LONDON — The Church of England announced Wednesday that it will not allow same-sex couples to marry in its churches and that its teachings that marriage is between “one man and one woman for life” would not change.
“Under the proposals, same-sex couples would still not be able to get married in a Church of England church,” the statement said. “ … The formal teaching of the Church of England as set out in the canons and authorised liturgies — that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman for life — would not change.”
The plans were outlined in a report for the General Synod, the church’s legislative body, which will meet in London next month to debate the proposals. The continuing ban on same-sex marriage, however, will not be put to a vote.
Campaigners for same-sex marriages said the decision by the church’s leaders to keep its ban is out of step with public opinion and the law. Same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in 2013.
The Church of England added that bishops will issue an apology later this week to LGBTQ people for the “rejection, exclusion and hostility” they have faced, and that, for the first time, the church will allow same-sex couples to “come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God’s blessing.”
The Anglican Church in Wales goes further, allowing an authorized service of blessing for gay couples. The Anglican Church in Wales goes further, allowing an authorized service of blessing for gay couples. In Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland both allow same-sex weddings.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, 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.”
Steven Croft, the bishop of Oxford and the most senior bishop calling on the church to allow same-sex marriage, said in an emailed statement: “I am sorry that some things are not being taken forward, particularly civil marriage in church for same-sex couples. I would have wanted to see that.”
He added that he was nonetheless “encouraged” over the new guidance to bless same-sex couples in church, “which I hope will also remove the barriers to clergy entering into same-sex civil marriages themselves.” Gay priests can enter into civil partnerships but cannot marry, even in civil ceremonies.
Jayne Ozanne, a prominent LGBTQ rights campaigner, said the church’s proposals after a long consultation were not sufficient. “We don’t want breadcrumbs,” she told The Washington Post. “The discrimination embedded into these proposals is what concerns me. It’s very clear that there is a clear distinction in their minds between holy matrimony and civil marriage, and that distinction is what causes so many young LGBT people to feel second class.”
In recent years, Britain has become a more secular and diverse nation. According to the latest census data, fewer than half of the people of England and Wales now consider themselves Christians.
The popularity of religious marriages in England and Wales has fallen dramatically over the years, with civil marriages outnumbering religious ones every year since 1992. According to the 2018 U.K. census, religious ceremonies accounted for 21.1 percent of opposite-sex marriages and 0.9 percent of same-sex marriages.
This story has been updated to note the position of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a member of the Anglican Communion, which allows same-sex weddings.