Sexless marriages for UK gay vicars

Ross von Metzke | July 26, 2005

Bishop of Norwich, the Rev. Graham James
LONDON — While the Church of England gave its blessing Monday to gay clergy who want to enter into civil partnerships, the church stopped short of equating civil partnerships the equal status of marital relationships and told gay clergy they must remain chaste.

What has been deemed the �sexless marriage� code for gays was prepared by a group headed by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rev. Graham James. The wording is the result of the church having to remain on the right side of the law while at the same time abiding by Church doctrine.

The worldwide Anglican Communion has been deeply divided over the issue of gay clergy and the election of its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire.

The Church of England has long held that heterosexual marriage is the only state within which sexual relationships are permitted. The bishops are standing by the 1991 guidelines, Issues in Human Sexuality, which grant grudging acceptance to gay sex among the laity, but state that gay clergy must be chaste.

According to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, more than 750 couples involving at least one clergyman or woman could be considering steps to legalize their relationships under the new law.

Under the 2004 Civil Partnership Act, which comes into effect in December this year, the Church has no choice but to allow its clergy to register their partnerships.

Gay clergy who register their partnerships will in effect have all the rights granted married couples, such as enjoying the benefits of their partners� pensions and being allowed to remain in the vicarage for a time should their partner die or abscond. Clergy will have to seek their bishop�s permission before they register their partnerships.

Bishops will then ask clergy in face-to-face meetings whether they are in a sexual relationship or not. Clergy who confess they are put themselves at immediate risk of discipline, while clergy who say they are not when in fact they are put themselves at risk of complaints from parishioners which could lead to discipline at a future date. – Gay Link Content

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Former archbishop issue warning about gay clergy [23/04/2004]



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