Church of England Voices Opposition to Church Blessings of Same-Sex Unions

The Church of England has come out in opposition of members of their clergy consecrating the union of same-sex couples, following news this week that the British government would allow same-sex couples to hold commitment ceremonies in churches, starting next month, according to the Guardian.

In explaining the new regulation by the British government, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said, "The government is advancing equality for LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) people and ensuring freedom of religion for people of all faiths," according to the BBC.

Featherstone stated that no religious body would be forced to host these ceremonies, but granted the option to those who wanted to "opt-in."

A spokesperson for the Church of England stated, "We will study the draft regulations as a matter of urgency to check they deliver the firm assurances that have been given to us and others that the new arrangements will operate by way of denominational opt-in."

The spokesperson continued, "If ministers have delivered what they said they would in terms of genuine religious freedom, we would have no reason to oppose the regulations. The House of Bishops' statement of July 2005 made it clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessings for those who register civil partnerships, and that remains the position."

The House of Bishops' statement, which is referenced, views marriage as a "gift of God," an ordinance through which the "committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society."

The spokesperson further emphasized the church's position by stating, "The Church of England has no intention of allowing civil partnerships to be registered in its churches."

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, through a spokesperson, also registered its opposition to the plan. Noting the prior consent element of the measure, the statement suggests that such consent would never be granted in the first place: "As the regulations require prior consent, the measure can have no direct impact on Catholic premises."

The statement continued:

"The church welcomes the fact that the government has made an explicit statement in the draft regulations that nothing in them creates any obligation to make an application for approval. This will help rebut any attempt to mount spurious cases of unlawful discrimination against churches which do not host civil partnerships."