Marriage equality – at step in the right direction in Oxford

With Belfast City Council voting in favour of equal rights with regard to marriage in the city of Belfast, it was refreshing to read a statement from the Chaplain of Pembroke College, Oxford:

Civil Partnerships and Pembroke College Chapel

The Governing Body and chaplain are dedicated to the mission of the chapel as fully including the whole college community, past and present, staff, students, and fellows.

Same sex couples are most welcome to approach the chaplain with regard to preparation, celebration, and prayers when entering a Civil Partnership and for continuing support and counsel within their relationship as any other couple being married or having their relationship blessed in the Chapel might reasonably expect, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.

The House of Bishops of the Church of England says: ‘Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case’ (section 18). The Chaplain therefore affirms this pastoral principle as a matter of Chapel policy.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, has asked the chaplain to ensure that all couples approaching him should expect a warm welcome and affirmation, whether in respect of marriage, marriage blessing, or prayers and thanksgiving for civil partnership. But, because there is no authorized blessing service, the strict criteria of college affiliation do not apply in the way they might for marriage enquiries.

All those entering a Civil Partnership are therefore welcome to attend any service of the chapel, with friends and family if they so wish, to hear readings, pray, and, if they wish, receive Communion.

Andrew Teal
St Thomas the Apostle, 2012.

Fr Teal is to be congratulated on this statement of policy. I used to sing in the chapel choir of Pembroke College and was always made very welcome by him and the other members of Pembroke. So reading that statement made me feel very proud of the college that I was proud to think of as a second home whilst in Oxford.

Whilst there is no official liturgy for blessing a civil partnership, I can suggest that Fr Teal looks towards the order of service developed by the Diocese of New Westminster, which can be found at Andrew and I used some of the New Westminster Rite when we celebrated our Covenant of Commitment last year here in Belfast.

In particular we used,

N. and N., do you believe God has called you into a life-long covenant of love and
Couple: We do believe.
Will you live together in love?
Couple: We will, with God’s help.
Will you be faithful to one another?
Couple: We will, with God’s help.
Will you support one another in love so that you may both grow into maturity of faith in
Jesus Christ?
Couple: We will, with God’s help.
Will you do all in your power to make your life together a witness to the love of God in
the world?
Couple: We will, with God’s help.

I look forward to hearing from Fr Andrew what he does in the chapel in Oxford. With the blessings following civil partnerships welcome in the chapel, how long before he’ll be able to celebrate marriages for straight and gay couples? I don’t know about the rest of you, but this feels like the statement above is one step in the right direction. Perhaps I should find him a badge from the stock for tomorrow’s meeting and send it to him…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.