Thinking Anglicans

Analyses of the recent General Synod votes

From Fulcrum there is this commentary by Andrew Goddard: Synods, Sexuality and Symbolic and Seismic Shifts which is accompanied by a detailed discussion paper Understanding Synod’s July 2017 Sexuality Debates and Votes.

…What are we to make of it?

Since Synod it has been fascinating to hear and read such diametrically opposed accounts of the two debates. While these largely reflect whether those writing supported or opposed the outcomes on the sexuality debates, they also point to much more serious questions and divergent assessments about the nature and quality of the debates. Tim Hind welcomed a new ethos and reported that “most whom I have spoken to during and after the synod were of the opinion that this was one of the best synods they have been to” and David Walker, Bishop of Manchester who chaired the Conversion Therapy debate reported “a new and distinctly more welcoming tone” and “building bridges across difference, because that is precisely how God himself chooses to deal with us”. In contrast, Ian Paul has raised major concerns and questions asking if Synod is competent, Rob Munro described it as a ‘watershed’, and Susie Leafe offered a damning account of the proceedings across the Synod as a whole.

What follows explores three areas, drawing further comparison with the Higton debate of three decades ago…

Do read the whole article (and indeed the separate paper).

From Ekklesia Savi Hensman has published this: Church of England shift towards accepting LGBTI people.

Though the Church of England still discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, it recently shifted towards greater acceptance. There has been a backlash from a small but vocal set of members.

The General Synod in July 2017 heard from bishops about plans to look again at pastoral practice and teaching. It also passed motions against conversion therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation, and for welcoming transgender people.

Over the past century, many theologians have made a biblical case for affirming self-giving, committed same-sex partnerships. In recent decades, some have pointed out that gender identity is complex. Acceptance has also grown among churchgoers and the wider public.

The 2016 British Social Attitudes Survey showed that only 16 per cent of British Anglicans still believe that physically intimate same-sex relationships are always wrong. ( Scottish Episcopal Church clergy who want to celebrate marriages for same-sex partners will soon be allowed to do so. (

The Church of England still does not allow even ‘blessings’, though ministers can pray with couples. But, despite pressure and threats of a split, it has taken a significant step in recognising that LGBTI people are loved by God and should be welcomed as church members…


  • Will Richards says:

    Ian Paul wonders if Synod is competent. For what? It was obviously sufficiently competent to authorise the ordination of women as priests and bishops, despite the fact that the majority of the world’s Christians don’t do this. It is competent enough to dispense with traditional liturgical vesture. But obviously not competent enough to do right by minority people who are made in the image and likeness of God. I just don’t get these evangelicals with their tolerance of divorce (about which all three synoptic Gospels are consistent in their condemnation); and their deep revulsion towards LGBT+ people (on which the same Gospels are completely silent). Selective orthodoxy indeed.

  • Helen King says:

    Many thanks to Andrew Goddard for his detailed analysis. I’d be very interested to see the responses to the questions he poses at the end. And I wonder just how far the ease of getting these details of who voted for what is itself influencing the way people vote (e.g. Reluctance of a bishop to vote against a motion from his or her own diocese)?

  • Erika Baker says:

    Basic question before I cast suspicions on people for no good reason – why would you abstain from voting?

  • Graeme Buttery says:

    Erica, as someone who did abstain, I felt in an impossible situation. I still feel under equipped, under informed and very hazy about the “therapy” under debate. How widespread is this, what goes on in the Church and what is the therapy? Also, what about the people who unsure of their nature, seek help and prayer? How do we define it? It is too simplistic in the terms and confines of that debate to say for or against. We did not do the matter of the people concerned, justice. We could have done more and better, and not by a p mm

    Graeme Buttery

  • T Pott says:

    One reason to abstain would be a recognition that one was incompetent to form a valid judgement on the question being put. This incompetence could be intrinsic, or due to lack of time to study the issues, or failure to make use of the time to study them. If a person does not understand the difference between the 2015 and 2017 psychiatrists statements, or cannot see that one is theologically and biblically better than the other, then perhaps that person should abstain rather than vote with his or her party. On some issues a 100% abstention might be better. Some of the incomprehensible ARCIC statements, and the nuances of doctrinal shifts in Common Worship versus the BCP, may fall into this category. Few grasped them, but few wanted to upset the nice people who proposed them.

    Another reason is politicking where an ambitious person wants to appear sympathetic to both sides.

    For almost 50 years General Synod has consumed the energies of the best minds in England, while also providing a forum for many of the worst.

  • Jeremy says:

    “We could have done more and better, and not by a pmm.”

    There I think you may be quite wrong.

    If the bishops could have avoided the June votes, they would have.

  • Simon R says:

    Significantly – again – Andrew Goddard accentuates the lack of theological content, not only in the motions, but in the sparse contributions by the bishops. To whom do we now look for distinctive theological leadership in the Church of England?

    This highlights a backs-against-the-wall culture in the House of Bishops. No-one is sufficiently intellectually equipped to do the ‘hard’ thinking (a la Habgood, Jenkins, Rowell, Williams, Stevenson, Wright etc); and the two archbishops are clearly nervous of too much debate in an area where they are uncomfortable and unable to control. This is where the current obsession with the CEO model of episcopacy comes home to roost.

    That the evangelical constituency is now in something of a panic is self-evident. The presence of two evangelical primates, it seems, cannot deliver the ‘orthodoxy’ that the evangelical constituency expects. In one sense, quite right: episcopally led but synodically governed. Nonetheless, although I do not share their perspective, I think the evangelicals are right to be concerned. To what extent is the House of Bishops, under the clear ‘leadership’ of the archbishops, on the ‘rebound’ after the Take Note failure earlier this year? If the criteria is weighted so heavily on public perception, and rigorous theological discussion is kicked in to the long grass, it does make me nervous about what will emerge in the so-called Teaching Document. In the meantime, we must be grateful that people like Andrew Davidson, Simon Sarmiento and Andrew Goddard are asking the difficult questions that the bishops seem unable to face.

  • Erika Baker says:

    Thank you, Graeme Buttery and T Pott.

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