Bishop Calls For 'Thanksgiving' Prayers For Gay Couples
The Bishop of Chelmsford is calling for thanksgiving services and eucharists for gay couples amid controversy on how the Church should move forward.
Stephen Cottrell said the CofE was seen as 'immoral' for its refusal to welcome gay marriage stressing it would 'particularly foolish' to ignore the damage done to the Church's mission.
In the most forthright call for change by a bishop so far, Cottrell said the Church should reach an 'agree to disagree' compromise over gay marriage as it had done over women's ordination.
He acknowledged such a compromise would be a 'step too far' while 'others think it nowhere near far enough' but said change 'cannot simply wait til there is complete ecumenical and Anglican Communion agreement'.
It is the latest intervention since the Archbishops of Canterbury and York called for a 'radical, new Christian inclusion' after a report maintaining a largely conservative stance on sexuality was rejected by the CofE's ruling general synod.
'It would be particularly foolish for us to ignore the missiological damage that is done when that which is held to be morally normative and desirable by much of society and by what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country, is deemed morally unacceptable by the Church. As I have said before, I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set,' he said in an address to Chelmsford's local diocesan synod.
LGBT Eucharists and prayers for gay couples are already offered by some clergy but it is not clear whether the Church's teaching permits such moves and Cottrell's address marked the first time a bishop has openly backed them.
He went on to say the Church's attitude to gay couples was fundamental to its existence and role in society.
'It is therefore not sufficient to say, "Oh if only we could stop talking about human sexuality and get on with the real business of preaching the gospel!" This is the real business of preaching the gospel: it is about what it means to be made in the image of God and of the new humanity God has won for us in Christ. It is about finding the legitimate boundaries within which Christian people can legitimately disagree.'
Comparing the divisions over sexuality with those over women bishops, which the Church allowed for in 2014, he said a similar deal could be reached.
'Whether you believe there should be same sex marriage or the blessing of same sex unions or whether you do not, you are still a faithful Anglican,' he said. 'We need to find ways of living with this diversity, not being torn apart by it.'
Responding from conservative blog site Anglican Mainstream, Andrew Symes wrote: 'It is now over to the orthodox clergy and laity in Chelmsford Diocese, first, to see what they will do.
'Some will be talking about looking for some form of differentiation, perhaps alternative oversight, whether informal or more visible. Some, especially laity, will be looking for another denomination. We hope that those who continue to recognise the Bishop's spiritual authority and do nothing, will see the need to join others in taking principled action. This pattern will be repeated in other Dioceses in coming months.'