By Andrew Symes
On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury used his Presidential address at General Synod to portray a vision of the Church of England as a place of gracious conversation and “good disagreement”, overcoming fear with love, as a witness to the Gospel of reconciliation. He expressed hope that through facilitated conversations, those who believe that homosexual practice is sinful, and those who believe it to be a natural part of a loving relationship between gay people that is perfectly compatible with Christian discipleship, should be able to co-exist in a church which has a united mission in Christ’s name.
Early on Saturday morning a Statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage was issued by the House of Bishops. The Guidance document itself rules out endorsement of same sex marriage or formal blessing of gay relationships, while at the same time rejecting any exclusion of partnered gay people from church fellowship and sacraments.
There is no need to doubt the hard work of the Bishops and their sincerity in trying to bring clarity and harmony as we prepare for the advent of same sex ‘marriage’. But a brief survey of the blogs, statements and comments immediately following (see for example here) shows what kind of task faces those preparing to set up the facilitated conversations. On one hand, though confessing Anglicans have given some key aspects of the Bishops’ statement a cautious welcome, there remains much unease about the future, and we will come back to that.