CofE bishops release prayers for blessing of same-sex couples

20 January 2023

Following an announcement earlier in the week, Church of England bishops have today released draft prayers of blessing for same-sex couples to be used in church services.

Their report, written in response to the Living in Love and Faith process, falls short of calling for same-sex ‘marriages’ in churches – in fact, the bishops claim that the church’s teaching on marriage has not changed. However, the prayers of blessing are intended to be used “for a couple who have marked a significant stage in the development of their relationship, sealed a covenanted friendship, registered a civil partnership, or entered into a civil marriage”.

Christian Concern’s chief executive Andrea Williams, who served on the church’s General Synod for ten years, explains:

“The bishops have attempted to sound like they approve of same-sex relationships, and all they entail, while claiming they’re not changing the church’s teaching.

“The result is an unworkable mess that will please no one.

“The report says that prayers for blessing simply ask that God would cause people to flourish and walk in God’s ways – and that they do not indicate approval. 

“Yet these prayers are deliberately designed to be used to celebrate unions or partnerships that defy and parody God’s pattern for marriage. On paper, they may celebrate friendship as between David and Jonathan, or Ruth and Naomi; but in practice they celebrate romantic, sexual relationships that defy God and his call to holiness.

“These optional prayers will lead to constant pressure on orthodox ministers from same-sex couples who want a church blessing. Faithful ministers and chaplains have already been put through crippling complaints procedures and even lost their jobs for holding to what the Bible says. Imagine what will happen once same-sex couples are waging local campaigns against vicars for refusing to bless them.

“It is time to end this constant questioning of God’s goodness in the pattern of life he set out for humanity. Those who want to deny the Bible’s teaching should be encouraged to leave the Church of England.”

Vicars to reject bishops’ authority?

There has been widespread criticism of the bishops from faithful Christians. Church Society’s Lee Gatiss responded explaining that this change of practice is a change of doctrine.

Others have proposed how orthodox Christians in the church should respond. Christian Today reports that some evangelical ministers may reject the authority of their bishops unless they stand against these changes, while remaining in the CofE.

Outside the Church of England, presbyterian minister Matthew Roberts, a co-author of the Greater Love Declaration, goes further, calling for an alternative synod formed of faithful Church of England Christians to confront the false teaching.

Whatever transpires, faithful Christians in the Church of England need both the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves as they seek to resist these changes.

Imagine what will happen to vicars who refuse to conduct blessings

Today’s Round the Table discussion featured General Synod member Ben John and Rev. Dr Bernard Randall giving their insight on the developments. If Bernard could lose his job and be treated as a safeguarding concern for supporting the historic Christian view before this announcement, imagine what will happen to vicars who refuse to conduct blessing services for same-sex couples under these proposals.

Watch below or listen on podcast platforms.

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