On Monday 6 September the Governing Body of the Church in Wales voted, after a passionate and moving debate, to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages and civil partnerships in its churches, and authorised a liturgy to be used in these services. The required two-thirds majority was achieved in all three Houses, Laity, Clergy and Bishops.
The Campaign welcomes this move towards acknowledging that gay and lesbian relationships are of equal worth to those of straight couples, and recognises the joy and relief that this move will bring to many in the Church in Wales. As the Welsh bishops themselves noted, to continue to refuse to do so was and is pastorally unsustainable. However, we welcome this decision with some caution. This move does not allow marriages for same-sex couples to be celebrated in church, and, as the bishops have themselves said, this move does not in itself mean that marriages in church will follow. The vote is for a trial period of use of the liturgy only.
It is also theologically inconsistent in that it makes possible the blessing of marriages whilst at the same time refusing to allow them to be fully celebrated in the sight of God and in the churches in which the couple may well regularly worship. The distinctive element that is brought to marriages in church is the blessing – the legal union created in the service is a function of the State and there is no legal distinction between a marriage solemnised in a church and one solemnised in a town hall or country house. It seems to make no sense for the church to refuse to undertake the legal and secular element of a marriage and yet to offer a blessing on that marriage at a separate event in a different venue.
We rejoice with those who are rejoicing at this move, and we look to the Church in Wales to move swiftly to a resolution of these inconsistencies and to the full recognition of the dignity and worth of same-sex couples and their marriages.
This first video is an extract from the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales on 6 September 2021. The Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph/Llanelwy, gave this powerful and moving summing-up speech at the end of the debate:
The video of the full meeting (just under 8 hours) is available here: https://youtu.be/T7vmLYDeJlw