Poll: Should the Church of England reverse its opposition to gay marriage?

The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James.
Picture: James Bass

The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2015

Campaigners have hailed a decision by Church of England's ruling body to throw out a controversial report on same-sex marriage as 'a victory for love and equality'.

And the Rt. Revd. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, admitted being 'conflicted' over presenting the report to the General Synod on Wednesday.

The report by the House of Bishops had called for the Church to adopt a 'fresh tone and culture of welcome and support' for gay people.

But it said it should not change its opposition to same-sex marriage and such unions should not be blessed.

Under the recommendations, marriage would continue as 'a union, permanent and life long, of one man with one woman'.

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The report also urged the promotion of 'maximum freedom' for gay couples within current laws and doctrines, without changing them.

More than 400 Church leaders gathered for a 'take note' debate on the issue at Church Hall in Westminster, where they voted to symbolically reject the recommendations.

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Peter Tatchell, who has campaigned on the issue for 50 years, said: 'This vote to, in effect, reject the Bishops' report is a victory for love and equality.

'It is the biggest defeat for the Anglican leadership in many decades. Synod refused to endorse the anti-LGBT exclusion and discrimination enshrined in the Bishops' recommendations.'

The changes were also criticised for failing to recognise gay people's 'authentic voices' in an open letter signed by 14 retired bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who urged the Synod to approve the report, said the church needed a 'radical new Christian inclusion'.

'The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be,' he said.

'As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.'

He had considered the report to be a 'good basis - a road map' for moving forward.

The report needed to gain a majority in the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity to be approved.

A total of 242 votes were cast in favour across the three houses, with 184 against, while six people abstained.

But some 100 members of the House of Clergy voted against - compared with 93 who voted in favour and two who abstained.

The vote is not a formal rejection of the proposals but the views aired will be used to inform future work by the House of Bishops.

Bishop Graham had previously told the House: 'I would be misleading you if I did not confess to being conflicted in presenting this report but in that I think I am far from alone among the bishops and in the wider Church of England. Our own history in dealing with these matters also explains why people on all sides of the debate rarely find themselves satisfied.'

He also noted he had been involved in discussing same sex relationships for over forty years of ordained ministry.

'As a curate in the late 1970s I recall leading a deanery synod discussion on the Gloucester Report on homosexual relationships,' he said. 'No one else was willing to do it. Little did I think that almost forty years later I'd be standing before the General Synod presenting another report on the same subject. 'It is a very provisional report, as it says of itself. Like others which have gone before it, it has not received a rapturous reception in all quarters, and I regret any pain or anger it may have caused.'

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