*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Leader comment: Silent for now: the majority who watch the same-sex debate with astonishment

by
24 November 2023

SINCE last week’s vote on Living in Love and Faith in the General Synod — essentially confirming what the Synod agreed to do in February — we have heard from the parties involved. The liberals have been less audible, having read the Synod’s list of members like tide tables, and discovered that the surge towards the full equality of same-sex couples has turned slack, and might even be on the ebb, at least until after the election of the next Synod in 2026. The winning side after a vote tends to be the quieter in any case, but, in this instance, the victory won in February seemed to them to have been placed back in the maw of defeat, only to be tugged out with difficulty. The amendment, asking the Bishops politely whether they would consider stand-alone blessings for same-sex couples as a temporary experiment, made it through the House of Laity by just one vote. The overall motion was four lay votes away from defeat.

In contrast, the conservatives — if we can still use single-word labels — have been vocal. Ostensibly disappointed at not being able to vote down stand-alone services of blessings, they were actually surprised to have come so close, and had already set up an infrastructure to respond to the imminent arrival of “experimental” blessings, namely informal oversight by retired conservative bishops, and a fund into which parishes can divert their giving. All the while, they are confident that they have the numbers in Synod to vote down the blessings — as well as any aspects of the draft pastoral guidance governing clerical behaviour that they do not like — when these return for formal approval and must be carried by a two-thirds majority.

The people from whom we have not heard belong to another group altogether. These do not want their Church to be split between two conflicting parties. They dislike the ignominy of belonging to a body that argues endlessly about sex. They shy away from the prospect of having to examine a website before deciding where to worship. They are perfectly willing to sit in the same pew as someone who holds opposing views on any number of important topics, from climate change and migration to who should form the next government. They have no idea, beyond hearing names read during the banns, who is married to whom in their church during the year — and would consider it absurd for the whole congregation to be severed from neighbouring parishes, and perhaps the wider diocese, because of one or two of these couples. They have good, friendly, and respectful relations with Methodists, Roman Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims, and wonder why this courtesy cannot be extended to fellow Anglicans. And so on.

At the moment, these people are silent. This encourages the activists and the reactivists to continue in their efforts to order the Church to their liking. But we predict that, if structural separation ever becomes more than talk, this third group will make their views known, and will have to be heard.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)