evangelicals reasonably quiet. What is dreadful about it is that some will be fearful as a result. Some clergy will stay in the closet… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
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Bill Broadhead

Agreed, Anthony. My money is on William Nye as the author. There’s no-one left in Lambeth with the brains, let alone theological literacy, to put an imaginative and empathetic statement together. Better to give it to the Thought Police (with a bit of legal jargon thrown in for good measure). It’s a classic model for the English in strange and foreign territory. Just shout louder!

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

It’s the worst communications disaster since ++Rowan was misunderstood on Sharia law. Except that this time there is no excuse or capacity for further explanation. I had until this crass statement (it isn’t pastoral) been broadly optimistic about the prospects for LLF, a document finalised some weeks ago. Its authors need to go back to the drawing board, as based on the media comment now its reception seems unlikely to be well received by anyone, except perhaps the conservatives with their no change mantra. LLF is no longer a Church document. The reaction to it will be a matter for… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

It would appear that for the CofE, it is eternally somewhere between the Chatterley Trial and the Beatles’ first LP.

James Byron
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James Byron

And much too late for thee, bishop …

Cassandra
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Cassandra

Nobody has yet commented on this grudging acceptance that children may be just fine if their parents aren’t a married heterosexual couple: “We believe that [marriage] continues to provide the best context for the raising of children, although it is not the only context that can be of benefit to children, especially where the alternative may be long periods in institutional care.” Why is it even thought necessary to state this??

Chris Harwood
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Chris Harwood

Because at least here in the US some “liberals” have argued that a church that believes only in heterosexual marriage must hate any children in other circumstances and want them institutionalized, homeless, or even dead. Just like they say people who are against abortion want to save the fetus but don’t care if the kid starves or dies of abuse later. It’s not true, but in our love of characterizing anyone who disagrees with us as evil….

Jo B
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Jo B

There does seem to be remarkable overlap between those wanting to legally prohibit abortion and those wanting to deny financial support (and, in the US, healthcare) to children living in poverty.

Chris A
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Chris A

“Pastoral” statement?!? The bishops don’t know the meaning of the word.

Robert Ellis
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Robert Ellis

Another home goal! It’s “the bubble” many of them are living and working in….they really do need to get out more.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

“The House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.”

Nice.

What really nice people.

Shouldn’t we wish blessing on all people seeking to live lives of commitment, love, and devotion to each other?

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I agree that more bishops should speak out, challenging this official position, which looks like it’s been drafted by William Nye. BUT If PCCs and priests of local churches are not willing to defy this statement out of conscience and conviction, and commitment to their local communities and mission, who has the right to call out anyone else? Resistance – taking a stand on grounds of moral conscience – nearly always starts at grassroots. Well “I know a priest” (as they say) who had the balls and compassion to marry us, because it was quite simply the right thing to… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Sounds a beautiful service, Susannah, congratulations! 🙂

And yes, absolutely, resistance must start at the congregational level. Networks are a superb idea. Why not combine it with the parish share suggestion, and distribute funds within the network. What the hey, they could even elect their own bishops (call ’em “overseers” if necessary), set themselves up as alternative dioceses, and should they prove successful, the CoE bosses will be the ones knocking on the door, offering terms and begging for a return.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Not keen on setting up rival bishops, James. That’s too much like a GAFCON-style schism and might end up with the network of churches finding themselves outside the Church of England. That would be disastrous because it would cede control of the national Church to very conservative elements. What I propose is business as usual in our parishes, and the whole of church life, with the exception that PCCs who refuse to discriminate would refuse to adhere to this Pastoral Statement. They would insist on acting on their God-given conscientious belief. Providing such a network was well-publicised, and initially 100… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Can certainly see the virtues of taking the least confrontational route possible, and yes, absolutely, it should be tried, and swiftly.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

See, the real challenge, in the face of institutional discrimination, is on the people being discriminated against, and the communities that feel conscience-bound to support them. I think we’ve seen that change of dogma still does not come from the House of Bishops. This Statement gives no impression of any change in the status quo: that gay and lesbian people must live celibate all their lives. Even my school kids find that pathetic and ridiculous (and disgusting). So, as I say, it’s all very well moaning on and on about the bishops (some of whom, I know, are as appalled… Read more »

Fr John Harris-White
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Fr John Harris-White

What planet do the House of Bishops inhabit, certainly not the planet on which Our Lord walked and talked, and certainly not the experience of most folk trying to live out the Christian gospel of love and faith.
Someone asked if there were any theologians in the house, my question is were their any Christians in the house. We asked for bread, and they gave us stale bread many centuries old.

Fr John Emlyn

Dave
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Dave

Is the ‘House of Bishops’ the House of Bishops of General Synod? We know how Bishops vote in the House of Lords, and (I believe) how they vote in the General Synod. Why is the voting of the ‘House of Bishops’ for such statements not public. The bishops should surely be more open and accountable for their actions in these and other statement If only someone or some group could e mail each member of the House of Bishops simply asking how they voted in relation to this statement. It would be fascinating to see what responses (if any!) were… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

BTW has anyone noticed that the statement is dated December 2019? Makes one wonder why it came out this week.

