Archbishop of York urges synod as sexuality talks begin: 'Help anyone who has been hurt'

The Church of England's ruling body was urged to "help anyone who has been hurt" as it entered fraught talks over same-sex relationships today.

Controlled "conversations" will be held from Sunday lunchtime until Tuesday in an effort to reconcile deeply opposed factions within the Church's synod. Before the talks began behind closed doors at York University, around 460 members attended a communion service in York Minister.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu challenged synod members not to 'walk by on the other side'Reuters

The divisions within the Church are bitter and entrenched, with a small group of conservatives refusing to attend the talks because they feel to do so would be to accept some form of compromise was possible.

Even among those who will participate, both liberals and conservatives have said they are nervous and will enter with trepidation. Many are particularly sensitive to any indication of the direction of travel from senior leaders.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised for the "hurt and pain" inflicted on the LGBT community by the Church. One possibility for the Church is some form of "accommodation" for gay relationships while maintaining its teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, in an effort to "journey together".

In the service before the talks, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, preached on the Parable of the Good Samaritan and said "anyone who is hurt is our neighbour". He said that by attending to the needs of the hurting, Christians attend to Christ's needs. "He is both the neighbour and the wounded on the roadside," he said.

"Christ is at the centre and anyone who is hurting is included."

To repeated refrains of "he is still lying there, she is still lying there" in reference to people who are hurt, Sentamu reminded synod members that "love must be practical and not merely consist of sentiment" and consists of a "long-term commitment" to the wounded.

In a possible reference to the deep fissures within the Church he added: "Merciful neighbours need not be friends".

A handful of staunch conservatives will not attend the Church's talks. In his sermon on Sunday morning Sentamu challenged synod members: "Will you pass by on the other side or will you get involved in all the messy dirt of travelling?"

The Samaritan in the parable is described as the "one who showed mercy" and Sentamu finished his sermon by quoting Luke 10.37: "Go and do likewise," he told synod members as they departed for the talks.

"Let this be our resolve over the next three days; don't go to people you normally associate with. Open your hearts to the mercy of God. You, you and you go and do likewise."