A dedicated church services to bless the weddings of same-sex couples could be held within weeks, after a narrow vote at the Church of England ruling body.
The General Synod backed a plan to hold standalone services of blessings for same-sex couples on a trial basis. It means that gay Christians will be able to invite family and friends to a special service, which could be held on Saturdays, to bless and celebrate their weddings. Music, readings, confetti and other features would mean such services could look very similar to a standard church wedding.
The proposal for standalone services on a trial basis came in an amendment to a motion that noted progress made by bishops on the divisive issues of sexuality, known within the C of E as Living in Love and Faith. The amendment scraped through by one vote; the amended motion passed by 227 votes to 203.
Earlier this year, bishops refused to back a change in teaching which would have allowed priests to marry same sex couples but said they would allow prayers of blessings for people in gay relationships as part of wider services.
While there is no set timeframe for temporary trial services to begin, it is understood these could be authorised in the coming weeks with the first services in the new year.
The proposal for stand-alone services on a trial basis came in an amendment to a motion. The full formal process of authorisation, which will take around two years, will take place while the trial is running.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Stephen Croft, who has campaigned for a change in the Church’s stance, said he was “delighted”.
The Church of England’s official position on marriage is at odds with its Anglican equivalent in Scotland – The Scottish Episcopal Church – and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which both allow same-sex weddings.
The Anglican Church in Wales has provided an authorised service of blessing for gay couples but does not allow same-sex weddings in church.
Jayne Ozanne, a prominent LGBT campaigner who sits on the Church of England’s General Synod, called for the Church to change its position to allow gay couples to marry.
“The Church of England remains deeply homophobic, whatever bishops and archbishops may say,” she said.