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Amendment will seek to tip Synod toward permitting same-sex marriage

23 January 2023

Sam Atkins/Church Times

Jayne Ozanne outside the General Synod in York in 2017

Jayne Ozanne outside the General Synod in York in 2017

MEMBERS of General Synod will be invited to debate whether to introduce a motion on same-sex marriage in the Church of England in the near future, after an amendment was tabled at the weekend to the Bishops’ motion on blessing same-sex unions (News, 18 January).

The amendment from a Synod member and LGBTQ+ campaigner, Jayne Ozanne, calls for the House of Bishops to “end discrimination on the grounds of sexuality by bringing forward immediate legislation to provide for equal marriage in church for review at the July 2023 group of sessions”.

In a statement on Sunday, Ms Ozanne said: “The Church of England must not be allowed to continue to discriminate against people who are gay or bisexual — it is unjust and, in the minds of many, unbiblical.”

She also proposes that the apology included in the original motion should be removed, saying: “Till the Church of England agrees to remove such discrimination, any apology is hollow, hypocritical and highly abusive — as it continues to put LGBT+ lives at risk.”

Her amendment includes a clause stating that “this Synod lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church” (News, 21 January).

It is seconded by the Revd Neil Patterson and Professor Helen King, the chair and vice-chair respectively of the General Synod gender-and-sexuality group.

In a blog post on Saturday, Mr Patterson and Professor King cautiously welcomed the Bishops’ proposals, saying: “We would have liked to see more boldness, particularly about future change towards marriage. The actual motion laid before Synod is rich in bromide and weak in action. But in spite of all that, it is substantially [a] step forward.”

On Saturday, several LGBTQ+ groups in the Church of England said that the proposals did not go as far as they would like, but agreed that they nonetheless amounted to a positive step.

In a statement, OneBodyOneFaith said: “Our first reaction is understandable disappointment that equal marriage has not been proposed. However, we recognise that the proposals signify an important and necessary shift in the stance of the Church of England towards recognising same-sex relationships, and for this we give thanks for the movement of the Spirit.”

The Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church (MOSAIC) said that it welcomed the prayers of dedication and the proposed replacement of Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance.

“We pray for courage amongst our Bishops that we may move towards a future in which same-sex couples, including clergy, are able to marry in their parish church, and no one is forced to act against their conscience,” MOSAIC said.

A joint statement from Inclusive Church and the Campaign for Equal Marriage also welcomed the announcement that Issues would be replaced by new pastoral guidance. “Clergy already in same-sex marriages must be offered the opportunity to serve again, should they wish to do so. It would not be sustainable for clergy to be able to offer blessings and pray ‘unreservedly and joyfully’ for relationships that they themselves cannot enjoy,” they said.

On Friday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said that Synod members would have an opportunity to discuss what the new pastoral guidance should contain, and that a new group of bishops would aim to have this ready before the July meeting of the Synod.

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