I caught up with Rev Dr Ian Paul for an update on the July session of the Church of England’s General Synod, its governing body. We spoke specifically around the topic of marriage and proposals for prayers of blessing for people in same-sex relationships
One of the profound concerns raised by Rev Dr Paul relates to the C of E’s “incoherent and incomplete” response to the Living in Love and Faith process, which led to the Bishops proposing prayers of blessing for same-sex couples.
July’s Synod session was supposed to deal with remaining questions on the prayers’ implementation and on new pastoral guidance on sexual ethics for ordained clergy. But, as Rev Dr Paul points out, none of these issues were dealt with. He predicts that these questions will remain unanswered by the time of Synod’s next session in November. The sheer magnitude of unresolved queries hints at a deeper issue – the clash with the very doctrinal foundation of the C of E.
The inevitable result, he feels, is the proposals “being postponed and postponed” because “there’s no wriggle room” when it comes to upholding the C of E’s teaching on marriage.
The essence of the problem, he agrees, is that the theological foundations are being treated as something secondary, which directly affects trust, credibility and confidence in the Bishops. “How can Bishops say they want to see change in doctrine when they took public vows to uphold the doctrine of the church?” he asks.
While the Synod took commendable steps, like trialling waiving wedding fees in the Blackburn Diocese – a move Rev Dr Paul endorses as he believes “marriage is a gift of God in creation” – these are overshadowed by the larger concerns around the sanctity of marriage and how it is defined by the C of E.
C4M upholds what the Church has believed for over two millennia. Man-woman marriage is the only foundation of a successful society. The secular body of evidence is also clear: at population level, real marriage brings about the best version of the next generation. Nothing comes close. The Church of England’s Bishops should once again be honest about this.