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Nicky Gumbel joins prominent CofE leaders in warning same-sex prayers process is 'unlawful, unconstitutional and illegitimate'

by Kelly Valencia

Several prominent church of England leaders have, for the first time, voiced their opposition to the denomination's current process to commend prayers for same-sex couples.

In a letter, sent privately to the College of Bishops, the group said, that while committed to ridding the Church of any homophobia, they felt "compelled to speak out about the illegitimate and unconstitutional nature of the process".  

Notable signatories include Rev Nicky Gumbel and Rev Archie Coates from HTB, Rev John Coles and Rev Dr Rich Johnson from New Wine, and representatives from Living Out and the Church of England Evangelical Council. 

The leaders argue that the Curch's legislative body should have the authority to vote on the Prayers of Love and Faith under Canon B2. This rule requires a two-thirds majority in each of the Synod's three Houses for any proposal to be approved.

They assert that making these prayers available through any means other than Canon B2 would lead to "disunity" and "disrepute" in the church.

They wrote: "We are concerned about the consequences of continuing with this process and, the legal exposure and ecclesial discord which is likely to ensue. Our purpose in doing so is to encourage a better way forwards; one which is consistent with the legal and constitutional framework to which the church is committed."

In February, the General Synod approved proposals allowing clergy in the Church of England to conduct services of blessing and thanksgiving for same-sex couples, but not to marry them. The bishops justified this endorsement under Canon B5, which permits the use of service forms as long as they do not contradict or indicate a departure from essential Church doctrine.

However, for the group, introducing a suite of liturgical resources for those in same-sex relationships can be done "fast, or it can be done well", but "it cannot be done both fast and well".

The group also references the legal opinion of Dr Edward Morgan KC, who they claim advised that approving the prayers through Canon B2 is the only "safe, effective, and legitimate" means of adoption without exposing the Church of England, the archbishops, and the diocesan bishops to legal challenges.

The letter, which was signed in a personal capacity rather than in the name of the organisations they lead, also states that their proposition still honours "the spirit of the vote at February's General Synod".

"We want to be part of the solution", they said.

"For that reason, we would want to recommend that some of our number are part of an initial discussion about how there might be a settlement that charted a way forwards using Canon B2 which would enable us to walk together in a manner that would be far more unifying and sustainable than the current way. In our belief, that is worth aiming for," they concluded.

This week, Synod members will be presented with slightly different versions of the prayers shown in February but cannot vote or debate them.

A spokesperson for the CofE said: “No final decision has been made by the House as to the route by which the prayers will be made available for use.”

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