In a new statement, 44 senior bishops in the Church of England have voiced their support for allowing priests to enter same-sex marriages, with one-third of the senior clergy signatories expressing this view.
This group includes 15 diocesan bishops and 29 assistant or suffragan bishops. Their joint statement calls for swift action to end the uncertainty for LGBTQIA+ clergy and ordinands within the Church.
The statement reads, “We look forward to guidance being issued without delay that includes the removal of all restrictions on clergy entering same-sex civil marriages, and on bishops ordaining and licensing such clergy, as well as granting permissions to officiate.” This means that these senior bishops want the Church to remove all barriers preventing same-sex marriages for priests and bishops, ensuring that LGBTQIA+ clergy can serve and marry freely.
However, it’s worth noting that this guidance already exists in draft form, but a decision has been made not to rush its publication. According to the Church Times, further work on the guidance is required before it can be released to the public.
The recent statement from the 44 senior clerics comes in response to the House of Bishops’ plan to commend prayers for same-sex couples “very soon.” The House of Bishops also announced that a separate service for same-sex couples would go through a more extended approval process.
In contrast, a few days later, 12 bishops, including seven diocesan and five suffragan bishops, expressed their dissent regarding the House of Bishops’ proposals. They argued that the proposals failed to protect the pastoral stability, mission, and unity of the Church.
For the 44 senior clerics who signed the latest letter, the House of Bishops’ proposals are not perfect either. They stated, “We rejoice that we have agreed to commend the Prayers of Love and Faith and warmly support their use. Many of us regret that the authorization of the separate Service Structures and Sample Services has been delayed, and we will work within agreed processes to secure that authorization as soon as possible.”
The signatories of the statement acknowledged that they may not all share the same perspectives on this issue. However, they emphasized their desire to find a way that respects and honors different viewpoints within the Church of England. They want to ensure that no one is expected to act against their conscience or theological conviction.
The ultimate goal for these senior bishops is to create an inclusive and accepting environment within the Church of England for LGBTQIA+ individuals. They long for a day when LGBTQIA+ people will be unquestionably included in all aspects of the church’s life and ministries, with the contributions of each individual celebrated as the offering of fellow Christians.
This statement from a significant portion of senior bishops in the Church of England highlights the ongoing debate within the Church about LGBTQIA+ rights and acceptance. While some progress has been made, it is clear that there are still differing opinions and challenges to overcome.