A report by the Church of England’s Bishops laying out the Church’s stance on gay marriage is likely to be vetoed by the Synod as both conservative and liberals oppose it – for conflicting reasons.
The report, Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations, which has been two years in the making was designed to draw a line under the issue of how the Church approaches homosexuality and same sex marriage.
But hopes that it would usher in a new spirit of fellowship have been dashed, as both conservatives and liberals alike have found fault with the report and look set to throw it out when asked to “take note” of it at General Synod next week, Christian Today has reported.
Liberals are angered by the report’s insistence that the doctrine of marriage – as being a lifelong union between one man and one woman – must not change, and have launched a mass letter writing protest.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are concerned that the report’s call for the church to give “maximum freedom” for how the church approaches homosexuality will see that doctrine watered down in practice.
They are also sceptical of suggestions within the report that the Church adopt a “fresh tone of welcome and support” for same-sex attracted members, and through “rebuke and affirmation” purge any homophobic attitudes toward same-sex relationships.
“The report defines itself as a compromise,” one conservative synod member told Christian Today. “To define the teaching of the Church then say you’ll interpret it with maximum freedom is difficult.
“It leaves people in a place where teaching and practice are not aligned,” they added, saying “it doesn’t offer anything to anyone”.
The Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Roderick Thomas, a key conservative ally, has said that he understood the “hesitations and reservations” held by conservatives over the report, but warned that not taking note of the report would “leave everything up in the air again”. He added “We would be no further forward than in deciding the future position of the Church of England.”
“My personal judgement is that it would be good to take note of the report because that it is the thing that enables us to do the further work that will make clear what direction the Church is going in.”
It is not clear how many Synod members intend to vote against the “take note” motion, which needs a clear majority of more than 50 per cent to pass. Although a vote against would not block the report, it would be viewed as a significant challenge to the authority of the Bishops.
The Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent has told a pre-Synod press conference that the motion is “neutral”, explaining: “A vote in favour of the motion does not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report.”
He added: “The House of Bishops will listen carefully to the debate, and to any subsequent matters raised by members in correspondence, to inform their further work.”