Celibate Civil Partnerships

Civil Partnership Application FormOver the past week I’ve been pondering whether it’s useful trying to distinguish between two different kinds of same-sex “relationship” in relation to the on-going dialogue (debate? argument? all-out war?) in the Church of England over clergy and Civil Partnerships. The distinction I want to make is between desexualised relationships and non-sexual relationships. Let me explain.

  • desexualised relationship is one where a sexual relationship of some form did exist between the partners but it no longer exists. Some clergy may enter such a state in order to abide by the “rules” of the Church of England. However, the distinguishing feature of such a relationship is that the couple would “resexualise” their relationship if they were able to (i.e. the rules of the Church of England changed). To all intents and purposes the couple remain lovers despite the lack of sexual activity.
  • non-sexual relationship is one where two people of the same-sex decide to live as friends but with the specific intent of not having a sexual relationship. Indeed, were the “rules” to change they would still maintain such a non-sexual relationship. The two people entering such a relationship are not necessarily sexually attracted to each other and if they find that they are and that that becomes a problem they specifically modify their relationship in order to prevent such a thing occurring. Such a set-up is similar to a house-share which is very common amongst younger people but increasingly amongst older.

Does this distinction make sense? If it does, it strikes me that those who enter the first form of relationship (desexualised) place themselves in a far more uncomfortable position if they enter into a civil partnership then do those who form a non-sexual relationship. For those in the non-sexual relationship there are two possible outcomes. The first is that they remain celibate for the rest of their lives and a Civil Partnership allows them to take advantage of tax and pension benefits that other “couples” would have. The second outcome is that at some point either of the couple meets someone of the opposite sex whom they decide that they want to get married to. At this point the Civil Partnership can be dissolved and one of the partners can enter marriage. At no point has the Church’s doctrine of marriage been compromised and one wonders whether this is the “ideal” that the 2005 House of Bishops’ pastoral statement envisions.

The desexualised couple however present a different situation. Here, because the couple remain lovers and would, if possible, resexualise their relationship if able to, there is a constant intent of the heart to commit sexual sin. Furthermore, because the couple are lovers and do not envision any situation which could free them to marry if the situation arises, they are both removing from their lives both the ability to enter a relationship that signifies the union of Christ and his Church AND publicly displaying that they are not willing to permit such a thing to happen. They are lovers to all intents and purposes and they desire to sin sexually even if they do not actually do so.

It is very likely that some of the clergy entering civil partnerships have true non-sexual relationships but my hunch is that most are desexualised relationships. If this is the case then one does wonder whether someone who is part of such a desexualised couple could realistically become a Bishop whilst the doctrine of the Church of England on marriage and sex remains what it is. I guess this is the point that some conservatives have been making over the past week, so perhaps the way to help clarify the issue is, if a clergyman enters a civil partnership and claims to be celibate (and we should believe him/her if s/he says so), to ask what form of celibacy is envisaged – desexualised or non-sexualised.

Thoughts?

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  • gerv

    Good points, and very helpful to define this distinction and a vocabulary to describe it.

    I notice you use the word “couple” to describe two people in a non-sexual relationship. Perhaps this points up the wider question: how does such a non-sexual relationship actually relate to CPs a) as they were originally envisaged, and b) as publicly perceived in 2013? I’m fairly sure it was not the government’s intent, when CPs were established, that every house share containing a pair of friends of the same sex, who are romantically uninvolved with each other, should form a CP and pay less tax. While CPs do not by law have to have a sexual component, I assert that this was the expectation for the common case, even originally.

    I have had non-sexual relationships with people I have shared accommodation with in the past. I call them “friends”. Some of them were better friends than others. I can’t imagine anyone calling me and any one of them a “couple”, or suggesting we enter a CP.

    I wonder whether the acceptance of priests in CPs by the CofE on the basis that theoretically such a relationship could be non-sexual is, in the memorable words of Doug Wilson, “just one more chapter in that endless tome we like to read called Gullible’s Travels.”

    http://www.dougwils.com/N.T.-Wrights-and-Wrongs/serious-scholars-clown-car-review.html

    Genuine question: you often refer to gay (as in, having homosexual feelings) bishops in the CofE who have held and preached an orthodox line on sexuality. (And I have no reason to doubt you on the matter of their existence.) Are there any vicars in the CofE who have entered a CP and yet also hold and actively preach such a stance? As in, standing up in the pulpit and saying “if I and my civil partner were to have a sexual relationship, it would clearly be a sin against God. Which is why we don’t” as opposed to “The church says we shouldn’t, so we don’t”.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      The short answer to the question you ask is “No”. I don’t know of any clergy who have entered a non-sexual rather than desexual civil partnership.

