Civil partnerships: ‘We should have shown workings’
THE Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson,
expressed his disappointment this week with the way in which the
news emerged of the opening of the episcopate to priests in civil
News, 4 January).
Bishop Paterson was appointed to chair a group looking into
whether clergy in civil partnerships should be eligible for
nomination to the episcopate (
News, 2 December 2011). The House of Bishops had recommended a
moratorium on such appointments until the group reported (
News, 8 July 2011).
Speaking on Monday, Bishop Paterson said that the group - whose
other members were the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd
Christopher Foster, and the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin
Fletcher - had produced a 20-page report for the House of Bishops
in May last year.
The group's report examined three questions: should the
moratorium be maintained or not? If not, should there be any
additional requirements made of candidates for the episcopate that
would not be made of those seeking a parish appointment? If so,
what should those additional requirements be?
Bishop Paterson said that although the group "did make a
proposal", he could not say what it was. In addition, it had
assumed that it would be asked to produce a final report. In May,
however, the House of Bishops standing committee took over
responsibility for the review.
The standing committee produced a shorter document, which was
discussed by the Bishops when they met in December at Lambeth
Palace. The Bishops issued a paragraph, included in a summary of
decisions, on 20 December, which "confirmed that the requirements
in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of
those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with
the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to
Bishop Paterson said: "It is fair to say that what came out at
the end did not represent the fairly considerable amount of work by
our group and the standing committee. But something had to be said
by the end of the year, because it had been promised."
The House of Bishops had been preoccupied with making amendments
to the draft women-bishops Measure, meaning that "civil
partnerships inevitably took a back seat", he said.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, issued a
statement last Friday clarifying the Bishops' decision to allow
clergy in civil partnerships, who live "in accordance with the
teaching of the Church on human sexuality", to be eligible for
Bishop Paterson said: "The problem with the document that we are
left with now is that it doesn't show the workings. What the House
thought would be an eirenic statement has angered liberals and
The Bishops have said that a pastoral statement on civil
partnerships will not be issued until a wider report by Sir Joseph
Pilling on the Church's approach to sexuality is published later
Bishop Paterson said that his group's papers had been passed to
the Pilling group. He hoped that it would "produce such a good
result" that it would compensate for the "obvious inadequacies" of
the Bishops' statements thus far.
Gay-marriage polls. The Coalition for Marriage
published results of two polls, on Tuesday, which suggested that a
majority of parliamentarians oppose the use of the Parliament Act
to steer through same-sex marriage legislation. The Parliament Act,
which is used rarely, allows Bills that do not pass in the House of
Lords to become law.
A poll of 151 MPs, carried out by ComRes, suggested that 65 per
cent opposed the use of the Parliament Act. A separate poll of 106
peers, also carried out by ComRes, suggested that 74 per cent
opposed the Act's use.
A statement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
said that it had "no plans" to use the Act of Parliament.