In her Guardian report about the government announcement that places of worship can host civil partnership ceremonies from next month, Riazat Butt says the Church of England has warned its clergy not to register same-sex relationships.
A spokesman said: “We will study the draft regulations as a matter of urgency to check they deliver the firm assurances that have been given to us and others that the new arrangements will operate by way of denominational opt-in.
“If ministers have delivered what they said they would in terms of genuine religious freedom, we would have no reason to oppose the regulations. The House of Bishops’ statement of July 2005 made it clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships and that remains the position. The Church of England has no intention of allowing civil partnerships to be registered in its churches.”
Now, Schedule 1 of the Regulations published by the Government yesterday (on p32) listing persons who must consent to an application for approval of religious premises says in the case of churches or chapels of the Church of England the person is General Synod. This information must have been provided by the CofE.
So the spokesperson has abused his power and announced in advance of a decision by General Synod that it will decide not to allow civil partnerships to be registered in churches. There are members of General Synod who hold the opposite view.
The St Paul’s debacle has shown what happens when the church gets it wrong, gets Jesus’ teaching wrong, gets the exercise of power and authority wrong, and is perceived by the country to have made a decision that is not congruent with Christian witness.
The Church of England is already at risk of a serious abuse of power in announcing a decision of General Synod before Synod has even begun the process of coming to a considered decision itself.
Changing Attitude will be monitoring the process by which the Church of England comes to a decision about the Government’s proposals for civil partnerships in religious buildings and challenging any announcements or decisions which abuse the proper powers of General Synod.