Church of England gay marriage vote thrown into chaos after members 'get confused and press wrong button'
By Olivia Rudgard
16 FEBRUARY 2017
The Church of England's crucial vote on gay marriage has been thrown into doubt after the Bishop of Coventry admitted he accidentally voted against the report and several others may have made the same mistake.
The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth apologised for the mistake last night, which he said was because of "a moment of distraction and some confusion over the voting process".
The bishop insisted that he did in fact support the report written by his colleagues and was "embarrassed" to have accidentally rejected it.
It has since emerged that some members have suggested that clergy had made the same mistake.
Rev Peter Ould, of Canterbury, said he had heard from other synod members who had also voted "no" incorrectly.
He added: "I've spoken to two members of the house of laity who were confused, one of whom was very clear that he voted the wrong way. It would need four members of the house of clergy to say that they made a mistake for the result to change.
"They voted the wrong way because they weren't sure of what they voted on. One I spoke to thought they were still voting on procedure aspects rather than the actual substantive motion."
Other members said that they had voted the wrong way because they thought they were voting on a point of procedure, and not the actual debate.
Prominent Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer tweeted: "If a bishop can do it, so can four members of clergy. How precarious is digital democracy."
The lay synod member, who accidentally voted against the report but did not want to be named, told magazine Christian Today about the chaos in the chamber, saying a lot of people were unsure what they were voting for.
"Other people around me were talking about their own misunderstandings," he said.
"The voting wasn't clear. I have concerns, someone got shouted over, it was very confusing."
He added: "It was more of a colluding with people rather than an orderly debate."
In response to the confusion the Church of England reminded members to be more careful with their voting machines.
A spokesman said: "We are aware that the Bishop of Coventry and a member of the House of Laity have reported pressing the wrong button in the vote following the take note debate on the House of Bishops' Report on marriage and Same-Sex Relationships
"As the results in both the House of Bishops and House of Laity were strongly in favour of the report there is no material difference to the outcome of the vote.
"It is the responsibility of Synod members to follow debates and the business of Synod carefully and to cast their votes accordingly."
The technical problems raise questions about whether the vote, which was only lost by seven votes in the house of clergy, can stand.
The report, which was rejected last night after the House of Clergy voted against it by 100 votes to 93, said that the Church should preserve current teaching on gay marriage, which says that marriage is between one man and one woman and gay couples cannot marry in church.
Members of the general synod, which is the Church of England's general assembly, take votes using a hand-held device which has three buttons - one which means approval, one which means rejection and a third which means abstention.
The other two houses of the Synod, bishops and laity, both voted to "take note" of the report. But there was surprise when it was revealed that one bishop had voted against it.
Sources said they believed the rejection came from the more liberal members of the clergy who thought the Church should ultimately drop its opposition to gay marriage.
Members said it was "grudging and condescending", "divorced from reality" and made the Church look "unkind" and homophobic.
In a statement, Bishop Christopher admitted to being the dissenter and said: "Much to my embarrassment, I have managed to give the impression that there was not complete agreement in the House of Bishops that the Report provided us with the best way forward.
"Due to a moment of distraction and some confusion over the voting process, I pressed the wrong button on my handset, thus registering a vote against taking note rather than a vote for taking note of the Report!
"I have apologised to my colleagues in the House of Bishops and to the Archbishops for my mistake."
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