'Church can't bless civil partnerships'

THE most senior cleric in Suffolk who is helping launch a gay Christian support group says he cannot support blessing same-sex partnerships.The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, says even though he supports civil partnerships, for the Church to bless them would be a step too far.

By John Howard

THE most senior cleric in Suffolk who is helping launch a gay Christian support group says he cannot support blessing same-sex partnerships.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, says even though he supports civil partnerships, for the Church to bless them would be a step too far.

He spoke out after the dean of a Cambridge college told how he was considering offering blessings for same-sex couples.


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The Rev Jeremy Caddick, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, wrote to the Bishop of Ely to tell him the college did not fall under his jurisdiction and he would consider giving blessings to same sex couples who are either staff, students, fellows or former members of the college.

His announcement came despite guidelines from the House of Bishops of the Church of England, which acknowledged that clergy and parishioners could legally enter civil partnerships, but insisted the church would not authorise any blessing service.

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They also said clergy could enter into partnerships, but only if they first assured their bishops that they would abide by church teaching that sex should be confined to heterosexual marriage.

Bishop Richard said: “As far as blessing of civil partnerships goes, I am in line with the House of Bishops guidelines, which do not support blessing services because of the likelihood of further confusing the issue about 'gay marriages'.

“Part of the problem is the use of language, because most people are aware of blessing services following a civil wedding, so it is very easy to make the jump to seeing a blessing of a civil partnership as being the same.

“The use of language is pretty important, the use of the word marriage is not helpful and most gay people I know would also say that it is not terribly helpful.

“The truth is there are all kinds of reasons for a civil partnership and using the word like marriage

does not help, as it assumes it is a sexual relationship. People can be in a committed, loving relationship and not a sexual one.

“I support the civil partnerships because it does affirm a human relationship and gives rights in terms of next of kin, financially, that was not possible before.''

The new legislation creates a legal relationship of civil partnership, which two people of the same sex can form by signing a registration document. It gives a same-sex couple parity of treatment in a wide range of legal matters to opposite-sex couples who marry.

Bishop Richard's support for gay people has prompted some evangelicals to speak out, saying that homosexuality is a sin in the same way adultery or theft is, and is contrary to the Bible's teachings.

The bishop, who has championed homosexual issues, will launch the Gay Christian Support Group when he is the keynote speaker at the new Suffolk branch of Changing Attitude next week.

Changing Attitude is a worldwide group that works for gay and lesbian affirmation within the Anglican communion and the bishop is one of the organisation's 13 episcopal patrons.

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