Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Church in Wales publishes pastoral letter, authorises prayers for same sex couples
The Bishops of the Church in Wales have today issued a pastoral letter and the text of some prayers, all of which is copied below. There is also a press release: Same-sex marriage statement.
A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Church in Wales to all the faithful concerning gay and lesbian Christians.
One of the most contentious issues for Christians in our day has been the question of how the Church responds to those attracted to the same gender who seek the blessing of the Church upon the committed partnerships they form.
Over the last eighteen months, we have conducted a wide consultation in Governing Body and with the dioceses to explore whether the faithful of the Church in Wales felt it would be appropriate to acknowledge same sex unions in Church, by offering a Blessing, or even permitting the marriage of same sex couples in Church. Given that the civil law of the realm has now been changed to permit marriage of same sex couples, many see this as a natural next step.
The results of the consultation have been very varied: in some dioceses there was a strong voice for the status quo, in others a majority who wanted to see change. In the subsequent debate in Governing Body, it became clear that although a majority of members supported change, there was certainly no consensus, and any move to introduce changes in canon law would not meet the required two thirds majority of Governing Body, voting in houses, to enable such changes. Furthermore, any change to the teaching of the Church on Marriage, or the authorisation of any blessing of these unions in the life of the Church, would depend on legislation by bill procedure, which requires such enhanced majorities to take effect.
Since the conclusion of our consultation, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have also met in Canterbury in January of this year. The issue of the Church’s ministry to gay and lesbian persons was at the centre of their agenda, especially since The Episcopal Church (of the United States) has taken steps to amend their marriage canon to remove references to the gender of the couple.
The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and affirmed their commitment again to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. They also rejected criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people. They recognised that the Christian Church, including Anglicans, has often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. They expressed their profound sorrow and affirmed again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the Church should never by its actions give any other impression.
Nevertheless, they also reasserted the understanding within the Anglican Communion as a whole that marriage is between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. They indicated that they believed that any move away from this understanding is considered by many of them as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.
What this all means is that we, as Bishops of the Anglican Communion, mindful of the results of our consultation and the Statement of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and of all our members, including those who are gay and lesbian, do not feel that we can support at this time a move to change the discipline of the Church in Wales with respect to the teaching on marriage, nor can we permit the celebration of public liturgies of blessing for same sex unions.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge the gay and lesbian members of our Church as part of our family, and we wish to address them directly:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We recognise that you have often been persecuted and ostracized by the Church for your sexuality, that you have been mistreated by the Church, and forced into secrecy and dissimulation by the attitudes of prejudice which you have faced. We deplore such hostility, and welcome and affirm the words of the Primates that condemn homophobic prejudice and violence. We too commit ourselves to offering you the same loving service and pastoral care to which all humanity is entitled, and we commit ourselves to acting to provide a safe space within the Church and within our communities in which you can be honest and open, respected and affirmed.
While as a Church we remain unable to bless the committed partnerships you form in marriage or in civil partnership, yet we commit ourselves as bishops to work for a Church in which you can be fully affirmed as equal disciples of Jesus Christ or seekers after truth. We will pray with you and for you, that together we may seek God’s blessing on our lives, and for faithful discipleship.”
Since 2005, the Bench of Bishops has acknowledged that there are a range of views with respect to homosexuality, which have to be recognized as “honest and legitimate differences” within the diversity of opinion in the Church in Wales.
Given that diversity in the Church in Wales, and our commitment to affirm the place of gay and lesbian disciples within the Church, we believe that it is appropriate to offer prayers in response to the pastoral need of those gay and lesbian persons who are making profound commitments to friendship or partnership. With this pastoral letter, we offer prayers which we believe are suitable for those who are marking a committed relationship. Whilst we do not prescribe their use, where they are found suitable or helpful, we are happy to commend them.
The issues around human sexuality that are being debated in the Church will not go away, and the pain and tensions experienced in the debate are not over. We do believe however that we are called to live in love and charity with one another, whatever our experience or convictions on this issue, and we call upon all followers of Jesus Christ to respond with grace and as much accommodation as possible to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, including those who are gay or lesbian.
May the Lord bless his Church with such love and understanding that we may always walk in his ways of mercy.
PRAYERS that may be said with a couple following the Celebration of a Civil Partnership or Civil Marriage.
For the couple
Father God, whose will it is that all people should find fullness of life in your Son, we thank you for N and N, who have found such love and companionship in each other, that it has led them to dedicate their lives in support of one another. Look upon them with loving kindness; strengthen their commitment and their faithfulness, their joy in one another and in you, and so guide the paths of their future that they may walk in the ways of life and peace all the days of their life. Amen.
