Church of England bishops have recommended that their churches bless same-sex partnerships, in a report published this morning.
Same-sex couples will still not be allowed to marry in CofE churches, but “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and for God’s blessing” may be offered for people who have been through a same-sex civil ceremony.
The church’s General Synod is expected to discuss the plans during its meeting in London next month, but members will not be able to vote on the proposals.
‘Celebrate and affirm’
The group of bishops, chaired by Bishop Sarah Mullally, claim that their proposals offer “the fullest possible pastoral provision without changing the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony” – that marriage “is between one man and one woman for life”.
Congregations, however, are urged to welcome same-sex couples “unreservedly and joyfully” in the spirit of a “proper 21st Century understanding of being human and of being sexual”.
Clergy may also draw from “a range of draft prayers, known as Prayers of Love and Faith” to mark “a significant stage” in same-sex relationships, such as “a civil marriage or civil partnership”.
Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell suggested the plans marked an ‘important milestone’ for the Church of England and hoped the prayers would “provide a way for us all to celebrate and affirm same-sex relationships”.
God of grace,
whose beauty, ever ancient, ever new,
sings through all creation:
enfold your servants N and N
with your encouragement, hope, and love.
Fill them with the grace to rejoice always
in their love for one another,
and to follow the Way of holiness and hope
revealed in your Son Jesus Christ.
PRAYERS OF LOVE AND FAITH
Responding to the news, Revd Dr Ian Paul – a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council – said: “There is going to be no change to the doctrine of marriage. That’s very clear. But the waters have been muddied in quite an unhelpful way.
“Saying that the doctrine is not going to change and in the same breath saying we want to bless same-sex relationships is entirely incoherent, entirely contradictory.”
Speaking to The Christian Institute, he said the report failed to engage in any substantial way with Scripture and seemed “to be encouraging every person to do what’s right in their own eyes”.
Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Chairman, Archbishop Foley Beach, said: “Their actions not only deny holy practice, but reject the authority of Scripture, the teaching of the historic church, and the consensus of the Body of Christ”.