Church of England same-sex blessings are 'hugely disappointing'

(Photo: Unsplash/Fran├žois Genon)

Traditionalist Anglicans have expressed disappointment at the decision of the Church of England House of Bishops to allow prayers for same-sex couples in services from this Sunday despite deep divisions. 

The announcement on Tuesday followed a vote in the General Synod last month in favour of bishops commending the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) and introducing standalone services on a trial basis. 

Last month's vote was very close, reflecting divisions within Synod. In the House of Bishops, 23 voted for, 10 against and 4 abstained. Among clergy, there were 100 votes for and 93 against, with one abstention. Within the laity, 104 voted in favour and 100 against, with no abstentions.

The House of Bishops yesterday approved the prayers for use within existing services from Sunday 17 December and is still considering how to introduce standalone services. 

Pastoral guidance has also been published setting out how the prayers should be used. 

Commenting on the news, John Dunnett, National Director of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) said the group "deeply regrets" the announcement and called for "urgent" provision for traditionalist Anglicans.

The CEEC is providing support for those who cannot support the prayers in the form of informal alternative spiritual oversight and the creation of the Ephesian Fund, which provides evangelicals with a way to ensure their giving goes to local churches that hold to the biblical faith. 

"As reported in our statement on 17 November, this confirms our belief that a line has been crossed, which we hoped and prayed would not happen," he said. 

"In view of this announcement, CEEC remains convinced of the urgent need for structural provision that will secure orthodox life and witness in the Church of England for the future. CEEC will continue to advocate and press for this."

Responding to Tuesday's announcement, Andy Lines, Presiding Bishop of the orthodox Anglican Network in Europe said it was a rejection of Scripture.

"It is hugely disappointing, but unsurprising, that the Church of England House of Bishops has ignored the pleas of the majority of the Anglican Communion, nearly half of the clergy and laity in General Synod and nearly a third of their own members to push ahead along a highly divisive path which arrogantly rejects the authority of scripture and cravenly follows the latest trends in Western secular culture," he said. 

"For both clergy and laity now standing at the crossroads and prayerfully considering their future path, we want to reassure them there is a road available which avoids an unknown and unsafe future as part of an apostate denomination, and draw their attention to the recent Gafcon Primates' statement (9 Nov 2023) which speaks of a way of being authentically Anglican apart from Canterbury-aligned structures: 'We... commend the ministry and witness of the Anglican Network in Europe as the appropriate and necessary provision of Gafcon for those who cannot in good conscience remain in a Church which flagrantly abandons the teaching of Scripture.'"

Eleven bishops have dissented from approving the prayers. They are the Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North; the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner; the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Rob Munro; the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson; the Bishop of Hereford, Richard Jackson; the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe; the Bishop of Lancaster, Jill Duff; the Bishop of Oswestry, Paul Thomas; the Bishop of Rochester, Jonathan Gibbs; the Bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox; and the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Paul Williams.