A report on same-sex relationships conducted by the Church of England has been thrown out by its general assembly due to its “conservative tone”.
The report, which upheld the traditional teaching that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, was supported by a majority in the synod, but was rejected after the House of Clergy narrowly voted against “taking note” of it at a meeting in London last Wednesday.
The motion needed the backing of all three houses – bishops, clergy and laity. The clergy voted against, by 100 votes to 93.
The vote, albeit a symbolic one, will be used to inform the House of Bishops’ work and future discussions on sexuality and same-sex marriage.
Before the debate, Reverend James and Reverent Broadbent, who led the bishops’ group that wrote the report, apologised to its critics.
Rev James said: “It has not received a rapturous reception in all quarters, and I regret any pain or anger it may have caused. And if we’ve got the tone wrong, we are very sorry.”
Rev Broadbent added: “I do want to apologise to those members of synod who found our report difficult, who didn’t recognise themselves in it, who had expected more from us than we actually delivered, for the tone of the report. On behalf of the House [of Bishops], and without being trite or trivial, I’m sorry.”
Fourteen retired bishops, including the Right Revd the Lord Harries of Pentregarth and the Right Revd John Pritchard, both formerly Bishops of Oxford, signed an open letter that criticised the report.
The letter said: “Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice.”
They added that the focus of the report “seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes. The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction.”