THE vote to enable same-sex civil partnerships and marriages to be blessed in the Church in Wales is a “creative and gospel-inspired lead” for the Church of England, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, said this week.
“I am heartened and encouraged by this vote and by the conversations that led up to it,” he said on Tuesday. “The Church in Wales has looked seriously at its missional context and has chosen to affirm love, in the spirit of the unchanging God of love whom we know in Jesus. I trust that my own Church will follow this creative and gospel-inspired lead, and I hope that this will happen soon.”
Writing on the website of the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the C of E, on Monday, the Revd Dr Charlie Bell, a deacon at St John the Divine with St James the Apostle, Kennington, predicted that the Church in Wales would move to conduct same-sex marriages in church, “not least because the current position is a bit of a theological mess, albeit an understandable one . . . it is very clear what the direction of travel must be, if only from a position of theological coherence — a blessing is a blessing is a blessing.”
He observed: “For far too long (and even in this week’s debate) we have heard that accommodating those who support same-sex blessings will tear the church apart by making it inhospitable to those who hold non-affirming theological views. This has often been nothing more than an extremely thinly-veiled threat, and in rejecting this blackmail the Church in Wales has shown where the Church of England might go next year. It’s time to stop believing the lie that refusing to move one inch is a compromise.”
The vote had made life in the C of E “rather uncomfortable . . . most particularly for the policing of its clergy’s lives”, he wrote. “It feels like a day of reckoning is very close.” It was “utterly absurd” that gay C of E clergy could go to Wales or Scotland to marry or have their marriage blessed, and then lose their job on returning to England. “Now is the time to stop sacking clergy for getting married in a church.”
Next year, the General Synod, for which elections are due to begin this month, will debate the House of Bishops’ proposals for a way forward on the Church’s approach to same-sex relationships. Among clergy and laity expressing support online for the Church in Wales’ decision was the Third Churches Estates Commissioner, Dr Eve Poole, who tweeted simply: “Thank you Church in Wales.”
The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Scottish Episcopal Church both faced “consequences” — restricting their participation in Anglican Communion decision-making bodies — after voting to change the definition of marriage to enable same-sex weddings to take place in church (News, 22 January 2016, 29 September 2017). The Church in Wales has not yet voted to do this, and no statement has yet been made by the Anglican Communion Office.
The diocesan secretary of Bangor, the Revd Siôn Rhys-Evans, described the vote as a “huge step forward today to affirm LGBTI+ people”.
“I have three things on my heart this evening,” he wrote on Monday. “I’m a gay man serving in the diocese of Bangor. I am who I am. I’m glad that, here, I don’t have, generally, to hide or be fearful. My brave, generous Bishop, has — consistently — welcomed, listened, included, defended, advocated and supported.
“As Diocesan Secretary, I serve a diocese that includes people who yearn for LGBTI+ inclusion and people who see God’s ways differently — I try every day to work for all my colleagues professionally. And as the soon to be Sub-Dean of St Deiniol’s Cathedral, I rejoice that its altar-table will feed LGBTI+ folk yearning for blessing as well as those who disagree — all are welcome.
“As a priest, as a friend in Christ, my concern and prayers tonight are not primarily for those with whom I agree or disagree, but for the gay teenager in my diocese, my city, coming to terms with who he is, gloriously made in the image and likeness of God. May he know more surely this evening that he is loved. May God bless him.”
The Archdeacon of St Asaph, the Ven. Andy Grimwood, who is a member of Anglican Essential Wales (News, 18 January 2019), said: “We are saddened and disappointed, but are encouraging members to take time to pray and reflect on what they believe will honour God in their ministry and mission. The trustees of Anglican Essentials Wales are due to meet later this month and will consider more fully the way forward. A ‘conscience clause’ was included in the Bill and we will be seeking assurances that this will continue on a permanent basis.”