Changing Attitude England welcomes today’s government announcement that it plans to remove the ban in England and Wales on civil partnership registrations being held on religious premises. Changing Attitude expects to be involved in the public consultation on the detail of the changes to be made before the new arrangements are implemented.
Changing Attitude will now campaign more directly for the Church of England to allow civil partnerships and the blessing of same-sex relationships to be celebrated in church buildings. The trustees are already formulating the details of our campaign and we invite all who are working and praying for our Church to become fully inclusive of and welcoming to LGBT people to support the campaign by becoming a supporter of Changing Attitude or sending a donation. We are going to need all the resources, practical and financial, that we can muster.
Church House and a number of conservative Christian lobby groups have already issued negative statements about the government proposal, statements which misrepresent the reality of life in the Church and the careful proposals being made by the government.
The Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, issued a statement “on behalf of the Church of England”. On whose behalf was it issued? It wasn’t issued on behalf of the tens of thousands of Anglicans who support the blessing of same-sex relationships in church.
The statement says the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships. This is absolutely not true. Changing Attitude knows that about 50% of diocesan bishops have either actively encouraged lesbian and gay clergy to enter a civil partnership or deliberately ignored those who do and have taken no action against them. Blessings of civil partnerships in church, sometimes with the formal permission of the Parochial Church Council, take place routinely in England. The House of Bishops has not been consistently clear. It is colluding in a state of affairs in which many bishops dissent from their agreed pastoral statement. Changing Attitude will be asking the House of Bishops to research the numbers of licensed lesbian and gay clergy who have contracted a civil partnership and those who have blessed same-sex relationships.
The Church House statement says there may be a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths. It says change could only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured. Lesbian and gay members of the Church of England, our friends, families and congregations, are also among those seeking freedom – the freedom to have relationships blessed by God in our parish churches.
The government recognises the place of individual conscience and says the provision will be permissive and religious organisations that do not wish to host civil partnerships will not be required to do so.
Anglican Mainstream has issued a statement containing deliberate misinformation. The policy of issuing false information followed by the conservative evangelical lobby groups is something that we will monitor and challenge as our campaign develops.
Anglican Mainstream claims that “public figures have been terrified to be seen as ‘anti-gay’, hence their unwillingness to discuss and debate LGBT issues. Moreover, many are relatively ignorant, and as the subject matter is not everyone’s ‘thing’, they have neither known nor been too curious to find out.” This is far from the truth, a deliberately constructed lie. I don’t know any public figures who are terrified to be seen as anti-gay. If there are politicians and public figures who are anti-gay or who are ignorant of the experience of LGBT people in our society, they should rightly be ashamed of their prejudice and ignorance.
Anglican Mainstream says the state is claiming the right to dictate morality and the gay religious lobby is using the government and sympathetic quasi-Christian groups to do its bidding. That comes as news to Changing Attitude (and who are these quasi-Christian groups?). Mainstream says that being ‘gay’ is now perceived like being ‘black’ etc. Yes, it is – prejudice against LGBT people in our society is now seen for what it is – prejudice. Mainstream claims that complete ‘gayification’ of religion, including the CoE, is on the cards. That isn’t part of Changing Attitude’s aims and objectives. We simply want a Church in which we are free to pray, worship and love faithfully.
Anglican Mainstream then raises all the old canards - the damage of gay marriage on children; members of other sexual minorities whose demand for rights actually place in question the legitimacy of the LGBT agenda; public health issues; and the significant loss of religious liberty.
The Christian Institute, Christian Concern and Reform are also concerned to protect themselves against the possibility, now and in the future, of any kind of legal action being brought against churches which conscientiously disagree with civil partnerships because permission often turns rapidly into coercion. They list faith-based adoption agencies, Christian marriage registrars and Christian B & B owners as examples of those who have been coerced as a result of legislation.
Christians who are committed to ending the injustice perpetrated by Churches against their LGBT members don’t want coercive legislation. We want to be given the freedom, the space, in which our Christian lives and ministries can flourish, space where we can celebrate in church with our friends the life commitment we make with our partners, in love and prayer.