The Church of England released new guidelines last week that forbid priests from blessing same-sex weddings, or marrying same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriage is set to become legal in England next month. The legislation already bans the Church of England and its sister church in Wales from conducting same-sex services, but a church working group proposed last year that clergy allow religious services celebrating same-sex marriages and civil partnerships. England and Wales legalized secular same-sex civil partnerships in 2005. The church has continued to hold that marriage is between one man and one woman, and chose to uphold that stance during last week’s meeting.
“Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways,” the guidance from the House of Bishops said. The ruling included the possibility of an informal prayer after the ceremony, but forbade blessings.
The House of Bishops also said those in homosexual marriages should not be ordained as bishops, priests, or deacons, and those in the ministry should not enter same-sex marriages.
“The House is not willing for those who are in a same-sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry,” the bishops said. “In addition, it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage.”
The Church of England, which spans the globe, has been split over the issue of homosexuality, especially since the Episcopal Church in the United States ordained a gay bishop in 2003.
Copies of the new guidelines were sent to bishops and archbishops in Anglican churches around the world.
Included with the guidelines were letters from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, acknowledging the divisions in the church on homosexuality, saying same-sex marriage was a “new reality” that had implications for the Church of England.