Skip to comments.Civil Partnerships a Parody of Marriage: Bishops Must Take Action
Posted on 12/30/2005 10:06:04 AM PST by sionnsar
CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS A PARODY OF MARRIAGE: BISHOPS MUST TAKE ACTION say many Anglicans
Civil partnerships are a parody of the marriage relationship which is Gods provision for human flourishing, say many Church of England Clergy and lay leaders. They consider the governments Civil Partnership Act 2005 is deeply ambiguous about whether these partnerships are marriage or not.
Following the passing of the Act, the House of Bishops of the Church of England released a pastoral statement on July 25 2005. Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and Reform all issued responses to the Bishops statement between July and September. Between them they represent people in over 1000 churches and 2000 clergy throughout England. The Anglican Mainstream letter [text below] has since been personally signed by over 1700 people, including 290 clergy and two Bishops from 260 churches in 38 dioceses. It has today been presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury as evidence of the deep disquiet within the Church about the pastoral situation which the Civil Partnership Act has created.
The secretary of the House of Bishops replied to Anglican Mainstream on October 19 that the House will continue to keep the pastoral situation under review in the light of experience. What has occurred since the Civil Partnership Act came into force early in December has underlined the pressing need for such a review.
Predictably, the media have been full of news of gay weddings, reflecting the fact that in the popular mind these are seen as a form of marriage. Equally predictably, a direct challenge has been mounted to the Bishops authority: some clergy have publicly entered civil partnerships without consulting their bishops, and have had those partnerships blessed. Both actions are contrary to the bishops July ruling and clearly challenge the ability of the bishops to exercise even the discipline they set out in their pastoral statement.
Unless the Bishops act in accord with their undertaking to exercise discipline in these matters, they will have no credibility in the eyes of the people of the Church of England or the world-wide Anglican Communion. It is the responsibility of the Bishops to teach the faith and to minister Godly pastoral care and discipline in the Church. To achieve that, the Bishops need now to make clear three things: first, that same-sex sexual relationships are contrary to Christian discipleship for both clergy and lay people; second, that, in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, even the appearance of scandal must be avoided by Church leaders. Third, that even though the State condones a parody of marriage in the form of Civil Partnerships, the Bishops of the Church of England do not and will require their clergy to act accordingly. Given the confusion which the Civil Partnership Act has created it would also be wise for the Bishops to urge the government to reconsider the legislation.
The Anglican Mainstream letter was presented at Lambeth Palace on December 29 by the convenor of Anglican Mainstream, Dr Philip Giddings, and Canon Dr Chris Sugden, the executive secretary.
THE TEXT OF ANGLICAN MAINSTREAMS LETTER TO THE BISHOPS:
To the House of Bishops of the Church of England
September 16 2005
We write in response to your pastoral statement of July 25 2005.
We acknowledge the considerable complexities you have faced in responding to the passage of the Civil Partnership Act. Yet we are concerned at your response to the ambiguity in the Civil Partnership Act.
While individuals are free under civil law to register partnerships, given the ambiguity in the legislation and because they are bound to be seen as a form of gay marriage, it would be inadvisable for Christians to enter them if only to avoid causing scandal. We acknowledge the need to remove unjust discrimination in our social legislation but it is necessary to recognise that sexual expression of the relationship in a registered Civil Partnership has been explicitly acknowledged by the government. For example refusal of sexual intimacy is a possible ground for dissolution of the partnership. It is naïve to think that a significant number of those embarking upon a civil partnership will eschew sexual intimacy, as hoped for by the bishops. This reality will in due course bring your advice into disrepute. In these circumstances, we believe that it would be better for you to advise all Christians, whether lay or ordained, not to enter civil partnerships, rather than entering them under restricted conditions.
Our thinking in this is guided by our expectation that as our bishops and teachers you will publicly, courageously and consistently hold out to society the teaching of the Bible and the Church and the implications of it for holiness of life. For these reasons, we look to you as leaders of our church strongly to discourage Christians from registering Civil Partnerships, and to exercise appropriate discipline with regard to the clergy. Merely to require of those clergy registering that they refrain from sexual expression may lead to hypocrisy by encouraging some clergy not to tell and some bishops not to ask. We remain unconvinced that monitoring and ensuring conformity to this standard is realistic and would like to know how the refusal to give assurances in this matter will be dealt with.
Furthermore, the statement goes beyond your report Issues in Human Sexuality in its treatment of the laity. Most have taken the assertion in Issues that the church does not reject homophile people to mean they are welcomed in worship and to hear the word of God. This welcome does not exclude the possibility of appropriate pastoral care or the exercise of compassionate discipline, in this as in other areas of life, in order to bring people to repentance and new life in Christ.
It is inconsistent to maintain that, while the same standards apply to all (¶23), no discipline should be applied to those who come (or bring infants) to baptism, confirmation or communion when these services call for an explicit public statement of repentance and commitment to live a new life. We also note with concern that you have given no guidance for lay officers in the church such as readers, churchwardens, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers, Deanery lay chairs, chairs of houses of laity and others who carry considerable responsibility for doctrinal and pastoral practice.
In summary we are seriously concerned that:
by stating 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, you appear to have abandoned the resolution of November 1987 General Synod that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met with a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
by agreeing to incorporate into church law by government statute the ambiguous term civil partner wherever the term spouse occurs, church law is about to be changed without a single discussion by General Synod or the dioceses or parishes of the church;
by affirming the Bible and the Churchs teaching on marriage, but proposing not to discourage Christian people from registering civil partnerships (which, despite clearly stated assertions to the contrary, are in effect being treated by the government and society as on a par with marriage), there is significant danger that our nation will be misled rather than clearly guided concerning the will of God for societal and relational health and wellbeing and
by adopting the stance taken in your 25th July statement there is a serious risk of further impairing the unity of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, already torn by recent events in North America.
We therefore urge you to reconsider and revise your pastoral advice in order that the church may be seen to act on its declared beliefs and thus give a clear and unambiguous message in the light of the present confusion surrounding civil partnerships.
In order to uphold the authority of the traditional, historic and universal understanding of the Bibles place in defining pastoral practice in human relationships, we will:
encourage clergy and lay ministers, in their teaching, preparation and presentation for baptism, confirmation and communion, to place the demands of the gospel before people living in active same sex relationships by calling for repentance and commitment to live a new life, and
support bishops who, in line with the Churchs canons, exercise godly discipline in this area with regard to their clergy.
We continue in prayer for you, in the demanding role God has given you, and plead with you to speak biblically and boldly at a time when our society urgently needs to know the true guidance of God.
Bishop Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes, President, Church of England Evangelical Council
Rev David Banting, Vicar of St Peters Harold Wood (Chelmsford) and National Chair of Reform Prebendary Richard Bewes OBE, formerly Rector of All Souls Langham Place (London)
Rev John Coles, Director, New Wine Network
Rev George Curry, Vicar of St Pauls and St Stephens Churches, Newcastle and Chairman of Church Society
Rev Alyson Davie, Priest in Charge, The Mundens with Sacombe (St Albans)
The Ven Dr Paul Gardner, Archdeacon of Exeter and Chair of CEEC.
Dr Philip Giddings, Convenor of Anglican Mainstream UK
Rev Elisabeth Goddard, Assistant Minister (NSM) St Andrews, North Oxford
Rev David McCarthy, Rector, St Silas, Glasgow, Secretary, Scottish Anglican Network
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary Anglican Mainstream International
Rev Nicholas Wynne-Jones, Area Dean of Beckenham, Secretary of Church of England Evangelical Council
On behalf of Anglican Mainstream UK.
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