[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Members of the Church of England’s General Synod have concluded two days of informal talks on human sexuality. The private sessions, which followed the weekend’s formal meeting of the Synod in York, conclude a two-year programme of “shared conversations” throughout the Church of England.
On Friday, the Church Commissioners for England confirmed that they have provided £300,000 GBP to fund the cost of the conversations; and that the remaining – undisclosed – cost will be funded by the dioceses.
The C of E said that the conversations were designed to allow people to “reflect together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality” and that no change in policy or doctrine would be forthcoming as part of the process.
While the shared conversations took place, the Synod’s business committee declined to bring forward for debate two Private Members Motions on the issue. Those motions lapsed in July last year when the quinquennium came to an end.
One, on the “public doctrine of Christian marriage” affirmed that “Christian marriage, between a man and a woman, as set out in the Book of Common Prayer” [was] the only basis for engagement with public policy on marriage and family life.” It had attracted 146 signatures.
The other, on the “registration of civil partnerships” would give the required legal consent for any church or chapel to apply for approval as a place for registration of civil partnerships. That motion had attracted 139 signatures.
In normal circumstances, motions are put forward for debate once they have attracted 100 signatures.
“Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood,” the C of E said in a statement. “The shared conversations over the last two years now come to a conclusion with over 1,300 members of the church directly involved.
“It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.”
The shared conversations in the dioceses and at the General Synod were conducted under “St Michael’s House Protocols” – developed by Coventry Cathedral as part of its international reconciliation work. Synod members were asked not to Tweet about the conversations and to respect the privacy of others who spoke.
At the end of the talks, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said to Synod members: “At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness and grace.
“That is for me what I always come back to when it all seems overwhelming. Thank you so much for your participation. Let us go in confidence. Confident in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”