Gay marriage was one of the items debated at the recent Ripon & Leeds Diocesan Synod.
The discussion was on the motion “this Synod welcomes the affirmation by the Archbishops of York and Canterbury of the Church of England’s understanding of marriage as a life long union between one man and one woman as derived from Scripture and enshrined in its Liturgy”.
This led to much discussion, including issues to do with the definition of marriage and whether or not the Church of England should allow individual churches to perform same-sex marriages in their church buildings. It was heartening to see that most of the speakers spoke positively about gay marriage (i.e. against the motion) and in fact at one point the Bishop, chairing the debate, had to ask if there was actually anyone who wanted to speak for the motion!
After some moving speeches, the general feeling was that wider issues raised by the motion required careful preparation and consideration and that to vote on the motion at this stage would have the effect of closing down, rather than opening up, debate and sensitive listening to one another. It was proposed and agreed that this debate should not be voted upon at this synod but carried forward to a future meeting.
The Ripon & Leeds Diocese’s Sexuality Task Group will be arranging a public debate in the New Year.
In a recent meeting of around fifty people from several parishes, in answer to the question,
- “If gay people who make covenant with one another wish to bring their whole selves and make those covenants before God, as the rest of the population already can, should they be enabled to?”the answer was “Yes” by a ratio of 4:1.
- Asked if they believed gay marriage would undermine straight marriage and have a destabilising effect on society, the answer was “No” by a ratio of almost 3:1.
- The answer to “Should having children – or the ability or the desire or the intention to have children – be a pre-requisite for marriage?” was a unanimous “No”.
- To “Under the proposed state law, denominations are allowed to permit their individual churches to perform same-sex marriages. Should the Church of England therefore allow each PCC to decide on this for themselves?” The answer was “No” by a ratio of 10:1.
So – a snapshot of the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the Church of England which shows that the issues surrounding same-sex marriage are not as black-and-white as some would perhaps like. It also shows that the idea of gay marriage is not being rejected out of hand by the people of the Church as clearly as some would have us believe!