Commons debates Church wobble on LGBTphobia


The House of Commons has discussed the recent move by Church of England clergy to reject the Church’s LGBTphobic stance on same-sex marriage.

The clergy had narrowly rejected a report which proposed the Church continue to hold to the position that marriage must be “a union, permanent and lifelong, of one man with one woman”.

The 100 to 93 vote reflects an institution split right down the middle on the issue.

The first modern same-sex marriages in England and Wales were conducted at the end of March 2014 but the Church of England insisted on extensive legislative protections to avoid conducting same-sex weddings when the law was changed. As time passes and with other faith groups already happily conducting and celebrating marriages regardless of the genders of the couples involved, the C of E will look and sound increasingly out of step with society around it.

Questioned in the House about her discussions with Church leaders since last month’s narrow and surprise vote, Caroline Spelman MP, who holds the office of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, said,

The majority of members of the General Synod voted to take note of the report of the House of Bishops, but the motion did not pass because a small majority was against it in the House of Clergy. Following that, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement committing them to find a way forward.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw pressed Caroline Spelman further, asking:

Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?

Of course, by only recognising mixed-sex marriage the Church does not only cast judgement on those of its members who are gay, but for bi members of the congregation it treats some of their relationships as more valid and worthy than others.

Ben may only have mentioned gay people but Caroline’s reply was more inclusive:

The way forward, as outlined by the archbishops, is that the pastoral oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rev. Christine Hardman, will now work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church and to include them in the work of the pastoral oversight group.

She added that:

The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive.

Here’s hoping. For now with the narrow vote reflecting such a close split in Church ranks, and only one of the three voting groups coming out against the motion, there is still a long way to do.

Full text of the debate here.