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Bishop of Leicester on civil partnerships and marriages
BBC Leicester presenter John Florance
By John Florance
Presenter, BBC Leicester

Wedding rings - Copyright PA
"Bishop Tim stressed that he was not against civil partnerships"

"A civil partnership is not a marriage!"

That was the message of the Bishop of Leicester, The Right Reverend Tim Stevens to BBC Leicester.

This followed a misleading report in The Times, which suggested that he was in favour of an amendment to the Equality Bill to lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises.

However, Bishop Tim stressed that he was not against civil partnerships.

But comparing such arrangements with a marriage in an Anglican church was like comparing apples and pears: they are two quite separate things.

A Christian marriage is a sacrament.

A sacrament is defined in the Prayer Book as a visible sign of an inward grace.

Especially, a sacrament is one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolise or confer grace. These include marriage and the Eucharist.

The solemnisation of marriage involves a solemn vow before God, a civil partnership is a legal ceremony.

Were the church to permit 'gay marriages' the liturgy of the marriage service would have to be re-written in a radical way.

This may well happen at some point in the future.

But as we are only too well aware, the whole subject of homosexuality is, sadly, the cause of division within the ranks of the Church of England so a big change like this would undoubtedly be a long time coming.

A letter in The Times

However, a letter from a number of distinguished churchmen published in The Times earlier in February 2010 is perhaps a straw in the wind.

It argued:

Clothing of Church of England Bishop
It was opposed by the Bishops of Winchester and Chichester on the grounds that, if passed, it would put unacceptable pressure on the Church of England
A letter in The Times

"The Civil Partnership Act 2004 prohibits civil partnerships from being registered in any religious premises in Great Britain.

"Three faith communities — Liberal Judaism, the Quakers, and the Unitarians — have considered this restriction prayerfully and decided in conscience that they wish to register civil partnerships on their premises.

"An amendment to the Equality Bill, to allow this, was debated in the House of Lords on January 25.

"It was opposed by the Bishops of Winchester and Chichester on the grounds that, if passed, it would put unacceptable pressure on the Church of England.

"The former said that 'churches of all sorts really should not reduce or fudge, let alone deny, the distinction' between marriage and civil partnership... The amendment will be re-presented by Lord Ali on March 2.

"We urge every peer who believes in spiritual independence, or in non-discrimination, to support it."

I suspect that we have not heard the last of this!

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