Just days after the head of the Church of England warned its bishops that opposing LGBT rights would paint the church in a bigoted light, the bishops adopted new guidelines saying priests should not bless same-sex unions.
With same-sex marriages set to begin in March in England and Wales, the House of Bishops drafted new guidelines that warn "blessing should not be provided" to same-sex weddings but suggests that priests "should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways."
The guidelines, posted on the church's website Saturday, appear to be somewhat at odds with a bishops' report issued last year, which said priests "should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service," although they would not be obligated to do so. The Saturday posting states that an "informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate," with "the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church's teaching and their reasons for departing from it."
Individuals married to a person of the same gender will continue to be barred from ordination, and the rules also prohibit "someone in holy orders" from entering a same-sex union.
Last week Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the world's 77 million Christians in communion with the Anglican Church, warned that opposition to LGBT rights would have a negative impact on how some view the faith.