Church of England's New Panel to Review Gay Marriage Filled With Traditionalists?

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (L) speaks with protestors in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, southern Britain January 15, 2016. The Anglican Church has slapped sanctions on its liberal U.S. branch for supporting same-sex marriage, a move that averted a formal schism in the world's third largest Christian denomination but left deep divisions unresolved. The Anglican communion, which counts some 85 million members in 165 countries, has been in crisis since 2003 because of arguments over sexuality and gender between liberal churches in the West and their conservative counterparts, mostly in Africa. |

The Church of England announced last week that it is establishing a panel to review the ever increasing controversies surrounding gay marriage and the Church, though some liberal Anglicans have criticized it for only including members who adhere to the biblical definition of marriage.

The CofE explained last week that the "Bishops' Reflection Group on Human Sexuality," as the panel is called, will take a look at "theological, biblical, ecumenical, Anglican Communion, pastoral, missiological, historical and societal considerations" that the church is facing, especially in regard to same-sex relationships.

"A wide ranging agenda included presentations and discussions on Safeguarding, the Renewal and Reform program, the post-Brexit political landscape, clergywomen in leadership, clergy wellbeing and issues of sexuality," read a statement from the College of Bishops about discussions in the wake of the formation of the panel.

Although the CofE maintains its support for the biblical definition of marriage, as defined as a union between one man and one woman, dozens of ministers have revealed that they are gay and married to same-sex partners.

The gay ministers, along with their supporters, have petitioned the Church to allow clergy to bless same-sex unions.

Church of England
Members of the clergy enter York Minster before a service to consecrate Reverend Libby Lane as the first female bishop in the Church of England, in York, northern England, January 26, 2015. |

"Our marriages are legal, celebrated and widely accepted in society," said Andrew Foreshew-Cain, one of the first priests to defy the CofE's biblical ban on gay marriage.

"Yet the Church of England behaves as if they are somehow dirty and imposes penalties on clergy and refuses to acknowledge the marriages of those who wish to make lifelong faithful commitments."

The Episcopal Church in America was suspended from the Anglican Communion back in January for its support for gay marriage, and suggested that it will not be changing its position on the matter.

The Telegraph noted that liberal Anglicans are dissatisfied with the 10-member strong "Bishop's Reflection Group," arguing that it only includes representatives who defend the Bible's definition of marriage, instead of members who support the secular definition of marriage, which includes gay couples.

"I am quite frankly very dismayed by the communique. Yet again the Church of England is talking about us without us," said Jayne Ozanne, a gay member of the General Synod.

"Knowing that there was not one LGBTI voice or openly supportive bishop in the group there was not one word of pastoral concern for the pain that they knew that the statement would cause," she added.

Ozanne further argued that the panel gives weight to those who believe that the CofE is "institutionally homophobic, effectively putting politics ahead of the lives of real people."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has in the past said that it was a "constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality."

Welby defended the decision to temporarily suspend the Episcopal Church, however, arguing that conservatives are not trying to split the Church apart by standing firm on traditional biblical principles.

"It is not for us to divide the body of Christ, it is not for us to divide the Church," he said.

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