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Church in Wales Governing Body to debate same-sex marriage blessings

27 August 2021

Church in Wales

Members of the Governing Body raise their voting cards in the air during a meeting in 2018

Members of the Governing Body raise their voting cards in the air during a meeting in 2018

SAME-SEX couples will be able to have their civil partnership or marriage blessed in the Church in Wales, if the Governing Body passes new legislation at its meeting in Newport on 6 September.

Members have deemed the lack of provision for those in committed same-sex relationships to be “pastorally unsustainable” for the Church. The Bishops are now bringing the Bill, which proposes a service of blessing to be used experimentally for five years. It will be up to individual clergy to decide whether they wish to use it.

Approval of the rite would be a statement that the Church in Wales accepted that “the loving and faithful commitment of two persons of the same sex, aspiring to lifelong fidelity and mutual comfort, and who have made a commitment in civil partnership or marriage is worthy of acceptance by the Church”, the paper says.

“While recognising that the bill is controversial, [the bishops] describe it as a step on the way towards repentance of a history in the church which has demonised and persecuted gay and lesbian people, forcing them into fear, dishonesty and sometimes even hypocrisy, and which has precluded them from living publicly and honestly lives of committed partnership.”

The Bishops are urging Governing Body members to debate the Bill in a “respectful and dignified” way, acknowledging that it will raise difficult issues of faith and belief. They have issued a set of pastoral principles intended to guide people towards thoughtful and considerate discussions.

Introducing these, they say: “There can be no room for seeking to undermine sincerely held views. Neither should we seek to walk away from each other. Our union in Christ is at the heart of our life and the bonds and character of our baptism hold us together; sharing a commitment to each other as together we seek the Kingdom of God. We hope these materials will stimulate this quality of engagement.

“Our hope is that these materials will shape the quality and manner of our debate. This debate will, of necessity, involve disagreement. But disagreement has been a part of our history since the church’s inception and dealing with disagreement well is a sign of maturity and commitment.”

The debate begins in the morning for an hour, and then continues in the afternoon, until a celebration of the eucharist at 4.45 p.m. The Monday meeting is in-person at the International Convention Centre Wales, in Newport, and will be live-streamed with a link on the Church in Wales website and YouTube channel. The second day of the meeting will take place online only, on Zoom, on Wednesday. It will also be live-streamed.

Other items on the agenda are an hour-long presidential address by the Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andy John, on Monday. The introduction of Life Events resources for the ministry of funerals, weddings, and christenings will also be on Monday. These are designed to reflect better the Church in Wales’s distinct culture and context. All literature and, wherever possible, supporting online help and advice are to be be made available either bilingually or in both Welsh and English.

There is a climate-emergency update and an update on the upcoming Year of Biblical Literacy on the Wednesday, together with a plenary on the Church after the pandemic. This will consolidate the points made by discussion groups at the April Governing Body meeting (News, 23 April). There are just two questions for Question Time: one on monitoring equality and inclusion, and one on how declining membership might be addressed.

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