Blessings for Same-sex Couples

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 26 January 2023.

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Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 9:34, 26 January 2023

Whether the Commissioners have held discussions with senior Church leaders on allowing clergy to conduct blessings for same-sex couples.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

With you permission, Mr Speaker, following my response to the urgent question on Tuesday, the advice I was given then was by the Church legal office, and I was yesterday asked to make a small clarification. A simple majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod could suffice to pass a measure and amending canon to change the definition of marriage in ecclesiastical law, but circumstances could also arise in which two-thirds majorities in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy would be needed, and, as with all authorised forms of service, a two-thirds majority in each House would be required for the approval of the Synod as a form of service for the marriage of a same-sex couple. I apologise, Mr Speaker, but I was only informed yesterday. Given that I was answering questions today, I thought you would find it acceptable that I put that slight clarification on the record.

In answer to the question from Christine Jardine, it is the case that the General Synod of the Church of England can make its own decisions on these matters. Members of the Synod will have a chance to make their own views clearly known, having listened to the very forcible views expressed in this House on Tuesday. I repeat that the Church of England has apologised for past behaviours, and welcomes and values LGBTQI+ people unreservedly and joyfully.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I thank the hon. Member for that clarification and for his comments about welcoming the LGBTQI+ community joyfully. But can I ask him to clarify then why it is that a man and a woman who do not believe in God and do not regularly attend church are welcome to marry in the Church of England—indeed, the Church’s website says, “God’s blessing is the main attraction for many couples”—but a couple in a same-sex relationship, both of whom may have worshipped in the Church all their lives and live in the spirit of Christian faith, are denied the same right in the Church, even though similar denominations in Scotland offer that opportunity? Can the hon. Member inform the House whether the Commissioners have discussed that inequality with the Church of England?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue. These matters will be very livelily debated at the General Synod between 6 and 9 February. I can also tell her that each province in the global Anglican communion is autonomous. The majority of the provinces in the communion provide neither blessings nor marriages for same-sex couples: the Scottish Episcopal Church provides marriages, the Church in Wales provides blessings, and the Church of Ireland provides neither for same-sex couples, so the hon. Lady can see that there is a variety of practice within these islands. But I have heard what she has said and, more importantly, I will make sure that the General Synod is very well aware of her views and those of others in this House.