The General Synod of the Church of England (CoE) has been gathered in York since last Friday. Members of General Synod have just spent two days meeting informally to listen and be heard and reflect together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality. This can be seen as a process in sync with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s goal of reaching good disagreement within the church on issues of human sexuality.
from the CoE press release;
“Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood. The Shared Conversations over the last two years now come to a conclusion with over 1300 members of the church directly involved. It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.
In comments to members of Synod at the end of the Shared Conversations the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
“At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness and grace.
That is for me what I always come back to when it all seems overwhelming.
Thank you so much for your participation. Let us go in confidence. Confident in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.””
The LGBTI Mission, an advocacy group within the CoE that is working for the full acceptance and affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people within the Church of England has also responded, saying;
“We call on the House of Bishops to bring forward bold proposals that enable the Church of England to move towards LGBTI equality, of course with proper safeguards for those who cannot, in conscience, accept any such changes.
Same-sex marriage is only one item on the table. There are other important issues, which could be resolved sooner and more easily. Some do not need synodical approval. We urge the bishops to review urgently all the areas listed in our LGBTI Mission launch document.
We also ask bishops to consult fully with their own LGBTI laity and clergy who are directly and personally affected by current discriminatory policies.
Simon Sarmiento, Chair of the LGBTI Mission said: “Now is the time to move forward and take action. Church leaders and LGBTI church members, of all convictions, need to work together to devise answers to these problems. We now have an opportunity to change the way that LGBTI people are treated in the Church. A good start would be to have a staff member funded to co-ordinate work in this area and show that the national Church is serious about change.””
Not everyone was willing to engage in the conversation though, a small group, of ten or so, had threatened to walk out, believing no compromise on this issue was possible.
from Christian Today;
“One of that number, Charlie Skrine, told Christian Today he was part of a “large group” who “feel this is not an issue where the Church can come together and live alongside each other in a compromise”. He added within that larger group are a smaller group who “are worried unless we step back from the process we will be heard as already saying, ‘that is fine, let’s do it [accept a change on the church’s teaching on gay relationships]”. Skrine is one of the conservatives on synod who would not accept any accommodation for gay relationships within the Church.”
Although more CoE members favor marriage equality than oppose it, no clear majority has emerged and the issue remains very contentious within the church.
image: from General Synod in 2015