Gay couple blessings ruled out by Church of England bishops

Archbishops John Sentamu and Justin Welby Image copyright PA
Image caption The Archbishops of York and Canterbury signed the pastoral guidance issued by the bishops

The Church of England's House of Bishops has ruled out special services of blessing for married same-sex couples.

The idea was recommended in a report commissioned by the bishops last year.

Clergy will not be allowed to enter same-sex marriages, the new guidance added.

The first same-sex weddings are due to take place in England and Wales from 29 March, but the law specifies that the CofE will not conduct them.

The Church's official teaching is that marriage must be between a man and a woman. Anglican clergy of the same sex are allowed by the Church to enter civil partnerships, but only on the understanding that they will remain celibate.

'Openly flouted'

The House of Bishops says in its latest guidance that it is not willing "for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry [bishops, priests and deacons].

"In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage."

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott commented: "Perhaps mindful of the way some priests have openly flouted this condition the bishops reminded clergy of their vow on becoming ordained to accept the discipline and authority of the Church."

Last November a report by a team chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church's policy on sexuality concluded that "there can be circumstances where a priest... should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so."

The report went on: "Some of us do not believe that this can be extended to same-sex marriage."

The House of Bishops' new guidance reaffirmed its previous guidance on civil partnerships and extended it to gay marriages - that services of blessing should not be provided.

"More informal kinds of prayer, at the request of the couple" may be allowed, say the bishops - but this should "be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the Church's teaching and [the couple's] reasons for departing from it."

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