For their home
Heavenly Father, you gave your Son to live as part of a family in an earthly home in Nazareth. As N and N make their home together, may your love rest upon it, and upon all those who dwell in it. May their home be a place of security and of love, of joy and of peace, where those who live there may find strength and hope for the future, and grace in their lives, this day and forever. Amen.
For their family and friends
Lord God, your Son lived amongst us, calling disciples to his side to become a new family in your kingdom. As N and N make a commitment to share each other’s lives, bless all their families and friends. As two lives and two families are drawn together, may this commitment always be a source of joy and of love; may their friends rejoice in their joy, and support them in their sadness, and may the good news of your kingdom ever draw them onwards and upwards into that life which is your will for the world. Amen.
Almighty and everliving God: look tenderly upon N and N
Lift them up in joy in their life together.
Grant them so to love selflessly and live humbly,
that they may be to one another and to the world
a witness and a sign of your never-failing care;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, to the ages of ages. Amen
Leader: We pray for N and N
Lord, in your mercy
Response: Hear our prayer.
Leader: For a spirit of loving kindness to shelter them all their days;
Lord, in your mercy
Response: Hear our prayer.
Leader: For friends to support them and communities to enfold them;
Lord, in your mercy
Response: Hear our prayer.
Leader: For peace in their home and love in their family;
Lord, in your mercy
Response: Hear our prayer.
Leader: For the grace, when they hurt each other,
to recognise and acknowledge their fault,
and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours;
Lord, in your mercy
Response: Hear our prayer.
Leader: For the outpouring of your love through their work and witness;
Lord, in your mercy
Response: Hear our prayer.
Most gracious God,
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Wednesday, 6 April 2016 at 12:46pm BST
we praise you for the tender mercy and unfailing care
revealed to us in Jesus the Christ
and for the great joy and comfort bestowed upon us
in the gift of human love.
We give you thanks for N and N
who stand before you this day.
Pour out the abundance of your Holy Spirit upon them.
Keep them in your steadfast love;
protect them from all danger;
fill them with your wisdom and peace;
lead them in holy service to each other and the world.
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Church in Wales
I like the prayers and the liturgy. But, I am left slightly baffled. They prayers and the liturgy recognize the very real love that exists between the couple, they recognize their families and their homes, their relationship is presented as being good, generative and wholesome, yet it can't be blessed! Strange in my view. But, well done Church in Wales for taking a first step.
To some extent this reminds me of the American South of my childhood where there were water fountains marked "white" and water fountains marked "colored." But this isn't even that -- it's a water fountain marked "straight" and a garden hose back behind the barn marked "gay."
I suppose it could be argued a garden hose back behind the barn is better than the church offering no water at all to same-sex couples. But I think this merely confirms "the secrecy and dissimulation by the attitudes of prejudice" that the church supposedly condemns here and renders hollow the claim, "We too commit ourselves to offering you the same loving service and pastoral care to which all humanity is entitled."
"As N and N make a commitment to share each other’s lives, bless all their families and friends."
What, "bless" everyone else except the two stood before the celebrant?
Oh, this is nice.
For 1996. Or 1966, really.
We are talking about marriages here, real marriages, not friendships or partnerships. Between gay and lesbian couples, not "people attracted to the same gender."
Save your Separate but Unequal bigotry for long ago. All marriages are equal and the same. Bless them in the same way or just admit your despicable homophobia and go away. This is insulting and pathetic.
Enough is enough.
A perfect example how something that would have been truly progressive at the time Civil Partnerships became legal now only reinforces the discrimination and inequality in the church.
I would like to join Pluralist's condemnation of the "blessing" issue in this liturgy, something I had not picked up on during my first time reading through this.
The bishops state that they cannot offer a blessing of same-sex couples, but then offer a service in which asks God's blessing on everyone EXCEPT the same-sex couple.
What a unbelievably cruel thing to do.
I'm reminded of Jesus's question, "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?"
The answer -- the bishops in the Church in Wales.
Interesting to overlay a map of the Anglican Communion with a map of the world that shows which countries support the U N. Resolution re human rights for gay and lesbian folks and which countries do not.
Others have made many valid observations and I won't repeat them. I will be interested to see the guidance on when these prayers can be administered. Official guidance cannot of course link the prayers in anyway to marriages which the Church does not recognise. So they could end up administered to couples who have made no commitment to one another, in circumstances that is in which prayers would never be offered to a straight couple. How far the Church has moved from recognising marriage as the only form of commitment between a couple.
