Commending Prayers of Love and Faith—more questions than answers

Andrew Goddard writes: Following General Synod, the House of Bishops has to decide (perhaps this Tuesday, 12th December) on two key matters relating to Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF): whether and when to commend the Suite of Prayers for use in regular services under Canon B5 and how to proceed with the “standalone services” that they have said they will introduce through Canon B2, in particular whether to allow them to be used (perhaps by means of experimental authorisation under Canon B5A) prior to their authorisation by General Synod.

What follows begins by sketching the evolution of PLF from its sudden conception about a year ago, through each of the three meetings of General Synod, to where we are now. This highlights that although the wording of the prayers has remained much the same, there have been a number of crucial changes in how they are framed, their legal basis, and their proposed means of introduction. Three key distinctions are then introduced that need to be kept in mind in seeking to test the coherence of the current proposals and the credibility of their claims to be a good and legal way forward. It is then argued, by exploring four of the key questions arising from these distinctions, that in fact whatever coherence and legal foundation PLF originally had this is now severely weakened and in some cases has almost vanished in the current proposals. This is primarily due to a number of the changes that have been implemented at speed with unforeseen consequences. These create great legal risk for any use under Canon B5 and point to the importance of authorisation by the standard route of Canon B2. 

How did we get to where we now are? The Evolution of PLF

The bishops approached their College meeting a year ago in December 2022 with a range of 7 options (none of them fleshed out in draft prayers) which they sought to reduce in number so as to present them, together with their rationales, to the February Synod to test the mind of Synod. By mid-January, however, a number of these had been brought together and given expression in PLF comprising a suite of resources and two service structures with illustrative examples of how these could be combined. Although presented as not requiring any change in doctrine or the law, this contradicted the guidance given to the bishops in December 2022 concerning the doctrinal and legal consequences of some of the options now embraced within PLF. This development appears to have become possible due to the sharp contrast that was drawn between civil marriage and holy matrimony. Strong claims were made about the significance and novelty of what was being proposed even though the route of commendation meant that strictly the proposals must always have been legal under B5. The bishops were also clear that although only PLF was published, it belonged together with the proposed new Pastoral Guidance to replace Issues in Human Sexuality. With one significant amendment, Synod passed the proposed motion supporting the bishops’ proposed way forward.

Over the next 3 to 4 months a new consensus began to emerge that PLF should only be used for legally registered relationships and should probably be authorised by some means (perhaps by the Archbishops under B4.2) rather than commended. There were also some serious challenges to the lawyers’ separation of civil marriage and holy matrimony. One of the consequences of all these matters being in flux was that in contrast to February 2023 when PLF had a clear legal note (supported by a fuller paper from the Legal Office), the notes for PLF in July had replaced this with a placeholder.

By the time of the College’s mid-September meeting, theological and legal questions about the civil marriage/holy matrimony argument combined with growing pressure for authorisation under Canon B2 and led to what would prove to be significant changes. PLF was divided into parts with the main body of the resources again being proposed for commendation within “regular” services but the outline services being rebranded as “standalone” services. These it was argued should indeed be authorised under B2 but perhaps with an authorised experimental period under Canon B5A. It appears that the College voted by over 3 to 1 for this way forward and stakeholders were briefed this was the likely outcome by the Bishop of London. However, when the House met only a week after those briefings, it decided (reportedly by a narrow 19-16 vote) against the use of Canon B5A. This “straight to B2” option for “standalone services” was proposed by the Bishop of London (despite her briefing meetings only a week before) and strongly urged on the House by the Archbishop of Canterbury but came under rapid and heavy critique when it was published in the papers for the November Synod. This led to the Bishop of Oxford proposing his amendment which sought to reopen the question of making services available without waiting for completion of the B2 process. A radically different proposal was now secured in the House of Bishops when voting publicly compared to their private vote in early October, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London among those changing their stance. The passing of this amendment (by the narrowest of margins in the House of Laity) means the House will now revisit the B5A option once again. 

A further significant development in the November 2023 papers was the abandonment of the argument concerning civil marriage and holy matrimony and the setting out of a new theological rationale. This rationale reaffirmed that marriage is the divinely intended relationship for sexual intimacy. These changes resulted in the bishops having to accept that PLF used for a sexual same-sex union would likely be indicative of a departure from the Church’s doctrine and so seriously weakened past legal advice and left the bishops relying on the departure not being in any essential matter. The new legal advice has never been released but appears much more cautious and in November the placeholder “Legal Notes” section was not filled out with more details but removed entirely.

