Thinking Anglicans

Church in Wales proposals for blessings after same-sex marriages

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales has published on this page its proposals for: A Bill to authorise experimental use of proposed revisions of the Book of Common Prayer (service of Blessing following a Civil Partnership or Marriage between two people of the same sex).

The documents are all in MS Word format:

The covering letter is copied in full below the fold.
A PDF version of the Explanatory Memorandum (in English only) is available here: Explanatory_Memorandum.

TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY

3 December 2020

Dear Member

BILL TO AUTHORISE EXPERIMENTAL USE OF PROPOSED REVISIONS OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (Service of Blessing following a Civil Partnership or Marriage between two people of the same sex)

Documents

The following documents are enclosed:

A Bill for Liturgy of Blessing for same-sex Marriages or Civil Partnerships;

Schedule to the Bill; 

An Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.

Background

In September 2018, the Governing Body indicated by informal poll its agreement with the Bench that “it is pastorally unsustainable for the Church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships”.  Since then, the bishops have been deliberating what the next steps might be, and what sort of formal provision should be offered to the Governing Body for consideration.   This Bill to approve a Rite of the Blessing of Same-sex Unions is pursuant to the response by the Bench of Bishops to the indication given by the Governing Body in the informal poll at its September 2018 meeting. 

The Bench considers that in time, the Governing Body will have to consider whether it wishes to consider a change in the Church’s teaching concerning marriage, to enable a couple wishing to live in a faithful and mutually committed same-sex relationship to celebrate the rite of marriage in Church. If that step is considered, it will be necessary to make time at the Governing Body for a careful theological consideration of the arguments for and against, and make a mature and informed decision about whether or not to proceed.

For the present time, the bishops consider that provision should be made for a Rite of Blessing for committed same-sex relationships as soon as conveniently may be. 

Procedure

The Bill will proceed under the Bill Procedure set out in sections 27 to 32 of Chapter II of the Constitution.

The Bill has been presented to the Standing Committee.   Having been satisfied that the Bill is ‘in order’, the Standing Committee is now publishing it by circulating printed copies in English and Welsh to all members of the Governing Body together with an Explanatory Memorandum.

The Standing Committee has also appointed a Select Committee ‘for the purpose of considering and collating any amendments which members of the Governing Body may wish to move to the Bill’.   The following have been invited to be members of the Select Committee:

Fr John Connell (Chair)
The Venerable Andrew Jones, Archdeacon of Meirionnydd
The Reverend Andy Jones
Dr Heather Payne
Mr Luke Spencer * (with effect from 1 January 2021)
Mrs Jennie Willson
The Reverend Richard Wood

Any member of the Governing Body may move an amendment to the Bill provided that written notice of any such amendment is given to the Secretary of the Governing Body within three months immediately following publication of the Bill.   Any such amendments should be sent to John Richfield  at this office by 3 March 2021.  johnrichfield@churchinwales.org.uk If you do put forward an amendment it would be very helpful for the Select Committee if you provide a brief explanation of the reasons for the proposed change.

Within six months of its appointment the Select Committee must report to the Standing Committee on each proposed amendment and on whether or not the Bill should be deemed “non-controversial”.   The Select Committee may also make proposals of its own.   The Standing Committee must then publish the Select Committee’s report to all members of the Governing Body and must set down the Bill for consideration in Committee at the next Governing Body meeting in accordance with Section 29 of Chapter II of the Constitution.

Timetable

As indicated above the deadline for members of the Governing Body to submit amendments is 3 March 2021.   It is intended that the Select Committee will complete its work in time for the Standing Committee to receive its Report in July 2021 so that the Bill can be brought to the Governing Body in September 2021.

If you have any questions about the papers enclosed please contact John Richfield johnrichfield@churchinwales.org.uk at this office.

Yours sincerely
Simon J Lloyd
Lay Secretary to the Governing Body 

 

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Kate
Kate
10 months ago

So why couldn’t the Church of England be as pastorally sensitive and allow blessings while LLF slowly considers the bigger changes which may be needed?

Sue Whitlock
Sue Whitlock
Reply to  Kate
10 months ago

Ask the bishops, Kate!

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Kate
10 months ago

Because the Archbishop of Canterbury is unable to speak about homosexuality, due to (a) being himself an evangelical opposed to same-sex relationships and (b) being more interested in pandering to similarly inclined overseas churches than listening to England. Justin Welby is content for his legacy to be a smaller, weaker, less respected Church, considered toxic by progressive people, so long as the most important issue confronting his brand of Christianity — keeping the gays at the back of, or preferably under, the bus — is maintained.

