2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Graphic by Aymen Sherwani

The Church of England’s apology for the mistreatment of LGBTQI+ members isn’t enough

By Chloe Brubaker, February 28 2023

On Jan. 20, 2023, the Church of England released an apology statement for their mistreatment of LGBTQI+ individuals while also continuing their refusal to marry same-sex couples in its churches. 

Bishops within the institution have agreed to make prayers that bless unions between same-sex couples available to the clergy to use at their own discretion. Within the Living in Love and Faith response, which had been released to the public after a five-year debate on the Church’s stance on sexuality, the institution expressed remorse for past actions.

“We want to apologise for the ways in which the Church of England has treated LGBTQI+ people – both those who worship in our churches and those who do not. For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry,” read the statement. 

The apology continues on to atone for any homophobic or hostile responses that Queer people may have experienced from within the Church.

The Church of England has had an unfavorable history in relations to the LGBTQI+ community. Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, the church and its senior bishops had supported the decriminalization of sex between consenting men. Regardless of this show of support and the success of securing the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, the Church’s doctrine continued to declare that the only permissible form of sex was between one man and one woman who are in a lifelong marriage. Twenty years after the passing of this Act, the General Synod had passed a controversial private member’s motion, also known as Higton Motion, that had stated, “homosexual genital acts fall short of [God’s] ideal and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion.” 

In 1998, Lambeth I.10 was voted in and it firmly stated their upheld belief that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. The resolution went on to claim that the Church was opposed to same-sex unions and any form of blessing of those relationships. It also disclosed the Church’s rejection of homosexual practice due to it being incompatible with Scripture. In 2002, the Archbishop of Canterbury had forced the new Bishop of Reading, who had been openly gay, to step down from his position in light of the sudden backlash they received from conservatives.

In more recent years, when same-sex marriage had finally been legalized for England and Wales in 2014, the Bill had protections for the clergy who refused to marry gay couples so they could not be sued for discrimination. Furthermore, the Church published the Living in Love and Faith resources in November 2020. The report included personal experiences from LGBTQI+ Christians who are members of the Church. Even though the resource does not present recommendations for new policy, it incited the debate on the Church of England’s teaching on sexuality.

The bishops of the Church of England released a response to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage within the Church and its teachings based off of the debate that arose from the release of Living in Love and Faith. Their apology shows an attempt to make reparations for the actions that have caused pain and suffering to Queer folk and to make known that they welcome them into their community with open arms.

The report continues on to declare that they will be offering the clergy prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and for God’s blessing to affirm same-sex couples in the Church.

“These Prayers of Love and Faith will not be the same as conducting a marriage in church. They will not alter the Church of England’s celebration of Holy Matrimony, which remains the lifelong union of one man and one woman, as set forth in its canons and authorised liturgies,” the bishops clarified

The report outlines the aspects of Holy Matrimony and states that they do not consider civil marriage as disobedience to the Church’s doctrine. The bishops also state the Prayers of Love and Faith are to be used to celebrate a committed relationship between two people. Said relationships are defined as couples entering a civil partnership or marriage, reaching a new stage in their relationship, or two people wanting to form a covenant friendship. The prayers are meant to be for celebration of God’s faithfulness and for the gift of human love. The bishops have also agreed to continue reflecting on the matter of the current understanding behind Holy Matrimony within the doctrine. 

The main concern with the apology from the bishops is that it does not actively correct the mistakes the Church has made in the past. It only offers a small consolation for the Queer folk who have had poor experiences in the Church that directly correlate to their sexual orientation. Although the bishops are now willing to accept these different sexualities inside their walls, they still hold the same view that marriage between same-sex individuals does not constitute Holy Matrimony. This belief allows for members to continue their dissent upon the LGBTQI+ lifestyle due to no true enforcement to accept those individuals in their community. 

At some point the bishops will need to acknowledge their shortcomings on the inclusion of LGBTQI+ members, and how the Living in Love and Faith response is not a solution to their issue. The Church’s actions are looking less like the pursuit of equality and more like the avoidance of equality.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet