By Kirk Petersen
With unanimous support of the bishops present and voting, the Church in Wales authorized a service of blessing for same-sex civil partnerships or marriages at its Governing Body meeting on September 6.
The legislation enables only the blessing of secular unions — same-sex couples still cannot have a religious wedding service in the Church in Wales. This positions the Welsh church between the Scottish Episcopal Church — which authorized same-sex weddings in 2017 — and the Church of England, which forbids same-sex blessings.
The legislation passed after several hours of debate by the necessary two-thirds majority in the clergy and lay orders, on votes of 28-12 and 49-10, respectively. The service will be used on an experimental basis for five years, and individual clergy will decide whether to participate in any such service.
The bishops’ vote was perhaps closer than the word “unanimous” would imply, as the only bishops who vote in the Governing Body are the diocesan bishops of the six dioceses of the church. Church spokesman John Richfield told TLC that there is one vacancy currently, and another bishop was ill, so the 4-0 vote constituted exactly a two-thirds majority of the Order of Bishops.
“I come out of this debate with no sense of triumph but believing that the Church in Wales has done the right thing under God for the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Bishop of St. Asaph Gregory Cameron, as quoted by the Daily Mail. Cameron introduced the legislation.
“The church has spoken decisively today in favor of blessings. There is a journey still to be taken but I hope that we can do it together with all the wings of the church,” he said.
Civil same-sex marriages have been legal in England, Wales, and Scotland since 2014, and in Northern Ireland since 2020.
The Church in Wales is among the smallest of the 41 autonomous provinces in the Anglican Communion, with membership reported at about 42,000 in 2018, making it slightly larger than the Diocese of Long Island in the Episcopal Church.