Synod round up: Church of England to bless same-sex unions

10 February 2023

When Christians gather together to discuss church matters, it is reasonable to expect it to be a time of joy, gladness and rejoicing. But this week, during the Church of England’s General Synod at Church House, the atmosphere was visibly tense, as the church made way to discuss the bishops’ recent proposals to introduce prayers and blessings for same-sex unions to be used in church services.

Sadly, this week, General Synod voted to approve of these proposals, which are at odds with the Church’s teaching and celebrate sin.

A lot happened during the week – with debates, questions and speeches made from those who support and those who oppose the proposals. Below, we’ve selected a few of the key moments and speeches made during the week, relating to the debate on sex, sexuality and gender.

‘I’d rather be a David of integrity and truth than a Goliath of compromise and fudge’

General Synod member Luke Appleton began on Monday (ahead of Wednesday’s debate, followed by a vote on Thursday) by calling on the Church of England to return to God’s standards and for the church to be a people of integrity and truth.

You can read the full text of Luke’s petition to General Synod on Anglican Ink.

Bishop of Durham has no idea why CofE is using trans-affirming language

The Christian Legal Centre’s Rebecca Hunt, who is a lay member of the Synod in Portsmouth, asked the bishops why the Church of England is using ideological language such as “sex assigned at birth” and “trans pupils” in its guidance for Church of England schools.

In response to the written and verbal question, the Bishop of Durham had no idea why they were using ideological language, saying: “I don’t know the answer to why we chose that. That’s the honest answer. I don’t know why we did it that way round.”

The Bishops now say that Valuing All God’s Children, the CofE’s trans-affirming guidance for schools will be updated in line with new government guidelines, which are yet to be released.

We have long campaigned against the Church of England’s trans-affirming for schools to be rescinded and delivered a petition to Justin Welby and Lambeth Palace less than two months ago.

The Church of England claims the controversial guidance is there to protect children from bullying. In reality, it damages them by its support for trans ideology. Furthermore it has been used in legal proceedings to discredit Christian Legal Centre clients – and likely many more faithful Christians we don’t know about.

Prayers of blessing are a “development of doctrine,” suggests Archbishop of York

The Archbishop of York suggested that offering prayers of blessing for those in same-sex relationships is simply a “development of doctrine,” even comparing it to how the doctrine of the trinity was developed in the early Church.

In response to a question by Christian Concern’s Ben John, asking what measures were in place if Bishops fail to believe, teach or uphold doctrine, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “It is the job of Bishops, as well as the church itself to explore what is sometimes called the development of doctrine. To which, in my own thinking, I tend to follow Newman on this… within the acorn there is as it were potentially the whole of the oak tree, so doctrine doesn’t change but it does develop.”

In closing, the Archbishop suggested that that if Ben wanted to do further reading on the subject, he should read the New Testament. In reality, Ben has been reading the New Testament, and recently explained how Labour MP Chris Bryant was wrong when he claimed Jesus and Paul never spoke about sexual immorality. (See also Ben’s speech, below.)

‘You dare not speak against Pride or queer theory’

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, was accused by a member of Synod for failing to protect children from the harmful effects of Pride marches and queer theory.

It came after the Bishop of London responded to a written question by Sam Margrave that the House of Bishops would not take a position on Pride as faithful Christians interpret Scriptures in different ways.

Speaking at General Synod on the Monday, Sam took the opportunity to follow up his written question with a supplementary question to ask what the Church of England are doing to protect children from sexualisation at Pride or from queer theory.

His question was declared ‘out of scope’ by the chair and left unanswered.

Sam protested the claim and said the bishops didn’t want to issue a response because they “dare not speak against Pride or queer theory.”

Ben John pleads with bishops to withdraw same-sex blessing proposals

On Wednesday, during the main debate on the bishops’ same-sex blessing proposals, lay member Ben John pleaded with bishops to withdraw them, explaining how true love means calling people out of sin and towards Christ – not to remain in sinful identities.

He asked them: “Why make ourselves like the world when we have the one thing the world needs, the Gospel.”

‘This is a fiasco’: Barrister Daniel Matovu criticises Bishops’ same-sex blessings proposals

The debate on same-sex blessings continued into the Thursday, where barrister and lay member of Synod Daniel Matovu criticised the bishops’ proposals further.

He commented: “What I have witnessed regarding how the bishops have handled this matter so far I’m afraid to say is a fiasco. This is a false debate, as the key document which we should have been debating is missing.

“The bishops say this is about people. It is about much more than that. It is about the Word of God and about Jesus Christ the author and perfecter of our faith.”

‘Jesus tells the world a better story. Does the church still believe it?’

Senior Parliamentary Assistant and lay member of General Synod Sophie Clarke also urged the Church of England to uphold Jesus’ teaching on sex and marriage over a debate to an amendment to the proposals.

She stated: “I believe that Jesus tells the world a better story about sexuality, relationships and marriage. A story which is for our good and flourishing.

“We need to make a choice synod. Does the Church still have a better story to tell? Does it believe in its doctrine?”

Synod passes motion on prayers of blessing for same-sex couples

However, eventually on the Thursday afternoon, Synod sadly voted to approve of the bishops’ prayers for same-sex unions.

The three houses of Synod voted in the following way:

Bishops: For – 36; Against – 4; Abstentions – 2

Clergy: For – 111; Against – 85; Abstentions – 3

Laity: For – 103; Against – 92; Abstentions – 5

At the end of the video, a rainbow flag briefly appeared on the livestream. A spokesman for the Church of England has since apologised and said they are investigating precisely why and how this happened. At any rate, someone with access to the audiovisual equipment will have needed to prepare the image, which gives a picture of the culture at Church House.

The church desperately needs prayer, especially for those faithful members who must now decide how to respond. Pray for wisdom and courage for orthodox Christians in the Church of England to take whatever actions are needed.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”
Matthew 5:13

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