      • gerv

        So when you are arguing that we should allow for the possibility that clergy could enter into a non-sexual CP, it seems rather like arguing for maintaining a belief in the existence of yeti. No-one’s ever seen one, but it’s certainly _possible_ that we might one day, so we need not to dismiss it out of hand. :-)

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          I’m just trying to wrestle with producing an example of a civil partnership with a clergyman that would be moral.

    • cerebusboy

      Indeed, if two people are ‘just friends’ are they really a ‘couple’? One option, similar to heterosexual Christians who don’t have sex until they’re married, would be for a gay couple to permanently abstain from sex for theological reasons. But surely the coupledom itself is problematic? Civil Partnerships are clearly not designed for friends. Conservatives should have courage to say that same-sex love – in the sense of having a member of one’s sex as a primary romantic partner – is, to them, problematic like actual same-sex sex.

      • gerv

        Only this week I came across John Stevens, director of the FIEC (so not C of E!), making exactly that point:
        http://www.john-stevens.com/2013/01/appointing-gay-bishops-is-celibacy.html

        “It is therefore overly simplistic to draw a distinction between homosexual orientation and
        homosexual activity. If this is the distinction we draw then it will inevitably generate all kinds of difficult questions as to what celibacy requires, and what constitutes homosexual sexual activity. Will clergy and bishops in civil partnerships be permitted to hold hands? To embrace or cuddle? To kiss? To share a bed even if there is no genital contact? It seems to me, however, that there ought to be no need to resort to such sophistry, because a person who is in a civil partnership is disqualified from Christian ministry because they are publicly affirming their romantic love for a person of the same gender rather than repenting and fleeing from it.”

        • Guglielmo Marinaro

          Which, of course, prompts the question, why the hell should anyone repent of or flee from their romantic love for a person of the same gender?

          • Revd_Dave

            Because you can’t follow Jesus any way – only His way.

            • cerebusboy

              Which is what precisely, that of the One True Holy Roman and Catholic Church, or that of of the bajillion-and-so protestant denominations? Neither?
              ;)

            • Guglielmo Marinaro

              I see no reason to think that following Jesus entails regarding romantic love for a person of the same gender as a sin to be repented of or fled from.

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                Isn’t Jesus’ teaching that it is not what we do but what we think and feel that is the mark of our falleness and brokenness. I have no issue with recognising that parts of my desires are intrinsically disordered.

        • Revd_Dave

          “… a person who is in a civil partnership is disqualified from Christian ministry because they are publicly affirming their romantic love for a person of the same gender rather than repenting and fleeing from it.” Good point! If same-sex sex is sinful then so is same-sex romantic love. We need to flee our sinful desires, not affirm them..

      • Revd_Dave

        Err, I think you will find that no conservative Christian thinks there is anything wrong with loving people of the same sex as yourself… or people of the opposite sex for that matter!

        You need a closer definition – it’s just romantic/erotic love towards anyone of the same sex, or someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse (or potential spouse), that is POTENTIALLY sinful.

        • cerebusboy

          What no conservative Christian? None? Anywhere? Your generalisations are absurd.

          By your own admission SOME TYPES of love are indeed, to the conservative, problematic when directed at members of one’s own sex.

          And there’s nothing like the ‘potential spouse’ loophole, which gives, in my experience, straight evangelicals an excuse to flirt, date and kiss oodles of members of the opposite sex whilst damning those supposedly slutty gays!

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            If you think there aren’t none then name one for us.

            • cerebusboy

              Hmm, how about citing that Why Men Hate Church book, which, in parts, reports on the many men who feel uneasy at singing songs about loving another man?

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                Right, which man?

                • cerebusboy

                  How about Rev Dave in this very thread?

                  – it’s just romantic/erotic love towards anyone of the same sex, or someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse (or potential spouse), that is POTENTIALLY sinful.
                  (emphasis mine)

                  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                    Exactly. Romantic / erotic love has the potential to lead you to sin. That is different from general love for one’s fellow man.

                    • cerebusboy

                      It’s still a form of love, making it entirely correct to state that it not merely same-sex genital activity that (some!) conservative/evangelicals have a problem with.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      But it’s not erotic / romantic love and that’s the point.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Right. But my original post said – caps and all –

                      “By your own admission SOME TYPES of love are indeed, to the conservative, problematic when directed at members of one’s own sex”

                      So I’m not sure what you’re actually taking issue with!

