Church of England keeps ban on same-sex marriages
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was 'under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others' © Ben Stansall / AFP

The Church of England will not change its rules to allow priests to marry same-sex couples following five years of internal debate on the issue, it announced on Wednesday.

"Under the proposals, same-sex couples would still not be able to get married in a Church of England church," the church said in a statement.

They can instead "come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God's blessing," it added.

Bishops met on Tuesday to finalize recommendations, which will affirm the church's teaching that Holy Matrimony exists between one man and one woman for life.

The issue will not be put to a vote at the General Synod, the church's legislative body, when it meets in London early next month.

But the church said it will issue an apology to LGBTQ people for the "rejection, exclusion and hostility" they have faced in churches.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said that "both personally and on behalf of my fellow bishops I would like to express our deep sorrow and grief at the way LGBTQI+ people and those they love have been treated by the Church".

"We are deeply sorry and ashamed and want to take this opportunity to begin again in the spirit of repentance which our faith teaches us," he added.

The church launched its "Living in Love and Faith" consultation in 2017, and its findings will be published before the next synod, which takes place every February.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the consultation had reflected "the diversity of views in the Church of England on questions of sexuality, relationships and marriage.

"I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good."

The Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, last year became the most senior bishop to publicly call for a change in the church's teaching, suggesting the issue will still be a source of contention.

The Church of Scotland allows same-sex weddings and the Anglican Church in Wales has provided an authorized service of blessing for gay couples.

© 2023 AFP