Rowan Williams’ Anglican Church is getting thisclose to just letting the gays be one big homoriffic part of the church. Or maybe it’s our optimism getting the best of us. But on the docket for next month’s big ‘ole General Synod meeting for the Church of England is whether the same-sex spouses of gay clergy should be afforded the same financial benefits (like surviving spouse pensions) as married straight clergy. All the more amusing because these same-sex spouses, allowed in the church only since 2004, are banned from having sex with their partners.
As a stipulating in letting gay clergy enter into marriage-like arrangements, the Church began allowing them to enter into civil unions, on the condition they remain celibate. Thus far, some 200 clergy are said to have taken the Church up on the offer.
But this whole “give ‘em pension benefits” thing is, of course, rankling the conservative ranks. And those concerned about the bottom line, reports The Telegraph.
Surviving spouses are entitled to pension benefits based on the entire length of service of the cleric, but surviving civil partners are currently only eligible for benefits based on the length of service since 2004.
Church commissioners fear that extending the law to provide homosexual clergy with equal benefits could cripple the pensions scheme, which Shaun Farrell, chief executive of the Church’s Pensions Board, has already admitted has a “huge great hole” in it. The Rev Jonathan Clark, a trustee of Inclusive Church, a liberal group, said that the General Synod should back the motion regardless of the cost. “Given that it is legitimate for clergy to be in civil partnerships, we should treat them in the same way as people who are married to each other,” he said. “Making provision for civil partners is not the Church making a big change to its moral or ethical teaching.”
Traditionalists argued, however, that the move could trigger a new round of fighting over the role of homosexual clergy in the Anglican Communion.
The Rev Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, the evangelical group, said that the debate must be viewed in the context of the ongoing dispute, which was recently reignited by the election of the first lesbian bishop. “This proposal will be seen as a further loosening of the Church’s position on gay partnerships,” he said. “Given the current divisions in the Anglican Communion, the Church of England should avoid doing anything that’s likely to exacerbate these difficulties.”