Supporting Services for Same-sex Couples

Message sent to the Bishop of Oxford and the suffragan Bishops of the Diocese, following a resolution from St Paul’s PCC:

We, the PCC of St Paul, Wokingham and St Nicholas’ Emmbrook, have voted to express our thanks and admiration and gratitude for the clear leadership and the brave commitment to building a Church which is worthy of its calling as a place of refuge, welcome and inclusion for all people. In particular we feel pride at the way that you, Bishop Steven, have been so public and open about your own change of belief and the way that your Amendment at General Synod last week was pivotal in allowing PCCs and clergy to choose to offer services of blessing for same-sex couples in standalone services. We are Churches which believe that Jesus is Good News for everyone, and that God welcomes us all into inclusive communities of love and support. We are proud that our Diocese has been so much in the vanguard of this movement to make the Church what she is called to be in this generation- open, hospitable, loving- and we will be proud to offer same-sex blessings as soon as we may.

Details of the Synod Decision from the Church of England

Special services of prayer and dedication asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples should be introduced soon in the Church of England on a trial basis, General Synod has agreed.

Synod, which has been meeting in London this week, voted in favour of a motion containing an amendment tabled by the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, to bring forward the standalone services based around texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith.

Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) is a collection of prayers, readings and other resources for praying with and for a same-sex couple who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God.

Last month the House of Bishops agreed to commend the Prayers of Love and Faith for use in existing church services. Synod heard that that is likely to take place by mid-December.

At last month’s meeting the House of Bishops also agreed that structures for special standalone services based on the PLF could also go forward to be formally authorised under canon law under a process expected to take about two years.

However, today’s amended motion means that the services could be authorised for use sooner, but temporarily, under separate legislation. 
That would enable the first standalone Prayers of Love and Faith services to take place in churches at the same time as the process of seeking permanent authorisation is under way.

Synod also reviewed other work to implement the landmark motion agreed by Synod in February on the Church’s approach to same-sex relationships. That motion called on the Church to “lament and repent” of the Church’s treatment of LGBTQI+ people, and called on the House of Bishops to further refine and commend the Prayers of Love and Faith for use in the Church of England, together with new pastoral guidance and proposals for pastoral reassurance.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, and the Bishop of Winchester, Philip Mounstephen, who have been co-chairing the Living in Love and Faith steering group, said: “During more than nine hours of debate we have heard very clearly what has been said, with passion and deep conviction, from  a whole range of different perspectives.

“The truth is – and as we have seen again today – that the Church of England is not of one mind on questions of sexuality and marriage. 

“Synod has agreed – narrowly – that standalone church services for same-sex couples should be authorised under Canon law on a trial basis. 

“The House of Bishops will now consider how best to implement that call as we also commend the Prayers of Love and Faith for use in worship.

“Yet we must also reflect on all that we have heard from Synod – from across the whole spectrum – and redouble our efforts to find a space where we can live with our current disagreements because we believe that is what God is calling us to do.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “We have heard loud and clear, through an extensive debate over two days, the depth of feeling across the Church on these hugely important questions.

“In particular, we have heard deep and heartfelt concern about the way the bishops have sought to implement Synod’s earlier decision on the Prayers of Love and Faith.”

“So while this motion was passed, narrowly, we do not underestimate the depth of feeling and will reflect on all that we have heard as we seek to move forward together.”

Church of England Press Release

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