          • Revd_Dave

            “Your generalisations are absurd.”
            Guest, I think you aren’t thinking: Every conservative Christian tries to obey Jesus’ commands to love everyone eg “love your neighbour as yourself” etc! Unless you want to try to argue that Jesus was commending sex with neighbour and self (which I realise might excite quite a few people’s over-sexualised imaginations nowadays but isn’t what He meant!) you need to put love and sexual attraction into seperate categories.

  • jillfromharrow

    I’m not sure that it is a useful exercise. I haven’t been to an ordination recently, but I would recommend that any clergy considering living in a civil partnership read the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer, (still a formulary of the Church of England), which contains such phrases as ‘ye may shew yourselves dutiful and thankful unto that Lord, who hath placed you in so high a dignity; as also to beware that neither you yourselves offend, nor be occasion that others offend’, ‘ye may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow’, promising to be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves, and your families, according to the doctrine of Christ; and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ. I can tell you, if I had made promises such as these in the sight of God, I would be too terrified to enter a CP. It is hardly a godly example for clergy to set, and how could any bishop in a CP possibly ask candidates these questions without keeping his fingers firmly crossed? Do read it: http://www.pbs.org.uk/bcp/bcp_online.php
    Setting an example to the flock is key here, not whether clergy are living in desexualised or non-sexual relationships. How would we feel about our vicar shacking up with his girlfriend, or any female friend? I can imagine snorts of derision within the parish (which includes non churchgoers as well as the faithful) at him trying to assure people that it was not sexual, even though this may be true.

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    I guess what I’m wrestling with is exactly all these issues. If we think it is acceptable for two single people to live together (and many Christians do just that) *why* is it suddenly scandalous if one of them is a clergyman? Surely we’re beyond that kind of silly innuendo?

    Ryan is right that two friends are not “a couple”, but then being in love has never been a legal necessity for marriage in the first place. So why shouldn’t two friends, who are committed to celibacy and aren’t lovers, contract a Civil Partnership to take advantage of the tax / inheritance / pension benefits? Why should we assume that that makes their relationship dubious? It *is* substantially different to “shacking up with your girlfriend”.

    • cerebusboy

      Peter, you’re emphasising the financial dimension. People flat-share because, usually, they have no choice (even Stereotypical Rich Evangelicals of my acquaintance still flat-shared in yooni! ;-)). Aren’t clergy provided with houses or flats? To use Jill’s example, there would indeed be snorts of derision if a straight priest claimed he needed a female friend to move in so that his bills would be more manageable.
      Civil Partnerships are, well, Partnerships. They require a commitment to a specific person in a way that makes them wholly unanalogous to flatmate-style non-sexual arrangements.

    • Revd_Dave

      Hmm, maybe the question is wrong?… A large part of the problem we currently have with CPs is that they are efectively ‘gay marriage’ because they are only open to same.sex couples… So they conflate legal recognition of a committed partnership with legal recognition of same-sex sexuality.

      If the Government were to allow *any* two people to enter into a CP, when they redefine marriage to include two people of the same sex, then CPs might be something that could be entered into by Christians without giving the impression of blessing sin?

    • jillfromharrow

      Not in the public perception it isn’t. I agree with Revd Dave; I think it is scandalous and discriminatory that CPs should not be open to people in other live-in relationships. This would dilute the issue. I think it is naive in this sex-obsessed age to assume that we should be adult enough to be scandalised by it. In days gone by (sigh!) it wouldn’t even have raised an eyebrow. I’m sure we all know older people who have lived together for reasons of economy and companionship who one wouldn’t even suspect of having a sexual relationship.

      I have just read a letter from the Global South primates which brings up another issue which is often forgotten in all this navel-gazing. What about Christians in other lands where theirs is the minority religion who are routinely persecuted and killed for being associated with an immoral church? Among other things, they say: ‘Further, it jeopardizes the relationship between us Anglicans living in the Global South and followers of other faiths, and gives opportunities to exploit such departure of moral standards that this type of decision may provide.’

      http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2013/01/12/statement-from-the-primates-of-the-global-south-of-the-anglican-communion/

      • cerebusboy

        That’s an absurd point even by anglican dowstream (and your) inane standards, Jill. Those who kill Christians worldwide do not do so because of the C of E’s opinions on civil partnerships (!); and, if you want to play the appeasement game, the sorts of things that Islamofascists regard as emblematic of the decadent west include equal rights for women, free speech, and other things that you (not just supposedly shit-eating kid-recruiting gays) value.