David Lamming
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David Lamming

Possibly to pre-empt a likely question arising from Paper GS Misc 1238, circulated to General Synod members on 17 January 2020 ahead of the GS group of sessions in London from 10-13 February 2020. GS Misc papers are not for debate but are circulated to synod members for information. GS Misc 1238 is “Summary of decisions by the House of Bishops and its delegated committees.” At para 22 on page 3 we read: “HBDC [House of Bishops Delegation Committee] agreed the Civil Partnerships (Opposite and Same Sex) Pastoral Guidance as deemed business for the House with a minor amendment.” The… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
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Marise Hargreaves

Can we also assume that in line with the Lambeth Conference of 1930, given we are going back to the dark ages about sex and relationships, given the primary focus of marriage is to have children, according to the Bishops of 1930, the church will now be teaching married couples who do not want children that they also should be celibate? If they really have a very good reason not to be celibate – not clear who decides that one – then, and only then, will use contraception? Lack of money, poor housing and wanting to enjoy a sex life… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“Sadly, women bishops are now also buying into this nonsense.” They were always going to, ’cause both sexes are equal in all respects, including the less savory ones. Any claims that they weren’t are well intentioned, but moonshine.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Women bishops sought and benefited from the support of all the Church (and rightly so). Given the general silence on LGBT issues, I’m not sure many of them have repaid that debt. It’s a bit glaring (and I’m a supporter of bishops as much as I can be). That said, the same complaint can be made at male bishops as well. The conservative position is upheld – that gay people should embrace lifelong celibacy – and all too often bishops keep their heads down on LGBT issues. But you would think that the ongoing struggle for women’s full ministry and… Read more »

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

Marise, Lambeth 1930 was something of a breakthrough compared with the condemnation of contraception at previous Lambeth Conferences…and it was condemned by many at the time..bishop Gore for example. A very grudging attitude to non procreative sex was noticable in some circles down to the 1950s, see Prof Robert Mortimer’s book on moral theology, a standard text in its time. As for homosexuality recent “conservative” statements are positively liberal compared with what was being written even in the 1960s. Herbert Waddams textbook on anglican moral theology (a staple for GOE) said that for a homosexual to encourage a deep friendship… Read more »

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

“Those wishing to be in ordained ministry and to register a civil partnership.” Yikes, in TEC there are bishops who insist that their coupled LGBTQ clergy be married. It’s a sacrament of the church and living in a covenant relationship is considered essential. That is good theology.

I wonder how long CoE leadership will continue its quest to square a circle, demeaning vast numbers of people in the process?

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

There are only so many own goals you can score before the dwindling fans vacate the stadium. Of course the House of Bishops don’t understand covenanted relationships, or it is simply inconvenient to do so.

Matthew Davies
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Matthew Davies

I wouldn’t have thought it possible to continue to knock nails into one’s own coffin from the inside, but this statement from the House of Bishops has proved that it is. It has further defined the reducing island which contains the endangered species of Church of England Anglicans. I believe the term is ‘preaching to the choir’ – for the rest of us it merely engenders a feeling somewhere between indifference and contempt. Well done. No one really cares because it’s irrelevant.

Linda Woodhead
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Linda Woodhead

The timing makes me suspicious. Why on earth put this out so soon after the BBC documentary about Peter Ball has just done so much damage? The last thing the CofE needed was this massive emission (sic) of moralism. Now, one thing the Church of England does have is an extremely costly and accomplished communications department. They will know exactly how bad this document would sound in any normal circumstances, let alone in the current climate. The press coverage has been extensive and wholly negative. So why the urgency? The only thing I can think of is that some behind-the-scenes… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

The timing is awful, but the statement is in time for questions to be tabled for the February meeting of General Synod. No doubt there will be lots. But what will this divert attention from … ?

David Lamming
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David Lamming

Linda: see my comment above in reply to one by Kate. The Guidance was agreed last November by the House of Bishops Delegation Committee, as set out in para 22 of Paper GS Misc 1238, circulated last week to General Synod members, so a question was almost certain to be asked about it if it had not been published.

Disgusted of Merseyside
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Disgusted of Merseyside

Paragraph 30 says it is clear from Canon 22.4 that although infant baptism cannot be refused it can be delayed for instruction including on marriage and the family, and refers to “a period” of instruction. In fact B22.4 refers to the case where after giving due notice the baby has already been brought to the church for the christening. If one goes to a concert or horse race, and a delay is announced, one sits there and waits for it to begin. What the bishops are conniving at is not a delay. It is an indefinite postponement. If a horse… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

One of the disappointing aspects of this ‘Pastoral Statement’ (so-called) is that it gives the appearance of pre-empting the outcome of the LLF process, by going out of its way to re-assert the views of one section of the Church at the expense of other views. I think it is fair to say, even as one who participated in the LLF initiative and appreciated Eeva’s personal conduct and engagement in the interview process, that I feel that many LGBT members of the Church feel ‘cut off’ from the ongoing process of drafting these very important resources that are supposed to… Read more »