How can we understand the law and the current situation with PLF?

To understand these various developments more fully and to evaluate their legal status carefully it is necessary to focus on three key distinctions.

First, rather than talking of “commendation” (contrasted with “authorisation”) it is best to distinguish between forms of service authorised in accordance with Canon B1.2 and the discretion granted to ministers under Canon B5. The concept of “commendation” does not appear in the Canons. This fact that commendation by bishops has no legal basis or status is often forgotten or even not known.

Second, there are two distinct forms of discretion set out in Canon B5: “variations which are not of substantial importance” within any authorised form of service (B5.1) and using suitable forms of service for occasions where no provision is made in authorised services (B5.2). The greater significance of this second discretionary category is signalled by it only being granted to the minister with cure of souls not simply the minister taking the service.

Third, there is the novel distinction now introduced (with no basis in the canons or much explanation by the bishops) between “regular services” and “standalone services”. The House of Bishops now argue that the PLF suite can be used within “regular services” without authorization, but use within “standalone services” must be authorized.

Drawing on these three distinctions and relating them to where we now are in PLF there are at least four key questions that require careful consideration in evaluating the current PLF proposal.

What can be said about where we now find ourselves and the legal challenges facing the bishops’ proposals?

The first and crucially important question that needs to be answered is whether PLF is now being commended for clergy to use with the more limited discretion granted under B5.1 (variation in an authorised form of service) or that granted under B5.2 (introduction of a new form of service for on occasion for which no authorised provisions are made). Once that is clarified the second related question needs to be asked as to whether or not PLF can now be said to have a strong legal basis given the specific constraints of each of these options within Canon B5 and what is now being said by the bishops. The difficulty here is that there are arguments both for and against each of these options and some serious questions about the legality of each as well. 

The case that PLF falls under B5.1 is that it is clearly a variation in an authorised form of service, especially now it is restricted to a regular service. This “regular service” would be, for example, A Service of the Word or Holy Communion (into which the PLF materials are inserted). The case against this however is that the Pastoral Guidance is clear that it must be the minister with the cure of souls who exercises their discretion (“Using commended prayers as part of regular worship can only happen at the discretion of the minister with the cure of souls” (1.1.8, p.51)) and under B5.1 the discretion is that simply of the minister conducting the service. 

If PLF is viewed as a variation under B5.1 it is now on very shaky legal grounds as such variations can only be “not of substantial importance” (Canon B5.1) or “minor” (1974 Worship and Doctrine Measure). Now that it is clear how much opposition there is to the PLF and that they are indicative of a departure from doctrine it is very hard to see them as meeting this canonical requirement.

Alternatively, use of the PLF suite within a “regular service” may fall under Canon B5.2. The argument in favour of them being commended for use under B5.2 is, as noted, that the guidance identifies the minister with such discretion as the one with the cure of souls. It would then have to be argued that the occasion “for which no provision is made” in authorised liturgy is prayers relating to the celebration of a same-sex couple’s relationship. The difficulty here is that the PLF are now only to be used in a “regular service” such as Holy Communion or Morning Prayer (an existing occasion) not in “a standalone service” of Prayer and Dedication for a Same-Sex Relationships (a new occasion). This highlights the shaky legal grounds of appealing to B5.2 because it was clearly intended to be used to create a new service (such as “The Funeral of a Child” or “Services of Prayer and Dedication after Civil Marriage” or “The Reconciliation of a Penitent”) which is precisely the use of PLF under Canon B5 that is now no longer being commended by the House of Bishops but brought for authorization under Canon B2.

In summary, if one speaks of “commendation for use under B5” in general terms and there is no distinction between “regular” and “standalone” services and no acceptance that PLF is indicative of a departure from doctrine (as in February and July) this question is less pressing. Now, however, it requires a clear answer and then a clear legal justification that is not simply in terms of “but its departure is not in an essential matter”. That justification needs to show either that the PLF suite is a variation “not of substantial importance” under Canon B5.1 (and the Pastoral Guidance changed to remove the right of the minister with the cure of souls to exercise discretion which will create its own problems in relation to pastoral reassurance) or that the PLF suite is an “occasion” under Canon B5.2 for which no provision is made in authorised liturgy, even though only commended for use within an existing authorized service. If the House of Bishops cannot provide these clear answers, it would appear impossible for the PLF suite to be within “the discretion permitted by Canon B5” (Canon B1.2) and so it will instead have to be authorized by some means where clearly Canon B2 is the standard and appropriate pathway legally.

