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Exodus from Church in Wales begins after same-sex blessings vote

by Donna Birrell

The Church in Wales' decision to bless same sex marriages in church is causing many Christians to leave the Church.

That's according to the Chair of the Evangelical Fellowship in Wales, which supports clergy and lay people within the Church.

At the beginning of September, the Church in Wales voted by a two thirds majority to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in its churches, with all bishops in favour.

Rev Peter Jones tells Premier that although many evangelicals are determined to stay within the church, there are many who are making a move away.

"I'm deeply disappointed by the results of that vote. We've been praying considerably. There's a lot of other Christians as well who are deeply disappointed. I think there's a sense of grieving over this particular vote. It's quite heartfelt for many Christians in Wales.

"I'm not really surprised. We had hoped that it wasn't going to go through but we always knew it was going to be a close-run thing. We could see the way that the wind was blowing on this particular bill."

Leaders of the theologically conservative global network, Gafcon, are also being 'extremely supportive' of the depth of feeling among evangelicals in Wales according to Rev Jones.

"There is a huge difference between how people are responding to this. There are some who are already leaving the Church in Wales. There are some who are determined to stay for as long as they possibly can. 

"So the position we have is that we're trying to support all people that that have reservations over this bill, and regardless of whether they're staying within the Church in Wales or leaving. Then we want to support them in all of those positions. And that's not just for the clergy, there is a significant number of lay people who are leaving the Church in Wales or withdrawing their services, or their funding for the church as well.

"So it is really quite difficult for many people at this time."

Rev Jones says they are calling for the bishops to provide pastoral support for those who are struggling with the Church's direction and they are seeking clarification on some aspects of the bill, particularly the 'conscience clause' where clergy can decide not to participate in the service of blessing. 

Reassurance is also being sought from bishops on the issue of whether they would support a move to introduce a marriage bill for same-sex marriage within the five year 'experimental' period for the blessing service.

"We're giving some space and time to allow this to be worked through properly and not jumping ahead. So that's through prayer meetings and fellowship groups as well."

Asked by Premier whether he thinks the Church in Wales will eventually move towards allowing same-sex marriage in its buildings, Rev Jones said: "I don't think it's inevitable. Nothing with the Lord is ever inevitable. The Lord can work in astonishing ways. And in human terms, you would say yes, it seems that it is inevitable that that is the direction of travel. The bishops have been very clear that that is what they want. 

"It does come back very much to an understanding of where we stand with the traditional view of scripture and what the Bible says.

"There are still a lot of people who hold to a traditional view of marriage and there is a difference between what society is choosing to do and what the Church does under the Lordship of the scriptures, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

"And that's part of the reason of wanting to have further dialogue with the bishops in Wales and to work with them at seeing what can be done and that's part of the reason why we're calling on the bishops for pastoral support and care for those who have a different view to themselves.

"And we want to get across that everybody is welcome in our churches regardless of sexual orientation or anything else. It's not just we're against this move, we're for the proclamation of the love of Christ."

Premier has contacted the Church in Wales but a spokesperson declined to comment.

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