Of course, helpful priests will administer prayers the same day as a civil wedding and tacitly recognise that marriage.
And if gay and lesbian Christians feel slighted by this pastoral letter, spare a thought for those who change gender whose existence and needs are entirely overlooked. So much for the bishops demonstrating knowledge of LGBT issues.
The intention behind this statement and its associated liturgies is, because all such things tend to be, political. It is a calculation of what the Welsh bishops think they can live with now.
That said, I believe the intention is honourable, the direction of travel clearly laid out, and the apology sincere.
But to put out a liturgy that blesses everyone in the congregation except the couple concerned is crass, hurtful and insensitive. Why use the word at all?
In fact, it is hard to imagine circumstances under which any sane couple would endure such liturgy's use. If their priest is going to do something for them positively and with a good heart then they will probably bless them anyway. And if their priest is opposed to SSM or CP then they would be unlikely to be prepared to use this liturgy, which speaks so positively of ss relationships, anyway.
So that begs the question, why write a liturgy that will satisfy no one? The answer is, politics. This is for external consumption.
The shame of it is that the statement, and the acceptance of a twin track approach that is explicit within it, will infuriate those who will see that as going far too far in the wrong direction in any event. If the bishops mean what they say then the logic, and, I suggest, the politics, would have made a generous service of blessing the obvious thing to do. Those in the Communion and inside their own church who are going to be appalled by what they have done will be appalled anyway.
But to bless everyone in the place but the couple just rubs salt in the wound for LGBTI couples who are seeking that blessing and undermines how the bishops' statement and apology will be heard by that constituency. And they are one of the constituencies to whom this written, though clearly not its prime focus
Overall, an opportunity missed. A shame that there is not just a little more courage going around.
I wonder where a / the Welsh version is ? It may well be more advanced than the English version - as is the Holy Eucharist !
Steady hands as Anglicans in Wales are careful not to carve up and remove the despotic "anti-Gay" preaching done by various GAFCON ++human beings...I am not relieved knowing LGBTI Anglicans/others still must put up with dangerous and foolish/pridefilled fearmongers at Church. Sorry Wales,not a good-enough or strong-enough example of "how to" be loving to ALL of us.
The truly courageous are LGBTI who for lifetimes have listened to the denegration directed toward us at various outposts in The Anglican Communion.
Could this be a new paradigm of 'Covert Blessing' for Same-Sex Couples in the Church in Wales? The prayers offered seem almost diametrically opposed to the insistence on 'No Blessing', but I suppose it might be the best that can be expected in the odd circumstances. At least the C. i. W. has done something about addressing homophobia in its ranks.
Hope that dr.primrose's hose does not sprout a leek, sorry leak.
Presumably the Church of Wales' calculation is that no-one who is actually gay will trust them anyway. But a bit of fake contrition and a liturgy that looks accepting while actually being viciously spiteful will fool the straights who are concerned for their LGBT friends and family. Meanwhile the same liturgy will provide enough of a dog whistle to the bigots ("psst, it's OK, we're not actually blessing the couple, just everyone else for having to put up with this abomination") to keep them onside.
Which is clever, immoral and cynical. Who would expect anything better from senior Anglicans these days?
The contradictory nature of this beggars belief. All I can say to the Church in Wales is - Are you serious?
"led them to dedicate their lives in support of one another"
Etc etc etc, ad nauseaum. Every combination of letters, to NOT have to say the "M" word.
I'm sorry, Welsh Bishops, but if the couple has civilly MARRIED, then you pray for their MARRIAGE. It's a simple statement of FACT, that this is the *definition* of their relationship. Trying to find euphemisms around this makes a mockery of the very concept of liturgy in the Church---which must be rooted in God's Grace and TRUTH.
I agree that the intent is clearly sincere, and hopefully there will be more progress in Wales in the future. But to refer to a couple asking for blessing on their civil marriage as 'making a profound commitment to friendship' reaches new stratospheric heights of patronisation. There is a middle ground between calling gay people demonic and describing us like sexless little children, but bishops around the world seem to struggle to find it.
Hypocrisy is the price of bending over backwards to stay in the AC - no need to do so; it's a choice .... To throw some under the bus until the decade or century when the AC changes
So you can't bless the happy couple but you can bless everyone else. Since everyone else is also likely to include couples in civil partnerships or equal marriage the sheer nonsense of this is further exposed for what it is.
I wouldn't like this thread of largely negative comments to be without a supportive one for what the Church in Wales bishops have done. I have already posted most of this view on FB.
