Carey backs marriage and condemns living in sin

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Religious Affairs Correspondent

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, yesterday denounced the Church of England's report on family life which had suggested that the church should drop the phrase "living in sin".

The synod "took note" of the report, Something to Celebrate, but in the form of a motion which unequivocally reaffirmed the Church's belief in heterosexual marriage, and commended to all Christian families prayer and grace before meals.

With the evangelical party demonstrating its dominance of the new synod, Dr Carey said: "A married man and woman and their children should be the basic building block for family life. Cohabitation is not and cannot be marriage in all but name. Marriage, not cohabitation, is the institution which is at the heart of a good society and let us not be reluctant to say so."

The report, published in June by a sub-committee of the Synod's Board for Social Responsibility, said the phrase "living in sin" should no longer be used. The authors were warned that this phrase would cause trouble, but left it in because they were concerned that some evangelical clergymen were refusing to marry couples living together.

Dr Carey's attack, greeted with prolonged applause, was prefaced by routine praise for the work of the committee. Few other speakers bothered with that. Elaine Storkey, whose husband Alan resigned from the committee that produced the report, asked: "Where is the theology of the report? It has a desperately awful starting point. The report implies that everything is to be held together in a post-modern synthesis which ultimately denies the meaning of contradiction."

Earlier, the chairman of the Board for Social Responsibility, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, had claimed that it would be unfair to publish Alan Storkey's dissenting report because this would imply that the rest of the committee from which he had resigned disagreed with him, which they did not.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Jim Thompson, chairman of the sub-committee which produced the report, said in its defence: "I am sorry for the anger and the distress it has caused, but we have to face the issues raised, as individuals, as families, as a church."