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Church of England emphatically declares that sex is only for married, heterosexual couples

Patrick Kelleher January 23, 2020
Church of England declares sex is only for married, heterosexual couples

The Church of England declared sex is only for married, heterosexual couples. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)

The Church of England has declared that opposite-sex married couples are the only people who should be having sex in a newly released document.

Bishops from the institution have doubled down on their stance on same-sex marriage and sex outside of marriage following the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling that heterosexual couples should have access to civil partnerships.

The pastoral statement from the House of Bishops claims that sex outside of marriage falls “short of God’s purposes for human beings”.

Furthermore, they write that people in civil partnerships – whether same-sex or opposite-sex – can be ordained, as long as they commit to celibacy.

Church of England bishops claim that their stance on same-sex marriage ‘remains unchanged’.

The statement also says that the Church of England’s stance on same-sex marriage “remains unchanged”, and goes to lengths to argue that civil partnerships are fundamentally different from marriage. Using this logic, they insist that opposite-sex couples – like same-sex couples – who are in a civil partnership must not engage in sexual activity.

They also instruct priests not to perform blessings on civil partnerships.

“The Church should not collude with the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity,” they write.

“The House of Bishops considers it would be a matter of social injustice to exclude from ministry those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church, and who decide to register a civil partnership.

“There can be no grounds for terminating the ministry of those who are loyal to the discipline of the Church.”

The Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged.

The House of Bishops also argues that there are “ambiguities” in civil partnerships, claiming that priests should weigh “carefully the perceptions and assumptions which would inevitably accompany a decision to register such a relationship”. Under the guidance, clergy who wish to enter into an opposite-sex civil partnership will have to explain “their understanding of the theological and social meanings” of their decision.

The document concludes: “The Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged. For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.

“In its approach to civil partnerships, the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.”

LGBT+ rights activist is ‘unsurprised’ and ‘deeply saddened’ by the statement.

Reverend Dr Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs with the Church of England, said: “Civil partnership is not the same as marriage, which is founded on the taking of solemn public vows and is recognised in the church’s teaching as the only proper context for sexual relationships,” the Guardian reports.

“So, as with same-sex civil partnerships, there is no formal service or blessing but clergy will, as always, be encouraged to respond pastorally to couples wishing to formalise their relationship in this way.”

LGBT+ rights campaigner Jayne Ozanne, who is also a member of the Church of England’s ruling body, said she was “sadly unsurprised” but “deeply saddened” by the statement.

“It will appear far from ‘pastoral’ to those it discusses and shows little evidence of the ‘radical new Christian inclusion’ that we have been promised.”

The Church of England is currently conducting a large study on human sexuality, titled ‘Living in Love and Faith’, which is due to be completed this year.

More: Church of England, civil partnership, same sex marriage, Sex

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