The Church in Wales is set to vote next month on whether same-sex couples should receive blessings for the first time.
A bill to allow the blessings, introduced by the church’s bench of bishops, will be considered by the church’s governing body at a meeting on 6 September after members said it was “pastorally unsustainable” to ban such a service.
In an explanatory memorandum, the Church in Wales bishops said: “Approval of this rite would be stating that the Church in Wales accepts that the loving and faithful commitment of two persons of the same sex, aspiring to life-long fidelity and mutual comfort, and who have made a commitment in civil partnership or marriage, is worthy of acceptance by the church by asking God’s blessing upon their commitment.”
If passed, the bill would introduce blessings “experimentally” for five years, and individual clergy would be free to decide whether or not to take part in the services.
Same-sex blessings have not been authorised by the Church of England, but are set to be discussed at the General Synod in 2022.
The Welsh bishops described the bill as a “step on the way towards repentance of a history in the church which has demonised and persecuted gay and lesbian people, forcing them into fear, dishonesty and sometimes even hypocrisy, and which has precluded them from living publicly and honestly lives of committed partnership”.
In the explanatory memorandum, the bishops indicated that allowing same-sex blessings could, in the future, lead to allowing same-sex church weddings.
They added 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 relationship to celebrate the rite of marriage in church,” the bishops said.
The Church in Wales must ‘admit and address’ the exclusion of LGBT+ people
The Church in Wales said it encouraged governing body members to debate the issue of same-sex blessings in a “respectful and dignified way”, and issued a set of pastoral principles to guide the discussion.
In the document, the bench of bishops said: “As communities of Christians we are held together in the love of Christ.
“Our many differences are gifts that can build us up in trust and mutual affection… or they can mar the image of Christ that we are called to reflect through our life together.
“LGBT+ people in our churches have not always experienced this unconditional love of Christ and we need to admit and address this reality.”
The bench, which includes bishop Cherry Vann, a lesbian priest and the first woman to hold the position of Bishop of Monmouth in the Anglican church, added: “These pastoral principles invite church communities to examine afresh their life together.
“The focus relates to LGBT+ people, but they apply to all sorts of difference and diversity among God’s people.”
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