On Monday, September 6, the Church of Wales, UK, unanimously approved a new service in which same-sex couples can receive the blessing of their civil union or marriage in churches.
The service for same-sex couples is an ‘alternative’ ceremony to marriage as same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Anglican churches of the United Kingdom.
All three orders of the Governing Body of the Church of Wales—the bishops, clergy, and laity—voted by at least the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill.
The measure includes a “conscience clause,” which allows individual clergy to decide whether or not to offer blessings and will only have an experimental period of five years.
According to the Daily Mail, the proposal was debated for a full day by the three orders of the Church in Wales.
Some bishops welcomed the decision.
Gregory Cameron, the Bishop of St. Asaph, said, “I come out of this debate with no sense of triumph but believing that the Church in Wales has done the right thing under God for the LGBTQIA+ community.”
After the Church in Wales announced that the motion had passed, the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, tweeted to say, “This is a good decision. The Church in Wales is following its mission to Wales, just as the Church of England is called to shape its mission for England.”
“Part of a world communion, and therefore the actual people we are sent to serve, in all their rich and God-given diversity,” Bishop Bayes added.
Last year, the Church of England rejected several similar proposals, while the Church of Scotland is currently considering them, and the Church of Ireland currently bans same-sex blessings.
In arguing for the decision, the bishops who put forward the proposal claimed that it was about recognizing that the “’loving and faithful commitment’ of same-sex couples who had married or had a civil partnership was ‘worthy of acceptance by the Church.”
At the end of June this year, the Methodist Church in Britain also unanimously approved same-sex marriage, and the first same-sex marriages in Methodist churches are expected to take place at the end of September.
According to The Guardian, the Methodist Church is the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United Kingdom, with some 164,000 members in more than 4,000 churches. The vote to allow same-sex marriages was approved by 254 votes in favor and 46 against.
Departing from tradition
In recent times, churches of different denominations have increasingly moved away from the traditional teachings of Christianity.
On its website, the Church of Wales states that, although same-sex marriage is permitted by Welsh law, “As the law stands, same-sex marriages may not be solemnised by the Church in Wales. Such marriages are also at variance with the church’s doctrine of marriage which states that marriage is a lifelong and faithful union between a man and a woman.”
However, as Bishop Cameron mentioned, after the five experimental years of the blessing service for same-sex couples, “perhaps the church will be in a position to be bold enough to take a further step on gay and lesbian inclusion.”
In late June of this year, Pope Francis made headlines when he sent a personalized letter to controversial Father James Martin congratulating him for organizing an online conference for the Catholic LGBT community.