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Same-sex blessings take centre stage in Church of England's General Synod

by Kelly Valencia

As the Church of England's General Synod convenes this week, same-sex blessings will take centre stage, with most of the time allocated to discussing the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) proposals.

Over the course of two and a half days, members of the General Synod will consider the final motion allowing priests to bless couples in same-sex relationships, as previously agreed in February.

The motion proposes the endorsement of the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) immediately after the Synod's conclusion, along with the issuance of new Pastoral Guidance outlining the rules for using these prayers.

Additionally, the motion recommends that standalone same-sex blessing services undergo a more extended canonical process, which is expected to conclude in 2025. "Further work" on pastoral guidance permitting priests to marry their same-sex partners is also deemed necessary and will not be immediately published after the meeting.

Since the plans were made public last month, there has been a more pronounced division among bishops who, for the most part, had attempted to publicly unite in finding a way forward that considers both liberal and conservative viewpoints.

Twelve bishops signed a letter expressing their discontent, arguing that the proposals failed to "safeguard the pastoral stability, mission, and unity of the church." For another 44 bishops, the sticking point was the delay in issuing guidance for priests to marry same-sex partners.

The plans will be presented to the General Synod as a motion, allowing members to propose amendments subject to a vote by Houses—Laity, Clergy, and Bishops. In February, only one amendment out of more than two dozen passed the threshold.

Although the number and nature of amendments will not be disclosed until the meeting begins, there is speculation about potential points of contention. One possible sticking point could be the issuance of pastoral guidance for ministers, with liberals advocating for immediate publication while conservatives push for the opposite.

Other amendments might include seeking further clarity on whether the prayers deviate from the Church's doctrine of marriage.

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury met with representatives from both groups, with the question of his resignation arising, as neither side seems satisfied. Writing in The Times, Jayne Ozanne, an LGBT evangelical Christian, called for Welby's resignation after meeting with him at Lambeth Palace. Rev Dr Lee Gatis, director of the Church Society, also admitted to sharing this view during a meeting with 25 conservatives.

In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for Archbishop Justin said he was "thankful for the honesty and courage of all those who shared their stories, concerns and deeply-held beliefs" and remained "focused on serving the church as it navigates these challenging times".

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