Divided Church of England to debate blessings for same-sex unions

By Muvija M

LONDON (Reuters) – The Church of England’s governing body will deliberate on how priests could carry out blessings for same-sex couples when it gathers in the cathedral city of York for a five-day meeting on Friday.

The assembly of bishops, clergy and laity – called the General Synod – is also due to discuss on Saturday how to protect vicars who might choose not to pray over the union of same-sex couples.

The CoE, which does not allow same-sex marriages in its 16,000 churches, in January set out proposals to let gay couples have a prayer service after a civil marriage, and apologised to LGBTQI+ people for the rejection and hostility they have faced. The synod voted in favour of the plans in February.

That caused a conservative group of Anglican church leaders from around the world to declare they no longer had confidence in the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, saying he had betrayed his ordination.

At home, however, there is pressure to go further, with some bishops publicly voicing support for same-sex marriages in churches.

Divisions have run deep for decades on how the centuries-old institution – mother church for the world’s 85 million Anglicans across 165 countries – deals with homosexuality and same-sex unions. Homosexuality is taboo in Africa and illegal in more than 30 countries there.

Welby, who is the spiritual leader of the wider Anglican Communion, called on bishops last year to “abound in love for all”. But he backed the validity of a resolution passed in 1998 that rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture”.

Bishop Sarah Mullally told reporters last month: “This has not been an easy period for people right across a range of traditions and we know that has maybe been harder since February than it may have been before.”

She reiterated that the proposals would not change the doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that there would be protection for those who “on grounds of conscience” choose not to bless same-sex couples.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists have long been fighting for the same rights as fellow Christians who are heterosexual. Gay marriage has been legal in Britain for a decade.

“Faith is important to many LGBTQ+ people, which is why the Synod’s suggestion that blessings be provided in place of marriages (is) a real slap in the face to our communities,” Sasha Misra, Associate Director of Communications at LGBT rights group Stonewall, told Reuters via email.

Mullally said the CoE was absorbing different views on the complex matter, and that it would take time to produce the full proposals, which are expected when the synod meets in November.

(Reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Kate Holton and Devika Syamnath)