Crawley Alan, you clearly do believe there’s something new here.
Wilson Well, there’s a rather weird bit of theology going on here, and that’s the idea that you’re only married if you’ve had vows said between you. I mean that is part of the medieval, Western understanding of marriage, but most marriages in Britain don’t have to have vows in them at all, because they’re contracted in a registry office by registrars. They can have vows if they want. And of course the Orthodox Church doesn’t have vows in marriage, they don’t understand it in that way, they never have. So the idea that vows are the things that you are turning your back on if you down-trade your marriage for a civil partnership (which by the way you can’t do anyway, it’s an impossibility, but we’ve still got a rule for you even if you are doing this impossible thing), is a little bit theologically bizarre.
Crawley So Ian Paul, not only new but weird and bizarre in the language of the Bishop there. Civil partnerships involve a commitment as well as marriage. What’s the difference in theological terms?
Paul The two differences are 1) that the vows which are received in our tradition of the Church of England, signal that this isn’t just something private, that the conjugal relationship involved in marriage isn’t something which is a personal contract, it is something which is part of community, is part of building community. Just yesterday somebody told me that a friend of theirs did not want to get married but wanted to have a civil partnership because they didn’t like doing things in public, they wanted to do it privately. And in Christian theology, our understanding of marriage is that it’s part of a building block for community, it’s where children are raised, and that’s really significant. The other significant thing, which Alan hasn’t mentioned, is the fact that there are in civil partnerships no grounds in sexual relating for the relationship to come to an end. It’s a no-fault termination and again that’s a significant departure in the historic position, both in law, as well as in the Church’s understanding.
Crawley Ian, can I just break in. Can I ask, given that this has been an issue this week, does this statement mean that any sexual intimacy, any sexual activity, that takes place within a civil partnership, is illicit in Christian terms?
Paul Well, the position of the Church of England and many Christian Churches has been that the right place for sexual relating is within a marriage relationship. And the reason for that-
Crawley So does that mean that sex within a civil partnership is a sin?
Paul It means that, along with all sort of other forms of sexual relationship outside of commitment….