Did such opposition arise out of a sustained and sincere engagement with the LGBT community, including a serious and open consideration of the theological issues involved? The 1998 Lambeth Conference (of Bishops) committed the Church worldwide to a listening process on matters of human sexuality and gender, but the fruits of such engagement at an official level are, as yet, barely visible.
Jesus worked frequently on the margins of what was considered to be respectability, affirming the breadth of humanity and revealing the image of God in the least expected people. We've inherited both an example and a duty, such that those perceived as outsiders - "them" - may become fully one in Christ with the Christian community - "us". Part of that inclusion is to share and address the issues that hinder inclusion, including the condescending attitude that "we" know best. It may be that we don't - at least, not always. Could this Commons vote be an occasion when God is speaking, not through the Church, but through wider society? Is the Kingdom of God coming a little closer as the rising generation seeks authenticity and justice in such matters?
And what do we mean by marriage? The Book of Common Prayer - a normative expression of doctrine for Anglicans - gives three reasons for marriage. The first, procreation, is not required in order for a marriage to be valid; we accept as fully married those who cannot have children, through age or for other reasons including their personal choice. The second and third reasons - the appropriate expression of sexual desire and 'mutual society, help and comfort' - are valuable aspects, good both for individuals and for society. Should they really be denied to gay couples? Should we not rather celebrate the desire for faithful, stable, life-long relationships - and affirm God's blessing upon them?
I do recognise why this is a contentious issue in the Church. Once I would have toed the party line, but my views have changed over the past quarter-century in the light of pastoral experience, study, and the sustained development of a life of prayer. Wider society has moved on too. Most of us know that human nature is complex, that sexuality is an important component of identity, and that the yearning for appropriate intimacy and companionship is itself God-given. And yes, I'm aware that there are sensitivities in relation to those of other more conservative faiths and cultures, here and abroad. But should such sensitivities preclude the full inclusion into both society and the Church of a significant sector of the population?
The Church has demonstrated in this and other matters of sexuality and gender how spectacularly out of touch it is with society (and with what I and others believe to be the guidance of the Spirit). We've all but lost our prophetic edge as we seek at any cost to maintain the status quo. Little wonder that so many write us off as irrelevant. And that's tragic when we have so much to share that really is good news.