THE General Synod could look again at permitting same-sex marriage in 2022, it was announced this week — but not before it has joined the rest of the Church of England in the Living in Love and Faith “learning journey”.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has been appointed to chair a small “next steps” group of bishops, whose task is to encourage people to use the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) material and move the Church towards decisions on key matters to do with sexuality.
The next-steps group includes the Bishop of Grantham, Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, who came out as a partnered gay man in 2016 (News, 9 September 2016), and the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, the provincial episcopal visitor for conservative Evangelicals. The other members are the Bishops of Bradwell, Fulham, Loughborough, Norwich, Ripon, Sherborne, Truro, Warrington, and Winchester.
Recognising that an episcopal group will not be diverse enough, there will also be a grass-roots “reference group” and LLF “advocates”.
On Monday, Bishop Mullally outlined the proposed timetable. Most of 2021 is to be spent engaging with the LLF material, ideally in groups. She emphasised the desire of the College of Bishops to hear feedback from groups and individuals, before discussing how to proceed in November 2021. The following year, 2022, would be a year of “discernment” for the Synod, she said.
She expected the Church’s work on sexuality to be completed by the end of 2022 — but it would not succeed “without love, grace, kindness, and compassion”.
Alex Clare Young, who served on the LLF co-ordinating group, runs the transgenderchristianhuman.com website. In a blog on Monday, he wrote: “I want to stress that same-sex marriage is not the only thing required for LGBTQ+ equity and justice in the Church. Many churches and many Christians, in many denominations, still treat LGBTQ+ people in horrific ways, and spiritual abuse of LGBTQ+ people is still horrifically common.
“Simply enabling marriage is not the same thing as changing the way that LGBTQ+ people are treated in the Church and, indeed, the world.
“I strongly believe that well-facilitated dialogue is as important as decisions. Why? Because I don’t believe that any UK denomination has enabled proper dialogue between LGBTQ+ people and our critics.”