The Church of England said it will allow blessings for same-sex couples who marry, but will not allow its priests to officiate same-sex marriages in its churches and has decided not to redefine Holy Matrimony.
The Wednesday announcement comes after five years of heated debate “expected to be outlined in a report” ahead of the church’s General Synod that meets next month in London, per the Associated Press.
“This response reflects the diversity of views in the Church of England on questions of sexuality, relationships and marriage. I rejoice in that diversity and I welcome this way of reflecting it in the life of our church,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, said in a statement.
The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev’d Stephen Cottrell, also told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” that “it’s not same-sex marriage,” but marked a “real step forward” for the church.
“What I want to emphasise is that with these proposals, people who have entered into a same-sex marriage or who are in a civil partnership will be welcomed into the Church at a service of dedication and acknowledgment of that relationship,” Cottrell added. “That is a change from where we are at the moment.”
The church’s compromise position will hold that “same-sex couples would still not be able to get married in a Church of England church, but could have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership.”
As part of the new announcement, the Bishops of the Church of England intend to issue an apology later this week to LGBTQ people over the “rejection, exclusion, and hostility” they have faced in churches.
The Church of England will urge all congregations in its care to welcome same-sex couples “unreservedly and joyfully,” according to its update.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in the U.K. since 2013, but the church’s teaching has remained unchanged. The new position by the Church of England will also stand at odds with the Church of Scotland, which already allows same-sex weddings.
LGBT activists have argued that the church’s announcement is insufficient.
“The discrimination embedded into these proposals is what concerns me. It’s very clear that there is a clear distinction in their minds between holy matrimony and civil marriage and that distinction is what causes so many young LGBT people to feel second class,” Jayne Ozanne, a prominent LGBT campaigner, said, according to The Washington Post.
British evangelical leader Ian Paul took the opposing view. He argued that the decision will retain the traditional definition of marriage, but will cause problems as the church is calling leaders to “bless” a marriage that opposes church teachings.
“There is going to be no change to the doctrine of marriage. That’s very clear. But the waters have been muddied in quite an unhelpful way. Saying that the doctrine is not going to change and in the same breath saying we want to bless same-sex relationships is entirely incoherent, entirely contradictory,” he stated.