Church of England clergy should have the freedom to bless and marry same-sex couples, says Bishop of Oxford.
The Bishop of Oxford has published a 52-page essay, Together in Love and Faith, to be released on Friday 4 November, setting out the ways his own views have changed on same-sex relationships over the last decade.
In the light of ten years of reflection and massive changes in the society we serve, many in the Church, including Bishop Steven, now believe it is time to enable local churches and clergy to offer public services of blessing for same-sex relationships and remove the legal barriers to the solemnisation of same-sex marriage in the Church of England. Clergy should also be given the freedom to order their own relationships according to their conscience and to marry a same-sex partner.
Bishop Steven writes:
“I need to acknowledge the acute pain and distress of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the Church. I am sorry that, corporately, we have been so slow as a Church to reach better decisions and practice on these matters. I am sorry that my own views were slow to change and that my actions, and lack of action, have caused genuine hurt, disagreement and pain.”
Bishop Steven also reflects that many Christians in the Church of England hold and will continue to hold a traditional view of marriage and this should be honoured and respected by those who are seeking freedom to change. This is the majority view across the worldwide Anglican Communion at this time, although some Anglican Provinces have already made the decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships. Clergy and parishes will need the freedom not to opt in to any new arrangements. Some clergy and parishes may need the oversight of bishops in the Church of England who hold to the traditional view.
Bishop Steven writes:
“Any settlement must be founded on love and respect: love and respect for LGBTQ+ people and their families within and beyond the Church, love and respect for those who take different views... This love must be the hallmark of our debates and conduct through this season”.
Bishop Steven’s essay is a significant new contribution to the present process as the whole Church seeks good and fruitful ways forward and as the bishops together discern what proposals to bring to the General Synod in February 2023.
[scroll down this page for 'notes for editors']
- Together in Love and Faith can be purchased for £2.50 incl. P&P to a GB address. We will ship a free copy to anyone living in the diocese who feels unable to pay on request. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy
- Discounted pack quantities are available for home groups and parishes wishing to give the essay to their congregation. Click the drop down arrow next to 'single copy' to order a pack quantity. When ordering a pack, please do not change the quantity unless you want more than one pack. For example 'Variant = pack of 10, Quantity = 1' means that you are ordering a single pack of 10 copies of the essay.
- Please note that a PDF version is not available. However, the essay is freely available on Kindle devices. Here's how.
There has been extensive national media coverage of the bishop's essay, Together in Love and Faith. A selection of clippings is shown below.
- Bishop of Oxford calls for an end to ban on same-sex marriage in Church of England – Church Times, 3 November
- Extend goods of marriage to all – Church Times, 4 November
- National and local BBC radio, and UCB (see our SoundCloud channel) – BBC, 4 to 7 November
- Bishops join call for Church to bless same-sex marriage – The Times, 4 November 2022
- Bishop of Oxford calls for Church of England to accept same-sex marriage – Daily Telegraph, 4 November 2022
- Bishop of Oxford says church should marry gay couples – BBC, 4 November 2022
- BBC South and ITV Meridian (see our YouTube channel) – BBC South and ITV Meridian, 4 November 2022
- Don’t condemn the Church of England for its stance on gay marriage – Spectator Magazine, 4 November
- Bishop of Oxford breaks ranks and calls on Church of England to allow same-sex marriage – Pink News, 4 November
- Oxford: Bishop backed by other church leaders in blessing gay marriages – Oxford Mail, 4 November
- More will join the call for same-sex weddings, declares bishop – The Times, 5 November 2022
- Five more bishops call for Church of England to allow same-sex marriages – Daily Telegraph, 5 November
- Bishop of Reading backs marriage for gay couples – BBC, 6 November
- Same-sex marriage and the Church of England – BBC Radio 4, Sunday Programme, 6 November
- The Guardian view on LGBT+ Anglicans: finally grounds for hope? – Guardian editorial, 7 November
Does everyone agree with the Bishop of Oxford?
- So far the Bishops of Worcester, Portsmouth, Dudley, Reading, Buckingham, and Dorchester have publicly endorsed +Oxford's call for change
- Not everyone agrees though. Vaughan Roberts offers an exemplar in 'good disagreement' in his own essay available online here.
Living in Love and Faith is a three-year process of study and discernment about human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage involving every diocese of the Church of England. The essay Together in Love and Faith is Bishop Steven Croft’s response to the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith process.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, is a member of the House of Lords and responsible for one of the largest dioceses in the Church of England.
Civil partnerships and the church
A civil partnership in English law dates from December 2005; civil partnerships are not recognised as marriage but are a legal means, not involving any church, by which two people (of the same or different gender) can create a bond which, for the purposes of secular law, gives them the same legal entitlements as if they were married. Church of England clergy are currently prohibited from blessing a civil partnership in church and cannot conduct a marriage service for a same-sex couple.
Same-sex clergy relationships
Some gay and lesbian English clergy have entered civil partnerships. They are currently bound by the rule that sexual relationships must only be within marriage as recognised by the Church and are not allowed by being in a civil partnership. Abstention from sexual relationships (celibacy) is required of all unmarried clergy, whatever their sexuality.