Following three years of arguments on gay marriage among church leaders behind closed doors, the Church of England announced yesterday that it will make some moves that could lead to approval of gay marriages.
The church promised to make a decision on changing Anglican rules that say a relationship between two men or two women is sinful.
The group will be led by the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Sarah Mullally, and it will devise a ‘way forward for the Church in relation to human identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage’.
The issue has been explored by church leaders, and they produced a 480-page book, accompanied by films, podcasts, and education courses. The issue about gay rights was first brought up in the Church in 1987, and the Church has been divided ever since.
General Synod voted back then that gay relationships are sinful, and bishops restated earlier this year that intimate relationships are only for married couples, and civil partnerships should be ‘abstinent friendships’.
Gay civil marriages were introduced in 2014, but the legislation gave faith groups an effective opt out.
According to Right Reverend Christopher Cocksworth, there is no doubt that there are certain decisions in 2022 that the Church will have to face.
Discussions are expected to be completed next year and to lead to ‘a timely conclusion in 2022 which would then be put before Synod.’
The Synod has the power to enact legally-binding rules but its deliberations are lengthy. They could mean the first Church of England same-sex marriages would be solemnised by 2025.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, attempted a reform in 2017. But his scheme, which would have allowed blessing services but not marriage for gay couples, went down to an ignominious defeat in the Synod. It satisfied neither gay rights supporters nor conservative evangelicals, who combined to defeat it.
It’s expected that the discussions will begin next year to lead to a ‘timely conclusion in 2022 which would then be put before Synod’.