Blessings for same-sex couples rejected by Church of England

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Church of England has decided not to offer blessings to same-sex couples, and has reiterated its stance that such public acknowledgements are appropriate only for straight marriages.

A report titled Men and Women in Marriage was released as the announcement, which stressed the definition of marriage was “a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, central to the stability and health of human society.”

The outgoing Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, recently went against the official line of the Church of England and said the church should be offering blessing services for gay couples’ unions.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Right Reverend Dr Alan Wilson, also criticised the Church of England’s refusal to allow blessings for civil partnerships, and said that some parishes were ignoring the ban in order to avoid conflict.

The report does recognise same-sex relationships, however it describes them as “forms of human relationships which fall short of marriage in the form God has given us”.

The bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth who chairs the commission which compiled the report, reiterated the church’s stance that it would offer “care, prayer and compassion” to those who are unable to get married in the church, but said it would not offer blessings.

He said: “Whilst it is right that priests and church communities continue to seek to provide and devise pastoral care accommodation for those in such situations, the document is clear that public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone.”

He also spoke out against the government’s plans to legalise equal marriage, which is a decision currently opposed by the Church of England, despite legal protections, and a ban on it performing same-sex ceremonies.

“The church has a long track record in conducting and supporting marriage, drawing from the deep wells of wisdom which inform centuries of shared religious and cultural understandings of marriage,” he said.

“There is a danger in the current debate of picking apart the institution of marriage which is part of the social fabric of human society,” he added.

The bishop was clear that the report said that the church was not going to change its stance and publicly recognise same-sex couples, he said a commission on same-sex relationships which was set up in July 2011, would report this year.

“There is thought going on at the moment to the sort of prayer, if you like, that might be offered in that private, personal, pastoral care,” he said.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spoke out on the day of his enthronement last month to say: “Gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship,” and that he had “particular friends where I recognise that and am deeply challenged by it.”

In March Justin Welby agreed to meet with Peter Tatchell after the human rights campaigner urged him to support LGBT equality in an open letter.

Late in march, the YouGov Easter Sunday poll  found that more than two-thirds (69%) of the population believe that the Church of England is out of touch with society and half (54%) believe that it does a bad job of providing moral leadership. Almost half disagree with its stance on same-sex marriage.