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Martin Pendergast's Letter to The Times: Church, Clergy and Civil Partnerships

Cutting Edge Consortium
PO Box 24632
London E9 6XF

3 February 2012

Sir, 

Neil Addison (letter, Feb. 3) confuses the issue of civil partnerships in religious buildings with the debates around same-sex marriage. Whatever, "doctrinal" status the Church of England might afford its teachings around marriage, along with its Roman Catholic sister Church, it does not hold a "doctrine" on civil partnerships since these are a civil construct quite separate from marriage, legally and sacramentally. 

The Church of England has recognised the reality of civil partnerships for both its clergy and its lay members, even if it declines to offer official blessing or thanksgiving rituals. It shares similar recognition with the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales who in the words of its President, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, "would want to emphasize that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship (and) a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision (Dec.2, 2011)”. 

Registering civil partnerships in religious buildings is, for most mainstream religious denominations, a matter of discipline rather than doctrine and it is therefore highly appropriate that those clergy, of whichever denomination, who may be 'registered persons' in other regards, should declare their conscientious dissent. The Cutting Edge Consortium, drawing together people of faith & secularists, political, trades unions, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists, hopes that the letter from clergy in the Diocese of London will be a wake-up call to those who have not yet signed it, as well as to clergy of other denominations who hold similar misgivings over their various denominational stances.

Yours faithfully
Martin Pendergast
Secretary - Cutting Edge Consortium