1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Church of England issues formal apology to LGBTQ people

January 20, 2023

The Church of England conceded that its treatment of LGBTQ people had been "shameful" at times, but it stood firm on its refusal to marry same-sex couples, offering a blessing instead.

A couple hold hands wrapped in a rainbow flag
The church has proposed offering same-sex couples the chance to have a church service with prayers of dedicationImage: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

The Church of England on Friday issued a formal apology for the treatment of LGBTQ people in its churches. The apology comes days after bishops refused to back changes that would allow the marriage of same-sex couples.

"We want to apologize for the ways in which the Church of England has treated LGBTQI+ people — both those who worship in our churches and those who do not,'' the bishops said in a statement.

"We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong," the church acknowledged.

The apology follows a five-year process of debating the church's stance on sexuality and identity, relationships and marriage.

What is the Church of England's stance on same-sex marriage?

The Church of England's position on matrimony was that it should be restricted to unions between one man and one woman, and that would remain in place.

On the matter of same-sex marriage, the church said there had not been "sufficient consensus to propose a change in doctrine at the present time."

The church would, therefore, not allow the marriage of same-sex couples in its places of worship offering instead "a variety of flexible ways to affirm and celebrate same-sex couples in church."

This would include prayers, thanksgiving and a blessing.

Archbishop of Canterbury will not offer blessings

The church has pointed out that some in the clergy may choose not to use the new prayers in blessings of same-sex unions.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby indicated that he would not be among those blessing same-sex marriages.

"Because of my pastoral care and responsibility of being a focus of unity for the whole communion ... I will not personally use them in order not to compromise that pastoral care,'' Welby told reporters.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says he will not be among those blessing same-sex marriagesImage: Victoria Jones/AFP/Getty Images

In 2013 the British Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act which allowed civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales. A same-sex marriage law was approved in Scotland the following year.

Apology and stance on marriage 'hypocritical' — campaigner

Prominent LGBTQ campaigner Jayne Ozanne labeled the church's response as "ludicrous and highly hypocritical."

"We've had apology after apology after apology, and this one frankly, sounds hollow and cruel,'' Ozanne wrote on Twitter.

"Because if you apologise and then carry on with the abuse, it is akin to domestic abuse. The fact that the bishops don't see that is what angers me.''

Same-sex marriage in force

kb/rt  (AP, Reuters)