      • Tom Jones

        Jill, I think that is a very wrong-headed argument and on this Ryan is right: appeasement is not the way. (Did the Ugandan martyrs try to appease the king?) In fact appeasement will lead to what you fear most, the introduction of Sharia law by giving in to the endless demands that Christianity, wherever it but especially in Africa, should align itself “morally” with islamist demands to abjure the West. You are on record as having said (probably more elegantly than I am reporting you!) you fear the introduction of Sharia law here and that we gays should do ourselves a favour and get back into the closet before it happens.

        • jillfromharrow

          Appeasement, Tom? It’s not as if the Koran and the Bible teach that much differently when it comes to marriage and sex. Most Muslims see the West as being a moral cesspit, and Peter’s differentiating between celibate and non-celibate CPs will mean little or nothing in countries where homosexuality is dealt with severely – they will just see the Christian church condoning acts which they consider gravely immoral, and radicals will use it as an opportunity to whip up further hatred of the Christian faith, to the peril of Christian minorities.

          The ‘appeasement’ comes from those within the church who condone these activities, in direct contradiction to actual Christian teaching, to satisfy the demands of a strident and aggressive gay lobby.

          • cerebusboy

            Jill, do you remember nothing from the War on Terror rhetoric which was, let us recall, whipped up by conservatives? Wahhabist Islam wants to see the West become Islamic, at the point of the gun and suicide bomber if necessary. It speaks volumes that a Christian likes yourself is defending an overtly anti-Christian ideology just because it shares your hanging’s-too-good-for-them anti-gay rhetoric. Muslims of my acquaintance have often referred to the UK’s drinking culture as one way in which it is a ‘moral cesspit’. Are you in favour of prohibition, or is it only the gays who should be sacrificied in appeasement? What about the roles and rights of women in Western Countries? That hardly concurs with the ‘moral’ (!) understanding in , e.g., Saudi Arabia, does it?

            And I probably shouldn’t be surprised that a Daily Heil fan like yourself is ignorant of the Qur’an (unless you want to point to some Qur’anic passages bigging up Christian-style ascetisicsm. “Women are your field, go thence into your fields where you please” hardly accords with contemporary Christian complementarianism, does it?)

            As for the ‘gay lobby’, do you mean people who want equal rights for gay people? Most people, unfortunately for you, have gay friends, colleagues and acquaintances and tend towards live-and-let-live. There are far, far, more people in that category than there is in your disgusted-of-Tunbridge-Wells, placard-waving, dinosaur-who-will-soon-die-off, down-with-sodomites demented little world.

          • jillfromharrow

            I’m glad to see that even the appalling Lord Harries agrees with me on this particular point!

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20925420

            • Tom Jones

              Why is he appalling, Jill?

              He agrees with you about the difficulty made in the situation for minority Christians in an islamist environment when it is used as a way of denigrating them,; as he says, Western liberal values are used to tarnish them, I see that . But ultimately his conclusions are not the same, that we should give up our hard-one amelioration of society into something juster and fairer to appease African bishops or to take away a stick that is used to beat minority Christians. Take that away and they will find something else because their aim is conquest at any price, not trying to raise Christian morality to that of the Qu’ran. Later, when he says clearly Los Angeles is not the same as Lagos, do you agree that it can never be so? I have never been to Lagos but I do not imagine it is actually a New Jerusalem.

          • gerv

            Actually, the Koran and the Bible teach quite different things when it comes to marriage and sex. (I know, because my wife has written an entire course on marriage and family life for Muslim-background believers, which is aimed at correcting some of these views). The analogy for the wife of a Muslim (given in the Koran, I believe) is a field. You can have no fields, one field or multiple fields. Each field should be fertile; if it is not, get rid of it and get another field. This is rather different to the Biblical view!

            Then of course there are mut’ah, “temporary marriages” contracted during the Hajj pilgrimage.

            Having said that, I agree with everything else you said.

            • cerebusboy

              Indeed. Islamofascists will only be satisfied when westerners renounce Christ and democracy. Yet Jill claims that the Bible and Qur’an have the same teachings on sex and marriage, because, in a deck-stacking mood, she’s anti-gay first and anything else second! Shameful.

              As well as the examples you provide, one could also referred to polygamy in the Qur’an (e.g. http://quran.com/4/3 ), the personal example of Muhammad (pbuh?) etc

            • jillfromharrow

              I stand corrected, gerv. A field? Good grief. Of course what I meant is that the Koran doesn’t condone sexual immorality. At least, I don’t think it does. Treatment of women is quite another matter. If they regard women as means of harvest then their support for polygamy makes sense, I suppose. You live and learn.

