Church of England votes to move forward with same-sex blessings plans

Justin Welby addresses General Synod Jul;y 2024

The Church of England’s General Synod (church parliament) has voted to continue developing plans for stand alone blessing services for same-gender couples.

A selection of readings and prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples – known as Prayers of Love and Faith, are already in use as part of regular services in some churches such as a Sunday eucharist or evensong.

The synod also agreed to provide “delegated episcopal ministry” for those who disagree with their bishop and work to provide a timetable towards a decision on clergy in same-sex civil marriages.

Speaking in the debate, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, acknowledged there are deep disagreements within the Church on questions of sexuality and that the proposals would not fully satisfy any group – but represented an “Anglican way forward”.

“What’s before us is a compromise,” he said.

However the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) expressed deep diaapointment. “It is deeply disappointing that despite hearing repeatedly in speeches of the need to build trust by avoiding bad process, and CEEC’s continued advocacy of the insufficiency of delegated arrangements, Synod passed the Motion, and the Prayers of Love and Faith bus continues to move forward,” the CEEC National Director John Dunnett said.

“The leaders of the Church of England seem intent on leading the church away from the biblical teaching and doctrine passed down through the centuries and shared by millions of Christians in the Anglican Communion today.”

“CEEC continues to believe that structural reorganisation is the only provision that will guarantee orthodoxy going forward. General Synod’s decision will sadly trigger the launch of a de facto parallel province, as outlined by the recent Alliance letter to the archbishops and bishops, and CEEC will work with our partners in the Alliance to make this a reality. We are committed to remaining within the Church of England and hope that the bishops will come to the table to negotiate an acceptable settlement.”

The vote was close. Bishops 22 for, 12 against; Clergy 99 for, 88 against; and Laity 95 for, 91 against. The details of the proposals are in this General Synod paper.

In a speech the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, expressed a desire for a church to include bothe the conservative “Alliance” and the progressive “Together” movements. “49 years ago, this October I was led to Christ by a friend called Nick Hill. Nick showed me from the Bible that God loved me, had proved it by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus for my sins, and called me to trust my life to him. And so that is what I did. As with me then, this discussion now is about people following Christ or wanting to or being called to. Doctrine lived means people praying, seeking, serving and suffering. 

“That is one reason of many why I cannot imagine the Church of England without the Alliance Network, members and friends. Under God, I owe that tradition my salvation. That they all flourish in this church, including firmly those in the Alliance is indispensable to the gospel in this land. And as the years went by, and I served in places of war and suffering, I also found churches drawing people to salvation by engaging with unjust structures and practicing reconciliation. That is one reason, one of many, why I cannot imagine the Church of England without the Together network, members and friends as well as the Alliance. They all deepened my love for God. That they all flourish is indispensable to the gospel in this land.” 

Image: Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury addresses general Synod in Yourl, July 2024. Image credit: Church of England.