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2017: year of the Church of England split?

Over the past twelve months there have been many statements given and campaigns started by both sides of the divide and a series of shared conversations have been taking place across England as church leaders try to find a way forward on the issue.

The two major dividing points are whether gay priests should be able to marry their same-sex partners and whether priests should be able to conduct weddings of people of the same sex.

The Church's official stance is that both of these things go against Church teaching.

In February a document written by bishops will be presented which is expected to either explain the reasons for wanting to bring about change or the reasons for keeping the status quo.

Rev Peter Ould, a Church of England priest and commentator of issues of Church and sexuality, is unsure what to expect.

Speaking to Premier, he said: "If you believe the reports that are already in the press, the resolution is going to be status quo - pretty much staying where we are in terms of our doctrine and our practice.

"I'm not sure whether to put much confidence in those reports - let's wait for the document the bishops produce in February."

Ould is concerned over the consequences of the decision either way, believing that those who feel like they've lost the debate will push for a breakaway.

"It's almost a political judgement. Who are the people you are most happy to upset and who will lose," he said. "And though you'll find people in the Church hierarchy saying this isn't about winners and losers - actually it is.

"One side is going to lose out and not get what they want."

During 2016 there have been murmurs about potential splits in the Church and how they can be orchestrated, but Ould believes there may be a way to keep people together.

"As well as having the Provinces of Canterbury and York which are the two halves of the Church, north and south, you could have a third non-geographical province which churches could opt into.

"Whether that would be a province for conservatives or liberals - I don't know."

Calling for an end to this topic being the dominant issue within the Church, he said: "I'm praying we can come to some sort of resolution so we can put it into the draw and get on with the work of telling England about Jesus."

Listen to Rev Peter Ould speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones:

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