On Tuesday 12 December 2023 the House of Bishops met to commend the ‘Prayers of Love and Faith’ for use starting this Sunday, 17 December. The only exception is the special standalone services for same-sex couples, which are not yet authorized.
Though prayers for same-sex couples in churches have happened for decades, this Sunday (17 December 2023) marks the first time that prayers of blessing can officially happen with the blessing of the Church.
The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England welcomes this step taken by General Synod and the House of Bishops. We encourage as many churches as possible to make use of the Prayers of Love and Faith in their pastoral ministry. We understand there are already some churches who will be using the new prayers in their Sunday morning services to give thanks for the love of long-standing church members whose relationships have never been able to be formally celebrated in church until now. If you would like to join them, either this Sunday or later, please download and read this invitation: Use the PLF this Sunday.
Though of course we welcome this as positive, it is still only a small step towards the full equality, dignity and respect that LGBTQIA+ people and their relationships deserve. There remains much more work to be done, not least for clergy to be permitted to marry their same-sex partner. At present a priest in a same-sex marriage risks losing their job, their income and for many the tied housing that comes with being a priest. It is incomprehensible that an organisation founded on Jesus’ teaching of love and inclusion would make someone homeless and destitute just for marrying their partner.
We are also saddened that some in the Church are opposed to these new liturgies. Opposing Christians offering prayer rooted in love is not something that church groups should be doing. There are generous provisions and safeguards for those who feel unable to use these prayers. Clergy have to opt in to using them, and the bishops have been quite clear that no one will be compelled to use them. The Church has made space in the past on significant differences, such as the ordination of women or the remarriage of divorcees in church, and there is no reason why similar generosity in the common life of the Church cannot be found over prayers for loving same-sex couples.
We hope that as these prayers are used as part of ordinary services they will help to change the culture within the Church, showing that there is nothing to fear from celebrating the love of any two people before God. We hope that the bishops will proceed now also to authorise standalone services of blessing, already welcomed by General Synod, and that the Church can move swiftly to the full ‘radical Christian inclusion’ we were promised, now many years ago! By which we mean equal marriage in church for everyone.