LONDON (Christian Examiner) – A British priest who is married to his homosexual partner is now a member of the Church of England's General Synod – the church's governing body and the group that supposedly sets theology for the churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
According to The Guardian, Vicar Andrew Foreshew-Cain, whose "husband" is also an atheist, has said he will use his new position to "advocate for a church that faces up to the issues of sexuality in a honest and compassionate way."
He joins as many as three other openly homosexual priests serving on the General Synod, but he is reportedly the only one married to his partner openly. Others are apparently married, but have not disclosed their same-sex marriages to the church.
News of the appointment was greeted with consternation among religious conservatives who have resisted calls to alter the theology of the church on marriage and human sexuality. The church enacted a rite of prayer for same-sex marriage in 2012, but has stopped short of calling it a blessing of a marriage. It also forbade gay priests from marrying.
In the statement, Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and a member of the General Synod from 2010-2015, said Cain's election to the synod should force the church address the issue.
"Last year, Andrew Cain ignored biblical teaching and the clear instruction of the House of Bishops and entered into a same-sex 'marriage,'" Williams said.
"Andrew Cain's ongoing activism should no longer be tolerated. His actions are designed to undermine the Church and her teaching on marriage. His election to the General Synod cannot be allowed to stand and he should be swiftly removed from church leadership."
Cain, however, said his election points to a "more inclusive and tolerant church," and said he – a progressive – would not have been elected if church leaders "didn't want to see the change we represent."
When Cain married his partner last June, he was "informally rebuked" by his diocese, but the church took no further action against him.
While the Church of England appears to be wavering in its stance as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, attempts to keep Anglicans from splitting, others in the Anglican communion and emphatically saying "no" to same-sex marriage.
On Oct. 12, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies told the Sydney diocese that Anglicans should join that country's debate on same-sex marriage even if they face ridicule for doing so, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"The antagonism of the world to the word of God is perhaps seen nowhere more acutely than in the virulent challenge to the definition of marriage which pervades conversations in the media, the workplace and even in our places of leisure," the archbishop said at the church's annual synod in Sydney.
"The bombardment, both subtle and not so subtle, is relentless," Davies said.
African churches within the Anglican Communion have also refused to change their churches' stance on same-sex marriage.