In a move which illustrates how the Anglican Church in Britain is struggling to keep up with changing social attitudes, the General Synod has voted to reject a report by the House of Bishops which called for continued opposition to and stigmatisation of same sex marriage.
While fully 73% of British non-believers see nothing wrong with same-sex marriage, only 50% of practising Anglicans share that view. However, this is a huge softening in attitudes as reflected in the same NatCen British Social Attitudes Survey which showed only 17% of Anglicans now believe same-sex marriage is always wrong compared to 53% in 1983.
The rejection of the report shows how out of touch, not only with the public's changing attitudes to homosexuality, but even those of the Anglican laity the church's leadership has become. Current church policy is that homosexuals and transgender people can be ordained but they must remain celibate and cannot get married. The House of Bishops' report had recommended this policy be continued - a policy which almost seems designed to encourage the clergy to hide their sexuality.
The House of Bishops is, of course, trying to ride two horses pulling in opposite directions here. On the one hand, they need to try to accommodate those enlightened, progressive Anglicans whilst not provoking the regressive, die-hard homophobic Anglicans into splitting the Anglican community in two as it very nearly did over the ordination of women. The church leadership is now faced with continuing with a policy which has been rejected by the General Synod in Britain.
Meanwhile, whilst the Church of England, which now barely reaches double-figure percentage points in its popular support, bickers, squabbles and dithers over which passages of the Bible should be obeyed and which can be ignored, the vast majority of Brits simply shrug their shoulders and embrace people of all sexual orientation as having full equal rights. For the vast majority of Brits the question isn't whether LGBT people should be 'given' the same rights as heterosexuals, but who on earth decided these rights were theirs to be dispensed to others under license in the first place?
What has been massively rejected, and what the more enlightened Anglicans seem to be coming to reject too, is the Anglican Church's ownership of our morality and custodianship of our rights. Our rights are not their's to be dispensed in the first place. It's time we took away their right to try to dictate to us. If the Anglican Church cannot bring itself to conduct same-sex marriage maybe it's time we reviewed its right to conduct marriages at all. It does not deserve and should not have the right to deny full human rights to others.
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