Church of England sexuality debate off the cards until 2020

Proposals for same-sex blessings or official prayers for gay couples are off the cards until at least 2020, the Church of England confirmed today.

A raft of motions calling for a shift in the Church's ban on official liturgy for same-sex couples will be shelved until bishops formally announce their stance in two years time.

The General Synod will meet for five days in York next month.Reuters

The confirmation comes after Christian Today revealed the CofE would ignore any calls for change to give bishops time to write a new teaching document on sexuality, not expected until 2020. Instead of formal debates or legislation, any synod discussions on sexuality will take place behind closed doors in group settings, avoiding publicity around a head-to-head debate, Christian Today reported last month.

Confirming the stance today Canon Sue Booys, who sets the agenda for the ruling general synod, said: 'After due consideration, the Business Committee has come to a mind that the various PMMs [private member's motions] and DSMs [diocesan synod motions] relating to the matters which are intended to be addressed by the proposed House of Bishops Teaching Document on Human Sexuality will not be scheduled for debate until that document has been published.

'This decision was taken on the understanding that the work on the Teaching Document will be completed by 2020.'

She added that members of the national synod, which meets twice a year and is made up of bishops, clergy and ordinary churchgoers elected from around the country, will hold private seminars at its next meeting in York in July to discuss divisions over sexuality.

'For some time the Committee has pondered the desire of members to discuss matters in a less binary fashion than our debating structure allows,' said Canon Booys.

Of the 12 seminars and workshops available, seven relate to sexuality.

It comes after the synod rejected a report by bishops last year that upheld the CofE's traditionalist stance that marriage is between a man a woman. The unexpected snub led the archbishops of Canterbury and York to promise a 'radical new Christian inclusion' and a new teaching document based on 'a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual'.

Led by the bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, a group was formed to write the document, which is the Church's first major review of its stance on sexuality since 1991.