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Bishops create three working groups to find a way forward on blessings

29 March 2023

Max Colson/Church Times

General Synod members discuss same-sex blessings in small groups at the start of February

General Synod members discuss same-sex blessings in small groups at the start of February

THREE working groups of bishops are to be set up to take forward the work on the blessing of same-sex couples, after last month’s General Synod debate and vote (News, 9 February).

The College of Bishops (which comprises all diocesans and suffragans in the Church of England) met in London on Thursday to plan the next steps, in the light of comments made in Synod during the small-groups meetings, and in the debate that ended with a vote in favour of allowing clergy to bless same-sex couples in church.

At the meeting on Thursday, the bishops agreed to set up three working groups to take on three aspects of the task ahead. A press release on Friday said that these were:

  • Pastoral Guidance, with responsibility for drafting new guidance to replace the 1991 Issues in Human Sexuality, which, among other things, prohibits clergy from sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage;
  • Prayers of Love and Faith, “to further refine the texts in the light of feedback from General Synod”;
  • Pastoral Reassurance, “to examine what will be required to ensure freedom of conscience for clergy”.

The membership and chairing of the groups is still to be finalised, though they will be made up of bishops “assisted by a group of advisers drawn from across the Church, both lay and ordained”.

There is also to be a new steering group to co-ordinate their work. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, is expected to chair this.

The groups will be working to a tight deadline, as it is planned that the matter will return to the General Synod in July.

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