Friday, February 17, 2006

Rationale for blessing civil partnerships

Here's a letter written by the Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge, the Rev. Jeremy Caddick about the college's position on blessing civil partnerships. Its been written about in the Guardian.

Text of letter from the Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge The Revd Jeremy Caddick

6th February 2006
The Rt Revd Dr Anthony Russell
Bishop of Ely

Civil Partnerships

The Chapel Committee here recently met and considered, among other things, what should be the response to requests for services following the registering of Civil Partnerships. The Committee looked at the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement issued last July.

I am conscious that the Colleges do not see themselves as falling within the formal jurisdiction of the Diocese of Ely, but I thought it important to write to you as the nearest member of the House of Bishops to tell you about the outcome of those discussions, and also to put on record my own dismay at the damage that is being done to the Church’s standing by the handling of this question. I am aware that your ear will also be being bent by those who take a very different view from my own!

The advice of members of the Chapel Committee and of the College Council, who also considered the matter, was that we would not wish to close the door to having services for members of the College community who requested them. They left it to the Dean to judge what form of service would be appropriate. (I recognise that there will be complex issues to be talked through in relation to each request that is received. None have been so far.)

The House of Bishops statement came in for considerable criticism. In particular people were not convinced by the distinction between not offering a blessing on one hand and encouraging clergy to respond sensitively to requests for services of prayer on the other.

In a community such as this one people know that there is considerable diversity in human sexual relationships, and, in general, see the importance of affirming and celebrating those that are faithful and life affirming. People look to college chapels as offering resources and support in doing that, and this is part of the ministry here that I continue to find rewarding and encouraging.

I appreciate the political considerations that propel the House of Bishops to begin the statement with quite such a vehement reaffirmation of the teaching that, “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (emphasis added). However such a starting point would seem to fly in the face of pastoral experience. To put it bluntly, what planet is the House of Bishops on? I cannot recall the last time I presided over the marriage of a couple who were not already sleeping together. I have no intention of turning such couples away and rather than taxing them on the subject of their sleeping arrangements, I find it much more productive to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to draw their attention to the grace-charged and God revealing aspects of the relationship that they are in the process of making.

I am concerned that in setting its face so publicly against gay relationships the Church imperils, perhaps terminally, its standing to speak authoritatively on the subject of relationships generally. There is no shortage of people who wish to portray the Church as reactionary and irrelevant. To be blunt again, I am dismayed that the House of Bishops statement plays into their hands.

1 comment:

Rev Dr Mom said...

"To put it bluntly, what planet is the House of Bishops on?"

LOL!

Good letter.