Same-sex blessings: Church in Wales

Following the on-line meeting of the Governing Body on 3rd and 4th November 2020, the Church in Wales has published a Consultation on a Bill to authorize the experimental use of proposed revisions of the Book of Common Prayer  in relation to a service of Blessing following a Civil Partnership or Marriage between two people of the same sex. This contains links to:

Extracts from these documents are reproduced below. Members of the Governing Body wishing to propose any amendments to the Bill must do so by 3 March 2021; the next meeting of the Governing Body is on April 14-15 2021.

Background

In September 2018, the Governing Body  indicated by informal poll their agreement with the Bench that “it is pastorally unsustainable for the Church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships”.  Since then, the bishops have been deliberating what the next steps might be, and what sort of formal provision should be offered to Governing Body for their consideration.  In presenting this bill to approve a Rite of the Blessing of Same-sex Unions, the Bench of Bishops is responding to the 2018 motion, which was passed by over a two thirds majority in the Governing Body.

Explanatory Memorandum

In addition to the above background, the Explanatory Memorandum notes inter alia [emphasis added]:

  • The Bench believes that, in the fullness of time, the Governing Body will have to consider whether it wishes to consider a change in the Church’s teaching concerning marriage. This could enable a couple wishing to live in a faithful and mutually committed same-sex.
  • In the meantime, the bishops are persuaded that provision should be made for a Rite of Blessing for committed same-sex relationships as soon as conveniently may be. They are therefore bringing forward this legislation to permit a blessing, but in circumstances which at present go no further than affirming what is permitted in the law of the land, namely a rite designed for those in a same-sex relationship who have already availed themselves of their right in law to contract a civil marriage or civil partnership, where their commitment is similar to the sort of commitment made in the Christian understanding of marriage.
  • This rite is also intended as specifically for same-sex couples, and is not an attempt to make provision for those heterosexual couples who may now, by law, contract a civil partnership. However, it does draw upon the model of fidelity and life long commitment, to which the Church asks those coming to it for marriage to adhere.
  • Use of the rite would only be permissive. The bishops understand that acceptance of same-sex partnerships remains a controversial view, and that there are Christians who feel unable to read Scripture and Tradition in the more permissive way the bishops propose. It is intended therefore that the adoption of such rites should not carry with it any requirement on any cleric to act against their conscience  and to participate in the celebration of the rite.  It is rather permissive for those Christians, and their circles of friends and families who wish it, to be able to be honest and open in celebrating the love and commitment of two people to each other, which they have already made in civil law, in the context of their faith, and inviting God’s blessing.

Letter from the Secretary to the Governing Body

Procedure

The Bill will proceed under the Bill Procedure set out in sections 27 to 32 of Chapter II of the Constitution.

The Bill has been presented to the Standing Committee. Having been satisfied that the Bill is ‘in order’, the Standing Committee is now publishing it by circulating printed copies in English and Welsh to all members of the Governing Body together with an Explanatory Memorandum.

The Standing Committee has also appointed a Select Committee ‘for the purpose of considering and collating any amendments which members of the Governing Body may wish to move to the Bill’. The following have been invited to be members of the Select Committee…

…Any member of the Governing Body may move an amendment to the Bill provided that written notice of any such amendment is given to the Secretary of the Governing Body within three months immediately following publication of the Bill.   Any such amendments should be sent to John Richfield  at this office by 3 March 2021.  johnrichfield@churchinwales.org.uk If you do put forward an amendment it would be very helpful for the Select Committee if you provide a brief explanation of the reasons for the proposed change.

Within six months of its appointment the Select Committee must report to the Standing Committee on each proposed amendment and on whether or not the Bill should be deemed “non-controversial”. The Select Committee may also make proposals of its own. The Standing Committee must then publish the Select Committee’s report to all members of the Governing Body and must set down the Bill for consideration in Committee at the next Governing Body meeting in accordance with Section 29 of Chapter II of the Constitution.

Timetable

As indicated above the deadline for members of the Governing Body to submit amendments is 3 March 2021. It is intended that the Select Committee will complete its work in time for the Standing Committee to receive its Report in July 2021 so that the Bill can be brought to the Governing Body in September 2021.

If you have any questions about the papers enclosed please contact John Richfield johnrichfield@churchinwales.org.uk at this office.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Same-sex blessings: Church in Wales" in Law & Religion UK, 9 December 2020, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2020/12/09/same-sex-blessings-church-in-wales/

 

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