Friday, December 23, 2016

Church Of England To Debate Suggestions On Sexuality

Time for "group work" followed by a 90-minute "take note debate" on the work of the bishops' reflection group on sexuality is allocated for one afternoon of the three and a half day sitting.

But synod will not make a decision on changes to teaching and will only have a chance to acknowledge the bishops' work, suggesting no major changes will be proposed.

Any change in Church teaching requires a two-thirds majority in all three "houses" that make up the CofE's parliament.

The meeting in February comes at the end of two years of private talks at all levels of the Church in an attempt to heal deep divisions over the issue.

But the apparent lack of action prompted fury from liberals within the Church who said "there will be huge disappointment and frustration" if there is no change.

Colin Coward, founder of the pro-LGBT pressure group Changing Attitude, told Christian Today: "There is a high level of expectation among many LGBTI people and supporters in the Church that the bishops will propose positive changes to Church teaching and practice. If there isn't I think the level of disengagement and disillusionment will increase and there will be further losses to the Church. I think more people will abandon ministry."

After the latest meeting of the Church's College of Bishops, a body of senior clerics, a statement said they had received an update from the chair of the reflection group on sexuality, Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich.

"The Bishops agreed to consult the General Synod in February as well as updating Synod as to where their discussions had reached," a statement read.

One possible change will be an end to celibacy vows for gay priests. Under current rules clergy living with a same-sex partner have to promise to abstain from sex.

But sources have suggested to the Mail on Sunday that bishops may call for an end to the law meaning they would not have to make a solemn vow but would still be expected to remain celibate.

Another option muted has been a form of "pastoral accommodation" whereby clergy could be allowed to offer official welcome, prayers and possibly blessing to gay couples in Church.

The secretary general of the worldwide Anglican Communion will also address the synod.

The Most Rev Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon will speak for half an hour on the final day of the meeting. 

The Nigerian bishop has long opposed any change to the Church's ban on same-sex marriage.

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