The majority of members of the General Synod voted to take note of the report of the House of Bishops, but the motion did not pass because a small majority was against it in the House of Clergy. Following that, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement committing them to find a way forward.
Was it not very significant that it was the clergy, who are in the frontline of providing pastoral care to their parishioners, who voted down the bishops’ paper? Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?
There was a narrow margin in the House of Clergy vote—93 in favour of taking note to 100 against—but a majority is required in all Houses. The way forward, as outlined by the archbishops, is that the pastoral oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rev. Christine Hardman, will now work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church and to include them in the work of the pastoral oversight group.
My right hon. Friend may be aware of the case of my constituent, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who was found not to have been discriminated against on the grounds of sexuality when the Diocese of Southwell denied him permission to officiate in the light of him having had a gay marriage, despite the fact that neighbouring diocese would allow him to officiate. Does my right hon. Friend accept that allowing each bishop discretion in how to handle these, admittedly, complex issues is creating unfairness and variances that are quite hard to justify?
It is hard to comment on the specific case. It has come before the House previously, but it is a legal process, which we normally do not comment on, although it has now reached its conclusion. My hon. Friend may not be aware that the Ecclesiastical Committee actually met and was content with changes to the law with regard to the need to protect children and the powers and discretion that bishops have. Changes have taken place and more need to happen.
But discretion is not always good in the Church, is it? Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, has been barred from becoming a bishop in the Church in Wales, which I know is separate from the Church of England, because the other bishops have refused to do what they have done in every other case—accept what the members of the local diocese have wanted.
I am not responsible for the Church of Wales—[Interruption]—because I am responsible for the Church of England. However, I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. This is a really serious matter, and we should heed what the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the head of the Anglican communion, said about the need to have radical Christian inclusivity. The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive.