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Spalding church open for informal prayers after same sex marriage

In 2019 it's still impossible for same sex couples to be married by a Church of England vicar.

Gay and lesbian couples are also denied a Church blessing following a civil ceremony.

But there is a chink of light - and an open door here - because the Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, is among clergy willing to say prayers for couples following their same sex marriage.

The Rev John Bennett has adapted prayers for same sex couple after their marriage. (290419-1)
The Rev John Bennett has adapted prayers for same sex couple after their marriage. (290419-1)

The step, he says, follows an agreement by bishops "that vicars could use their discretion when a couple asked for prayers and that they should respond pastorally and sensitively".

Mr Bennett says: "This cautious but positive message has been overshadowed by the impression that the Church is homophobic and that LGBT people would be wise to steer clear."

The bishops' agreement that vicars could use discretion saw Mr Bennett adapting prayers, which were posted on the parish church website, with a note that he is happy to discuss with couples an appropriate way of marking their commitment to each other with prayers like these.

Mr Bennett told us: "I wanted to let people know that I was open to discussing with same sex couples praying with and for them when they got married. So, four years ago, I put some prayers on our church website.

"Since then, I have been contacted every few months by vicars from different parts of the country asking me whether they can use these prayers with a couple who have come to them.

"They tell me that they have looked on the Internet and our church website comes up.

"They have often asked whether they have been approved by my bishop. I tell them that they haven't, but I encourage them to go ahead anyway.

"As there has been no official guidance about what we can do, the only option is to try to meet what couples are asking for 'pastorally and sensitively'.

"The irony is that I have never been asked by a same sex couple to use these prayers. I would like to get the message out to people locally that it is possible to do something informally in church after a same sex marriage.

"It will probably be some years before I am allowed to conduct weddings for same sex couples, but until then I want it to be known that God loves and welcomes everyone."

Mr Bennett says the Church of England has stressed that gay and lesbian people, including those in committed relationships, are welcome as members of congregations.

And children of same sex couples can be Christened, just like any others.

Mr Bennett says: "My experience has been that churches I have belonged to have included every sort of person, across the spectrum of age, class, race, sexuality and politics.

"Jesus Christ was and remains a controversial figure because he did not discriminate between people and he did not believe in applying rules rigidly when he could see that they caused more harm than good."

The saying of prayers for same sex couples extends the spirit of welcome to families too, which is good news for parents who would like to see some level of involvement when their sons or daughters marry.

Mr Bennett, a father of three, said: "Our children are still our children and we love them as they are."

He says it is surprising how parents can adjust to and accept that their son or daughter is in a same sex marriage.

"As a society we have gone through a big change in attitudes and understanding. For older people like me, there is an emotional adjustment and the emotional adjustment is still going on."


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