Welsh bishops to explore “formal provision” for same-sex couples
Posted on: September 13, 2018, 8:50 AM
The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, said that bishops in the Province are “united in the belief that it is pastorally unsustainable and unjust for the Church to continue to make no formal provision for those in committed same-sex relationships”.
Photo Credit: Church in Wales
The Bishops of the Church in Wales (CiW) will explore formal provision for same-sex couples in church after a debate yesterday in the Province’s Governing Body. Members of the Governing Body – the Church in Wales’ synod – agreed that “it is pastorally unsustainable for the Church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships.” Following the vote, a CiW spokeswoman said that bishops will now consider “new approaches which could be brought back to the Governing Body for approval at a later date.”
In June 2017, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its canon law to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman; paving the way for same-sex marriage in Scottish Anglican churches. In October last year, the Primus of the SEC, Bishop Mark Strange, told fellow Anglican Primates’ that he recognised the Church would now face the same consequences that were placed on the US-based Episcopal Church the previous January.
Ahead of yesterday’s debate, Bishop Strange addressed the CiW Governing Body and explained the process that the SEC had followed in reaching its decision. This was followed by a question session with Bishop Mark and an open discussion before a vote on the proposition.
“The bishops are united in the belief that it is pastorally unsustainable and unjust for the Church to continue to make no formal provision for those in committed same-sex relationships,” the Primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop John Davies, said. “Although today’s outcome does not change the present doctrine or practice of the Church in Wales on marriage, I am pleased that it provides an important steer to the bishops in exercising our ministry of pastoral care and spiritual leadership.”
The Anglican Church in Wales has its own General Synod as its governance – which is independent of the Church of England. However, this recent news from Wales, of its recent General Synod’s determination to pastorally accommodate people in faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships – without altering its doctrine of Marriage – should do something to prompt the Church of England to promulgate a similar process of accommodation in the upcoming discussion of its options.
While there is an anomaly in both Churches recognising the need for a compassionate pastoral treatment of legally married same-sex couples in the Church – while yet preserving the institution of marriage to the accommodation of heterosexuals only – there is a perceived need to actually recognise that there are couples in both Churches who have availed themselves of the opportunity to be legally married by the state. To not recognise the marital status of such members of clergy and congregations could cause those people to turn away from the Church in disappointment at its treatment of their situation – especially as their marriages have been legally acceptable by the State.
As the writer of this article rightly points out; The Anglican Church in Scotland (S.E.C.) has already moved towards a revision of its Marriage Doctrine, which removes any reference to the gender of couples able to be married in the Episcopal Church. This pastoral accommodation of same-sex couples is a reflection of the Anglican Church in the United States of America (T.E.C.), which has a similar attitude towards the prospect of same-sex marriage as its Scottish counterpart. (n.b. The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) provided the initial episcopal authority for the establishment of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the United States of America – when the Church of England was reluctant to do so.)
In our latest determination; to retain the official attitude towards heterosexual marriage as being the only possible grounds for marriages celebrated in Church; we here in Aotearoa, New Zealand (ACANZ) have postulated a similar process to that of the Anglican Church in Wales.
In order to recognise the authenticity of legal same-sex relationships; ACANZ is now prepared – in dioceses and parishes where the bishop and the parish and clergy assent – to offer an approved ‘Service of Blessing’ to the legally-married (by the State) couple desirous of such a ceremony of recognition by the Church.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand