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Blessing Same-Sex Couples

06 January 2024 09:30

Over the last few years, the Church of England has undertaken a process of conversation, consultation and discernment known as Living in Love and Faith. This is an ongoing process looking at issues surrounding identity, relationship and sexuality. The current phrase includes commending to churches prayers of blessing for use with same-sex couples, which could also be used with opposite-sex couples in a committed relationship who have not been married in church.

In Haverhill and Withersfield, we want to enable people to join in with this conversation locally. We organised a discussion on Sunday 10th December 2023, and you can watch a summary of this discussion in two parts online: what is at stake and where do we go from here. We also invited individual feedback on the proposed prayers.

On Thursday 4th January 2024, Haverhill PCC met and passed two resolutions permitting the use of these prayers of blessing with both same- and opposite-sex couples in a committed relationship, in accordance with guidance from the House of Bishops and at the discretion of the officiating minister. This means that it is now up to ministers whether they wish to use the prayers at Haverhill, depending on their own view on the matter and discerning the needs of any couple who requests these prayers.

At the time of writing, we are still waiting for further guidance from the House of Bishops, in particular on the use of these prayers in stand-alone services, which are still not yet authorised. This means that the resolutions in place at Haverhill are still largely hypothetical. These resolutions also apply only to Haverhill parish, with Withersfield PCC meeting next in February when they will discuss and vote on these resolutions.

The Revd Max Drinkwater, Priest-in Charge adds:

'I would like to thank everyone for their honest feedback and open engagement with the discussion about this matter; and also the PCC for the constructive discussion at the meeting. There was a good, constructive and nuanced debate about the proposals, with the resolution permitting use of the prayers with same-sex couples passing by a small majority. I and some of the other ministers in the benefice are willing to consider using these prayers with same-sex couples, but every request will be taken on a case by case basis, considering what is in the best interests of the couple and of the wider community. I think you again for putting your trust in me and other ministers in the benefice to make this discernment – and please do pray for us as we do.

'I appreciate that this is a difficult and unsettling time for many people. If you have any questions about any of the things that have been reported, please do speak to me or Wendy, or to other members of the PCC. And please do be assured of my prayers for everyone, as we seek in this Epiphany season to live in the light of Christ that is revealed in the world.'