A bishop in the Church of England says that services to bless same-sex couples are unlikely to take place in the church until at least 2025 amid simmering divisions.
Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally updated the media last Friday on the progress made since the Church of England’s House of Bishops agreed earlier this month to move forward with plans to allow clergy and churches to commend prayers of blessing for same-sex couples.
“They will need further authorization, which will take probably into about 2025,” Mullally said of standalone blessing services for same-sex couples, according to Sky News.
The Church of England’s General Synod will meet next month in London to discuss steps to implement what are being called “Prayers of Love and Faith” that ask God to bless same-sex couples.
In February, the Church of England’s General Synod voted to offer prayers of blessing for same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages but fell short of agreeing to change the denomination’s historical teaching regarding marriage. Bishops in the Church also agreed in January to formally apologize for its treatment of LGBTQ people.
Mullally noted that the Church of England has been swept up into “a time of uncertainty” amid deep disagreements over sexuality and gender within the global Anglican Communion.
“What we recognize is that as a church, we don’t all agree on these issues. And we’ve known that all along,” Mullally said. “The House of Bishops doesn’t agree, the church doesn’t agree.”
“It will be true to say that for some, not enough progress has been made, for others far too much progress maybe in a direction they can’t support has been made,” Mullally continued.
“But what we try to do is to listen, to implement the motion that was agreed at synod but in doing that, we also realized that we not only provide pastoral guidance, but we need to provide pastoral reassurance for people,” she added.
Earlier this month, 11 members of the House of Bishops publicly dissented from the ecclesiastical body’s decision to agree in principle on commending Prayers of Love and Faith for same-sex couples, according to a statement published by Premier Christianity.
Five bishops associated with Anglican dioceses in Europe also released a statement this month claiming the House of Bishops “have embraced heresy” and urged them to repent.
“This action is offensive to the God of love,” they wrote. “It replaces his wonderful gospel of grace with a distorted message, blessing what God calls sin. This is heart-breaking, wicked and outrageously arrogant.”
The synod’s February vote prompted the 10 primates of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) to issue a statement on Ash Wednesday repudiating the spiritual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
In April, conservative Anglicans associated with the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) released “The Kingali Commitment,” which accused Church of England leaders of “repeated departures from the authority of God’s Word.”
“It grieves the Holy Spirit and us that the leadership of the Church of England is determined to bless sin,” the statement read in part. “Since the Lord does not bless same-sex unions, it is pastorally deceptive and blasphemous to craft prayers that invoke blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
“We reject the claim that two contradictory positions can both be valid in matters affecting salvation. We cannot ‘walk together’ in good disagreement with those who have deliberately chosen to walk away from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3),” the statement further reads.
A poll conducted by The Times (U.K.) earlier this year found that many Anglican clergy want the Church of England to begin officiating same-sex weddings, with 49.2% saying they would be willing to conduct a same-sex wedding and 59% saying they would bless gay relationships.
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