Yesterday the Church of England unveiled a proposal that would allow clergy to offer “blessings” to same-sex unions, even though gay couples would still be barred from actually marrying in their churches.
Critics swiftly condemned the “blessing” proposal as contrary to the church’s teaching on sexual conduct. The proposal was among 18 recommendations put forward by a working group set up two years ago amid growing tension over the church’s approach to gay worshippers and clergy but could take up to two years of discussions before becoming policy. Acknowledging the issue was divisive, group chairman Joseph Pilling said the church needed to reflect rapid changes in society as senior clergy express fears of a looming crisis, with falling attendance rates and failure to attract young people. This year, parliament introduced new laws to allow gay marriages from 2014 after legalizing civil partnerships in 2005 and the church dropped its ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops. “You can make a church a cold place for gay and lesbian people … or you can make it a more warm and accepting place,” Pilling told a news conference.