After a historic vote by its governing council, Church of England priests will be authorized to bless the civil marriages of same-sex couples. This represents a significant shift in the church’s attitude on homosexuality.
This summer, the first blessings for gay couples may occur. To avoid confusion and disappointment, individual churches will be encouraged to announce clearly whether they will bestow blessings.
The C of E’s national parliament, the General Synod, voted by a margin of 250 to 181 in favor of a bishops’ proposal to end years of agonizing divides and dispute over sexuality, following an eight-hour passionate debate.
However, emotionally charged remarks by those fighting for complete equality for LGBTQ+ Christians and those arguing that traditional biblical teaching on marriage and sex must be respected indicated that the discussion will continue.
Conservatives narrowly succeeded in revising the motion to indicate that the church’s marital doctrine — that marriage is between a man and a woman — remained unchanged. Although the amendment angered progressives, it may have persuaded some traditionalists to vote in favor of the main resolution.
The synod also agreed that the church shall apologize to LGBTQ+ individuals for the pain it has caused. It applauded the impending review of a ban on clergy participating in same-sex civil marriages and a celibacy requirement for clergy in same-sex relationships.
Their demand that a proposal for marriage equality be presented to the synod within two years was rejected by 52% to 45%, much to the dismay of gay rights activists.
“I am deeply disappointed by the way the conservatives have consistently sought to undermine those of us who sought to move towards a church that could embrace a plurality of views on sexuality,” said Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for LGBTQ+ equality in the C of E.