As this confusion reveals, a third key question is how to understand the new distinction between regular and standalone services. The difficulty here is that the terminology suggests a single test which might be described as “calendrical” – that is, a “regular service” is part of the regular pattern within the life of the worshipping community, while a “standalone service” is arranged for a particular occasion as it arises. There is, however, an additional test. This is because if a proposed service passes this calendrical test then further questions arise about the centrality of the PLF prayers within that regular service. Again, the Guidance is clear that “Where material from the Resource Section (commended material) is used in a public service, it must not be the central focus of that service” (1.3.7, p.60) and the bishops state that PLF should only be used “in acts of worship where Prayers of Love and Faith are not the principal focus or form”. There are, however, elements in the suite which are not consistent with this. To select special Bible readings (and thus also shape the sermon) to focus on the couple being prayed for is very difficult to square with this test. The same applies, for example, to the proposed bidding prayer which is included in the PLF suite as a “Prayer of Gathering”. In fact, it is explicitly quoted in the “standalone” service orders (Annex D to GS 2328) to show “what these services set out to do”: “Dear friends in Christ, we gather with N and N to celebrate with them their love, faithfulness, and commitment. We come to hear God’s holy word, and to surround N and N with our love and prayer as they seek the blessings of God’s kingdom in their life together”. Its use, therefore, in a regular service would render any such service (even if a “regular” one in the parish’s life) a “standalone” service which the bishops have said requires authorisation.

As it stands, if the House of Bishops commend the current PLF suite for use under Canon B5, they would be significantly blurring the distinction they are now attempting to draw between “regular services” and “standalone services”. This would simply sow further confusion.

This leads to the fourth question which is why the PLF suite with material indicative of a departure from the church’s doctrine can avoid authorisation and be commended for use under Canon B5 yet an outline service order adapting those already authorised for A Service of the Word or Holy Communion (into which the “commended” PLF suite will be inserted) requires authorization. The bishops appear to be saying that they will invite General Synod (over a long process to which they are now adding involvement of Diocesan Synods as well) to strain out a gnat (by authorizing outline services, with no content), while the bishops themselves are inviting the Church of England to swallow a camel (by commending prayers indicative of a departure from our doctrine).


It is clear that while the text of the PLF has been fairly static, the recent attempts to distinguish “regular” from “standalone” services, and to propose using different canonical routes for each, creates new challenges which have not been answered. These challenges have multiplied as the House of Bishops’ previous arguments advanced in defence of PLF’s legality have been effectively withdrawn even though new legal advice has not been shared and the legal note in the draft materials has faded from being full and clear in February to non-existent in November. Alongside this the extent to which PLF indicates departure from doctrine (contrary to the February Synod motion and the stated intention of the bishops in July) has now been openly acknowledged.

The bishops, by commending, put themselves at no legal risk when the services are used. That legal risk is borne by the minister(s) involved. By actively encouraging the use of such services (which have been occurring to some degree already in certain parishes when clergy have concluded they have freedom under canon B5) but refusing to authorise them they have deeply divided the church and sadly made it more likely that those offering services will face legal challenges. They have, however, been acting at pace, on the basis of uncertain theological rationales and changing legal advice. They have not fully shared the latest version of that legal advice and withdrawn previous legal advice in consecutive drafts. As a result they have been significantly altering the shape of their proposal and accompanying guidance as to the use of the prayers. If they proceed to commend the PLF suite now then anyone using the prayers faces a number of potential challenges which the bishops have created but of which they seem to be unaware. Certainly they have given no clear answers let alone a rationale or legal basis: Are you exercising your discretion under Canon B5.1 or B5.2? If under B5.1 can this alteration to the normal form of service and the inclusion of these prayers (admitted to be indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England) really be justified as “minor” and “not of substantial importance”? If under B5.2 then are you not rejecting the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance because this is no longer a “regular service”? 

If the bishops announce this week that they have implemented their earlier in principle decision to commend PLF they will, in effect, be giving the Church of England (and wider Anglican Communion) an early Christmas present. What sort of present is it? It is already clear that it is one which a significant proportion of the church do not want and will not even open though they are worried that some in their immediate family will be urging them to do so. Many of those recipients of this gift have major questions as to what has made the bishops think it one suitable to give and are considering how it affects their own relationship with bishops and the other gifts they offer going into 2024. It now also appears that those who will be pleased to open and enjoy this gift (even if they wished for a better present and find this one is, other than its purple wrapping paper, a poorer version of something they already had) will find that what they have been given is severely faulty, perhaps even dangerous to use. That raises the serious risk that the next stage in the evolution of the PLF could be not another revision but the recall of the product.

