Bishop of Oxford joins calls for Church of England to recognise same-sex marriage

Steven Croft smiles while inside a Church of England church.

The bishop of Oxford has urged the Church of England to allow same-sex marriage, following its rejection by Anglican bishops.

Steven Croft said the Church has “further to go” after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, rejected same-sex couples the right to marry in Anglican churches but agreed to allow them to be blessed from priests.

The bishop of Oxford said in a statement: “It is very good for us to be able to say that the Church can now offer public services of blessing, but we know we have further to go.”

He also apologised to same-sex couples for the Church’s decision to deny their right to marriage, adding he “would have wanted to see that”.

Dr Croft added: “I am very encouraged that there’ll be new pastoral guidance to bless same-sex couples in church, which I hope will also remove the barrier to clergy entering into same-sex, civil marriages themselves.”

‘A significant change’

The decision was made following a general meeting between bishops on 17 January to discuss calls to extend the definition of holy matrimony to LGBTQ+ couples at the General Synod next month.

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During the meeting, several bishops reiterated their belief that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman and refused to let the recommendation be put to a vote.

The decision was met with frustration by pro-LGBTQ+ members of the Church who felt that it was stuck in the past when it comes to its treatment of same-sex couples.

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In response, Welby announced on 20 January that married same-sex couples could receive a blessing from priests, but that he would not make them himself due to his “pastoral responsibility for the whole communion”.

Justin Welby presides over a morning sermon during Christmas.
The Archbishop of Canterbury reaffirmed the Church of England’s stance on same-sex marriage during an address last week. (Getty)

The move was seen as yet another unsuccessful attempt by the Church to repair its rift with the LGBTQ+ community while attempting to cling to archaic views of marriage.

The blessings policy itself has come under scrutiny by Church members who fear that, because it is a voluntary practice, priests could choose to deny same-sex couples a blessing.

The bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, admitted these issues but said that the blessings are still a “significant change” for the Church.

When asked if she would give the blessings, she said: “For me, I take very few marriages because I’m a bishop, therefore the sense in which I will be in a situation where I will be asked for that? I don’t know.”

Several bishops have advocated for same-sex marriage

The bishop of Oxford is the latest clergyman to advocate for LGBTQ+ equality within the Church of England.

A similar plea was made by the bishop of Worcester, John Inge, who said that same-sex marriage cannot be “inherently sinful”.

In an open letter to his diocese on 9 January, Dr Inge said it was time for the Church of England to “celebrate and honour monogamous, faithful same-sex relationships.”

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He added: “I have been forced to ask myself the question: how is the Church’s teaching good news for gay people, created in God’s image? I feel bound to say, rather late in the day, that it is not. 

“I apologise to all those whom my silence has wounded in the past. My reticence was motivated by a commitment to the unity of the Church.”

Additionally, a YouGov poll, petitioned last year by the Ozanne Foundation, which advocates for a world where all are accepted and equally valued, found that a majority of English Anglicans back same-sex marriage.

The poll found that 55 per cent of Anglicans believe that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, whereas just 29 per cent said it is inherently “wrong.”

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