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Church of England’s House of Bishops Advances Inclusion for Same-Sex Couples

The House of Bishops of the Church of England has given its preliminary approval for the use of prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples, commonly known as “Prayers of Love and Faith.”  This took place during a recent meeting in London. 

Moreover, the House of Bishops concluded that structures for special services designed for same-sex couples, based on the Prayers of Love and Faith, should progress to formal authorization under canon law. The detailed proposals, which will pave the way for this authorization process, will be presented to the General Synod next month, and the ultimate authorization is expected to occur under Canon B2 by 2025. This comprehensive process will involve consultation with all dioceses and necessitate approval by the General Synod.

In a thoughtful consideration of alternatives, the bishops contemplated a legal process that could have granted temporary authorization for special services under Canon B5A, but they ultimately favored the more extended and thorough process of Canon B2.  

To complement this significant development, a new draft of pastoral guidance is set to be presented at the next month’s meeting of the General Synod, outlining how this system could operate. Additionally, ongoing work is being conducted on the second part of the Pastoral Guidance, which will address matters related to the lives and work of clergy and lay ministers.

These proposals for the Prayers of Love and Faith were initially discussed during a groundbreaking debate at the General Synod in February of this year. Synod called upon the bishops to work on Pastoral Guidance and other necessary arrangements to implement that decision fully.

The detailed proposals will be thoroughly examined at a meeting of the General Synod in London scheduled for November 13 to 15.

During the recent House of Bishops meeting, several crucial decisions were made:

  • Commendation of Prayers of Love and Faith: The House of Bishops has agreed to commend the prayers and readings contained in Prayers of Love and Faith for use with same-sex couples in public worship.
  • Authorization of Special Standalone Services: Special standalone services outlined in Prayers of Love and Faith will be presented to the General Synod for a decision on whether to authorize them under Canon B2. This process will involve consultations with dioceses.
  • Ongoing Work for Pastoral Reassurance: The church is actively exploring additional forms of pastoral reassurance and formal structural pastoral provisions to ensure that the conscience of everyone is respected.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who co-chaired the steering group responsible for bringing forth these proposals, expressed, “The House of Bishops’ decisions today continue to implement Synod’s vote to recognize publicly the commitment of same-sex couples and to pray God’s blessing for them. The bishops concluded that it would ultimately be clearer to proceed directly to consideration under Canon B2 after carefully considering the legal, theological, and pastoral implications of possible approaches. This approach may take longer, but it ensures clarity and broad consultation ahead of a final decision by synod in 2025.”

While recognizing that some may feel the process is too slow, Bishop Mullally emphasized the church’s commitment to reconciliation and its desire to remain united despite varying perspectives and convictions.

During the meeting, there were moments of prayer and worship, and the bishops offered prayers for crises occurring worldwide, including the situations in Israel and Gaza and Afghanistan. 

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