Sex is for married heterosexual couples only, says Church of England
Pastoral guidance also calls for Christians in homosexual or straight civil marriages to be abstinent
The Church of England has said that sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, which sex in gay or straight civil partnerships” falls short of God’s purpose for human beings.”
Bishops have issued pastoral guidance in reaction to the current introduction to mixed-sex civil partnerships, which states: “For Christians, marriage — that is, the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows — stays the appropriate context for sexual activity.”
The church”seeks to maintain that standard” in its approach to civil partnerships, and”to confirm the value of committed, sexually transmitted friendships” within such ventures.
It adds: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are considered as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings.”
The affirmation of traditional teaching at a time when the church is undergoing a significant review of sexuality and marriage will delight conservatives.
The Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005, allowing same-sex couples to obtain legal status and rights concerning property, inheritance, and tax-exempt. In 2013, same-sex marriage was legalized.
The C of E doesn’t permit same-sex marriage. It allows clergy to maintain same-sex corporate partnerships as long as they’re sexually abstinent.
Following the supreme court ruled in 2018 that mixed-sex couples must also have the right to a civil partnership, the legislation was amended. The first mixed-sex civil partnerships were registered last month.
The Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the C of E’s director of mission and public affairs, said:”Civil partnership isn’t the same as union, which is based on the taking of solemn public vows and is recognized at the church’s teaching as the only proper context for sexual relationships.
“So, much like same-sex civil partnerships, there’s absolutely no formal service or boon, but clergy will, as always, be invited to respond pastorally to couples wishing to formalize their relationship this way.”
This week the C of E House of Bishops issued a new pastoral statement on civil partnerships, restating traditional teaching on marriage and sex.
The bishops state that, unlike traditional marriage vows, the laws on civil partnerships” leaves completely open the nature of the commitment that members of a couple choose to make to each other when forming a civil partnership. In particular, it’s not based on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship.
“Due to the ambiguity about the area of intercourse within civil partnerships of both types and the church’s teaching that marriage between a man and a woman is the appropriate context for sexual intercourse, we don’t believe it’s possible for the church unconditionally to take civil partnerships as unequivocally representing the teaching of their church.”
C of E clergy”shouldn’t provide services of blessing for people who register a civil partnership.”
Branches racked the church for decades on what it states about and how it copes with LGBT problems. It has embarked on a massive study of human sexuality, Living in Love and Faith, which is expected to be finished this year.
Many LGBT people inside the church say they’ve been made to feel unwelcome, and activists have campaigned for the church to permit same-sex union and bless same-sex civil partnerships. Many observers have blamed the church’s crude decline among young people to its position on LGBT issues.
Conservatives in the church will probably be heartened by the bishops’ statement, which concludes: “The church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged.”
While upholding its position that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman, the bishops say that the church attempts to”minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously opt to order their lives otherwise.”
Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner for LGBT rights and a part of the C of E’s ruling body, the General Synod, said: “I am sadly unsurprised by the content of the statement, but its tone profoundly saddens me.
“It’ll appear far from’rustic’ to people it discusses and shows little signs of this’radical new Christian addition’ which we’ve been promised. I look forward to the day when the C of E sets its house in order, extends a proper welcome to all, and creates perplexed’pastoral statements’ like this redundant.”
Linda Woodhead, a professor in the department of politics, philosophy, and religion at Lancaster University, said: “The C of E is not able to get over its fixation on homosexuality, which is forcing the federal church into a position more like a fundamentalist sect and doesn’t speak to the huge majority of younger people now.”