First steps towards recognition of same-sex marriage in the Church in Wales
Today the Church in Wales issued the following Press Release:
“Same-sex marriage statement
The Church should be a place where gay and lesbian people can be “honest and open, respected and affirmed”, say the bishops of the Church in Wales.
They are issuing a joint pastoral letter in response to consultations and debates on same-sex marriage across the Church in Wales last year, as well as to a statement from the Primates of the Anglican Communion in January.
In the letter, the bishops acknowledge that while the consultations showed that the Church is not yet ready to allow or bless same-sex marriage, the debate is not over. They commit to working for a Church in which gay and lesbian people are “fully affirmed as equal disciples” and to praying with and for them.
They also apologize to gay and lesbian people for the persecution and mistreatment they have endured at the hands of the Church and they commit themselves to providing a safe place within the Church for all gay and lesbian people.
Alongside the letter, the Bishops are also publishing a series of prayers which may be said with a couple following the celebration of a civil partnership or civil marriage.
Introducing the letter, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said, “We are not ready, as a Church, to take the step of authorizing same-sex marriage. There is no point in bringing forward a Bill for it to fail. That I know will be a disappointment to those who voted for change and will be a deep disappointment to same sex couples within the Church in Wales who long for the opportunity to make their vows in one of our churches.
“We, as bishops, feel that this is the right thing to do at this time. I realize that some people will regard these prayers as too little too late and others will regard them as a step too far. No one is compelled to use them, but they are provided for those who would like to do so. These prayers do not constitute a service of blessing.”
As we indicated in our 2013 post Men, Women and Marriage, and the Church in Wales, the approach taken by the CiW has differed from that of the Co E, one consequence of which was the inclusion in the Marriage (Same sex couples) Act 2013 of a provision under which the Lord Chancellor could by Order allow for the marriage of same sex couples according to the rites of the Church in Wales.
However, section 8 of the Act: “… applies if the Lord Chancellor is satisfied that the Governing Body of the Church in Wales has resolved that the law of England and Wales should be changed to allow for the marriage of same sex couples according to the rites of the Church in Wales”.
It is clear from Dr Morgan’s letter that the Church in Wales is not in a position to satisfy this legal requirement. However, the introduction of a service of blessing is not constrained by such statutory legal requirements and it will be a disappointment to many that the CiW has been unable to take this step.