The bishops of the Diocese of Exeter have written to clergy and church officers across Devon following the publication of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith proposals regarding same sex relationships.
The pastoral letter from the Bishop of Exeter, the Bishop of Crediton and the Bishop of Plymouth, said: ‘We are writing to you, following the publication of the proposals agreed by the College of Bishops in relation to Living in Love and Faith.
‘As bishops of the Church of England, serving the people of Devon, we have been strongly engaged with this discernment process from the beginning and continue to be so.
‘It is vital to find a way forward for the Church of England and we believe that these proposals offer such an opportunity.
‘We welcome the proposed prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and God’s blessing for same sex couples. It is significant that same sex couples will now be able to have their civil marriage or partnership publicly affirmed in a church ceremony.
‘We recognise that these proposals go too far for some people and not far enough for others. We will offer our pastoral support to all as we continue to engage in this process and invite you to reflect on what is proposed.
‘We pray that the College of Bishops’ proposals will be received in a spirit of generosity by the General Synod and the wider church. Living in Love and Faith is a journey, as bishops we are committed to walking together and we invite you to walk with us as God’s pilgrim people.’
The Living in Love and Faith proposals were published following the third and final discernment meeting of the College of Bishops last Tuesday.
It follows more than five years of discussion and consultation, known as the Living in Love and Faith process, about a way forward for the Church of England on matters of human identity, sexuality, gender and relationships.
The proposals, which include prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and God’s blessing for same sex couples while holding to current church doctrine that Holy Matrimony should only be between a man and a woman, will now go before the Church of England’s General Synod at its next meeting in February.
As the proposals are commended by the bishops rather than requiring a change in the law, they do not need to be approved by the synod in order to be implemented.
Speaking at a press conference about the proposals, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, said: ‘There was a difference of opinion amongst the College of Bishops sbout the way forward but there was an overwhelming majority in favour of this response.
‘We are not enforcing unity but pursuing it with the grace of God.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was pleased with the proposals whilst acknowledging that some people would be unhappy with them for varied reasons.
The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, said: ‘This does put the Church of England in a new place, and I believe it’s a good place.’