The Church of England’s two most senior figures have said there needs to be a “radical new Christian inclusion” within their faith following a vote to throw out a controversial same-sex marriage report.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, have set out the “way forward” after the House of Bishops’ document was rejected by the General Synod on Wednesday.
In a letter to Synod members Mr Welby and Dr Sentamu said the challenge facing the church was how they deal with the “real and profound disagreement - put so passionately and so clearly by many at the debate.
“To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church,” they wrote.
“This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.”
Looking forward they said they are asking every diocesan bishop to meet with their General Synod members for an “extended conversation” to clearly establish the desire of members.
The two Archbishops will also be establishing a pastoral oversight group, led by Christine Hardman, the Bishop of Newcastle, which will support and offer advice on the Church’s approach to human sexuality.
The Church will also be formulating proposals for a “large scale teaching document” around the issue of human sexuality - ensuring a “wide ranging and fully inclusive approach, both in subject matter and in those who work on it”.
A general debate on the issues of marriage and human sexuality will also be suggested, as they “wish to give the General Synod an opportunity to consider the things we do affirm”.
Presented to the General Synod, the rejected report called for the Church to adopt a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for gay people - but not to change its opposition to same-sex marriage.
Under its recommendations, marriage would continue as “a union, permanent and lifelong, of one man with one woman”.
It also urged the promotion of “maximum freedom” for gay couples within current laws and doctrines, without changing them.
The recommendations were the subject of a “take note” debate as more than 400 Church leaders gathered for the third day of the Synod at Church Hall in Westminster.
At the vote on Wednesday, there were 242 votes in favour of “taking note” of the report, 184 against - including one bishop - and six abstentions.
But for the report to be symbolically approved, it had to gain a majority in the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity separately. The House of Clergy voted against it by 100 votes to 93, with two abstentions.
Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth was later forced to apologise after accidentally pressing the wrong button during the vote.
In a statement he put the blunder down to a “moment of distraction and some confusion” when casting his ballot on the electronic device.
Dr Cocksworth said that, much to his embarrassment, he managed to “give the impression that there was not complete agreement in the House of Bishops”, who voted 43 to one in favour of the report.