The bishops of the Church in Wales have published a pastoral letter (and a series of prayers) addressed to their LGBT members. Recognizing the contentiousness of the debate and a history of discrimination, the bishops have tried to both affirm LGBT members and their relationships while also acknowledging a political inability to move beyond the status quo.
Over the last eighteen months, we have conducted a wide consultation in Governing Body and with the dioceses to explore whether the faithful of the Church in Wales felt it would be appropriate to acknowledge same sex unions in Church, by offering a Blessing, or even permitting the marriage of same sex couples in Church. Given that the civil law of the realm has now been changed to permit marriage of same sex couples, many see this as a natural next step.
The results of the consultation have been very varied: in some dioceses there was a strong voice for the status quo, in others a majority who wanted to see change. In the subsequent debate in Governing Body, it became clear that although a majority of members supported change, there was certainly no consensus, and any move to introduce changes in canon law would not meet the required two thirds majority of Governing Body, voting in houses, to enable such changes. Furthermore, any change to the teaching of the Church on Marriage, or the authorisation of any blessing of these unions in the life of the Church, would depend on legislation by bill procedure, which requires such enhanced majorities to take effect.
Recognizing this political reality, the bishops nevertheless want to affirm the dignity of all members of the church.
While as a Church we remain unable to bless the committed partnerships you form in marriage or in civil partnership, yet we commit ourselves as bishops to work for a Church in which you can be fully affirmed as equal disciples of Jesus Christ or seekers after truth. We will pray with you and for you, that together we may seek God’s blessing on our lives, and for faithful discipleship.
To that end they have promulgated two forms of prayers (not blessings!) that may be said with a couple following the Celebration of a Civil Partnership or Civil Marriage, Form 1 of which is:
For the couple
Father God, whose will it is that all people should find fullness of life in your Son, we thank you for N and N, who have found such love and companionship in each other, that it has led them to dedicate their lives in support of one another. Look upon them with loving kindness; strengthen their commitment and their faithfulness, their joy in one another and in you, and so guide the paths of their future that they may walk in the ways of life and peace all the days of their life. Amen.
For their home
Heavenly Father, you gave your Son to live as part of a family in an earthly home in Nazareth. As N and N make their home together, may your love rest upon it, and upon all those who dwell in it. May their home be a place of security and of love, of joy and of peace, where those who live there may find strength and hope for the future, and grace in their lives, this day and forever. Amen.
For their family and friends
Lord God, your Son lived amongst us, calling disciples to his side to become a new family in your kingdom. As N and N make a commitment to share each other’s lives, bless all their families and friends. As two lives and two families are drawn together, may this commitment always be a source of joy and of love; may their friends rejoice in their joy, and support them in their sadness, and may the good news of your kingdom ever draw them onwards and upwards into that life which is your will for the world. Amen.
It is clear that the bishops are seeking to find a kind of “good disagreement” on this issue by offering what are blessing in all but name. And yet… such half measures seem to fall short of the the acknowledged will of the majority of Anglicans in Wales and still feel a bit like marking off these relationships as somehow lesser.
The Church in Wales own statement can be found here