The CinW bishops will be only too aware of what happened when they first brought the issue of women bishops to the Governing Body in 2008 and it failed by just 3 votes to get the two thirds majority from the clergy that was required to go forward. This put the whole issue back 5 years even though everyone else strongly supported it, and it wasn't until 2013 that a motion could be brought back for consideration. After consultation and discussion, the CinW bishops have recognised that on equal marriage there is too much diversity of view in the Governing Body to expect the necessary majority on moving forward, even for a blessing service, and have therefore gone as far as they could short of uttering the 'blessing' word.
I see this as a positive and generous move, despite the understandable disappointment registered in comments here and elsewhere. For example, it recognises the reality of civil same sex marriage, does not cavil over it, but explicitly states the prayers can be used after a civil marriage ceremony as well as a civil partnership. It acknowledges committed same sex partnerships and commends prayers for it that are authorised for use in church. The apology is fulsome and reads entirely genuinely to me. It is honest over the diversity of view in the church and takes it seriously, recognising the reality that there does not exist at present the necessary majority in the CinW Governing Body for a major change in liturgy and theology. It goes as far as it can and leaves open the possibility of further changes.
The CinW is engaging with the reality and the spotlight will be turning on the CofE. Can anyone seriously see the CofE going as far as the Welsh bishops have done under the current management (I use the word deliberately)? Might they deny CofE clergy the freedom to use these prayers? This is as close to a blessing in church as one might expect to find (OK, not the marriage service blessing, but don't let the best be the enemy of the good).
I might imagine a few words being slipped in to the first prayer along the lines of 'Bless their union' ...
The [Church] simply cannot make up their minds, or they cannot get the [bishops] to make up [their minds]. So they go on in a strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more months and years - precious, perhaps vital, to the greatness of [the church] - for the locusts to eat.
Pace Winston Churchill
This is a positive development, even if a flawed one for the various reasons that have been adduced above. It is a limited first step and the CofE needs to take note. Introducing liturgy for same sex blessings is the first step on the long and arduous road. Failure to do this will simply mean that more and more clergy will use DIY liturgy. At least they can now borrow the CiW liturgy and, as Jeremy Pemberton has said, would probably bless the couple anyway. Why wouldn't you, unless you were afraid of the sanction from your bishop? The CofE is now on notice that it need not bother introducing its version of the CiW liturgy if that excludes a blessing. No-one would vote for it. I am no baseball expert, but this has got the CiW to first base, which is better than being struck out, but miles short of a home run. This is about ecclesiology and politics, like it or not. The ultimate need for canonical change will take a long time (well into the Twelfth General Synod 2025-2030 in my depressing view) unless there is a major change of heart on the General Synod. The Shared Conversations outcomes will be scrutinised closely for signs of where members are and the all important what happens next question.
The real question isn't what the bishops say. It's what priests and local church communities DO.
If local church communities don't have the courage - on a point of human dignity and justice - to go ahead and bless two people's marriage, then I think it's a bit inadequate to simply blame the people with different views, like the bishops.
There is nothing to stop ALL the gay-friendly and gay-affirming Anglican churches going ahead and blessing gay and lesbian couples, left, right, and bang in the centre of the media.
What are the bishops going to do then? Close down the churches?
To me, the spotlight falls on the Christians who *say* they affirm gay relationships and marriage, but aren't prepared to take a stand (along with their local communities) in the interests of what's decent, lovely, fair and a matter of such conscience.
I'm afraid that lack of boldness and resistance seems a bit craven to me. Either a local church and priest believe in certain values or they don't.
Just go ahead and bless each marriage, without discrimination, or you are frankly collaborating with the whole injustice.
And do so as a network of church communities... build that network... do what it takes. But don't acquiesce in top down orders to discriminate.
When is seeking God's blessing for anyone... even for murderers... ever wrong?
"Thanks very much for not being willing to bless us and our precious relationship, marriage, and dedicated lives together."
...as the hurt and dismayed couple traipse off from their meeting with you, bemused and confused.
"I thought they said they believed in our lives and our marriage?"
The ball is in the court of the people who have the actual good conscience, to find the courage to break out and do what's obviously right.
Or should Rosa Parks have given up her seat on the bus?
If the bishops told you that you mustn't bless 'mixed race' marriages, would you simply obey them?
The why are gay and lesbian couples different? Where are the Rosa Parks priests and whole communities, for them?
If I were straight and getting married, I might cavil and be somewhat amused at the absence here of the word "bless" in some specific form. But I would have to be mighty misanthropic to fail to see here the fulsomeness of the Church's prayers for God's blessings upon me and my partner and our life together. If the absence of one specific word is enough to keep the discord of the nutters down to a dull roar, then so be it. Sacramentally and theologically it matters not a whit. Pray that the Canadian bishops, at our forthcoming General Synod, will be as open and wise as those in Wales.
