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Bishop says people shouldn't fear Church in Wales' same-sex Bill

by Heather Preston

The Bishop of Bangor says a potential new Bill to bless same-sex unions in the Church in Wales should not be feared by those concerned about same-sex marriage ceremonies within the Church.

New legislation that would allow participating clergy to perform a 'service of blessing' for same-sex civil partnerships and marriages is due to be discussed by the Church's governing body in September.

This ceremony would be a blessing only, as same-sex marriages are not permitted within the Church in Wales.

Some members of the Christian community are concerned that if passed, the controversial Bill will be the first step towards the Church condoning same-sex marriage.

The Right Reverend Andy John told Premier he doesn't know if this Bill will lead to that or not.

"It may be in the future, that the Church does want to do that. And we'll have that debate in the future if the Church decides it wants to go that way. But I don't think we ought to stop doing something we believe is right," he said.

"It's not right to say 'No, we won't have this debate now', simply out of fear of what might be in the future. 

"We'll deal with the future when it comes. But at the moment, let's just deal with the issue which is before us."

The bishop lead legislation came in response to a motion raised by the Church's governing body which suggested that it was "pastorally unsustainable" to not make provision for those in same-sex unions who wished to live their lives faithfully within the Church. 

Bishop Andy says that while he doesn't think the Church in Wales "is quite at the place yet" where it is willing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, it wanted to show support and recognition of same-sex partnerships to "enable them to live their lives in local church more normally."

"A blessing is a sort of midway point of view, like it's not marriage, but it is recognition that these people live in marriage or in a civil partnership," he added.

In anticipation of a spirited debate at September's governing body meeting, the Church has released a set of 'Pastoral Principles' to help members debate with respect and understanding.

Bishop Andy has implored people to remain loving and unified in the discussion: "This [Bill] marks quite a big change for the church. And many people will be very nervous that the church is going soft on marriage, that it's departing from the biblical foundations which have been cherished by the Church in Wales since its inception. 

"We need to provide space for people to say that and to hear that and to consult together. 

"But it's critical we have the debate, not doubting each other's integrity, not doubting each other's motives, but wanting to hear what the other has to say, and to test our own suppositions and make sure that what we say, however forcefully is said with courtesy, and with the kind of Christian engagement that I would expect all Christians to model," he concluded.

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