              • Tom Jones

                I wonder if you have ever read any of the Qur’an, Jill? You should be very careful before recruiting uncritically any holy text as giving humanity unalloyed moral guidance of any kind. But then I wonder how much of our own holy book you have read – for instance how would you explain the actions of God in 1 Samuel 15? Doesn’t it worry you?

                If you are interested in the problem perhaps you would like to listen to a defence of it (and believe me, it does need defending) given by an Anglican priest John Allister who has agonised over how the story does not mean what it appears to mean at face value, that God ordered genocide on this Saturday’s Unbelievable podcast.

                http://www.premierradio.org.uk/shows/saturday/unbelievable.aspx

                • Tom Jones

                  If the link above won’t work you can try this:

                  https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/unbelievable/id267142101

                • jillfromharrow

                  No, Tom, thanks very much, but I am not really interested in what other religions have to say – all this is distracting from my main point, which is that Islam looks towards the West’s Christian churches’ apparent approval of homosexuality, fuelling violence towards Christian minorities.

                  • cerebusboy

                    And, since you don’t understand Islam and by your own admission can’t be bothered to correct that, your point is worthless. If you really care about appeasing Islamofasists then perhaps you should renounce Christ and democracy. Nothing like leading by example! And of course you’ve previously said that, for all your anti-gay rhetoric, you don’t think homosexuality should be illegal in the UK. That makes you, from an Islamofascist perspective, objectionable like those civil partnership-enabling C of E types!

                    • jillfromharrow

                      This sometimes feels like having to explain things to a class of five-year-olds. It is those who present a FALSE picture of Christian teaching who stir up ‘Islamofacism’, as you put it. The TRUE Christian teaching on sexual morality would not arouse their ire. This is not a question of appeasement. (Of course this is not the only reason Islam hates Christianity, but that is another topic.)

                      And there is a difference between legality and morality. There are plenty of immoral acts which are not illegal.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Five year olds? Lol, I’m the one actually quoting the Qur’an (from memory) and referring to Islam, you’re the one who knows nothing about it. BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION you didn’t actually know what the Qur’an says about sex but you JUST ASSUMED that it’s the same as Christianity so you can build some kind of anti-gay consensus. You. Were. Wrong. Admit it. In order to ‘explain’ something you need to know what you’re talking about and you, dear Jill, never do. Reiterating your ignorant, fallacious opinions is not ‘explaining’. Again: democracy, women’s rights are markers of the ‘decadent’ west, far more so Surely even someone as ignorant as you knows about Wahhabist Islam and Bin-Laden’s famous ”strong horse” analogy? And, since you’re too lazy to check and apparently take pride in your ignorance, I think you’ll find that the sort of asceticism and valuing of singleness espoused by Our Lord and St.Paul is not in the Qur’an.

                      ‘Islamofascist’ isn’t my term either. You’d soon find this out if you sought to correct your ignorance.

                      Your belief that legality and morality ought not to be conflated are that their non-conflation is a self-evident virtue/necessity is in itself problematic to Islam (or at least some/most expressions of it). Never heard of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice? Actually, given who I’m talking to, consider that a rhetorical question.

                    • jillfromharrow

                      Okay, okay, I give up – I got it all wrong, and Islamists DO approve of sexual immorality after all.

                      You had better let the Global South Primates know this without delay so they stop writing letters putting unfair pressure on C of E prelates who are anxious to press ahead with Civil Partnership.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Do you actually know what ‘Islamist’ means Jill? It’s not synonymous with Muslim. In passing, I’m also surprised a Save Our Children zealot like yourself hasn’t made capital of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s marriage to Aisha.

                      And of course the point was that Islamists disapproving of sexual immorality in no way necessarily means that said sexual morality, specifically the C of E’s position on civil partnerships (!), is the cause of anti-Christian violence, let alone that, if it was, appeasement is the answer. And of course the Global South Primates can be wrong about all sorts of things. Anyone who reads this blog knows you have a long history of lies, distortions and convenient lapses of memory (my apologies if these are due to some medical condition or similar), but anyone can scroll up and see for themselves. You have previously complained about the amount of ‘liberals’ on this blog (perhaps Peter should have a quota?) and expressed admiration for demented outposts like ‘real street’. Unfortunately for you, Peter’s high standards and brave commitment to the truth mean that this blog will (inshallah) always attract more people who care about facts, reason and a commitment to serious dialogue than it will stereotype-invoking green-ink zealots like your ‘good’ self.