I agree with Roger Antell. There is much to criticise in the Welsh Bishops' pastoral letter but overall it comes across to me as authentic in compassionate intent, genuinely penitent, realistic about current church politics whilst travelling in the right direction, and being open-ended as far as further developments are concerned.
Dear Gays and Lesbians,
While most of us agree that you're pretty okay, you don't quite come up to snuff. Therefore, we still can't quite bring ourselves to treat you decently even though most people around us have no trouble doing so.
Sucks for you, but there it is.
The Welsh Church Leadership
Susannah - Well put! To which I would add that my partnership with my late husband filled me with such growth and joy and gratitude that I came back into the church after years in the wilderness, after my church of 35 years had voted not to worship with "those people." I found an Episcopal priest who welcomed us with open arms. How many of those who need, even want, what the church says it has to offer, does it turn away with its obvious distaste at welcoming ALL who come to the table?
Roger Antell: better, by far, to try and pass equality and fail for a few years, than to endorse separate without even the presence of being equal.
This insulting liturgy ensures that, in five years, same-sex couples will still be unable to marry, but will also know that no one in the hierarchy's willing to go to bat for them. Worse, the hierarchy's willing to be bullied into appeasement and complicity by virulent homophobes in a mitre. Betrayal by friends is far more dispiriting than outright hostility from opponents: at least they're honest, not stabbing you in the back.
Compromising with oppressors is the worst of all worlds. It's amoral, it's cowardly, and it plain doesn't work. A person's either with equality, or they're against it.
Translated from the Welsh....
Father God, who desires to see all your people find the fullness of life in your Son, we thank you for N and N, which has found so much love and companionship in each other's company as they want to devote their lives to hold together . Look out for them with loving kindness; strengthen their commitment and loyalty, their joy in each other and in you, and therefore lead their future paths so they can walk in the ways of life and peace all the days of their life. Amen.
If that is not a blessing, then it is certainly an affirmation!
Mr Brunson. It would appear that +Kenya was reacting to a letter posted at his website, under his own signature, that he did not write. That, and air tickets paid for by TEC, created the conditions under which the delegation was prepared to go after all. When the dusts settles from the story regarding the father of +Welby, perhaps we will also get the details about forged letters. If this story is true, it does not give a good impression of collaboration in order to get a result.
Interesting though the Kenya story is, please could further comments relating to it be placed on an ACC related article, and not continued here.
Thank you for that translation from the Welsh, RIW.
That is a really lovely prayer. It recognises "so much love" in the context of "fullness of life" that God desires. It recognises the life-long devotion and "holding together" of their relationship. It prays for their commitment and relationship to get stronger. It recognises the sheer joy of their love and relationship, and it recognises it in the context of God. And it asks God to lead and accompany them in their future lives, bringing peace and joy.
This is really lovely and beautiful. If this isn't a blessing on the couple's relationship, I don't know what is.
It would be lovely - since this is a blessing-prayer sanctioned from within the Anglican communion, if it became a standard prayer in all the Church of England local churches whose priests and communities want to acknowledge and pray blessing on lesbian and gay marriages and relationships.
I see nothing wrong with the prayer translated here. How could there be? It is just not wrong to want blessing for people. Would the bishops sanction priests who used this form, this lovely and felicitous wording, in their services?
All it needs is courage of conscience, and that indeed is desperately needed... for the sake and dignity of so many decent people's relationships, and their honouring before God.
Would the bishops sanction priests who used this form, this lovely and felicitous wording, in their services?
Sussanah this has been authorised by the Welsh bishops for the clergy to use.Yet Archbishop Morgan states it is not possible to bless same sex marriages!
All I can say, it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck and it must be a duck.
If this is not a blessing, I will eat my hat.
Maybe the Church in Wales bishops should read Matthew Ch5, v37....yes or no?
The translation of the Welsh version seems superior - why are the English and Welsh language versions different rather than the same?
I understand the frustration of some however this is intended by the Church in Wales to be a step forward. A majority of General Body voted in favour of gay marriage, but sadly a 2/3 supermajority is needed to change any canon. That's the downside of an archaic system. It is okay to celebrate a step of progress in the moment. This is clearly meant to be a prayer of affirmation for the couple. The language is quite clear in that. It's easy to get frustrated and attack progress. However, change does not happen overnight. Conservatives are already attacking this as a step too far. As liberals, let us not abandon the CinW as she tries to do the right thing in time.