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Bishops apologise for 'deeply upsetting' Church of England guidance on sex

PUBLISHED: 10:28 02 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:29 02 February 2020

Norfolks bishops, including the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, have apologised for a Church of England statement saying sex is only for married heterosexual couples. Picture: Archant

Norfolks bishops, including the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, have apologised for a Church of England statement saying sex is only for married heterosexual couples. Picture: Archant

Archant

Norfolk's three bishops have united to apologise for a statement which said sex is only for married heterosexual couples.

Norfolks bishops, including the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, have apologised for a Church of England statement saying sex is only for married heterosexual couples. Picture: ArchantNorfolks bishops, including the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, have apologised for a Church of England statement saying sex is only for married heterosexual couples. Picture: Archant

Speaking on behalf of the county's bishops, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, said he was "deeply sorry" for the hurt caused by the Church of England report.

In its latest guidance, published last week, the church's House of Bishops stated that sex in gay or straight civil partnerships "falls short of God's purpose for human beings".

The pastoral guidance prompted widespread uproar, including among the clergy as 800 members signed an open letter calling the Church of England a "laughing stock".

And now Norfolk's Anglican bishops have written to all clergy and lay ministers to make their own apology.

Bishop Graham, who became Bishop of Norwich last year, told BBC Radio Norfolk: "I'm very conscious of the hurt that the statement has caused.

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"Its tone and how it was written was one that many people found deeply offensive, hurtful and upsetting - as I did myself.

"I personally want to pledge to move forward in a positive way through good conversation and good listening, find a way forward for the Church of England on these hugely complex and potentially divisive issues."

The House of Bishops' report came in response to the recent introduction to mixed-sex civil partnerships, the first of which were registered in December.

The Church of England does not allows same-sex marriage, and only allows the clergy to be in same-sex civil partnerships if they are sexually abstinent.

In its report, the House of Bishops said marriage was the "lifelong union between a man and a woman" and remained the "proper context for sexual activity."

It added that the church "seeks to uphold that standard" when it comes to civil partnerships", and to "affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships" within those partnerships.

While the guidance will have delighted more conservative members of the church, Bishop Graham highlighted the need for continued conversation and evolution within Christianity.

He added: "Their (conservatives) view is important, but one that needs to be part of an ongoing conversation bringing together people from different perspectives about these deep, personal question of identity, human sexuality and marriage."

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