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre(WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF and the subgroup looking at Pastoral Guidance.

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92 thoughts on “Commending Prayers of Love and Faith—more questions than answers”

  1. This would be farce if it were not tragedy. Certainly it is excellent material for playwrights of a future generation.

    Nicky Gumbel, late of Holy Trinity Brompton and formerly a practising barrister, was said by Anglican Unscripted to be planning a legal challenge in the ecclesiastical courts. The first thing is to force the bishops to make public the legal advice they received. The extent to which that advice was ignored might force some much overdue resignations.

  2. Really, unless a full service of homosexual marriage in church was proposed then there should be no requirement for a 2/3 majority of Synod to approve it under canon B2 (as approval of remarriage of divorcees in the C of E’s churches required a 2/3 Synod majority when remarriage of divorcees was approved by Synod by 269 votes to 83 while former spouses were alive in 2002).

    A mere service of blessing for homosexual couples married in English civil law should be approved by Canon B5 as the prayers for them have been and not have to be approved by the 2/3 majority required under B2. After all, Synod has already voted by majority for both prayers and experimental services of blessing for same sex couples.

    Parliament could of course amend the Canons of the C of E if asked by the Bishops to make clear that a majority vote of Synod for same sex blessings alone would suffice to make the legal position clear, given the sympathy for the vast majority of Parliament for the proposals in the established church

    • “Parliament could of course amend the Canons of the C of E if asked by the Bishops…”

      Could it? Wouldn’t doing so require (effectively) the dissolution of the CofE? It’s a slightly moot point if parliament’s ability to change Canon law requires as a pre-condition the destruction/overruling of it.

      • No Parliament could just amend the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 to ensure Canon law is amended to ensure a 2/3 majority is not required in Synod for services of blessing only for new services of marriage. A simple majority as already achieved would be needed for new services of blessing.

        Remember until 1919 the doctrine of the C of E as established church was decided and amended only by Act of Parliament

    • “A mere service of blessing for homosexual couples married in English civil law should be approved by Canon B5 as the prayers for them have been and not have to be approved by the 2/3 majority required under B2. After all, Synod has already voted by majority for both prayers and experimental services of blessing for same sex couples.”

      You beg the question every time. Why are these prayers not a change of doctrine? Even the legal advice to the Bishop suggests that they might be (if used with sexually active couples). If there is a change of doctrine, a super majority is required.

      Parliament won’t be interfereing, that is a pipe dream. It would blow the settlement of the establisment of the church wide open.

      • The current settlement has only lasted 100 years, for 400 years Parliament decided the doctrine of the established C of E not the Assembly and then the Synod of the C of E.

        If Bishops decided a 2/3 majority was needed for mere services of blessing of homosexual couples married in English civil law and that failed, even if passed by simple majority, then Parliament could well take matters in its own hands. Especially if as likely Labour win the next general election. Parliament could well agree with the Bishops to change C of E canons to ensure a 2/3 majority of Synod only required for new services of marriage, not blessing

      • If they were a change of doctrine they would not be mere blessings for same sex couples but marriage between same sex couples. Holy matrimony however has been reserved for heterosexual couples.

        Of course until 1919 Parliament did directly legislate over the Church of England and decide its doctrine as the established church.

        • And of course the change makes sense given that secularism means we can no longer assume the majority of MP’s are even nominal Christians. It is doubtful Parliament would want to become involved in something that puts it on a par with the control of religious organisations exercised by the Chinese government.

        • Again, you beg the question. These prayers clearly change the doctrine of the church of England, they run contrary to precious doctrinal advice (the pastoral letter on prayer after civil marriages amongst other documents) therefore they are a change.

          What is your argument other than assertion that this is not so? And don’t just mention the bishops again, their own legal advice suggests it might be a change. In what way would you argue that these prayers are consonant with the inherited doctrine of the church of England?

          • Which doctrine is changed?

            These aren’t marriages, there’s no sex, and Ian has been very clear that the CofE has no doctrine on homosexuality.

