The Church of England has issued new guidance which allows clergy members to offer post-wedding prayers to gay couples, but bans them from performing same-sex weddings.
The revelation came as an announcement through the publishing of a document after a meeting of the House of Bishops on Friday.
The document began by condemning the “irrational fear of homosexuals” by some, and said gay people are “loved by God”, but went on to say that its concept of marriage “as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.”
“It will continue not to be legally possible for two persons of the same sex to marry according to the rites of the Church of England.”
This is in line with a “triple lock” as part of the same-sex marriage law coming into effect on 29 March for England and Wales, which bans the Church from performing same-sex marriages.
The guidance allows civil partnerships to continue to be performed by vicars, and the guidance from the CofE said clergy members should not “question” or discriminate against same-sex couples.
It went on to say that gay couples getting married is “clearly at odds” with religious instruction and that clergy members should “exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church”. This will mean that gay clergy will not be allowed to marriage.
Special prayers may be offered after wedding ceremonies, but not services of blessing. As was pointed out during the publication of the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality commissioned by the Church of England last year, the special prayers may well be interpreted by many as a service of blessing. Gay couples could in theory, marry in a registry office under civil law and then take part in a prayer service that might look and feel like a marriage inside a church, despite lacking the label.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, offered a joint statement on the deep divisions within the Church about gay couples and marriage.
It read: “The introduction of same sex marriage in our country is a new reality and has consequences for the life and discipline of the Church of England,
“We believe that Christian understandings of sexuality have a vital contribution to make in our society’s conversation about human flourishing.”