                      Again: by your OWN ADMISSION , you know nothing about Islam, and BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION can’t be bothered to find out! How exactly does that help contribute to a serious discussion on anti-Christian Islamic violence?

                    • jillfromharrow

                      I don’t know much about cars either, but that doesn’t stop me from driving one.
                      Please do not delay in writing your letter to the Global South primates telling them how silly they are. After all, what are a few murdered Christians compared with unfettered rights for men to sodomise each other blessed by the church.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Sodomy? Good to see your true colours revealed. Also, I take it you’ll be renouncing Our Lord and your equal rights as a women? Afterall, what’s more important, your squalid life or those poor murdered Christians? Afterall, surely an expert on Islam (!) like yourself knows that Islamists won’t be satisfied with the mere abandonment of clerical civil partnerships?

                      As for the letter -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority#Fallacious_appeal_to_authority

                      Perhaps you’ll learn to think before you die.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      And I think we’ve exhausted this line of argument.

                      Move on boys and girls.

                    • cerebusboy

                      To hear is to obey, but: I hope you note that : it is was Jill who raised the concept of anti-Christian Islamic violence ; myself and Tom (keen for a serious discussion) responded with passages from Qur’an and foundational statements of Islamism/Islamofascism; Jill responded that she doesn’t know or care about Islam and can’t be bothered to find out but she knows that All Evil, Everywhere is All The Faul of Teh Gays. Coupled with her use of overt homphobic epithets, that’s her MO in a nutshell. And now the thread’s spoiled and those of use who are more than willing to have a sensible discussion about Islam, theocratic government, anti-Christian violence and how to stop it etc etc can not do so. Again, that’s Jill’s well-poisoning MO. She’s like a child taking home her ball in a huff – because she’s incapable of serious discussion, no-one else should have one either! Sad.

                    • cerebusboy

                      “It’s not as if the Koran and the Bible teach that much differently when it comes to marriage and sex. ” (!)

                      I take it you drive your cars into walls a lot, eh Jill?

                    • Tom Jones

                      1 they want to kill Chirstians anyway – remember 9/11?
                      2 the African bishops know that very well
                      3 they ( the bishops) want a stick to beat (a) Canterbury (b) the Global North in general with.
                      4 get their own way with Cantuar.

                  • Tom Jones

                    Not interested in what they have to say except to quote them against glbt when you think it suits? How disingenuous is that? Christian churches for their part DISAPPROVE of fourfold polygyny; the Islamists could just as easily take umbrage at that. They would be wrong on both counts and you are wrong to say we should wind back our hard-won rights against religious incorporated homophobia to appease Islamists. How hard is it for you to understand there is nothing in common between you – that they wouldn’t stop at that – as has been explained to you umpteen times.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Well said Tom. And of course, in addition to their opposition to democracy, equal rights for women (all of which rank considerably higher than the ”C of E having civil partnerships”’ in a list of western ‘sins’) Islamism, as well as condemning the lending of money at interest, also tends towards virulent antisemitism. If we’re playing the appeasement game, then Jill, as well as renouncing Christ and removing equal rights for gays, would, if she’s being logical, also have be all in favour of persecuting Jews. But, of course, logic has never been Jill’s strong suit (has she any?)

              • cerebusboy

                Perhaps you could try reading the Qur’an before expounding on what it does and does not say before citing it to support your ‘argument’? (!) Presupposing that the view of women in Islam is or can be unrelated to its sexual ethic is untenable. Sura al-Baqara is probably the best place to start (http://www.islamicity.com/quran/2.htm ) Although it some aspects it could be argued that Islam’s views on sex are more to your tastes than decadent western Christianity… ;)

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_oral_sex

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_anal_sex

                http://islamqa.info/en/ref/6792

    • Mike Dowler

      Peter, do you know what promises are actually *required* for a CP? I’ve had a quick Google, but couldn’t find out. The vows for use in the (optional) ceremony, however, are clearly aimed at romantic relationships.

      Secondly, what are these ‘tax benefits’, other than on inheritance? There certainly don’t seem to be many for marriage. Indeed, the opposite is true – tax credits are more readily available to two single people than a couple.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        To the best of my knowledge there are no obligatory vows, no obligatory exchange of rings. You simply sign the register.

        The tax benefits are the inheritance benefits.

