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Church of England apologises for tone of gay marriage report

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Leading bishops have apologised to members of the Church of England who may be alienated by a report on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The report by the House of Bishops, which the General Synod is debating, calls for a “fresh tone”.

But it maintains that marriage in church should only be between a man and a woman, and services should not be held to bless same-sex relationships.

The Bishop of Norwich said the Church “owes much” to gay members and clergy.

‘Difficult’ report

Graham James, of the diocese of Norwich, said: “Like others which have gone before it, [the report] has not received a rapturous reception in all quarters, and I regret any pain or anger it may have caused.”

In a speech to the Church’s national assembly, the Bishop of Willesden, the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent, said he did not want to “attempt an exercise in self-justification”.

He told members: “I don’t want to make excuses for the House of Bishops’ document.

“I do want to apologise to those members of Synod who found our report difficult, who didn’t recognise themselves in it, who had expected more from us than we actually delivered, for the tone of the report.

“On behalf of the House, and without being trite or trivial, I’m sorry.”

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Before the debate, protesters gathered outside the Church of England headquarters and champions of LGBT rights sang hymns.

The group, organised by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude now known collectively as One Body One Faith, with the support of Out and Proud African LGBTI and rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, called for the rejection of the bishops’ report.

Mr Tatchell said the report proposed a “massive scale of church-sanctioned discrimination”.

He added: “It denies the right of same-sex couples to be blessed in church, even though it will bless cats and dogs, and it gives a very clear message that clergy who are in same-sex marriages which are lawful will be denied promotion.”

Members of the Synod are holding a “take note” debate of the report on Wednesday evening, but the proposals will not be formally rejected or approved.

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The Reverend Bertrand Olivier, who’s gay, told the BBC the Church needed to reflect modern society.

He said: “The proposals on the table are indeed gong to take us back 20 years. I’ve been a priest in the Church of England for 21 years.

“I was ordained as an openly gay candidate then and it’s been going backwards ever since at the same time as the nation has moved on and we now have legal same-sex marriage.”

But the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent said campaigners may be asking too much.

He said: “Our role is to hold the Church together and say we can only go as far as the whole church can agree. Campaigners are actually wanting us to go further, more hurriedly, than we necessarily can.

“We need to do more work on what we can agree around and not just say because we’ve had the shared conversations, we can give campaigners exactly what they want.”

Gambling legislation

The Synod has unanimously passed a motion urging the government to bring forward proposals to reduce the amount gamblers can stake on on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.

In a speech to the church’s national assembly, London Diocese lay member Clive Scowen said the “machines feed off poverty and exacerbate it, often plunging people into unmanageable debt”.

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said the debate concerned a “very focused form of betting which has caused huge suffering”.

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