Prayers for gay and lesbian couples criticised by evangelicals

Primates at evensong in Canterbury CathedralCanterbury Cathedral

Evangelical Christian leaders have criticised as "a source of deep disquiet" new plans for prayers for gay and lesbian couples.

Bishops in the Church in Wales have circulated a pastoral letter "to all the faithful" concerning gay and lesbian Christians.

It follows an 18-month consultation in Wales on whether it would be "appropriate" to acknowledge same sex unions in Church through a blessing or even marriage.

"Given that the civil law of the realm has now been changed to permit marriage of same sex couples, many see this as a natural next step," says the letter.

It became clear that although a majority of members supported change, there was no consensus and any move to change would not secure the two-thirds majority needed from the Church's governing body.

The bishops say that after the Primates' meeting in January, where "consequences" were imposed on the United States Episcopal Church for endorsing same-sex marriage, in Wales they do not feel they can support a move to change the discipline of the Church in Wales.

"Nor can we permit the celebration of public liturgies of blessing for same sex unions," the bishops say.

However they do go on to "offer prayers in response to the pastoral need of those gay and lesbian persons who are making profound commitments to friendship or partnership."

The Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales said that to affirm same-sex partnerships by offering prayers to God for them can only be possible if one is already convinced that they are good things. "And that is just the question which the Church in Wales through its official decision-making body has not resolved."

The fellowship continued: "The announcement by the bishops of these forms of prayer must be a source of deep disquiet." The statement said: "Disquieting, too, to any member of the Church in Wales who values its scriptural obedience, its adherence to Christian tradition, or its continued relationship to orthodox Christian bodies around the world."