We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome the fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed
Church of England statement
In what my friend The Disgruntled Radical rates as an unsatisfactory Today programme Thought for the Day this morning on Radio 4 by the former Bishop of Southwark Tom Butler was an exception. He referred to the Church of England's statement on Civil Partnership and in light of this called for clergy to be allowed to conduct blessings of Civil Partnerships. I checked out the statement via the excellent 'Thinking Anglican's' website. The key passage reads:
The Church of England recognises the evident growth in openness to and understanding of same sex relations in wider society. Within the membership of the Church there are a variety of views about the ethics of such relations, with a new appreciation of the need for and value of faithful and committed lifelong relationships recognised by civil partnerships.
Civil Partnerships have proved themselves as an important way to address past inequalities faced by LGBT people and already confer the same rights as marriage.
Now- leaving aside the debate about the equivalence between marriage and civil partnership- this short passage charts a journey by the Church from opposition to Civil Partnership to a recognition of their importance both in affirming 'permanent, faithful and stable relationships' (to borrow a phrase from the Dean of St Albans) and in redressing discrimination. It should be welcomed. It is interesting how many other people who did not support Civil partnerships nine years ago use them as a reason not to proceed with equal marriage.
There will be many in the Church-me for one-who would welcome such a move. The CofE blesses battleships, ferrets, hamsters and asses, its seems wrong to refuse that comfort to same sex couples who want to celebrate their faithful and committed lifelong relationship in Church with their family and friends. The time will come. As Gladstone remarked; 'You cannot fight the future, time is on our side'
Also of interest in the CofE statement is, at last, the recognition that the scare mongering about the European Court is nonsense. It the question and answer section the statement deals directly with the point:
Is the Church of England likely to be forced to conduct same sex marriages against its will?
We do not believe that this is realistic or likely
Lord Lester QC could have told them that weeks ago and saved us all a lot of nonsense from some Church groups and individuals
On a separate matter if you do follow the link to Thinking Anglicans please pause to read the article by Rev'd Canon Jane Charman "Gender discrimination in the Church of England – why it matters and our response" . The Canon asserts:
Gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses. According to the World Health Organisation women worldwide are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. That violence takes many forms, from female abortion and infanticide to domestic abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking, rape and murder. It is also patterned in many lesser behaviours such as exclusion from education, withholding of freedom of movement and association, and economic disadvantage including discrimination in the work place. This is a global problem because gendered power relationships are a global phenomenon. But many of us choose to remain blind to what takes place in our midst.
She goes on to ask:
Where does it stem from, this seemingly unstoppable tide of aggression towards women which has so disfigured human history and continues to threaten the wellbeing and lives of millions of women and girls today? Three interlocking ideas are responsible: firstly that female human nature is inferior to male human nature because it is defective or tainted in some way; secondly that female human beings are less valuable than male human beings and therefore not so entitled to respect, protection, nurture and care; and thirdly that women should always be under the authority and domination of men.
This constellation of ideas is common to many cultures and most religions and runs like a dark thread through our Christian faith inheritance too. It has surfaced repeatedly in debates on the place of women in the life of the Church, most notably in the doctrine of ‘taint’ put forward by traditionalist Catholics and in the ‘headship’ arguments advanced by Conservative Evangelicals. It is entirely at odds with the good news of abundant life for everyone that Jesus Christ proclaimed.