Church of England proposes celebrating gay marriage

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, attends his enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Toscano/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Church of England clergy would be able to recognise and celebrate same-sex marriages and partnerships in church services under proposals unveiled on Thursday that strengthen the church’s more open approach to homosexuality.

The proposals come after the mother church for the world’s 80 million Anglicans earlier this year dropped its ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops.

One of 18 recommendations put forward by a two-year working group suggested clergy should “be able to offer appropriate services to mark a faithful same-sex relationship”.

The group, which had its dissenters, also said the church should warmly welcome and affirm “the presence within the church of gay and lesbian people both lay and ordained”.

“The church’s teaching on sexuality is in tension with contemporary social attitudes, not only for gay and lesbian Christians but for straight Christians too,” noted the report that will now be discussed by key groups in the church.

The spiritual head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has acknowledged there has been a “revolution” in attitudes towards homosexuality and that the church’s stance against gay marriage could be seen as out-of-step with public opinion.

Parliament approved same-sex marriage earlier this year, despite opposition from several religious groups and Conservative legislators, allowing gay couples to marry in England from 2014.

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; editing by Stephen Addison