Church of England Clergy to be Allowed to Bless Same Sex Couples

Clergy in the Church of England will be able to host services of blessing and thanksgiving for couples in same-sex relationships, but not marry them. Under new plans, approved by the church’s legislative body, a new set of prayers will be available for those church leaders who wish to acknowledge same-sex unions. The church’s doctrine on marriage will not change and Holy Matrimony will still be understood to be between one man and one woman. After over eight hours of debate, the motion was passed across the Synod’s three ‘houses’. The House of Bishops voted 36 in favour, four against with two abstentions. The House of Clergy voted 111 in favour, 85 against and three abstentions. The House of Laity voted 103 in favour, 92 against, and five abstentions. However, LGBT thanksgiving services won’t start taking place before the summer, as the prayers won’t be commended before a new Pastoral Guidance is drafted by the House of Bishops.

Speaking to Premier Christian News, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell said that, although there’s still “work to be done,” the decision today puts the Church of England “in a new place”.“I know many people will be disturbed by this decision. But I also think many, many people will be very, very happy with this decision. And particularly couples who live such faithful lives. Their lives, evidence, all the goodness that I would expect from a committed Christian relationship. “But no, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, there’s still a bit more work to be done. And we need to receive some pastoral guidance about how it’s going to be done. But today was obviously a key decision. And I’m pleased that the General Synod in all of it’s houses gave support to this.” The new document, which will cover issues such as celibacy for same-sex priests as well as singleness, will be discussed when the General Synod meets again in July.

Although the proposals have passed, neither those conservative nor progressive are happy with the outcome. Ed Shaw, co-chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council and a member of General Synod, told Premier Christian News the proposals are bad for “every LGBT person” and is sceptical the promised Pastoral Guidance will be ready by the summer. “I’ll be very surprised if you see anything by July,” Shaw said. “Having served on the previous sort of group that was asked to come up with pastoral advice, I know that it’s really hard to get any group of Anglicans in a room together and agree about sex and marriage and singleness and other things. “So, we’ve been promised something in July but in some ways, I will believe it when I see it. Not because I doubt their word, but just because they signed up for an incredibly complex theological and pastoral task.”

Sharing a similar feeling of discontent, leading LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne said she abstained during the final debate on the proposals as she said she didn’t want to “block a tiny step forward that some will welcome” but said she will not “be forced to eat breadcrumbs, on which I fear so many will choke”. Out of 28 amendments debated during discussions, only one from the conservative side managed to refine the motion put forward, reinforcing that the new prayers of blessing “should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”. Attempts to force the General Synod to vote on equal marriage in the church were narrowly rejected.

Source: Premier Christian News

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