The Church of England has ruled out providing public blessings to same-sex marriages in a new report.
The move follows the outgoing Bishop of Liverpool Right Reverend James Jones’s questioning of whether the church should maintain its stance.
The Bishop of Coventry Dr Christopher Cocksworth, one report author, said “public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone”.
The church did acknowledge the need for flexibility in dealing with the issue.
The report from the Faith and Order Commission, a body formed of bishops, clergy and laity which advises the church on matters of doctrine, reiterated its definition of marriage as: “A faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman.”
Deficit of love
It follows an address from the Right Reverend James Jones, outgoing bishop of Liverpool, to the Diocese of Liverpool Synod in March.
He said: “If the church now recognises civil partnerships to be a just response to the needs of gay people then surely the church now has to ask the question whether or not it can deny the blessing of God to that which is just.
“There is such a deficit of love in the world today that it seems to me that the church should bless true love wherever such love is to be found, believing what the Bible says that ‘where there is love there is God’.”
The report allows that “a degree of flexibility” and “pastoral wisdom” is required.
But it says a successful marriage generally, and particularly the ideal raising of children, are reliant upon “the complementary gifts of men and women”.
It argues that “biological differences do not simply cease to matter at the level of personal relationship” and challenges the government’s move to legalise same-sex marriage.
“When marriage is spoken of unclearly or misleadingly, it distorts the way couples try to conduct their relationship and makes for frustration and disappointment.
“The reality of marriage between one man and one woman will not disappear as the result of any legislative change,” it says.
Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in the UK, but Prime Minister David Cameron has publicly backed it and the issue has been debated in the House of Commons.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012-13 was backed by a majority of 225 MPs following a free vote.
The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who has in the past praised the quality of same-sex relationships, sees the Church’s response to the issue as a challenge.