Archbishops call emergency debate on state of the nation

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will use special powers to call an emergency debate on 'unanswered' questions about the state of the nation at the Church of England's ruling general synod next month.

The rare move to introduce a last minute change in schedule highlights concerns among church leaders after a 'storm of events' including two terrorist attacks and the Grenfell tower fire struck the UK 'with an almost unrelenting ferocity'.

Justin Welby and John Sentamu are the two most senior church leaders in the UK.

Justin Welby told peers in the House of Lords on Thursday the state's response to the Grenfall fire victims had been 'inadequate' and 'such failure is ultimately a failure of values'.

Calling for an urgent debate the CofE's two most senior leaders said on Friday the general election leaves 'many questions unanswered about the shape and priorities of our government at a critical time in the nation's history'.

Citing the 'uncertainty and weakness' of the Conservative's minority government, Justin Welby and John Sentamu said politicians are facing 'constraints and opportunities' as well as 'unprecedented questions about the future'.

The Archbishops recognise 'this is a period of worry and uncertainty for many people in this country', journalists were told on Friday morning.

'This [debate] is an opportunity for synod members to reflect on that and how the Church can support people and indeed how it has been supporting people,' the CofE's top civil servant, William Nye, said.

'This is an opportunity to express concerns people have and to talk about what the Church is doing.'

The motion calls on Christian to 'pray for courage' for politicians and also 'to maintain pressure on politicians of all parties to put the cohesion of the nation and its communities at the heart of the programmes'.

They add the 'continuing work of the churches serving the poor and vulnerable, at home and worldwide' is an example of 'the priorities which we hope to see in the programme of government'.

Synod members will also be asked to endorse a statement condemning 'gay cure' therapies as 'unethical and harmful and not supported by evidence'. 

Jayne Ozanne, who tabled the motion, said in a briefing note: 'Conversion therapy is condemned by professionals as being harmful to LGBT people as it is based on a misguided belief that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is wrong.

'This leads to increased mental health problems for LGBT community due to stigmatisation.

'Given that many practitioners are non-medically trained religious leaders, it is imperative that the Church of England is unequivocal in its condemnation of such harmful practices.'

The move is likely to be opposed by some conservatives and a paper circulated to synod members said: 'It might be argued that individuals who wish to explore the possibility of changing their sexual orientation or attraction ought to be free to do so.'

The general synod meets from July 7-10 in York.

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