- The Church of England’s two leading archbishops have been forced to apologise but they still haven’t withdrawn their sex ban guidance.
The archbishops of Canterbury and York have apologised for issuing a statement last week which said only married heterosexuals should have sex.
But Justin Welby and John Sentamu didn’t withdraw the guidance.
The College of Bishops statement last week said only married heterosexuals should have sex.
The bishops banned those in civil partnerships – gay or straight – from having sex. And they banned same-sex couples from marrying. Therefore the statement says nobody should ever have gay or lesbian sex.
The statement sparked a widespread rebellion within their own church with even bishops speaking out. Now Welby and Sentamu have admitted they caused ‘division and hurt’ and ‘jeopardised trust’.
Backlash to Church of England’s sex ban
Social media rapidly responded to the ban with gay and bi men telling stories about sex with Church of England vicars.
And Theologian Andrew Graystone pointed out: ‘The bishops of the Church of England have issued 1,600 words of “pastoral guidance” on marriage and civil partnerships. The word “sex” appears 49 times. The word “love” does not appear once.
‘Whatever else this document is, it is not pastoral.’
But the rebellion didn’t end there.
The bishops of Liverpool, Gloucester, Sheffield, Worcester, Manchester and Edmonton all distanced themselves from the guidance.
And over 3,000 people, including 800 clergy, wrote to the archbishops. Their letter said the ban had made the church a ‘laughing stock’.
The letter said the sex ban statement is ‘cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects’.
It adds: ‘The Church of England has this week become a laughing stock.
‘More importantly this statement has significantly damaged the mission of the Church and it has broken the trust of those it seeks to serve.’
Archbishops ‘sorry’ but not changing
In response, the archbishops have now issued a 109 word statement. In it, they apologise for the hurt caused by their original statement.
And they re-assert their commitment to the ‘Living in Love and Faith project’. The project is supposed to provide answers about sexuality and marriage. It is due to report this year and the church wasn’t supposed to comment on the issue until that time.
But they stop short of withdrawing their original guidance.
They say: ‘We as archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust.
‘We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.
‘At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage.
‘This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.’
However, this response is unlikely to silence the debate.
Jayne Ozanne is a campaigner for LGBT+ inclusivity in the church. She was one of the co-authors of the letter to the archbishops and is grateful for the new statement.
But she said: ‘I fear that more than words is now needed.
‘We await the evidence that they have truly heard and taken onboard our concerns by what comes out of the Living in Love and Faith report.’