A newly formed network within the Church of England is appealing to the House of Bishops to allow priests to wed their same-sex partners as part of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process.
Signed by 602 members of Inclusive Evangelicals, the letter argues for Pastoral Guidance, which would include provision for those members of the clergy in same-sex partnerships, to be released “as a matter of urgency”.
Formed earlier this year, the group’s website says they are committed to an “open exploration of the theology of same-sex relationships from an Evangelical Christian perspective”.
Last month, the House of Bishops announced that only the draft guidance accompanying the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) would be presented to the General Synod, as the segment of the document relating to clergy in same-sex relationships required “further work”.
In line with these plans, the House of Bishops pledged to subject standalone services for the blessings of same-sex couples to a more extended canonical process, involving consultations with dioceses.
However, the group believes that the process should not be divided but should be presented and endorsed in its entirety at the upcoming General Synod.
They wrote: “We believe that the full suite of prayers, including the standalone service of blessing, should now be commended for immediate use in line with the February Synod position…We also believe that pastoral guidance should be issued by the House of Bishops, as a matter of urgency, which will permit clergy to enter same-sex civil marriage, in accordance with Article 32, which states that clergy may marry at their own discretion.”
While rejecting calls for structural differentiation to accommodate those unwilling to accept the changes proposed by the House of Bishops, the group supports the need for legal protection for the consciences of individual ministers who choose to use or abstain from using the Prayers of Love and Faith.
They continued: “We believe that the choice to use the Prayers of Love and Faith should be a decision left to the conscience of the minister concerned and this needs to be protected for either decision, but we do not feel the need for any structural differentiation to accommodate different opinions. We oppose any approach which would divide the church, including alternative episcopal structures. We are one church, with a breadth of convictions, united in Christ.”
Since the publication of its LLF plans last month, the House of Bishops has faced constant pressure to revise its proposals, with neither conservative nor liberal advocates satisfied with the approach.
Following the release of the plans, 12 dissenting bishops publicly expressed their disagreement with the House's decision to proceed with the prayers of blessings, while 44 bishops also disagreed with the proposals, accusing them of not going far enough.
The proposals will be presented at the General Synod gathering from 13th to 15th November.