        • Mike Dowler

          OK – I’ve just had a look at the Act. Essentially, the obligations are the same as with marriage. Thus, dissolution is not merely administrative – one partner may have to pay maintenance to the other. There will be a partition of property. It is therefore much more than just a flatshare with a tax break when you die.

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            So you could have a pre-CP agreement to maintain financial independence and not claim maintenance.

            • gerv

              But once you do that, it becomes less like a CP. And you can deal with the inheritance stuff using a will and a trust, if (and it’s not that common among clergy, is it, on their salaries?) you have assets worth more than £325,000.

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                I agree, I’m just trying to find a way that would make it work… Benefit of the doubt and all that.

            • Mike Dowler

              I didn’t think UK courts attached much weight to pre-nups. In any case, I don’t think you can agree not to distribute shared wealth accumulated after the start of the CP. The CP was never meant to be something for nothing – if you want the tax benefits, you have to accept the shared financial responsibility.

  • Mike Dowler

    Thanks Peter, this is a helpful clarification. I’m not sure it changes the answer though. One issue: you say that a non-sexualised couple are “not necessarily” attracted to one another. If they are attracted, then it is surely a ‘de-sexualised’ relationship? In any case, I can’t see any way in which it could be a good idea for a Christian to link themselves with someone of the same sex that they are attracted to. The quote from John Stevens seems spot on re this issue.

    For truly non-sexualised ‘couples’, the problem is slightly different. You mention the possibility of ‘simply’ dissolving the CP if one partner wishes to marry someone else. ( Would the situation if another platonic friendship had become stronger than the CP relationship – would it be ok to swap CPs on a regular basis?) I don’t think it is right for a Christian to make a commitment to someone else and then throw away that commitment because it is no longer convenient. Also, I’m not sure it’s that simple – it requires court proceedings, and there are minimum term requirements. For these reasons, I’m not sure the ‘housemate’ analogy is a helpful one. I still struggle to envisage a situation where it would be wise for a Christian to be in a CP, even if the relationship is not immoral. In any case, such non-sexualised CPs seem very unlikely.

    • Steve

      It almost seems as if it is though an evangelical ‘no sex before marriage’ couple decide to be flatemates with just the two of them in the house and not get married for an extended period of time- maybe they are both starting medical school so for 5 years, or can’t afford it and are saving up?

      People who didn’t know them wouldn’t believe they wen’t sleeping together, the church wouldn’t let them go through training for ordination if they knew, and at the very least it would be unhelpful for the couple.

      Even if there isn’t a sexual element, it still raises questions. When gay marriage becomes legal what will happen if CP’s are opened to straight couples? Would the church see it as vaild for a male and female friend to enter into one and not have any attraction? Would anyone take a bishop seriously if he said that there was nothing going on between them as he’s asked?

      I imagine that if someone got a UK visa by being in a CP and admitted that they wern’t lovers or romantically involved but just good friends that the majority of the public would see it as equivlent to a sham marriage and that the person should have their visa revoked.

  • John Allister

    Is the situation analagous to bigamous marriage? If a bigamist gets converted, what would we require that they do with their “domestic situation” before ordination?

    What would we expect a civilly-partnered couple who became thoroughly converted to do? Would we expect them to divorce? Is there a difference between that and a Jeffrey John-type situation?

    I’m inclined to be with John Stevens on this as well – surely it matters what they teach (in which case there are a shedload of bishops Reform et al should have objected to just as strongly as they did to Jeffrey John)…

    • Steve

      Maybe a better example would be a poligomous married man from a country where it is legal getting converted/becoming convinced that he should only have 1 wife.

      What does he do with the rest? Especially if they are reliant on him for survival?

      Does he get rid of them? Does he say that he will only continue to have one proper wife (his first or his favourite?) and will look after the rest but can’t have sex with them (how much other affection-relationship though)- but will allow any that can’t accept it a divorce?

      Or does he look to the Bible and see that God still blessed many men whilst they had multiple wives and continue but just not add any more?

