Divisions deepen in Church of England as conservatives express 'lack of confidence' in gay marriage talks

A group of conservative Anglicans have expressed their "lack of confidence" in the Church of England's talks on gay relationships.

A statement released on Tuesday was signed by 32 members of the Church's governing synod after it held private talks in an attempt to reconcile bitter differences over teaching on same-sex marriage. Bishops will use the "shared conversations" as a basis for deciding whether or not to allow for gay relationships in some form within the Church.

The Church of England's General Synod is its ruling body and sets its laws. It is unlikely any official change would pass synod but a form of 'accommodation' for gay relationships could be suggested.The Church of England

The signatories make up a small section of the 483 members of synod but the statement is a strong rebuttal to the "process of shared conversations". They express concern that the final decision on whether to endorse same-sex relationships will not be made on the basis of the Bible.

The statement, published on the conservative blog Anglican Mainstream, reads: "Whatever their stated purposes, the outcome has not led to a greater confidence that the Church will be guided by the authoritative voice of the Scriptures, and its decisive shaping of traditional Anglican teaching, in any forthcoming discussions."

The public announcement of no confidence is a reflection of the fierce divisions within the Church and comes after a handful of conservatives boycotted the talks because they felt they were manipulated.

Lambeth Palace has declined to comment on the statement.

Clive Scowen, one of the signatories who attended the talks, told Christian Today the statement aimed to show that there are a number of synod members "who do not feel that they achieved what some others are claiming for them".

"Although the experience of participating was generally positive...I do not feel that overall things were moved forward much, if at all," he said. He went on to say the conversations gave "unbalanced" presentations on scripture and "fuller engagement" would be needed before a decision was made.

He added: "If there was a consensus about anything arising out of the conversations it is that we want to be a church which welcomes all people, irrespective of the sexual attractions which they experience, because we know they are loved and treasured by God, and invites them to experience the transforming love and grace of Jesus for themselves."

Charlie Skrine, another signatory who was also one of the ten synod members who refused to attend the talks, spoke to Christian Today before they began. He said: "This is not an issue where the Church can come together and live alongside each other in a compromise". He added there was a large group on synod who "are worried unless we step back from the process we will be heard as already saying, 'that is fine, let's do it [accept a change on the church's teaching on gay relationships]".

The Church of England released a statement after the conversations at synod finished earlier in July which said it hoped "what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions will be necessary in the future".

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, thanked members of synod at the conclusion of the talks and said: "At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never defeat."

The Church's senior clergy in the House of Bishops is due to meet in November and will make a suggestion of what the Church should do. It is unlikely the church will allow for full same-sex marriage but Christian Today has revealed some form of "pastoral accommodation" could be made.

You can read the full list of signatories and their dioceses below: 

Rosemary Lyon – Blackburn
Stephen Boyall – Blackburn
Kathy Playle – Chelmsford
Mary Durlacher – Chelmsford
David Banting – Chelmsford
Debbie Woods – Chester
Jeremy Harris – Chester
Lorna Ashworth – Chichester
Andrea Minichiello Williams – Chichester
Rachel Bell – Derby
Giles Williams – Europe
Helen Lamb – Ely
William Belcher – Gloucester
Chik Kaw Tan – Lichfield
Shaun Morris – Lichfield
Chris Gill – Lichfield
Debbie Buggs – London
Sarah Finch – London
Clive Scowen – London
Charlie Skrine -London
Margaret Parrett – Manchester
Caroline Herbert – Norwich
Graham Caskie – Oxford
Andrew Bell – Oxford
Andrew Presland – Peterborough
Mark Lucas – Peterborough
Ian Dobbie – Rochester
Angus MacLeay – Rochester
Jane Patterson -Sheffield
Brian Wilson – Southwark
Susie Leafe – Truro
Chris Fry – Winchester