Church of England’s rejection of gay marriage report welcomed

Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the rejection by the Church of England’s Synod of a call for continued opposition to same-sex marriage.  The House of Bishops’s report maintained church marriages should be between men and women, and same-sex relationships cannot be blessed – but the House of Clergy dismissed it.  Campaigner Peter Tatchell said it was a “victory for love and equality”. But conservative evangelicals have expressed disappointment. The report by the House of Bishops called for a “culture of welcome and support” for gay Christians, but stopped short of accepting same-sex unions. It had been criticized for failing to give gay people a voice, while Evangelicals suggested it went too far. The failure to recommend the Church change its opposition to same-sex marriage was a sticking point for many campaigners.  The debate over the report’s contents was held to allow members of the Church’s national assembly to have their views heard. The vote on the report was symbolic and not binding, but will be used to inform the House of Bishops’ work and future discussions on sexuality and same-sex marriage.
The House of Bishops voted overwhelmingly (43-1) in favour of the document and its proposals, and the House of Laity – made up of ordinary members of the church – backed it by 106 votes to 83. But to win approval the report had to win backing in all three houses and the House of Clergy – made up of vicars, rectors and priests – rejected it by 100 votes to 93, with two abstentions.  In effect, this means the Church of England’s ruling body voted not to “take note” of the document.  Bishops will now have to produce a new report on the issue. The decision was welcomed by LGBT rights campaigners, some of whom had staged a protest ahead of the debate.  Lucy Gorman, an activist and Synod member from York said: “Thank you Synod. With that vote we’ve sent a message to the outside world.”

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