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World News

A 'capitulation' and a 'fudge' - traditionalists and liberals criticise bishops' recommendations on same-sex marriage

by Donna Birrell

There's been a furious reaction from equality campaigners - and disappointment from some evangelicals - after Church of England Bishops said they wouldn't endorse same-sex marriage in church.

It follows almost six years of discussion within the church on the issue of sexuality.

The bishops say that while same-sex couples would not be able to get married in a Church of England church, they could have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication in church following a civil marriage or partnership.

Jayne Ozanne who is a member of General Synod and a high-profile equality campaigner has been speaking to Premier about the decision:

“I’m bitterly disappointed after five years now of long procrastinated conversations that have cost the LGBT+ community so much. But I’m also deeply angry because our bishops needed to lead us and what we've seen is them capitulating to politics to notions of institutional unity.”

The Bishops are to apologise to the LGBT+ community for the “rejection, exclusion and hostility” they have faced in churches and the impact this has had on their lives.

But Jayne Ozanne says this isn’t good enough: “We've had years of apologies. We've had apology after apology after apology and this one frankly, sounds hollow and cruel. Because if you apologise and then carry on with the abuse, it is akin to domestic abuse. The fact that the  bishops don't see that is what angers me.

“Prayers are already happening, they’ve been happening for years. The fact that  the bishops are going to decide some words to me is bread crumbs. What we needed was real equality. What we needed was to know that we are loved and accepted and, and treated just like anybody else in the church.”

Peter Lynas is UK Director at the Evangelical Alliance. He told Premier that despite upholding the traditional teaching of marriage, he’s also disappointed in the recommendations around prayers: “We were hoping for clarity, consistency and a conclusion to this process. And I'm not sure we're going to get any of those things, given the slightly mixed messaging coming out.

"I think we did get clarity that the Church of England has reaffirmed its long held position, marriage between a man and a woman and they're confirming that the doctrine of marriage itself won't change. That's the good news.

“But they want to see blessings for same sex partnerships, or civil marriages. If you aren't changing the doctrine on the one hand, but then you're going to bless something that you don't recognise and are asking for God's blessing on it, that’s really difficult. Utimately, there isn't a clear conclusion and nobody seems to be happy. We have a bit of a fudge, a little bit for everybody.”

The Bishop of Dorchester, Rt Rev Gavin Collins told Premier: "We need to acknowledge this is a difficult conversation. But at some point, we've got to make a decision and say, 'Actually, we believe this is what the Bible says, this is the heart of the matter.'

"So I think this would be a tough day. I don't think anybody's happy, and I suspect we'll see feedback from both sides. But at the same time, we do need to reach a conclusion and move forward." 

The recommendations will be debated at General Synod in February.

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