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Priests to bless gay marriages ‘under the radar’

Despite the ban on the Church of England hosting same-sex marriages in the bill's current form, ministers say they will risk their careers to do what they feel is right

07 February 2013 | By Joe Morgan / Gay Star News

Church of England priests will bless same-sex marriages ‘under the radar’, campaigners are saying.

There is a ban on the church and all its clergy hosting ceremonies for gay couples in its form, but some say ministers will get around this by performing blessing ceremonies under a different name.

The announcement comes after the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality after its second reading 400 votes to 175.

Speaking to Gay Star News, The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s Sharon Ferguson said for a long time many members of the clergy have performed blessings for same-sex couples in civil partnerships.

‘They have to be very careful what they call it, but this is already going on,’ she said.

‘There are a lot of Church of England ministers who believe it is right to bless same-sex couples in their unions, and that’s not necessarily ministers who gay themselves.’

She said when marriage equality becomes legal in the Church of England, any couple who wishes to have a religious wedding would have to go a denomination like the Quakers or Unitarians.

If they were adamant about the Church of England, they would have to have a civil marriage in a registry office and get a blessing ‘under the radar’.

Ferguson said: ‘The sad thing is that the Church of England hierarchy are forcing their clergy to act in this way, and they shouldn’t have to.

‘But if any ministers wish to bless same-sex couples in their unions, they have to do it under the radar or they will be in breach of church policy.

‘They could find themselves without a parish, without a home, and without a career.’

Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church of England in the Commons, has called on Culture Secretary Maria Miller to rewrite part of the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to remove a proposed power for her to make laws affecting the Church.

‘Everyone recognizes that at some point this legislation is likely to be challenged in the courts,’ he said.

‘Either by someone complaining that they’re not allowed to get married in their parish church or…to think a piece of legislation as complex and controversial as this could go forward without having any challenge at all… which is why, quite rightly, ministers are keen to try and get these locks in place.’

In a recent YouGov poll, it found 52% of churchgoers supported same-sex marriages in churches.

Ferguson warned that the Church of England has to realize this, otherwise they could end up one day with half their congregation.

‘At some point in time the Church of England is going to have to wake up and smell the coffee,’ she said.

‘Here are a lot of ministers in the Church who are LGBT and want to fully welcome and affirm LGBT People, and part of that is solemnize marriages for same-sex couples.

‘The Church of England hierarchy needs to realize this before they lose a large number of their clergy or half their congregation.’


I totally agree. Unfortunately the Church of England have appointed an evangelical to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury who has made his opposition to same sex marriage quite clear. He does not represent the majority view either within the church or in the country. I hope he follows the example of Steve Chalke who has bravely changed his mind on this issue, and received the predictable "brick-bats" from the usual, hypocritical quarters of the evangelical wing of the church.

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