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Church of England fends off sexuality debate as bishops work on new teaching document

Church of England fends off sexuality debate as bishops work on new teaching document

By Harry Farley
May 30, 2018

The Church of England is holding off any proposed changes to its stance on gay marriage, allowing bishops to work on a major review of their teaching on sexuality.

Any proposed motions calling for a shift will be ignored and not scheduled for debate at the Church's ruling general synod for the foreseeable future, Christian Today understands. The move will give bishops time to write a new teaching document on sexuality, which is not expected until 2020.

Instead of formal debates or legislation, synod discussions on sexuality will take place behind closed doors in group settings, avoiding publicity around a head-to-head debate. At the upcoming synod meeting in July, an afternoon will be set aside for private seminars and workshops, around half of which will cover sexuality.

The move will disappoint campaigners who hoped that a service of blessing for same-sex couples might be an imminent change that could offer a compromise between those pushing the Church to accept gay marriage and those wanting to maintain the status quo.

The national synod, which meets twice a year and is made up of bishops, clergy and ordinary churchgoers elected from around the country, rejected a report by bishops last year that upheld the CofE's traditionalist stance that marriage is between a man a woman. The unexpected snub led the archbishops of Canterbury and York to promise a 'radical new Christian inclusion' and a new teaching document based on 'a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual'.

Led by the bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, a group was formed to write the document, which is the Church's first major review of its stance on sexuality since 1991.

But any changes will not be considered for debate before the document is well underway, Christian Today understands.

This means that a motion passed by the diocese of Hereford calling for a service of prayer and dedication for gay couples and a separate private member's motion making the same appeal are likely to both be ignored.

Last week campaigners labelled the failure to schedule a debate on sexuality at the upcoming synod in July an 'appalling' decision.

'It shows a total failure of leadership in my opinion, and a desire to "overly manage" Synod,' Jayne Ozanne, a leading LGBT campaigner on synod, said.

'There is not one mention of the word sexuality, despite all the calls there have been for debates.'

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