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Canterbury Cathedral Offers Same-sex Blessings

As the Church of England’s bishops continue to discuss free-standing services for blessing same-sex couples, Canterbury Cathedral has joined the parishes that offer same-sex blessings as part of their regular worship.

The Very Rev. Dr. David Monteith, dean of the cathedral, told the BBC in December that the cathedral would decide early this year whether to offer services that draw from Prayers of Love and Faith.

“When we had our celebration, we couldn’t come in to church and have prayers and that was a great sadness to us,” Monteith said then about his partnership with David Hamilton. “So I am pleased now personally that that will now be available to other people.”

The dean and the cathedral’s governing chapel approved these blessings unanimously, a cathedral announcement said. The statement added that cathedral staff consulted with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin of Dover, “who have no direct role in the governance of the Cathedral.”

The rites are available to same-sex and heterosexual couples in civil partnerships or civil marriages, or persons in a sealed covenanted friendship. (Ros Clarke of Church Society offers this discussion of covenanted friendship).

“These prayers will be offered within regular services of public worship for same-sex couples who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God, and who are part of the Cathedral community,” the Canterbury statement said. “Those eligible to ask for these prayers include our regular congregations, those living in Cathedral properties adjacent to the Cathedral, and those with a strong pastoral connection to the Cathedral community from amongst our staff, clergy, and volunteers.”

The statement added: “It is not currently possible to hold stand-alone services of blessing, same-sex weddings, or civil partnerships.”

On a page dedicated to “Prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples,” the Church of England takes the guidance further: “It is not legally possible for Church of England clergy to carry out same-sex marriages.”

The Church of England can change that legal possibility, but Archbishop Justin Welby has repeatedly stressed that the church has not changed its doctrine of marriage by offering blessings to same-sex couples. The bishops have discussed allowing same-sex marriage for clergy, Church Times has reported.

The Church of England encourages couples who seek a blessing to use its “A Church Near You” search engine. Search results are quirky: a search for London churches that offer Prayers of Love and Faith yielded three parishes, while the same search for Birmingham yielded 18 parishes.

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