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Church of England could face first ever vote on same sex marriage

The Archbishop of Canterbury - Jonathan Brady/PA
The Archbishop of Canterbury - Jonathan Brady/PA

The Church of England could get its first ever vote on same sex marriage after equality campaigners tabled a motion to overturn its ban.

Church of England bishops refused last week to endorse same sex marriages following six years of debate and consultation, but agreed to “apologise” to LGBTQI+ people and offer them blessings following a civil partnership or marriage.

The bishops’ proposals will be debated next month at Synod, which is being convened from Feb 6 to 9. Once the proposals have been debated, the House of Bishops will refine the prayers and then commend them for use.

However, equality activists within General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, have tabled a motion asking for equal marriage proposals to be brought back to the next Synod meeting in July.

This means that next month, for the first time in its history, the Church of England could be asked to vote on whether it should back equal marriage.

‘Unbiblical’

Jayne Ozanne, an LGBT+ campaigner and member of General Synod, said that her amendment “scraps both the hollow apology and the prayers for blessings”, and instead offers the chance for an historic vote to overturn the “unbiblical” discrimination of minorities.

“The Church of England must not be allowed to continue to discriminate against people who are gay or bisexual – it is unjust and in the minds of many, unbiblical,” she said.

“My amendment calling for equal marriage proposals to be brought to Synod in July does this. Until the Church of England agrees to remove such discrimination, any apology is hollow, hypocritical and highly abusive – as it continues to put LGBT+ lives at risk.

“I call on people to ask their Synod representatives to back this amendment.”

Ms Ozanne’s amendment was tabled with the support of the General Synod Gender and Sexuality Group, with the chair (Revd Neil Patterson) and vice-chair (Prof Helen King) as its seconders.

‘End discrimination’

The amended motion would, among other issues, ask the House of Bishops “to end discrimination on the grounds of sexuality by bringing forward immediate legislation to provide for equal marriage in church for review at the July 2023 group of sessions”.

A Synod source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Telegraph: “It would be pretty difficult to see if there’s a procedure by which this amendment can be challenged and claim that this is not considered a legitimate question to be asked. There’ll be a debate on her amendment – for or against.”

It is highly irregular for an amendment put before Synod to be rejected by the Archbishops. “And if they do,” the source added, “then that would be another story in and of itself”.

At a press conference on Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said he would not personally bless same-sex marriages in order to remain a figure of unity within the Anglican Communion.

In contrast, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, said he would.

The Church of England declined to comment.