The Church of England is facing new tension over attitudes to gay relationships

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Church of England is facing new tension over its stance on gay relationships.

The division has been developing for some time, but was escalated after a group of retired bishops criticised current bishops for failing to prevent marginalisation of LGBT church members.

The Church of England is facing new tension over attitudes to gay relationships

An open letter was sent by 14 former bishops to insist their successors to think again about not “enabling or leading” the conflict over equality.

The letter was written in response to a report from the Church that called for a ‘fresh tone’ on LGBTI issues. The retired bishops rebuke their successors for marginalising LGBT church members.

It reads: “While the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture… does not carry conviction.

“Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale.

“That focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes.”

Former bishop of Worcester Peter Selby, who was one of the 14 that issued the letter, described the intervention as unusual.

“There will be some [serving bishops] who think ‘why don’t these dinosaurs shut up, it’s none of their business’. But I hope there will also be some who are glad we have put this on the record,” Selby told the Observer.

The report is being described as a consensus, rather than a unanimous view. Selby said it was “regrettable that what’s come out is a kind of compromised document, with no indication that there was a struggle and there are alternative views I know there is very, very strong pressure to limit the damage that a conflict can cause.

“We felt we needed to say something, so that’s what we’ve done. I’ve no doubt I’ll get some flak, both from people who disagree and from people who think I shouldn’t open my mouth,” he added.

The retired bishops issued the letter after current bishops acknowledged that they would approve a report that would uphold the traditional convention that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

LGBT activists within the church are dismayed at the report that is being pushed and have threatened to openly defy the C of E’s rules on same-sex unions and LGBT people.

Currently, the C of E insists that gay clergy members must be celibate and are forbidden in conducting same-sex marriage services.

The church has said it wants “maximum freedom” for gay followers, but no marriage.