The Guardian view on the C of E and same-sex marriage: kicking the can down the street | Editorial

During a Lambeth Palace press convention final week, the archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, informed the unhappy story of a detailed good friend who didn’t smuggle a studying from the Music of Songs into his civil partnership ceremony. Prevented from marrying his same-sex accomplice in church, the priest in query was additionally banned from expressing his religion in a secular context.

New suggestions on same-sex relationships, simply revealed by the Church of England’s Home of Bishops, hopefully herald an finish to such merciless absurdities. After a tortured strategy of reflection and debate, the bishops have proposed that clergy needs to be allowed to bless civil unions in church ought to they select to take action – as is the case in Wales. A ban on same-sex civil marriages for clergy may also be reviewed, together with celibacy necessities which have fostered corrosive suspicion at parish degree. Mr Cottrell was justified final week in describing these proposals – to be mentioned at subsequent month’s Normal Synod – as a “actual step ahead” within the journey in direction of recognition for LGBTQ+ Christians.

However, progress in direction of true equality stays painfully, unacceptably sluggish. And there are indicators that Lambeth Palace’s intuition to hunt compromise options in any respect prices is misreading the room, each inside and out of doors the church. By sanctioning “blessings”, however refusing to permit same-sex weddings in church, the Home of Bishops presumably hoped to take care of a fragile equilibrium. As an alternative, its suggestions have merely antagonised all sides of the talk in equal measure.

Progressive Anglicans have naturally condemned the choice to proceed to deal with LGBTQ+ believers as second-class members of the church. Theological conservatives see the potential blessings as the skinny finish of the wedge, and an assault on scripture-based orthodoxy. As they put together to dig in, there might finally be a conflict between the established church and parliament over canon regulation, until it catches up with equality laws.

It’s a mess that requires decisive management quite than prevarication. However within the spirit of kicking the can down the street, the bishops have dedicated to endeavor yet one more overview of the difficulty in 5 years’ time. It’s doable that by then the two-thirds majority wanted to alter canon formularies could be extra achievable. However as the previous second church estates commissioner Tony Baldry has identified, a precedent for extra radical reform already exists in plain sight. Regardless of fierce conservative opposition throughout the Nineteen Eighties and 90s, Anglican clergy at the moment are free to decide on whether or not or to not marry {couples} during which one or each companions are divorced. Within the case of same-sex marriage, monks needs to be granted the identical energy of discretion.

Confronted with falling congregations and a monetary disaster, the Church of England desperately must lastly resolve and transfer on from this rancorous and poisonous debate. In a YouGov ballot earlier this yr, greater than half of self-identified Anglicans backed same-sex marriage. Within the nation at giant, there isn’t a longer even a debate available. Amongst youthful individuals particularly, the Church of England’s repute dangers irreparable harm from the continued controversy.

At subsequent month’s synod, an modification to the bishops’ suggestions will likely be tabled, calling for rapid laws to offer for equal marriage in church. Assuming it’s mentioned, this might be the primary such debate in synodal historical past. However sadly, it virtually definitely gained’t be the final.

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