Last Thursday evening, Archbishops Welby and Sentamu issued an apology of sorts for the timing of the recent statement on sex outside heterosexual marriage. That statement, however, was not withdrawn. The timing has drawn criticism because it came during a review of the C of E’s position on sexuality – a review forced upon Welby by General Synod against a similar statement.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu said they took responsibility for the announcement.
“We as archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust.
“We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”
However, the statement did not retract the “pastoral guidance” issued by the bishops, which came in response to the extension of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples in the UK.
The guidance said “sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings”, and that people, gay or straight, who are in civil partnerships should be abstinent.
In an open letter to the archbishops, supporters of LGBT equality in the church described the guidance as “a laughingstock to a nation that believes it (the church) is obsessed with sex.”
“Whilst we are grateful for the archbishops’ apology and the recognition that their statement has jeopardised our trust, the fact is more than words are now needed.”
Over 3500 people signed the open letter, including a range of senior church leaders.
“This shows the strength of concern that exists across the Church of England that its mission is being significantly damaged and that their promise of a ‘radical new Christian inclusion’ must now be delivered,” the letter said.
The letter also raised concerns over the Church’s’ ‘Living in Love and Faith project’, which seeks to address questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage in relation to Church doctrine.
In their apology, the Archbishops said they were committed to the project.
“This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England,” the statement said.
The Church Times reports:
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have apologised for the release of last week’s pastoral statement on civil partnerships, acknowledging that it “jeopardised trust”. The statement will not be withdrawn, however, after the College of Bishops voted against a proposal to do so. Issued on Thursday evening, at the end of a two-day meeting of the College, the Archbishops’ statement recognised “the division and hurt” the statement had caused.
The Archbishops’ statement says that they, “alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”
The statement sets out their commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project, a process “intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.”
In a letter to his diocese, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, also released on Thursday evening, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, says that he and a number of colleagues asked that the statement be withdrawn, “but this was decided against by the majority”.