You probably heard in the news that the Church of England General Synod refused to ‘take note’ of a report prepared by the House of Bishops on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships. The report wasn’t perfect and showed some worrying traits but on the whole had much to commend it: it upheld the church’s traditional teaching on marriage as a union between one man and one woman; it refused to authorise prayers to be written for the blessing of same sex relationships; it forbade clergy to enter into a same sex marriages.
The bishops were almost unanimous in their support for the report (the only dissenter was the Bishop of Coventry who later admitted he pressed the ‘against’ button by mistake!) The House of Laity also supported the report (106 for, 83 against, 4 abstentions). But the House of Clergy refused to ‘take note’ and give their approval (93 for, 100 against, 2 abstentions). This was enough to scupper the report and so the issue will have to come back to General Synod in a different document.
This is a massive blow to the Bishops – not least to our own Bishop, Julian Henderson, who worked very hard to uphold a biblical understanding of marriage among his colleagues.
It seems that we now have a situation in the Church of England where the bench of bishops is generally quite conservative, but out in the parishes you come across a wide range of views among the clergy. Some parish priests are extremely radical and quite a number of them have found their way onto General Synod. How different to the 1980s when it was the liberal bishops pushing against the boundaries of orthodoxy; you might remember the furore caused by the then Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, when he doubted the resurrection of Christ.
So where do the Bishops go from here? The fear is that they will feel worn down and decide that they have to offer more compromises on this matter – probably by authorising prayers of blessing for same sex couples; thus the Church of England will start to drift away from its biblical moorings on its doctrine of marriage.
Our hope and prayer must be that the bishops will show real leadership in this crisis and persevere in battling against the tide that is sweeping through the church and modern British society.
Yours in Christ