Affirming Catholicism and two bishops back civil partnerships - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
December 14, 2005

Affirming Catholicism and two bishops back civil partnerships

-14/12/05

With the first civil partnerships due to be registered in England on 21 December 2005, the progressive Anglican organization Affirming Catholicism has announced the publication of a booklet calling on the Church to welcome the development as a pastoral opportunity and a means of listening to the experience of lesbian and gay Christians.

The booklet, written by an Anglican priest, argues that civil partnerships will provide a way out of the ëcatch 22í which faces many homosexual Christians whose relationships are criticized for being unstable while - at the same time - the Church fails to offer any support which might help couples stay together.

Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, chair of Affirming Catholicismís trustees, said: ìThe period of listening and reception to which Anglicans are committed canít happen on a purely theoretical level. It must also be about the lived experience of lesbian and gay Christians who need to feel safe enough to tell their stories.î

She continued: ìWe believe that civil partnership can help give that security and that local clergy should offer prayer and support for couples.î

The Church of Englandís bishops have stated that, while there could be no authorized liturgy to bless same-sex couples until there was consensus on Church teaching, parish priests should nonetheless respond sensitively and pastorally to gay couples seeking blessings.

The new publication, which has a foreword by The Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, calls for an end to the double standard at the heart of current Church teaching which accepts gay relationships between lay people but bans sexually active homosexual women and men from the priesthood.

Dr John, a noted theologian, was previously forced to withdraw from his nomination as Bishop of Reading after anti-gay groups within the Church of England objected to his living with a male partner, even though the relationship was celibate.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, is among those who have called on the church to celebrate the life and commitment represented by civil partnerships, which are now legally recognized. He says that they are no threat to the institution of marriage, which the Church rightly wants to affirm.

The former Bishop of Durham, Dr David Jenkins, who is now an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, has also said that he will give an address at a service of celebration for two people he knows who are entering a civil partnership.

The partnership ceremony itself is secular, and by law can have no religious content. Clergy have been asked not to conduct services of blessing.

Commented Dr Jenkins: ìI will not give a blessing. I am going to talk at it [the church service]. But I will of course be condoning anyone who gives a blessingÖ I suppose this is bound to be seen as some sort of protest, but we should concentrate on being thankful to this couple for the way they have served one another.î

Although the Church of England has officially distanced itself as far as it can from civil partnerships, it has been under fire from other churches in the Anglican Communion over the issue, especially in Africa and Asia where theology and culture relate differently.

In Britain, America and Canada, those in the Church who affirm faithful lesbian and gay relationships deny charges that they are being unfaithful to scripture and tradition, arguing that the all-embracing message of the Gospel is the proper context in which biblical passages that appear to go against their view should be re-read.

They point out that this is the accepted interpretative procedure adopted on a number of other ethical questions, such as slavery.

The Affirming Catholicism booklet will be published on Friday 27 January 2006.

[Also on Ekklesia: Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Blessings for same sex relationships increasing in C of E; Affirming Catholics challenge C of E on same-sex unions;
Global leaders query Church of England state link; Newspaper suggests Africans set to found splinter Anglican church; Bishop revokes licence of rogue Evangelical; Primates disown open letter to Archbishop of Canterbury; Pro-gay Anglicans say Nigerian Church 'obsessed' with gays]

Affirming Catholicism and two bishops back civil partnerships

-14/12/05

With the first civil partnerships due to be registered in England on 21 December 2005, the progressive Anglican organization Affirming Catholicism has announced the publication of a booklet calling on the Church to welcome the development as a pastoral opportunity and a means of listening to the experience of lesbian and gay Christians.

The booklet, written by an Anglican priest, argues that civil partnerships will provide a way out of the ëcatch 22' which faces many homosexual Christians whose relationships are criticized for being unstable while - at the same time - the Church fails to offer any support which might help couples stay together.

Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, chair of Affirming Catholicism's trustees, said: 'The period of listening and reception to which Anglicans are committed can't happen on a purely theoretical level. It must also be about the lived experience of lesbian and gay Christians who need to feel safe enough to tell their stories.'

She continued: 'We believe that civil partnership can help give that security and that local clergy should offer prayer and support for couples.'

The Church of England's bishops have stated that, while there could be no authorized liturgy to bless same-sex couples until there was consensus on Church teaching, parish priests should nonetheless respond sensitively and pastorally to gay couples seeking blessings.

The new publication, which has a foreword by The Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, calls for an end to the double standard at the heart of current Church teaching which accepts gay relationships between lay people but bans sexually active homosexual women and men from the priesthood.

Dr John, a noted theologian, was previously forced to withdraw from his nomination as Bishop of Reading after anti-gay groups within the Church of England objected to his living with a male partner, even though the relationship was celibate.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, is among those who have called on the church to celebrate the life and commitment represented by civil partnerships, which are now legally recognized. He says that they are no threat to the institution of marriage, which the Church rightly wants to affirm.

The former Bishop of Durham, Dr David Jenkins, who is now an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, has also said that he will give an address at a service of celebration for two people he knows who are entering a civil partnership.

The partnership ceremony itself is secular, and by law can have no religious content. Clergy have been asked not to conduct services of blessing.

Commented Dr Jenkins: 'I will not give a blessing. I am going to talk at it [the church service]. But I will of course be condoning anyone who gives a blessingÖ I suppose this is bound to be seen as some sort of protest, but we should concentrate on being thankful to this couple for the way they have served one another.'

Although the Church of England has officially distanced itself as far as it can from civil partnerships, it has been under fire from other churches in the Anglican Communion over the issue, especially in Africa and Asia where theology and culture relate differently.

In Britain, America and Canada, those in the Church who affirm faithful lesbian and gay relationships deny charges that they are being unfaithful to scripture and tradition, arguing that the all-embracing message of the Gospel is the proper context in which biblical passages that appear to go against their view should be re-read.

They point out that this is the accepted interpretative procedure adopted on a number of other ethical questions, such as slavery.

The Affirming Catholicism booklet will be published on Friday 27 January 2006.

[Also on Ekklesia: Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Blessings for same sex relationships increasing in C of E; Affirming Catholics challenge C of E on same-sex unions;
Global leaders query Church of England state link; Newspaper suggests Africans set to found splinter Anglican church; Bishop revokes licence of rogue Evangelical; Primates disown open letter to Archbishop of Canterbury; Pro-gay Anglicans say Nigerian Church 'obsessed' with gays]

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