Gay priests have been banned from same-sex marriage and gay couples will only be able to receive informal prayers from priests, not official blessings, a new report from the Church of England has stated.
The ban anticipates same-sex marriages, which will be possible in England and Wales from 29 March, and upholds the Church of England remains unchanged on their view of marriage and will not conduct gay marriages.
‘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’ the report said.
The guidance stated two gay priests getting married would be ‘clearly at odds’ with the Church, they will only be permitted to enter into a civil partnership.
Furthermore, married gay couples are allowed to ask for special prayers from their local priest, as a kind of informal acceptance of their relationship, however they will not be eligible to receive an official blessing.
The report says such couples should be invited for a ‘pastoral discussion’ about why they have strayed from traditional Church teachings about marriage, but they must not be subjected to prolonged and intrusive questioning about their lives.
In a joint statement released alongside the report, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, commented on gay relationships.
‘Same-sex relationships often embody genuine mutuality and fidelity …. two of the virtues which the Book of Common Prayer uses to commend marriage’ they said.
However, the Archbishops refused to budge on what constitutes a marriage, saying:
‘We are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.’
The Rev Colin Coward, director of the Changing Attitude group, commented on the guidelines.
‘I know of at least one couple, including a priest, who have already booked their wedding and told his bishop that he has got a date booked’ he said.
‘It is not only a dog’s breakfast but many inside the Church know perfectly well that significant numbers of bishops already break the guidelines. The reality is that dishonesty and hypocrisy is becoming more and more apparent.’