  3. Call me a cynic, but I think it highly likely the bishops will commend PLF tomorrow. Sarah Wilkinson has just published her report on the ISB. Another round of arguments about gay relationships will be just what the doctor ordered to distract attention from the car crash that is safeguarding in the C of E.

    • The main issue around safeguarding at present is over Pilavachi who was of course from the charismatic evangelical wing of the C of E, where most of the opposition to PLF lies.

      • What a deeply flawed straw man fallacy.
        I suppose it is moving from one fallacy to another. False cause and correlation.
        Let alone the underpinning appeal to popularity fallacy on which the whole cultural revisionist movement is based.

        • And as one fallacy is piled onto another, there is a step into the heap or continuum fallacy, when “evangel” can not be clearly defined and there is an a inablity to distinguish between being of a different ‘degree’ and being of different “kind”.

          And while the Bishop’s argument that the prayers may be merely a different degree they amount to a different kind of service.
          Prayers are always redolent and expressive of doctrine espoused ( that is it is a question of a different ‘kind’ not a one of a movement of a different ‘degree’.
          Prayer can not be otherwise as they give voice to doctrine.

      • Though there are undoubtedly some charismatic and open evengelicals who are hostile to PLF I think you will fnd that the major organized opposition is from the conservative evangelicals who have effectively taken over the CEEC.

          • PC1

            In my experience cofe charismatic leaders are usually strongly opposed to (public) gay relationships, but their congregations are 50/50

        • John, Have you seen the list of signatories to the letters from ‘the allliance’ Today’s letter, though signed by many conservative evangelicals, is also signed by a good number who are a some way from being generally characterised as such. The list is as folllows:
          Fr Adam Gaunt, Chair of Catholic Group in General Synod
          Emma Joy Gregory, Vice-Chair of Catholic Group in General Synod
          Tom Middleton, Director of Forward in Faith and Secretary of the Council of Bishops of The Society
          Busola Sodeinde, Church Commissioner and UK Global Majority rep
          Ade Adebajo, Lay Chair of London Diocesan Synod, Chair of Lambeth Partners and UK Global Majority rep
          Canon Dr. Addy Lazz-Onyenobi, Member of General Synod and UK Global Majority rep
          Revd Dr. Rich Johnson, National Leader, New Wine
          Revd Wole Agbaje, Head of Young Adults, New Wine
          Revd John Coles, New Wine Ambassador
          Revd Paul Harcourt, former National Leader, New Wine
          Revd Archie Coates, Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and Head of HTB Network
          Revd Nicky Gumbel, President of Church Revitalisation Trust, HTB Network
          Revd Sarah Jackson, CEO of Church Revitalisation Trust, and Chair of HTB Network on General Synod
          Revd Jago Wynne, Vice-Chair of HTB Network on General Synod
          Revd Canon John Dunnett, Chair of Evangelical Group on General Synod (EGGS)
          Jane Patterson, Secretary of Evangelical Group on General Synod (EGGS)
          Rt. Revd Julian Henderson, President of Church of England Evangelical Council
          Revd Kieran Bush, Chair of the ReNew Planning Team
          Debbie Buggs, Member of ReNew and Member of General Synod and of the Crown Nominations Commission
          Revd Canon John McGinley, Executive Director of Myriad
          Ed Shaw, Ministry Director of Living Out
          Revd Canon Vaughan Roberts, Co-Founder of Living Out
          Rt. Revd Keith Sinclair, Trustee of Living Out
          Helen Lamb, Trustee of Living Out
          Revd Dr. Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society

          • That letter wasn’t against the PLF, only the B5 process. In fact the authors said: “We want to be clear. This proposition of a better way forwards is still honouring the spirit of the vote at February’s General Synod. It is not about rowing back from what was voted on.”

          • Process is all, content is nothing?
            Do the signatories really think that? It seems vastly unlikely.
            It reminds me of when abortion was forced on N Ireland. Some people complained quite rightly at the high handed colonialism. But they were thereby implying that it was fine to kill little humans so long as there is no high handed colonialism involved. Priorities please.

          • That’s what the letter they signed said. If you think they shouldn’t have said, or that it’s dishonest in some way, take it up with them.

          • No, I only meant that they sounded far more concerned that a legal nicety had been bypassed than that an abomination had been proposed.

          • Well, they clearly don’t regard it as an abomination because they very explicitly don’t want to row back on the February vote in Synod.

