Bishops break ranks over blessings for same-sex couples

(Photo: Church of England)

Eleven Church of England bishops are refusing to back plans to introduce blessings for same-sex couples.

A joint statement has been issued via Premier Christianity after the House of Bishops announced on Monday that it was commending the Prayers of Love and Faith for use, as well as a process to formally authorise them under canon law.

The House of Bishops further announced that the proposals will need to a two-thirds majority in the General Synod, with a vote expected to take place in 2025 following consultation with dioceses.

Among the dissenting bishops are the Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, the Bishop of Lancaster, Jill Duff, the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, and the Bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox. 

They write of "deep disagreement" within the House of Bishops and say that they are unable to support Monday's decisions.

Elsewhere they call on bishops to "have due regard to the obligations of good and proper governance" and reconsider the proposed course of action.

"Sharing the profound concerns of many in the Church of England and in the wider Communion, with heavy hearts we find it necessary to dissent publicly from the decisions of the House," they said. 

The bishops argue that commending the prayers for use in public services "does not permit the General Synod to consider the full significance of the prayers".

"Nor can Synod determine whether the bishops have fulfilled their intention (supported in February) that the final form of the prayers should not be 'indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England'.

"Indeed, legal and theological advice the House has received suggest clearly to us that the decisions of the House may fall short of this commitment."

The statement goes on to criticise the "piecemeal fashion" in which various aspects of the Prayers of Love and Faith, like the pastoral guidance and structural provision, will be brought to Synod. 

"We are therefore unable to support the collective decisions made by the House which we believe fail to safeguard the pastoral stability, mission and unity of the Church," they said.