London, England, Jan 31, 2020 / 14:04 pm
The Church of England will not be withdrawing its recent pastoral guidance affirming that sex is reserved for married, heterosexual partners, despite an apology over the statement from two of the ecclesial community's bishops.
The guidance, “Civil Partnerships – for same sex and opposite sex couples. A pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England”, was issued last month after civil partnerships were first made available to heterosexual couples.
The guidance draws a clear distinction between marriage and civil partnerships, noting that sexual relations are not proper to the latter.
“Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings,” says the guidance on the issue. “The introduction of same sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships.”
Civil partnerships were created in 2004 for same-sex couples but are legally distinct from marriage. Same-sex couples were given the legal right to marry in the England and Wales in 2013, but civil partnerships had been available to same-sex couples only.
In the guidance, the Church of England states that because of the “ambiguity” regarding sexual activity in civil partnerships, combined with its teaching on the nature of marriage, it does “not believe that it is possible for the church unconditionally to accept civil partnerships as unequivocally reflecting the teaching of the church.”
Although the Church of England acknowledges that “many of the provisions in the legislation on civil partnerships are, however, similar to, or identical with, those in marriage law,” the nature of the commitment in a civil partnership is different than that of a marriage.
“In particular, [civil partnerships are] not predicated on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship,” says the guidance.