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Church of England sticking by LGBT sex guidance

Two women getting married Image copyright Getty Images

The Church of England will not be withdrawing guidance that said sex is only for “heterosexual married couples”.

But the archbishops of Canterbury and York are “very sorry and recognise the division and hurt” last week’s statement caused.

Justin Welby and John Sentamu say the statement “jeopardised trust”.

It came ahead of a study by the Church into human sexuality, due to be published later this year.

Jade Irwin, an LGBT Christian, felt “really disheartened and deflated” when the guidance was issued by the Church of England last week.

It said sex in gay or straight civil partnerships “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings”. The statement came after the law changed to allow straight couples to have a civil ceremony.

It added that Christians can only have sex if they’re married, which it called the “life-long union between a man and a woman”.

Jade, who’s from LGBT charity Diverse Church, says the apology is a “positive step” – but admits she’d hoped for more.

“I want to know what this means for us – otherwise the apology could just be empty words.”

The Church has been divided over how to deal with LGBT issues for decades and is in the middle of a large study of human sexuality, Living in Love and Faith, which is due to be published later this year.

Image copyright Jade Irwin
Image caption Jade from Diverse Church hoped the message would be different

When Jade heard about the guidance last week, she was worried it could lead some LGBT Christians to lie in order to be accepted.

“That can create all sorts of guilt, shame and mental health problems, as we know all too well.”

The guidance would mean that heterosexual couples who haven’t taken any vows and are having sex are also going against the Church.

The Church of England doesn’t permit same-sex marriage but it allows clergy to be in same-sex civil partnerships – if they are sexually abstinent.

Some people have criticised the guidance for being out of touch, but others have defended it saying the guidance isn’t new or surprising.

Image copyright Sophie Mitchell
Image caption Sophie Mitchell, who’s 22, works in the University of Bristol multi-faith chaplaincy and is also on the General Synod

‘They assume I’m following the ‘correct’ way’

“Nobody questions me because I’m straight,” says Sophie, who’s on the General Synod – a group which meets regularly to discuss the running of the Church of England.

“People that are gay get questioned all the time – ‘If you’re gay then you must be sinning’ – but people don’t generally ask me that because they assume that I’m following the ‘correct’ way.”

She was upset by the Church’s initial statement but is keen to point out that the Church of England didn’t say anything new.

“It still sits that marriage should be between a man and a woman and the only thing that’s new is that this is about civil partnerships,” she says.

Sophie believes the statement is “too blunt” and neglects the work that’s really going on towards liberating homosexuality in the Church.

“I’m not under any threat in the Church whereas people that are in same-sex relationships are being really alienated here.”

Ultimately though, Sophie says the rules are often different to what’s happening in churches all over the UK.

“There’s the doctrine, which is what is said we should be doing, but no-one is going round strictly enforcing that doctrine in day-to-day life,” she explains.

“It’s not like if I came out and said I was having sex with someone I’d be banished from the church.”

‘The church needs to be fairer to LGBT couples’

Jem is 27 and married to a woman. She’s been to church all of her life – but says ultimately it’s her faith in God that’s important, and not the institution.

“The church is sticking with the same line. And that isn’t necessarily the healthiest advice we’re putting out there.

“It just sucks a bit because I believe that I married and that sex is part of marriage. I think the Church needs to find a way to be able to be fairer to LGBT couples – the opposite can push LGBT people into some really unsafe practices.”

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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