Evangelicals Urge House of Bishops to Revise Advice on Civil Partnerships

The conservative Evangelical umbrella group Anglican Mainstream has sent a letter to all the House of Bishops regarding the position the bishops have taken on Civil Partnerships.

Published 30 September 2005  |  
The conservative Evangelical umbrella group Anglican Mainstream has sent a letter to all the House of Bishops regarding the position the bishops have taken on Civil Partnerships.
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In the letter sent last week to all Diocesan Bishops, Archdeacons, Deans and Diocesan secretaries in the Church of England, they were asked to reconsider and revise their pastoral advice on civil partnerships “in order that the church may be seen to act on its declared beliefs”.

Therefore, the bishops were asked to give a clearer message in the light of the current confusion concerning civil partnerships. The provisions of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 will come into force in December 2005.

The letter was written in response to the House of Bishop’s pastoral statement released on 25 July 2005. It expressed concerned at the House of Bishop’s response to the vagueness 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,” states the letter.

While acknowledging the need to remove unjust discrimination in the social legislation, the letters expressed the necessity to recognise that sexual expression of the relationship in a registered Civil Partnership has been openly acknowledged by the government.

|QUOTE|The letter continues: “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.”

The letter also outlines a serious concern that Church law is about to be controversially modified by incorporating the ambiguous term ‘civil partner’ into the laws by government statute, without any discussion between the General Synod or the dioceses. The controversial changes proposed will see the term 'spouse' replaced with 'civil partner' throughout the Church law.

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