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Catholic and pro-gay groups take heart from election

16 October 2015


Elected for London diocese: the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain

Elected for London diocese: the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain

THE first Church of England incumbent known to have entered into a same-sex marriage has been elected to the General Synod.

He is the Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain (News, 27 June 2014). He was among the successful clergy candidates in the diocese of London.

Another priest who has entered into a same-sex marriage, Canon Jeremy Pemberton (News, 17 April 2014), an NHS chaplain, has, however, been unsuccessful in his attempt to represent the clergy of the diocese of Lincoln on the Synod.

The results of the elections began to be announced on Monday. As the Church Times was going to press on Wednesday, 26 of the 42 dioceses had announced all or part of their results.

Fr Foreshew-Cain told The Guardian that he was shocked to have been elected. “I wasn’t expecting to get on: I thought the clergy were too conservative to vote for a progressive like me. People would not have voted for me if they didn’t want to see the change we represent.”

Another openly gay priest from the diocese, the Vicar of All Hallows’ by the Tower, in the City of London, the Revd Bertrand Olivier, was also elected, as was the Revd Dr Sean Doherty, a tutor at St Mellitus College, who is married with a wife but also describes himself as same-sex-attracted.

The conservative Evangelical group Christian Concern has condemned Fr Foreshew-Cain’s election. In a statement, the group’s chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said: “Andrew Cain’s ongoing activism should no longer be tolerated. His actions are designed to undermine the Church and her teaching on marriage. This result should not be recognised, and he should be swiftly removed from church leadership.”

The elections co-ordinator for the campaigning group Inclusive Church, the Revd Stephen France, who stood for election but failed to win a seat on the Synod, said that he was optimistic that the group would have increased its numbers once all the results had been announced.

“As of [Tuesday] evening, we have had 46 Inclusive Church candidates elected,” he said on Wednesday. “That’s about half of the candidates we have put forward. I’m hopeful by the end of the week we will be up to 70.”

He dismissed concerns that Fr Foreshew-Cain’s prominence could hamper their cause. “It is Christian Concern who are creating that distraction; I don’t think Andrew is setting out to do that. He has been duly elected with overwhelming support, and is putting forward his case.”

But it was not just supporters of Inclusive Church who have had a good election. The Catholic Group was said on Wednesday to be close to equalling its size during the past quinquennium, even though dozens of dioceses were still to announce their results.

The director of Forward in Faith, Dr Colin Podmore, said: “What makes the achievement even greater is that a lot of Catholic Group members didn’t stand again because of age or impending retirement. That meant we had more of a hill to climb, as sitting members have a certain advantage. But those former members are being replaced by younger members of very high quality.”

Susie Leafe, who chairs the conservative Evangelical group Reform, has also been returned to the Synod. The group had the support of 31 Synod members during the past quinquennium, but has yet to comment on the results.

Prominent Evangelicals also returned to the Synod include the chairman of the Evangelical Group, the Revd John Dunnett, and Canon David Banting.

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