      • T1

        Is it? From my pov the MP issue has already been dealt with – Mike Pilavachi MBE himself retires quietly, no questions asked about the credible allegations that senior leaders in the church knew about his abuses, but decided to praise him instead of protecting the young people they were encouraging to get involved in his ministry. Everything tidily swept under the carpet.

        Oh and instead of proper safe guarding and real reforms, continue to treat sexual abuse as a “whoopsie” and real consensual relationships as such a vile crime that legal action will be brought against those who bless them. No legal action to be brought against those who praised and gave awards to MP

        • They are two separate, distinct, and important issues. There is a fallacious conflation of categories. It is a red herring as far as ssm and ssb commendation is concerned.

          • Geoff

            If gay people had been fully accepted and included in the CofE in the 90s, its more likely that MP would have sought a consensual relationship, its more likely that senior leaders would not have been too embarrassed by the whole subject to deal with his abuses, its more likely victims would not have been scared to come forward (because they would not have faced the stigma of gay), and soul survivor would have been promoting healthy marriages, not sexual abuse

  4. Great to see detailed analysis of Canon B5.1 and B5.2.

    In addition, some authorised forms of service, within their authorised text, permit the inclusion of other texts. For example, the Common Worship Holy Communion notes on the Prayers of Intercession says ‘Several forms of intercession are provided; other suitable forms may be used.’ I think that here the use of ‘other suitable forms’ is not subject to Canon B5. (As a thought experiment, if Canon B5 were repealed, would ‘other suitable forms’ still be permitted? I think, clearly yes.) Therefore we have a third possible test, which applies if the minister is not using B5 discretion but rather the form of service as authorised: are the prayers of intercession ‘suitable’?

    As a clue what ‘suitable’ might mean, it’s defined in the Notes to ‘A Service of the Word’ (although of course this is not strictly applicable to Holy Communion). In ‘A Service of the Word’, ‘suitable’ is distinguished from ‘authorised’ and “‘suitable’ means a form used at the discretion of the minister conducting the form of service on any occasion, but such that the material so used shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.”

    Whether or not either Canon B5 discretion or ‘suitable forms’ are used in any particular case, the minister under canon B1 must always ‘endeavour to ensure that the worship offered glorifies God and edifies the people.’

  5. The exercise of delegated discretion at law is subject to review ny the courts.
    While I have been a long time away from the legal profession I have some vestigal memory from the time I studied Constitutional and Administrative law as part of an LL.B and while I no longer have access to reliable legal authorities here is a link which will give some indication of the potential deep end quagmire that the Bishops and other incumbent, parties are seeking to drown in.
    As mentioned above the Bishops are banking on no litigation.

    • Synod itself is of course delegated powers of governance over the Church of England by Parliament under the 1919 Act (prior to that Parliament alone decided the doctrine and governance of the established church). Ultimately of course the C of E’s canons were drawn up by the Bishops and Clergy and they have approved the prayers of blessing for same sex couples and the services of blessing for same sex couples on an experimental basis via Synod majority

  6. Not only that but will the exercise of discretion be between that which is lawful and that which is unlawful, without having any knowledge of which is which, knowledge and information that is vital in the exercise of the discretion and which is being withheld by the Bishops.

    • From The Church Times:

      BLESSINGS for same-sex couples can take place within existing church services from this Sunday, after the House of Bishops formally commended the Prayers of Love and Faith at a meeting [today]… the Bishops had voted 24-11, with three recorded abstentions, in favour of commending the collection of prayers… Two marathon debates in the General Synod… ended with votes approving the Bishops’ plan to commend the blessings, despite threats of legal action if they were to go ahead. The blessings have only being sanctioned for use within regular services, and not as a stand-alone service. In the Synod in November, an amendment calling on the Bishops to consider a trial period for stand-alone services was carried, albeit narrowly. Tuesday’s statement, however, makes little mention of this, and merely says: “The House also continued to discuss separate proposals for special standalone services for same-sex couples to be formally authorised under canon law.” As the next meeting of the House of Bishops is not due to take place until some time in the new year, it seems unlikely that such a trial period for the prayers, permitted under Canon B5(A), will be in place before the Synod’s next group of sessions. Alongside their planned experimental use, the stand-alone services are to be considered for authorisation by the Synod, under a two-year process under Canon B2. Tuesday’s statement made no mention of new pastoral guidance for priests, which is widely expected to permit priests to enter into same-sex civil marriages.

