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Church of England's Synod throws out report on same-sex marriage

The Church of England's ruling body has thrown out a controversial report on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The report by the House of Bishops, which was presented to the General Synod on Wednesday, had called for the Church to adopt a "fresh tone and culture of welcome and support" for gay people - but not to change its opposition to unions between same-sex couples.

More than 400 Church leaders gathered for a "take note" debate on the issue at Church Hall in Westminster, where they voted to symbolically reject the recommendations.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had urged the Synod to approve the report, describing it as a "good basis, a road map" for moving forward.

The report had to gain a majority in the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity to be approved.

A total of 242 votes were cast in favour across the three houses, 184 against, along with six abstentions.

But some 100 members of the House of Clergy voted against - compared with 93 who voted in favour and two who abstained.

The vote is not a formal rejection of the proposals but the views aired will be used to inform future work by the House of Bishops.

The report recommended the Church of England should continue to consider marriage as "a union, permanent and lifelong, of one man with one woman".

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, said there had been "very little appetite" for changing the doctrine, as he introduced the debate.

He said: "We face a real challenge here since our failure to amend our doctrine of marriage to include same-sex partners can be heard as discriminatory and perceived as undermining our attempt to proclaim the core message of Jesus, that we should love our neighbours as ourselves."

He added that there is "no simple and easy answer" to this issue and said views held were "profoundly contested".

The House of Bishops' report had also urged the promotion of "maximum freedom" within current laws and doctrines, without changing them.

It suggested guidelines could be drawn up to encourage clergy to hold prayers with and guide same-sex couples, but not bless such marriages.

Justin Welby said the Church needed a "radical new Christian inclusion".

He said: "The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be.

"As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon."

The debate, considered the focal point of this week's Synod, prompted impassioned speeches from members.

Lucy Gorman, an activist and representative from York, said as a member of the church in her twenties, she was part of a "dying breed".

She said: "Most people have a friend or family member who sits somewhere on the gender sexuality spectrum - and why would they become part of an organisation which is seemingly homophobic, even if we don't intend it."

Jay Greene, from Winchester, who is in a civil partnership, said congregation members want the Church to go "further, faster, forward".

But the report was also criticised by Evangelicals for going too far.

Speaking after the result, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent said: "In this debate, we haven't even begun to find a place where we can coalesce.

"The bishops' report acknowledges a place of starting. More conversation is needed. We don't yet know the next stage - nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to Synod."

Equalities campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "This vote to, in effect, reject the bishops' report is a victory for love and equality.

"It is the biggest defeat for the Anglican leadership in many decades."

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