The Church of England has voted to “welcome” and “commend” plans to allow churches to bless same-sex partnerships.
The General Synod supported a bishops’ report recommending that “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and for God’s blessing” may be offered for individuals who have been through a same-sex civil ceremony. Same-sex weddings will still not be permitted in churches.
The motion to “welcome” the proposals required a majority approval from each House of the Synod – allowing the Bishops to block amendments to their own proposals. They voted for it 36 to four, the House of Clergy voted 111 to 85 and the House of Laity voted 103 to 92.
No one fooled
Although the report endorsed blessings for individuals in same-sex relationships, an amendment was passed to clarify that the Bishops had not proposed “any change to the doctrine of marriage” and the final version of the prayers “should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”.
But The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly responded: “It’s terribly sad. No amount of dancing on pinheads can hide the fact that the truth of Scripture has been ditched in favour of the culture of the day. Sexual relationships are only to be enjoyed within the marriage bond between one man and one woman.
“The Church’s Legal Office claims these proposals do not constitute a change in doctrine as the prayers do not bless an act but rather bless people. This fools no one.
“Faithful Christians inside and outside the Church of England must continue to speak the truth about God’s wonderful gift of real marriage; a gift that speaks of Christ’s relationship with his Church.”
Claims that same-sex couples rather than acts would be blessed were immediately undermined by a letter from the Archbishop of York to his Diocese stating that they could now “have that relationship acknowledged and celebrated, and to receive a blessing within a Service of the Word or Holy Communion”.
During the Synod’s debate, Revd Andrew Cornes from the Diocese of Chichester said the Church of England has “always” upheld the Bible’s teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, and “we owe it to all, and above all to Christ, to say that this teaching has not changed”.
Lay member Stephen Hofmeyr noted that voting by Houses gave the bishops “an inbuilt power” to block amendments.
Writing ahead of the debate, the former Bishop of Maidstone the Right Reverend Rod Thomas said: “We should not mislead people into believing that we can ask God to bless those things that He has revealed are contrary to His will”.
Last month, The Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) described the bishops’ report on sexual ethics as a “collective failure” to defend biblical truth and doctrine.
GSFA Chairman and Archbishop of South Sudan, The Most Revd Dr Justin Badi, branded the document a “farcical compromise”, devoid of any supporting theological argument.
He said: “What the English bishops are recommending constitutes unfaithfulness to the God who has spoken through His written word.”
“They are re-writing God’s law for His creation; laws that are re-affirmed by Christ in the Gospel accounts.”