The General Synod of the Church of England has today voted, after a lengthy debate, to allow the blessing of same-sex couples in its churches, and has issued draft ‘Prayers of Love and Faith’ to be used by willing clergy when the prayers have been finalized and commended. All three Houses – Laity, Clergy and Bishops – voted in favour.
The Campaign welcomes this move towards acknowledging that same-sex 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. We are glad that the deeply flawed Issues in Human Sexuality document is to be replaced by fresh pastoral guidelines.
When the result was announced, Nigel Pietroni, the Chair of the Equal Campaign, issued the following press release:
I would like to offer my profound thanks to all Synod members and staff after a long and costly LLF process and Synod debate, and particularly inclusive members who have worked so hard to ensure that a chink of light of hope is offered to LGBTQIA+ people.
While I and the Campaign welcome the vote that Synod has welcomed the ‘Prayers of Love and Faith’ for same-sex couples, we especially welcome the fact that Issues in Human Sexuality will no longer be used as a tool to beat LGBTQIA+ people, clergy, ordinands and laity.
The campaign now begins to ensure that the new pastoral guidance is as generous as possible, that ordinands and clergy will be able to enter same-sex civil partnerships and marriages without fear of recrimination. In addition we call for the reinstatement of licences for gay married clergy who have been disciplined for daring to commit to
their husbands and wives in marriage, and for reparations to be considered for all those who have suffered as a result. We call on the bishops to ensure that LGBTQIA+ are included in the group that produces this measure – never again should a discussion and decisions happen without us in the room.
The bishops’ proposal are a fudge, they create mess and they fall short of what we ultimately believe is the only outcome for radical inclusion – equal marriage for all people. Nevertheless we welcome them as a small step forward towards full inclusion. It is my belief and that of the Campaign, that the fudge and mess we now find ourselves in can bring about a creative environment and ultimately lead to a radical inclusion that so many desire and which the archbishop has promised.
The campaign for equal marriage continues with fresh vigour and we look forward to the proposals for the pastoral measure in July.
A cautious welcome
Our welcome for this outcome is a cautious one. It is far from good enough. It does not allow marriages of same-sex couples to be celebrated in church. The doctrine of the Church of England has been declared to be unchanged. We will not know for some time what the replacement pastoral guidance will contain, and so it is unclear whether clergy in a same-sex marriage will be allowed to resume their ministry.
The Campaign for Equal Marriage rejoices with those who are rejoicing at this move, and we mourn with those who are frustrated and angry because so little progress has been made. We call on the bishops to move as swiftly as possible to the full recognition of the dignity and worth of same-sex couples and their marriages. We will continue to campaign for fully equal marriage. We will not be satisfied with anything less.
More about the debate
The debate was very long – over eight hours, which meant that it had to be continued on the Thursday morning. This was due to the very large number of amendments, most of which were moved by conservatives; some of the amendments seemed to be a delaying tactic, as they were very similar to others. Only one of them – a conservative one – was passed. The tedium of so many votes one after another was happily broken by some fine speeches on the progressive side.
The Chair, Geoffrey Tattersall, was both firm and fair. His gentle humour helped greatly in keeping the tone of the debate from deteriorating too far. Despite that, the five Pastoral Principles were widely flouted.
The motion as amended was passed with a convincing majority:
The sessions of the debate can be watched on YouTube on the Church of England channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcc_HT5Teqjrcl6aCkZyqH43FZfvaBryy.
The official documents relating to General Synod February 2023 can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/about/leadership-and-governance/general-synod/agendas-papers/general-synod-february-2023.