Last edited 10 months ago by Interested Observer
Father Ron Smith
10 months ago

This seems like a wonderful outpouring of the GOOD NEWS of Jesus in the Gospels!

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
10 months ago

An excellent and pastorally obvious development. Doesn’t need 480 pages, clearly set out, and only permissive, so that those of conscience will not have to use the rite. The conclusion to the explanatory memorandum speaks volumes: “However, it is also 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 unreservedly and collectively commend the Rite to Governing Body.” Marriage will come next. Developments… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

This has the potential to severely delay marriage equality in the Church in Wales.

There’s a very fine line between blessings in church being a stepping stone to marriage equality and blessings in church being something that prevents marriage equality for 20 years.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

Kelvin, could you please explain your concern more fully?

Last edited 10 months ago by Kate
Kelvin Holdsworth
Reply to  Kate
10 months ago

It will be much more difficult to argue for marriage equality if the Church in Wales gives formal sanction with a liturgy to civil partnership blessings. People will think the gays have already got what they needed. But separate isn’t equal. Here in Scotland some of us argued in General Synod against the church formally approving blessings for same-sex couples as that wasn’t equality and it was equality that we were after. We were arguing against well minded mostly straight liberals who seemed to think that we would be delighted to be offered scraps under the table rather than the… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

In a way analogous with the Church of England’s coyly titled “Dedication of a Civil Marriage”. It saved the blushes of the House of Bishops and the tender consciences of some clergy, but couples soon saw it for what it was: a second-rate rite.

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

“But separate isn’t equal.” It’s worthwhile remembering some of the thoughts of the U.S. Supreme Court on that issue in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that in the U.S. same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marriage. “There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle [marriage is “at the center of so many facets of the legal and social order”]. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

The Canadian experience is instructive. The “St Michael Report” of the Primate’s Theological Commission, about 2005, though asked to discuss the matter of blessings, stated the obvious, that it was really about marriage itself, and that framed the discussions from then on. When General Synod gave permission for diocesan bishops to authorize blessings of marriages, it was clearly understood that it was only an interim measure, given the need for 2 consecutive synods to authorize a change to the marriage canon by supermajorities (and since that failed, the permission has been expanded to allow bishops to authorize trial rites for… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

And look out for a policy of allowing blessings (so long as everyone promises that they are not having sex) coming to the Church of England within a couple of years.

To be resisted.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

I disagree. While marriage equality is the correct goal, the urgent priority is to reduce the harm being done to LGBTI Christians. Once the Church of England blesses same sex marriages it has a) recognised that it is a legal marriage b) it becomes almost impossible to deny a PTO to someone whose marriage has been blessed and c) it highlights to vulnerable LGB youth that lifelong celibacy isn’t the only available option.   So you may have a point about best tactics for reaching the ultimate goal but it is morally wrong to require people to continue to suffer… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
Reply to  Kate
10 months ago

In my view the Bishops of the C of E are just a few years away from offering the blessing of civil partnerships. However they will keep on insisting that the relationships that they are blessing are sex-free.

It does help people to be able to see same-sex couples as human beings who want to celebrate. However, the “no-sex please we are Anglicans thing” is what is most damaging and that is more likely to carry on if formal blessings are preferred over actual marriages.

Leslie Buck
Leslie Buck
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
10 months ago

Your point is well taken, but there is more to be said. Marxists insist that violent revolution is necessary in order to achieve true equality, but in practice violent revolution has customarily merely replaced one form of tyranny by another. Gradual reform, on the other hand, takes much longer but involves less violence and can be more permanent. My preference is for the latter, but it is a personal judgment. Here in my parish in Vancouver we set about introducing same-sex marriage in 1998 and achieved our aim in 2019. Twenty-one years was a long time for many members of the local LGBT community, and… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
Reply to  Leslie Buck
10 months ago

I don’t believe that the suggestion that the Church in Wales embrace the marriage of same-sex couples is akin to Marxist revolution or violence.

Indeed I think that the comparison is what homophobia looks like.

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
10 months ago

Thank you Anthony for your wise words. A step along a very long road, that in the past has brought so much pain and fear. Now the Welsh Bishops are speaking with one voice, and we can all rejoice. Together we can move forward with hope and love in our hearts.

Fr John Emlyn

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
10 months ago

The proposal to bless the civil partnership or marriage of a same sex couple, but to deliberately not include heterosexual couples also in civil partnerships is revealing. The Explanatory memorandum talks about the relationship of the same sex couple involved as primary and acknowledges porneia is not how same sex relationships should be defined. Is it suggested heterosexual couples now fall in this category as they should marry and not be in civil partnerships? If it is about couples in relationship showing their commitment and fidelity either marry them all, or give them all, following a civil partnership ceremony, the… Read more »

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