Conservative Clergy In Church Of England Protesting Same-Sex Marriage Blessing Plan

Conservative clergies and parishioners within the Church of England are revolting against the church’s plans to offer blessings for the civil marriages of same-sex couples. 

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The Church of England recently announced plans to offer blessings for the civil marriages of same sex-couples, a move that many conservative clergy and parishioners are protesting, stating that it’s against biblical teachings. 

According to reports, a large parish in Buckinghamshire is planning to refuse to offer blessings to same-sex couples within its seven churches. The group is also currently planning to withhold its annual contribution of £235,000 to the diocese of Oxford as a form of protest. 

A group of traditionalist clergy members have formed a “resistance” to the blessings within the Church of England. This resistance is backed up by the Church of England Evangelical Council; a group that initially pledges to resist all attempts at blessing unions between same-sex couples when news of the voting was announced this year. 

The General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body, voted 250 to 181 in February in favor of a proposal by bishops that would offer blessings on a voluntary basis for same-sex couples. 

The parochial church council voted in March to support any local clergy who refuse to bless same-sex marriages. Parishioners who are in support of the blessings have stated their fear regarding same-sex couples being able to find a church willing to bless their civil marriages in town and the surrounding villages. 

The £235,000 that Buckinghamshire, Great Chesham parochial church council pays to the diocese annually represents around 1.2% of the diocese’s annual budget of £19.4 million. 

“The PCC has voted to support its clergy who, on grounds of good conscience, have opted not to use prayers of love and faith. We are also in the process of consulting PCC members about setting up an overdue review of our finances,” said Edward Bowes-Smith, the team rector of the Great Chesham parish. 

Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner and advocate for LGBT+ rights and equality within the Church of England also recently made a statement regarding these recent debates. 

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“The synod’s decision to enable blessings of people in same-sex unions upheld the long-established Anglican tradition of freedom of conscience, meaning that none of this small handful of clergy would have been impacted anyway. If they want to set up their own structures then they should remove themselves from established ones – they can’t have their cake and eat it.”

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A suffragan bishop in the diocese, Alan Wilson, stated that the services of blessings are voluntary, so this resistance isn’t surprising: “Those who want to can do so, while those who don’t are exactly where they always were. Nothing has changed for them at all.”

“We have not been advised of any move to cancel the parish share payments by the [Great Chesham] PCC, though we are aware that there are discussions under way,” a spokesperson for the diocese of Oxford said.

Phil Martin, a vicar at St Botolph’s Aldersgate, said: “Since the [bishops have] departed from the bible’s teaching on marriage and sin … change is needed. New structures are needed. We invite all clergy who are compelled to resist … on the grounds that [the bishops’] proposed prayers of love and faith undermine the C of E’s doctrine of marriage such that we can no longer walk in partnership together.”

In response, the diocese of London said in a statement that the group was “seeking to set up its own parallel, unregulated structures outside of those of the diocese of London and the Church of England. This unilateral move would have no legal substance.”