The General Synod (church parliament) of the church of Synod has passed a motion supporting the bishops’ proposals for prayers of blessing for same-sex couples. The proposals fall short of same-sex marriage but contain prayers that bless relationships outside of traditional marriage, including marriage-like vows and rings.
The motion, which passed with a minor amendment, reads:
That this Synod, recognising the commitment to learning and deep listening to God and to each other of the Living in Love and Faith process, and desiring with God’s help to journey together while acknowledging the different deeply held convictions within the Church:
(a) lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church;
(b) recommit to our shared witness to God’s love for and acceptance of every person by continuing to embed the Pastoral Principles in our life together locally and nationally;
(c) commend the continued learning together enabled by the Living in Love and Faith process and resources in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage;
(d) welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance;
(e) welcome the response from the College of Bishops and look forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes;
(f) invite the House of Bishops to monitor the Church’s use of and response to the Prayers of Love and Faith, once they have been commended and published, and to report back to Synod in five years’ time;
(g) endorse the decision of the College and House of Bishops not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage, and their intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.
(the amendment that was passed is indicated in italics)
Amendments from conservatives opposing the changes and progressives seeking an early adoption of same-sex marriage were defeated. The House of Bishops, voting largely as a block, effectively blocked all but the one amendment.
The voting was by houses.
Bishops: 36 in favour, 4 against, 2 recorded abstentions
Clergy: 111 in favour, 85 against, 3 recorded abstentions
Laity: 103 in favour, 92 against, 5 recorded abstentions
The prayers cover sexually active same-gender relationships, according to the Bishop of London who has led the project, but the church’s lawyers insist this is not specified in the prayers. The church is adopting these new prayers while maintaining an official man-woman doctrine of marriage.
A next stage, within six months, will see a “pastoral guidance” issued by the bishops, which will deal with whether the church is actually blessing sex outside of marriage.