C of E has 'greater liberty' for services following civil partnerships than previously thought

By staff writers
June 21, 2008

A paper published today suggests that under the laws of the Church of England clergy have far greater liberty in relationship to services following civil partnerships than has previously been thought.

It comes after a "marriage" of two gay priests, who were already in a civil partnership, was held at a London church, causing controversy and heated debate.

The couple are said to have exchanged vows and rings in front of hundreds of guests in the event.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, expressed concern and said an investigation was taking place into the service.

Critics say the service, held in May at St Bartholomew the Great Church in the City of London for the Reverend Peter Cowell and the Reverend Dr David Lord, broke Church guidelines.

But Inclusive Church has today published a paper by Revd Brian Lewis, a member of General Synod on the law in relation to services after Civil Partnerships.

The paper suggests that under the laws of the Church of England clergy have far greater liberty in this area than is commonly thought.

They are permitted to carry out services of prayer and dedication following a civil partnership so long as they are not deemed to be "Services of Blessing".

Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of Inclusive Church, said: "We very much welcome this long overdue clarification of the law. It makes the distinction between marriages and civil partnerships and sets out what is permissible.

"We hope it will be helpful for clergy wishing to provide public services which respond prayerfully and pastorally to the needs of their congregations.”

Revd Lewis makes the comparison with the Service of Prayer and Dedication following a Civil Wedding (popularly described as a "A Church Blessing").

In these services the individuals are blessed without the service becoming "a Service of Blessing".

You can read the paper online at: http://www.inclusivechurch.net

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