Church Stance On Gay Marriage 'Increasingly Untenable' For An Established Church, Say MPs
MPs are branding the established Church's status on sexuality 'untenable', 'unfair' and 'hard to justify' as they piled on pressure for a change.
Labour's Ben Bradshaw and Chris Bryant and Tory MP Robert Jenrick all voiced their concern after a bishops' report on sexuality was rejected by the Church of England's ruling body.
The report kept a conservative line on gay marriage and was criticised by members of the general synod for its tone towards LGBT people.
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, who is Anglican and in a gay relationship, said: 'Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?'
Robert Jenrick, Conservative MP for Newark, raised the case of Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a constituent of his, who was barred from taking a role as a priest because he entered a gay marriage.
In questions to the Church commissioners' questions, he said: 'Does my right honourable friend accept that allowing each bishop discretion in how to handle these, admittedly, complex issues is creating unfairness and variances that are quite hard to justify?'
Chris Bryant, a former Anglican priest who quit in protest over its stance on sexuality, raised Jeffrey John being blocked from being a bishop in the Church in Wales, which Christian Today revealed last week.
'The other bishops have refused to do what they have done in every other case—accept what the members of the local diocese have wanted,' he said.
Responding to the criticism Dame Caroline Spelman, second Church estates commissioner, said the Archbishops of Canterbury and York had released a 'statement committing them to find a way forward'.
She added a new bishops' oversight group will 'work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church'.
She said: 'Changes have taken place and more need to happen.'
The report was rejected by the clergy on general synod by 100 votes to 93. Although the majority of the opposition was from the liberal wing, some conservatives also voted against it over concerns the 'maximum freedoms' offered to gay clergy would cause confusion.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and a member of synod said the result should not be seen as a victory for LGBT activists. She was one of a handful of conservative members who voted against the report fearing it would lead to blessings for gay couples.
'What was clear from the debate was that the report tries to straddle positions that cannot be reconciled,' she said.