Press release: Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

from Changing Attitude England.

The Reverend Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, has said:

“With unfortunate timing, the House of Bishops have issued their Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage just as St Valentine’s Day draws to a close.

“It is a somewhat clinical and loveless statement which fails to celebrate the new commitments of love lesbian and gay couples will be making, often after ten, twenty, thirty or more years of life together, longing for the legal status and recognition enjoyed by straight couples. At last, families will be able to celebrate with their lesbian and gay family members their new life as a married couple in the community.

“Many lesbian and gay Christian couples long to marry in church, acknowledging the blessing of God which has brought them together and led them to commit to each other in love and fidelity.

“The bishops have been unable to agree a statement which conveys to those gay couples who will soon be marrying the warmth and tenderness of God as God rejoices in gay love and gay unions.”

The letter from the Archbishops affirms that our “vocation as disciples of Christ in God’s world is to hold out the offer of life in all its fullness. God delights always to give good gifts to his children.”

Disciples of Christ also need to hold out the offer of life in all its fullness to lesbian and gay couples, recognizing that unlike the bishops, God does not discriminate in giving good gifts to his children. God creates us in our rainbow variety of gender and sexuality. God pours grace and gifts of romance, love and intimacy on us all, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex. God’s creative love is infinite and unconditional.

Lesbian and gay Christians, lay and ordained, respond to the call of the gospel to listen, speak and act with integrity, self discipline and grace. Our knowledge and understanding are partial but we know ourselves and our vocation as Christians to form stable, loving, self-giving, faithful relationships that are equal to heterosexual marriage. The State recognizes this truth. The Church does not.

The Reverend Colin Coward added:

“The bishops are not in agreement. In truth there is radical disagreement in the House of Bishops about equal marriage and the place of lesbian and gay people in the Church. There are bishops who dissent from the statement that they are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged. It is sad that bishops are represented as being of one mind about this issue when we know there are dissenting bishops.

“Despite the restrictions imposed by the Pastoral Guidance the Church of England will soon have married lesbian and gay lay people and clergy. Individual bishops will be tested by their response to those clergy who marry. Any lesbian and gay person who marries and then receives a call to serve God in the Church as a lay or ordained minister of the Gospel will be rejected by the Church.

“Lesbian and gay couples will ask if they can be married in church, unaware of the Church of England’s refusal to marry them and grudging acceptance that clergy can pray with lesbian and gay couples following a civil partnership or wedding. This is a positive development but falls far short of what the Church should be offering gay couples.

“Many members of the House of Bishops already ordain and licence lesbian and gay people who are partnered. They often deliberately welcome the partner by name on arrival in a new parish, properly affirming the relationship. They already ignore the sections of the Pastoral Guidance.

“Perhaps the statement that “we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged” is nuanced. Maybe the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage is unchanged but extended to include same sex marriage.

“The problem for the Archbishops and the House of Bishops is the dishonesty and hypocrisy of Church of England practice and thinking which it reveals. Social research shows that the majority, especially of younger people, think the Church is prejudiced towards women and LGBTI people and hypocritical in its practice.”

Bishops and Archbishops who attended the Lord’s debate on Equal Marriage learnt how offensive their negative stance was to other Christians in the Lords.

In his first presidential address to General Synod in July the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“Anyone who listened to much of the Same Sex Marriage bill second reading debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill was utterly overwhelmed … [and] there was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches. We may or may not like it but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality.

“… what I felt then and what I feel now is that some of what was said was uncomfortably close to the bone.”

“… we need also to ensure that what we do and say demonstrates the lavish love of God to all of us, who are without exception sinners. Again this requires radical and prophetic words which lavish gracious truth.”

The Archbishop and the House of Bishops have not yet found a way of converting this insight into a positive change of attitude towards the place of LGBTI people in the Church, lay and ordained, single and partnered.


For further information please contact:
The Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude England

+44 (0)1380 724908
+44 (0)7770 844302


  1. says

    Colin, my local CoE vicar is vehemently anti gay/lesbian relationships, let alone same sex marriage. Last year, I was asked to pray that the House of Commons vote against same sex marriage becoming legal. I didn’t – instead prayed that God’s will be done, and was delighted when the Commons voted to legalise it!

    I continue to call my vicar out on his views, , as my brother was gay, a lovely, compassionate man, much misunderstood. I’ve worked with wonderful gay/lesbian people and believe that the secular world can teach us all how to go about loving one another, in the radical way that Christ always did.

    It’s heartening to read that there was clearly a raw and honest debate in the House of Lords. Time is on our side: we must never give up <3

  2. Pete Hobson says

    If it’s indeed the case that “There are bishops who dissent from the statement that they are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.” then I presume those bishops will themselves wish to make that dissent known. Are you calling out those bishops, whose names are presumably known to you?
    It does seem entirely possible to me both to assert that ‘the doctrine remains unchanged’ (as a formal fact) and to dissent personally from that doctrine. Is it really helpful to call that hypocrisy?

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