A senior Church of England bishop has expressed regret at comments by the Archbishop of Sydney that supporters of marriage equality should leave the Anglican church.
Reflecting sharp divisions within the global Anglican communion over LGBT+ issues, the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, said: “I regret that the archbishop [of Sydney] seems to want to exclude people rather than to engage with them within the wider Anglican family.”
Archbishop Glenn Davies said last week that those who supported same-sex marriage should abandon the church.
“If people wish to change the doctrine of our church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican church by abandoning the plain teaching of scripture,” he said. “Please leave us.”
Davies’ remarks drew rebukes from other representatives of the church around Australia last week, with many interpreting his comments as being directed at everyone in the church – though he later said they were aimed at bishops rather than parishioners. Now other representatives from the UK have joined in.
A spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is the leader of the global Anglican communion, declined to comment on Davies’ remarks.
The Anglican communion, which comprises some 80 million members of autonomous but connected churches in 38 provinces, has been riven over the issue of LGBT equality and same-sex marriage for decades.
Two years ago the Scottish Episcopal church was effectively sanctioned by global church leaders for its acceptance of same sex marriage. The US church faced similar punitive action in 2016 for its stance welcoming marriage equality.
At the time, Anglican primates issued a statement in support of the “traditional doctrine” that marriage should be between a man and a woman, while acknowledging the “deep pain” of the divisions within the communion. Differences are becoming more marked, and some believe a split in the global church cannot be avoided.
The issue is expected to dominate next summer’s Lambeth conference 2020 – a once-in-a-decade gathering of more than 1,200 Anglican bishops from around the world in Canterbury, England.
Bishops belonging to Gafcon, an alliance of conservatives deeply opposed to LGBT+ equality, have announced plans for an alternative gathering in Rwanda.
The Bishop of Liverpool told the Guardian: “I still hope that bishops from Sydney will attend the Lambeth conference next year so that we can all talk together and learn from one another there.
“Meanwhile, I’m glad that other parts of the Australian church are engaging in dialogue with Sydney and are advocating for a greater inclusion and a wider and more diverse church. It’s good to be in the same communion with all these people.”
Other Church of England bishops declined to comment on Davies’ comments, saying they did not represent mainstream views within the church.
For example, in Oxford, a new chaplaincy dedicated to LGBTI+ people and those close to them is due to begin work shortly, a year after the diocese’s four bishops issued an open letter, “Clothed with Love”. It said all people were welcome in God’s church, and called for inclusion and respect.
Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for equality within the Church of England and a member of the UK government’s LGBT advisory panel, said she was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Davies’ comments.
“Christ welcomed all – and we are all called to do the same. To do otherwise is to preach a false Gospel, one that is based on prejudice and fear. The Anglican Communion has committed itself to walking together despite our differences – Dr Davies would do well to try walking in a young LGBT person’s shoes, and recognise the blatant homophobia inherent in his remarks.”
Davies’ statement came after the synod of the diocese of Wangaratta in Victoria agreed to allow blessings of same-sex marriages in September. The decision is being challenged at the church’s appellate tribunal.
Next year the Anglican Church’s general synod will hold a conference alongside its special session where delegates can discuss issues facing the church, including same-sex relationships and marriage, and discuss ways forward.
In an opinion piece for Nine’s newspapers on Friday evening, Davies sought to clarify his comments, stating his words were directed at bishops of the church, and those who wish to change the doctrine.
“I stand by those words,” he said. “The words were not directed at members of our congregations, especially those who identify as gay, whether single or married.
“It is regrettable that some have misrepresented my words, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”
A report said Davies had received a standing ovation for his comments at the 51st synod of the diocese of Sydney.