Same-sex couples will be able to have their civil partnerships or marriages blessed by the Church in Wales after new legislation was passed by the Church’s governing body.
A bill to authorise blessing services for same-sex couples was approved at a three-day conference at the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport on Monday.
The bill was approved by more than the necessary two-thirds majority, following a debate.
Before the votes were cast, Bishop Andy John, the senior bishop of the Church in Wales, acknowledged that some would find the change in policy to be a departure from the word of God.
“But every development is to some degree a departure; something changes wherever there is a new expression of practice,” he said to those at the meeting.
“And even when such a change appears consonant with a stated position, it is nevertheless a change.
“When the Church changed its position on forbidding meat with blood in it, or saw that slavery in all and any form was wicked, there was change.
“The ‘authority of the eternal yesterday’ must not be a millstone around our necks but provide a basis for a courageous embrace of what God is doing in the world around us. Mission always lies at the heart of faith.
“And being alive to God, to what might happen next, is part of remaining curious and open to new opportunity.”
The bishops proceeded to approve the bill unanimously, whilst the clergy passed it with 28 votes for approval, 12 votes against and two abstentions. The laity passed the bill with 49 votes for approval, 10 against and one abstention.
Blessing services will now be permitted for same-sex couples “experimentally” for five years, however individual members of the clergy are at liberty to decide whether they wish to perform them.
While many in the Church welcomed the vote, others acknowledged that the work is not yet finished, as same-sex couples remain unable to legally marry in the Church.
Gregory Cameron, the Bishop of St Asaph, said: “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.
“The Church has spoken decisively today in favour 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.”
In an explanatory memorandum, the bishops, who introduced the bill, said that its approval would mean that the “loving and faithful commitment” of same-sex couples was “worthy of acceptance by the Church”.
While the bishops recognised that the bill may be controversial, the memorandum stated that it was “a step on the way towards repentance of a history in the Church which has demonised and persecuted gay and lesbian people, forcing them into fear, dishonesty and sometimes even hypocrisy”, preventing them from publicly living lives of committed partnership.
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