Church of England sets up new body on sexuality

Rt Rev Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich, will chair a new body on sexuality set up by the Church of England.Reuters

Church of England bishops have set up a new body to "take forward work on sexuality" which will be chaired by Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich.

The establishment of the 'Bishops' Reflection Group on Sexuality' was announced this afternoon after senior Church of England clergy met in Oxford this week.

The bishops discussed sexuality as well as a range of other topical issues following on from the 'shared conversations' on sexuality at the Church's July Synod.

A statement from the College of Bishops said: "Following the conclusion of the shared conversations process the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited some bishops to take forward work on sexuality to assist the episcopal discernment process. The Bishops' Reflection Group on Sexuality will be chaired by Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich."

The full membership of the group and its terms of reference have yet to be published.

The statement added: "Discussions on issues of sexuality took place as part of a new process of episcopal discernment which will continue during the meetings of the House of Bishops in November and December of this year and in January next year at the next meeting of the College of Bishops."

It said that the bishops discussed a "wide ranging agenda" including "presentations and discussions on Safeguarding, the Renewal and Reform programme, the post-Brexit political landscape, clergywomen in leadership, clergy wellbeing and issues of sexuality."

Bishop James, widely seen as a 'safe pair of hands' by Church officials, was tipped to succeed Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013, before Justin Welby was appointed. James had said that he was hoping and praying not to get the job.

Last month, Welby said he was "constantly consumed with horror" at the way in which the Church had treated gay people.

But the Archbishop said he did not know when the Church would be in a position to bless same-sex partnerships. "Do I know when there will be a point when the blessing [of the civil partnership] will happen? No," he said. "I don't and I can't see the road ahead".