Church of England Synod met with protests over same-sex blessing proposal: ‘Crumbs to the starving’

Photo of protestors standing outside the Church of England's General Synod holding signs. One of them reads "Stop Anglican discrimination. Marriage equality now".

Protestors have rallied in Westminster as the Church of England’s General Synod hold a five-hour debate to discuss proposed changes to its stance on same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, 8 February, outside of Church Street, demonstrators gathered to oppose the General Synod’s –  the church’s governing body – debate about same-sex marriage in the church which is currently forbidden under its laws. 

Last month, church leaders said they intend to maintain a ban on clergy conducting same-sex weddings, but added they added that “blessings” could be given to same-sex couples who get a civil marriage. 

It comes at the end of a five year consultation on the issue, which began in 2017.

In January 2022, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury said same-sex couples could be blessed by priests following a marriage, but that he would not bless them himself.

Peter Tatchell at the C of E same-sex protest
LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell. (PinkNews)

‘We are human beings, not pets’ 

LGBTQ+ rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, who led the protest, told PinkNews the offer of blessings is an “insult” and what is given to “pets like dogs and guinea pigs”.

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“We are human beings, not pets. Our same-sex marriages deserve dignity, respect and equality. The church is supposed to stand for the principles of love and compassion.

“It cannot do that while it continues to deny marriage equality.” 

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In January 2022, Bishops from the Church of England formally apologised for its historically “hostile” treatment of LGBTQ+ people.

The apology was written following the church’s refusal to allow the ordainment of same-sex marriages by members of the clergy after a briefing on 17 January.

Tatchell branded the apology “worthless while they continue to discriminate by denying same-sex couples the right to marry in local churches”. 

“This is a right that exists for every heterosexual man and woman in Britain but not for LGBTQ+ people,” he said.

“That is in defiance of the Equality Act and its discrimination, which is not a Christian value.”  

A consultation regarding the possibility of accepting same-sex marriage began in 2017, called “Living in Love and Faith”.

Barry Snelgrove at the C of E same-sex protest
Barry Snelgrove lost his faith in the church over some of its attitudes. (PinkNews)

‘Shameful’ 

Protestor Barry Snelgrove told PinkNews when the review of same-sex marriage was first announced in 2017 he was “excited” the church might finally understand “God is love”. 

But the 66-year-old said it’s “shameful” and “hypocritical” to offer a civil partnership blessings rather than marriage.

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“It’s time the church stood up for its principles of love,” he added.

“Over the years I have lost faith in the church over some of its attitudes. I came out during the AIDS period and I lost a former lover, aged 31, who had been a churchgoing person, had lived in a vicarage, but when it became evident he had AIDS he was asked to leave.

“The church doesn’t have a good record of staying up to date and upholding Christian values. I would love to have my marriage in a church before God, that’s my belief,” Snelgrove shared.

As a churchwarden in Enfield, London, Snelgrove hopes he could be the first gay person to have a marriage before God in his church.

Phillipa Drew at the C of E same-sex protest
Phillipa Drew says the C of E’s blessing is an insult. (PinkNews)

‘I am no longer a believer’ 

Phillipa Drew, who is a lesbian, was brought up in the Church of England and has seen her family married in it, but due to its anti-LGBTQ+ stance she confessed “I am no longer a believer”.

She told PinkNews: “The C of E plays an incredibly important role in British life, even for people who are not believers. 

“The judgement is kind of threaded through British life and the fact that the church will not recognise that two people who love each other and want to have their union recognised, not by the state, but by the church, is deeply hurtful.” 

In reference to the offering of a blessing the 76-year-old said it’s “crap”, and “offering crumbs to the starving”. 

“It’s an insult and seems to me to be profoundly unchristian behaviour.” 

Imran Ulhaq at the C of E same-sex protest
Imran Ulhaq thinks the C of E’s attitude is “homophobic”. (PinkNews)

‘Apparent discrimination’ 

Imran Ulhaq, 43, told PinkNews the decision not to allow same-sex marriage is “apparent discrimination”. 

“The church should not discriminate any kind of love between different sexes. We are standing together with the Peter Tatchell Foundation for equal rights.” 

Ulhaq, who is bisexual, describes the attitude of the Church of England as “homophobic”, he added: “We will fight our best for equality.”

Md Mustakah Ahmed  at the C of E same-sex protest
Md Mustakah Ahmed wants equal marriage rights. (PinkNews)

‘It will give me the opportunity to build my own family’ 

Protestor Md Mustakah Ahmed, who is gay, told PinkNews he attended the protest because the C of E’s view on same-sex marriage is “homophobic” and “not acceptable”. 

The 24-year-old, who hails from Bangladesh and is a Christian, explained that he was abandoned by his family because he is homosexual. 

“I don’t have any family but I want equal marriage as it will give me the opportunity to build my own family. It’s very important to me.”

He added that he showed up to protest on behalf of his community and people back in Bangladesh where LGBTQ+ rights are severely suppressed and same-sex activity can be punished by up to life in prison. 

Same-sex marriage protest
Protestors gather at the Church of England’s General Synod. (PinkNews)

The recently proposed changes would see each member of the clergy able to decide if they wish to conduct blessings to same-sex couples, or not. 

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