  • Perry Butler

    Are any figures available for the number of clergy in Civil Partnerships? Presumably some have entered civil partnerships after retirement, some are in sector ministry and their salary comes from eg an NHS Trust, some are presumably SSM’s etc,so it might be difficult for a central body( the Church Commissioners to have the figures?).
    As a former DDO who retired before this became much of an issue I imagine this is handled in different ways in different dioceses..any anecdotal evidence?
    Has any proper research been done on why the priesthood attracts a significantly higher percentage of homosexuals than other professions? What sense do we make of that theologically? It would also be interesting to know what now happens in the RC Church following the fairly recent ruling that homosexual orientation is a bar to holy order..or is it more nuanced than that?
    Andrew Goddard’s piece would seem to be saying what some others are saying below…Civil Partnerships are incompatible with active ministry in the C of E….mmmm……would seem a bit late for that now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/A.Martin.Reynolds1 Martin Reynolds

    Peter, I am not sure why you struggle so much, but I am sure your heart is sincere in what you are attempting to do. However your division is hardly able to cope with all eventualities. Take, for example the couple who give up sex in obedience to their churc teaching and who subsequently loose the desire to see their sexual relationship being rekindled, they are no longer lovers while deeply content to remain in the civil partnership

    • Steve

      A bit like a married couple who can’t have sex for a while for some reason (medical issues maybe) or who just stop over time and are no longer lovers while deeply content to remain in their marriage?

      I’m not sure if I, or society, would stop seeing it as a certain “type” of relationship even if the actual sex wasn’t happening in the marriage anymore.

      Part of me is convinced that the only reason the Bishop’s ok’d it was that they thought that the only clerics that would take it up would be the old boys, who had been in a comitted relationship for decades and were frankly more interested in slippers and a fire than sex anymore. No one would cause a fuss and they could share pensions etc.

      • http://www.facebook.com/A.Martin.Reynolds1 Martin Reynolds

        That’s a good comparison Steve, though I guess the bis hops may have been a little more savvy than that.
        What we are saying is this relationship doesn’t fit Pete’s neat fix!

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          It is rather more and more not looking “neat” isn’t it? At least we explored it.

  • sheppied007

    As a basis for dissolution, sexual unfaithfulness constitutes unreasonable behaviour as a fact proving irretrievable breakdown. All Civil Partners are legally entitled to expect sexual faithfulness. CP’s involve an entitlement to each other’s sexual commitment.

    The fact that they may assent to the Church’s doctrine and desist from sexual relations between themselves does not make the Civil Partnership any less sexually exclusive. Sexually, they are set apart for each other, whether they act upon their mutual attraction or not.

    The church has no business in affirming any clergyman, far less a bishop, who, through a Civil Partnership, directs his homosexual affections towards a lifelong partnership with another man. If it can be dissolved on account of an extraneous sexual relationship, the civil partnership is, by its very nature, a sexual commitment that cannot be de-sexualised.

  • David Baker

    Peter, I have been thinking about the question you raise also.

    Is not the nub of our current predicament the fact that the bishops have taken an entirely secular legal innovation (civil partnerships for gay people) derived from non-Christian society and tried to force it into an entirely different and distinctive God-given Christian theological framework (heterosexual marriage or celibate singleness) derived from Christian Scripture – and actually the two just don’t go?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I think you might be right.

  • jillfromharrow

    Good to see that Kevin and George agree with just about everything I have said on this issue.

    • cerebusboy

      lol, I’ll hazard a guess that they don’t combine a self-admitted willful ignorance on Islam with proclamations on its nature and expression! That said, it is good to have ”C of E civil partnerships are a leading cause of anti-Christian Islamic violence” to add the vast Crazy Shit That Jill Says list. One is reminded of Justinian blaming buggery for earthquakes.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        I’m this close to banning you from replying to each other.

    • Tom Jones

      Who are these old overfed queens anyway, Gilbert and George doing a new art piece?

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        Less insulting please.

  • http://twitter.com/Andrew_Marin Andrew Marin

    This is brilliant. Thanks Peter.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Well it’s a start!

      I think the de-sexualised / non-sexual distinction is a good one and I still hold to it as a way to analyse and qualify relationships. That said, given the conversation we’ve had here (and elsewhere) over the past few days I don’t think that clergy can manage to enter non-sexual civil partnerships with there still being some ambiguity as to what is intended (both now and in the future).

  • Sarah1845

    I don’t see what the moral difference is between people like Rowan Williams or Alan Wilson or the Bishop of Salisbury who maintain that gay sex in a committed relationship is not sinful, but refrain because they fancy women instead, and a couple in a celibate civil partnership who refrain because the church says so – except that the latter are more noble/stupid depending how you look at it. But despite this, everyone goes after the gays and no-one’s nearly so seriously interested in hounding the straight liberals. This smacks of hating the ‘sinner’ more than the ‘sin’ to me.

    In fact, for those taking your view, Alan Wilson is worse – at least a gay man in a CP is motivated in part by love and care for his partner; a straight liberal will affirm the rightness of such a relationship, as pure theory – so (from your point of you) pure sin with no incidental grace coming about as a result.

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