The Church of England’s General Synod has today voted in favour of a motion to offer blessings to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and marriages after an eight-hour debate over two days.
Approval of the motion allows same-sex couples to go to Anglican churches after a legal marriage ceremony for services including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and blessing.
The full motion, as amended, put to Synod was as follows:
“That this Synod, recognising the commitment to learning and deep listening to God and to each other of the Living in Love and Faith process, and desiring with God’s help to journey together while acknowledging the different deeply held convictions within the Church:
(a) lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church;
(b) recommit to our shared witness to God’s love for and acceptance of every person by continuing to embed the Pastoral Principles in our life together locally and nationally;
(c) commend the continued learning together enabled by the Living in Love and Faith process and resources in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage;
(d) welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance;
(e) welcome the response from the College of Bishops and look forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes;
(f) invite the House of Bishops to monitor the Church’s use of and response to the Prayers of Love and Faith, once they have been commended and published, and to report back to Synod in five years’ time;
(g) endorse the decision of the College and House of Bishops not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage, and their intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.”
Voting was as follows.
- Bishops 36 for, 4 against, 2 abstained.
- Clergy 111 for, 85 against, 3 abstained.
- Laity 103 for, 92 against, 5 abstained.
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How will this resolution affect those of us who consider it to be evil, and who now feel unwelcome ourselves, perhaps even harmed?
You must ask the Church of England that. I’m a Quaker: it’s nothing to do with me – I’m just reporting what happened.
The percentages (rounded) are interesting:
Bishops 36 for 85%, 4 against 10%, 2 abstained 5%.
Clergy 111 for 56%, 85 against 42%, 3 abstained 2%.
Laity 103 for 52%, 92 against 46%, 5 abstained 2%.
With an eye to CHURCH OF ENGLAND (WORSHIP AND DOCTRINE) MEASURE 1974 (No. 3) can these prayers only be used by a minister on a private occasion and not during a service?
3 Majorities required for final approval of Canons under section 1 or 2 and things done thereunder.
No Canon making any such provision as is mentioned in section 1(1) or 2(1) of this Measure shall be submitted for Her Majesty’s Licence and Assent unless it has been finally approved by the General Synod with a majority in each House thereof of not less than two-thirds of those present and voting; and no regulation under any Canon made under the said section 1(1) , amendment, continuance or discontinuance under any such Canon shall have effect unless the regulation, the form of service or the amendment, continuance or discontinuance of a form of service, as the case may be, has been finally approved by the General Synod with such a majority as aforesaid in each House thereof.
Only one of the many proposed amendments was carried, namely that proposed by Andrew Cornes from Chichester diocese to add what is now paragraph (g) of the motion as amended. While Bishop Sarah Mullally resisted all other amendments (although most were debated as more than 25 Synod members indicated that they wished the debate on the amendment to continue), in respect of Andrew’s amendment (‘Item 67’) she said that the bishops would be interested in the debate so she was not resisting the amendment. The outcome was that it was carried in all three houses, with the houses of clergy and laity being almost equally divided. The figures were:
Bishops: 22 in favour (55%); 14 against (35%); 4 abstentions (10%).
Clergy:100 for (50.8%); 94 against (47.7%); 3 abstentions (1.5%)
Laity: 98 for (49.5%); 96 against (48.5%); 4 abstentions (2.0%)
An intervention during the debate on 9 February by Stephen Hofmeyr KC (a senior lawyer and a lay member representing Guildford diocese) raised a significant issue. As a point of order, just after Synod had voted by houses to reject Jayne Ozanne’s amendment (item 64) for proposals on equal marriage in church to be brought to Synod in July) he asked: “Is a vote by houses appropriate on proposals by the House of Bishops? It seems to me that it gives the House of Bishops an inbuilt power to block…(interrupted by prolonged applause) …each and every amendment. If it is appropriate, given the conflict of interest, should the bishops not abstain?”
Conflicts of interest (not always acknowledged) have bedevilled the C of E, especially in relation to safeguarding and NST ‘core groups’, but Mr Hofmeyr’s intervention raises a serious issue. Effectively, by securing a vote by houses, the bishops, acting collectively, could block any motion by securing a vote by houses, whatever the majorities for it in the other two houses.
Thank you for your very helpful background. I’ve just been watching a 5 minute video recorded yesterday evening in London by the Bishop of Hereford. He does not declare his position but pleads for a calm reflection on the then unknown result: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsPCuSNP6X4