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Church of England to begin ‘conversations’ on sexuality

Nick Duffy February 14, 2015

The Church of England is set to begin a series of ‘shared conversations’ aimed at healing a split in the Church surrounding same-sex couples.

ThePilling Report recommended in 2013 that the Church adopt a more conciliatory approach to same-sex couples, but the House of Bishops refused to back formal blessings for marriages, and forbade gay clergy from marrying.

The ban on clergy marrying has been a point of contention – with a number of clergy disobeying the Church to do so, and suffering disciplinary action.

The Church is now to undertake a series of ‘shared conversations’ including both the liberal and evangelical wings of the church.

Documents released ahead of the consultation show the Church will hold 13 ‘cluster’ meetings from this April – with between three and five dioceses attending each.

Some of the questions under discussion include: “What is the church’s missionary task today in relation to LGBTI people, and to the culture within which we are called to witness and minister?

“Should the church offer prayers to mark the formation of a faithful, permanent, same sex relationship? If so, what is the right level of formal provision that should be made?”

“More specifically, given that same sex marriages are now taking place, what should our pastoral and missional response be to married same sex couples who seek to be part of the life of our church locally?”

The Church’s papers highlight the overwhelming passage of same-sex marriage through the Commons, saying: “Whilst the Church of England is not required to solemnise same sex marriages, and continues to regard marriage as between one man and one woman, the advent of same sex marriage, widely supported across the political spectrum, creates an acute divergence between the church’s teaching on marriage and the civil law of the land.

“It is likely that the ease with which same sex marriage was accepted in Parliament reflects a more general social move away from the church’s traditional understanding of marriage – and perhaps of social relationships more generally. And, as often happens, legislation both reflects social attitudes and contributes to the deeper embedding of those attitudes over time.”

However, participants are also warned to consider the global Anglican Communion – which includes some anti-gay African Churches.

The document notes: “Balancing the Church of England’s responsibilities to the people of the parishes and local communities it serves, and its historical position within the global Anglican Communion, introduces complex and morally challenging tensions – and the issue of sexuality has become a focal point on which future relationships across the whole Communion may turn.”

An adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury warned last year that “decisions will have to be made” on the Church’s approach, and that talks cannot go on indefinitely.

However, the shared conversations are off to a rocky start for both sides.

Evangelical group Reform said in October it would boycott the talks because “we cannot see a way forward”while married gay vicar Andrew Cain remarked that the process was “pointless”.

More: Archbishop, Church of England, civil partnership, civil union, conversations, England, equal marriage, Gay, gay weddings, lesbian, lesbian wedding, marriage, marriage equality, Religion, same sex weddings, sexuality, shared conversations, Union, wedding

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