The General Synod of the Church of England has approved this Thursday a motion that will allow its priests to “bless” same-sex couples married or united in civil ceremonies, but Do not officiate your marriage.
“It has been a long road to get to this point,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican primate, Justin Welby, who acknowledges that the measure will be insufficient for some and too much for others in this communion.
Synod members also approved “regret and repent” of the Church’s failure to welcome LGBTQI+ people and “for the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and are experiencing in churches,” the statement said.
The motion passed with a majority after a intense two-day debate of the synod and after years of disagreement on the matter in the Church of England, which since 2014 accepts its priests to be in same-sex civil unions (not marriages) as long as they accept celibacy.
A working group will now develop a series of special prayers that chaplains can voluntarily use to bless married or civilly-united gay couples “in the eyes of God,” the note said.
The bishops will also prepare a “new pastoral guide” for the Anglican Church, the majority in the United Kingdom, on sexuality and marriage, he adds.
“For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples into the Church,” Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said in a joint statement.
Both acknowledge, however, that “the Church continues to have deep differences on these issues that go to the heart of our human identity”.
They therefore underline their “commitment to respect the conscience of those for whom this goes too far” and to ensure that they “receive the necessary guarantees in order to maintain the unity of the Church.”
“We hope that today’s thoughtful and prayerful discussion marks a new beginning for the Church, as we search for a way forward, listening to one another and, above all, to God,” they add.
The Church of England is the center of the Anglican communion, representing more than 85 million people in more than 165 countries.
The religious want to “take advantage of this opportunity to start anew in a spirit of repentance that our faith teaches us,” Cottrell said.
In January, the bishops already they had apologized to LGBTQI+ people for the rejection and hostility they have faced, with the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledging that the religious body remains “very divided” on the matter.
“We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong,” the bishops said in an open letter. “We affirm, publicly and unequivocally, that LGBTQI+ people are welcomed and valued: We are all children of God.”
(With information from EFE and Reuters)
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