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  1. ITV Report

Church of England accused of ignoring 'authentic' voice of LGBT people

The Church's General Synod is meeting on Wednesday. Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA

Fourteen former church leaders have criticised proposed changes to the Church of England's guidance on homosexuality for failing to recognise gay people's "authentic voices".

In an open letter, the retired bishops questioned a report published last month which recommended a "fresh tone and culture of welcome and support" for gay and lesbian people but no change in its opposition to same-sex marriage.

The group broke with convention to intervene, in what they described as an "unprecedented move", ahead of a debate at the Church's General Synod on Wednesday.

Led by the former bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, they said the church should have asked its gay community about "the major focus of their hopes".

Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes.

While they said a change in doctrine was not "realistic", the report's focus upon it meant the church would be on the defensive.

– Open letter from 14 retired bishops

The letter continues: "The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction.

"Indeed, from the perhaps luxurious perspective of retirement the tone and culture of your document are incredibly familiar - we've been there and talked in that tone of voice, and it prevents calls for a change of culture, of course offered in complete sincerity by you, from ringing true."

Other signatories to the letter include the Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth, formerly Bishop of Oxford, and the Rt Rev Roy Williamson, formerly bishop of Bradford and of Southwark.