Clergy should have the freedom to bless and marry same-sex couples, says Bishop of Oxford

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Church of England clergy should have the freedom to bless and marry same-sex couples, says Bishop of Oxford. 

The Bishop of Oxford has published a 52-page essay, Together in Love and Faith, to be released on Friday 4 November, setting out the ways his own views have changed on same-sex relationships over the last decade. 

In the light of ten years of reflection and massive changes in the society we serve, many in the Church, including Bishop Steven, now believe it is time to enable local churches and clergy to offer public services of blessing for same-sex relationships and remove the legal barriers to the solemnisation of same-sex marriage in the Church of England. Clergy should also be given the freedom to order their own relationships according to their conscience and to marry a same-sex partner. 

Bishop Steven writes:

“I need to acknowledge the acute pain and distress of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the Church. I am sorry that, corporately, we have been so slow as a Church to reach better decisions and practice on these matters. I am sorry that my own views were slow to change and that my actions, and lack of action, have caused genuine hurt, disagreement and pain.” 

Bishop Steven also reflects that many Christians in the Church of England hold and will continue to hold a traditional view of marriage and this should be honoured and respected by those who are seeking freedom to change. This is the majority view across the worldwide Anglican Communion at this time, although some Anglican Provinces have already made the decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships. Clergy and parishes will need the freedom not to opt in to any new arrangements. Some clergy and parishes may need the oversight of bishops in the Church of England who hold to the traditional view.  

Bishop Steven writes:

“Any settlement must be founded on love and respect: love and respect for LGBTQ+ people and their families within and beyond the Church, love and respect for those who take different views… This love must be the hallmark of our debates and conduct through this season”. 

Bishop Steven’s essay is a significant new contribution to the present process as the whole Church seeks good and fruitful ways forward and as the bishops together discern what proposals to bring to the General Synod in February 2023.  

The essay is available to purchase from store.oxford.anglican.org, and The Church Times features the essay in an article published on Thursday 3 November.