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Clergy: Same-sex Relationships

Volume 745: debated on Thursday 22 February 2024

7. What recent progress has been made on implementing the decisions taken by the General Synod in February 2023 relating to clergy in same-sex relationships. (901572)

In February 2023, the General Synod passed a motion to welcome the decision by the House of Bishops to replace a document called “Issues in Human Sexuality”. The House of Bishops has published pastoral guidance that partially replaces that document. It is working on further pastoral guidance that would allow the document to be replaced entirely.

Papers going to tomorrow’s General Synod once again recommend backtracking on the agreements made, not just in February but in the autumn General Synod, regarding same-sex blessings and the rules governing priests in same-sex relationships. That is totally unacceptable. Yesterday’s report by Professor Alexis Jay on safeguarding in the Church of England was excoriating. It pointed to serial failures, and recommended setting up a completely independent body, the Church being stripped of its responsibilities, and those being handed to an independent regulator. It pains me to say this, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that dealing with both those very important historical challenges for the Church appears to be beyond the capacity and will of its current leadership, and that perhaps our established Church might benefit from a fresh start at the top?

The right hon. Gentleman takes these issues very seriously and has a long involvement with the Church of England. Starting with the second issue, the Church commissioned Professor Jay’s report. The Church gets the seriousness of these issues, and it will consider very seriously how to respond. The archbishops have described her report as a “vital next step”. We are not in denial, and we will put things right. The right hon. Gentleman also knows very well how the General Synod of the Church of England works; it is a sovereign body. It meets again this weekend. Reconciling different viewpoints so that we can walk together is not easy, but we are committed to that. I know that his words will have been heard and noted by members of the General Synod in advance of its debate.