The Church of England declared sex is only for married, heterosexual couples. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)
The Church of England has apologised for the “hurt and division” caused by a statement released last week that claimed sex is just for married, heterosexual couples.
The archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, said the statement “jeopardised trust,” but they fell short of retracting the guidance.
Last week’s statement from the House of Bishops insisted that sex should only take place within heterosexual marriage and said those in straight or same-sex civil partnerships should have “sexually abstinent friendships.” It also said that sex outside of marriage falls “short of God’s purposes for human beings.”
The archbishops took responsibility for the widely criticised pastoral guidance, The Guardian reports.
Church of England apologises for hurt caused by widely-criticised guidance.
“We as archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust,” the statement said.
“We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”
The bishops reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project, which is expected to guide future teachings on LGBT+ relationships and is due to be completed later this year.
“At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage.
We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.
“This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.”
Jayne Ozanne, who campaigns for the inclusion of LGBT+ people in the church, said people need “more than words.”
“We await the evidence that they have truly heard and taken onboard our concerns by what comes out of the Living in Love and Faith report,” she added.
The church has faced backlash over the guidance.
The Church of England has faced significant backlash from people within and outside of the organisation since releasing the pastoral guidance last week.
Earlier this week, an open letter was signed by 3,000 people, including 800 clergy, claiming that the guidance had made the church a “laughing stock.”
“The Church of England has this week become a laughing stock to a nation that believes it is obsessed with sex,” the letter said.
“More importantly this statement has significantly damaged the mission of the church and it has broken the trust of those it seeks to serve.
In 2017, another report by the House of Bishops, titled ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships‘, reaffirming their opposition to same-sex marriage was rejected by the Church of England’s General Synod.
The letter added: “Since the public defeat of your ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships’ report to General Synod in 2017, we have waited for you to deliver on your promise of ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’.
“We have been patient believing that nothing further would be said regarding sexuality and relationships until after the publication of the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ report.
“It seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.”
Church teaching on sexual ethics ‘remains unchanged,’ guidance said.
In the guidance released last week, the House of Bishops said that the church “should not collude with the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity.”
The document concluded: “The Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged. For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.
“In its approach to civil partnerships, the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.”