Skip to comments.Paul Perkin on civil partnerships
Posted on 08/09/2005 7:42:45 AM PDT by sionnsar
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Source: Anglican Mainstream
Rev Paul Perkin
At first sight the House of Bishops pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships appears helpful, and more reassuring than it might have been. However, the insufficiency of the statement in two important areas needs to be pointed out they represent a weakness in the pastoral response amounting to a fatal flaw.
1. You affirm the Primates Letter 2003, on public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions: We as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites. Moreover clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership. However, 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. Of course the clergy should always be pastoral and sensitive, but what is this saying? It suggests that homosexual unions may not be blessed publicly and formally, but may be privately and informally! What else can a pastoral and sensitive response in the light of the circumstances mean, except that in certain circumstances the request might be met with a positive prayer blessing the union? If it does not mean that, may I ask what it does mean? If it merely means that a request may be granted to pray for the friendship of two friends in a non-sexual relationship, this is so uncontroversial as to need no pastoral statement - none of us is so naïve as to think that is the real agenda. Rather than revealing the light of the circumstances it appears to be deliberately obscure it. I intend always pastorally and sensitively to decline politely any request for such a prayer affirming a same-sex union. Can you clarify for me the light of the circumstances in which you would feel it necessary to discipline me for such a refusal, before I go any further? You might well receive complaints from my parishioners, and it is only fair that the House of Bishops spell out now on what grounds you would be sympathetic to such a complaint.
2. You affirm GS November 1987: homosexual genital acts fall short of the Christian ideal and are to be met with a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion. You uphold your own previous teaching document of 1999 that: sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or between people of the same sex, are regarded as falling short of Gods purpose for human beings in short, that homosexual acts, as well as heterosexual cohabitation, are sinful. However, the House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked for assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. This admittedly merely perpetuates the internal inconsistency in Issues in Human Sexuality, but the baptism service requires me to ask of candidates whether they reject all rebellion against God, renounce the corruption of evil, and repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour. It is our practice to delay the baptism of heterosexual adults known to be cohabiting outside marriage, giving time for progress in discipleship. Is the House suggesting that this practice is wrong? If I intend pastorally and sensitively to decline politely any request for such a baptism, can you clarify for me the light of the circumstances in which you would feel it necessary to discipline me for such a refusal, before I go any further? Or is the House suggesting that clergy may enquire of heterosexual relationships outside marriage, but may not enquire of homosexual relationships? Or perhaps neither is the House suggesting that relationships in general fall outside the scope of enquiry of candidates genuine repenting and turning to Christ? You might well receive complaints from my parishioners, and it is only fair that the House of Bishops spell out now on what grounds they would be sympathetic to such a complaint.
While the pastoral letter appears to give some reassurances, when it comes to real ministry in the real world to real people in real situations, it merely begs all the real questions. It is of little real help.
Vicar, St. Marks, St. Peters & St. Pauls Battersea
General Synod Member for Southwark
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