Church of England Synod votes to offer blessings to same-sex couples – but ban on marriage remains

The Church of England's Westminster Abbey, with a background in the colours of the trans Pride flag

The Church of England has voted to bless same-sex marriages for the first time in its history – but its ban on conducting ceremonies will remain.

It was approved after a six year consultation period, with approval passing on Thursday (9 February), at a meeting of the General Synod, the church’s governing body.

All three houses – bishops, clergy and house of laity – of the Synod voted in favour of the blessings.

Same-sex couples wishing to have their marriage blessed by the church will need to conduct a legal ceremony elsewhere, and then conduct a second which would include prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and God’s blessing.

The vote was celebrated by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who told the Synod same-sex couples “could now come to church and have that relationship acknowledged, celebrated and the couple receive a blessing”.

The blessings will remain optional for priests, however, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, Justin Welby previously saying he will not conduct them himself.

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Jayne Ozanne, former LGBTQ+ adviser to the Tory government and a Christian activist, compared the motion to “breadcrumbs”.

“I’m deeply disappointed by the way the conservatives have consistently sought to undermine those of us who sought to move towards a church that could embrace a plurality of views on sexuality,” she said. 

“By continuing to tell LGB people that they cannot hope to get married any time soon in their church or that their desire for sexual intimacy is sinful, we send a message to the nation that few will understand. 

“More importantly, it is a message that will continue to cause great harm to the LGBTQ+ community and put young LGBTQ+ lives at risk. The apology that the Synod insisted on keeping is totally meaningless. 

“For both these reasons I chose to abstain in the final vote as I did not want to block a tiny step forward that some will welcome. However, I personally will not be forced to eat breadcrumbs, on which I fear so many will choke.”

‘It’s time the church stood up for its principles of love’

The meeting of the Synod was protested by LGBTQ+ Christians, who stood outside Church House in Central London (where the Synod met) with placards to rally against what some have described as mere “crumbs” for queer people of faith.

Churchwarden Barry Snelgrave told PinkNews it was “shameful” and “hypocritical” to offer a civil partnership blessings rather than marriage.

“It’s time the church stood up for its principles of love,” he added.

“I would love to have my marriage in a church before God.”

Phillipa Drew at the C of E same-sex protest
Phillipa Drew. (PinkNews)

Phillips Drew said she is “no longer a believer” due to the Church of England’s slow, and poor, response to its LGBTQ+ members.

“The fact that the church will not recognise that two people who love each other and want to have their union recognised, not by the state, but by the church, is deeply hurtful.”

The 76-year-old said offering the blessing instead of performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples is “crap”, and “offering crumbs to the starving”.

Justin Welby had previously stated that he would rather the Church of England lose its special status as the UK’s recognised religious institution than allow same-sex marriage, after divisions among senior members threatened a rift.

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