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Church of Wales bishops propose “same-sex blessings” over marriage equality

Church of Wales bishops propose “same-sex blessings” over marriage equality

The bishops of the Church of Wales are introducing a bill to the church’s Governing Body that authorize “same-sex blessings”:

Same-sex couples will be able to have their civil partnership or marriage blessed in Church in Wales churches for the first time if new legislation is passed next month (September).

The service is for a blessing only as same-sex couples are unable to marry in church.

Why exactly they are “unable to marry in church” is a question I put to the knowledgable readers at Thinking Anglicans. I received this reply from Bernard Silverman copied below:

The reason that same-sex couples are “unable to marry in church” is because of provisions in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

However, it is noteworthy that the Act specifically makes provision for the Church in Wales, as follows: (Section 8) “…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. … The Lord Chancellor must, by order, make such provision as the Lord Chancellor considers appropriate to allow for the marriage of same sex couples according to the rites of the Church in Wales.”

So what this means is that if the Church in Wales wants to be able to conduct same-sex marriages, all that has to happen is the Governing Body would need to ask for the law to be changed, and it would happen. This possibility is already baked in to the legislation.

It is therefore interesting, and possibly pertinent to the points that Kevin Holdsworth is making, that the Governing Body is not going down this road. To say that same-sex couples are “unable” to marry in church is a bit like me having my front door key in my pocket, trying to open the door without it, and saying that I am “unable” to do so. When actually all I have to do is to put my hand in my pocket, take the key out, and unlock the door.

In order for them to take effect, bishops’ proposals must be approved by the Governing Board. Even if the bishops preferred marriage equality, they might only propose what they believe will be approved also taking into account a desire on their part to avoid division. Saying same-sex couples are unable to marry is disingenuous, avoiding saying it is within the power of Governing Board to trigger the part of the marriage ban law that would remove its application to the Church of Wales.

Hat Tip to Thinking Anglicans. For the full press release and links to additional documents go to the post by Thinking Anglicans.

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Joe Francis

Scripture defines marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. Scripture also prohibits adultery, promiscuity, and sexual deviation. Man-made rules and regulations cannot change that. Those seeking to do so, only encourage sin, and deny scripture. This does not mean for us to disparage, or exclude persons who fall into these sins – but to love them, encourage them, and most importantly – to speak the truth to them.

Tobias Haller

I believe “unable” is used to reflect the present reality (given the Marriage Act) and the fact that the avenue for change cited in §8 is not being accessed. This would appear to be an interim step, not unlike that which the Episcopal Church went through when it authorized “blessing” of same-sex couples prior to permitting marriage. Some oppose this current move in Wales not because they do not support blessings, but because they think it will be an obstacle to marriage equality in the future (near or far.)

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