Pastoral letter from the Bishop following the debate in General Synod on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships

Dear Friends,

Much has been written and said in response to last week’s General Synod debate on the Bishops’ paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships. I would like to commend to you the letter issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York describing the way forward (attached).

In writing I wanted first to thank you for your prayers for Synod on such an important and sensitive matter that touches the lives of many at a deeply personal level. We live at a time when the wider national and global political discourse is becoming increasingly polarised. As Christians, we seek to offer a different and more hopeful vision for society and the future of our world. For this reason, I pray that we can deal with our disagreements in a manner that reflects the goodness of God and the dignity of every person made in his image. I am thankful that much of the debate in Synod was able to do this.

While the Bishops’ paper was criticised by some for its tone, I believe it set out a way for us to continue nurturing a more inclusive vision for the mission of the church within the present teaching on marriage, with a substantial new teaching document. As Bishops we have heard the concerns and criticism expressed by those on all sides of the debate. That the ‘take note’ motion was defeated, albeit by a narrow margin in the House of Clergy, makes clear the extent of disagreement. It sets out the challenge before us as we seek to nurture our unity in witnessing to the Good News of Christ Jesus for all the people of our nation.

Over the coming weeks there will be further opportunities for us to think and pray together. I will continue to listen carefully to the different views of all our clergy and laity across the diocese. This will include meeting with our diocesan members on General Synod. I underline what the Archbishops have said in their letter: ‘In these discussions no person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people called to redeemed humanity in Christ.’

As your bishops, Tony and I are grateful for your prayers and thank you for your continued partnership in the gospel.

With every blessing

Bishop Paul