THE Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales has released prayers to be said for couples after a civil same-sex marriage, but has ruled out any change to the Church’s canons to allow same-sex weddings in church. The news was announced in a statement at the meeting of the Governing Body by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan.
Last September’s meeting,he said, included one of the best discussions he had ever heard at the Governing Body on same-sex relationships: “Speech after speech was measured, calm, respectful, and sensitive. It was the Governing Body at its very best.”
He also reminded the Governing Body of how its members had voted in an anonymous and non-binding survey after the debate. One bishop, 21 clerics, and 28 lay people had said that there should be no change in current teaching. Two bishops, one cleric, and six lay people had supported creating a service of blessing for civil same-sex unions. Three bishops, 26 clerics, and 32 lay people had thought that the Church in Wales should allow same-sex couples to be married in church. “Where do we go from here?” Dr Morgan asked.
Although a majority of the Governing Body voted for change, he said that the Bench of Bishops did not intend to bring forward a Bill to permit same-sex marriage, as it would not get the support of two-thirds of each house. “There was no point bringing forward a bill for it to fail,” he argued. “It risked tearing the Church apart.”
He conceded that this would be disappointing for members who wanted change, and for same-sex couples in the Church. Because of this, the Bishops had released a pastoral letter especially directed at gay and lesbian members of the Church, making a commitment to offering them “loving service and pastoral care”, and a “safe space within the Church in which you can be honest and open, respected and affirmed”.
The letter also includes an unreserved apology for mistreatment at the hands of the Church, and for any homophobia that LGBT Anglicans in Wales had suffered. Finally, Dr Morgan said that the bishops were also releasing prayers that might be said with a couple after the celebration of a civil partnership or same-sex marriage.
“We feel this is the right thing to do at this time,” he said. “I realise that some people will regard these prayers as too little, too late; and others will regard them as a step too far. No one is compelled to use them, and they don’t constitute a service of blessing.
“The issues around human sexuality that are being debated will not go away, and the pain is not over. We do believe that we are called to live in love and charity with one another, whatever our experience or convictions on this issue.” All Christians must respond with grace, and as much accommodation as possible, to their fellow believers who were gay or lesbian.