The Church of England’s General Synod has voted to endorse a discussion document issued by the house of bishops as a guide to the debate started by its 1991 report Some Issues in Human Sexuality.
Presented by Oxford bishop Richard Harries, the guide led to two hours of debate that was, according to some synod members, more low-key than previous synod debates on the subject.
It is widely believed that the report’s endorsement by synod signals a coming change in Church of England’s official policy. Under current guidelines from the house of bishops, gay clergy are called to celibacy. The report, however, openly discusses the possibility of blessing gay marriages.
Many speakers, while welcoming the guide for fairly portraying all sides in the debate, spoke about where the report may lead the church. Brian McHenry, a lay person, said that many people outside the church viewed its stance on homosexuality with “profound distaste” and that it was not in keeping with current values, though he added that the synod should avoid “going with the flow” merely to create the appearance of a more inclusive church.