Church of England spokesperson abuses authority of General Synod to determine civil partnerships in church

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.


  1. Richard Ashby says

    This is hardly surprising though I take your point about General Synod. Who is usurping its role? What strikes me about the response though, is that it is so ungracious. It’s just a throughly nasty statement made by someone who has no inclination of the effect of his (and it will be a man, I am sure) words, painting the CofE as a nasty, narrow minded institution, more concerend about its pregatives that the people it is supposed to serve. The debacle at St Pauls has shown how insular, isolated and out of touch is the Church and it just can’t help itself.

  2. john hughes says

    As a psychotherapist, it’s time you took some responsibility for promoting something that goes so closely parallel to an absolute pandemic of mental illness. Or don’t you realize that those engaging in homosexual behavior are many times more likely to suffer in that way?

    • says

      I don’t understand the logic of this comment. Yes, the statistics show that gay men are more likely to suffer from mental health and other health problems but this seems to be related to lack of social acceptance, feelings of shame, the secrecy of the closet, etc.. They are hardly going to become more healthy by denying who they are – it is society that needs to change by becoming more accepting . Thank goodness that is what has been happening in recent decades. In Changing Attitude we are calling on the Church hierarchy to officially endorse the welcome and inclusion of LGB&T people that is often to be found at grassroots level and that will help to promote healthy individuals, lifestyles and relationships.

  3. Erika Baker says

    Er, Mr Huges,
    as a therapist you should know that homosexuality is no longer officially classified as an illness.
    So what really happens is that people like you contribute to the negative feelings gay people often sadly still have about themselves.
    You remind me of a homophobic teacher who once told me that my girls would face problems at school because their mother was married to a woman. In fact, the only “problems” they faced were from homophobic teachers.

    If you’re serious in your calling as a psychotherapist you should consider your own responsibility here.
    Seriously. And not just because one of your patients could report you but in particular because you genuinely have their wellbeing at heart.

  4. Laurence C. says

    I agree completely with Christina and Erika. From my own experience, my mental health has never been better since coming out of the closet and living life true to myself – and the same goes for a close friend who has transitioned.

    @Erika – I think John Hughes’ words “As a psychotherapist” are addressing Colin Coward rather than Hughes speaking as one himself.

  5. Erika Baker says

    Thank you for that! I am very relieved that I got it wrong, the thought that someone with opinions like John Hughes would be practicing phychotherapy had really been troubling me for the last few days.

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