January 26, 2020
The House of Bishops from the Church of England has released new pastoral guidance, saying that clergy must not provide a blessing for couples who have a mixed-sex civil partnership and that ‘marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.’
Chair of the ECP campaign, Martin Loat, provides this reply on behalf of the campaign.
The recent statement from the Bishops – coming less than a month after the legal introduction of civil partnerships for all – makes the Church of England look even more out of step with the times.
If anything it shows how much society needs fresh institutions that reflect how people live today. One such is civil partnerships – a modern alternative to marriage that allows couples in relationships to strike a legal union in a way that works for them.
Quite apart from its long-running internal strife over same-sex relationships, the Church has now unnecessarily opened up a new battlefront with a larger group of people for whom a mixed-sex civil partnership represents a fitting and modern legal form for their commitment to each other.
The Church seeks to defend traditional heterosexual marriage. But it is that anachronistic image of a bride being given away by a father to “obey” her husband as a dutiful wife that set many modern-day couples seeking a different path.
And for the Church to tie itself in knots over “the appropriate place for sexual activity” only adds to that disillusionment.
The Government forecast that up to 84,000 couples could form a mixed-sex civil partnership in England & Wales in 2020 after the law came into effect in December 2019.
With the new legal protection, many will be planning to start a family. How will they explain to their children one day that the Church says that having sex in a civil partnership is “inappropriate”? The truth is that they probably won’t bother.
It is the Church of England that looks marginalised as civil partnerships enter the mainstream of society.