      In other words, the bishops resolved: We are going to get this done no matter who stands in our way, church lawyers, laity, General Synod, evangelical priests, a minority of bishops or Jesus Christ himself.

      St Paul, 1 Timothy 4: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars…

      An excellent description of what is happening in the Church of England. Time for that legal challenge…

      • These bishops have betrayed the Church of England. Time for evangelicals to depose them and bar them from our churches.
        They have become apostates and must repent.
        Evangelicals must end all payments to dioceses.

        • I’d suggest that evangelicals:
          A) check with their congregations first
          B) consider why they want to define themselves on this view of human sexuality (that even celibate relationships are to be forbidden) rather than the actual Gospel
          C) decide, if this is so central an issue, whether they’re going to bother finally having an actual teaching for gay people
          D) if they really want to schism, to do it honestly and with integrity, and walk away rather than cling to the salaries, stipends, assets, houses, offices, and buildings of the Church they have come to despise.

          • Technically all the above legally belong to the Church of England anyway. They could have alternative episcopal oversight, as with churches that disagree with women priests and bishops but still stay within the C of E with an opt out from the same sex blessings. That has never been disputed

          • AJ Bell

            You write ‘Worried they would not agree with you?’

            It is as I thought. Liberals operate constantly on a merely emotional level, and then compound the error by assuming (sic) without reflection that everyone else is as emotionally based as they are.

            Any agreement or disagreement is absolutely worthless without evidence – that is obvious, right?

          • Christopher every response you have to this issue is emotionally driven! Your disgust, distaste and denigration of people who are different to you in terms of sexuality is an entirely emotional response. Your wish to ‘reprogram’ them so that they respond differently to certain stimuli is emotionally driven. The fact that you dress this up by selective picking of distorted statistics and call it evidence fools no one apart from those who are similarly in disgust at same sex activity fools no one.

          • Andrew, your glib assumption that you understand another person’s motivations and brain better than they do themselves is worse than unlikely – it is impossible.

            But yes. The statistical data on the damage caused by homosexual behaviour is entirely emotional. Not a number or digit anywhere.

        • That’s hilarious. For years we’ve been reading about the importance of obeying Bishops who have sanctioned priests and readers who have married their same-sex partners. Now, it’s an issue on which you disagree, it’s fine to call for their deposition and, presumably, all the members of the Hosues of Clergy and Laity who voted with them.
          Hypocrisy at its very finest.

          • When a bishop disciplined a priest or reader in those circumstances, it was because that individual was acting contrary to the Canons of the Church.
            Now it is the bishops themselves promoting something which is contrary to the Canons of the Church. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

          • The canons of the Church of England are based on the authority of Synod. Synod has decided by majority prayers of blessing for same sex couples can be authorised by B5 without further legal challenge as the Bishops proposed so that is that.

          • David

            As I said I look forward to the legal challenges.
            Since doctrine has not changed, it could be fun.

          • Simon, you have not thought through the primary and secondary question.

            To read you, Jesus need not have existed for all the importance you assign.

            It is not even Anglicanism but merely the Church of England which the world system rests on, and which gets the casting vote on any question.

            How convenient for people to set up would-be ominiscient organisations where they have have the last word, override everyone else, yet never even consult (nor show awareness of) anyone else or have any checks or balances, or even any context.

            In a university context that would be given short shrift. You think we can invent the way reality is.

      • Or put another way, the Bishops have followed the decision of Synod (who did not stand in their way, much like the lawyers didn’t, nor the laity, nor Christ)

          • Christ is removing their lampstands by letting the unfaithful congregations wither. Because this process is not like a bolt of lightning, it is not visible to those who do not look with eyes of faith.

          • Yet the Church of England remains the largest denomination in England and the Church of Scotland the largest denomination in Scotland, certainly by membership

          • Simon, if you think truth lies with the majority vote, never mind any cultural influence, and never mind the IQ or degree of expertise of the voters, then your presuppositions are obviously wrong, and that will accordingly always make your conclusions wrong.

          • If you think interpretation of Christian truth for the Church does not lie with the votes of the General Synod, who determine the governance and doctrine of the Church of England, then what on earth are you doing in the Church of England?

          • Simon, the way you equate ‘the Church’ with ‘the Church of England’ says it all about the narrowness of your approach.

            This is a media ploy – the growing parts of the church do not exist; anyth church that looks official and is a candidate for caving in to culture we publicise mercilessly.

            From which we can only conclude – they are working for the dark side / following a little voice in their head which for irrational reasons is inexorable.

