Thursday, 2 February 2012

Church of England Priests want to offer civil partnerships

120 clergy from the London diocese of the Church of England are calling on individual parishes to have the option of taking the decision whether or not they can carry out Civil Partnerships on their premises. The number of signatories is significant as it is over a quarter of the paid clergy in the London area, and within a week of the Archbishop of York's comments to the contrary are significant.

Their letter to The Times reads:

"We, the undersigned, believe that on the issue of holding civil partnership ceremonies in Church of England churches incumbents/priests in charge should be accorded the same rights as they enjoy at present in the matter of officiating at the marriage of divorced couples in church. 
"Namely, that this should be a matter for the individual conscience of the incumbent/priest in charge."

The wording is very clever as those opposed to same-sex marriage often oppose it on the grounds that traditionally, in their eyes, marriage was between a man and a woman for life. Of course the church has changed the rules of marriage many times down the years. They now do allow people who are divorced to be remarried, even if previous spouses are alive and maybe even present in the congregation. At one point that would have been "just cause why they should not be wed".

The church has also through the years made the closeness of kinship less close into who shall be married, and the age at which marriage can take place has also been changed.

Those who hark back to the biblical principle of marriage often overlook the multiple spouses of the patriarchs, the taking of their wives' slave girls as wives, the concubines of many. Even the words used to describe the love of David for Jonathan and vice versa are things that we never hear talked about, or if we do the meaning is transferred into different words that fit the mind set of the congregation.

One thing that the bible does show us is that the marriages, and all of the above were blessed by God himself at different times, were ones which fitted into the times that they were set. Nobody today is saying that our soldiers should take wives from the people we defeat in battle, yet this was biblically approved. Nobody says that a master can decide which of his slaves should be married; indeed we are in outrage about the possibility of slavery at all.

Therefore when I read a letter like his in today's Belfast Telegraph I'm glad that here are those in the church who are realising the truism of what marriage is.

Update: The following day the Bishop of Salisbury has joined the call for the Church of England to recognise Civil Partnerships and spoke up in favour of equal marriage.

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