Report from the November 2023 session of General Synod

In their joint Presidential Addresses, The Most Reverend Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury and The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell Archbishop of York spoke movingly of where we find ourselves in our current situation. Justin Welby had visited the Holy Land shortly after the attack by Hamas, speaking with the Bishop of Jerusalem who described Jerusalem as “the city of the empty tomb”. Whilst not expressing a view on the forthcoming debate relating to same-sex relationships, he said that he stood by everything the Archbishop of York was about to say.

Stephen Cottrell acknowledged that many had arrived at this Synod feeling weary and disheartened. He said we must strive to see Jesus in each other. He also said the time was now right to bring in standalone Services of Blessing on a trial basis. He reminded us not to forget the apology the Church had made to LGBTQIA+ people following the February Synod.

Then began two more long periods of often harrowing debate which revealed deep divisions. The new Bishop of Winchester, Right Reverend Philip Mountstephen said it is imperative that we stay together. “That is what Jesus wants.”

Here is the text of the revised Motion which we finally passed after another 10 hours' debate and against considerable opposition...

‘That this Synod, conscious that the Church is not of one mind on the issues raised by Living in Love and Faith, that we are in a period of uncertainty, and that many in the Church on all sides are being deeply hurt at this time, recognise the progress made by the House of Bishops towards implementing the motion on Living in Love and Faith passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, encourage the House to continue its work of implementation, and ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis, on the timescale envisaged by the motion passed by the Synod in February 2023.'

The Prayers for same sex couples will be brought into use from next month as additions to existing Services or for use in private.The House of Bishops will now explore bringing in standalone Services on a trial period, as directed by the Synod motion.A traumatic time over the last few days including moving testimonies from people relating their struggles and distress at their treatment by the Church.

In her summing up, The Right Revd and Right Hon Dame Sarah Mullalley, Bishop of London spoke in beautiful words of the way some within the Church are excluding those who take a different view from theirs. She said “Whilst I may no longer be invited to eat at their table, they will always be welcome at mine. And if it means that I need to sit outside with the powerless, the marginalised, the lost, then that’s where I will sit – and I am certain I will also encounter Christ there.”

Chris Webb           Salisbury 405

Read Bishop Stephen's Ad Clerum following the synod meeting.

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