A CLERIC and his partner are the first couple to have their civil partnership blessed in a Church in Wales service, after the Governing Body’s decision in September to authorise a liturgy for same-sex blessings (News, 6 September).
The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, conducted the ceremony at St Collen’s, Llangollen, for the Revd Lee Taylor, Priest-in-Charge, and his civil partner, Fabiano da Silva Duarte. They have been in a relationship since 2008.
“Lee and Fabiano’s relationship has already received God’s blessing. We can see that in their lives together,” Bishop Cameron said during the service. “Today is about affirming as a Church their relationship, and an opportunity to pray for continuing blessings on their lives. This is an important moment of stepping forward as the Church.”
The Bishop said on Monday that, because this was the first time the Rite of Blessing had been used, guidance and precedents, such as processions in and out, had not yet been produced. He described the service as “a public affirmation of God and the Church . . . a landmark, and one in which I rejoice.
“For too long the Church has expected LGBT+ folk to be discreet or even dishonest about their committed, loving partnerships and marriages, and for me, to be able to celebrate Lee and Fabiano’s lifegiving relationship in a public way was liberating — even if it is not yet the full equality of marriage.”
The Welsh Bench of Bishops was unanimously in favour of authorising the liturgy when the vote was taken in September, although the Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, acknowledged in his presidential address that many on the Governing Body had been “extremely vexed and troubled” by the debate. He described every development as a departure to some degree, and described change as “a courageous embrace of what God is doing today”.
Fr Taylor and Mr da Silva Duarte had followed the debate and, shortly after hearing the outcome, had contacted Bishop Cameron to fix a date for their blessing service.
“We feel blessed to have such a supportive and affirming congregation here in Llangollen,” Fr Taylor said on Monday.
“All our regular worshippers from the group of three churches, including various representatives from the town, attended the blessing service. They were very excited, not only to be giving public witness to our official blessing, but also to be taking part in this historic step the Church in Wales has made which now allows other same-sex couples of faith to have their unions sanctified in church.”
He continued: “Over the past couple of days, I have received lots of supportive messages from people both within and outside of the Church. Many same-sex couples have already made enquiries as to the possibility of ‘crossing the border’ to Llangollen (which was also home to the legendary Ladies of Llangollen) to have their union blessed in church.”