          • “they are working for the dark side”
            Ah Christopher your slavery to the 1950s worldview of C S Lewis with its racist and misogynistic undercurrent would be touching if it weren’t quite so unpleasant.

          • Andrew…
            You have just said a very bad thing.
            Where was I at all racist?
            Where was I at all misogynist?
            Please withdraw these.
            Do you think that the only worldviews that are available are those few that have been historically instantiated?
            Then you are clearly wrong. People can have any worldview and any programme – preferably a programme that combines statistically successful rather than failing policies.
            Plus, what you said about the 1950s (as used to be said about the Victorians) is a mere cliche, and no-one is likely to regard cliches as signs of much (or high levels of) thought.
            Do you actually think that ages can be transplanted one onto another?
            Do you think anyone else thinks that?
            Ages are package deals, and anyone sensible wants to replicate the best aspects and reject the worst.
            All blueprints and programmes are eclectic in this way.

      • Actually, all three Houses of General Synod voted to approve these prayers. So this piece in The CT is hardly a surprise and you are misprepresenting the situation. But I look forward to the legal challenges.

        • I am not misrepresenting the fact that this is against the theology of Jesus Christ. He never loses but can win in ways that sometimes seem surprising even to the godly at the time. But I certainly look forward to seeing the bishops’ legal advice made public and some sharp questions to them in relation to it.

  7. Antichrist is in evidence. An admixture with the worship of the godess Aphrodite.
    There is a mockery of a true reflection of in m+f marriage covenant which in turn is a true reflection of the true and ultimate marriage of Christ to His covenant Bride, the exquisite marriage supper of the Lamb. Revelation 19:6-9.
    In a believers covenant of marriage union with Christ, there is a Divine exchange:
    The only things we bring are our proverty and the ugliness of our sin to our joinder and union with Christ into eternity which Jesus assumes to Himself in order that He bestows and beautifies the believer with His riches and Glory.
    It is such that the desire is for Him above all and to foresake all others and all else, in joyous surrender and worship, taking our life and letting it be always only all for Him.
    Antichrist in opposition is always and forever on the wrong side of history and into eternity. Never in covenant union as the Bride of Christ.

    • And we gaze upon and turn to Him in amazed, rapt adoration. Mighty God. A new life with Him in union.
      For the tree of death of and for for sin, for Christ is the tree of new life for us

  8. Does the Bishops’ decision to go ahead with these ‘blessings’ on same-sex sexual relationships make it official that the CoE now endorses such relationships as approved by God?

  9. The Roman Catholic bishops in Belgium have published advice for blessing same sex couples that is a great deal more .pastoral. The Cof E and people like Andrew Goddard have become totally obsessed with a legalistic approach. Here is what the Belgium bishops have said:

    During pastoral meetings, the question is often asked about a moment of prayer to ask God that He may bless and perpetuate this commitment of love and faithfulness. It is best to discuss the content and form of that prayer with a pastoral manager. Such a moment of prayer can take place in complete simplicity. The difference must also remain clear with what the Church understands by a sacramental marriage.
    This moment of prayer can, for example, proceed as follows. o Opening words
    o Opening prayer
    o Scripture reading
    o Commitment of both parties involved. Together they express to God how they commit themselves to each other. For example:
    God of love and faithfulness,
    Today we stand before you
    surrounded by family and friends.
    We thank you that we were able to find each other. We want to be there for each other

    in all circumstances of life. We speak here with confidence
    that we want to work on each other’s happiness, day by day.
    We pray: give us strength to be faithful to each other
    and deepen our commitment. We trust in your presence, we want to live by your Word, given to each other forever.
    o Community prayer. The community prays that God’s grace may work in them to care for each other and for the broader community in which they live. For example:
    God and Father,
    we surround N. and N. with our prayers today.
    You know their hearts and the path they will take together from now on. Make their commitment to each other strong and faithful.
    Let their home be filled with understanding, tolerance and care.
    Let there be room for reconciliation and peace.
    May the love they share bring them joy
    and make them serve in our community.
    Give us the strength to walk with them,
    together in the footsteps of your Son
    and strengthened by your Spirit.
    o Intercession o Our Father o Closing prayer o Blessing

  10. How interesting to see that Pope Francis has issued a declaration today permitting same-sex blessings in the RC Church.

    It can hardly be the big deal and communion-breaking issue that some Conservative Evangelicals are howling about.


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