Synod divided over homosexuality

01 March 2007

by Paul Handley

Critic: the Revd Paul Perkin

Critic: the Revd Paul Perkin

TWO DEBATES on Wednesday exposed deep divisions in the General Synod over sexuality. Speakers ranged from those who believe that homosexuality is a condition that can be healed to priests living in same-sex partnerships.

The second debate, on Wednesday afternoon, contained sharp criticism, expressed in a private member’s motion, of the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement in support of the Government’s introduction of civil partnerships.

In the end, an amendment from the House of Bishops drew the sting, but it was itself amended so as to remove a section that described their statement as a "balanced and sensitive attempt to apply the Church’s teaching to civil partnerships".

The final motion read:

That this Synod:

(a) acknowledge the diversity of views within the Church of England on whether Parliament might better have addressed the injustices affecting persons of the same sex wishing to share a common life, had it done so in a way that avoided creating a legal framework with many similarities to marriage;

(b) note the intention of the House [of Bishops] to keep their Pastoral Statement under review.

THE BISHOPS obtained their goal for the General Synod’s Wednesday-morning debate on homosexuality, sparked by a motion framed by the Revd Mary Gilbert (Lichfield). Ms Gilbert’s motion called on the Synod to "respect the patterns of holy living to which lesbian and gay Christians aspire". The Bishops’ amendment was designed to prevent any appearance of a shift of the C of E’s position in a liberal direction. It was carried.

It does not leave the Synod exactly where it was, however. One speaker warned that it committed the whole Synod to Lambeth resolutions that have so far been debated only by the House of Bishops. The amended motion speaks of not "doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth Conference resolutions".

One other amendment was carried. The Bishops’ amendment was itself amended so that it also acknowledged the importance of participation by lesbian and gay people in the "listening process".

The final motion read:

That this Synod:

(a) commend continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion;

(b) recognise that such efforts would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the Lambeth Conference Resolutions (1978: 10; 1988: 64; 1998: 1.10);

(c) welcome the opportunities offered by these Lambeth Resolutions, including for the Church of England to engage in an open, full and Godly dialogue about human sexuality; and

(d) affirm that homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church, and acknowledge the importance of lesbian and gay members of the Church of England participating in the listening process as full members of the Church.


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