Church of England publishes draft prayers for same-sex blessings

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The Church of England has today published draft prayers to be used in blessing services for same-sex couples.

The bishops have published a set of eight prayers and an acclamation for ministers to use at their discretion. They include prayers for thanksgiving, dedication and God's guidance.

The prayer of dedication asks that God would fill the couple "with the grace to rejoice always in their love for one another, and to follow the Way of holiness and hope revealed in your Son Jesus Christ".

The prayer of thanksgiving says, "May our love for one another kindle flames of joy and hope."

The draft texts have been informed by the years-long Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process that has engaged the Church of England nationwide in discussions around marriage, sexuality, relationships and gender identity.

The set of draft worship resources published today, called Prayers of Love and Faith, will be considered by the Church of England's parliamentary body, the General Synod, when it meets in London next month.

Synod members will be asked to approve a motion to commend the resources and "lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church".

The publication of the draft texts coincides with a letter of apology issued by bishops to the LGBT community on Friday.

The apology reads, "We want to apologise for the ways in which the Church of England has treated LGBTQI+ people – both those who worship in our churches and those who do not. For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry.

"The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this we repent. As we have listened, we have been told time and time again how we have failed LGBTQI+ people. We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.

"We affirm, publicly and unequivocally, that LGBTQI+ people are welcome and valued: we are all children of God."

The proposals do not change the Church of England's official stance on marriage but this week's developments have nonetheless dismayed evangelical Anglicans.

Susie Leafe, director of Anglican Futures, said many evangelicals would be reassessing their relationship with the Church of England.

Church Society Director Lee Gatiss said, "We cannot apologise for following Christ and proclaiming his word, as if that was not somehow the best way for us all to live."

Andrea Williams, Christian Concern CEO and former lay member of the General Synod, called it a "landmark moment" that "will go down in history as a turning point in the decline and fall of the Church of England – unless these proposals can be decisively resisted by the faithful in Synod".

Other evangelicals are reported to be seeking alternative episcopal oversight.