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Synod: Questions on sexuality

18 July 2014

Questions on sexuality

QUESTIONS about human sexuality, same-sex marriage, and the splits in the Anglican Communion made up just under one quarter the total Questions on Friday evening.

On the singer Sir Elton John, who had recently commented on "Jesus's view of equal marriage", the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said that the House of Bishops had no present plans to draw on Sir Elton's services as theological adviser.

On the facilitated discussions arising out of the Pilling report, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said that their purpose was "to reflect, in the light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has taken place in relation to sexuality, and to clarify what it means for the C of E to live with . . . 'good disagreement'".

In reply to another question, he said that the talks would be guided by "trained facilitators, who will bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed".

On reconciliation between the Episcopal Church in the US, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), and the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that his visits to Primates had demonstrated that "the relationship with the See of Canterbury is important to all of the provinces, and the visits have again emphasised the mutuality of relationship among the Primates." The cost of disagreements had been felt in all provinces. "Together we must take the steps necessary to bring about renewed and reconciled relationships." There would be further reflection after his visits.

Justifying guidance to church schools on tackling homophobic bullying specifically, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who chairs the Board of Education, said that the C of E "is widely, if mistakenly, perceived to be homophobic. . . That makes homophobic bullying a more difficult issue for schools to negotiate, and so producing specific guidance was entirely appropriate."

Robin Hall (Southwark) asked whether the Bishops had considered "the pastoral needs of those who were to be forbidden from exercising their civic rights and marrying their loved ones" when in February it had issued its pastoral statement on same-sex marriage.

Bishop Broadbent replied that the House had considered the pastoral implications very carefully, and acknowledged the range of responses from across the C of E to same-sex marriages. "Individual bishops would want to talk privately with those clergy for whom the guidance would be difficult and painful," but "as bishops, we have a responsibility for upholding the teaching of the Church of England, and clergy are called to live consistently with that teaching, even when they disagree with it, and wish to argue for it to change."

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