The Bishops of the Church in Wales have been given the go-ahead to explore formal provision for same-sex couples in church.
Members of the Church’s Governing Body agreed with the bishops that the current situation of no formal provision was “pastorally unsustainable”. They voted with a clear majority in favour of the bishops looking at new approaches which could be brought back to the Governing Body for approval at a later date.
The private ballot followed a presentation to the meeting from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop Mark Strange, on the process that church went through before it decided to accept same-sex marriage. There was then a question session with Bishop Mark and an open discussion on the bishops’ request.
The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, said, “The bishops are united in the belief that it is pastorally unsustainable and unjust for the Church to continue to make no formal provision for those in committed same-sex relationships. Although today’s outcome does not change the present doctrine or practice of the Church in Wales on marriage, I am pleased that it provides an important steer to the bishops in exercising our ministry of pastoral care and spiritual leadership.”
Background paper signed by the Archbishop of Wales
An extract from this:
…It is now some three years since the Governing Body last considered matters of same gender relationships. In the light of a change in the practice of our sister Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Bishops have invited the Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, to outline for us the process which his church adopted: in making that change; and in seeking to care pastorally and provide for those who find themselves on opposing sides of the debate surrounding same gender relationships. As Archbishop, I was privileged to hear Bishop Mark speak about that process at the October 2017 meeting of Anglican Primates in Canterbury. Both at the Celtics Bishops’ meeting and the Primates meeting the issue of same-gender relationships itself was not the focus of discussion. That focus was very clearly and very firmly upon the development of the process enabling those who felt it to be right for the Bishops to lead in a particular direction to be provided for whilst, at the same time, ensuring that those who felt that it was wrong to move in that direction were also provided for.
The Bishops of the Church in Wales believe that it is pastorally unsustainable and unjust for the Church to continue to make no formal provision for those in committed same-gender relationships. We are keenly aware of the deep desire on the part of some for us to lead in a particular and very definite direction, but we are also equally aware of others for whom that would be deeply and profoundly disturbing for us to do so.
As part of discharging our responsibility to lead the whole church in ways that are just, compassionate and caring, seeking to ensure that none suffers through our neglect, we have invited Bishop Mark to come and address the Governing Body about the process developed and adopted in Scotland. He will first address the Governing Body and, after lunch (during which informal discussion among members can take place), he will answer questions about that process and the current situation in Scotland. Bishop Mark will not debate the rightness or otherwise of same gender relationships, those relationships being blessed, or same-gender marriages being solemnised, but all comments from members will be noted.
In the light of what takes place, members of Governing Body will then be asked to indicate whether they would support the Bishops in undertaking further work on the subject of same-gender relationships and how the Church in Wales could or should provide for them. The Governing Body will participate in a private ballot, in which members will be asked to agree or not with the statement: “It is pastorally unsustainable for the Church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships.”
This is not a motion. It will bind neither the Bench of Bishops nor the wider Church in Wales. It will not change the doctrine and practice of the Church in Wales on marriage. However, it will provide an important steer for the Bench in determining where to go next in exercising their ministry of leadership and pastoral care.