Skip to comments.Bishop Peter Selby breaks C of E bishops’ ranks
Posted on 08/19/2005 9:00:41 AM PDT by sionnsar
THE Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, has broken ranks with the House of Bishops over its statement on the Civil Partnerships Act ( News, 29 July). Writing in the Church Times, Dr Selby dissociates himself from the bishops views.
He says that their message was bound to be heard negatively, whereas his attitude is more positive. The willingness of people to enter civil partnerships should be a source not of fear, but of delight.
He realised that the bishops statement was unlikely to turn out in a form with which I could associate myself. He writes that he had suggested that those considering entering a civil partnership should be consulted about the statement, but this idea was rejected.
He goes on to describe his fellow bishops fear that marriages are somehow threatened by the development of civil partnership, but says: I find this fear difficult to understand, since nobody has ever been prepared to tell me that their own marriage was threatened by the public recognition of gay relationships.
Dr Selby refers to civil partnerships as representing something more hopeful than this document [the bishops statement] makes it appear. He writes of the enriching inspiration of a same-sex couple, both priests, whom he met. His lesbian and gay friends have given him support and insight in his own marriage. He also praises the kind of faithfulness and responsibility that civil partnerships involve.
In contrast, he finds the bishops have made a grudging and fearful response that will not help either bishops or those to whom they minister. He concludes by saying that if we cannot speak hopefully about what are clearly signs of commitment and responsibility, perhaps it would have been better to say nothing.
From tomorrows Church Times.
Herewith an excerpt from Bishop Selbys argument (available in full to subscribers):
He acknowledges that the Civil Partnerships Act has the purpose of enabling people of the same gender to order many of the practical and financial aspects of their life together along lines that follow automatically for those who are married.
He then goes on to say:
The fact that the bishops deem it necessary to respond to that new context by reiterating (as they see it) the teaching of Issues is itself a message that was bound to be heard negatively by those affected, and has been. The message being sent is that entry into a civil partnership will arouse the suspicion that the teaching of Issues is being contravened, and those who decide on that course must be ready to give assurances that it is not. This will not only affect those who are gay, but will also lead many who are not gay and who choose to share their lives to refrain from exercising their rights under the Act, for fear of the interpretation that would be put on their doing so.
THOSE WHO put this statement together are certainly not seeking to be oppressive or to add to peoples burdens: there are plenty of sentences in the document that show how much struggle went into putting it together, and I believe that in many, if not most, dioceses, it will be interpreted with gentleness and compassion.
Yet this pastoral sensitivity runs up against the dominant force that drives the bishops response to the social reality of the increased public recognition of lesbian and gay relationships, and to the availability of civil partnerships in particular: what they fear is that marriages, and the institution of marriage, are somehow threatened by this development.
I find this fear difficult to understand, since nobody has ever been prepared to tell me that their own marriage was threatened by the public recognition of gay relationships. My experience of lesbian and gay friends in relation to my own marriage is only of support and insight. There is room, surely, for a much more hopeful response
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