Bishops allow clergy to say prayers for gay couples
Church of England bishops are allowing clergy to hold special prayer services for homosexual couples despite the Church's ban on same-sex blessings, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, said yesterday that he was "happy" that such services were being held in his diocese.
Bishop Packer said the services were in line with the policy of the House of Bishops in its 1991 document Issues in Human Sexuality, "which stresses the need for those in same-sex relationships to receive friendship, understanding and acceptance from their fellow Christians".
One of the clergy who regularly leads such services in the Leeds church is Bishop Derek Rawcliffe, who announced that he was homosexual after his retirement as Bishop of Glasgow in 1991.
He said that there was no official liturgy but an unofficial one from a book edited by the lesbian theologian Elizabeth Stuart was often used.
"These couples want to commit themselves to one another. There is nothing legal about it, but they want to do it in church and because they are Christians," said Bishop Rawcliffe.
"They make a commitment to each other and accept each other as a partner in the same way that a man and women will, and there is a blessing at the end. The bishop knows all about this."
The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev John Saxbee, said earlier this year that he was aware of clergy praying for homosexual couples in his diocese. He was not opposed to prayers, he said, as long as they did not incorporate elements of the traditional wedding ceremony.
A spokesman for the Church of England said: "There are no official liturgies for prayers for, or blessings of, same sex-relationships, therefore there is no official approval for them.
"But there is always a need to provide pastoral care for people within congregations, including homosexuals."