The Church of England has become a “laughing stock”, senior religious figures have warned Bishops, after they issued a decree that people in civil partnerships should not have intercourse.
Following a landmark legal battle in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that civil partnerships could be made available to heterosexual couples.
However last week the House of Bishops issued pastoral guidance to clergy on how to deal with sex outside of marriage. It concluded that sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, and that Christians who are in either gay or straight civil partnerships should conduct “sexually abstinent friendships”
The guidance sparked furious criticism from LGBT campaigners both within and outside the church.
However, today, well-known CoE figures issued an open letter to Archbishops warning that “The Church of England has this week become a laughingstock to a nation that believes it is obsessed with sex.
“More importantly this statement has significantly damaged the mission of the Church and it has broken the trust of those it seeks to serve… it seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.
Among the signatories include: the Ven Canon Peter Leonard, Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight and chair of the pressure group, One Body One Faith, Christina Baron, a member of the General Synod and chair of the Human Sexuality Group on General Synod, the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain, chaplain to Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford and the Founder of the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England, as well as Jayne Ozanne is a prominent gay evangelical and member of General Synod.
They added: “The pastoral statement makes clear there has been no desire to listen or learn from those of us who spoke to explain how offensive we found the tone of the House of Bishops’ previous document. Indeed, the statement is anything but “pastoral”– it is cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects.”
For decades, the church has been divided over how to deal with LGBT issues and has recently embarked on a large study of human sexuality, Living in Love and Faith, which is due to be published later this year.
A spokesman for the Church of England said: “Three years ago, the Church embarked on the Living in Love and Faith project. This involves listening to the lived experiences of a wide range of people in relation to identity, sexuality and marriage, as well as engaging with theologians and other experts to help the Church learn and deliberate together in a more informed and compassionate way about what it means to live well together in love and faith.
“The Living in Love and Faith resources are due to be published later this year.
”The Church of England’s House of Bishops recently published a statement on Civil Partnerships to reflect the fact that they are now open to opposite-sex couples as well as same-sex couples.
“While the document states the long-standing teaching of the Church about sexual relationships within marriage, the bishops are keenly aware of the diversity of views and practices among members of the Church and wider society about the expression of love in faithful human relationships, and of the deep pain that these differences have caused and still cause today.
“All people, without exception, are loved and made in the image of God.”
Written by: Gabriella Swerling,