The Church of England caused a bit of a stir this week, reaffirming the mainstream Christian teaching that sex is for married, heterosexual couples.
In a pastoral guidance issued in response to the recent introduction of mixed-sex civil partnerships in the U.K., the House of Bishops declared, “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,” the guidance continued.
The statement also acknowledged what is common Christian teaching on sexuality, reaffirming the belief that sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage should be “regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.”
The legal introduction of same-sex marriage has not changed the Church’s theology, the statement reiterated. The Church does not permit same-sex marriage. It does, however, allow clergy to enter into same-sex civil partnerships so long as they remain sexually abstinent.
While some have been angered by the Church’s re-upping of traditional Christian doctrine — Jayne Ozanne, a member of the Church’s ruling body and an LGBTQ advocate, said she’s “deeply saddened” by the guidance — others, even those who disagree with the position, understand the stance is not at all controversial.
All of this comes as the U.K. has changed its statutes, now allowing heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships instead of marriages.
The shift was mandated by the British Supreme Court in 2018 and took effect in late December of last year. The new rule gives mixed-sex couples similar rights to those who are married and is an attractive option for those who see marriage as a religious institution with which they disagree.