The Church of England remains ‘deeply divided’ on same sex marriage

Anglican priest Charlie Bell and his partner Piotr Baczyk feel 'at best they will still treat us as second class citizens'

As a gay Anglican priest, Charlie Bell says he feels as though he’s being treated as a ‘second class citizen’ in the Church of England.

Last week the 33-year-old got engaged to his partner Piotr Baczyk, 27, but the couple who live in south east London have no idea when they’ll be able to get married; they’re ‘stuck in limbo’ waiting for the day when the church will allow same sex weddings.

Charlie added: "We don't know how much longer we will have to wait - for the Church of England to be held to ransom by a very small group of incredibly vocal and politically powerful people who are determined to stop us and many other couples from getting married in church.

"Having your relationship debated and aired when you aren't even in the room has been pretty difficult.

"If I was entering into a civil marriage now I would lose my license, I wouldn't be able to take on another job in the Church of England. It is essentially the same as being sacked."

Same sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales for nearly a decade. However, when the law changed the Church didn’t change its teaching.

It’s a subject that’s caused deep and bitter divisions within the Church of England that has both a progressive and a traditional wing.

Protests over equal marriage rights at the Synod. Credit: ITV News

After a five-year consultation known as the Living in Love and Faith Project discussing the Church’s position on sexuality, its bishops announced last month something of a compromise.

While the ban on gay marriage would remain, they were prepared to bless civil unions. Under the proposed changes, clergy themselves would be able to decide whether or not to conduct such blessings.

Today the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, will meet to vote on those proposals. There is likely to be impassioned debate on both sides.

Those who have long campaigned for the equal treatment of gay couples in the church fear their voices are still not being heard and change is far too slow.

'That embedded discrimination is something that we really need to tackle, which is why I'm trying to push for equal marriage,' says Synod member Jayne Ozanne

Jayne Ozanne, a Synod member and LGBTQ+ equality campaigner, described these changes as a small concession that doesn’t go nearly far enough; she is calling for an end to discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

On the other side of the debate, conservatives and evangelicals are opposed to any change of position, arguing it would be going against what is written in the bible and have previously said that ‘marriage is given by God for the union of a man and woman and cannot be extended to those who are of the same sex.’

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) want the current position of the Church to remain. Ed Shaw, the Co-Chair of CEEC, spoke to ITV News.

Bishop Jill Duff told those gathered it would be a "seismic shift in Christian teaching".

She said: "It would distance LGBTQI+ Christians living faithful celibate lives.

It would distance mainstream Christian denominations, never mind the freedom of conscience for other faiths. It would be distancing the majority of the Anglican community who seem to be rather silent in our discernment."Uniting the Church when there are such polarised views on this subject is an ongoing challenge. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said he is supportive of changes to allow same sex blessings, but will not personally conduct any.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s vote, it will not settle bitter divisions and is unlikely to end the argument.

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