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Clergy should have the freedom to bless and marry same-sex couples, says +Oxford

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft. Photo (c) Steven Buckley

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 52-page essay, Together in Love and Faith, 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.  

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How to obtain a copy of the essay

The printed booklet of Together in Love and Faith is currently sold out. We apologise for the inconvenience. However, the essay is freely available on Kindle devices. Here's how. You can also now download a free PDF version by clicking the button below.

Download Together in Love and Faith

Media coverage

There has been extensive national media coverage of the bishop's essay, Together in Love and Faith and, as of 18 January, the news that the House of Bishops are commending a move for the Church to bless same-sex relationships.

A selection of clippings is shown below. 

Does everyone agree with the Bishop of Oxford's essay?

  • The Bishops of Worcester, Portsmouth, Dudley, Reading, Buckingham, and Dorchester publicly endorsed +Oxford's call for change when it was published. Following the publication in January 2023 of the House of Bishops response and draft Prayers for Love and Faith, the bishops of Bristol, Manchester, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Dunwich have also spoken of their desire to see same-sex couples married in church. In November 2023, 44 bishops published a letter of support.
  • The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has commented in the Daily Telegraph and also in his BBC Reith Lecture: "Same-sex marriage has already has been accepted by quite a few Anglican churches around the world... I think the trajectory is very much in one direction at the moment." More recently, in October 2023 Pope Francis suggested that gay couples could be blessed
  • Not everyone agrees. Vaughan Roberts offers an exemplar in 'good disagreement' in his own essay available online here. The two bishops of the Diocese of Carlisle, The Rt Rev James Newcome and The Rt Rev Rob Saner-Haigh have written to their diocese to say “Many of you will know that, as bishops in this diocese, we hold a traditional view of Holy Matrimony and that we have argued for this [in the College of Bishops]." 
  • However, on 29 August 2023, The Times published the results of a survey of 1,486 priests. "A majority of priests want the church to conduct same-sex weddings for the first time and formally drop its centuries-old opposition to premarital and gay sex, in a historic shift that campaigners hope will lead to a change in teaching," says the paper. Read Shifting attitudes of frontline clergy revealed in landmark poll (£) | listen to Bishop Gavin's initial response to the survey on Times Radio.


  • 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. Following the publication of Together in Love and Faith, Bishop Steven offered a commentary and reflections on the next stage of the Living in Love and Faith process. A recorded version of the presidential address given to Diocesan Synod on 12 November 2022 is available on his blog.

  • 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. 

Hear the Bishop of Oxford on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft spoke to BBC Radio 4 following the announcement that bishops in the Church of England propose prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and for God’s blessing for same-sex couples.

Page last updated: Thursday 16th November 2023 9:20 AM
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