The Church of England (COE) is introducing special services meant to allow blessings for same-sex couples — without the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
An amendment put forward to establish a trial run of non-matrimonial religious services for homosexual couples passed the COE parliament by just a single vote.
“I recognise there remain divisions within the Church of England over these questions,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — the highest authority in the COE — said Thursday in a statement. “Those divisions are even deeper within the Anglican Communion, where the majority of Provinces remain committed to the traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, while a minority have adopted blessings or marriage for same-sex couples.”
He continued, “Archbishops of Canterbury must always work for the maximum possible unity in the Church, however impossible that may seem and however deep our differences. For that reason, I abstained on yesterday’s vote because my pastoral responsibility extends to everyone in the Church of England and global Anglican Communion.”
The services are explicitly not to be considered weddings, as the COE still holds that Christian marriage is between one man and one woman.
However, as the services are allowed to utilize rings, prayers and priestly blessings, many are concerned the accommodations have effectively overruled this marital doctrine.
“It will tear local parish congregations apart, damage the relationship between large numbers of clergy and their bishops and cause churches across the dioceses to feel as though their shepherds have abandoned them,” National Director of the Church of England Evangelical Council Revd. Canon John Dunnett told the BBC.
Gay marriage and acceptance of homosexual lifestyles have formed an increasingly devastating schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Anglicans, whose roots are in the missionary work of the Church of England, are the third-largest communion of Christians in the world, behind Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
While the Archbishop of Canterbury serves as the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the COE’s increasing spiritual liberalism has alienated conservative churches on other continents.
Last year, Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) came to the 2022 Lambeth Conference with the intention of clarifying the inadmissibility of homosexual marriages.
The move caused disorder among the international ranks of the Anglican bishops, eventually leading the GSFA to declare themselves separate from the wider Anglican Communion.