Church of England sets up group to discuss LGBT rights, doesn’t invite anyone pro-LGBT

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Church of England has set up a group to discuss reforms on same-sex marriage, but neglected to invite any pro-LGBT bishops.

The Anglican church has been under increasing strain in recent years over its policies on homosexuality and same-sex unions.

Under current rules, the church punishes clergy members who perform blessings for gay unions or enter same-sex marriages themselves, but both rules are regularly flouted.

More than a third of the Church’s governing body recently signed a letter urging bishops to reform its approach, but conservatives within the Church have threatened a split if the policy is relaxed. Exacerbating the feud, the Bishop of Grantham recently came out as gay.

The Church has this week set up a new Bishops’ Reflection Group on LGBT issues, aimed at helping to reach a new compromise.

A statement claims the group is intended to “assist the House of Bishops in identifying questions in relation to human sexuality, with particular reference to same sex relationships. It will also develop possible answers to those questions for the House to consider, as a contribution to the leadership which the House provides to the Church on such issues.”

However, pro-LGBT Anglicans have reacted with dismay that despite a number of prominent conservative bishops in the group, there is not one strong proponent of equality.

One member of the group is Bishop of Maidstone Rod Thomas, a former chair of the conservative Reform group who has been extremely outspoken in opposing gay equality. He is joined by fellow conservative bishop Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn.

Rev. Justin Gau, Chancellor of the Diocese of Bristol and a barrister specialising in Ecclesiastical law, tweeted that some members of the group had previously given evidence against a gay hospital chaplain who lost his job after getting married.

Out Synod member Jayne Ozanne told the Telegraph: “Yet again the Church of England is talking about us without us.

“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.

“Sadly, I fear this is a step backwards and only adds weight to those who believe the Church of England is institutionally homophobic, effectively putting politics ahead of the lives of real people.”