The House of Bishops' statement on same sex marriage

I wanted you to have the recent statement which was made on 14th February by the House of Bishops on The Church of England and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and the covering letter from the Archbishops.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) 2013 comes into force in March so it is timely that the Bishops have set out their thinking before the first of these marriages takes place. As clergy and people of the Church, you may well be faced with questions and the statement sets out the consequences for the life and discipline of the Church of England. In broad terms, the statement sets out


  • the Church’s teaching on marriage and its understanding of marriage 
  • the legal effects of the legislation
  • the implications for those entering into Same Sex Marriages who worship in the Church of England and
  • the implications for those ordained (and seeking to be ordained).

You can read the House of Bishops' statement here.

I can reassure you that the Church of England’s understanding of marriage remains unchanged. It will not be legally possible for same sex couples to be married by Church of England clergy or in Church of England churches. Services of blessing should not be provided following a Same Sex Marriage.
I want to make it clear that Lay people who enter into same sex marriages will continue to be welcomed in to the Church – and they will have full access to receive the sacraments, have children baptized and receive full pastoral support. May I remind you that people have a legal right to be baptized in the Church of England provided they (or their godparents in the case of those too young to answer for themselves) are willing to make the baptismal promises following a period of instruction?

In our statement of January 27th, the College of Bishops said: “We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found". I clearly reaffirm the sentiments in that statement.
The Church is now committed to a process of facilitated conversations over the next two years on the issues of sexuality more generally. Last week, General Synod received the report of the Working Party on Human Sexuality, chaired by Joseph Pilling. In his introduction to Synod, Sir Joseph said “The time for ostriches has passed on this subject.” It has seemed to many that for too long, the Church has operated a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in respect to sex – and this has been well-described as “the institutionalised ostrich position.”  So now, we are going to have facilitated conversations, a form of dialogue which has got us into a new place in relation to women bishops. I pray it will do the same for us and the wider issues of sexuality.