Anglican Futures predicts that the Church of England
will allow the “blessing” of same-sex marriages by February 2023 s
– whatever the final results of the General Synod elections.
Read on to find out why and how.
The Living in Love and Faith resources were published in November 2020 and at the moment parishes, deaneries and dioceses, throughout the Church of England, are being encouraged to engage with the resources and feedback their responses to the bishops, who themselves are about to begin a series of ‘focused conversations’ to help them discern a way forward.
After all this talking and listening we are promised “a clear sense of direction about a way forward by November 2022,” 
That is only 13 months away.
If the experience of the Church in Wales teaches us nothing else, it is that we need to prepare for the possibility that the way forward is not one that faithful Anglicans will warm to. Of course, there could be a miracle. God may act in an extraordinary way – and we should certainly pray for such an outcome.
But Anglican Futures is about thinking ahead – in the light of the evidence we see today – so that we can inform our prayers and prepare effectively.
What Paths Could Be Taken?
Looking around the Anglican Communion there are a number of different paths to take:
1) Change canons to allow same-sex marriage.
The Episcopal Church (USA) 2015
Scottish Episcopal Church 2017
Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil 2018
2) Don’t change canons – but agree there is a diversity of understandings of existing canon and allow dioceses to offer same-sex marriage.
Anglican Church of Canada 2019 – (19 out of 30 have elected to do so)
3) Keep doctrine of marriage but accept ‘different views’ and allow churches/ clergy to offer blessings of same-sex relationships.
Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia 2018
Church in Wales (2021)
4) Maintain the status quo – orthodox doctrine, though in practice there are no boundaries for lay people, however involved they are in the ministry of the church; clergy, including bishops are free to campaign for a change in doctrine; and there is very little appetite for disciplining clergy who flaunt the rules.
5) Maintain orthodox doctrine and discipline.
Church of Uganda or Church of the Province of Myanmar, for example.
“But we are English” – What is the likely outcome here?
The evidence would suggest that the bishops are unlikely to promote the introduction of same-sex marriage in November 2022. Changing the marriage canon would be very controversial both in England and in the wider Anglican Communion, it would be a long process and there is always the risk of failure (and the associated bad press) if such a move did not pass through General Synod. This rules out both options 1 and 2.
The rejection of GS2055, (Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops – 2016), the ensuing decision of the Archbishops, “to deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church,” the LLF process itself, including the acceptance that the bishops are divided on the issue, would suggest that it is very unlikely that the bishops would put forward a more orthodox position or even will feel able to maintain the status quo. This rules out both options 4 and 5.
Which, leaves the bishops with option 3. Affirming the doctrine of marriage, while acknowledging the diversity of views and permitting, but not requiring, clergy to offer a service of prayer and dedication after the civil marriage/ partnership of two people of the same-sex (or at the very least making clear that those offering such a service would not be disciplined).
All Anglican Futures think pieces are left intentionally un-signed. Used here by permission. For more see: www.anglicanfutures.org