Pic: Peter Tatchell Foundation
The rejection by the Church of England of a controversial Bishops’ Report has been hailed as a “victory for LGBTI love and equality”.
On Wednesday, the church’s General Synod voted against endorsing the report which sought to affirm the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
The report, compiled by the House of Bishops, was put to 400 church leaders gathered at Church Hall in Westminster, London where they voted to reject the recommendations.
While it called for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” towards LGBTI people, critics claimed that it actually had nothing new to offer.
The vote is a symbolic one and does not change official church policy, but it nevertheless has been seen as a major step forward.
“This vote to reject the bishops’ report is a triumph for love and equality,” said British LGBTI rights activist Peter Tatchell.
“It is the biggest defeat for the Anglican leadership in many decades. Synod rightly refused to endorse the anti-LGBTI exclusion and discrimination advocated by the bishops.”
Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of One Body One Faith, slammed the three years and the £350,000 spent in compiling the report.
“Despite promising a ‘change of tone’, the report reasserts that marriage is (only) between one man and one woman for life, and there are no steps towards any form of words for blessing the committed relationships of same-sex couples,” she said.
A vigil was held outside Church Hall as the Synod debated and voted on the bishops’ recommendations. It was organised by One Body One Faith, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Foundation and Out and Proud African LGBTI.
Earlier, in an open letter, 14 leading retired bishops criticised the report as lacking conviction because it failed to allow “the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people… to express the major focus of their hopes”.
“The tone and culture of your document are incredibly familiar – we’ve been there and talked in that tone of voice, and it prevents calls for a change of culture, of course offered in complete sincerity by you, from ringing true”, they wrote
“LGBTI people want full inclusion and equality, both inside and outside the church,” said Tatchell. “LGBTI Christians are denied equality by the Anglican leadership. They are victims of religious homophobia and this homophobia must be opposed, irrespective of one’s personal views on religion and the church,” he continued.
Pic: Peter Tatchell Foundation
The latest vote will cause further controversy within the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion around the world. While some Anglican provinces (branches) of the church are more embracing, conservative Anglicans, largely from Africa, have threatened to walk out of the global body over LGBTI inclusion.
The Anglican’s Church’s refusal to accept same-sex marriage and its rejection of openly LGBTI clerics has been used to support the persecution of LGBTI people throughout Africa.
“If it had been accepted, the report would have been used by our religious oppressors in the UK and Africa to justify denying us equal rights,” commented Edwin Sesange, Director of Out and Proud African LGBTI, whose members attended the vigil. He added: “Moving forward, the church must in future affirm LGBTI people as equals.”