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Anglican bishops under pressure to act as Hereford Diocese calls for official services for gay couples

Anglican bishops under pressure to act as Hereford Diocese calls for official services for gay couples
Hereford's move will lead to pressure on the national General Synod to change its stance on gay blessings in church
The CofE's General Synod will next meet in February and although Hereford's motion will be on the agenda it may not be brought for debate for some years

By Harry Farley
October 20, 2017

Pressure is mounting on the Church of England to adopt a formal liturgy for gay weddings after one diocese passed a landmark motion calling on bishops to act.

Hereford Diocesan Synod overwhelmingly voted on Thursday to call for official prayers and a dedication service for same-sex couples after their civil partnership or marriage.

The call mirrors the CofE's provision for divorced couples where -- despite the Church holding to the teaching that marriage is a 'permanent and lifelong union of one man with one woman' -- clergy can carry out blessings and formal dedication for couples getting remarried.

The Hereford vote stops short of full-blown gay weddings in church but bishops warned beforehand it will increase pressure for a wholesale change in the CofE's definition of marriage.

'Given that the Church of England in part defines its doctrine through its authorised liturgies, even if this service did not amount to a change in marriage, it would increase pressure towards such a change,' Hereford Bishop's Council warned delegates in a briefing paper before the vote.

The motion insists offering the service for gay couples would be optional, stating: 'It would contribute to a "mixed economy" in which different viewpoints could continue to exist.'

But the Bishop's Council warned before the vote that any result would cause 'pain' to either traditionalists or progressives.

'If the motion is approved, it will be experienced by others as a rejection of faithfulness to Scripture, and may lead those who hold the traditional position to feel unwanted in our diocese,' it said.

Now it has been formally adopted by Hereford Diocese, the motion will go to a vote at the ruling general synod which next meets in February in London. While it may not be scheduled to be debated in the immediate future, it cannot be removed from the agenda 'until debated or resolved otherwise'.

The vote will send shockwaves around the Church of England and the wider worldwide Anglican Communion and will accelerate calls from some traditionalists for a separate Anglican structure in the UK.

Already a 'missionary bishop' from the conservative pressure group GAFCON has been planted to oversee conservative parishes in the UK and Europe who do not want to come under the authority of their official local bishop.

But the progressive lobby OneBodyOneFaith in the Church welcomed the move, describing it as 'a small step as we continue to journey together'.

A statement read: 'Of central importance is the principle of not compelling anyone to act against their conscience - but at the same time permitting those who wish to celebrate and affirm faithful and committed relationships, to act with integrity too.'


Reform response to Hereford Diocesan Synod motion

October 20, 2017

Reform note with deep concern the motion passed by the Hereford Diocesan Synod last night:

"That this Synod request the House of Bishops to commend an Order of Prayer and Dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage for use by ministers in exercise of their discretion under Canon B4, being a form of service neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, together with guidance that no parish should be obliged to host, nor minister conduct, such a service."[1]

Susie Leafe, Director of Reform said in a statement, "It is sad that there was no reference to the Bible in the briefing document provided to the members of Hereford Diocesan Synod. Their motion ignores therefore ignores the fact that Jesus was clear that marriage was a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, and this has been, and still, is the understanding of the vast majority of the worldwide church for two millennia. To ask for a service of Prayer and Dedication for a same-sex relationship represents a fundamental departure from this teaching.

But more than this, to suggest that the House of Bishops use a similar service to that offered to those who have previously been divorced, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of grace. Jesus was clear that marriage should be lifelong -- but he was also aware that we are frail human beings and that things go wrong. Any marriage service that takes place after a divorce is based on the fact that those involved accept that Jesus' teaching about marriage is right, that they are sorry for the mistakes they have made in the past and their intention is to live differently in the future. It is hard to see how the Church can offer such a service to those who believe Jesus was wrong in his understanding of marriage and therefore see no reason to seek forgiveness or change their ways."

Susie Leafe is Director of Reform. She can be reached here: www.reform.org.uk


Hereford Diocesan Synod Motion

Church House spin machine back peddles on Hereford action

21 October 2017

Following the passing of a resolution at the Diocesan Synod in Hereford, a spokesperson for the Church of England said: "We are aware of the resolution passed by Hereford Diocesan Synod calling for the General Synod to debate a motion on services of prayer and dedication for same-sex couples.

"The diocesan synod's decision does not change the teaching or practice of the Church of England, whether in Hereford or anywhere else in the Church.

"Under the Standing Orders of the General Synod, the motion will fall to be debated at the Synod at a time to be decided by its Business Committee.

"Clergy of the Church of England are unable to marry couples of the same sex and, under the House of Bishops' Pastoral Statement on Same Sex Marriage, 'services of blessing' should not be provided for those who enter into civil partnerships or same-sex marriages.

"It is recognised, however, that there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality and the House of Bishops has recently embarked on the preparation of a major new teaching document on marriage and sexuality.

"We are seeking to find ways forward rooted in scripture and the Christian faith as we have received it and which values everyone, without exception, not as a 'problem' or an 'issue', but as a person loved and made in the image of God."


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