Monday, 21 November 2011

Civil Partnerships and Religious Buildings

The following is a statement issued by the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales (EFCW) with regard to the use of religious buildings for registration of Civil Partnerships:

"EFCW notes with concern the intention of the Westminster government, signalled in a speech by the Home Secretary (March 2011), to implement Section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This would have the effect of permitting the registration of civil partnerships in religious premises.

It is encouraging that the Home Secretary, in the same speech, also said, “No religious group will be forced to host a civil-partnership registration”. In a statement of March 31st 2011, the Minister for Equalities said that as a first step towards registration “faith groups must agree whether to permit civil partnership registrations on their premises to enable individual religious premises to apply to host them”. EFCW believes that the Church in Wales should not take that first step of agreeing to permit registration, and that it should not do so for the sake of its witness to authentic marriage.

EFCW affirms the teaching of scripture which “upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union” (Lambeth Conference 1998, 1.10b). Civil Partnerships were introduced in 2005 and since then have produced an ambiguity about marriage in English and Welsh law and a degree of confusion about marriage in the public mind.

Despite reassurances at the time that civil partnerships did not affect the institution of marriage, they in fact already do so.  The existence of a civil partnership is an impediment to marriage and this state of affairs indicates that civil partnerships were conceived from the start as standing in some relation to marriage. It is therefore not surprising that civil partnerships are commonly referred to as ‘marriages’.

To permit the use of church premises for the registration of civil partnerships will only serve to extend and deepen the existing confusion in society about marriage and its true nature.  The church should not collaborate in this confusion concerning God’s purposes for humankind.  Rather, it should be saying clearly at this time by word and action that marriage is the lifelong union of man and woman, instituted by God. The church should further make clear by its teaching that the state does not have competence either to alter this God-given institution or to blur its distinctive nature."

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