The Bishop of Worcester dissociates himself from bishops’ statement on civil partnerships

Dr Peter Selby – full article in Church Times

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, a patron of Changing Attitude, has written an article for the Church Times (19 August) dissociating himself from the House of Bishops over its statement on the Civil Partnerships Act. Changing Attitude knows from conversations with over 15 bishops at the General Synod meeting in York in July that Dr Selby is far from being alone in his views.  In extracts from the article, he writes:

Request to involve those considering a civil partnership

“As the Bishops’ pastoral statement on the Civil Partnerships Act went through the process of preparation, I found it necessary on more than one occasion to make it clear that it was unlikely to turn out in a form with which I could associate myself. The opinions those crafting it sought to accommodate were chiefly those of the House of Bishops. More than once I asked that we might involved some who were considering entering a civil partnership, clergy and lay, in the preparation of the statement. At the very least, we would then know what their reaction would be to what we were proposing to say. My suggestion was rejected on the grounds that, as the proposed document represented no change in the Church’s teaching, there was no need to consult in that way.”


However, writes Dr Selby, “context affects meanings profoundly. The message being sent is that entry into a civil partnership will arouse the suspicion that Issues in Human Sexuality is being contravened, and those who decide on that course must be ready to give assurances that it is not.”

Hope for gentle and compassionate responses

“I believe that in many, if not most, dioceses, it will be interpreted with gentleness and compassion. Is it not a vindication of all that has been revealed to us about the contribution of marriage to human flourishing that, often in the face of sustained public and ecclesiastical disapproval, and the presence of some very destructive lifestyles within the “gay scene”, many gay and lesbian people have aspired to order their lives in the kind of faithfulness and responsibility that civil partnerships involve?”

Can the Church speak hopefully?

“I dare to hope that bishops will find better ways of relating to such couples than seeking assurances, and I believe many of us will. If our difficulty as Church with particular life-choices means that we cannot speak hopefully about what are clearly signs of commitment and responsibility, perhaps it would have been better to say nothing.”

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