Anglia Ruskin University
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“Something borrowed, something new”: What meanings do gay and lesbian Christians, who are Anglicans attending the church of St. Martin-in-the-fields, give to their relationships of civil partnership?

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posted on 2023-08-30, 15:15 authored by Clare Herbert
The Civil Partnership Act (2004) was a watershed in the history of gay rights in the United Kingdom, paving the way for later legislation, including the Marriage (Same- Sex Couples) Act (2013). Lesbian and gay Christians entered civil partnerships, although there was little explicit theology to support their decision, and the Church of England opposed the Act in its official statements. This research explores an emerging theology of civil partnership, examining in particular the voices of gay and lesbian Christians who made this decision, in order primarily to bring first person accounts to bear on discussions of same-sex relationships at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and in the wider Church. The topic was investigated within a broad conceptual framework of hermeneutical practical theology, the language and theology of marriage, and queer theology. Using qualitative research, the research method adopted was semi-structured interviews, offered to the thirteen members of the congregation of St. Martin-in-the-Fields who were in civil partnerships when the research began. Eleven verbatim reports, with two responses to structured questionnaires, were coded by a process of thematic analysis, evidencing overarching themes. Three major themes were identified. First, the public nature of the rite and ensuing relationship effected transformations, in which the love of God was known. I interpreted that both the civil partnership rites and corresponding relationships participate in the queer sacramental nature of reality. Second, participants reflected that God had acted in both personal and political history. I interpreted their views to reveal an emerging if under-developed queer liberation theology. Third, almost all participants likened their relationships to Christian marriage. I perceived that in effect this meant that they had “queered” the theology and language of marriage, simply by inhabiting it. Overall, I conclude that these gay and lesbian Christian narratives create a queer theology of civil partnership, in which the understanding of the presence, activity and blessing of God—“something borrowed” from Christian history—is made new in meaning, by being lived in the actual experience of their faith and life.



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