on business from the General Synod at Church House Westminster Wednesday 28 February 2007
This was not a day to have a weak constitution, or to believe that the Bible, being God’s Word, has enduring authoritative value.
The General Synod was treated during two major debates to many attacks on the authority of Scripture. It was asserted by some that modern understandings of sexuality were not foreseen when the Bible was written; so either Scripture is not the Word of God, or God did not know what He had created when He made us.
Synod was repeatedly told that the experience of people, in particular their sexual relationships, must be our primary reference point today and clearly takes precedence over revelation.
A number of Synod members, including clergy spoke about their own or others Civil Partnerships and clearly have no intention that these should be celibate. This served to demonstrate how vacuous the House of Bishops’ Pastoral statement is.
And the Synod was told that the attitude of those opposed to homosexual conduct is sinful.
The Synod had before it two motions put forward by Private Members, both of which were wrecked by amendments from the House of Bishops. In both debates attempts were made unsuccessfully to move to next business and to adjourn, but all failed.
Overall the mood of Synod, demonstrated by the Bishops’ resolutions was that the debate must go on, no resolution can be found because it will divide so in a vain belief that two irreconcilable views can be reconciled the Church will continue to present contradictory voices on important moral issues. It says it upholds marriage, but actually undermines this by admitting that sexual intercourse is acceptable outside marriage.
The Synod accepted and appeared to approve of sexual immorality outside marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual with no apparent comprehension of the clarity of God’s declaration that such things, unless repented of, will preclude people from the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the Morning Synod was asked to debate a resolution on homosexuals. The original resolution was poor and the handling of Scripture in the background paper was schoolboy (sorry schoolgirl) standard, as demonstrated in a withering critique by Professor Tony Thisleton.
The Bishop of Gloucester moved the motion on behalf of the House of Bishops and helpfully clarified the term ‘homosexual orientation’. This is not part of the resolutions but will be placed on record. The term is used by some, including the Government, to include homosexual conduct and lust, but Bishop Perham described it as ‘a propensity to be sexually attracted to those of the same gender’ and the resolution should be understood in those terms.
An amendment to the amendment, which called on gay and lesbians to be more fully involved in the process of ‘listening’ was passed.
The House of Bishops’ amendment was passed meaning that the original motion was replaced in its entirety. The motion as passed was as follows:
That this Synod
a. commend continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion;
b. recognise that such efforts would not be advanced by doing anything that could be perceived as the Church of England qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth Conference Resolutions - 1978:10; 1988:64; 1998:1.10; and
c. welcome the opportunities offered by these Lambeth Resolutions, including for the Church of England to engage in an open, full and Godly dialogue about human sexuality;
d. affirm that homosexual orientation is itself no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church and acknowledge the importance of lesbian and gay members of the Church of England participating in the listening process as full members of the Church.”
In the afternoon the Synod considered the motion from Paul Perkin which reflected the widespread concern that the Bishops had failed to oppose Civil Partnerships and that their pastoral advice isn’t worth the paper it is written on.
It was demonstrated in the debate that the advice doesn’t work since it is clearly being abused. It was also clear that whilst the Bishops may hide behind the claim that civil partnerships are not gay marriage that is precisely what the government intended it to be, that the government lied when they claimed otherwise and that the Bishops were gullible to accept the assurances.
Paul’s speech was good and set out well the failings of the Bishops, which a number of individual Bishops have recognised. However, the Bishop of Liverpool put an amendment which wiped out Paul’s motion and put in something which was much softer. This in turn was also amended. The final motion in effect says nothing in the following words:
That this Synod
(a) acknowledge the diversity of views within the Church of England on whether Parliament might better have addressed the injustices affecting persons of the same sex wishing to share a common life had it done so in a way that avoided creating a legal framework with many similarities to marriage;
(b) note the intention of the House to keep their Pastoral Statement under review.’
In between the two sexuality debates was a debate on electronic voting in the Synod, which was interesting and amusing. Concerns were expressed about how secure it would be and also about the fact that how members voted would be recorded.
Final business of the day was a report on Education.