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CofE campaigns to retain civil partnerships

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Tim Dieppe comments on the CofE's campaign to retain civil partnerships

The Church of England has sprung into action to respond to a government proposal that shakes the foundations of church doctrine. Well, not quite! The normally slow to act and cautious CofE has swiftly taken action to lobby ministers and provide a statement to the press as soon as it became known that the government is considering scrapping civil partnerships.

Eager for priestly homosexual relationships to retain legal recognition, the CofE is alarmed at the prospect of the demise of civil partnerships. As it stands, the CofE allows priests to participate in same-sex civil partnerships providing they promise to remain celibate. Core doctrine would not allow them to engage in same-sex ‘marriages’.  If civil partnerships are scrapped, this compromise position would unravel, and such priestly homosexual relationships would have no legal status! The CofE clearly finds this very alarming and is lobbying hard to protect the legal status of homosexual priestly relationships.

Government considering scrapping civil partnerships

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 to allow same-sex couples to obtain essentially the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage. A heterosexual couple who want to get a civil partnership, instead of a marriage, had their case heard in the Supreme Court this week.

The government is considering scrapping civil partnerships as demand for them has plummeted since the introduction of same-sex ‘marriage’ in 2014. There was an average of over 6,000 civil partnerships between 2007 and 2013, but this declined to 861 in 2015 and 890 in 2016.

Policy paper

The Government Equalities Office released a policy paper last week which says that the government intends to gather more information about demand for civil partnerships before deciding what action to take. The paper says:

“If demand for civil partnerships remains low and this becomes a stable position, this might suggest that same-sex couples no longer see this as a relevant way of recognising their relationships, and that Government should consider abolishing or phasing out civil partnerships entirely.”

CofE Alarmed

The proposal to abolish civil partnerships has alarmed officials in the CofE because it would remove the legal status of some priestly homosexual relationships.

Dr Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs for the Church of England is quoted as saying:

“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,”

“Even if the Government's current information-gathering exercise reveals only a small number are taking up Civil Partnerships, we hope it will remain an option.”

The CofE is concerned that priests in homosexual civil partnerships will demand same-sex ‘marriage’ if civil partnerships are scrapped.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ advocate to preach at Royal Wedding

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the Episcopal Church has been invited to deliver the address at the royal wedding this weekend. This is very likely to be the most listened to and commented on sermon in the world this year. Bishop Curry is a leading advocate of same-sex marriage in the American Episcopal church. Bishop Curry is not personally known to Harry or Megan. It is reported that the invitation for him to preach was made after a discussion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is extraordinary for the Archbishop of Canterbury to recommend Bishop Curry given his views and the tension in the relationship between the CofE and the Episcopalian Church over same-sex ‘marriage’. Only last month the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, wrote to the Episcopalian Church warning them about the consequences of changing the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer to incorporate same-sex ‘marriage’. The letter states that if these changes are made, “pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC [the Episcopal Church], in all manner of ways, would increase.” The letter also states that this matter affects the CofE particularly because of the particular “role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as one of the instruments of unity within the Communion, as well as the Primate of All England” which “puts the actions of the Church of England under particular scrutiny in a way that no other Province experiences.”

It would appear that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself is blind to such scrutiny given that he agreed and endorsed the invitation to Bishop Curry to preach at the highest profile wedding of the year.

Lord Tebbit boycotts gay dean

In another related story this week, it emerged that Lord Tebbit has said that he will not attend church services conducted by a newly appointed gay dean. Rev Cannon Joe Hawes is in a civil partnership with Rev Chris Eyden.

Lord Tebbit said: “I just don't see how he can decently read the marriage service. I stand by what is written in the Bible, which is the basis on which the cathedral was built. It says the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God.”

This incident serves to further highlight the compromise position of the CofE in allowing clergy to participate in civil partnerships.

Compromised church

The truth is that civil partnerships were always a step towards full legalisation of same-sex ‘marriage’. The government is quite right to consider abolishing them as they have served that purpose and there is very little demand. It is priests in civil partnerships who will lose their legal status and not have the alternative of same-sex ‘marriage’. Legal recognition of same-sex relationships should not have been given in the first place and should not be allowed for priests in any case. The government should not listen to the alarmed voice of the CofE in this case.


Government Equalities Office: The Future Operation of Civil Partnership: Gathering Further Information.

Christian Today article quoting Rev Dr Malcolm Brown.

Church Times: Nye letter warns about same-sex marriage rites.

Letter from William Nye to The Episcopalian Church (USA).

The Telegraph: Pioneering US bishop will deliver sermon at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding.