Archbishop seeks unity as Church of England General Synod gathers to debate same-sex proposals

Archbishop seeks unity as Church of England General Synod gathers to debate same-sex proposals
Feb 2023

Archbishop seeks unity as Church of England General Synod gathers to debate same-sex proposals

Justin Welby delivering his presidential address to the Church of England General Synod in London.(Photo: Geoff Crawford/Church of England)

The Archbishop of Canterbury today told the Church of England's General Synod that unity is still possible despite deep divisions over human sexuality.

The Church's parliamentary body is meeting this week in London where the agenda will be dominated by proposals to allow blessings for same-sex couples.

The controversial plans were announced last month, the culmination of two years of discussions across Church of England parishes under the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) umbrella - a process of discernment around marriage, relationships, sexuality and identity.

A five-hour debate has been scheduled for Wednesday and Synod members will also be meeting in smaller groups to discuss the proposals.


In his presidential address at the start of proceedings on Monday, Archbishop Justin Welby said that the last few weeks had been "challenging" and that Synod members on both sides of the debate were coming to this week's sessions with "fears".

"Some fear that what we may or may not decide will be wrong and sinful. Or that it might discredit the church. Some fear that it will reject who you are, as God made you or us - thereby diminishing us all. Some fear that it will cause deep divisions here and abroad," he said.

"And that is only a small part of the baggage that we bring with us today - inevitably as human beings we all carry baggage.

"It is in recognising that we have baggage with us that we carry, that we are able to deal with its weight, recognise its importance, and most importantly listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying, and listen to one another."

The Archbishop went on to ask Synod members that they gather in love and "speak Christian" to one another.

"The church is not called to avoid or to endorse wokery, but to be awake to the Holy Spirit, to show that no division is greater than the unity of our identity in Christ," he said.

He continued, "In our discussions in this Synod let us remember and speak out that our brother is never our enemy, that those who listen outside this hall may well be listening for the call of hope, the call of Christ and we are the mouthpiece, we can scatter or gather them. Our language makes the difference."

He added, "Even if we get it wrong, we still need not fear look at Church history. For God is faithful even when we fail. We come with fears and baggage; so let us lay our burdens on Christ and let God gather God's church."

The proposals being considered this week do not permit churches to wed same-sex couples but offer a service of blessing after a civil partnership or marriage ceremony elsewhere. Use of the 'Prayers of Love and Faith' would not be compulsory.

The proposals have alarmed evangelicals and more conservative provinces in the Anglican Communion.

The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches has warned of "impaired communion" and evangelical Anglicans in England are considering alternative structures amid fears that blessings are the first step towards changing the Church's doctrine on marriage.

Some two dozen bishops have written a paper urging the Church not to alter the Church's historic stance on marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

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