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Church in Wales vote to bless same sex marriages

The Church in Wales, part of the Anglican Communion, has decided to offer services of blessing to same sex couples. 

The Church in Wales' Governing Body, its legislature of three groups which makes decisions, voted with a two-thirds majority among clergy and laity to allow the blessings to take place after a marriage or civil partnership has taken place outside the church. 

Among laity, 49 were in favour, ten against and one person abstained. Among clergy, 28 were in favour, twelve were against and two people abstained.  

All four of the six bishops presents voted in favour. 

The Governing Body has for the last two years been deliberating about how and whether to recognise same-sex relationships in a formal way in the Church, as it informally decided in 2018 that it was "pastorally unsustainable" to do nothing. 

Some who spoke in the debate said they were concerned that voting for same sex blessings would impair their unity with the rest of the Anglican church, as the Church of England for example does not allow same sex marriage nor blessings. Those against the proposal also said that God does not just welcome people, but gives them grace to change and be challenged with humility. 

Reverend Josh Maynard, who could could not attend the vote but would have voted against the proposals, told Premier: "I believe scripture is clear on this issue, from Genesis 2 - a man leaves his father and mother to be united with his wife - and then when Jesus is asked to talk about marriage, he uses that as his definition. So, if Jesus uses that as his definition then that's how I'm going to define it."

Speaking about what it could mean for the Church in Wales, he commented: "I think the message is clear from other churches across the Anglican Communion, that a vote in favour on this issue leads to a split in the denomination. That seems to have been what's happened consistently in every part of the Anglican Communion that's voted this through."

Clergy on both sides questioned whether it was consistent to bless a relationship but not marry them - suggesting the Church should do neither or both. 

Those who spoke in favour of the blessings argued that it was essential if outsiders were to feel welcomed and for Christian gay couples to live out the life they felt God had called them to. Many spoke of their own relationships or of gay couples they know and the love they had experienced or witnessed between them. 

The Bishop of St Asaph, Rt Rev Gregory Cameron, one of the senior members of clergy behind the bill, told Premier why he supported it: "I know many, many gay and lesbian couples who are longing for the church to embrace and acknowledge their relationship...I'm not persuaded that the older understandings can hold water anymore and I think it's a pastoral need, we need to be able to say to the world: when you want to make a commitment of faithful love to your partner, of either sex, you should be allowed to do that."

The passing of blessings of same-sex couples could lead to a vote more quickly on the issue of gay marriage. The explanatory notes to the bill read: "in the fullness of time, the Governing Body will have to consider whether it wishes to consider a change in the Church’s teaching concerning marriage. This could enable a couple wishing to live in a faithful and mutually committed same-sex relationship to celebrate the rite of marriage in Church. 

"If this step is to be considered, the bench believe that Governing Body will have to make time and provision for a careful theological consideration of the cases for and against, and make a mature and informed decision about whether it wishes to proceed."


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