CofE bishops should think again, says former Archbishop of Canterbury

Feb 15, 2023

The Church of England’s bishops have been urged to “think again” (£) by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who said they were “out of step with the Bible”.

Carey, who is 87 and was in office from 1991 to 2002, said it was “obvious that the next step can only be the acceptance of same-sex marriages”. His intervention came after the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, voted to support the bishops’ proposal to provide prayers for the blessing of same-sex couples on the occasion of their civil marriage, or at another point in their long-term relationship.

In a letter to the Times, Lord Carey wrote (£) that the decision would concern many, including him, “who believe that marriage can be a true sacramental rite only between a man and a woman in a lifelong union of love”.

He said the move left the Church “out of step” with most churches worldwide, both in the Anglican Communion and outside it, and “more seriously” with the Bible.

He urged the bishops to “think again” about their proposals before July, when the final version of the prayers will be brought to Synod for approval.

Separately, lawyers who sit on the General Synod have warned that the proposed prayers may not be lawful (£) as they imply “approval” of marriage-like relationships.

The Church has relied on legal advice that the proposed prayers are not “indicative of any departure” from the Church’s understanding of marriage. The Synod passed an amendment saying that the final prayers “should not be contrary to … the doctrine of the Church of England”, but the bishops believe that their proposals already meet this criterion. However, the Synod group of lawyers disagree. They argue that any prayers which, in context, express or imply “approval of the decision of a couple to live together as a married couple” while not being married according to the Church’s understanding would likely indicate such a departure.

England’s state church is at a decision point on same-sex marriage. While last Thursday’s vote moved the process forward, no prayers have yet been produced or agreed. As the bishops now prepare to finalise them, C4M joins Lord Carey in calling on them to think again. Man-woman marriage has stood as a central Christian doctrine for millennia, and for good reason. Nothing else comes close to providing the stable foundation people need for a successful family life.