Church of England to discuss same-sex blessing


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PA

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Priests and churches would not be forced to bless same-sex marriages or civil partnerships

The Church of England is to debate holding services for same-sex couples for the first time.

The church’s ruling general synod will discuss holding official services, after a couple has married in a secular ceremony, or formed a civil partnership.

Same-sex marriages in Anglican churches are banned in England and Wales, though they began in Scotland this year.

Traditionalists have called the plans a “fundamental departure”.

However the idea for same-sex blessings has been welcomed by LGBT campaigners in the church.

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The plans have been put forward by the diocesan synod in Hereford, which voted in favour of an “order of prayer and dedication” following a marriage or civil partnership, in response to couples who said they wanted it.

The Bishop of Hereford, the Right Reverend Richard Frith, said: “Clergy are already encouraged to respond pastorally and sensitively when approached.

“The motion which is part of a much wider debate asks for guidance on materials to be used in affirming and praying with same-sex couples.”

The general synod will now debate a form of service described as “neither contrary to nor a departure from” the doctrine of the church.

Individual churches and priests would be able to opt out of holding the services if they wished.

Members of a working group are currently spending three years deciding the church’s future approach to sexuality.

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DIOCESE OF HEREFORD

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The Bishop of Hereford is a supporter of the planned new services

A gay member of the synod, Jayne Ozanne, said she was thrilled with the Hereford proposal.

“I hope that other dioceses might now also consider agreeing such a motion, which I believe – given the strength of support we know exists within the Church of England – should be debated as soon as possible within the general synod,” she said.

But Suzie Leafe, the director of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said the idea was a sad move.

“Marriage [is] a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, and this has been, and still, is the understanding of the vast majority of the worldwide church for two millennia,” she said.

“To ask for a service of prayer and dedication for a same-sex relationship represents a fundamental departure from this teaching,” she added.

The general synod, which meets twice a year, has yet to fix a date for its debate.

A church spokesperson said: “Clergy of the Church of England are unable to marry couples of the same sex and, under the House of Bishops’ pastoral statement on same sex marriage, ‘services of blessing’ should not be provided for those who enter into civil partnerships or same-sex marriages.

“It is recognised, however, that there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality and the House of Bishops has recently embarked on the preparation of a major new teaching document on marriage and sexuality.”



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