Church of England Synod debates proposals to bless same-sex civil marriages and partnerships

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The Church of England will today debate plans enabling priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples. However, there are deep divisions within Anglicanism over the issue in Britain and beyond.

The Church’s elected governing body, the General Synod, meets two or three times a year. Today, hundreds of its members will discuss and vote on the proposals unveiled last month by bishops.

There will be no change to rules banning Anglican priests from officiating at weddings of same-sex couples. However, under the proposals, they could offer “God’s blessing” for civil marriages and partnerships in a church.

‘Hostile and homophobic’

In an open letter, bishops also issued an unprecedented apology directly to LGBTQ people last month for the sometimes “hostile and homophobic response” they have faced in parishes.

The steps follow nearly six years of internal debate. However, they have sparked criticism from both those who support and oppose same-sex marriage, as global fractures within Anglicanism surface.

Jayne Ozanne, a Synod member and LGBTQ campaigner, issued a stinging condemnation of the belated apology. She told Agence France-Presse (AFP):

We’ve had years of apologies from our bishops but no action.

Read on...

It’s like an abusive relationship where someone keeps hitting you and then says ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.

Until the discrimination and the abuse stop, we don’t want to hear more empty words. We need action first.

Conservative opposition

The conservative Church of England Evangelical Council has railed against the reforms.

It says they will create “further division and broken fellowship” within the Church, and “a greater tearing of the fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion”. It said in a statement last month:

We believe that the responsibility of the Church of England is to serve the nation by proclaiming the gospel, not by compromising with prevailing culture

The Church of England has been under political pressure to reform its approach to same-sex marriage ever since it became legal in England in 2013.

Although dozens of other countries have legalised same-sex unions, homosexuality remains banned in many parts of the world. This includes countries with predominantly conservative interpretations of Anglicanism in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Passionately held differences’

A rift has emerged between Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and some of these Anglican churches, which often support tougher curbs on the LGBTQ community rather than liberalising existing doctrine.

“We have deep and passionately held differences,” Welby conceded Monday as he opened the four-day Synod:

But let us not fall into caricaturing those among us who don’t agree with us as being those who are trying to construct their lives away from God. The evidence is far from that.

Welby went on to warn that:

too many people, especially around sexuality, have heard the words of rejection that human tongues create.

Although the plans to be debated do not change Church of England law, and so do not require formal Synod approval, members will vote on a motion of support and amendments put forward. A rejection of the proposals could make it practically impossible for them to proceed.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ The Archbisop of Canterbury, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, resized to 770*403

Additional reporting via AFP

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  • Show Comments
    1. As long as they leave the Law alone.

      It would be foolishness beyond measure were the Church to try to remove the legal restriction on performing same-sex marriages. Fortunately, this seems well short of that.

      I had a hand in creating that restriction during Scameron’s term, and I absolutely stand by it today. If it WASN’T there in Law, same-sex marriage would already have been challenged and defeated in court. The CofE is required to accept legal marriages – other churches/religions are not. Forcing Ministers to perform marriages they absolutely do not believe in would have allowed a claim of “Conscience” to overturn the Law on appeal.

      This is as good as we’re going to get until the UK is Pagan again.

      Leave that Law alone!

      African Ministers take all this very seriously indeed. And you can moan they are homophobic all you want – as far as most of them are concerned, that is a compliment. >_<

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