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Church of England’s General Synod Focuses on Same-Sex Blessings

This week, the Church of England’s leaders are gathering to shed more light on same-sex blessings. The focus is going to be on the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) ideas. 

For two and a half days, the leaders will discuss the final decision to let priests bless same-sex couples, something they agreed on in February. 

They’re suggesting that right after their meeting, everyone should support the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) and follow new rules about them in Pastoral Guidance.

The proposal also recommends a more extended canonical process for standalone same-sex blessing services, anticipated to conclude in 2025. However, “further work” on pastoral guidance allowing priests to marry their same-sex partners is acknowledged as necessary but won’t be immediately published post-meeting.

The plans, made public last month, have stirred a noticeable division among bishops, who had initially sought a united approach considering both liberal and conservative viewpoints.

Twelve bishops expressed their discontent through a signed letter, arguing that the proposals failed to “safeguard the pastoral stability, mission, and unity of the church.” Another 44 bishops raised concerns about the delay in issuing guidance for priests to marry same-sex partners.

Presented to the General Synod as a motion, the plans allow members to propose amendments subject to a vote by Houses—Laity, Clergy, and Bishops. In February, only one out of over two dozen proposed amendments passed the threshold.

While the specific number and nature of amendments remain undisclosed until the meeting begins, potential points of contention are speculated upon. One potential issue could be the timing of the pastoral guidance for ministers, with liberals advocating for immediate publication, while conservatives may push for a delayed release.

Additional amendments might seek further clarity on whether the proposed prayers align with the Church’s doctrine of marriage.

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury met with representatives from both liberal and conservative groups. The question of his resignation surfaced, as neither side seemed satisfied. In a piece for The Times, Jayne Ozanne, an LGBT evangelical Christian, called for Welby’s resignation after a meeting at Lambeth Palace. Rev Dr. Lee Gatis, director of the Church Society, also shared this view during a meeting with 25 conservatives.

In response, a spokesperson for Archbishop Justin stated to The Times that he was “thankful for the honesty and courage of all those who shared their stories, concerns, and deeply-held beliefs.” The Archbishop remains “focused on serving the church as it navigates these challenging times.

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