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Church of England Synod rejects report reaffirming opposition to same-sex unions

Nick Duffy February 15, 2017

The Church of England’s General Synod has rejected a report that reaffirmed opposition to same-sex unions.

The Church’s democratic governing body had been voting on a report from Bishops – which broadly rejected the case to relax the Church’s anti-LGB policies despite three years of “conversations” on the issue.

The report made minor proposals to reform to a rule that requires gay clergy to pledge their celibacy, but the lack of more substantive reform on LGBT issues were derided as pencil-pushing in light of the church’s continuing archaic rules on sexuality.

At present the Church of England bans blessings for gay unions, while the Church has exempted itself from the UK’s anti-discrimination laws in order to punish gay clergy members who defy a ban on same-sex marriage.

In a surprising rebuke, the General Synod rejected the report today.

Though the House of Bishops and House of Laity both approved the report, the House of Clergy voted against “taking note” of the proposals by 93-100. Any proposal has to succeed in all three Houses.

Bishops will now likely recommence discussions on the issue and attempt to make further recommendations, with a statement from the Church confirming plans to “reflect on the views expressed”.

Church of England LGBT campaign group OneBodyOneFaith said: “[We are] very, very grateful to members and allies who have joined together to campaign. Thank you.”

Singer and LGBT campaigner Vicky Beeching, who had been among those calling for reform, tweeted: “A happy day for all those wanting greater LGBT+ inclusion in the Church of England.

“What happens next? The Bishops will have to create a new Report. Hopefully, one that’s more LGBT-inclusive in tone and practice.”

“These are the small, incremental steps by which change comes to the Chuch of England. Nothing radical happens overnight. Takes patience.”

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt. Revd. Pete Broadbent said: “The Synod has declined to take note and so the report in its present form cannot come back to Synod for discussion, though we will still have to find a way forward for the wider discussion.

“We will find this debate a continuing source of disagreement because we haven’t coalesced around an end point. When we legislated for women to be bishops, even those opposed came to the view that the Church of England had to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of God according to our canons and formularies.

“In this debate, we haven’t even begun to find a place where we can coalesce. The Bishops’ Report acknowledges a place of starting. More conversation is needed. We don’t yet know the next stage – nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to Synod.”

The Rt. Revd. Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich, added: “I can guarantee that the House of Bishops will consider carefully and prayerfully all the contributions made in the debate today.

“The Bishops came to this debate committed to listen… We have listened to those who have spoken, and those others who have made contributions to us directly.

“Our ongoing discussions will be informed by what members of Synod and the wider church have said as a result of this report.

“There is no simple and easy answer to this issue beyond committing ourselves to engagement with each other when the views on what we should do are profoundly contested.”

More: Archbishop of Cantebutry, Church of England, Gay, justin welby, LGBT, report

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