/Church of England sorry for LGBT sex guidance

Church of England sorry for LGBT sex guidance

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The Church of England has apologised for saying marriage is only for “heterosexual married couples”.

“We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused,” the archbishops of Canterbury and York said.

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

But she says the apology is a “positive step”.

“I’m pleased that they’ve reflected and issued this statement,” Jade, who’s from LGBT charity Diverse Church, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The Church of England guidance said sex in gay or straight civil partnerships “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings”.

It came out 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”.

Now the archbishops say the statement “jeopardised trust”.

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.

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Jade Irwin

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Jade from Diverse Church hoped the message would be different

Jade is happy with the apology but wants to know what it means for LGBT Christians going forward.

“Is the Church of England going to amend the guidance now they’ve said sorry? I want to know what this means for us – otherwise it could just be empty words.”

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.

Radio 1 Newsbeat has contacted the Church of England to ask whether the guidance will be updated following the archbishops’ apology.

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Sophie Mitchell

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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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