The Church of England has voted in favour of a motion to offer blessings to same sex-couples in civil partnerships and marriages.
A near-eight-hour debate across two days ended in a vote for the motion on Thursday at a meeting of the General Synod – the church’s parliament.
The Synod’s three houses all voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion.
Within the motion, Synod members also voted to “lament and repent” the failure of the Church to welcome LGBTQI+ people – and for the harm they have experienced, and continue to experience – in churches.
The motion did not seek to change the position on gay marriage, meaning same-sex couples are still unable to marry in church.
Immediately before the vote a minute of silence was observed followed by a prayer said by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Approval of the motion allows same-sex couples to go to Anglican churches after a legal marriage ceremony for services including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and a blessing.
The motion had been brought by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, and was the result of six years of work on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage known as Living In Love And Faith.
Earlier this week Synod members also met in small groups to consider and comment on a set of draft texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith, which could be used voluntarily in churches for couples who have marked a significant stage of their relationship such as a civil marriage or civil partnership.
The Church ‘unreservedly and joyfully’ welcomes same-sex couples
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said in a statement: “It has been a long road to get us to this point.
“For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly, and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.
“The Church continues to have deep differences on these questions which go to the heart of our human identity.
“As Archbishops, we are committed to respecting the conscience of those for whom this goes too far and to ensure that they have all the reassurances they need in order to maintain the unity of the Church as this conversation continues.
“We hope that today’s thoughtful, prayerful debate marks a new beginning for the Church as we seek a way forward, listening to each other and most of all to God.
“Above all, we continue to pray, as Jesus himself prayed, for the unity of his church and that we would love one another.”
Bishop: ‘A moment of hope’ for the Church
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who led the debate and chairs the group which oversaw the development of the proposals, said: “This is a moment of hope for the Church.
“I know that what we have proposed as a way forward does not go nearly far enough for many but too far for others.
“It is my prayer that what has been agreed today will represent a step forward for all of us within the Church – including LGBTQI+ people – as we remain committed to walking together.
“We have always said we will listen carefully to Synod, so over the next few months so we will reflect on everything which has been said and prepare new pastoral guidance for the Church on matters of sexuality and marriage. We will also refine the texts of Prayers of Love and Faith.”