The proposal for trial standalone services means they can begin at the same time as the process of permanent authorisation is under way…reports Asian Lite News
Dedicated church services to bless the weddings of same-sex couples could be held within weeks, after a narrow vote at the Church of England ruling body.
The General Synod backed a plan to hold standalone services of blessings for same-sex couples on a trial basis.
It means that gay Christians will be able to invite family and friends to a special service, which could be held on Saturdays, to bless and celebrate their weddings. Music, readings, confetti and other features would mean such services could look very similar to a standard church wedding.
The proposal for standalone services on a trial basis came in an amendment to a motion that noted progress made by bishops on the divisive issues of sexuality, known within the C of E as Living in Love and Faith. The amendment scraped through by one vote; the amended motion passed by 227 votes to 203.
Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford, who proposed the amendment, said the “experimental” standalone services would be voluntary and no member of the clergy would be obliged to offer such services.
Last month, bishops agreed to commend special prayers of blessing for same-sex couples for use in existing church services. These are likely to begin before Christmas.
Bishops also agreed last month to begin a two-year process of authorising special standalone services under canon law.
The proposal for trial standalone services means they can begin at the same time as the process of permanent authorisation is under way.
In a joint statement, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York – who backed the amendment, said: “We have heard loud and clear, through an extensive debate over two days, the depth of feeling across the church on these hugely important questions.
“While this motion was passed, narrowly, we do not underestimate the depth of feeling and will reflect on all that we have heard as we seek to move forward together.”
Sarah Mullally, the bishop of London and co-chair of the Living in Love and Faith steering group, said: “The truth is – and as we have seen again today – that the Church of England is not of one mind on questions of sexuality and marriage.”
Bishops would now “consider how best to implement” the synod’s decision, she added.
Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner for equal marriage within the C of E, said the decision offered “tiny scraps of hope to LGBT+ people”.
She added: “The C of E remains deeply homophobic, whatever bishops and archbishops may say. I fear that much of the nation will judge the C of E as being abusive, hypocritical and unloving – they are, sadly, correct.”