Protesters call for gay marriage rights as Church of England Synod meets

Protesters have called on the Church of England to stop discriminating against gay people, calling the offer of prayers of blessing for same-sex couples “an insult” and “not sufficient”.

Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said a coalition of Anglicans, other Christians and non-religious LGBT+ human rights defenders is taking a stand on the issue.

Demonstrators gathered on Wednesday as the Church of England’s General Synod – sometimes known as the church’s parliament – met to consider proposals to bless same-sex married couples.

While the blessings have been welcomed by some as progress on what is a divisive issue, others have said they do not go far enough.

The position on gay marriage will not change and same-sex couples will still be unable to marry in church.

Speaking last month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he “joyfully” welcomed the blessings proposals but added that he will not personally carry them out due to his “pastoral responsibility for the whole communion”.

It will be voluntary for clergy to decide whether they want to perform blessings.

The Church of England last month also issued a formal apology for its historic rejection and exclusion of LGBTQI+ people.

In his opening address to the the General Synod this week, Mr Welby admitted that too many LGBT people have heard “the words of rejection” from the Church of England.

On Wednesday, Mr Tatchell described blessings without allowing marriage as “an insult”.

He said: “This is a human rights issue. Even though some of us are not Anglican, we are outraged by Church discrimination against LGBT+ people.

“We support same-sex couples who wish to marry in their parish churches. This is a right extended to every heterosexual man and woman in England, regardless of their religion – but not to LGBTs. That’s discrimination, and discrimination is not a Christian value.”

Protest co-organiser and lay minister Adam Chinery-North, from Birmingham, said: “We are here today as Anglicans, Christians and humanists – a whole range of LGBTQI+ people of different beliefs – telling the bishops and Synod that enough is enough.

“We have listened to them talk about us, talk at us and marginalise us for long enough. LGBTs have been subjected to dangerous conservative teaching and practice. We’ve been alienated, discriminated and abused for far too long.

“The bishops’ apology has been too long coming and it is, frankly, not good enough.

“The prayers they are offering are not sufficient.

“We are saying no to discrimination. We are saying no to being talked about as a problem to be solved.

“Now is the time for same-sex marriage in the Church of England.”