FALLING AWAY: Archbishops apologise for ‘damage’ caused to LGBT community as Church of England paves the way for same-sex marriages

Archbishops have apologised for the ‘damage and hurt’ caused to the LGBT community as the Church of England yesterday paved the way for same-sex marriages after three years of behind-closed-doors arguments on the issue.

Leaders admitted ‘talk of truth, holiness and discipleship has been wielded harshly’ and promised to make a decision within two years on changing Anglican rules that say gay sex is sinful.

A group led by the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Sarah Mullally, will devise a ‘way forward for the Church in relation to human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage’.

Church leaders have produced a 480-page book, with accompanying films, podcasts and education courses to explore the issue.

The Church has been deeply divided over gay rights since 1987, when its parliament, the General Synod, first voted to reinforce traditional teaching that gay sex is sinful. Earlier this year bishops restated the teaching that sex is for married couples only and that civil partnerships should be ‘sexually abstinent friendships’.

Same-sex civil marriages were introduced in 2014 and their predecessor, civil partnerships that carry the rights of marriage in all but name, were brought in in 2005. However the legislation gave faith groups an effective opt-out.

Archbishop Welby said in a foreword to the book, written with the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, that the Church should be ashamed of causing hurt to gay people.

They said: ‘As soon as we begin to consider questions of sexual identity and behaviour, we need to acknowledge the huge damage and hurt that has been caused where talk of truth, holiness and discipleship has been wielded harshly and not ministered as a healing balm.

Especially amongst LGBTI+ people, every word we use – quite possibly including these in this very foreword, despite all the care we exercise – may cause pain.

We have caused, and continue to cause, hurt and unnecessary suffering. For such acts, each of us, and the Church collectively, should be deeply ashamed and repentant. As archbishops, we are personally very sorry where we have contributed to this.

The Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Christopher Cocksworth, who helped produced yesterday’s new material, said: ‘There is no doubt that there are certain decisions in 2022 that the Church will have to face.’

He added: ‘There are some who feel this doctrine of marriage is ripe for development.’

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